DISCLAIMER: All "ER" characters and institutions are the property of Warner Bros., ConstantC Productions and Amblin Television. This is written strictly for entertainment value, no infringement of copyright or ownership is intended, and nobody is making a profit on this piece. As always, any errors in continuity, characterization, or common sense are entirely my own fault.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: both characters in this story have strong opinions on the subjects of lesbianism and coming out, but this story isn't intended as a definitive statement on the subject on my part, one way or another. I'm just trying to capture the opinions I think these characters would have. No offense is intended, in any event, but if you think I've got it wrong, discussion is welcome. (All the above may go without saying, but I'm saying it anyway, just to be certain.)
SPOILERS: Yep. Big ones for end of Season 7. Takes place just after "Rampage".
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Scott J Welles

Part One...

What have I done...?

She sat on her couch in her favorite spot and tried to read, but she couldn't concentrate.

What have I done...?

She'd been so angry. She'd spoken before thinking. She'd opened her mouth and said the thing she'd been denying to the worst possible person.

What have I done...?

And the worst part was, it couldn't possibly be undone.

What have I...?

The knock at the door brought her to her senses and she stood with difficulty. Stress always aggravated her leg; maybe she should take up yoga, as someone had once suggested. Ignoring it, she made her way to the door and opened it.

She blinked in surprise. Standing there was one of the last people she expected. "Chri--?"

Arms flung about her shoulders, lips pressed...mashed...firmly against hers, cutting off speech. Her eyes bulged in astonishment and indignity, while her body went stiff as a board.

"MmmmmmmmWAHH!!" Christie released her abruptly, stepping back and giving her a sound clap on the shoulder. "Way to GO, girlfriend!"

Kerry's cheeks were burning, but whether it was from embarrassment, excitement, or outrage, she couldn't decide. What was the proper thing to say when someone you don't like at all has just damn near sucked your lips off your face? "What... Christie, what are you doing here?"

The other woman, whom she hadn't seen since that horrible dinner, grinned fiercely at her. "I heard how you came out to that asshole you work for and rubbed his nose in it, and I had to come over and thank you."

She blinked, stunned for the second time in as many minutes. "You...how did...?"

"Internet, babe. Word spreads like wildfire. Gay girls were cheering for you from Maine to Timbuktu by the time you left the building." Christie's cheeky grin went up a notch. "Check your e-mail, you're probably flooded with virtual high-fives."

Kerry's jaw dropped even more. The thought of countless people, unnumbered strangers, knowing her personal business...

"I'm kidding, Kerry! Kim told me." The unexpected visitor rolled her eyes at Kerry's gullibility. "You going to invite me in?"

Kerry's surprise shifted into indignant anger at the woman, but she held in the torrent of curses that she wanted to unleash. "Come in," she snapped. It was just easier to let her in than make a scene on the street.

Christie stepped into the house, her shoulder brushing Kerry's in the process.

Kerry closed the door, still trying to figure what to make of this new arrival. As a general rule, anyone who grabbed or kissed Kerry without permission received an upswung crutch in the nuts. No man had ever gotten away with it, but Kim had, and now Christie; this was setting bad precedent. The fact that neither woman had the same vulnerable organs between their legs that men had did not excuse the liberty, nor did it entirely explain why Kerry had not protested their kisses more strenuously.

"Hey, this is nice," Christie said, looking around Kerry's living room. "You must get paid pretty well. Who's your decorator?"

She ignored the question, annoyed at the assumption that she hadn't chosen the décor herself. "What do you mean Kim told you?"

"Hmmm?" Christie's attention turned abruptly back to Kerry from the painting she had been admiring.

Kerry sighed, keeping her temper. "You said Romano told... I mean, you said Kim told you about...what I said to Romano?"

The grin returned. "Your coming out? You bet'cha! She called me as soon as she heard and told me the good news. We're proud of you, honey!" She sat down, uninvited, on Kerry's sofa.

Kerry's head was reeling. "But...how did she know? I didn't tell anyone..."

Christie shrugged. "Maybe Romano did. Or maybe someone overheard you or something. I dunno, but Kim heard about it from someone at the hospital. I didn't ask for details."

"Oh god. Oh my god..." Aghast, Kerry sank down on the other end of the sofa. Had she checked to see if there was anyone else in the men's room stalls? She couldn't remember, she'd just been so furious that she'd gone charging in to confront Romano over Kim's case and damn the consequences. She hadn't planned to declare herself a lesbian, hadn't even consciously thought of herself in those terms. It had just happened, like a train wreck, part of herself watching it without being able to stop it.

Now she could see him storming all over the hospital, grabbing everyone he passed. Hey, you: Weaver's a dyke, pass it on. Making announcements over the public address system. Attention all staff, patients, and visiting friends and relatives... Distributing memos to all departments, to whom it may concern...

No. He wouldn't do that. Not because he had a decent bone in his stunted little body, but because he'd be too afraid of the legal reprisals. Either that or he'd be hoarding the information, awaiting some future opportunity to use it against her. No, Romano wouldn't 'out' her, but maybe someone else was in there with them. Someone who wasn't above spreading rumors.

What would the ER staff say? How would they react? Luka Kovac didn't care, he'd shown that much. But what about Mark? Would Carter look at her differently? Would Haleh or Lydia be reluctant to work next to her? Malucci, for god's sakes, what would he be thinking every time he looked at her? Hey, the Chief's a muffdiver, cool!

She shuddered, involuntarily hiding her face in her hands, overcome by thoughts of humanity's limitless capacity for casual contempt. She'd thought that she'd felt the worst of it growing up disabled, but now to add this...

"Hey, whoa," Christie said, slipping an arm around her shoulders, her voice tinged with unexpected sympathy. "Take it easy, Kerry. Come on, this is a good thing."

"How is this good?" she snapped, not meeting Christie's gaze.

"You got over the hurdle. You took the big step." Christie gave her shoulders a sisterly squeeze. "The hardest part is behind you now."

Kerry looked at her incredulously. "You can't be serious."

"Sure. You came out, and the toughest part is just making that choice. It's all downhill from here."

Shaking her head in exasperation, Kerry looked away, at the far wall. How could Christie oversimplify things this way? "Downhill?" she repeated. "Christie, you obviously have no idea of what I have to look forward to. I've got a racist, sexist boss who undermines anyone who dares stand up to him, and I've just given him a very large weapon to use against me. I have a staff whose respect for me hangs by a thread every day, and they have enough reasons to hate me already..."

"So fuck them. Fuck 'em all if that's how they feel!" Christie shifted in her seat, facing Kerry more fully. "Kerry, you should be proud of yourself. You took a stand and showed them you're not ashamed of who you are. You struck a blow for all of us. I came here to thank you for that, for Chrissakes, and you act like you're going to jail!"

"I just did what was right," Kerry protested feebly.

"A lot of people don't do that much," the other woman said, ruffling Kerry's hair. "So smile, okay?"

Kerry smoothed her hair back into place automatically.

"I was twenty-four when I came out," Christie said abruptly, her tone softening, "but I remember how scary it was. Trust me, if I lived through it when I was young and stupid, a tough girl like you will be fine."

Glancing sidelong at the woman next to her, Kerry relented inside. In her own ham-handed, in-your-face manner, Christie was trying to be nice to her. "Thank you, Christie," she said, mustering a civil tone. "I appreciate your saying that." Of course, she added mentally, I have so much more to lose now than I had at twenty-four. Would it have been easier then...?

Aborting that line of thought, she said, "Did Kim send you to talk to me? Why didn't she come herself?"

Christie smiled wryly. "You mean, is she going to take you back now that you've come out?"

"That's not what I..." Kerry broke off, unable to ignore the question now that it had been broached.

"I'm sorry, Kerry, but I don't think so." The smile held a degree of sadness. "Thing about Kim is, she gives you all of herself when you're together, but once she breaks it off, it's over for good. Best you can hope for is to end up as friends, like me."

Kerry felt the sensation in her chest, like a balloon deflating. So it's over, she told herself. Let her go.

"Believe me, babe, I know. I've been there." Christie gave her a helpless shrug.

"That's right," Kerry nodded bitterly. "You've slept with her, haven't you?" The thought of Kim sharing intimacy with this opinionated, judgmental bitch still made Kerry feel sour inside. "You and that other woman..."

"Kate, yeah. The good news is, she'll still be your friend."

Just as Kim predicted, Kerry reflected. She said this was how we'd end up...

"Oh, that reminds me," Christie added, pulling a card from her pocket, "I wanted to give you this."

"What is it?" Kerry took the business card, immediately recognizing the name.

"If your boss gives you any trouble, give this woman a call. She'll put the little shit in his place."

"I know who she is," Kerry said with a trace of bitterness. "I've been on the receiving end of her work before."

"Oh, really?" Christie's eyebrows went up.

Kerry nodded. "I had to let a staff member go, and this woman forced the hospital to rehire her to avoid a costly lawsuit." Years later, she still felt the sting of resentment and humiliation as Don Anspaugh knuckled under and rehired Jeannie over her objections.

"A gay woman?"

"No, she wasn't. The circumstances are none of your concern."

"But you fired her without cause?"

"That wasn't the case," Kerry replied defensively. "She was laid off along with other staff for budgetary reasons. I wasn't happy about it, either -- she was my best friend."

Christie gave a cynical smile. "If that's how you treat your friends, no wonder Kim left you."

Kerry's head turned sharply toward the other woman. "Don't you dare try to judge me," she hissed. "You weren't the one in my position, then or now. All you know is what you've heard secondhand, and on the basis of that, you think..."

"Look," Christie interrupted firmly, "it doesn't matter to me what happened with this friend of yours. That was then, this is now. If you need help sticking up for yourself with Romano, this woman will help you, regardless of your past dealings."

Kerry looked away, thinking she'd rather go down in flames than keep her job just because of some sort of lesbian affirmative action movement. She'd never sought special treatment because she was crip-- disabled, and she'd be damned if she'd keep her job now on anything other than her own merits.

"Fact is, Kerry," Christie went on, oblivious to her train of thought, "there's a whole community out there waiting to welcome you with open arms. You have more support than you can imagine, if you need it."

"Thanks," Kerry said tonelessly, her eyes on the blank television screen.

"Kim introduced me to a lot of people when I came out, and it saved my life. I mean it, literally kept me alive. I'd probably have killed myself if not for these people."

Kerry looked again at the woman sitting beside her.

"My family rejected me completely when I came out, and I haven't spoken to a one of them since. But Kim showed me who my new family could be. That's one of the reasons I still love her."

So do I, Kerry thought.

Christie leaned closer, her arm stealing again around Kerry's shoulders. "They can be yours, too. And these are people who will stick by you no matter what."

"Unless I marry another man," Kerry muttered.

Blinking in surprise, Christie pulled back a bit. "What?"

"You remember those women you were laughing about at dinner? The ones whose straight marriages you were ridiculing? Is that how you talk about your new family?" She shook her head. "If you really considered them friends, I'd think you'd support their choices, even if you don't understand them, instead of cracking the equivalent of 'fag' jokes. That doesn't sound too different from how your own family treated you, does it?"

Christie's face went hard, and it was her turn to look away, retracting her arm. "You know, that 'secondhand' deal works both ways. You didn't know these women, so don't tell me how I should feel about them."

Grudgingly, Kerry conceded the point. It was all hearsay, either way.

"You're being awfully bitchy, considering I'm trying to do something good for you," Christie bit out.

"Perhaps that's because it all seems strangely arbitrary to me," Kerry said, coolly. "I label myself something in the heat of the moment, and suddenly I have the complete loyalty of the gay and lesbian community. Anything gained that easily could be lost just as swiftly, couldn't it?"

Christie started to say something, then bit it off.

"The truth is, Christie, I don't know what I am anymore. I don't even know who I am. I thought I did, but it's all falsehood. My name, my life, my whole identity...they're all just masks I've been wearing, artificially, like the semblance of a real person standing in for the real thing." Uncaring of whether Christie understood her or not, Kerry reflected on how the entire fabric of her carefully constructed life - her medical career, her failed marriage, the name given her by her substitute parents, and now even her sexual orientation - all had been called into question in the last few years, threatening to come apart at the seams.

She fingered the crutch propped beside her, smiling bitterly. "You ever read how the samurai believed that the swords they carried contained their souls? Same here, only I've got this ugly hunk of metal. This thing is a metaphor for my life. I have no idea who the real me is, so I lean on the false one." She pushed it angrily away, and it bounced off the corner of her coffee table and clattered to the floor. "Because the real one gives me no support," she added, rubbing her leg.

Christie remained silent.

Kerry lapsed into an equal silence, her fingers still absently digging into her bad leg, a habit she had in times of great stress and self-doubt. This wasn't the first time she'd contemplated the inscrutable mystery of her true self, unable to hide behind the false face that called itself 'Kerry Weaver'. For several years, as her medical career began really taking off, she'd been able to ignore the questions, but they'd been back these last few years, still without answers. Was there nothing she had that she could truly call her own?

"So you may be wasting your time here, Christie," she said at last. "Yes, I was in love with Kim, but I've been in love before and it didn't last. The fact that I'm capable of loving a woman came as a surprise to me, but one woman isn't sufficient evidence. There's no telling who, or what, I'll love in the future." If anyone, she added silently.

"So you're saying you're straight after all?" Christie's voice came quietly to her side.

Kerry shook her head. "I'm saying that there's no way to know. Maybe I am a lesbian, but it's too soon to tell." She thought about the small tests she'd set for herself since becoming involved with Kim. Looking at endless models on magazine covers, some of the most technically beautiful women on earth, and feeling nothing for the flawless creatures that seemed to inhabit some glossy parallel dimension. Recalling the women she'd called friends and colleagues - Carol, Elizabeth, even Jeannie, who she'd loved in her own way - and finding none of the desire that Kim had sparked. Would she ever again know a love like she'd felt from Kim?

"Let's find out," said the voice in her ear. Another hand joined hers on her thigh.

"What...?" She looked at Christie in surprise.

"I said, if you're not sure if you're a lesbian because you've only been with one woman, then maybe you should try another. See what happens." She was leaning much closer, her face inches from Kerry's. The hand slid up her thigh until it brushed the crotch of her slacks, and she felt the beginnings of warmth stirring between her legs...

"With YOU...?"

"Why not? I'm right here, and better the devil you know, right?" Christie's other hand ran through her hair. "Besides, I'm not with anyone right now, and us single gals gotta stick together."

Kerry's reply stalled in her throat as Christie's palm covered her sex, radiating heat through the thin material. The other arm tightened, bringing her face closer...

She turned her face away, in sudden shyness, and felt Christie's lips brush her ear and cheek. "Christi--"

Fingers splayed across her face, one of them slipping into her mouth, cutting off her words. She bit down by reflex, not hard enough to hurt, but trapping the finger in place. She felt the slight roughness of the fingerprint's texture against the tip of her tongue. Christie's tongue, simultaneously, traced her ear. The heat of the hand between her legs seemed to increase in time with her pulse.

The flush that ran through her body made her spine tense, then relax, then tense again. She raised a hand to push Christie away, and it found the other woman's breast, feeling the erectness of her nipple. The strength in her arms deserted her, subverted by growing need.

"Oh, God..." she moaned around the digit in her mouth. It came out, "Unh, Gdd..."

"You can call yourself straight if you want," Christie whispered in her ear, "and say you're not attracted to women. But there's only one way to prove it..." As she spoke, her fingers deftly unsnapped Kerry's slacks and ran the zipper down, then slid inside, under the thin cotton panties, plunging into wet, sticky sweetness.

Kerry's head was flung back in response as strong fingers penetrated her. She clutched at Christie, her hands digging into her breast and forearm.

"Aha," Christie sighed, and Kerry felt the lips against her ear curve into a smile. "I knew it. The proof is in the pudding..." She caught Kerry's earlobe between her lips and sucked at it, Kerry's silver earring clicking against her teeth.

Kerry's hips moved in response as Christie shoved her fingers in deeper, the thumb finding her clit and locking onto it. Less than a minute since they'd begun, and already her orgasm was clamoring for release, gnawing at her self-control. God, how she'd missed this...

With a shudder that threatened to disjoint her, Kerry came. A scream forced its way out around Christie's fingers and the tremors ran through her muscles before subsiding.

"Not a lesbian, my ass," Christie cooed in triumph, slowly extricating her hands from Kerry's body. There was a glint in her smile that could have been lust or cruelty, depending on how one looked at it.

Kerry looked away from her, closing her eyes. In the wake of her diminishing climax, she felt a wave of shame at her body's betrayal. It wasn't the first time her flesh had failed to follow her mind's wishes...

"So why are lesbians like Chinese food?" Christie asked her in a mischievous tone.

She didn't respond.

"An hour after you're finished eating, you're hungry for more."

Kerry barely repressed a snort of contempt for the woman. Two slurs in one remark, a talent that Romano would appreciate. Such irony.

What really infuriated her was that she couldn't dismiss the effect that Christie's presence was having on her. She resented the presumptuousness of Christie's advance, and yet she couldn't deny the desire it was stimulating inside her.

"But I don't feel like waiting that long," Christie added, swinging one leg over Kerry's lap. She straddled Kerry and leaned easily into her, front to front. Her hands took hold of Kerry's face and held it before her own. "Show me your bed, Kerry," she instructed.

Kerry opened her eyes, Christie's face filling her field of vision against her will. "I hate you," she whispered helplessly, uncertain whether she was talking to Christie or herself.

"I know." The other woman's smile just broadened. "That's what makes this really interesting..."

Kerry's reply was lost as Christie's mouth captured hers.

Part Two...

Making love with Kim was as different from having sex with Christie as basking in sunlight was from huddling by a bonfire at night. Both warmed and nourished, but one was calm and steady and even, while the other was raging and barely controllable. It grew as you fed it, giving back as much as it received, but it would burn you if you got too close.

Where Kim explored, Christie invaded. Where Kim cherished, Christie conquered. She was as insistent as she was insatiable, and much of Kerry's participation in bed was to hold on for dear life.

After removing Kerry's clothes, Christie had pushed her back onto the mattress and dived in without ceremony. Kerry clutched helplessly at the woman's head between her legs, gasping and moaning in physical need as Christie's tongue thrust into her, plundering her sex mercilessly. Christie shrugged out of her own clothes without moving from where she lay between Kerry's thighs, and was fully naked by the time Kerry came again.

Then, without lifting her lips, she kissed her way up Kerry's body, hands scouting ahead, breasts dragging along behind, thrilling Kerry on five fronts at once. Their bodies meshed together, legs entwining, as Christie kissed her again. One arm went around Kerry's neck, pulling her face closer, the other went around her waist, pressing her belly up against Christie's. Her tongue pressed possessively into Kerry's mouth, as though asserting a claim on her new territory.

"So fucking good," she whispered raggedly, coming up for air. Kerry felt Christie's pelvis grinding into her own, her wetness on Christie's thigh matching Christie's on hers. Their hardened nipples slid over and against each other's as Christie writhed above her. She felt the rising climax in the other woman's body mere moments before Christie came, pressing her groin insistently against Kerry's hipbone. She let out a groan of pure satisfaction and collapsed on top of Kerry.

What am I doing? Kerry asked herself helplessly. How did I end up in bed with this woman?

"Kim always had good taste in women," Christie said, bringing her lips again to Kerry's face, "but I always forget how much they taste good." Without waiting for response, she bit and licked at Kerry's throat, eagerly devouring the salty skin as she descended again. Kerry clutched handfuls of Christie's hair as her mouth engulfed Kerry's right nipple once more, sucking it even harder. Kerry had never been with anyone so aggressive, so dominant in bed before; men like that tended to turn her off, and Kim's loving gentleness had been nothing like this. But Christie, the obnoxious, insensitive bitch... God, she felt good...

Christie's hands slipped under Kerry's hips and clasped her buttocks firmly, lifting them up to meet Christie's mouth, and Kerry surrendered herself again to the sensations of oral sex applied with a vengeance. She cried out once as Christie's grip hurt her leg, but Christie either didn't notice or didn't care. Kerry pushed the pain away, refusing to yield to it. Beyond that, she could only let out gasps and squeaks of unwilling delight as Christie ate her and ate her and ate her...

"Kim," she gasped involuntarily, "oh god, Kim..."

Mention of the tall blonde woman's name only served to fuel Christie's efforts at burrowing inside Kerry, and it wasn't much longer before Kerry was driven into a third orgasm, this one a truly shattering climax that threatened to rend her limb from limb in its sheer power. She screamed out inarticulately, spine twisting, and somehow managed to sustain her climax for several long heartbeats before it escaped from her and flew out into the ether.

She fell back on the sweat-soaked sheets, one arm covering her eyes so she wouldn't have to look Christie in the face and admit what a powerful effect she'd had on Kerry. How could she have let this happen? How could a woman who inspired such resentment in her provide such an incredible sexual experience?

Christie crawled up beside her and lay on her back. "You never entirely get over her, believe me," she said hoarsely, referring to Kim. "I was thinking about her, too, if you want to know the truth."

Kerry turned away, on her side. Her embarrassment at having yielded her body to Christie was compounded by having cried out another name. That was bad form in bed, no matter what.

Clearing her throat, Christie added, "It's always been my experience, though, that the next best thing to sleeping with a friend is sleeping with an enemy. Either way, the emotions run high, and the sex is intense." She chuckled. "If you can't be with the one you love, honey, love the one you hate."

Kerry said nothing, feeling at once satiated and violated. It wasn't Christie who she blamed for the latter, though. It was her own self, her true self, whoever that was. Never able to commit to the parameters she set for herself...

"I didn't come here intending to sleep with you, Kerry," Christie went on, breaking into her thoughts. "But I don't believe in passing up an opportunity when it presents itself. Never know when you'll get another one." She curled up against Kerry's back, reaching both hands around to cup Kerry's breasts.

Kerry endured her touch silently, her fervent wish to recoil from Christie's presence outweighed only by the loneliness that awaited without her.

"You know, you don't have to do all the talking," Christie said. "At least let me get a word in edgewise, can't you?"

"What do you want me to say?" Kerry mumbled, wondering if this was the strange new direction her sex life was destined to take. "I just allowed a woman I can't stand to fuck me. Who's next, that Lori woman?"

Christie reacted with a bitter laugh. "Forget that slut, she's just some rebound girl. She'll be history within a month."

Oh, so she's not entitled to the same respect and support that you came here to show me? Kerry didn't voice the thought, reflecting how inconsistently Christie's claims of solidarity were applied. "Why exactly are you here, Christie?" she said out loud.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, why this sudden interest in me? You made it clear at our last meeting that you didn't think much of me then. Now you've designated yourself my new best friend. What's that about?"

"I told you. I'm here to thank you for coming out to your boss. I'm just sorry I didn't bring you a toaster."

"Is that all? Because I 'came out', you're suddenly my cheering section?" Kerry snorted and pushed Christie's hands away. "Why does this have to be about 'coming out'? Why can't anyone see it as 'standing up'? For years, I've been trying to stand up for what's right, and all I get is complaints about it! Why doesn't that mean anything to anybody?"

"Oh, right," Christie drawled. "It was all out of nobility, is that it? Had nothing to do with sticking up for your girlfriend?"

"No, it didn't," Kerry snapped at her. "I'd have done the same for any staff member who was unfairly discriminated against."

"Come on, Kerry. You telling me you weren't hoping you could impress Kim and get her back by making a big sacrifice for her sake?"

Kerry rolled over, facing Christie squarely. "No," she stated. "I've lost her. I had already accepted that. But it's not right for her to lose her job just because she's gay. You don't treat people that way. Doesn't matter if I'm gay or straight, I won't stand for it."

The younger woman propped herself up on one elbow, looking down at Kerry's face with a cynical smile. "I like you, Kerry," she said. "You're a total Cleopatra, but I like you."

"A what?"

"Cleopatra. You know, as in Queen Of..."

Oh. Ha ha. "Well, then I'm sorry to say this, Christie," she said, sitting up and gathering the sheet around herself, "but I don't like you. You can talk all you want about supporting my coming out, but I think you really came here to rub my nose in it. To say, 'see, Kerry, you're gay whether you like it or not'."

The half-mocking smile faded from Christie's face, all traces of it disappearing for the first time since Kerry had met her.

"Maybe I'm being ungrateful, or violating some kind of lesbian etiquette by saying so, but I don't care. I think you're a petty, shallow little woman with an axe to grind, who can't feel secure unless she's cutting someone else down."

Christie looked at her, taken aback, her mouth open but no words coming out. Then she gave a scornful little laugh. "Well," she said, "I guess there won't be any U-Hauls in our future, huh?"

"You could learn a thing or two from Kim," Kerry added. "She doesn't hide who she is, and she's fine with it. But she doesn't need to belittle anyone else to feel good about herself. I wish you could have that kind of confidence." And I wish I could, too.

Christie sat up and swung her feet to the floor, sitting naked at the edge of the bed with her back to Kerry. "Who the fuck are you to talk to me like that?" she spat over her shoulder. "You don't know me, you don't know what I've been through. You pissy little ball-buster, with your go-along-to-get-along attitude...you probably still wish you could take it back, don't you? Tell them you're not a lesbian after all..."

"God, I hate that," Kerry hissed. "That insistent pressure to label myself. Like everything else I might be is subordinate to my sex life."

"Oh, don't give me that...!"

"Nobody else is required to declare themselves a 'negro doctor', or a 'Jewish doctor'. And why the word 'lesbian', anyway? Neither of us is Greek."

"So blame that Sappho chick if you don't like the word, I don't care," Christie growled, disgustedly.

Kerry sat straighter, her eyes boring into the smooth skin of Christie's back. Admiring the gentle contours of her shoulders and spine even as her indignation grew. "What I mean is, it shouldn't have to be the central axis of someone's character," she insisted. "It shouldn't have to matter to anyone else who we love, or what we do together..."

"No, I know what you mean," Christie snarled, turning her head sharply to face Kerry. "We shouldn't talk about it, that's what you mean. We should all just hide ourselves and pretend we're no different from all the fucking straight girls so we can walk around and stay invisible, right?"

Fury brought Kerry's face right up to Christie's. "Don't you ever...put words...in my mouth," she grated. The sheet fell away, forgotten in her ire. "You don't know me nearly well enough for that."

They stared at each other, inches apart, in a deadlock of wills, each almost a mirror image of the other. Kerry could feel the proximity of the other woman's body to her own like a palpable force. The eyelock held, tension crackling between them, until one had to look away.

"You think I don't know you?" Christie replied, averting her gaze first, her voice tightening. "Or what you're going through now?"

Kerry was literally trembling with rage, and yet the nerve endings in her skin all cried out for more contact with Christie's. She would never, in a million years, feel the kind of love for this woman that she had felt for Kim, and yet part of her wanted nothing more than to pull her closer and mesh with her right now. They were, for the moment, the most intimate of enemies.

Christie swiped at her eyes, brushing away tears that Kerry hadn't yet seen. "You're so fucking self-righteous, like you'll have it any different," she muttered. "You really think you won't need help from people like me?"

"Not if this is the kind of support you're offering," Kerry began, but Christie continued without listening.

"You're just going to go back to your job and it'll all blow over, and pretty soon everything will be back to normal, and life will go on without a hitch, right? Is that what you think? That they'll all respect you just because you do good work, and treat you fairly? That they're not going to look at you differently, treat you differently outside of work? You think your friends will all be there for you, the way they were before they knew you were gay?"

Kerry started to answer, but a little voice in her head said, wait, just listen. She's trying to tell you something, and it's not about you. It sounded like Kim's voice.

"Forget it, babe, they're not your friends anymore, because you're not the person they all expect you to be. The women you used to hang out with will avoid you, 'cause now they'll think you've just been hoping to lay them all this time. The men who were your friends? Say goodbye to them, too; the ones who used to like you will lose interest once they realize they've got no chance getting you in the sack. Or maybe they'll fake interest 'cause they've got this fantasy about being the one to show you what you've been missing, and they figure maybe they can end up in bed with two girls at once in the process. And maybe you'll be so afraid of change that you'll sleep with one of them to prove you're still straight, or to curry favor with someone. Only he won't respect you, and you'll never respect yourself for it, either. So pretty soon, you'll just be the lonely one in the corner at parties, the one who shows up to be part of the crowd, but isn't really wanted there by anyone specific."

I've always been that one, Kerry thought to herself. Nothing new there. But this wasn't her story that Christie was telling.

"So then you'll figure, fuck it, I don't need any of them, and you'll just be the total Business Bitch at work and figure they can just kiss your ass if they don't like it. Only the business doesn't work on merit alone, 'cause under it all, it's still a fucking popularity contest. Your bosses won't like you or trust you, 'cause they all think of you as a man-hating dyke who wants to take their jobs and maybe cut their dicks off for good measure. So they'll throw you all the shit jobs and give the good clients--" Christie broke off for just a moment. "Patients, whatever, to morons who don't deserve 'em half as much as you do..."

Kerry drew her knees up, sitting back against her pillow and carefully considering the picture Christie was painting. She had much more in common with this woman than she'd realized.

"Then, finally, you're gonna get to the point where you realize the whole deck's stacked against you, and you're gonna call the woman on the card I gave you, or somebody like her, and she'll say and do all the right things, and you'll win your court case against the firm and walk away a winner and tell 'em all to go to hell while you set out to make a fresh start. Only you can't start fresh, 'cause all the other firms you know are buddies with the one you left, and they've gotten word through the Old Boys' Network what a pain in the ass you are, and...they won't want to deal with you for fear of the same thing happening. And they won't listen...to your side of things, 'cause it's your word against all the other guys', and they've already...spread the word all over town." Christie's voice was hitching occasionally, like she was holding in sobs as she spoke.

"So what did you do?" Kerry put in softly.

Christie's shoulders twitched once, then settled, admitting she was talking about herself. "Made a half-assed suicide attempt. Nothing serious, but a neighbor called the cops and I ended up in a psych ward overnight." She sniffled and drew in a ragged breath. "Guess who they send to talk to me?"

"Anyone I know?" Kerry already suspected what the answer would be.

"My old college roomie and ex-girlfriend, surprise surprise. Talk about your coincidences." She drew a hand across her eyes. "Kim helped me get through it, introduced me to some people, and put me in touch with a smaller law firm that didn't care who they hired, long as they were good at their jobs. And I'm damn good, when I have the chance to prove it," she added with stubborn pride.

I'll bet you are, Kerry thought, amazed how many similarities they had. Perhaps that was why Kim had been attracted to them both, at different times in her life.

Christie half-turned to glare at Kerry again. "Look, I didn't treat you very well when I first met you, I admit that. Maybe I saw some of myself in you, and I didn't like remembering what it was like. So maybe I acted out a little and embarrassed you some." She paused. "And maybe I was a little jealous that you had Kim and I didn't."

Kerry recalled the flash of jealousy she'd felt when Christie boasted about sleeping with Kim. She still couldn't claim to like Christie, but found herself resenting the woman less, particularly after breaching that smug exterior.

"But whether you believe me or not, I am trying to help you, Kerry. Or do you really think all that's not going to happen to you?"

"A lot of it already has," Kerry told her. "I've already taken a lot of the same attitude just being a smart, successful woman doctor."

"Okay, fine, so you're starting out with more battle scars than I did..." Christie snorted, rolling her eyes.

"That's the problem," Kerry interrupted. "You keep wanting me to see this as the start of something, when it's really just another part of what I've been living through for twenty years."

"And all the other doctors and people you work with, they're gonna be fine with you once they know you're gay?" The familiar scorn was resurfacing.

"As fine with me as they were before they knew." That wasn't saying much, but Kerry didn't mention that.

"Oh, so it won't change their opinion of you?" Christie sneered. "It won't make any difference to them at all?" The very same question that Kerry had been fretting over earlier. But now that it was voiced by another person, she knew the answer immediately, instinctively.

"No," she said with quiet finality. "It won't."

Part Three...

Christie stared at Kerry as though she'd claimed the sky wasn't blue. Then she shook her head and reached for her underwear. "Okay, fuck it, you're right," she said. "I am wasting my time here."

Kerry sighed. "Christie, don't..."

"You just stay here with your head in the sand like an ostrich, I'm gonna go out and be with people who are honest about themselves."

"Christie, wait," Kerry said, sitting forward and catching her arm before she could get up from the bed. She wasn't angry with Christie anymore, but she didn't like the thought of Christie leaving in a bitter funk. There was still an issue to be resolved here, she felt; more than that, she found she still wanted the other woman present for more...physical reasons. "Just wait."

Christie settled in place with an air of impatience. "What?" she snapped.

Kerry leaned forward and put her arms around Christie's shoulders from behind, kissing the back of her neck just below the hairline. Her breasts melded warmly against Christie's back, and the other woman began to relax just a little, responding almost imperceptibly. "Why did you try to kill yourself?" Kerry whispered.

Christie stiffened momentarily, and Kerry thought she would pull away. But she didn't. "I felt like I was alone," she replied.

Like that girl Kim talked to... "Did you really want to die?"

"No, I...I wanted someone to come hold me and tell me it was all right to be gay." Christie might have added, 'like I came here to do for you, Kerry,' but she didn't. Kerry had to give her credit for a moment's tact.

She slid her hands over Christie's soft skin, one forearm covering her breasts, the other her warm abdomen. The musky taste of her skin tantalized Kerry's lips. "It's good to be alive, isn't it?"

"Yeah..." Christie yielded to Kerry's touch, settling back and rolling over to lie face down on the bed.

Kerry knelt beside her, smoothly stroking the soft, warm planes of her back, the shapely fullness of her buttocks and thighs. "You can feel it," she said. "The blood flowing freely through your veins. The rich breath filling your lungs. The miracle of design that is your heart, beating steadily." Her palms tingled as they glided over Christie's body.


Kerry leaned over her, straddling her hips. "Imagine you're strolling in the sun on a warm spring day," she whispered. "You've slept well in the arms of the woman who loves you. You'll meet her again for dinner and make love all night."

"Mmmm..." Christie sighed contentedly.

"But for now, the afternoon is yours. You feel clean, refreshed, and happy. Life is a good thing."

The other woman shifted languidly and began to roll over...

POW!! Just as her eyes opened, Kerry suddenly leaned forward and slammed her palms together bare millimeters in front of Christie's face. As she flinched from the unexpected sound and impact, Kerry fell upon her, pinning her wrists down hard. "Now imagine it's all suddenly gone away," she snapped out, her words harsh and crisp.

"What the fuck are you--?!"

"Pay attention!" Kerry commanded. "What's happened? Was there an accident? Were you caught in a drive-by shooting? Are you having a heart attack? Does it matter?"

Christie struggled to rise beneath her, but Kerry held her down with a strength she seldom showed. "Get off me!"

"Or what? You can't do anything! Your arms don't work. You can't feel your legs. Someone's squeezing your heart, your ribs are grating together like shards of broken glass, you can feel the sharp fractures running through your skull, and every breath you try to take is like a red-hot knife through your chest. What are you going to do now? Answer me!"

"Get...off...!" Christie almost managed to sit up before Kerry forced her back down.

"What are you thinking now?" Kerry demanded, her face right up against Christie's. "How proud you are that you're 'out'? Is that what's most important while you can feel your blood oozing away through a tear in your mangled flesh? When the life you thought had years left is measured in seconds now?"

Christie grunted, almost a sob, and turned her face away. "I hate you..." she snarled.

Kerry kept at her, giving her no time to answer the questions. "Your girlfriend can't help you now, or Kim, or the woman on that card. Only the people around you on the street. Do you care if they're gay or straight? Male or female?" She let go of Christie's wrist and grabbed her jaw, forcing her to look Kerry in the eye. "What about the paramedics around you now? Does their sexuality matter to you? If one of them is a homophobe, will he do his job with less diligence now?"

"That's not fair...!"

Kerry slapped her. Just hard enough to shock her. "LIFE'S not fair, little girl!" she yelled. "Get used to it!"

The other woman's eyes were riveted on hers, and she was crying, still with an edge of defiance. She wasn't trying to get up anymore; Kerry had felt her body surrender. The Alpha Bitch strikes again.

She let go of Christie, still leaning over her on hands and knees. "Now imagine there are doctors and nurses around you, above you, working to keep you alive," Kerry went on, her delivery slower and more stable. "All the King's horses and all the King's men are trying to put you together again. Which of them is homosexual? You tell me. Will you refuse treatment if there isn't a lesbian among them? Is surgery still an option without an openly gay anesthesiologist? Does it matter to you now, Christie?"

There was no reply.

Kerry sat back, drawing her hands slowly down the front of Christie's body, admiring her attractiveness even in the midst of her tirade. "It doesn't matter, where we work," she stated, "and it shouldn't matter, as long as we can help our patients. In our job, there's more important things than gender politics. Even more important things than pride."

Christie looked away, but didn't move where she lay, flushed and vulnerable.

"That's not just true of the trauma doctors and the surgeons. The same rationale applies to the psychologists and the radiology techs and the people who clean up the goddamn cafeteria. I forgot that during Romano's witch-hunt, because I was afraid. And the price of that fear was Kim's love."

Christie looked up at her again.

"But I learn from my failures, Christie. I won't tolerate discrimination in my hospital, ever again. It has nothing to do with me being a lesbian; I'll do the same thing for any staff member who's treated unfairly. Even Robert Romano, if it comes to that."

She sat forward and gently caressed Christie's face where the slap had landed. "You're right to be proud of who you are, and to encourage that in others," she assured the younger woman. "But we're not lawyers or sales executives or advertising consultants. We're doctors. When people are dying, even the people who've resented me in the past don't hesitate to call on my help, because the alternative is too tragic to accept. They don't like me, and some of them never will. But they trust me in a crisis. That won't change because I'm a lesbian. The stakes are too high."

There was a brief flash of something that might have been shame in Christie's eye before she composed her face again.

"I'm sorry I hit you," Kerry told her.

"Didn't really hurt," Christie allowed. "Just surprised me."

Kerry left her hand against Christie's cheek. It had been a stage slap, something she learned from a drama student and budding actor who once lived in her basement; cup the palm as you swing, without really putting your arm into it, and the result is more sound than real impact. But she still felt bad about it. She didn't like raising a hand in anger, especially not while feeling a strange empathy for Christie. Though she'd never admit it, there was something underneath that sharp, critical surface that reminded Kerry of herself. Younger, less weathered, perhaps, but just as afraid and just as determined to hide it. She could almost see Christie through Kim's eyes, the same eyes that had seen Kerry in the same light.

Christie covered the hand on her cheek with her own hand, not to move it but to feel its warmth. There was a silent request in the gesture. A plea that would never be put in words.

Kerry let her the pad of her thumb brush over Christie's lips, as Christie's hand slid up over her wrist, along her arm to her shoulder, drawing her gently closer. She settled her modest weight against Christie, soaking up the body heat beneath her, and kissed her stomach, feeling the pulse jumping beneath the skin. Christie's hands flowed up over her head, fingers sliding through her hair, and easing her downwards.

She felt the woman's thighs parting, rubbing against her own breasts and ribs, and breathed in Christie's private scent. Kim had been here, she thought again, and this time it inspired a strange new dimension of intimacy, rather than jealousy. How odd that her perception of Christie should be changed by seeing her as she truly was, and yet how natural. Kerry had a brief moment of knowing what it was like to be Kim, not merely as Christie's lover, but as a therapist, exploring the hidden depths of her patients' hearts and minds as expertly as Kerry reviewed their bodies.

Her lips brushed against Christie's labia without conscious thought, nipping lightly at the delicate, sensitive skin and eliciting deep, sighing moans of approval in the process. This was not at all how Kerry would have predicted her evening might go, but she found she no longer cared.

The soft, swollen lips parted under her fingers as she ran her tongue up along and between them, bottom to top, then down again, then up once more, prompting Christie's hips to rise and fall in reaction, like an ocean tide. She slid her fingers in deeper, finding the spots she knew Kim loved touched, the same ones that Kim had found within her. Christie's reaction was no different, tensing and relaxing involuntarily, drawing in ragged, trembling breaths and letting them out with beautific exclamations.

Kerry moved her lips to the clitoris, rising up from its hood, and wrapped them around it, sucking gently at first, then harder. She flicked her tongue across its tip, setting off detonations of pleasure in the other woman. Smooth legs clutched her body between themselves, bare feet stroking her back and hips, heels digging into her buttocks. Christie clutched at her hair, urgently pulling her closer, demanding more. Kerry gave it to her without hesitation.

I am making love to a woman, she thought with sudden clarity. She'd never had such a thought with Kim. Sex with Kim wasn't about woman-on-woman to Kerry, it was something that transcended sexual orientation, it was just...Kim. As simple and as beautiful as she could imagine, the name said it all. Kim.

With Christie, there was no ignoring it: I am a woman giving sexual pleasure to another woman. There was no pretending that Kim was a fluke, or the exception that proves the rule. Kerry was performing oral sex on a woman and enjoying it completely. The capacity to love women seemed to open like a new dimension within her. One that had always existed, but was only now accessible. One that was integrated into the whole of her self without invalidating any other. This is part of me.

The concept reverberated wonderfully within her, bringing her to a state of bliss that was echoed by Christie's wordless cries of rapture, and she delved deeper within Christie's sex, seeking validation for them both in one act of affirmation.

"Kerry..." Christie gasped, moments before she went rigid and cried out in orgasm. Kerry felt the climax burst through her like a bolt of lightning, and she came as well, in sympathy. That had never happened before...

"Ohhh, god..." She wasn't sure which of them whispered it. Possibly both.

The exotic taste of Christie's sex lingered on her lips as she drew in fresh, clear breaths, and she felt the woman's perspiration against her cheek as she rested her head on her abdomen. Gentle fingers smoothed her hair. Had she felt anything like this in her relationships with men? Maybe. She couldn't be certain. She didn't regret any of them...except possibly one. But this was different. Not better-or-worse different, maybe not even exactly apples-and-oranges different. Just...different. Vive le difference, she thought. I love this.

Gathering strength, she crawled slowly up Christie's body, kissing a trail of acceptance as she rose. Pausing to kiss one breast, tongue flicking against the swollen nipple, suckling at it for a moment, then detouring to place a deliberate kiss directly over the beating heart. Continuing on up the tender throat, paying homage with her lips to the pulsing arteries, moving up over her chin.

Their eyes met at the same moment as their lips, and Kerry allowed herself to see exactly what she'd been looking at the whole time. This woman was a reflection of herself, a divergent-path incarnation of her own life. The Ghost of What Might Have Been. Frankly, Kerry thought she'd gotten the better of the deal.

They both knew, then, as their bodies melded together, eyes clear, that this was it for them. They weren't going to be lovers, and probably not even friends. There was an undeniable connection of the moment, but it was based on an unpleasant recognition of similarities. Each saw in the other what she didn't want to see in herself.

Kerry rolled off of Christie and lay on her back. They lay side by side, not touching, looking away from each other. There seemed to be nothing left to say.

After a while, Christie sat up again, dressing quietly, and walked downstairs. Kerry heard her voice distantly, sounding like one half of a phone conversation.

She lay alone on her bed, feeling herself coming back to herself, free of fear or anxiety. The existential crisis she'd suffered earlier was vanquished, sent scuttling off to the far borders of her psychological realm once more. Kerry felt herself whole again, beneath the glow of recent lovemaking, her leg's infirmity a sad reality, but no less valid than any other aspect of herself.

Questions about herself had been answered today, she realized. Answers that she could not have found alone, nor could they have been provided by even the closest friends. Perhaps not even Kim could have done so.

But Christie, her nemesis...

Kerry reached for her robe and wrapped it around herself, then made her way downstairs.

Christie was hovering in the kitchen doorway, looking oddly guilty. "I called a cab," she said by way of explanation. "Should be here soon."


"I'll wait outside if you want."

"No, that's all right."

Christie crossed her arms, self-consciously.

"Not exactly how you thought this would go, is it?" Kerry asked her.

"Not even close." She snickered. "I don't know what I was thinking, coming here, Kerry."

Kerry shrugged. The whole evening had been unpredictable.

"But look..." Christie added, diffidently, "whatever you think of me, my offer still stands. I'll be happy to talk if you want, or introduce you around to some of the girls." She nodded to the refrigerator. "I left my number on your fridge."

Kerry nodded. "I appreciate the offer."

"They're good people," Christie assured her, earnestly. "The best. You couldn't ask for better family."

"Maybe," Kerry allowed. I already have a family, she added to herself, thinking of Mark and Elizabeth, Carter and Chen and Malucci, Lydia, Haleh, Malik, Peter and Cleo, Abby and Luka, and many others. Even Romano, in his way. My family. Dysfunctional, perhaps, bitter and angry and unstable, but they're my family.

"Believe it or not, Kerry, they're not all angry bitches with chips on their shoulders. Not like me."

Or me, Kerry thought. Out loud, she said, "Well...nobody's perfect." She allowed the faintest hint of a smile as she said it.

"Yeah, nobody's perfect." Christie had to smile in spite of herself. "Except, maybe..."

"...Kim," they finished together, and burst involuntarily into laughter. It was the closest they'd come to being friendly. Sex notwithstanding.

The moment faded along with their giggles, settling into sober reality. Kerry needed a cup of coffee, but didn't want to move, for some reason. They regarded each other silently, unsmiling.

I don't like you, Kerry thought. Perhaps I never will. But I'm so glad you didn't kill yourself. I'm glad that you are alive. I hope you will find someone who loves you and helps you to love yourself.

It was something she had often wished for her own behalf.

The honking of a car horn was heard outside.

"That's me," Christie said, pushing away from the doorjamb where she'd been leaning.

"Mmm-hmm," Kerry said, walking her to the front door. "Is this how one-night stands usually feel?" she asked, suddenly.

"Dunno," Christie replied tersely. "My first one."

Oh. "Mine, too."

The horn honked again as they reached the door and opened it. A wave of night air washed in, feeling fresh and clean. Christie waved 'just-a-second' to the taxi.

Kerry steadied herself against the doorjamb with her left hand and slipped her right out of the crutch, leaning it against the nearby wall. "Christie?"

"Hmmm?" The other woman glanced at her.

She held the hand out formally. "Thanks."

Christie looked at her in puzzlement, but took her hand. "What for?"

"You've given me a lot to think about."

They held the look, and the handshake, for a long, meaningful moment.

"Same here," Christie said quietly.


"Awright, keep your pantyhose on!" Christie yelled at the cab, then looked at Kerry one more time. "Bye, Kerry," she whispered.


Christie turned and trotted to the cab where a dreadlocked guy in his fifties waited impatiently behind the wheel. Kerry watched her go and then closed the door, locking it.

Alone again, yet not quite lonely, she leaned her back against the wall by the front door, feeling the solidity of her house and its physical connection to the earth. It was a monument to the life she'd built for herself, a testament to what a self-defined individual could be. Capable of solitude, yet with room for company. The mystery of her origins did nothing to weaken its structure, and neither did the uncertain new road opening ahead of her.

Yes, I am a lesbian, she thought, and the thought was a beautiful one. But more than that, and perhaps more beautiful, I am still the same person I was before. I am a doctor; warrior and healer, leader or lover, as need be.

I am still Kerry Weaver. I am still Me.

It was a good thing to be.

The End

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