DISCLAIMER: These characters are property of Southern Star Entertainment and Channel 7. No copyright infringement intended. No ownership claimed.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is an alternate Series 8, set from episode 301. It dips a little into the Beth plotline, but otherwise, it generally departs from the Series 8 timeline.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Hidden Geographies
By giantessmess

Part Two

They smiled awkwardly at each other, all through the working day. And without too much discussion, they went for lunch together. Charlotte chose the place. It was a nice distance from the hospital. Anything to limit the possibility of running into a colleague. For a few minutes, they didn't have anything to say to each other. The waiter came and took their orders. Terri fumbled with her serviette. She tried to judge Charlotte's expression.

"What are we supposed to do now?" she said, watching the waiter dart to the next table.

"I have no idea," Charlotte tilted her head. "What the hell are we doing, Terri?"

Terri shrugged. "This isn't something I ever planned…."

Then she gave Charlotte a sly look.

"God, you're gorgeous. Do you know that?"

"Shit," Charlotte laughed, looking mildly shocked. "You've never…. This isn't something….I mean…You're straight."

"Yeah, well," Terri gestured at the air, feeling strange. "There goes that theory."

"Are you…"


"I dunno. Are you… I mean, I know we're obviously…compatible."

Terri smiled, at the euphemism.

"Does it worry you -the fact that I find you absolutely sexy?"

Charlotte shook her head.

"Sexy?....I mean…"

"We slept together, didn't we?"

"Shit." Charlotte smiled, slightly, running a hand over her face. "My god, Terri. This isn't the type of thing I'd expect from a former nun."

Terri let herself smile into her coffee. She'd known that would be brought up at some point.

"Charlotte." It was a name that rolled off the tongue so sensuously. "I recall you saying once that…what was it? All nuns are frustrated lesbians'?"

She had no idea of the truth in the statement. But she didn't much care, at this point. She let her tongue trace over her lips briefly, as she smiled. She'd taken hold of Charlotte's hand, and was lightly stroking her fingers. She'd never tried to seduce a woman before. Charlotte let out a short laugh, her face colouring.

"I can't believe you remember that." She looked at Terri, her expression uncertain at the signals she was receiving. "And you were right next to me at the time. God. Nightmare. How was I to know?- I turn around and you're just glaring."

"Was I glaring?"

"You looked so pissed."

"What….did you have a crush on me?"

Charlotte's voice faltered, and then she raised her eyebrows.

"No-no." She let out a little embarrassed laugh. "That came later."

Terri shrugged.

"Well, I still have Faith, Charlotte. You should know that."

She pulled at the chain around her neck. The silver cross she wore every day. Like a protector, that leered up at anyone who dared look at her body too closely.

Charlotte muttered. "Forgive me if I'm not the biggest fan of the church."

Terri rolled her eyes.

"Why? You know, there are lesbians who manage to be Christians as well."

Charlotte shot her a strange look. Terri liked seeing her squirm. It made her even more attractive. Jesus. She couldn't believe how much she wanted this woman right now. She tried to keep her voice from stammering.

"Charlotte, this shouldn't be an issue with…well, whatever it is we're…"

She couldn't come up with a way to finish the sentence.

"I mean, just because I'm religious, it doesn't mean I agree with all the political views of the religious establishment." She paused, giving Charlotte a prolonged flirtatious glance. "I guess that's pretty obvious."

Charlotte was smiling, like she couldn't quite believe what she was seeing.

"Shit, y'know, I really can't imagine you as a nun."

Terri noticed Charlotte's breathing was ragged. Her hand was still tracing Charlotte's skin. She shrugged, and kissed Charlotte's cheek softly, forgetting for a moment that they were in such a public place. Charlotte looked like someone had just handed her a firecracker.

"Well, beautiful," she enjoyed Charlotte's expression at her very obviously uttered term of endearment. "You didn't know me then. I was a different person."

"No kidding?" Charlotte chuckled, softly. "I can't imagine…I mean, especially after yesterday…."

She let her hand stroke Terri's cheek. "It's hard…for me to see it."

Terri's closed her eyes, at the touch. "I was just…. so afraid of everything. You know?"

Charlotte nodded, unable to suppress a smile.

"Where the hell have you been hiding yourself, Terri?"

Whatever the arrangement was, they seemed to agree on the terms fairly quickly. They started discreetly meeting each other after work. Staying late in restaurants. Occasionally slipping up, and arriving at work in the same car. No one seemed to notice but Frank. And he just shook his head and smiled. Still, Charlotte decided they needed to be more discreet.

"Because we really need all those idiots gossiping about us, don't we?"

Those idiots being work colleagues. She wondered if Charlotte was thinking about all the gossip that had surrounded the both of them, over Jack and the baby. Terri was beyond caring what rubbish managed to find its way around about her, anymore. As far as she was concerned, there would always be gossip, regardless of what or who you did. But she knew this was different. No matter how many times she tried to tell herself it wasn't. She was sleeping with a female co-worker. It wouldn't be taken the same way, as Jack or Mitch.

Still, she was trying not to think too far ahead at this point. As long as they could occasionally meet in her office, and steal a kiss between patients. Push Charlotte up against the closed door, and kiss her all the way down her neck. Fumbling with each other's bras. It was amazing, how quickly she learned to unhook another woman's bra. How her skin fired up, at the hint of Charlotte's touch. Frank managed to be absent on these occasions. Terri wondered how he knew to be.

She'd never gone to a lesbian bar, before she began seeing Charlotte. And for some odd reason, she'd gotten the impression that Charlotte rarely went to them herself. Because she did the rosters- she knew when Charlotte took her nights off. And she'd always seen her at Cougars, or any number of straight bars or pubs, where she stayed close to Vincent Hughes. Probably to rid herself of unwanted male attention. Terri had never heard Charlotte talk of having any gay friends. And after she started sleeping with her, she knew for a fact that she hadn't any. Charlotte was bewildering. What, did she talk to Vincent about everything?

Terri decided she needed to gently coax Charlotte into having some kind of social life. She'd been the one to suggest the bars, more than anything else, she was curious. It frightened her, a little. It was like a whole world she'd never considered visiting. And Sydney did have a nice gay scene, she'd discovered, after doing a bit of research. She turned up at Charlotte's house, with a pile of books on the subject. Charlotte always managed to look surprised, when she did something like that. Terri was always causing those kinds of expressions. As if she expected this poor clueless straight girl didn't have the capacity to use an online book catalogue.

"You can't be serious?"

"What? I'm bloody serious. Why don't you want to show me off?"

But they never really did go anywhere. Restaurants, home, work. Lather, rinse and repeat.

Charlotte always looked at her, as if she wasn't entirely sure if Terri didn't have some hidden agenda. Waiting for a light to snap on, a million people yelling 'surprise.' The trouble was that Terri had no idea of what she was doing. So she put on a façade, and pretended she did. When she met Charlotte's quizzical look, she shrugged.

"I want somewhere I can kiss you in public."

Smiling, she'd draw a long kiss out of the breathless doctor. Tugging at the buttons of her shirt. Her lips brushing against Charlotte's stomach.

Sex with Charlotte wasn't like anything she was used to. But then, Terri knew a person could get used to almost anything, if they wanted it enough. And shit, she wanted Charlotte. She learnt that she liked the intricacies of this woman. It surprised her, how much. That little spot, on her waist that made her shiver. The birthmark near her pelvis that was so sweet to kiss. She enjoyed seeing her face contort in pleasure, her body buckle. She loved the softness inside her. It was so much like a well-kept secret, when she felt Charlotte moan beneath her touch. But it had been slightly awkward to start with. Making love to Charlotte, instead of the other way around. She was more worried that she'd do something stupid. Touch her in the wrong way. Break her, or maybe just fumble like an idiot. She thought perhaps she'd freeze or panic, when Charlotte slipped off her last piece of clothing. But Charlotte didn't have to sound too much like a text-book of body parts, the first time. Still, Terri fell over her own questions.

"Is this…I mean, is it ok?"

"Holy shit… Terri…"

Charlotte would gasp, or murmur, or nod. And give her little street-sign directions. Like Terri was mapping a new territory with her tongue. Lips here. Hand there. Yes, there.

"Oh… fuck. How did you learn to kiss like that?"

They hadn't exactly taken it slow. Whatever this was – a relationship? Was that it? - it was anything but platonic. Terri didn't have to wonder what her mother would think of this one. Her mother – a woman who had still managed to disapprove of Mitch Stephens. Mr Amazing doctor. There were so many ways to live in sin, and Terri had decided to just stop counting.

Sometimes she still found the attraction baffling. This woman she'd known for years. This woman, who now made her tremble with pleasure. Just thinking of Charlotte made her blush. This woman who held her close. Who whispered to her, when she woke up at night shaking, thinking of Mitch. On more nights than she cared to remember. You can't erase a person from your subconscious. Even if you want to.

It made her wonder who Charlotte dreamed of, instead of her.

After a few months had gone past, Terri felt her mind wander at the reality of it. How many months have to line up together, before it can't be called anything but a relationship?

It was odd, seeing her at work. Like viewing a landscape through a new filter. Everything was Charlotte, now. Where she was, where she wasn't. Not being able to glance at her in a certain way. They kept their smiles friendly, or tried to. When they weren't sneaking away to a more private place, they kept their physical contact limited to hands 'accidentally' touching, accidentally brushing against each other. A couple of times, Charlotte had made Terri laugh out loud, by making some obscure reference to one of their nights together. Lesbian sex jokes. (God. Was she a lesbian? Was that it?). Bewildered expressions all around. But mostly, they tried to keep out of each other's way. Terri certainly didn't trust herself around Charlotte. Von had already picked up that she was seeing somebody. She felt stupid denying something so obvious.

"You're smiling a lot these days." Von raised her eyebrows. "I hope I'm going to meet him soon."

Terri pretended to be surprised.

"Who? Von, what makes you think that?"

If it wasn't a relationship, then what was it? What was she doing with this woman? If it was just meaningless sex. Like Jack (Yes, that's all Jack was). Then why couldn't she stop imagining little stories about them? Future selves. Mrs and Mrs. Terri tried not to kid herself, she was crazy about this woman. It was terrifying. She might even be in love with her. She was terrible at pretending. She'd never really been the best at keeping her eyes away from Charlotte. How long can you desire a person, without realising it? Does that make you stupid?

Mitch- even Mitch had picked something up, before she had a bloody clue. Charlotte had been working on Ward 17 for six months or so. At least long enough so Terri had known her to be a lesbian, (not that she'd reflected on that fact too much). It was somewhere between being driven mad by Mitch's ex-wife, and his attempts at a detox clinic at the hospital. There'd been a few quiet moments, when he'd come up behind her, and catch her gazing at Charlotte. Just gazing.

"Should I be worried, Sullivan?"

He grinned, when he registered her shocked expression.

"Though I'll admit- Beaumont does have something about her…"

Terri raised her eyebrows. "I think I'm the one that should be concerned."

"Hardly," Mitch continued, still teasing. "Honestly, though. It's quite a trick, the way your expression changes when she enters a room."

Terri laughed, uncomfortably.

"Be serious."

It was the same, before she reunited with Mitch. She'd managed to choke back her attraction to him. As if you have any kind of choice in who you want.

It was worse, now that she was aware of it. Her 'gayness'. God. Whatever you wanted to call it, it all added up to the same thing in the end. She was terrible at lowering her gaze, when Charlotte brushed past her, (she didn't want to lower her gaze). She wondered how many other people knew, before she did. Who knew now, but wouldn't say anything. It's hard to imagine that your desires can be so obvious to everyone but you.

The letters started coming about a year ago. Terri had gotten a few on and off from Bron, after Mitch's funeral. But these were different. Bron. That woman needed to be taught as a history subject. She used to be Bronwyn Craig, the nurse. But she'd gone through a few transitions. Paramedic. Part-time nurse. Then only nursing. And later she bent herself into the shape of Bronwyn Craig-Markham.

The repentant wife.

Somewhere between all this, she was Charlotte's friend. But even Terri had noticed the way Charlotte looked at her. When Bron entered the room, her face shifted. A failed attempt at a steady expression. Maybe the change was too subtle for Bron to pick up, early on. But Terri could only guess that she was deluding herself.

Of course Terri knew Charlotte had been in love with her. But she wasn't certain exactly, of what had happened between the two of them. She only knew that Charlotte never seemed to talk of her. Usually, when your best friend (or one-true-love), moves out of town, you feel the weight of her absence. Anecdotes come to mind. Stupid or funny or sweet things they used to say. Charlotte said nothing.

Bron's letters had started in an awkward way. Her handwriting didn't even look the same. It was like she'd written and re-written the contents over and over. At the time, Terri had hardly been in the place to give good advice. At that point, she was scarcely an objective person. Her husband was dead. Only a year. In a few months, she'd start sleeping with Jack. A year later, it would be Charlotte.

They wrote back and forth for a little while. Bron seemed a mess. After one particularly depressing letter, Terri had enough of the evasion. She picked up the phone.

Bron sounded surprised on the other end of the line. But also relieved.

"Terri. God, it's good to hear a familiar voice."

"How are you holding up?"

She could hear Bron exhale.

"He hates me. I've completely ruined his life."

Terri softened her tone.

"I'm sure Ben will forgive you, eventually."

"He's left half his stuff." Bron's voice was shaking. She started to babble. "I know he's still going to work and all, but how is he changing clothes? He won't even come back for them. How can he not want his clothes?"

"Bron. You don't need to destroy yourself over this. It wouldn't have been fair to him, if you stayed."

"I know." She was crying. "I know I've done the right thing."

But still, she cried. Terri felt helpless.

"Have you thought about where you're going to go?"

Bron sobbed. "I can't come back to Sydney. I can't face her."

Terri sighed.

"You were in love with Charlotte?"

Bron hesitated.

"Does that shock you?" She sounded defensive.

"What? No." Terri stammered. Even though she was feeling increasingly uncomfortable.

"Anyway," Bron was sounding bitter. "It doesn't matter now."

"You left Ben for her." It wasn't a question.

Bron took a deep, shaky breath

"I shouldn't be allowed near people. Look at what I do to them. Look at how I messed Ben around."

"And as far as I can recall, he messed you around back," Terri interjected. But Bron wasn't listening.

"Haven't I hurt her enough? What kind of person am I? Someone who just turns around and marries. Just because it's safe, and he's just there."

Terri sighed.

"Don't do this to yourself, Bron. Don't talk yourself out of this."

"Have you ever slept with another woman, Terri?"

Terri's face turned crimson.

"Or have you ever wanted to?" Bron continued.

"What? Wait….this isn't about me."

"Calm down. Don't get all defensive."

"And I'm straight," Terri stated, feeling her skin go sticky.

"Yeah, well that's my bloody point. So was I. Tells you what kind of good labels do. The excuses you make. Look how stupid I got over semantics." Her voice became rougher.

"What did Charlotte do to deserve someone like me?"

"You should call her."

Bron let out a sharp laugh.

"And say what? She's probably forgotten about me."

"Forgotten about you? Bron, do you want me to talk to her?"

Bron sighed. "Terri, I appreciate how much you've done for me. But please don't tell her. Please don't."

Terri's voice sharpened. "You want me to lie to her?"

"Just don't say anything."

They continued writing, on and off. That first interaction on the phone line unsettled Terri, for reasons she couldn't pin-point. Letters were safer. They followed a pattern. Terri arguing. Bron remaining stubborn, changing topics. She'd ask Terri about how it was, shifting from Ward 17 to the Emergency Department. Was Frank still a pain in the arse? And that new resident. Jack Quade? How were things going with that? Ingredients of Terri's life, rather than her own. She wouldn't come to Sydney. The letters started arriving with a Melbourne address, scrawled on the back. She wrote about the new hospital. The new set of staff. Patients, and work problems. But nothing about a certain doctor at All Saints Western General. Unless it was to argue back, at something Terri had said. Eventually Terri just let it go. Anyway, she had become increasingly awkward, when it came to the subject of Charlotte Beaumont.

They always spent more of their time at Charlotte's house on Sundays. Weekends were like an alternate reality, where neither of them were liars - to themselves, to everyone else. Charlotte liked pretending their lives could be judged, only on the way they existed for those two days. But there were always signs of the real world to wreck her little mindfuck.

"Do you always have to bring so much work home?"

Charlotte was learning out the back door, staring over the balcony. It was one of those warm autumn evenings. The kind that drove her dogs crazy. They knew there was something strange about the way summer was extending like this.

"Terri?" She called back inside.

Terri was probably at the kitchen table, muttering at the disordered papers in front of her. Bloody paperwork. She decided to pretend that she wasn't being completely ignored.

"God, can you believe how warm it is?"

She felt arms come up around her waist. She tilted her head, and saw Terri, rolling her eyes. Her glasses were tangled in her dark hair.

"Maybe it's a sign." Terri kissed her neck.

"Sure. The apocalypse."

"No," Terri shook her head. "That your dogs need a walk."

Charlotte pulled away, letting out a laugh.

"You wanna get rid of me? You ever going to be done with those rosters?" She trailed her fingers down Terri's back. "At least the weather forces you to wear these hot little singlets."

Terri tried unsuccessfully to resist Charlotte's expression. She drew her in for a kiss, laughing into it. Charlotte's arms were wrapped around her.

"See, this is why you need to get lost for a while. You're too…distracting."

"Am I, now?"

Terri rolled her eyes, and brushed some hair out her face.

"Don't." She couldn't help smiling.

She looked out at the light stretching down, as the sun shrank past the buildings.

"You know, we should go for a swim. Go somewhere. Before the winter finally dribbles in."

At her comment, Charlotte laughed hot breath onto her neck.

"What? I like swimming."

"Sure, Terri. I bet I can imagine what you're thinking."

"I wasn't, actually. You have a dirty mind," Terri lied. The idea of Charlotte, and water and…well, swimming. Some hidden inlet. Slipping off her bathers. It wasn't a bad thought.

"Uh-huh," Charlotte said, disbelieving. "You, a total prude? Then who was that, last night? I can't imagine where you learnt that from."

Terri's skin felt hot.

"Go. Walk," She laughed, even as she kissed Charlotte. "How am I ever going to get any work done around you?"

Charlotte grinned, walking down the stairs to where the dogs were gazing sadly, through the gates.

"Cricket – hey! – come on. Let's go. I've been shunned for paperwork."

Terri laughed, watching her.

"Hey," She called after her. "Milk! You always forget-"

Charlotte waved an acknowledgement. "Yeah-yeah. Milk. Got it."

Charlotte would manage to forget she'd been asked. Terri was certain of it. She could be irritatingly passive-aggressive like that. Initially, she'd welcomed the way their relationship had been allowed to go its course, without having everyone breathing down her neck about pointless things like gender. At the time, she preferred to push that side of it out of her mind. She wouldn't have coped with it. People tilting their heads, eager to turn her into a human pin cushion by sticking lots of fun little labels into her. But Charlotte…she was just Charlotte. In the end, she was simply the person Terri adored. This amazing, stubborn, beautiful woman Terri had fallen in love with. Prematurely in love, like a teenager. She was embarrassed to say the words, afraid of hearing nothing but her stupid heart break. She wasn't an idiot. Charlotte probably didn't love her, just like Terri hadn't loved Jack.

Stubborn. Charlotte always forgot certain things. Apart from the simplest household items like bread and butter, she forgot the way Terri's eyes pleaded with her.

"We should go somewhere. Do something."

Public displays of affection weren't Charlotte's strong point. Unless Terri managed to get some alcohol into her. Terri had seen the way Charlotte had been with Addy. Even with Bron. She didn't seem like the type of person who cared what people thought of her. But she was so careful with Terri, as if she were breakable. Charlotte wouldn't want to go to some beach with her. She wouldn't want to kiss her, in the middle of a busy restaurant. To tell everyone at work to go screw themselves. Who really cared, anyway? And Terri was meant to be the latent lesbian? Please.

Charlotte didn't love her. And Terri almost didn't care. She didn't have the self-control to imagine breaking things off with her. She knew she should be better at self-preservation by now.

Terri turned to Von, during their shift together. She hesitated, watching Von's expression carefully. Then she sighed, and turned back to her patient. But she'd been dreaming off again. Jack had already gone on to the next bed. The next illness. She closed her eyes, wondering what she missed in the consultation. Had she come across as entirely insane? Jack usually just pretended everything was 'normal' anyway. Truly. If she'd gone and hung herself with his stethoscope, he'd probably only blink a couple of times, and then blather on about the patient's medical history. And she really didn't blame him.

God, she wished she could snap out of whatever this was. This mess in her head.

Charlotte had the night off. Another dinner with her ex-husband. Another one. Teri wasn't even free that night, but she felt snubbed, regardless. It was like a special club she wasn't invited to. Charlotte and her Ex. Von looked up, as Terri spoke.

"Von, do you remember… you asked if I was seeing someone?"

Von turned to her, a half-smile on her face.

"Well, it's about bloody time. " She hooked the patient's chart back onto the bed in front of them.

"Who is he?"

Terri winced at the pronoun. They were headed through the door of the break room when she mumbled,

"No...it's a she…actually."

She took her dinner out of the fridge, and turned to see Von's bemused expression. Terri sighed, and put the plastic container of soup in the microwave, her fingers shook a little and she pressed the buttons.

"Say something, Von."

"Well I'll be damned…."

"Yeah, I know." Terri couldn't help the smile that spread across her face.

Von raised her eyebrows. "You're certainly full of surprises."

Terri scolded her, "Von." She looked up at her, hesitantly. "You're not… You're ok with this?" She closed her eyes. "It wasn't obvious?"

Then a look of appreciation spread across Von's face. She seemed to be choosing her words carefully.

"It isn't Charlotte, is it?"

Terri almost dropped her cutlery.

"How in the…"

Von smiled wider. "You've always...well-"


"It's the way you look at her."

Von shrugged, retrieving her curry from the fridge. The microwave beeped.

"Your dinner-"

"How do I look at her?"

Von smiled, slightly. "Are you in love with her?"

Terri let out a laugh, closing her eyes. "Oh my God. I'm that obvious?"

Von just chuckled, and shrugged, spooning the curry onto a plate.

Two years ago, Vincent appeared at the hospital. Not like a ghost rattling chains. Not even as Vincent, really. Dr Hughes.

Charlotte used to imagine what would happen, when he came back from overseas. How she'd act if they bumped into each other on the street. But she never thought they'd have to work together. Imagine the confusion, if she'd been the type to take her husbands last name. Dr Hughes and Dr Hughes. Both haunting Ward 17. But he was back. Charlotte didn't even care when he began to act all possessive again. He was a reminder that she didn't always end up with people who treated her like crap. (Maybe she had a sign stuck to her back? 'Use me' scribbled in black marker.) He had perfect timing. With Bron gone, well… She hadn't let too many people get close to her.

Jesus. Could you blame her, after that?

But in the past year, they'd gotten a little distant. Vincent brought out that secretive side of himself again. Charlotte put that down to Grace Marks. Grace had been doing her residency in Emergency. Then for no good reason, she just died. Life can be so damn twisted. The circumstances involved Vincent. He began to show cracks. It was love, probably. Poor bastard. He always did give his heart to women who would rip the shit out of it. He refused to talk about it, but Charlotte had always thought herself a bit of a detective, when it came to him.

Still, it wasn't always that easy. You can work with a person, and see nothing but a professional shell. And boy, did that suck. She was glad she'd seen a bit more of him, in the past few months. Even though he still acted like someone had carved him open with his own surgical tools.

Terri kept making it difficult. She always acted like she was puzzled by their friendship.

"It's just, well… what do you have to talk about?"

"Oh, work. What do you think?"

"Do you have to be so defensive?"

"I've known him since for-bloody-ever. You'd think we'd be able to make conversation."

Charlotte wasn't sure if it was jealousy, or something else. But she didn't flatter herself. She couldn't imagine Terri being jealous, over her.

With Vincent, it was basically dinner, every once in a while. She did like seeing him, though he wasn't exactly a laugh to be around. Sometimes dinner with him was like sitting through all of Shakespeare's tragedies at once. It bothered her. Charlotte was a firm believer in love's ability to fuck you over. But she couldn't help thinking it was something other than Grace.

He picked the restaurant this time. An Italian place she'd never been to, in an inner-city suburb. Of course he was late. Charlotte drank two glasses of house red, and devoured all the complimentary bread.


She was never usually nervous around Vincent. She loved him in that annoying-older-brother way. It always made people suspicious, like she was dangerously close to jumping his bones. Jesus, all she did was smile at the guy, and deal with his shit. Maybe those nurse clones were a little too dim to grasp the concept of Friendship.

The morons liked to conveniently forget she was a lesbian. The fact that they rarely saw her with a woman made it too easy on them. And of course, no one but Frank knew about Terri Sullivan.

Charlotte absentmindedly picked at the crumbs in the breadbasket.

This was it. She was damn sick of hiding from Vincent. Him, of all people. It was impossible, dabbing all that make-up over those telltale signs. On her neck, her shoulders. Wearing a higher-cut top occasionally. She hated rubbing away evidence of Terri's lips. She hated concealing why she'd been grinning like an idiot for the past three or so months.

Terri didn't know she was telling him. Charlotte was forever terrified of doing something that would freak her out. Scare her away. Oddly, she hadn't managed to screw it up yet. But with her track record, she felt like it was almost inevitable. Honestly, it was like she deliberately chose women who were fabulous kissers, but who shuddered at the reality of the relationship. What century did they think they were living in, anyway? She tried not to think of Liz. She never liked letting her mind wander over things she had no control over.

And Bron.

It was best not to think about. Married women were not the cleverest people to fall in love with. Anyway, Terri was different. At least, for the time being, Terri was all hers.

She checked her watch again, and her stomach contorted. Telling Vincent about Terri was like coming out to him all over again.

Finally, he made his way through the cluttered arrangement of tables and customers. He'd gotten into the habit of forgetting to shave in the morning. She took a breath, at his slightly rumpled clothes. The way he didn't seem to care which way his hair stuck out. He slumped into the chair across from her, and made a pathetic attempt at a smile.

"Vincent…." She swallowed. "You look like shit," she tried not to let the worry affect her voice.

"Nice to see you too."

"Oh Vinnie, don't do that." She searched his face. "Come on. What's going on?"

"Nothing," he said, without meeting her eye.

"Shit, you sound like death or something."

"Good to know."

"Well, something's obviously bothering you."

"Nothing, Charlotte," he looked irritated. "Just drop it."

"Great. Fine." She sighed, signalling the waiter to finally come. She tried to stare him down.

"I don't understand you at all at the moment. Do I?"

They ate in silence.

The ravioli was undercooked, and the sauce was sour in Charlotte's mouth.

She couldn't help thinking about what she'd be eating, if she'd stayed in with Terri that night. The lasagne, maybe? It had tasted beautiful when it wasn't burnt. Or maybe some takeaway Chinese, both of them curled up on Terri's couch, watching a DVD. She'd recently introduced Terri to Tipping the Velvet. And now Terri was constantly asking Charlotte to come around

"…With another, um…lesbian-themed movie…"

You'd think she'd go into research-mode there as well. Terri being coy was becoming a bit of a rare occurrence at this point. So the sweet, awkward way she stumbled over asking made Charlotte smile.

She realised she was smiling, as she sat at the table. Vincent shrugged and looked at her.

"Is it something about work?"


"This thing. Is it something about your training position? It's good news, right?"

Charlotte stopped pushing her uneaten food around her plate, realising she couldn't avoid it forever. Yeah, it'd be nice to tell him when he was in a more pleasant mood. But who knew if that was ever going to happen?

"I'm seeing someone."

Vincent smiled, even though he looked suspicious.

"No way? Really?"

Charlotte rolled her eyes.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence." She shook her head. He raised his eyebrows.

"Well, come on. Is it serious?"

"It's still…well, it's undefined." She looked at him. "God, you're perceptive. Even Von picked something up."

Vincent was immediately curious.

"Von? Wait, you're hardly friends with the woman. Why would she know anything?"

Charlotte took a breath, feeling the impending indigestion from dinner.

"She's a close friend… of the woman I'm seeing."

"What? Who?"

"Well," She shrugged. "Terri. It's Terri."

Vincent all but pushed his way off the table. He stood, not certain of what to do with his arms, he crossed them and let them drop to his side.

"Terri Sullivan? Terri?"

Charlotte sighed, and threw her napkin onto her plate.

"Calm down, Vincent."

"I am calm." He was stumbling over the words. "But Terri? You can't be serious."

Charlotte looked around for the waiter, knowing she didn't at all feel like sticking around for desert.

Terri hated the silent treatment. Charlotte was amazingly vocal at work, when something bothered her. When Frank stepped on her toes. When Jess managed to act idiotic, telling random patients everyone's life story.

Charlotte put them in their place.

But when Terri managed to piss her off, she'd have to work like a dog trying to figure out how. Don't even think about just asking. Charlotte didn't operate that way.

It had to be Vincent. Charlotte's nasty mood had materialised after she'd had dinner with him. And now he and Charlotte were down to simple civilities at work. Medical jargon. Surgical consults. It may as well have been written in the rosters. They were doctors, not friends. Terri watched Charlotte glare at him. She pulled back, but it was easy to overhear them talking.

"No, alright? Get stuffed."


"I don't give a shit."

Charlotte stalked past Terri, without looking at her. The automatic doors shuddered open and closed. Terri sighed. She rubbed her eyes tiredly, and followed Charlotte to the bench where she ate her lunch.

Charlotte gave her a look. "What?"

"You've been acting strangely all week."

Charlotte glared at Terri's comment. Then her face fell.

"It's nothing."

Terri sat next to her, grabbing half of Charlotte's sandwich. She took a bite, as Charlotte pretended nothing was bothering her.

"I thought you didn't like tuna," Charlotte muttered.

"I like the way you make it."

Charlotte sighed, and took hold of Terri's hand, tenderly. Terri searched her face.

"What happened?"


Terri gave her a look.

"With Vincent. Tell me- what the hell happened?"

Charlotte rolled her eyes, and stood up.

"What does it look like? The bastard pissed me off."

Terri groaned. "God. You really are impossible."

"This is impossible. Do you wanna keep it down?"

Charlotte took a quick look at the hospital grounds around them. A patient on crutches slowed down long enough to give them a dirty look.

Terri's annoyance level rose.

"That's right. We can't have everyone finding out you're a lesbian. The shock might kill them."

"Jeez, you're irritating when you're sarcastic."

"Well, then we're both irritating."

Charlotte snatched up her lunch, and stormed off.

Terri shook her head. She couldn't win. This woman was completely frustrating. She got up, throwing the uneaten sandwich remnants into the bushes.

She waited for Charlotte to finish her shift, wishing she hadn't arrived in Charlotte's car. She wanted to by-pass this, and be home already. Her shoes bit into her, and her legs ached from being on her feet all day. Even the heat of the afternoon sun was draining away what little energy she had left. She watched Vincent stride out of the doors to Emergency. For a second, his expression registered her presence, before he looked away, awkwardly. Terri found herself glaring at him, lazily.

Charlotte emerged, a little after he did.

She looked around, nervously, before pulling Terri into her car.



Charlotte kissed her, lightly. Terri pulled back, feeling annoyed.

"You're not going to do this."

Charlotte sat back a little, looking hurt.

"Do what?"

"Kiss me, and pretend I'm not mad at you."

Charlotte narrowed her eyes.

"Mad? You never said you were-"


Charlotte sighed, starting the car up. She tapped her fingers irritably on the steering wheel.

"Everything shits you. I kiss you, it shits you. I don't kiss you, you glare at me all through dinner. God - it was a public restaurant."

"I'm not still angry about last week," Terri lied, watching the street blur outside her window. She let out a heavy breath.

"Vincent," Charlotte nodded, looking tired. "You really wanna know what he did?"

"I want to know."

Charlotte took a breath, clearly doing her best to focus solely on the road.

"He told me to dump you."


Terri wasn't sure she'd heard correctly.

"He said, you were just like…well, Bron…he's worried about me."

Terri noticed the catch in Charlotte's voice.

"You told him?" Terri stuttered. "I mean…you said we were…"

First it seemed like the woman didn't care enough to see Terri outside of her flat, and now, random ex-husbands were on the announcement list? She wasn't quite believing this.

Charlotte was staring insistently at the stoplight, waiting for it to change.

"Look Terri, it doesn't matter now."

"But you're not talking to him."

Charlotte tried to smile.

"He means well, but he was still an arsehole. Acted like you were the bloody Queen Mother, or something."

Her face looked drawn, it constricted through the effort of trying not to cry. Terri leant forward and flicked the indicator on.

"Pull over, Charlotte."

Charlotte sniffed, turning the wheel.

"Shit, I hate it when you do that."

Terri watched her, as she shut the car engine off. Charlotte's face collapsed in tears. Terri tried to pull her body towards her, but Charlotte resisted.

"No, I'm fine," she muttered, trying to smear the tears away. Terri sighed.

"You're hardly fine."

"Don't, ok?" Charlotte had managed to slow her breathing down. "It's just…I fucking hate fighting with him. Especially when he's right."

Terri's heart stopped.

"What is that supposed to mean?"

Charlotte looked at her.

"No…not you. I mean..."

Terri looked away.

"Vincent," she muttered. "God. Sometimes I feel like I should be having a relationship with him."

Charlotte glared, her tears starting up again. "Will you let me finish at least?"

Terri sighed, and nodded.


"I'm just a little messed up. Jesus. This isn't easy."

Terri couldn't help but feel a sense of impending doom.

"Please..." She shook her head. "Don't say this is about Bron."

"What? Why the hell not?" Charlotte snapped, still glaring. "Isn't it good for you to know, why your girlfriend's so fucked-up?"

Girlfriend. Terri felt the word ricochet back and forth over her body. But wherever she looked, there was Bron. She felt shaky. It was irrational, to be this jealous.

"Are you in love with her?" The words escaped her before she could stop them.


"You are, aren't you?'

Charlotte closed her eyes. "I was. I don't know…"

Terri felt her body go limp. She made herself focus on the sounds of the traffic grinding past. On the ticking sound of the indicator. Anything but the sharp pain inside of her.

"Right," she nodded, as if it all made sense now. "Vincent thinks I'm like her?"

Her voice came out cold.

Charlotte wiped at the make-up, collecting under her eyes.

"Only because you're straight."

"I'm not straight." She glared at Charlotte. "You're the one who can't stand to kiss me in public."


"I can't believe you're comparing me to Bron."

"I never said you were like Bron. Ok? I know you don't hate me."

"She doesn't hate you." Terri let out a breath. She closed her eyes, as if doing so would make this revelation a little less painful. "And she's certainly not straight."

Charlotte did a double take.

"She's what?"

Terri immediately regretted this decision. But Charlotte had the right to know, didn't she?

Terri addressed the windscreen, when she talked.

"She left Ben. She was in love with you."

Charlotte pushed herself back from Terri. She screwed up her face.

"How the fuck can you possibly know that?"

"We write, on and off." She paused. "Look, Charlotte-"

"No, don't even try and tell me," Charlotte's face looked pale. "What the hell? You write?"

She glared at Terri.

"My God. You knew this, and you never fucking told me."


"How long?"

"Please," Terri said, reaching out for her. Charlotte shook her head.

"Come on. How long have you been lying to me?"

"You're acting like I'm trying to keep you apart." Terri said, exasperated.

"Just tell me."

Terri gritted her teeth.

"It was before you and Addy got together. And she didn't want to see you." Terri had to look away. Her insides hurt.

"As far as I'm concerned, you deserve each other."

She felt Charlotte's hand, on her shoulder. She shrugged it away, hostilely.

"Her Melbourne address is in my address book, at your place."

"Melbourne?" Charlotte's voice had a broken edge to it.

"After you copy it out, you can leave it with Von or someone at work."

She wouldn't cry. She refused to give Charlotte the satisfaction.

"Terri, please…"

"Drop me home."

"No, look. I'm sorry."

Terri leant over her, and started the car. Charlotte let out a ragged breath and put it into gear. Terri knew Charlotte was crying, without even having to look at her.

Part 3

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