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Kerry pushed aside the dusty blinds and stared at the softly falling snow. A typical Chicago winter scene: the snowflakes shimmering in the glow of the streetlights, swirling through the frigid air and hiding the grime of the street. By morning, that pristine veil would be trampled by many pairs of winter boots, littered with the countless cigarette butts of anxious patients and, no doubt, repeatedly peed on by the mangy unloved dogs that roamed the streets, ownerless and forlorn.
The doctor's lounge was deserted; the emergency room blessedly quiet and empty. Only after the snow stopped would the accident victims start pouring in, along with the heart attack patientswhen would people learn that vigorous shoveling combined with complete disregard for one's health could be fatal?
Kerry had offered to take the Christmas Eve shift, and why not? No one waited for her at home. There was no one keeping her bed warm these days, no one to clear the sidewalk in front of the place she lived. And any extra shifts she volunteered for could only increase her chances of career advancement. Still, she couldn't help feeling a twinge of self-pity at the thought of her personal life. Personal life? Kerry Weaver didn't have one.
At the end of the endless shift, she signed off on the few patients she'd seen, thinking only of her cozy bed and perhaps, a hot toddy. Shrugging on her heavy overcoat, she caught sight of her face in the mirror hanging inside her locker. It was almost like seeing a stranger.
When she left the hospital, something made her pause. Fingering the car keys in her pocket, she suddenly turned, heading for a certain bara place where she wasn't known, a place where she could be someone other than Kerry Weaver, up-and-coming emergency room physician. Kerry Weaver, about to become chief resident at Cook County General Hospital. She entered the bar, with its cheerful Christmas lights, furtively gazing around the room. I'm safe. As she asked for vodka, neat, a slender blonde gracefully slid over from the next bar stool. A quick glance, the feel of a hand on her thighbody heat, at last. Smiles were exchanged, and names. After a few shots, a pleasant blur, and her vigilance dissolved. "Merry Christmas," the blonde whispered, hand moving inexorably higher. "Why don't we continue this someplace more private?"
"My place is close," Kerry replied. I need the control. I don't even know if this is what I want, but, I need to control what's about to happen. I can't afford to lose everything I've worked so hard for. "Where did you say you were from?"
"Pittsburgh," Her companion smiled. "I'm just here for the holidayshad to get away from my well-meaning, nosy familyknow what I mean?"
Perfect, thought Kerry. Tidings of comfort and joy. And no one would ever know.
Christmas with Kim.
"If I have to hear 'Jingle Bell Rock' one more time, I swear I'll kill somebody!"
Kerry was tired of hiding her annoyance. It seemed as if everyone else in the ER had gone mad with Christmas spirit. She glared at Jerry and he reluctantly lowered the volume. Several staff members groaned.
"You really shouldn't say things like that to a shrink," Kim Le Gaspi grinned. "Here, have some eggnog. Doctor's orders."
"Reallyand what else has the doctor ordered?" Kerry's tone was light, but she scanned the busy room for signs. Signs that anyone was aware that she and Kim were what exactly were they, anyway? She knew how she felt, and she was certain that Kim was eager to take things to the next level. But her automatic protective mechanism was sounding alarm bells that managed to drown out the off-key caroling of the staff.
"God, Malucci sounds as if he's being murdered!" Haleh passed by the two women, a knowing look on her face. No disapproval, but it was more than Kerry was comfortable with. Kerry managed a feeble smile.
"C'mon, I've got something for you in my office." Kim turned and started for the elevator, Kerry cautiously following behind.
"You were staring at my ass, weren't you?" Kim pretended to look stern, as the elevator doors slid shut.
Kerry could feel the unwanted blush rise from her collarbones, quickly flowing to her neck and up to her flushed face. "I was not!"
Kim leaned in and swiftly kissed her, lips sweet from the eggnog, lingering hungrily. Kerry greedily returned the embrace, her hands drifting down to cup that ass she'd been eyeing, deny it though she might. When the elevator stopped, she leaped back as if suddenly scalded.
"Hello, ladies enjoying a little Christmas cheer?" Robert Romano leered at the women.
"Seen Lizzie?" His lower lip still had traces of Christmas cookie clinging to it.
"I think Dr. Corday is downstairs at the party," Kerry stiffly replied.
"God only knows why she likes hanging around that bunch of imbeciles you two have fun, OK?" Romano got off at the next floor, to the obvious relief of Kim and Kerry.
"What a toad " Kim rolled her eyes.
"He's been giving you a hard time, hasn't he?" Kerry shook her head. "That man has altogether too much power." Once again, the elevator doors slid open. Kim sighed.
"He doesand I know he'd like nothing better than to see me gobut, hey let's not talk about him anymore tonight."
Kim unlocked the entrance to the Psych ward. "It's in my office."
"What's in your office?"
Kim locked the door and shut the blinds. "Why don't we just say I'm your secret Santa?"
As they came together in a long-awaited embrace, Kerry sighed, the tension in her shoulders releasing a bit. Kim pushed her against the far wall, undoing the buttons of her blouse, covering Kerry's breasts with tiny kisses: kisses that held promise of more to follow. Kerry wound her fingers through the soft blonde hair as Kim sighed, bringing her thigh between Kerry's legs. Imagine that long neck arched, that silken throat laid bare. Imagine the zipper, tugged downward, and the soft sound of that confining skirt as it drops to the floor. Imagine
Kerry suddenly stopped what she was doing, pulling away from Kim. She looked into those huge blue eyes, shining like searchlights. Eyes that looked right into the heart and soul of Kerry Weaver.
"I'm so sorry, Kim. I, uh, I'm just "
"Not ready. I get it. Really, I do." Kim gently brushed hair from Kerry's face. "But come home with me. It can be as fast, or as slow as you want. Butjust come with me."
Kerry couldn't look at Kim, the imploring expression on her face. Neither could she look away, not for long. "I'll come by later, I promise." Straightening her clothing, she walked slowly to the door. "We can't leave together, Kim. People would"
Softly, Kim leaned in, placing her hands on her desk. "OK, I get it. Really, I do."
"Good, I'm glad you "
"Kerry? You have to go. Now."
"I'll see you later?"
"You'll see me later."
Kerry returned to the elevator. She spent the night with Kim, and awakened the next morning to find a small, beautifully wrapped box next to her on the pillow. It was several long, slow, sweet hours before she remembered to open it.
Christmas with Sandy.
"God, Sandy, you're worse than a kid!" Kerry ducked, but not quickly enough to avoid the snow missile aimed directly at her head.
"What's the matter, doc? Can't hold your own in a snowball fight?" Sandy stood, hands on her slim hips, a mocking grin on her face.
"Now you've done it " Kerry scooped up a sizable handful of the snow and squinted into the winter sunlight. "Hah! A direct hit!"
Sandy brushed the clinging snow from her head, which was covered in a hideously cheerful, snowman-patterned wool cap. To make it worse, the cap sported jingling bells and a ridiculous pom-pom. The bells rang out as Sandy vigorously shook off the rest of the snow. "What the hell are you laughing at?"
"That hat!" Kerry succumbed to a fit of giggles. "I know your mother made it and all, butI've got to give you credit for actually having the nerve to wear it in public!"
Sandy struggled uphill, finally stopping about three feet from her lover. Panting a little from the exertion, she lurched up to where Kerry waited. "When are you going to realize that nobody actually gives a crap about this except for you?" She pounced on Kerry, pushing her into the snow bank, rolling over until she sat, pinning Kerry down. Grabbing a handful of snow, she pushed it down under Kerry's sweater. "You think this preppy J. Crew shit doesn't look just as stupid? Since when are reindeer less dopey than snowmen?"
"Dammit, Sandy you're gonna get it now!" Kerry struggled and managed to push Sandy off, moving swiftly enough to reverse their positions. "Hah! How do you like it with me on top?"
Sandy's dark eyes narrowed. "You asked me that out here where people might hear us! Oh, my God, it's a friggin' Christmas miracle!"
"Sandy? Shut up " Kerry insinuated her body over Sandy's, moving in a way that was guaranteed to make her stop laughing. "Well, how do you want it? Naughty or nice?"
I can't believe I just said that. What a relief, not to care anymore. To be able to give love, and be loved in return. For what I am, not some notion of what I should be. It is a Christmas miracle!
Sandy pretended to consider. "Can't I have both? Nice and naughty?" She gazed up at Kerry, her face suddenly serious. "You can have whatever you want, you know that," replied Kerry, realizing the sudden change in her partner's mood. "Hey, let's go home, change into some dry clothes and watch a movie, OK?"
"OK, on the going home and the movie. I have to think about the clothes didn't we get that fireplace for a reason?"
They walked back home, both women uncharacteristically quiet. The brief winter daylight faded as they walked hand-in-hand through the windswept Chicago streets.
Kerry saw the way Sandy looked hungrily as a woman walked past, carrying a baby in a snowsuit, the little rosy cheeks framed by a yellow hood.
"I've thought a lot about what we discussed." Sandy pretended to search for her gloves, unwilling to meet Kerry's eyes. "You know, the baby."
Kerry kept her tone light, since Sandy had been so adamant about remaining childless.
"And what did you decide?" Kerry reached out for Sandy's hand.
"Let's do it. I mean I'll do it. You can't go through that again. And don't say, 'do I want it'. I wouldn't bring it up if I didn't mean it."
"I know that, sweetie." Kerry stopped in front of the house, smiled at Sandy and took her in her arms. "That's just great. It'll be wonderful. You'll be wonderful."
"It's scary, though."
"We'll get through it. It won't be easy, but we can do it. But right now, I think we should build a big fire and get warm. I know a great way to get warm " Kerry whispered in Sandy's ear.
"How dare you! You can't talk to me like that around the baby!"
Kerry arched her eyebrow. "Do you see a baby? I don't "
Sandy unlocked the door, while Kerry continued, "And until there actually is a baby, I retain the right to rip off all your clothesand mineand fuck you senselessdoes that sound good?"
Kerry pushed Sandy inside and they stood in the hallway, swiftly dropping sweaters and gloves, kicking off boots, eagerly kissing, intent on making it to the fireplace.
They'd made it as far as the entrance to the living room when Kerry licked Sandy's ear and murmured, "Heydo me a favor and keep that hat on?"
Christmas with Courtney.
Kerry impatiently stamped her feet, which were quickly numbing in the cold December air. "Five more minutes and I'm going inside," she muttered under her breath. Courtney had promised she'd only be at the station long enough to sign off on some paperwork; they'd planned on a quick dinner and some last minute shopping before Kerry had to be back at County. Although things were less stressful and hectic, now that she'd relinquished most of her administrative duties, she still insisted on punctualityand as a senior staff member, Kerry felt it was important to be a role model for the younger doctors, especially Gatesand even Pratt still had the irritating habit of strolling into the ER as if he had all the time in the world. Truth be told, she was still annoyed at Greg and his inability to accept the fact that his half brother was gay. To be fair, though, she was pleased that he'd trusted her enough to confide in her. It took me a long time to accept myself, she thought. I should cut him some slack. And it's Christmas.
This is crazy; I'm going in. Courtney won't care. I really just wanted to watch her walk towards me how did I get so lucky?
Kerry basked in the warm air as she made her way through the hotel lobby. Courtney loved the holiday decorations here and Kerry had to agree; it was one of the prettiest places in the city. She'd left word with the doorman. Courtney could meet her at the bar.
Handing over her coat, she looked for a table, but the festive atmosphere seemed to bring out what seemed like half of the population of Chicago. Smiling ruefully, she set her sights on two bar stoolsshe could throw her bag on the second one until Courtney arrived. Her drink was placed on a cocktail napkin; she picked it up and took a sip, nodding at the bartender. "Perfect, thank you."
"Kerry Weaver do I dare believe my eyes?"
She had to restrain herself from gulping the rest of her martini. The Ghost of Christmas Past, also known as Ellis West, stood behind her, smiling.
"Hello, Ellis. It's nice to see you again."
"Do you mean that, or are you just being your old diplomatic self?"
"A little of both," she admitted. "Still pimping for that HMO?"
"As direct and refreshing as ever. Mind if I sit down?" He didn't wait for a response; he merely picked up her handbag and set it on the bar.
"Ellis, I'm meeting someone. Very shortly."
"Then I'll be happy to give up my seat, when he gets here. I'm right in assuming you're waiting for have you married?" She'd changed her wedding band, now wearing it on her right hand. Kerry still wasn't ready to completely give up the pastand Courtney was sensitive enough to get it.
"I was I'm a widow." She saw how quickly Ellis's expression changed to one of respectful, polite regret. "I'm sorry, Kerry."
What a bullshit artist. I can't believe I was gullible and confused enough to fall for his
Ellis continued speaking, derailing her train of thought. "Children?"
"Yes, one. A boy. Henry." God, I sound like a telegram!
"I married, too." Ellis finished his drink and signaled for another. "Want one?"
"I'm fine. So, you're married. How nice."
"It was nice, for the first year. We've divorced."
"That's too bad. I'm sorry things didn't work out."
"You know, Kerry, I've never forgotten you I know you still think it was all about the contract with County, but that's not how it was."
"Let's just let bygones be bygones, Ellis. Things are very different now."
"Kerry, I did you a terrible injustice. Let me at least try to make it up to you: could we have dinner sometime while I'm in Chicago?"
From the entrance, Kerry saw Courtney enter the bar and wave, making her way toward them. Kerry stood up and placed a gentle hand on Ellis's shoulder. "It wasn't an injustice, Ellis you did me a favor. One I can't possibly repay you for."
Courtney walked up to them. "There's my baby sorry I'm so late. Forgive me?"
"Of course I do." Ellis West sat slack-jawed with surprise as the two women kissed each other, their mutual affection and intimacy clearly obvious.
"Ellis, this is Courtney Brown. Honey, this is Ellis West. We worked together a while ago." Courtney smiled and held out her hand. "Nice to meet you, Ellis. Would you like to join us for dinner?"
Kerry saw through Ellis as clearly as if his mind had become transparent. Now, why couldn't I do that years ago?
"Dinner, Ellis. Not a sandwich with you in the middle." Kerry kept her tone polite.
"Oh, I'd never "
"Yes, you would. But don't apologise. It's not really necessary."
"I wouldn't "
Courtney interceded. "We really have to be going. You knowChristmas shopping, wrapping giftsall those mysterious lesbian rituals men like you think we indulge in. Have an enjoyable time in Chicago, Mr. West."
Once they were outside, Courtney gracefully got into the taxi waiting at the curb, as Kerry pressed bills into the doorman's hand, wishing him a happy holiday.
They looked at each other and smiled.
"That was the guy?"
"The very last one."
"Oh, baby. Oh, poor you "
"Nothing but a distant memory now."
They rode in silence for several blocks. Kerry gazed out at the festive streets. Courtney's hand found hers and their fingers laced together: a perfect fit. Kerry sighed contentedly: now they could decorate the tree, sing Henry a lullabyand best of all, make new memories of their own. Courtney's body next to hers felt absolutely right.
I think from now on, there'll be many more good memories.
I can think of several already.
Kerry Weaver, you're a very bad girl.
Courtney squeezed her hand. "What are you smiling about? You look positively smutty!"
"I guess I do. Heywe're almost there. And I put up the mistletoe." Kerry couldn't help felling pleased with herself.
"It better be damn close to the door." Courtney paid the cabbie and they walked hand in hand to the house.
"Don't worry. It is."
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