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Part V: Details

By Chris



God help me because I can't help myself. I vow not to pick up the rag lying on the table in Chairs but that headline grabs me in places I didn't know I had. Seventeen minutes later I'm squirming in my seat. Mentally doubled over with laughter and strangely aroused, I set the paper back down and hope no one has seen me.

Waiting in Chairs when I don't need to is a discomfiting experience. People come, people go; most look like me, a few look worse, some even look better but after a while they start to feel sorry that they get picked and I don't. I try to smile graciously but eventually give up and amble over to the Admit Desk.

Big mistake.

Former Chief of Staff Dr. Robert Romano wheels around the corner and glides up next to me. We'd exchanged cursory nods in the halls when I'd been attending to Kerry during her recovery but I hadn't mustered up the goodwill to actually speak to him.

"So Kim, there aren't enough prospects in the Castro or were you caught fishing off the company pier again? I wouldn't advise trolling for work around here, no chance of sleeping your way to the top with Anspaugh back in charge."

Apparently he holds no grudges about the lawsuit and demotion.

"Fuck off, Robert."

His mouth settles into a thin smile while I pointedly stare at him but neither of us can keep it going for very long.

"Lovely to see you again, Kim, give Kerry my best."

He turns and is almost around the corner when I remember my manners.

"She's all ready getting my best but thanks."

His pace falters for the briefest second before he disappears but not before we both hear Randi snort.

"I'd take your best over his any day, Dr. L."

I swivel my head and raise an eyebrow but she just pops her gum, winks and goes back to answering the phone. Sighing, I push off from the desk and start wandering the hall. Christ, how long could it possibly take to get nineteen vacation days approved? Too long, apparently, as Elizabeth Corday-Greene rounds the corner. Obviously I've pissed someone off in another life.

She stops and stares at me for long moments, turning something over and over in her head. Then with a brisk nod to herself, she barrels up and comes to a halt inches from my face.

"I'm sorry that I was so bloody useless when your legal problems cropped up. I think you're a first-rate doctor and what Robert did to you was grossly unfair. You stuck it to him in the end but it certainly wasn't because anyone around here rushed to help. Except Kerry."

I wave her off.

"I understand about the need for a little ass-protecting, I really do. I know he could have hurt a lot of people if I'd dragged them into it and that was not my intention. And everything turned out fine."

She frowns at me in disbelief.

"You must be joking."

"Well, how about everything turned out okay?"

She takes my measure before responding.

"Does that work for you?"

"Mostly it does but I appreciate you coming to talk to me about it."

I give her a genuine smile. Really, what's the point of getting worked up this late in the game?

I am just about to resume my restless prowling when our brief conversation rewinds.

"Except Kerry…"

She smiles as if humouring a small child.

"Oh, cornering Romano in the men's facilities and threatening to walk out if you weren't reinstated certainly qualifies as support. By the time she was finished, his HR file was the size of the Encyclopaedia Britannica. Legal couldn't decide if they were more worried about her being subpoenaed by your lawyer or ours."

I reel back in shock. Kerry has never let slip one word of this news. I am alternately thrilled and enraged and I certainly don't want to figure out which in front of Elizabeth. I give a sharp nod and brush past her.

Dr. DeRaad is waiting by the elevator banks. For fuck's sake, it wasn't another life, it's this one.

The elevator settles and the doors open with a ping. Kerry steps out, looks briefly at DeRaad, then swings around him. He stiffly steps inside and the doors close behind him, too soon to catch Kerry's matter of fact, "Asshole."

She crutches toward me, all elbows and grin.

"We're set, kid, let's blow this pop stand."

Her expression fades as she gets closer to me.

"Kim? Are you okay?"

She reaches out a hand to touch my arm but I deliberately step back out of reach. I have decided on anger.

"How could you?"

Kerry cautiously takes a step toward me but her eyes are suddenly fearful.

"How could you let me leave Chicago and not tell me what you'd done?"

Before I can launch into a full-blown tirade she squares her shoulders and deliberately moves to stand in front of me.

"I have to talk to Randi for a minute. There are a couple of details that Luka and Susan need to know and I don't trust Mark to pass them on. While I'm gone, please think about what I'm going to tell you."

She pauses for a breath and looks me straight in the eye.

"In your personal and professional opinion, was there ANYTHING that I could have said to you that day that would've made the slightest bit of difference? You left Chicago three days after you were fired. Any attempt from me to contact you would've been dismissed as a pathetic excuse to try and get back together."

I'm fuming and her words are slow to reach me. She tries again.

"I've thought about it, Kim, and I'm fairly sure, no, I'm certain that I burned my bridges pretty thoroughly that day. But if I'm wrong…if you can honestly tell me that you would've welcomed my help and used the opportunity to salvage something from the wreckage of our relationship, well, I'll take the hit."

I start to interrupt but she quietly continues.

"Please don't use this to punish me, Kim. I know you and I know you'll regret it. And I've all ready beaten myself up too much. I have to stop or I'll be worthless to you. You see that don't you?"

Her voice is pleading and regretful and I know that this is it.

Years from now I will look back on this moment and replay it clearly in my mind's eye, knowing I had an opening but chose not to take it.

Instead, I kissed her.

The End

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