DISCLAIMER: ER and its characters are the property of Constant C Productions, Amblin Entertainment, and Warner Brothers Television.
SEQUEL/SERIES: Follows The Two Hardest Words.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
If I Knew What I Was Doing...
By Susan P
I woke up warm, cradled between the sunlight on one side and Kerry on the other, her head pillowed on my breast. It surprised me a little. Somehow I expected to find myself alone, an awkwardly phrased note on the bedside table or draped across Kerry's empty spot on the bed. Or some humiliating 'gee, isn't this awkward?' conversation and the even more humiliating 'here's your hat, what's your hurry?' dance. Not that Kerry would be intentionally cruel--well, not unless I did something to deserve it, anyway. But Kerry doesn't share herself easily or readily, and she'd exposed herself quite thoroughly last night. There was no guarantee that she'd be able to live with that in the cold light of day, and pushing me away might be her first, instinctual response.
All that could still be in store for me when Kerry awoke. It might even be easier to just slip out of bed when I could and leave quietly. It might be less awkward, but it wouldn't hurt any less, and I might deprive myself of a few more precious moments of...this. And I was liking...this, perhaps a little too much. I decided to take every good moment as a gift I could savor later, after this--whatever 'this' was--was over.
Last night was born of grief and need, and I had no right to expect it would turn into anything. With any luck, though, Kerry and I might become real friends. If so, that would be enough to make up for losing this--it would have to be. I hoped it would be.
I glanced over at the clock by the bed. 7:18. Normally, that would've been enough to make me groan, roll over and try to go back to sleep, but I just lay there, enjoying the feel of the woman against me, watching her sleep. A couple times, I took a chance and ran my fingers through her hair, careful not to wake her.
I was dozing again myself when she stirred against me, throwing a leg across my hips and sliding a hand up my ribcage. Wide-awake now, I struggled to remain still and quiet while she continued to fight her way back to wakefulness. She made the cutest little sounds: moans and breathy sighs, mostly. I listened as her breathing changed, wondering what would happen next.
Time stretched out and the suspense was almost unbearable until Kerry finally murmured a sleepy, "good morning," into my chest. She sounded content, almost happy. I amazed myself when I was able to utter, "morning," in a relatively normal tone of voice.
She moved her head slightly but didn't look up at me. Then she moved her hand and slowly brushed the backs of her fingers along the underside of my breast, effectively short-circuiting at least half my synapses.
"What time is it?" Kerry asked, those fingers still stroking, making it hard for me to think.
"Uh...almost eight, I--oohhhh..." Kerry's mouth enveloped my nipple, setting my nerve endings on fire and transmitting sensation directly to my clit. "Oh, Kerry."
"I'm not on 'til noon. You?" Kerry paused long enough to ask.
Hearing that, she shifted over on top of me, sliding a leg between mine, mouth still focused on my breasts. It was driving me crazy, but I still couldn't quite let go.
"Kerry. Look at me." I needed to know that she was sure and that she knew...
She pushed up to look me in the eye. "Susan?" she asked uncertainly. She must have read the relief in my eyes when she said my name. She crawled up a few inches so that we were face to face. She gently stroked my hair, my face, commanding my attention.
"Susan. There was a moment there last night when I was...a little lost, but there hasn't been a moment since then where I lost track of who I was with or what I was doing. I don't regret a moment, and I'm not quite ready for it to end. But if you'd rather not?"
I reached up to cup Kerry's cheek and smiled up at her. "Shut up and kiss me, Kerry."
Her grin and the twinkle in her eyes were almost as sweet as what followed. We made love slowly, reverently. We shared a shower afterward, during which Kerry found a use for her bath sponge that hadn't occurred to me before. It ended with her backed against the wall and me on my knees between her legs, her weaker leg resting on my shoulder and her flavor on my tongue. I don't know whether it was hello or goodbye or something in between, but I would definitely never forget it.
She offered to fix breakfast, but I talked her into something simple: bagels with cream cheese and coffee. I watched her as she moved around her kitchen. She looked more a part of the world around her than she had in weeks, but I knew it would probably only be temporary. We didn't talk much, but the silence wasn't exactly uncomfortable. I finally worked up the nerve to broach the subject.
I took her hand in mine after she sat next to me. "I'm worried about you. A lot of people are." At Kerry's look of near-horror, I quickly added, "don't worry. The rumor mill has been unusually quiet, so there are just a few who know, I think, but it's been obvious that something's wrong. You've been too out of it to notice, but there've been more than a few concerned looks aimed your way recently.
"Last night was..." I had to be careful to keep this about Kerry, not me, "well, if it helped you at all, I'm happy about that, but it's not... If you need anything, I'm here for you, but I can't help you fix anything, really."
She'd listened to me patiently thus far, but I braced myself for the reaction I feared would follow my next words. "Maybe you should...consider seeing a therapist."
She didn't yell, didn't tell me it was none of my damned business. She didn't even seem to shut down like I'd expected she would. She just kept looking at me.
"I can recommend someone for you. After I had to give up little Susie, I--" I took a deep breath before continuing, "it was a rough time. She helped me through it. She has privileges at Northwestern, but her offices aren't near the hospital, so it's kind of...discreet. She's pretty good, as therapists go--not that I have a basis for comparison."
Realizing that I'd begun babbling in the relative silence, I promptly shut up, again fearing a storm that never materialized. She looked almost defeated as she nodded, and I wanted so badly to hold her that my arms ached. Instead I just nodded and got up to retrieve the recently verified number from my purse to give it to her.
We passed the rest of our meal in relative, though not uncomfortable silence. She leaned against my arm, but both of us pretended not to notice. It was almost ten before I noted that, "I should probably go. Let you finish getting ready."
Kerry just nodded, almost sadly, and walked me to the door. Then I did give into my impulse to pull her into my arms and we clung to each other for a few minutes.
"Thank you, Susan. For everything."
I resisted the urge to thank her, as well, and just nodded. "If you need...anything... Well, I'll see you later."
I was still pretty keyed up when I got home. I called my old therapist's office, expecting to leave a message, but after I explained I was a former patient, the receptionist said she was between appointments and that she might have time to speak to me. After waiting on hold five minutes, I was ready to give up and try again later when the doctor picked up. I explained that I had recommended her to a friend who might be calling her for an appointment and gave her Kerry's name but no real details about her situation. She said she wasn't taking on new patients except through referrals, so if Kerry called for an appointment, she would work her in. I thanked her, but before I could hang up, she asked if there was anything else she could do for me. I hesitated a moment, then asked if she could work me into her schedule next week. By then, I might need a session even more than I had when I'd looked up her number again a month ago.
The appointment set, I stared idly around my apartment. I fought the urge to fill the hours before my shift with meaningless activity. Instead, I set my alarm for 1:00 pm and made myself lie down, hoping for a quick nap so I could get a little more rest and so I could avoid thinking about things for a few hours.
We had made no promises, Kerry and I, and we hadn't spoken a word about what might happen when we again faced each other in the ER. But things in the ER were oddly...normal that day. But not. We didn't discuss anything personal, really, except when Kerry mentioned, in passing, that she'd made the appointment. We were alone in the lounge, taking a break, so I took the chance and quickly squeezed her arm while murmuring my approval.
Occasionally during the day, one or the other of us would catch the other staring from across the room, but that would break the moment, and we'd just grin or nod once and go on with whatever we were doing. Kerry seemed a little less wrapped up in herself than she had been, but she was still noticeably 'off,' so most of the ER staff didn't really notice the change. It was just as well, since it kept her off the gossips' radar as much as possible.
Abby and Deb tried to convince me to join them for a girls' night out, but I begged off, claiming that getting off at midnight would leave me too tired to go out. I just couldn't do it--I needed time to process things, and I didn't think I could fake being my usual self in front of those two. Well, Deb might not notice, but Abby surely would--she'd already given me a couple of odd looks today--and she might not be discreet in asking about it, after which Deb would jump in and I really didn't want to discuss this with her.
It was a fairly typical day in the ER. Patients came and went, crises were dealt with to the best of our abilities and there was still the occasional lull in the workday. Kerry finished her shift and left; I finished my shift and left, though I admit that those last hours without Kerry around seemed quieter and...emptier for me.
We had made no promises, Kerry and I, so I was more than a little shocked when I came home to find Kerry lurking in front of my building. I didn't even know she knew where I lived and almost said as much, but then she looked at me and uttered those two words and suddenly nothing else mattered.
We still made no promises, but nearly every day for weeks I would show up at her place or she would at mine. Of course, there were days when our shifts just conflicted too much for it to be convenient to show up at the other's place at odd hours and the issue of keys hadn't come up. So we would have to skip a night occasionally, but the next evening would end with us lying in each other's arms. It got to be such a regular thing that I wouldn't bother running errands after my shift when I knew Kerry was off, because I didn't want her to have to wait around for me to get home should she decide to come to my place. I started cooking for two, even if I didn't know for certain she'd show.
There didn't seem to be much coordination to where we ended up for the night. If I was home alone for more than a couple hours after I knew Kerry's shift had ended, I'd invariably head for her place. It's a wonder we never missed each other. I'm sure I caught her once when she was on her way out the door to come to my place. She didn't say so, but the embarrassed little smile when she saw me spoke volumes.
I don't know if Kerry made any adjustments to her usual routine for my sake. We never discussed it, never made plans about when or where to meet--we just always seemed to come together somehow. The first couple of weeks, we made a point of saying, 'if this is a bad time...' and letting the question hang in the air, giving the other an easy out, but neither of us ever took it. Eventually we stopped asking, hoping the other would say something if the timing was bad or the visit unwelcome. It was almost as if we thought talking about what we were doing might jinx it.
But we did talk about other things. She asked about my thing with Carter and I told her I thought it was just a matter of falling back into an old habit. He'd always had a bit of a crush on me, and I'd always found it charming, though he had been so painfully young back then that I just couldn't act on it. When I came back, he wasn't quite so young, and it was still flattering. It was safe and easy to give in, but it wasn't the right thing for us, aside from the 'getting it out of our systems' thing.
She did ask whether I'd been with women before and I found myself pouring out the story of Dix, my cowgirl from Arizona, and how we'd been more about sex than anything else, but that Dixie had helped me recognize and deal with my attraction to women. Kerry just snorted at that and said, "maybe your Dix should meet my Kim." Then she told me about her relationship with Kim--how they'd begun, and how badly they'd ended. I've no way of knowing whether she told me everything about the relationship, but she certainly didn't gloss over the parts that made her look bad, and it was clear she was still carrying a lot of guilt over how things had ended.
She talked a little about her time in Africa and told me she almost envied Carter, who was thinking about going there for a stint with Doctors Without Borders. I asked her if she would really want to go back. She said she wouldn't mind going back for an extended visit, but that the work was too frustrating to endure for too long.
"There's so much suffering there, and so much of it preventable. It makes working in an inner city ER look like a walk in the park."
She didn't talk much about Sandy Lopez one way or another, and I didn't really know what that meant, but I was too chicken to ask. Sandy had called a couple of times, but I only knew that from hearing her leave messages on Kerry's machine. Kerry usually didn't answer the phone for anything non-work related while I was there. She'd get this look on her face when she heard Sandy's voice: part guilt, part embarrassment and part something I couldn't decipher. I didn't know what to make of it, and she didn't seem inclined to offer up any clues. I don't know if Kerry ever called her back, but if she ever saw the firefighter, it was during the day, or on nights when our schedules didn't mesh.
About a month after Kerry and I had started...whatever we were doing, I was at Kerry's and we were working on some administrative paperwork over dinner when Sandy called. As usual, Kerry let the machine pick up.
"Damn it, Kerry. You said you needed space and I've tried to be patient and give it to you, but you've been avoiding me and I need to know what the hell--Oh, screw this..." Click.
I looked over at Kerry, who just sighed and scrubbed a hand across her face.
"She'll probably be knocking on the door before the night's through." Kerry didn't seem thrilled at the prospect.
"Maybe I should just go, then?"
"No. We need to finish this. If she comes by before we're done...well, we're work colleagues. She knows that and she won't have any reason to think...anything."
I don't know if she hoped that Sandy wouldn't show, or if she just wanted to have some company until Sandy did show, but I just said, "okay," and we went back to work.
We had just finished up and were staring uneasily at each other when there was a knock at the door. Assuming it would be Sandy, I just picked up the folders I'd brought with me and walked with Kerry down her entry hall to put on my coat. When I was ready, I just kissed her lightly and told her I'd be at home if she needed me.
Sandy and I shared an awkward hello and Kerry and I an awkward goodbye as I left and she let Sandy in.
I don't know what, exactly, was said between them, but Kerry showed up at my door later that night and our lovemaking was particularly...energetic. I wasn't sure what that meant, but I just assumed she'd tell me what she wanted when she wanted.
A week later, Lopez showed up with some minor scrapes and smoke inhalation when she brought in a young woman she'd helped rescue from an apartment fire. As I was wheeling the woman into the trauma room, Lopez grabbed my arm and made a point of saying, "take good care of her." I got the distinct impression she wasn't really talking about the patient. My, "I will," was sincere, though, no matter who she meant.We never went out together, really. A quick trip to the grocer's or to pick up some take-out once in a while, but that was it. We spent the time together in my place or hers--a lot of it naked, or nearly so. Again, we never discussed it, but whenever we were close to one another, talking or not talking, we never managed to stay dressed for long, even if we were just cuddling. It was weird. I'd never been that comfortably naked with a lover before. Not even with Dix--we spent a lot of time in bed, but when we weren't having sex, the clothes usually stayed on. And I never would've figured Kerry could be that unselfconscious about her body--or about anything, for that matter.
As the weeks passed, Kerry seemed to be coping better. While she still wasn't quite back to being her usual self at work, she was getting closer, so much so that the staff had begun noticing the improvement and had begun speculating on both the causes and the remedies for Kerry's slump. I assumed her improving attitude was due to the regular therapy appointments, since she really hadn't discussed the miscarriage with me much at all since that first night.
I had seen Dr. Bernstein for a couple of sessions myself. I'd been reluctant to bring up my situation with Kerry, knowing it would put Gretchen in an awkward position, given that Kerry was also a client. Finally, not knowing where the thing with Kerry was going, if anywhere, and not being able to talk about it with anyone else drove me to tell Gretchen some of the basics of the situation while leaving certain specifics out of the conversation. It had helped a little to talk it through, but I wasn't really any closer to figuring things out, since Kerry was the one I really needed to talk with if I wanted to know where things stood.
I tried not to count the days as the thing with Kerry went on, not knowing whether I could count on it continuing and not wanting to get my hopes up. I tried to just take each day as it came, but with each night that Kerry and I wound up together it became harder to convince myself it could end any minute. Every day that it continued wore down the defenses I tried to put up against getting hurt and I was afraid I would be lost when the end came. Still, I was helpless with need for her and grateful for every minute we were together.
Several weeks after that first night, Kerry did something that really threw me. We were at work. It was in the lounge. Abby and I were grabbing a quick cup of coffee during a brief lull in the action. Carter had just come in and was at his locker. Then Kerry came in at the end of her shift to get her things. I still had a couple hours to go. I tried not to be too obvious as my eyes followed her every move, but I couldn't help it. She was wearing one of my favorite shirts--one I loved to remove for her.
Abby, John, and I were talking about some damn thing I can't remember, when Kerry turned to me on her way out and asked, "are you coming over tonight?"
I barely managed not to drop the cup of coffee I'd just poured, and I set it on the counter, just in case. I shifted my eyes to Abby and Carter, who were suddenly totally focused on Kerry and me.
"What?" I asked reflexively, hoping I didn't sound as dumbfounded as I felt. Kerry must have picked up on it, because she walked over to me and took my hand.
"Come over after your shift. I'll make something special for dinner."
She squeezed my hand and stared into my eyes, and I did the same because I could do nothing else. The contact grounded me a little, even though I still had the feeling that 'reality' as I knew it had been twisted into something I didn't recognize.
"You're off at seven?"
"Uh-huh." It seemed to be all I could say.
Her smile let me know that she found my befuddlement very amusing. "Okay." She seemed to take pity on me then and left before I started drooling or speaking in tongues or something equally embarrassing.
Abby got it right away--I could tell from the glint in her eyes. John still looked confused at seeing Kerry and me on such good terms, but it still hadn't quite clicked for him.
"Something you wanna tell me about?" Abby smirked.
"Uh-huh." I shook myself, trying to jump out of that particular conversational groove.
Then Carter added his two cents. "Yeah, what's going on with you and Kerry?" He still hadn't quite figured it out, but he'd gotten his lab coat and stethoscope on by then, so I hoped the start of his shift would be my out.
"Um... I'll tell you later, okay?"
He looked over at Abby, and I was afraid he'd figure it out by the look on her face, but she just smiled at him and he shrugged and headed out of the lounge.
Abby wasn't so easily put off. "So? Spill it, Lewis. What is going on with you and Weaver?"
I plopped down at the table and ran a hand over my face. "I'm not sure I know, Abby."
"But you care about her." It wasn't a question, and she had gone from teasing to concerned in the space of a heartbeat.
"Yeah. Yeah, I do." For all the things I wasn't sure about, that was the one thing I was certain of, and I couldn't help but smile.
"The feeling's mutual." Abby spoke with a certainty I didn't quite share.
Abby nodded. "You think she would've done something like that in front of witnesses if she didn't care?"
I couldn't help but laugh. "Until a minute ago, I wouldn't have thought she'd do something like that at all. I mean, all this time...we've barely looked at each other around here when we didn't have to, and we've never touched when there was a chance anyone could..."
"'All this time?'" I should've known that's what Abby would fixate on.
"Um...yeah. It's been...um, several weeks now that..."
"That you've been doing what?" Abby asked, but even as she said it, her eyes grew wide, "oh my God! You and Kerry. For weeks?! And you haven't said a word!"
"I know, but I haven't really been sure...about a lot of things, really, and there's a whole list of reasons for keeping this quiet, and... Anyway, what did you think was going on after that thing with Kerry just now?"
"I just thought you were...starting.... Weeks?! And you've already...?"
My blush must have given me away.
"I'll take that as a 'yes.' So, um, how...?"
Now it was Abby's turn to blush. "Incredible, huh?"
"Yeah, and if I told you any more, I think I'd have to kill you. Or just wait for Kerry to kill me."
"That's okay. It's probably not a picture I need in my head, anyway."
"Wise decision." I hesitated a moment. "Look, Abby, Carter..."
"Didn't get it. I noticed."
"Yeah...and I'm not sure whether to ask you not to tell him or to just have you explain the whole thing to him so I won't have to. I mean, telling an ex- that you went back to women after him ranks right up there with conversations that start out with, 'so, how long have you been experiencing a burning sensation?'"
I only got half a chuckle out of Abby before she asked, "wait...back to women?"
So much for slipping that one past her. "Um, yeah. Remember when I told you about Dix?"
"Yeah, well, scratch the 'boy' part. Dix was short for Dixie. She was...my first."
"So that would put Kerry where on that list?"
"If you count one night stands, Kerry's three."
"Three. Huh. And you're not sure where it's going?"
"I'm not entirely sure I know where it's been. I mean, I certainly didn't plan this. It probably shouldn't have happened in the first place. I was just trying to help her deal with the..." I couldn't say it. "You know she was pretty out of it for awhile, and then there was one day when she started cracking a little. I took her home, and... I just meant to be there for her, y'know? But one thing led to another, and we...and I thought that would be it, but it wasn't. It just...kept happening, but we haven't really talked about it. We've talked about other stuff, but..."
"Well, maybe tonight will be a step in the right direction. Kerry asked you out in front of witnesses. Doesn't sound like she's ready to give you the boot."
"Yeah. I guess that is a pretty big leap, for Kerry. Maybe you're right."
"Lemme know how it goes. And if you need anything, Susan..."
"Thanks, Abby." I looked at my watch. We'd been talking for almost fifteen minutes. "Oh man, we'd better get back out there."
As we got up to go, I asked, "about Carter?"
Abby shrugged. "If he asks about you and Kerry, I'll try to break it to him as gently as I can; if he doesn't, you can tell him in your own time."
At the end of my shift, I called to let Kerry know I'd be a little late. I wanted to go by my place for a quick shower, a change of clothes, and to pack an overnight bag--or more precisely to re-pack the one I'd been carrying around in my car for weeks for our little trysts. She said she'd been delayed slightly by errands, but that dinner would be ready around eight. I told her I'd see her then and headed home.
I made it to Kerry's just before eight. I'm not even sure what I expected, but she surprised me all the same. I tried to remember whether I'd ever seen Kerry in a dress. If I had, it was nothing like this one. That much was obvious, even with the added barrier of the apron she wore.
"Hi. You're just in time. I was just setting everything up on the table." Kerry smiled then and asked, "how are you?"
"Underdressed, I think." I was still staring at her while hanging up my coat and purse. I was just wearing a dark green silk blouse and a favorite pair of dark gray slacks. She just stepped forward, slid a hand up my sleeve to my shoulder and leaned up to give me a peck on the cheek.
"You look wonderful, Susan."
"Thank you, but you..." I went slack-jawed as she turned to head for the kitchen and I saw the expanse of pale skin exposed by her dress. The wave of desire I felt was strong enough to leave me wondering how I'd ever make it through dinner.
"Kerry..." I dropped my overnight bag somewhere that might've been close to Kerry's bedroom door, though I was hardly paying attention to that.
"Hmm?" she turned slightly to look at me.
"Lose the apron."
She smirked at me as she reached back to pull the knot loose. She turned to fully face me as she gathered the apron in her hands. Before she could pull it off over her head, I stepped forward and undid the snap holding the strap around her neck, not wanting her hair to get mussed. Not until I could do it myself. I took the apron from her hands and flung it across my shoulder so I could look at her.
It was just a simple black dress, really, but it clung to her in all the right ways and in all the right places. Low-cut, with thin straps that left her arms and much of her chest and shoulders bare, and all the evidence suggested that she wore nothing beneath it. In fact, Kerry had opted not to wear either stockings or shoes, and I found the sight of her bare feet oddly charming. It was a lovely dress, but I was already looking forward to helping her out of it.
"Kerry, you look... Wow!"
She smiled and ducked her head a little. I'd embarrassed her. "Glad you approve."
"Oh...yeah." I lightly skimmed my fingers across her upper chest, moving up to her neck until, finally, I was cupping her face in my hands and pulling her in for a slow, heated kiss.
When she pulled back and we both tried to catch our breath, she waggled a finger at me. "Uh-uh. Dinner first."
I couldn't help but smile at her gentle teasing. She seemed happier than I'd seen her in weeks, and it was a wonderful sight. "Party pooper."
The dress wasn't the only surprise Kerry had in store for me. A gourmet meal, candles and flowers on the table, and more than a few lingering looks. It all felt suspiciously like a date. I was beginning to think maybe Abby was right. If Kerry wanted to be rid of me, this was hardly the way to go about it.
After dinner, I helped her clean up the kitchen. She was drying her hands when I slipped up behind her, loosely draping my arms around her waist and planting light kisses across her shoulder blades.
"Dinner was wonderful, Kerry. Thank you." I wanted to ask her what, if anything, had changed, why tonight seemed like the beginning of something. I didn't. I couldn't--still too afraid to spoil the moment. So I just leaned into her back, feeling the heat of her bare skin through my shirt.
"Mhmm..." Kerry tossed the towel she'd been using onto the counter and pressed more firmly against me, one hand sliding over mine where they lay against her belly, the other coming up to cup the back of my neck. "You're welcome. I just...wanted to do something special."
I leaned down to kiss the back of her neck. "It was."
She turned in my arms and I took the opportunity to run my hands slowly up the exposed skin of her back. Her eyelids fluttered closed at the contact and I leaned in for what I meant to be a light kiss. She had other ideas and took control of the kiss, her tongue joining mine in a dance of need and want.
When she pulled back, we were both a little breathless. "I guess now you're thinking you're gonna get lucky, huh?"
I smiled back at her and decided to take a chance. "I think I'm already lucky. And if you'd prefer, we could just cuddle...on the couch.... As long as I can keep doing this," I kept slowly stroking up and down her back. "Unless you're going to send me home to my own bed?" I faked a pout.
Kerry snorted. "Only if I can come with. But why bother driving across town..."
"When there's a comfy bed just two rooms away?" I waggled my eyebrows at her.
"Exactly. Come on."
When we got to the bedroom, Kerry lit a few candles she'd apparently set up earlier, flipped off the overhead light and met me by the bed. I ran a hand through her hair before leaning in to kiss her gently. When I pulled back, I stared into her eyes as I slid the straps off her shoulders. She dropped her arms to let me continue removing the dress and I dropped my eyes to watch as more and more of her skin was revealed. Even after she slipped her arms out of the straps, the dress still clung to her hips and I slid my hands beneath the fabric to slide it over her butt and let it fall to the floor.
I was still looking at her body when she reached up and began unbuttoning my blouse. After that, I was torn between watching her hands and studying the look on her face, but the sheer...concentration in her features was enough to capture my full attention.
"I love this color on you," Kerry whispered as she opened my shirt and pulled it free of my pants.
"It would look better on you, I think," I said, thinking how the green would be a good contrast for her red hair. I gasped as her fingers teased my upper breasts, making a trail down to the clasp to undo it.
Kerry planted light kisses across my upper chest as she slid my shirt and bra off my shoulders. She stepped into my body as she slid the material down my back before tossing it aside.
My arms freed, I ran my hands up her bare back while she worked on getting my pants and underwear off. I stepped out of them and kicked them aside before pulling Kerry closer. We just held each other a moment, enjoying the feel of skin on skin and the warmth of the embrace.
I kissed her gently then pulled back slightly. "Lie down, Kerry...on your stomach." I didn't add the 'please,' though I'm sure she could read it in my eyes. I was hoping she would indulge me in this without an interrogation.
She looked at me oddly for a moment, but then just got on the bed and rolled over. The level of trust in me that implied made the breath catch in my throat for a moment, but I didn't say anything.
I climbed onto the bed and sat next to her, letting my eyes travel from the minor peaks of her shoulder blades, following the indentation along her spine, and over the curve of her buttocks to the tops of her thighs.
"Y'know, the sight of your bare back has been driving me crazy. All. Night. Long," I murmured as I let my fingers travel in random patterns across her back. A lazy, "ah," was her only response.
I tried to avoid tickling, but my touches did raise gooseflesh in a few places. She never complained, exactly, though she did squirm a couple times when I hit a particularly sensitive area. I varied not only where I touched, but how. Finger pads, the backs of my fingers, my whole palm with my fingers splayed open, right hand, left hand, I just let my hands wander.
"Mhmm, maybe I should wear that dress more often," Kerry murmured.
I chuckled. "Well, I probably wouldn't cry about it, but...for the record, it's just a dress. It just so happens that it highlights one of your...natural charms. Well...several, actually, but one in particular," I smiled. "So, the choice of clothing is only semi-important, especially since I'd be just as happy to see you with nothing on."
Kerry burrowed her face deeper into the crook of her arm, but not before I noticed the blush spreading across her cheeks. I moved to straddle one of her thighs, planning my next move.
"Don't tell me you spend your spare time in the ER undressing me with your eyes," Kerry teased.
"Not all the time. Besides, it's not necessary to imagine what you look like without clothes; I've got my memory to rely on. Some very vivid memories, too."
I leaned down and began slowly licking and biting my way up her spine. She stiffened in surprise at the first touch of my tongue, but she was soon arching against my mouth. As I moved higher, I lowered my body over hers, brushing my breasts across the warm skin of her back. By the time I was able to nuzzle the base of her neck, I was lying against her back, enjoying the feel of her beneath me.
"Kerry?" I moaned against her ear.
I wiggled my hips, rubbing myself against her upper thigh. "Mhm-hmm."
"Oh," she breathed.
I felt her shiver beneath me. I began to work my way down her back, taking a slightly different route from the one I'd traveled before. I let my mouth roam as I slid one hand under her to cup her breast.
I had only made it down to the middle of her back when she stopped me.
"Susan..." she squirmed beneath me, spreading her legs further apart, "now...like this." Her voice was low and heavy with desire.
I had meant to tease her a bit more, had meant to end it with my head between her thighs, but the need in her voice sent a bolt of desire through me, derailing my plans. I braced most of my weight on my right side so I could watch her face as I slid my left hand between her legs.
Kerry was also wet, I discovered, and I took a moment to coat my fingers in her essence and spread it along the inner surface of her labia. Her eyes went wide as I briefly brushed against her clit and then plunged two fingers in. She grunted a soft, "oh," in response and her eyelids fluttered closed. I felt the initial tension in her muscles but it was soon gone and I started stroking in a steady rhythm.
I slid the hand that had been teasing her breast down beneath her pelvis so that I could tease her clit as well. It was an awkward and not terribly comfortable position for me, but she was already close, I could tell, and I could maintain it long enough to bring her release.
"Kerry, look at me." Hell, for that look in her eyes, I could stay in that position until my muscles started cramping from the strain, and even longer, if necessary. It amazed me how she could be so open during sex--desire and need and, yeah, love shining in her eyes--and still leave me so unsure of where I stood the rest of the time.
"You're so beautiful like this." In that moment, she believed me. I hoped she believed me; I planned to convince her.
She rocked her hips beneath me, meeting my thrusts and increasing the friction of my fingers against her clit. I started curling my fingers down, aiming for the spot I knew would drive her crazy.
Her breathing became more and more ragged, her moaning more incoherent. I concentrated on the motions of my fingers, the feel of her surrounding me, of her moving beneath me. I started kissing her back, licking the sweat from her skin, and soon she was panting and writhing against me, crying out her release as I took her over the edge. I felt her muscles contracting around my fingers and I kept stroking until I felt the last of the aftershocks and she relaxed into the bed.
"Oh, God...what you do to me," she mumbled into the pillow.
Gently withdrawing, I again covered her body with mine and nuzzled into her neck. I rolled us onto our sides and wrapped her in my arms, tangling our legs together. I'd have happily stayed like that, letting her drift off to sleep as the heat of my own desire faded to a dull ache between my legs.
Kerry had other ideas.
"Oohhhhh...God...Kerrrryy..." I gripped the headboard tighter as my world was reduced to pure sensation: Kerry's tongue, Kerry's arm wrapped around my hip from behind, trying to hold me relatively still, her other hand moving from my breast to cup my ass as she sucked my clit into her mouth and I lost control completely.
She held onto my hips until the last waves of my orgasm ebbed and I was again aware of my surroundings. I looked down at her while I tried to catch my breath. 'I love you' burned in the back of my throat--not for the first time. I clamped down on the urge to say it--also not for the first time.
She grinned up at me and started running her hands over my stomach and chest. "Mhmm...I love this view."
I ducked my head, embarrassed, and edged backwards to try and cover the move. When I'd moved back until I was straddling her hips, she let her fingers slide back down to the tops of my thighs before letting her hands fall. I lay down beside her and welcomed her into my arms as I rolled onto my back and she draped herself across my side.
She looked down at me, stroking my face. "That was almost too easy. You sure you don't want me to..."
I smiled and shook my head. I was perfectly content with her lying partially on top of me. But then something occurred to me. "Unless you'd..."
She shook her head. "I'm good."
I chuckled. "You got that right."
She smiled down at me before settling her head against my shoulder. I managed to grab the edge of the blankets we'd thrown aside earlier and pulled them over us. I wondered whether I should get up to put the candles out, but I couldn't quite motivate myself to leave the warmth of Kerry's embrace.
We must've drifted off...well, I did. I turned to find Kerry, but she was gone. I looked around. A couple of the candles were still lit, and I noticed the low sounds and the glow from the television coming through the crack in the bedroom door.
I got up, turned on the bedside lamp and blew the candles out, threw on my robe, but didn't bother with the tie, just held it closed with one arm. I found Kerry curled up on one end of the couch. I sat down near her--close, but not too close, in case she might want space.
"Hey...T2! I love Linda Hamilton in this--she's so tough."
Kerry smiled. "Yeah. It must be some kind of 'Women Kick Ass' double feature, or something. You just missed the end of 'Aliens.'"
My first thought was that watching Ellen Ripley sublimate her love for the daughter she'd lost by caring for an orphaned girl might have been a little too close to home for Kerry. But, all I said was: "Ah. Ripley in her underwear. Sorry I missed that."
She sat up and turned to face me, laying an arm across the back of the couch. "I couldn't sleep. Didn't want to wake you."
"You could have. I'm not on tomorrow."
"Hmm. I'm not on 'til one."
"Something on your mind, Kerry?" There was, I could tell by the way she was avoiding my eyes. I just didn't know whether she'd talk to me.
I reached over and ran my fingers through her hair, trying to wait her out. She took a deep breath, looked at me, then looked back down at her lap before speaking.
"It's been...two and a half months...since..."
I knew from the quavering in her voice that she was talking about the baby. I resisted the urge to pull her into my arms in case she needed to maintain some sense of distance. I just rested my hand on the back of her neck, as much for my sake as for hers.
"I was..." she hesitated a moment, "I've been thinking about trying again, and..."
She didn't say anything else for a minute or two. I just kept my hand on her neck, stroking my thumb across her skin, trying to let her continue on her own. But I couldn't help her through whatever was bothering her if she wouldn't talk about it. Plus, I got a little impatient.
Another deep breath, then she looked at me. Really looked at me. "I just... I wanted to make sure it wouldn't cause problems for...us...if I did."
That wasn't what I was expecting at all: anxieties about trying again after miscarrying the first time, yes, but worrying about what I thought? The shock must've made me a little nuts, because all I could think to ask was, "there's an 'us?'"
It was the wrong thing to say, or the wrong way to say it, probably both. I could see the hurt in her eyes and I jumped in before she could jump to all the wrong conclusions.
"Wait, Kerry! I said that badly. I'm not trying to be cold. I'm not. I just-- I need to know." I took her hands in mine. "The past two months have been..." I couldn't find any words that fit, exactly, I just hoped that my eyes conveyed what I didn't know how to say.
"We've talked about a lot of stuff, Kerry. In some ways, I think I've been more...intimate with you than I have been in most of my other relationships put together. But. We've never really talked about what we're doing here, and... I've spent all this time trying to enjoy this while it lasts and still prepare myself for the day you'd decide you didn't need this any more and give me the 'let's stay friends' speech. And now you're...talking about me as though my feelings make a difference to...your life...the future, and I-- I just...feel like I've missed something, and I need time to catch up, I think." I faltered then, saw the shock in her eyes and stopped babbling before I made things worse.
She shook her head, and it almost seemed like she was going to laugh, but she just ducked her head while she ran a hand through her hair. "Damn."
She looked up at me, letting her head fall against the back of the couch. "I'm doing it again."
"What I always do in relationships, or rather, what I don't do. I've never been good at communicating--especially when it comes to my feelings. It's a big part of why my marriage fell apart. Why things with Kim and Sandy didn't--"
"Whoa. You were married?"
She just smirked at me. "Why do people always react that way when they hear that?"
"Well, I don't know about 'everybody,' but for me it could have something to do with the fact that I've known you for...how many years, now? And it's never come up before. I mean, I don't think this one has even made the rounds of the hospital grapevine."
"I don't like to talk about it, I guess. It wasn't horrible. It was just...a failure. Short and, as short as it was, it still lasted too long. I mistook companionship and good sex for more than it was. And I...I should have told him it wasn't working for me a lot sooner than I did. I didn't mean to, but I hurt him, and I lost a friend.
"I've been talking with that therapist you recommended about this...us. No names and nothing too specific. Just...trying to get some perspective on things."
"It's okay. Actually, I should probably tell you that I've started seeing Gretchen again and I've talked about...us a little, too."
"She suggested I might try being...a little more open."
"That's what tonight was about, huh?"
"Yeah," she smiled shyly, but then she turned serious. She reached up to cup my face. "Not need this? How could I not need this?"
She kissed me so tenderly I almost forgot to breathe. Then the hand that was still holding mine squeezed a little harder.
"Susan, I-- I think I'm...falling."
I felt the sting of tears in my eyes then. The sense of relief I felt hearing that was almost overwhelming and I blurted out, "Oh, thank God," before I could stop myself. I was embarrassed that I couldn't stop the tears from sliding down my face. "I'm sorry, I-- Lately, I've been wanting more and more to...say it."
"Shh," Kerry leaned in to kiss along the tracks of my tears. "I'm sorry...for giving you reason for doubt."
I shook my head. "When we...make love," I was trying the words out--'us,' 'we,' 'make love'--and they felt pretty good, "I see it in your eyes. It's just...the rest of the time when it gets...hard."
"Mmm..." Kerry leaned into my shoulder and I put my arm around her, "too bad we can't make love all the time."
"Well, we could try, I suppose. Might make it kinda hard to, you know, practice medicine, though," I teased back, enjoying the change in mood.
She shook with silent laughter. "Well, we could always sneak away somewhere between patients: the drug lock-up, the on-call room, sutures..."
I couldn't help but laugh myself, though the idea was more tempting than I wanted to admit. "The lounge, the admit desk, oh, and let's not forget the trusty linen closet."
We just sat there snuggling a moment. Kerry slid a hand beneath my robe and around my waist.
"Okay, so, yes, there is an 'us.' Now, what do we do about that?"
There was still a teasing lilt to her voice, but I knew her question was serious. "Well, maybe we could start by going out on a 'date' or just going out in public together, period. Running errands, short walks, hanging out in the park, going for drives, y'know, couple-y stuff. Actually plan time to be together. Frankly, I think it's a minor miracle that we've actually managed to find each other all these nights to get together."
"Yeah, especially since my timing usually stinks. Okay, what else? Maybe, share some closet space or something--leave some stuff at each other's places?"
"That sounds good."
"When's your lease up?"
"Um, about four months."
"Maybe...if things are still...you might want to consider..."
I knew where she was going with that, but she was having a hard time with it, and I was still a little too paranoid to be able to think about living together without panicking about everything that could go wrong in the meantime, so I interrupted. "Kerry. How about we see where we are in two or three months before we try to have that conversation?"
She nodded against my shoulder. "Okay."
"After the thing in the lounge today... Well, Abby figured things out, and I confirmed it. I didn't tell her much, but..."
"It's okay. I think we can trust her. John?"
"He didn't quite get it. Abby may tell him if he catches a clue. If not, one of us probably should."
"Okay. I trust those two to be relatively discreet, but we should probably try to keep this as quiet as we can, otherwise. Same department, I'm technically your boss--it could get ugly."
"Yeah. Romano would have a field day with this. Randi could be a problem, though. The way she watches you, she'll probably figure it out eventually."
Kerry could be so cute when she was clueless. "She has a little crush on you, I think. In fact, when she does figure it out, you should probably be the one to ask her to keep it to herself. She'd do it for you, I'd bet."
She pulled back to look at me. "You're kidding, right?" It was clear she thought I was nuts, but I didn't push it--much.
"Nope. She really likes you. But, you know what? We've gotten away from the original topic here."
She went from confused and disbelieving to anxious in a heartbeat. "You don't have to--"
"Kerry, it's obviously something you're worried about, so I think I do. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought about having kids--especially after little Susie. I don't know if I'm ready right now to have one of my own, but... If you're ready to try the in vitro again, then I think you should. I'll be here for you, and I'll be whatever you want me to be where the baby's concerned."
"You would?" Her voice sounded small, uncertain.
"I would. And I'll try to keep that promise to you no matter what."
"But, what if it's too soon...for us? What if it doesn't work? What if it does, but I...lose it again?"
I pulled her back into my arms and held her tight. "Kerry, ultimately this is your life, your body, your decision. I'm still getting used to thinking of myself as becoming a part of your life, so it would probably take some time for me to adjust, but...I can. I want to." I petted her hair. "The only real answer I have for all those questions right now is that you don't have to choose between having a child and having me. I'm not gonna let that scare me away. I'm here for you, no matter what you decide, and if or when you're ready to try again, I'll come with you to the appointment, if you'd like. I want to be there for you."
She blew out a long breath and then burrowed into my body. "Thank you."
We just held each other for a few minutes. My eyes drifted back to the television, but I was still alert for any change in Kerry, so when I felt her shift a little in my arms, I looked back down at her.
"Maybe I should wait a little longer. Think about it awhile." The miscarriage was still haunting her. It wasn't as simple as being physically able to try again; she had to be ready in so many other ways.
"Okay. Maybe you could talk it over with Gretchen, too. Maybe she can help you figure things out. And you can still talk to me about...anything."
She sat up to look at me, smiling. "Okay." She leaned up to kiss me and again the feelings she aroused in me were almost overwhelming. When she pulled back, I asked her, "do you think you can sleep now, or do you wanna watch the rest of the movie?"
She looked over toward the set as though just remembering that it was on, then looked back at me and shook her head. "No. Let's go to bed."
When we made it back into the bedroom and I was climbing back into bed, she stopped to take something out of the drawer of her bedside table.
"Almost forgot." She got into bed and dangled the key in front of me.
I smiled back at her. "I've got a spare for you in my purse."
"Great minds, huh?" she asked before dropping the key on the tabletop and turning the lamp off. She slipped under the covers with me. "Goodnight Susan."
I kissed the back of her head and wrapped an arm around her. "'Night, Kerry." Lying there in the dark with Kerry in my arms, I felt freer than I had in a long time.
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