DISCLAIMER: In this story, there are scenes, bits of scenes, and dialogue taken from Season 2 and 3 of The L Word that both move the story along and explain events that unfolded. At the end of each chapter, I will identify what parts are directly from the television version.
SPOILERS: Spoilers for The L Word Seasons 2 and 3.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Laid Up: Another Season 3
By Portia Richardson
Bette had lived in LA for years and she still hadn't come to terms with the idea that it would take up to forty-five minutes to get someplace only fifteen minutes away in another city. When Bette was growing up in Philadelphia, if it took an hour to get from her house to the mall or to an art gallery or the theatre, it really was an hour of driving at about 50 miles per hour. Getting from LAX to West Hollywood, if there was no traffic should have taken only 30 minutes, but there was always traffic and it had taken 50 minutes just to get from the 405 to the 10 Freeway and it was still slow and go. She had been driving cautiously, but her attention wasn't on the jammed freeway. Bette was explaining Tina's current state to Tina's mother and sister. She had picked them up right on schedule and the moment the two of them got in the car, they peppered her with a hundred questions about Tina's care. Bette told them what had happened the night Tina gave birth and all of the subsequent problems that had occurred since then. She had kept in contact with them since that first night, but she repeated it all in the car. Everything that Dr. McPherson had explained, she described to them, satisfied that she had the answers to their questions and knew all aspects of Tina's treatment.
She exited at LaBrea and was now driving north to the rehab center. "We should be there in just a few minutes. I-I want you to be prepared. Tina isn't the same the same person. She's lost a lot of weight, her hair's partially shaved, and she can't eat on her own. The good news is that Tina's much better. I-I really feel that she's made progress the last few days."
Bette pulled into a driveway, drove down to a small parking lot, and slipped into the first available space. She leapt out of the car and waited for the Kennards. Bette was wearing a pair of wide-leg, stretch black jeans and a black C & C tank top and it looked a little warm for such a hot day. The clotheshorse she'd always been seemed to be under deep cover. Greater concerns.
Bette held the door for them and the three women entered the neuro-trauma center. Theresa and Stephanie Kennard didn't know which room Tina was in, but Bette did. When they turned the corner, Bette saw a commotion at Tina's door. She ran down the hall, leaving the other two women staring blankly ahead. "Tina! Tina!" Bette shouted as she ran.
She brushed by two medical personnel who were standing at the door and sprinted to the bed where Dr. McPherson stood administering an injection while another nurse held Tina down by the shoulders. Tina's legs were moving ever so slightly under the thin blanket. Alice stood beside the bed in shock, her mouth agape as she looked on.
"Wh-what happened? Tina? Bette turned to McPherson. "What happened?"
"It's all right, Bette. Tina had a small seizure. It's nothing to become alarmed about. Seizures aren't uncommon in comatose patients. I've given her a mild dosage of Ativan."
The Kennards rushed into the room. "Is Tina all right?" Theresa asked.
"Oh my, God. Tina!" Stephanie couldn't believe the state her sister was in.
"What will the Ativan do?" Bette asked. The only Kennard she cared about at this moment was Tina.
"It'll stop the seizures." McPherson smiled down at Tina, before turning to Bette. "I know that it was important to you to have Tina breastfeed Angelica, but that's going to have to stop again. Ativan passes to the baby through breastfeeding. The other anti-seizure medications that I could give Tina aren't ones that I find appropriate for her."
"But I thought she didn't she didn't need those meds still?"
"Apparently, we removed the anti-seizures too soon. Bette, don't look at this as a setback. It isn't." McPherson turned to look at the two blonde women who had entered the room. "You must be Tina's relatives."
Alice had moved next to Bette and whispered, "It's okay. She's fine. A tiny scare, but she's out of it. Not to worry." Bette nodded.
"I'm Tina's mother, Theresa and this is my other daughter, Stephanie. How's my little girl, doctor ?"
"McPherson. Her treatment is going well. Why don't you sit with her for a while and later, I can fill you in if Bette's agreeable to that?"
The two women looked at Bette, not quite understanding why the doctor needed her consent. "I'm Tina's Medical Power of Attorney," she answered their unasked question. "Of course, Doctor McPherson. Definitely."
Bette looked down at Tina who had calmed considerably. Outwardly, Bette appeared to be cool-headed and nonchalant, but her heart was still pounding in her chest as she brushed her hand across Tina's forehead and smiled warmly.
Alice said softly, "Bette, I'm going to get out of here. I'll let you and Tina's family have some time with her. I'll be back tomorrow."
Theresa Kennard moved to the other side of the bed and took a good look at her comatose daughter. Theresa had one of those accents that fooled people into thinking she was a bimbo, but she wasn't. Her accent was mellifluous, smooth, and decidedly southern. Theresa said, "Tina, honey? It's Mama. Sweetheart, your sister and I are so worried about you. We flew out from home to see 'bout you. Tina, if you can hear me, blink your eyes."
Tina remained perfectly still, not responding to the comforting voice she had heard everyday for her first 18 years.
Stephanie stretched around her mother and took Tina's hand. "Tina, it's me. Steph. My email mailbox has been sadly empty for over a month. How about you wake up? Oh, oh remember when you first got your license and you drove us to Raleigh to go see Cher in 'Moonstruck?'" Stephanie waited for a reaction, but received none. "Remember that line when Cher slaps Nicholas Cage? Remember? She said, 'snap out of it.' Tina? Sis? Snap out of it."
Bette turned away, her eyes welling with tears. She wished it was this easy. She had tried cajoling, demanding, and pleading with Tina. Walking across the room, she let the Kennards have some private time together. She took a seat in the green vinyl upholstered chair.
Bette closed her eyes. It had been an early morning and non-stop, so a few moments to rest her eyes was a welcomed respite. Her head was leaning on the back of the chair when she heard the sweet gurgling sound of Angelica. Bette came to attention quickly when she saw Kit walk in with the baby. She stood and reached out for her daughter.
"Hi, Mommy," Kit said in a baby voice that Angelica might have used if she could.
"How's my sweet boo-boo?" Bette kissed Angelica and situated her in her arms. "How are things? Any problems?"
"She was perfect as always. She even slept through the guys working on the stage for tomorrow night. You are coming to Vegas night, aren't you?" Kit sat the Fleurville, baby blue diaper bag on the floor.
Bette shrugged signifying no commitment to Kit's event and was just about to answer when Theresa and Stephanie turned to her. "Theresa, Stephanie, this is my sister, Kit."
"Hello," the two women said in unison and Kit nodded at them, with an intuitive feeling of apprehension.
"Well, who's this?" Tina's mother asked, looking at the baby.
"Bette, she looks just like you. It's like the father had nothing to do with it." Stephanie gushed and walked over to play with Angelica's barefeet.
"What?" Bette was absolutely confused by Stephanie's statement.
"I didn't know that you were pregnant, too. Tina never said a word. But, she wasn't saying much about you during her pregnancy with the breakup and all. Anyway, that's so cute. They'll be like cousins."
"Well " Bette began, her eyes narrowing slightly, "if that were true, they'd be like sisters, not cousins, but this is Angelica. Tina carried her." Bette suddenly felt very uncomfortable.
"Oh. I didn't realize," Stephanie said with embarrassment.
"I never got around to posting photos online. I've taken a lot, though."
Theresa Kennard approached and Bette pulled Angelica closer, feeling protective, and fearing what might come out of this woman's mouth. Bette had always thought of Theresa as one of those old-fashioned, granola-eating, Birkenstock-wearing intellectual liberals, but now she wasn't so sure her assessment was a correct one. In the eight years that she and Tina had been together, she'd only spoken with Theresa on the phone. Tina preferred making her visits to North Carolina alone. Perhaps there was a reason for that. "My, my, my. Look at this one. Bette, she's beautiful."
"Not so much Tina's father's genes, though." Bette recalled Theresa's earlier comment on the phone.
"No, no. I see the Kennard eyes and if that isn't the Kennard chin, I don't know what is."
Bette smiled. "Yeah, I definitely see Tina's eyes." Bette opened up a bit and turned Angelica in her arms to give her grandmother and aunt a full view.
"I am goin' to get to hold my granddaughter, aren't I?"
"Of course. Angelica, here's . What do you want to be called, Grandma, Nana, Nani ?"
"Oh, honey, I don't know. Not Granny. Reminds me of the Clampetts. I like Nana or Nani. I never gave it much thought."
"I think Angelica will be able to say Nani easily, so how about that?"
"Nani, it is. Come to Nani, Angelica." Theresa took the baby from Bette and held her at arms length examining her, before pulling her close. "She is a precious one." She turned to her daughter in the bed and said, "Tina, I'm so proud of you, sweetheart."
Kit was watching Stephanie and didn't like what she saw. Stephanie was appraising Angelica as if she were some sort of anomaly. In fact, Stephanie hadn't smiled at the baby once since learning that this was her sister's child. Kit gave Bette a side long's glance and saw that Bette had picked up on this as well. Bette lowered her gaze to the floor and Kit moved closer, stood beside her, and reached out for her sister's hand. She was surprised when Bette gripped her tightly. "What's goin' on, Baby girl?" Kit spoke as an aside from the corner of her mouth.
"It's been a long, hellish day. I'm exhausted and still have to deal with some financial stuff tonight," Bette answered while moving and guiding Kit next to Tina's bed.
Theresa was walking around the small room with Angelica, bouncing her easily in her arms and cooing at her. Stephanie stood between Tina's bed and her mother looking out of sorts. She walked to the door, and as she was leaving, looked over her shoulder and said, "I'm going to go find the Coke machine. I'll be back," and she exited the room.
"What financial stuff?"
"Our insurance. They don't want to cover some of Tina's treatments," Bette said softly, not wanting Theresa to hear any of this.
Kit understood the need for discretion and she asked quietly, "Is it expensive?"
Bette looked at Kit with incredulity. Anything related to healthcare was going to be exorbitant. "Yes. All this experimental treatment is going to cost a fortune."
Kit still didn't get it. "But what about your inheritance? That should be plenty. I mean, Dad left us with enough, right? David doesn't have to worry about Med school. The Planet is mine. That monkey on my back called Bank of America is gone, my loan paid in full. Dad took care of you," Kit reminded Bette.
"Kit, I'm not working. We've got our regular bills, Angelica's doctor's appointments. It's everything. The car, food, diapers, formula . Oh, right. Tina can't breastfeed any longer. Before you got here, she had a seizure. She's on a medication that could pass to the baby, so breastfeeding is out. So there's formula, and clothes and utilities. It all seems like nothing, but together Look, I can't talk about this now. Tonight, I'll take some time, figure it out."
"Maybe you need to just put it aside for one night. Bette, please come to Las Vegas night? Please?"
"I'm not in the mood."
"That's exactly why you should come."
"I've got to prepare for my next meeting with the social worker."
"Girl, you are this close " Kit used her index finger and thumb to show the distance of two centimeters, "to losing it. I don't want to see that. You've got to stop. You've got to be healthy for Angelica. You're not Wonder Woman or the warrior princess. You can't do it all."
"I know. I just have to get through these next few days. Things will be resolved."
"I will drag you from here or the house myself. You're coming tomorrow."
Bette let it drop.
"Theresa, I should take you home so you and Stephanie can get settled in. I've moved the crib out of the guest room and "
"Oh, no, Bette. I should have told you, honey. Stephanie's fiancé has relatives out here. We're gonna to be stayin' with 'em. She wants to get to know them a teeny bit. They're just over in Studio City and they said it wouldn't be a problem to bring us over here each day to be with Tina. We didn't want to put you out."
Bette laughed. "I would have loved having you stay with us. It's not a problem at all. Angelica, I know, wants to spend time with her Nani and aunt."
"I plan on spending a lot of time with Angie. Don't you worry 'bout that, now." Theresa paused and then added with a little trepidation having to confess she had overheard at least some of their conversation. "I could even babysit the little one tomorrow night while you go out with your sister."
Bette wondered what else she had heard, but said nothing. She didn't want the Kennards to think she was going to hit them up for money. She would sell her art work before going to them. "Thanks. I might take you up on that. We'll see."
Theresa nodded and handed Angelica to Bette, then walked over to the bedside to be next to her daughter. "Tina, darlin' girl. Your mama's here now. I'm gonna come see 'bout you and help you get well."
Stephanie returned to the room carrying a twenty-four ounce can of Diet Coke. She glanced at Bette and Angelica, then at Kit, and finally turned to her mother and Tina. "How is she?"
"How do you think, Stephanie? Good god!" Theresa said.
Stephanie guzzled her soda while Theresa spoke to Tina. "Tina. We're gonna get settled in over in the Valley " She smiled at Bette as if to show that she knew the LA lingo. "Then we'll come back over here this evenin'. All right, sweetheart, your Mama'll be back soon."
"Bette, I'll take Angelica with me? Her car seat's still in my car. I'll just go to your place and wait while you take Tina's folks to wherever they're stayin'.
"Good. That'll work." Bette grabbed the diaper bag from the floor and followed Kit out of the room. Stephanie and Theresa trailed behind them.
"I've got plans with Peter's family tonight. I can't come back in," Stephanie said to her mother.
"Don't you think your sister is just a little bit more important that your fiancé's distant relatives?" Theresa's soft accent suddenly took on a harshness that would have made anyone hesitate, but not Stephanie.
"It's not exactly polite to just hang our hats there and take off. Tina's not goin' anywhere. She'd understand."
Bette turned to glare at her, but her look went unnoticed by Stephanie who was checking out one of the male doctors rushing down the hall.
Kit asked her assistant manager to take over at The Planet that evening. Bette needed her.
Angelica was definitely a baby who loved the water. Kit held her in her arms, Kit's feet and legs dangling in the pool and every so often, she'd either splash Angelica or bounce her in the water so her feet felt the cool liquid.
Bette had been on the phone, mostly on hold for long minutes at a time. She'd get through to one person, ask a question, and then get transferred to someone else. If her insurance company had been one individual and not a major corporation, she would have sworn that the person was intentionally screening her calls and trying to dodge her. The last thing she had been told was that she could appeal the decision of limited coverage. Bette diligently wrote down the process knowing that it would probably be a wasted exercise. The insurance company was in the business of making money and it looked like Tina was going to be a costly liability to them even without the experimental treatments. It wasn't that Bette was being pessimistic about the coverage, but realistic. She was at a loss about what to do.
When Kit came inside, Bette looked at her and said, "You know what I could use? I could use a cigarette and a Scotch." She sighed and collected the papers from the table.
"You don't need none of that. What about a bath and a goodnight's sleep? I'll stay with Angelica if she wakes up. Take a bath, pamper yourself a little, then sleep as long as you can."
Bette's smile was one of relief. All she could do was nod at Kit, thankful that she had made the offer and that she hadn't asked about the finances. She didn't want to think about them any more that evening.
Bette showered, put on a pair of beige with pink-striped pajama bottoms and a beige tank top, went into the living room to say goodnight to Kit and Angie who were watching television, and then made her way back to her bedroom. She sighed when her head hit the pillow and in no time she was fast asleep.
Alice had put on the tiniest bit of makeupa bit of blush for color, a hint of pink to give her lips a pop. She checked her look in the mirror. She thought that her face looked a little oily, so she snagged a cotton square and dabbed at her skin. She had read an article in either Jane or Vogue that one way to avoid receiving unwanted news was to appear incredibly happy--How To Avoid Being the Bad News Receptacle. The green broach she was wearing looked kind of cute and cheery. The large-petaled, green flower broach was the most gleeful piece of jewelry she owned and she knew that Dana had an identical one in peach. Alice grinned, examined her teeth and decided to floss once more. She flossed, brushed, and wiped her mouth on the towel hanging from the door, just as she heard Dana's keys in the lock.
"Hi, Dana. I uh what have you got there?" Al said. She thought, sound breezy, sound relaxed, sound carefree.
"My sports duffle," Dana nearly whispered.
"Why?" As if she didn't know that answer.
Dana walked into one of the two bedrooms she had shared with Alice over the past year. She would be leaving this one for good and returning to her place and the other bedroom. "Alice, I won't lie to you. You know me too well for me to try to get over on some b.s." Dana stuffed a couple of articles of lingerie into the bag. "I know you don't want to hear this and I don't even want to say it."
"Then don't. Go with that."
"I have to," Dana began. Lara was downstairs waiting for her. When Dana told Lara that she was breaking up with Alice, Dana was clear that it had nothing to do with her feelings for the chef. That was a lie. She told Lara that lie easily, but she wouldn't bear that falsehood with Alice. She owed her closest friend the full truth. "Alice, I have really tried to just put my past with Lara behind me " Dana dropped a pair of '7 for All Mankind' jeans that were hanging on a chair into the bag.
Interrupting, Alice said, "Just don't talk to her, don't see her, you can put it behind you."
"I can't. You know, Al, Lara and I . Well, I walked out on her, left her just standing there and didn't look back. I have to take care of it, make it right with her. I'm not saying that this is the end of us. I love you." Dana left the bedroom, walked down the hall and into Alice's living room with Alice following behind her. Dana turned and she and Alice faced each other.
Alice couldn't get out her thoughts. This was harder than she had imagined it would be and she had been imagining it all day. She was going to be completely honest, wear all of her feelings on her sleeve, and somehow convince Dana that her plan was a very bad idea. Alice nervously shook her hand like she was trying to get her circulation back into it, mucus poured from her nostrils, and tears rolled down her cheeks. "I don't know if I can umm ." Her hand anxiously grazed over her forehead. " if I can live without you."
Dana couldn't stand to see her cry; it made her cry. She rushed to Alice, hugged her and said, "Alice. You can." Dana hated hurting her this way. God, she loved Alice. She just couldn't be with her when this other thing was unresolved. It would hurt more if she pretended the feelings for Lara didn't exist.
So many tears from both of them, so much love between them, too much hurt being given by one to the other. Alice and Dana's lips met. Alice pulled her closer. A kiss--a passionate Alice/Dana kiss might be the reminder Dana needed. Alice parted her lips and pushed her tongue against Dana's closed mouth. The resolve that Dana had when she entered the apartment had vanished as she surrendered to the kiss. Dana's arms came around and pulled Alice into an intimate hug as she swallowed Alice's tongue. She lost herself in the kiss and Alice believed that Dana had at that moment found her way back into their romance.
Then, Dana pushed away. She shook her head, told Alice she couldn't do this, and she cried. They were breaking up as lovers, but Dana felt without a doubt that their friendship was ending, too. Alice was the friend she had gone to when she first became interested in Lara to help her determine if Lara might share those feelings; Dana had depended on Alice when her beloved Mr. Piddles died and she had been inconsolable; and when she had to come out to her parents, she took Al with her for moral support. Dana was losing all of that, now, but she was helpless to make it a better ending. Alice was jealous and needy, true, but she was also the best friend a person could have. She wondered for a moment if having closure with Lara was worth the suffering of not having Alice's companionship. But her mind was made up. In tears, she walked out of Alice's apartment, down the corridor, and to the car where Lara waited for her. Dana hoped that she hadn't also walked out of Alice's life permanently.
Bette rolled over, felt for Angelica, and remembered she was with Kit, probably in the guest room. She turned her head to look at the time. It was only one a.m. Closing her eyes, she tried to fall asleep again, but couldn't. Finally, she pulled herself up and swung her legs over the side of the bed. She stretched and walked to the window, planning to open it to get some fresh night air. She started to pull the flowing gauzy curtains when she heard voices outside. With one hand, she eased a small section of curtain back to reveal Shane and Carmen who had recently taken advantage of some late night skinny-dipping. Both women's hair was wet and droplets of water still clung to their nude frames, but they were out of the pool. Shane was stretched out on the chaise longue, the upper half of her body inclined on the back portion of the furniture. Carmen was seated next to her, near Shane's waist and her fingers were twisting Shane's nipples quite hard from Bette's view. Bette watched as Shane's body rocked and undulated on the chaise, her hands entwined and fisted in Carmen's hair, her mouth opened, and her tongue repeatedly licked her lips. One hand continued rubbing Shane's breast, while Carmen's head bent to take the entire small orb into her mouth. Through the closed window, Bette could hear Shane moan. The next thing she witnessed was Shane raising her legs, bending at the knees, as Carmen roughly pushed them open more, and her other hand disappeared between them. Shane's body moved up on the chaise, then down just a bit and back up. Hearing Shane's groan, Bette dropped her hand, letting the curtain fall back over the pool scene.
Her thoughts went to Tina. Last year, they had been estranged and had made love once before Angelica was born. It was a moment in her life that she'd never forget. The lovemaking had been amazing, more than she'd have ever hoped for or dreamed. It was perfect in every way. Her heart had broken later that afternoon when Tina told her not to read too much into it. It was too late; she had already. She had seen it as the beginning of a new life, but since Tina hadn't seen it that way, she had planned on returning time and time again until Tina accepted they belonged together. It hadn't taken long and Bette was beyond thrilled. It wasn't just about making a home for their child; it was about making a new life together that wouldn't get screwed up by her failure to communicate. She was ready to start over with Tina. Now, Bette wondered if and when there would be communication between them again.
"Tina " Bette whispered in her bedroom.
At the rehab center, Tina rested on her left side. If her eyes were open, she would have seen the light from the lamppost flickering onto the furniture in this room that was not really hers. If she had been able to open her eyes, she would have seen photographsone of Angelica, and the other of Alice, Dana, Shane, Kit, and Tina, taken by Bette at a party at their home four years ago. Everyone was smiling probably all a little drunk, including Kit. If Tina had been able to lift her head, she would have seen some of her personal items that held meaning for her including the ultrasound photo taken by Dr. Wilson the day that Bette accompanied her to the doctor, hours before they had made incredible love.
It was strange, Tina thought now, that all of the passion she had felt for Bette had just dissipated. She had expected that after the baby arrived that their romance would build, but just the opposite was happening. It seemed like they weren't even speaking these days. Bette was withdrawn, silent, and seemed moody and Tina had nothing to say to her. Both of them turned away from each other in bed where they once, even during their difficult times, cuddled and touched in the night. Tina was lonely and she wasn't lonely for Bette. 'Bette must sense this,' Tina thought. 'I don't feel sexual toward her; I don't feel romantic and I can't pretend I do.'
It was after one in the morning and the lone orderly in this section of the trauma ward made his rounds. He entered Tina Kennard's room and flipped the switch that offered low lighting in the room. The yellow tinted light shone enough for him to make his way to the bed, check her catheter, and feeding tube. When that was done, he lowered the safety bars on one side of the bed and gently pulled and lifted Tina's body toward him. "I don't want to disturb you, Tina. Just taking care of you. Hope that's all right with you," he spoke to his patient softly.
The new bed that had been brought in that evening was his favorite. The Hill-Rom Total Care Bed was a lifesaver on his back. He turned approximately thirty patients a night, twice a night and these beds had the job finished in seconds instead of minutes. It wasn't an inexpensive bed; in fact, it was top-of-the-line. Her girlfriend must be rolling in it he thought. Josh, the orderly had a firm grasp on Tina's shoulder and thigh as he expertly placed her on her back. His large, masculine hands massaged her legs, and toes, arms, and fingers. He placed his thumbs on either side of her head and tenderly massaged her temples for a few moments. He glanced at the photo of the group of friends and said aloud to himself, "I can't believe you're queer. You and your friends are way too hot."
She wanted something Bette couldn't give her. The more she tried to put it out of her mind, the more Tina found herself thinking about men. 'Could it be,' she asked herself, 'that I don't want Bette because ?' There were times, especially late at night when Bette just disappeared and instead, Tina found herself thinking about a man's touchstrong arms around her, long fingers caressing her, and the masculine, natural scent mixed with a good men's cologne at his pulse points. Tina hadn't thought about that life since Eric, but now it was on her mind. A lot. Tonight, she refused to give it another thought. Things would get better if Bette would take finding employment seriously. They needed the money with an infant in their lives. And Bette needed to include her in Angelica's child-rearing. Bette wanting to raise Angelica a certain way and excluding her from many of the parenting decisions was making her crazy. She had tried repeatedly to talk to Bette, but she just couldn't do it, the words wouldn't come; they weren't communicating and she was tired of all of it.
The introduction of Josh and Josh's stupid comment (Season 3, Episodes 4, 5, 6, and 7)
Dana and Alice's break up (Season 3, Episodes 8 and 9)
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