DISCLAIMER: ER is the property of Constant C Productions, Amblin Entertainment, and Warner Brothers Television.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Mouths of Babes
By Ainsley Wallace

Section One

"...patient female, twenty one years of age. She was alert and oriented to time and place. Speech was slow, with long pauses, indicating some degree of psychomotor retardation; upon questioning, she reported insomnia, lack of appetite, and feelings of profound sadness. Patient had been found by her boyfriend, laying on the bathroom floor, with self-inflicted cuts on arms and wrists..."

Kim threw down her pen. God she was tired.

What was it about late May that pushed people to try to kill themselves? Four today alone and two the day before. Lately, she'd been spending her whole shift running back and forth to the ER.

"...In interview patient admitted to having inflicted wounds with a razor blade. Mood during interview was extremely dysphoric and I believe that if this major depressive episode is not treated, there is a strong likelihood that she will try to harm herself again..."

"Are you still having thoughts about hurting yourself?" Kim had asked.

The young woman held Kim's eyes for a long moment before a sad smile crept across her lips. "No," she said and there was a longer pause while her gaze turned inward and she looked blankly at her bandaged arms and wrists. "Of course not."

Kim remembered one truly helpful textbook she had been required to read during her first psych rotation in med school. It advised that, in questioning potentially suicidal patients to, "pay close attention for responses such as, "'I have purchased a gun, have ammunition, made out a will, and plan to use it."

Uh-hunh. Something about having just tried to kill themselves made flesh and blood patients a trifle less forthcoming.

"But Colleen, you do admit you tried to harm yourself tonight, don't you?" Kim grabbed the young woman's gaze and held onto it, trying to neither charge nor retreat.

Colleen sighed. It was a long sigh, full of weariness.

"Yes," she said finally. Another pause. "But that was stupid. I see that now."

Translation: next time I'll do a better job.

Kim kept her best non-threatening smile in place. "But you did cut yourself. Just a few hours ago, right?"

A slow nod.

"So what were you hoping to achieve?"

It took a moment but Colleen's expression changed. Confusion and the ghost of suspicion.

"What do you mean?"

"Nobody does anything without a reason," Kim said, her voice soft. "Today you did this." She indicated the woman's bandages. "You must have had your reasons."

Colleen started to rock slightly and looked past Kim into an empty corner of the small exam room. She was quiet so long that Kim wondered whether or not Colleen remembered that she was still in the room.

"The pills aren't working," Colleen finally said, her voice so quiet that Kim had to lean forward to hear her. "I just can't stand it anymore. I'm so tired." Tears leaking out from under closed eyelids.

"The pills?" Kim said. She flipped through her chart quickly and found nothing about medications. "What pills, Colleen?"

Steady rocking, tears streaming silently down her pale cheeks.

"The pills. The anti-depressants."

"You're on an anti-depressant?" Kim asked. "Have you been seeing a doctor for depression?"

"At school. I saw him two months ago. He gave me... something, I forget the name. He said to take them and come back when the prescription ran out."

"Two months ago? How long have you felt depressed, Colleen?"

A shrug. "Since school started."

Kim took a deep breath to keep her voice even. "You don't happen to have those pills with you, do you?"

She nodded. "In my purse."

Without getting up, Kim dug through her hospital issued plastic bag for personal effects and found a small leather shoulder bag among the jeans and sweatshirt. With a reassuring look at Colleen, she dug past a U of Chicago daytimer, a wad of Kleenex, a lipstick and a pack of gum to find an orange vial of pills, about four months worth.

Kim examined the label and wanted to scream. "Okay," she heard herself say in an incredibly reasonable tone, as she pocketed the bottle. She put the shoulder bag back in the plastic bag and stowed it under the bed, then rolled her chair forward and put a soothing hand on Colleen's leg.

"Colleen, I think you're very depressed right now and it seems like those other pills aren't working so well for you."

Colleen's eyes were red rimmed and vacant now, exhausted from the effort of talking.

"I have some ideas about how we can help you to get better, okay? " Kim stood up. "I'm just going to go get a nurse and then we're going to find some new medicines that will help a lot faster. And I'd like to keep you here for a couple of days to make sure you're okay." She touched Colleen's shoulder. "Is that all right with you?"

A half nod and long sigh.

That was all the consent Kim needed for now. She went to find a nurse to sit with her while she arranged her admission. And then she was going to track down the genius that had prescribed six months of tranquilizers for a major depression.

"...Admitted on 05/28/01 to psych. Her parents have been contacted and will arrive 05/29/01. Family session on 05/30/01 at 2:00 p.m."

She closed the chart and tried vainly to stretch the tension out of her neck. She needed a break. Maybe she'd go and check up on that new resident who was parading about like God's gift to psychiatry. She didn't trust the little pissant yet, especially in the ER where you were never sure what you were dealing with.

She glanced at her watch and instantly felt terrible because she had realized that she was still subconsciously timing her days based on Kerry's shifts, breaking the work day into times that were "safe" and "not safe."

It was a "safe" time right now, Kerry's shift having ended an hour ago, but she still felt bad as she punched her code into the security door and left the psych ward. She felt bad all the time where Kerry was concerned. Talking to her didn't seem right, but avoiding her felt worse. She didn't know how to broach any subject with her anymore but felt sad that Kerry had given up trying to engage her in conversation. It seemed that the best thing and the worst thing were the same thing -- they were becoming regular co-workers again. She punched the elevator button with a bit more force than it needed and sighed.

She didn't know what she wanted anymore.

Kerry swung through the ambulance bay doors and took in the scarcity of people in chairs and the small cluster of nurses, relaxing and chatting at the desk. She shook her head. Why did it always get quiet when she was off? She suspected some elaborate conspiracy but couldn't prove it yet.

"Hey, Chief, your shift is over, go home!" Malucci called.

"And yours isn't over, don't you have some work to do somewhere?"

Malucci spread his arms wide. "What can I say? Nice and quiet since you left."

Kerry rolled her eyes and pushed her way into the lounge. She'd gotten all the way home and into comfortable pajamas with a lovely glass of Bordeaux at her elbow when she'd realized that she'd forgotten some budget documents at work for an early morning admin meeting. She fiddled with the combination, yanked her locker open and dug around, looking for a thick file folder.

There was no way in hell she was going to a meeting chaired by Romano without having her t's crossed, her i's dotted and her ass covered. This little game of chicken they were involved in was not to be taken lightly. She didn't care how hard she had to work, she was not going to be the first one to blink.

She left the lounge and was headed for the back door, when it suddenly occurred to her that Romano might try to sneak scheduling issues onto the meeting's agenda. She'd best be prepared.

A little ripple swept through the staff at the admit desk, as she doubled back and walked by. She was never sure why that was now. Was it the fact that she was their boss that made them drop their voices to a quieter tone when she walked by? Or was it the now fairly common knowledge that she was a lesbian and had at one point been involved with Dr. Legaspi? (Hell, the way the grapevine grew in this place, probably the guy who sold papers on the corner had heard the story.)

She hated that it bothered her, but if she was honest, she had to say that it did. Less out of a sense of shame than a sense of sorrow, now though. It was one more thing that separated her from them, it seemed, like her crutch had always done, like her brains and her drive had done. It was sad, that was all.

She turned into the exam room hallway to find Luka slouched in the desk chair, a pile of charts beside him.

"Well, it's nice to see someone working tonight," Kerry said, with enough of a smile that he knew she was teasing.

"I thought you were off a while ago," he said.

"I forgot some things for a meeting tomorrow morning," she said.

He nodded and pushed the chair away so that she could reach the desk drawers. He watched while she shuffled papers about, trying to find what she needed.

"You know you work too much," Luka said with that easy smile of his.

It stopped her and she looked over at him. "I know I do," she said, shifting her weight onto her crutch.

"It's been a stressful few months for you. No one would blame you if you took some time for yourself. Had some fun."

She chuckled. "Fun. Yes. Well, as soon as I figure out how exactly one does that, I'll look into it." She went back to searching for her schedules.

"Dr. Kovac," a voice called, from down the hall. "I have the labs on your MI in five."

Luka hesitated, uncertain as to whether he should continue with this conversation, or whether he wanted to keep his job. He decided the safest route for everyone was to go check in on his patient.

"Have a good night, Kerry," he said over his shoulder as he walked away.

"You, too, Luka," Kerry said.

She laid her hand on the last document she needed and stuffed it into the file folder, then straightened up and flipped her crutch around, ready to go.

She heard the footsteps and then for a flash, she felt like laughing. Imagine it being so quiet in here that she could hear footsteps.

And then, from the corner of her eye, she registered blue silk and long legs, flowing blonde hair. She did a double take and there was Kim, at the end of the hall, just off the elevators probably, pinning her in place with those glacial blue eyes. She had an overwhelming urge to run away.

That was the last image Kerry remembered.

Kim rode down to the ground floor, leaning against the back wall of the elevator, arms crossed. Officially her shift was over, most of her paperwork was done and she was not the supervisor of this new little baby resident, so she was not obligated to come down here and see what the hell he was up to now. But, she'd told Carl she'd keep an unofficial eye on him and truth be told, she hadn't wanted to be home much, lately. It didn't have the same feeling it used to have. Mainly, she stayed at the hospital, worked really long hours, took other people's shifts and ... had no idea why she was doing this. The elevator chimed to announce the ground floor.

Some psychiatrist you are, she thought.

She headed for the ER.

The words "deer in the headlights" took on a whole new meaning when they spotted each other. Kim was torn by a sudden and not very grownup urge to just turn and march straight back up to the psych ward. The only thing that kept her there that extra moment, eyes locked with Kerry's, was the knowledge that Kerry was no doubt struggling with the same thing. Kim's face softened into a smile -- it was such a silly situation, surely they could both just laugh at this.

Kim never saw him coming.

Her mind knew he must have roared out of one of the exam rooms, but his appearance was so sudden and unexpected that at the moment he burst into the hall, it seemed like he should have been accompanied by a puff of smoke.

He was massive, football player sized and filthy. Long, dark stringy hair and layers of clothing that weren't identifiable colours anymore. In the instant that she could see his face and his eyes, she thought, 'Schizophrenic, very high on drugs. We'll have to admit him." And then she realized that he was moving toward Kerry. Her heart skipped a beat.

"JESUS WILL PUNISH YOU!!" he bellowed in an otherworldly voice and he snatched Kerry up as if she was weightless and then threw her face first into the wall beside the desk, the papers she held fluttering slowly to the ground. "HE WILL PUNISH YOU FOR WHAT YOU DO TO ME!!!!" he screamed, his face red with fury and exertion.

Kerry's body slid slowly and awkwardly down the wall, leaving a trail of mucus and blood, her hand flailing blindly for her lost crutch.

Kim bounded forward, a stifled scream in her throat. Two strides and someone grabbed her by the waist and was holding her back, pulling her backwards. It was Luka, out of breath and speaking quietly. "No, you have to stay here!"

Kim struggled out of his grasp. "She's hurt! I have to --"

"He's too big. Stay behind me." Luka stepped in front of her, then crept forward along the wall, slipping in behind a huge rolling cart of supplies. Kim followed.

"Hey, buddy, it's okay, settle down, settle down." Malucci's voice, coming from the other end of the hallway near the admit desk.

The giant man turned to look at him then pointed a trembling finger. "YOU'RE ALL SINNERS! SINNERS!! JESUS WILL PUNISH YOU FOR WHAT YOU DO TO ME!!"

"Yeah, well, that's not the first time I've been told that," Malucci said. "Hey, Chief? You okay down there?"

Kerry dragged herself to a sitting position, her head reeling. She couldn't find her crutch and she was having a hard time focusing...goddamit where was this blood coming from? She clumsily got on all fours and began to crawl slowly out from behind the side of the desk. Malucci caught sight of her, blood streaming out of her nose and he panicked. He took a step toward her and the giant erupted.

"HE WILL PUNISH YOU! HE WILL PUNISH YOU!!" he screamed and he grabbed Kerry off the floor like a rag doll, swung her around and slammed her into the observation window to exam room two. There was an explosion of glass and when he stepped back, Kerry was slumped over his beefy forearm. "I WON'T ABIDE THIS!! YOU WILL NOT HURT ME!!" He smashed his way through a pile of sterile trays on one of the supply carts with his free hand until he found a scalpel.

"Ohmygod, Kerry. Kerry!" Kim whispered and she struggled to push past Luka again. He grabbed her by the wrist and reeled her in, pulled her back against the wall with him.

"No," Luka whispered.

"He's going to kill her!!"

"And you think you running in there will stop him?" Luka spat back. "Just stay behind me."

He checked the man's position again and continued his steady pace forward, pushing Kim back with one arm.

Kim held her breath and found herself reciting some long forgotten childhood prayer.

Kerry was draped limply over the man's arm, her face bleeding profusely. Malucci was gripped with a sudden urge to beat this guy to the floor, cut off his testicles and feed them to him. But he couldn't do that until he got the Chief away from him.

"So, uh, mister. This punishing...is this going to be your average lake of fire, never ending torture sort of hell punishment..."

The man looked blankly at him. "You're a blasphemer."

"Oh, gosh, no. If there's one thing my mother insisted on at our house it was no blaspheming." Malucci took a couple of slow steps forward, got himself closer to the fire extinguisher on the wall.

"YOU WILL BE PUNISHED FOR HARMING ME!" the man screamed again and he made a slashing gesture by Kerry's throat with the scalpel. Her head bobbed lazily.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa! Let's get finished punishing me first, shall we?" A small step forward. Where the fuck was security?

The man stared at him, unmoving, the scalpel perilously close to Kerry's bleeding face. "I FEAR NO MAN," he screamed.

"Actually, I think that there is one man you should worry about. " He pointed behind the man to Luka. "Him."

The man spun, whipping Kerry limply with him. Luka lunged and grabbed for Kerry's boneless form just as Malucci snatched the fire extinguisher off the wall and nailed the giant in the back of the head.

The huge man teetered, then righted himself. Shrieking and cursing, he held on to Kerry and dragged Luka off balance with him, then slashed at him with the scalpel. Luka pulled back to avoid the blade and lost his grip on Kerry. The man twisted around to face Malucci who delivered a glancing blow with the fire extinguisher.

The man's knees buckled and he wavered and was on the verge of regaining his balance when Luka tackled him. The force knocked them both over and slammed them into the floor. Malucci landed on top, pinning limbs and yelling for Haldol, frantically trying to find the scalpel. There was a tangle of arms and legs on the floor and when Abby arrived moments later with a syringe, she wasn't entirely sure which leg to inject.

"Goddammit, give him the drugs," Malucci yelled, straining to peel the man off Kerry, who appeared to be on the bottom of the scrum.

Kim lunged for the syringe, grabbed the man's leg and shot. Thirty seconds later, the struggling stopped.

Luka untangled himself and was up in a flash, out of breath. He and Malucci dragged the giant off Kerry's tiny form. "Malucci, take Malik, and get him into four point restraints, now!" Luka said.

"Yeah," Malucci muttered, "and I'm gonna make 'em hurt."

Kim had pushed her way through and knelt beside Kerry's prone form. Kerry's face was washed with her own blood and one eye was swollen shut.

"Kerry? Kerry?" she called loudly. "I need you to talk to me, Ker. Come on."

Luka dropped to his knees beside Kerry and quickly assessed. "Get a gurney and a collar over here, move!"

Abby said, "Luka?"

He looked at Abby who was at Kerry's feet.

"Oh, Christ, we broke her leg," he muttered.

"I'll get a traction splint," Abby said as she got to her feet.

Kim stroked Kerry's head and vainly wiped blood away from her face, trying to make contact somehow, to let her know she was there. She lowered her face to within inches of Kerry's and spoke her name loudly. In response heard Kerry's laboured, uneven breathing.

"She's having trouble breathing," Kim said quietly, her voice choked with fear and helplessness. The chaos raged on around her. Somebody was helping the new psych resident to walk out of exam two where apparently he'd been interviewing the schizophrenic giant. He held an ice bag on his head and even from here she could tell he was whining. She drew in a ragged breath. "She's having trouble breathing!" she shouted and Luka's head turned quickly.

"Where's that gurney?! We need it NOW!"

They flew threw the doors to the trauma room, pushing the tiny figure on the stretcher.

"Dr. Legaspi," Luka said, as he pulled on gloves, "she has a bad cut on forehead, near the scalp. I want you to apply pressure to it."

Abby wrapped a paper gown around Kim and handed her gloves and Kim quickly took up residence at the head of the gurney and promptly staunched the flow of blood from the cut. From where she stood, she could see the tiny fragments of glass embedded in Kerry's cheek. A sob caught in her throat and she forced it down.

Lydia and Chuny were cutting off Kerry's bloodstained clothing and Kim stared at the khaki pants with big square pockets on the legs that they were slicing open. She recognized those pants and the realization hit her like a fist to the stomach. She had been with Kerry the day she had bought those. Kim had dragged her into the Gap and made her try on pair after pair.

"When am I ever going to wear these?" Kerry had said about this very pair of pants. "Look at the pockets. They're way too casual."

Kim had rolled her eyes. "That's exactly the point, Ker. They're casual. To wear when not working. You know, that having-a-life part of your life." She'd looked the tiny woman up and down. "Besides, they look great on you."

Kerry had bought them.

"Abby, order a CBC, UA, lytes, blood gas and type and cross match two -- no, three units. Those scalp wounds are bleeding a lot." Luka was listening to Kerry's lungs and then checking her mouth as he hollered instructions. "Somebody get X-ray in here. I want head, chest, c-section and right tib-fib shots."

"Hey!" Abby shouted at the crowd of people at the trauma room door. "Get the hell out of here! This isn't a show!" She pushed the doors shut. "Chuny, pull those blinds over there, would you?"

Kerry's clothes lay on the floor in blood-soaked rags now and Kim watched Lydia pull a pristine sheet up over Kerry's blood spattered body.

At least she's not cold. She gets cold so easily and that always makes her hip ache. She was so surprised when I bought her that down duvet, she didn't know it would --

A trill from the heart monitor made everyone stop and look.

"Dr. Kovac, heartbeat is at 110," Lydia said. "Puls/ox dropping slightly to eighty-eight." She glanced at Kim then looked away.

"What's her pressure?"

"Ninety over fifty-five."

"She hasn't lost that much blood, but she's getting shocky. Give her a minute, we're replacing fluids, now." He never looked up from Kerry's leg, which he was covering with sterile gauze.

Kim heard the sudden change in Kerry's breathing. Like she was at the bottom of a lake and was fighting to get a lungful of air. The machine caught it a heartbeat later.

"She's in respiratory distress," Abby said. "Tachy at 143, resps shallow. Puls/ox 84."

No, no, no, no, no. Don't do this Kerry, please, don't do this.

Luka was there in a stride, pushing Kim aside. "Dammit, we need to intubate. Lydia, push an amp of epi."

Kim stepped back, both hands clasped to her mouth as if she was trying to hold something in.

It wasn't supposed to happen like this.

That's why I can't be your friend, Kerry.

Don't you ever talk to me in front of a resident like that again..

"I can't see what I'm doing, Lydia, suction this blood," Luka barked.

Kim, I want you to stay.

I just want to move on with my life...so should you.

"Okay, I'm in," Luka said. "Bag her."

Abby applied pressure to Kerry's scalp lac as she squeezed the blue bag and forced air into Kerry's lungs, keeping one eye on the heart monitor all the while.

Are you gonna watch me again?

That shy, seductive smile as she nodded.

Have a nice life. Goodbye, Kerry.

Abby caught Kim's eye and smiled reassuringly. "She's going to be okay. Don't worry."

Kim nodded numbly.

She's so small, lying there on the stretcher. And so exposed. This is her worst nightmare, being so vulnerable.

Kim watched the monitor, saw the pounding rhythm slowing and the blood pressure slowly climbing. "Come on, Kerry," she muttered, her eyes darting between Kerry's blood streaked face and the monitors.

Two gut wrenching minutes later, a normal sinus rhythm and regular respiration. "All right," Luka said. "Who's on call for surgery?"

"Anspaugh," someone said.

"Good. Stat page him and tell him to bring someone from ortho down here. They're going to need to debride this leg in the OR. And call somebody from plastics to come and do her sutures. I don't want those facial lacs to scar." Lydia nodded and scurried to the phone. "Abby, I need to reduce this fracture. Can you help me?" Luka said.

"Be right there. I'm just finishing with the respirator," she said. She taped the last tube in place, then glanced over at Kim.

"Do you want me to get you a chair? You could sit with her," she said.

Kim nodded and tried to find her voice.

Abby rolled a stool over to the side of the gurney and looked back at Kim, a question in her eyes.

"Dr. Legaspi? Are you all right? You look really pale."

"I'm -- I'm fine. I just need to -- uh--"

She turned and strode out of the trauma room, peeling off her paper gown and blood stained gloves as she went. Dodging gurneys and carts and the maintenance people mopping up the blood in the hallway. She turned a last corner, slammed the door to the women's room open, ran the last two steps and dove into a stall where she emptied her stomach several times.

A few minutes later, a quiet whine as the door slid open. Muted footsteps and tapping on the stall's door.

"Dr. Legaspi?" Abby called softly. "You okay?"

Kim opened the door and emerged, disheveled and very pale. "Yeah, I'm okay. I had to...I, uh, just got sick."

Kim went to the first sink and ran the cold water hard. One glance up at the mirror and she saw the blood she'd inadvertently smeared on her cheek in the trauma room. Kerry's blood. She spun around and lunged back into the stall.

Abby waited quietly until the retching had stopped.

A flush of water and Kim reappeared. She went directly to the sink and splashed water on her face a few times, then took the paper towels that Abby held out. "I guess I'm not cut out for the ER," Kim said and she forced a half-smile.

"Oh, if that was true, you wouldn't have made it out of medical school," Abby said. "Uh, you've still got some on your face...there." She pointed to her own cheek to guide her. Kim scrubbed at it with the rough towel.

"I brought you some scrubs," Abby said. "I thought you might want to change." She pointed at the dark stains on her blouse and pants.

Kim let out a measured breath and took the pile of clothes. "Thank you, Abby. I appreciate it."

"Sure," Abby said and she headed for the door. "I think Dr. Weaver will be coming around in the next few minutes. Might be good if you were there."

Kim nodded. A real smile this time.

Abby pulled open the door and then turned. "Oh and don't worry about feeling sick. It's not the blood, you know. It's the fact that it's someone you care about that gets to you."

She left and Kim stared at the door for a long time.

The sound of the respirator comes first. Hissing and clicking and such pressure in her chest, pain in her side. She just wants to sleep, just fall backwards and sleep and sleep, and why can't someone turn down the noise?

Hiss, click.

Hiss, click.

The ache is so deep down inside of her she thinks it will consume her. It hurts, her leg, her head, her chest. She doesn't want to move but she's so cold.

People talk and she doesn't even try to listen.



She forces her good eye open to find her.

Kim is there, holding her hand. Kim is talking to her, telling her things and she knows she should listen but she just can't seem to stay awake. She looks like hell.

A shiver and then she drifts on.

Kerry's eyelid bobbed once more then shut for good and Kim barely resisted the urge to shout for her to come back. They were taking her to surgery soon anyway. There would be time to talk later. And there was a lot to say.

"Abby?" Kim said.

Abby looked up from her chart.

"Could you get her another heated blanket? She's cold."

Abby paused, cast a glance at the still form of Dr. Weaver, then nodded. "Sure," she said.

Kerry came slowly back into her body.

The pain was everywhere and it throbbed in time with the beating of her heart. She winced and lifted a clumsy hand to touch her face, felt gauze with her fingertips instead.

She tried to force her eyes open and the pain felt like she'd been hit in the face with a shovel. One lid eased open, but the other remained stubbornly stuck. The wooziness welled up then and she concentrated on drawing in the next breath and then the next until it passed. It felt like a horse had kicked her in the ribs. At least one, maybe two broken ribs, she figured.

She stared at the ceiling with her good eye. This had to be the hospital. Only County could have painted a room the colour of bile, she thought. She experimented with her limbs, found one particularly leaden and gazed down to see her leg, propped on a stack of pillows, encased in a white fiberglass cast.

She sank back and let the air rush out of her. The room seemed misty somehow and the pounding ache below her knee made her stomach turn. She rolled her head to one side, searching for the call button and instead, saw Kim sitting in the chair in the corner, her head leaned back against the wall, asleep. Her arms were curled around herself in protection, or maybe for warmth. It was strange to see her in scrubs. She looked fragile and ... so beautiful. Kerry lay there a moment and watched her sleep.

A noise outside the door and Kim's eyes fluttered open. She was instantly alert, looking toward the bed.

Their eyes met.

"Kerry?" she said and suddenly, there were tears in her eyes.

She got up and hurried to the side of the bed. "Hey," she said, softly grabbing Kerry's hand and holding it between her own. "You're awake. How do you feel?"

Kerry opened her mouth to speak but nothing came out. She forced a cough, that made her head pound, then tried to clear her throat. Kim quickly poured her a glass of water and adjusted the straw so that she could sip it.

"I'm all right, I think. Kind of sore," she said, after she'd taken a drink.

Kim retrieved her hand and pressed it to her cheek, held it there. "You had me pretty worried, there." She was trying to smile through the hint of tears that remained and Kerry lay there watching her, unable to look away. Such gentleness in her touch, those hands, God, Kerry remembered those hands. She gave herself a little shake. Don't do this.

"What happened?" she asked.

Kim described the events of the night before, including the hypovolemic shock and the surgery.

"Was everybody all right? Malucci and Luka and the resident? Did he hurt anybody else?" Kerry asked.

"No, everybody's fine. I wanted to beat the resident within an inch of his useless little life, but cooler heads prevailed. A concussion was probably enough."

Kerry smiled slightly then winced. "My face," she said. "It's cut, isn't it?" She explored her forehead and nose with tender fingers.

"Don't worry about those," Kim said, stroking and smoothing back strands of fine red hair. "Dr. Kovac got on the phone and got the senior resident from plastics to come and stitch everything up. He guaranteed there'd be no scarring." She touched Kerry's pale cheek. "Are you in pain? Do you want me to get the nurse?"

"Maybe in a minute," Kerry said. She looked over at the IV bag. "Is it morphine?"

Kim nodded.

Kerry's good eyelid was dipping, lulled by the touch of Kim's fingers, stroking her cheek. How many mornings had Kim woken her just like this, tenderly caressing her face, her shoulders, her breasts.

She snapped back into herself and opened her eye. This wasn't right. She couldn't let herself need this again. Not after how it had all ended. She couldn't ever go through that again.

"Kerry?" Kim asked, sensing the change. "What's the matter? Are you all right?"

Kerry let her head roll to the side to look at Kim. She searched her face, plumbed the depth of those sapphire eyes and then saw it.

"So you were there. You saw it all happen?" Kerry asked.

Kim nodded and her smile faded and winked out. "Yeah. I was right there."

"What were you coming to the ER for?" Kerry asked, her face impassive.

"Uh, I was coming to check up on the psych resident," she said and confusion was slowly taking over her expression.

Kerry watched her closely but saw only the look on her face at the end of the hall when they'd spotted each other. Remembered the polite and firm rebuttal of her letter, the unanswered phone calls, the hollow ache that she had carried around for weeks that made her mangled tibia pale in comparison. She disentangled her hand from Kim's under the pretext of trying to shift position slightly.

"Kerry, what is it?" Kim asked and there was real concern in her voice now.

"I'm kind of sore," Kerry said and she avoided meeting Kim's questioning eyes. "I think I should probably just sleep some more."

Kim nodded numbly. "Okay. Are you sure you don't want more pain medication?"

"No, I'm just going to sleep for a while," she said. "You should go on home."

I want to be with you, Kim wanted to say, but instead it came out "I could stay, if you want."

"No, you look beat. Go home. Get some rest."

Kim hesitated, still trying to divine what had just passed through Kerry's mind. "Well, okay," she said finally. "Will you be all right? Is there anything you need?"

"No, I'm fine, Kim, thanks," Kerry said and she was already settling deeper into her pillows.

Kim got to her feet. "Well, okay. I'll come by later to see how you are," Kim said.

"You don't need to worry about me."

Kim stood there for a long moment. You're not fine, she thought. But she could take a hint.

"All right," she said. "Sleep well." She impulsively dropped a kiss on Kerry's forehead and then smoothed her hair once more. "I'll see you later."

Kerry nodded sleepily.

Kim left, stopping once at the door to glance back at the tiny woman in the bed and wonder what the hell had just happened.

Kerry waited a full five minutes before she let herself cry.

It was suppertime the next day before Kim returned, a half hour before her shift started, bearing a very large bouquet of richly coloured tulips, roses and irises in one hand, and a bag from a deli in the other. She got off the elevator and headed for Kerry's room with a little bounce in her step. She felt much better than when she'd left. She'd gotten a little sleep, had taken a shower and mainly, when she'd called to check on Kerry's condition, she was told that she seemed to be improving. Apparently she'd even eaten a little bit. Kim had chuckled at that, wondering what sort of culinary hell they'd presented her with. The thought of Kerry trying to choke down cream of wheat and green jell-o had prompted her visit to the "The Bountiful Bagel" near her house to secure a vegetarian and cream cheese on whole-wheat bagel for her.

The place had made her smile wistfully. They'd spent a few Sunday mornings sitting in "The Bountiful Bagel," eating breakfast, drinking coffee and working their way through the Sunday paper. There should have been more days like that.

Maybe it wasn't too late to correct that.

She pushed open the door to the wing where Kerry's room was and was sailing past the nurse's station when someone called her name. She turned.

A tiny little thing in nurse's scrubs hurried out to talk to her. Kim remembered her from the other night.

"Nancy, hi," she said. "I'm just going in to visit Dr. Weaver."

"Well, that's the thing," Nancy said, wringing her hands. "Dr. Weaver has asked for no visitors."

Kim looked mutely at her. Finally she shook her head to clear it. "I beg your pardon?"

"She asked that we not allow any visitors at all," Nancy said, eyes full of sympathy.

Kim stood there, staring blankly at Nancy. "Oh," she said. "I see."

"I think she mustn't want all of her co-workers dropping in all day, " the tiny nurse continued. "She was pretty badly hurt and I think she just wants to rest."

Kim's mind was humming as she worked her way through possibilities and explanations. "I see," she said again. "And I suppose that she doesn't want any phone calls, either?"

Nancy shook her head. "No, she specifically asked for no phone calls. No one has been in or out except Dr. Anspaugh and Dr. Carroll from plastics." She gestured towards the flowers. "That's a gorgeous bouquet, Dr. Legaspi. I'd be happy to bring it in to her and tell her you were here."

"Sure," Kim said, handing over the flowers in slow motion, her mind still reeling. "Oh and this," she said, giving her the bag. "It's a sandwich and it could spoil. It should probably be refrigerated."

"Sure thing, I can do that," Nancy said, taking the flowers and the bag. "And would you like me to give Dr. Weaver a message?"

Kim stared at the vivid purples and reds and yellows in the bouquet. "Yes, please. Would you tell her that I send my love?"

Nancy smiled and nodded. "I will tell her," she said as she headed for the nursing desk. "And I'm sure she'll love these."

Kim walked away suddenly feeling very cold and stiff. She wasn't sure of that at all.

She rode up the three floors to the Psych ward, buzzed her way in, nodded to the clerk at the main desk and headed straight for her cubbyhole of a workspace. A quick search of the hospital directory and moments later, Donald Anspaugh was answering his phone.

"Dr. Anspaugh, I'm so glad I caught you," Kim said. "This is Kim Legaspi in psych. I wonder if you could tell me what time you expect to do your post-op rounds tomorrow?..."

Kerry hadn't been surprised to see Kim, but she hadn't seemed exactly delighted either. Fortunately, all the pressure was taken off Kim when Kerry announced that she intended to leave the hospital the next day. Kim could do little more than stand in the corner with her arms crossed and watch the tennis match.

"For heaven's sake Kerry, it's only been a little over forty eight hours since we operated on you," Anspaugh said. "There's no way I'm releasing you yet."

"But Donald, I feel fine," Kerry said. She was propped into a sitting position, a handful of pillows stuffed behind her. One eye was still purple and swollen shut and the bruises on her face were crisscrossed with neat little rows of sutures and butterfly bandages. She still cradled her broken ribs with one arm and she winced whenever anyone came near her leg. Kim studied her carefully. Jesus, why won't she just admit she's in pain?

"What are two more days in a hospital bed going to accomplish?" Kerry continued. "It would be so much more restful to be at home. And you know I'm perfectly capable of monitoring my condition."

"Maybe so, but may I remind you that you had one hell of a fracture. You've got more screws in that leg than I've got in my Buick. You are probably a couple of weeks away from even being able to use crutches because of the swelling. How could you manage at home?"

"Look, Donald, if you're worried about a lawsuit --"

Anspaugh stiffened. "I'm sorry Kerry, but I think you've mistaken me for Robert Romano."

"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to offend you, it's just that --"

"For heaven's sake, be reasonable," he shouted. "You're still on a catheter, Kerry! Even when we do release you, you're going to need home care."

"Donald, you know darn well that I can leave AMA," Kerry said.

"Yes and you're just about that stubborn, aren't you?" he shot back.

"I could take care of her," Kim said, quietly.

Anspaugh and Kerry turned to look at her, blank expressions all round.

"What?" Kerry said.

"I could take you home and take care of you there. If you wanted."

Anspaugh flipped the chart closed. "She's much better off here," he said, shaking his head. "She's going to need physio and nursing care and I want her meds carefully --"

"I can do all those things," Kim said, moving a little closer to Kerry's bed. "That is, if you want me to."

There was something cold and hard in Kerry's gaze and it made Kim want to take a step back. "You see, Donald," she said, without taking her eyes from Kim, "I'll be fine."

Anspaugh rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet and looked very much like he would like to hit something. Finally, he sighed. "All right. All right. Since there's no talking sense to you..." He opened her chart again and scribbled something down, then pointed his pen at Kim. "I'm holding you responsible, Dr. Legaspi. I want you to follow my discharge orders to the letter and I want to know the moment there is a change in her condition. Do you understand?"

Kim just stopped herself from saluting. "Yes, Dr. Anspaugh," she said.

The stocky man stormed out, muttering to himself.

There was a heated silence.

"Nice flowers," Kim said, indicating the huge bouquet that sat on a table near the window.

Kerry nodded. "They're lovely," she said lifelessly. "Thank you."

Kim's smile faded. "What?"

"What the hell was that about?" Kerry demanded.

"What was what?"

"I didn't ask for your help."

Kim felt the words like a slap. Colour rushed to her cheeks. "I just thought that if you wanted to get out of here --"

"I can take care of myself," Kerry said.

Kim approached the bed, tried to meet Kerry's eyes. "No Kerry, the reality of it is that right now you can't take care of yourself. Not completely anyway. You're going to be in bed for a while and then in a wheelchair. You're going to need --"

"I can hire a private duty nurse."

Kim laughed. "On our benefits? I don't think so." She sat down on the side of the bed. "Kerry, please. What's the matter? What is this about?"

Kerry pursed her lips and looked away. Kim saw a bead of blood well up where a cut had opened on her bottom lip. She reached for a tissue.

"I see how you look at me, Kim," Kerry said, her voice low and wavering. "You feel sorry for me." Her eyes, cold and angry, met Kim's. "I am an object of pity to you. Well, I don't need your pity."

Kim froze, tissue in hand. "Pity? What are you talking about? Kerry, I don't feel sorry for you. I care about you. Very much. You must know that."

Kerry turned and fixed her good eye on Kim. "A few weeks ago, you didn't care enough to return my phone calls or even speak to me about anything besides an admit."

Kim hung her head. "Okay, I realize that I may have been acting selfishly, but at the time --"

"Oh come on, Kim, I'm not stupid. You're here because you feel guilty, plain and simple. One minute you're avoiding me like the plague, then I'm hurt and suddenly you're my best friend."

Kim tried to touch Kerry's hand, but Kerry pulled it away. "I know it must seem to you that --"

"You said it to me once, Kim and now I'll say it: I don't want to be your friend." Her voice cracked. "I can't."

Kim said nothing. She looked at the tissue she held in her hand for a long moment. "You're lip is bleeding," she said and she handed her the tissue. Kerry dabbed at her lip with it.

Kim took a measured breath and let it out slowly. Clearly, we weren't going to be talking sense here today. Might as well move on. Kim stood up.

"Well, it seems to me you have a dilemma. Do you want to go home or not? If you do, I'm part of the deal," Kim said, crossing her arms and suddenly, she was the no-nonsense psychiatrist. "I'm offering because I want to do this, Kerry not because I feel sorry for you. So what'll it be?"

She watched the tight line of Kerry's jaw as she clenched and unclenched it. Finally the red head nodded, shoulders slumped in defeat. "Okay. But you don't have to stay over. You can just come during the day. Part of the day."

Kim headed for the door, already thinking about where she was going to order a hospital bed from. "We'll see," she said as she left.

Kim turned off the engine, opened her door and nearly staggered backwards from the blast furnace of heat and humidity. God, what a city, she thought not for the first time since she'd moved to Chicago. If the heat doesn't kill you, the snow and cold will. She glanced up and checked the angry sky that was just beginning to churn and darken. There was going to be a storm -- a dandy by the looks of it -- but they'd get Kerry inside long before that was a problem.

By the time she'd gotten around to the other side of her Jetta, Luka had already opened the rear doors and was gently helping Kerry to slide out.

"You know Luka, you didn't have to take time away from your day off to come and do this," Kerry was saying. Kim rolled her eyes and opened the trunk to get out Kerry's wheelchair. Oh yes he did, she thought. I can lift you from the chair to the bed and back but up those front steps? Not a chance. Maybe in a fireman's carry in a real emergency, but she could pretty much guarantee that nobody was going to enjoy that.

Luka helped Kerry shift around so he could pick her up. "I don't mind at all, Kerry," he said and scooped her into his arms as if she were a small child. A small child in a nightgown, a sweater and a bulky cast. "In fact, it's my pleasure." He shut the car door with his hip. "It's not very often I get to sweep a beautiful woman off her feet."

Kim stifled a smile as she set the wheelchair down on the sidewalk. That had shut her up. She made a mental note to ask Luka if he'd been brought up in a family full of sisters, or if they just grew them like him in Croatia.

She jogged ahead of them with Kerry's keys and got the front door open. A blessed breeze of cold air hit her and she thanked God for the earlier inspiration to come over here and turn on the central air before she went to pick Kerry up at County.

Luka and Kerry passed, her tiny arm slung around his neck, and then headed for the living room where Kim had the hospital bed set up.

"This is just ridiculous," Kerry was saying. "I don't need this! I'd be perfectly fine in my own bed."

Kim tagged along beside them, moving objects out of Luka's way, clearing a path for them. "Yeah, except your own bed is upstairs, Kerry and I don't see you managing those stairs for quite some time."

Kerry opened her mouth to argue, suddenly thought better of it and shut it quickly.

He set her gently down on the edge of the bed, then carefully swung her legs around. Kerry collapsed back into the pillows that Kim had arranged, clearly exhausted from the trip home. Her fatigue didn't stop her running apology to Luka, though.

"Here we've taken up your whole morning, Luka," she said, "and you and Abby probably had plans."

"Well, actually," he said as he lifted her cast to prop it on pillows, "Abby was doing laundry this morning."

"Oh," Kerry said. "Well, I'm still sorry we had to bother you to do this."

"Luka," Kim said, "can I offer you something to drink? I made some lemonade earlier."

"Sure, yes," he said, "that would be nice."

"Kerry, how about you?"

"Did I have lemonade in the freezer?" she asked, puzzled.

Kim shook her head. "I got a few groceries."

Again, a war of emotions on Kerry's face. "Yeah, I'll have a glass, thanks."

Luka followed Kim to the kitchen and leaned against the counter as she got out some glasses.

"So," he said. "Are you two going to be all right here?"

Kim laughed softly. "Do you mean will I be all right caring for her catheter, or do you mean will I kill her in her sleep?"

Luka laughed heartily but quietly. "She's not exactly --"

"In her right mind?" Kim offered.

Another deep chuckle. "I was going to say 'herself,' but your description is good, too."

Kim got the pitcher from the fridge and poured lemonade into the glasses. "She's had a rough few months and then this... it's not surprising that she's a little bent out of shape."

"Ah, is that a psychiatric term, 'bent out of shape?'"

Kim smiled. "Actually it is. I'm proposing that it be in the next DSM, along with 'crazy as a loon'."

She handed Luka his lemonade and they drank greedily.

"Many people don't realize that Kerry is a very passionate woman," Luka said. "They don't see past her exterior at work. She's a very complex person actually. I think even she hasn't made it through all the layers." He studied his ice cubes as if they were telling him secrets.

Kim cocked her head and looked at him. "I think you're right on all counts."

He lifted his eyes. "She was very much in love with you," he said, matter of factly.

A slow, sad smile grew on Kim's lips. "She talked to you about...us?"

He nodded, gulped some more lemonade. "She didn't say a lot, but it was significant coming from her."

"It's been...difficult," Kim said. "I'm not sure where we stand with each other anymore."

Luka drained his glass and crunched a tiny piece of ice. "Well," he said, "you're here aren't you?"

Kim said nothing for a long moment, then nodded. "Yeah, I am."

Luka grabbed Kerry's glass. "I'll bring this in to the patient, if you would pour me another glass."

He headed off to the living room while Kim got the pitcher out again and refilled his glass.

He was right. She was here. She wanted to be here, with Kerry, taking care of her. But that wasn't the problem now, was it?

She walked Luka to the door some time later, after he'd said his goodbyes to Kerry.

"Are you sure I can't drive you?" Kim said.

"No, I'm fine. I'll just hop on the El," he said.

"All right, if you're certain." Kim said. "Thanks a lot for the help today. We couldn't have done this without you."

"My pleasure," he said, with a genuine smile. He reached down and gave Kim a quick hug. "Take care and call if you need anything."

She let him out and watched him trot down the front steps, then she shut the door and leaned against it.

Well, she thought, and she just stood there, soaking in the familiarity of being in Kerry's house again. The faint smell of furniture polish and cinnamon -- a pot pourri somewhere, maybe. A few of Kerry's coats neatly hung in the closet beside her. And the unmistakable feeling of Kerry in everything. She had thought she would never be here again, standing at this door again. Living together again, however briefly.

Some little voice in the back of her mind fluttered and fussed and let her know that it was a foolish and dangerous thing to let herself feel too good about this. She thought for a moment, and then told the voice to shut up, because she really wasn't interested.

Kerry was cradling her sore ribs and craning her neck to look around her living room when Kim reappeared.

"Where did all these flowers come from?" she asked.

"Well, let's see," Kim said, flopping down in a chair beside her bed. She pointed to the coffee table. "Those over there are from the doctors in the ER, and the bigger bunch beside it are from the nurses."

"That figures," Kerry said. "They couldn't even agree on one arrangement."

"The chrysanthemums are from Romano."

Kerry snorted. "You're kidding, right?"

Kim raised an eyebrow. "Do you think I would kid about Romano?"

"They look like hell. Did somebody drop them?"

Kim examined her nails. "Actually, I did. On your front steps. Twice."

"On purpose?"

"Oh no," Kim said. "Completely by accident. Although as a psychiatrist I feel compelled to point out the rather obvious psychological undertones in that situation."

"Uh hunh," Kerry said. "What about those roses over there? They're beautiful."

"Those are from Carter," Kim said as she got up and crossed the room. "And so is this." She lifted a large basket that was filled to overflowing with fruit, cheese, smoked sausages, pate, pickled artichoke hearts, a bottle of champagne and a number of other items. She brought it over for Kerry to look at. "The card said, 'Dr. Weaver, save the champagne for last, Carter.'"

Kerry ran her fingers over everything and Kim thought she saw a swell of tears in her eyes.

She put the basket back and then stuck her hands in the back pockets of her shorts. "Listen, Ker, I hate to be the warden, but it's been a while since we drained your catheter."

"Yeah, about that," Kerry said and Kim saw it coming.

"No," Kim said. "We had a deal."

"But it's ridiculous. You can just put me in the chair and I can manage in the bathroom myself."

"No. Anspaugh said you are not to get out of that bed for three solid days, minimum. Count down the hours if you like. You can be on the catheter or on a bedpan, I don't care which, but you're not getting out of that bed."

"Do you treat your patients this way?" Kerry asked.

"Only when they're wrong and being stubborn about it," Kim said. "I'll go get a fresh nightgown for you then we'll empty it. Is there any nightgown in particular that you'd like?"

Kerry sighed and sunk into the pillows. For a second, Kim saw the depth of the sadness that was there and she lost her breath. And nearly her resolve.

"It doesn't matter," Kerry said. "They're all pretty much the same."

"Okay," Kim said and she headed for the stairs.

God this was going to be a long day.

Kim checked the level in the catheter bag, then drained it. She had a feeling Anspaugh was going to call and demand a status report and she intended to give a detailed one. She wasn't going to let him muscle Kerry back into the hospital on a technicality when Kerry so clearly wanted to be at home.

Kerry was subdued and curiously silent while Kim helped her to sit up and slip off her sweater and nightgown. She sat there on the edge of the bed, naked and exposed, slightly hunched as if she was trying to hide at least some part of herself from Kim.

Kim had to smother a gasp when she saw Kerry's bruises. Her biceps, her forearms, her legs, her torso...every part of her seemed to be covered with furious purple and black bruises. The enormity of what Kerry had suffered hit her anew and made her chest tighten. She couldn't let Kerry see this so she slammed her best clinical face into place and tossed the old nightgown aside. The clean nightgown was a comfortable lived-in old flannel one and she carefully slipped it over Kerry's head and arms. She settled her back into place, fixed her pillows and covered her up. Kerry's face was without expression.

Kim glanced at her watch. "It's almost time for your next dose of Percocet. Would you like me to get it?"

Kerry shook her head.

"Are you sure?" Kim asked. "You've hardly taken any. You're well under the maximum dose."

"No, that's fine," Kerry said and Kim had that sudden feeling that she was alone in the room again.

"All right," she said. "Well, I'll let you rest. I'll be in the next room if you want anything, okay? Just holler."

There was no reply

Kim waited a few seconds and then quietly left.

Six o'clock found Kim sitting at the kitchen table, where she'd been all afternoon, labouring over the same paragraph she'd started at two. Her thoughts were scattered and confused. Her mind bounced around like some sugared-up little kid from work, to Kerry, to what Luka had said, through the past six months and usually back to Kerry again. When she saw the time, she sighed, tossed her pen on the heap of work she'd spread all over the table and decided she should rustle up some dinner.

She found her way around Kerry's kitchen easily. Every pan, every spatula, every bowl was exactly where she knew it would be and that cozy almost home feeling enveloped her again.

She chopped a green pepper into chunks, then some mushrooms and a pair of scallions. She'd cooked quite a few meals here, some with Kerry and some alone, trying to time the completion of the latter with Kerry's unpredictable time of arrival from work. Usually they'd eat in the dining room with the lights low and candles lit, a sultry John Coltrane CD playing in the background. By the end of the meal they were sated by the food but so hungry for each other that the foreplay started while they were clearing dishes. She smiled at the memory of one truly remarkable night when they hadn't made it to Kerry's bedroom at all.

But that was then.

She beat some eggs, grated some cheese and within fifteen minutes, she was placing two steaming fluffy omelets onto plates. She put Kerry's plate on a bed tray, with cutlery, a napkin and a big glass of milk then carefully maneuvered her way into the living room.

"Here you go," Kim said, settling the tray around Kerry's legs. "I'll bring you your antibiotics and your anti-inflammatories in a minute. Is there anything else you want?"

Kerry shook her head. "No, this is fine, thanks."

Kim returned to the kitchen where she counted out the pills and grabbed her own plate and glass. By then, Kerry was nibbling at the edge of her omelet. "It's good," she said.

"Great," Kim said, handing Kerry the small pile of pills. "I'm glad you like it."

She plopped down into the chair beside Kerry's bed and balanced her plate on her knees. Suddenly, she felt Kerry's eyes on her. She looked up.

"What?" she said.

Kerry looked away. "No, it's nothing, never mind."

"No, Kerry, what is it? What were you going to say?"

Kerry steeled herself. "I think I need a little more time alone."

"Alone?" Kim repeated.

Kerry nodded.

"Like, right now?" Kim asked, eyes wide.

Another nod.

"Oh," Kim said and she glanced down at her plate. "So, you'd like me to leave you alone?"

"If you don't mind," Kerry said and there was no expression on her face.

Kim took a deep breath. "All right. If that's what you'd like." She picked up her plate, grabbed her glass and headed for the kitchen. "Call if you need anything," she said over her shoulder.

She plunked her plate down on the table and then looked at her milk for a long moment. With a little shake of her head, she put the glass back in the fridge and grabbed the bottle of white wine from the door. She poured a large glass and sat down to eat her dinner.

She ate, mechanically forking pieces of egg and cheese into her mouth and chewing, tasting nothing, staring into the middle distance, thinking.

She was not going to let herself get pushed away this easily.

She listened to Charlie Parker and his pals jamming softly while she did the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen. When she returned to the living room, Kerry was staring into the retreating darkness.

"Hey," Kim said, leaning on the bed, "you know a bath might make you feel better."

Kerry rolled her head to look at her. "The tub is upstairs."

"I didn't mean a tub bath. I meant a sponge bath," Kim said. "I was thinking I could bring a basin and we could wash your hair, too if you wanted." She reached out a hand to touch the disheveled red tresses and Kerry drew away slightly.

"I'm fine," Kerry said.

Kim pulled together a calm tone. "Ker, it's really no trouble and I think it would make you feel better."

"I'm too tired for it tonight," Kerry said. "In fact, I was thinking of turning in soon."

Kim nodded and bit her lip. "Are you sure you don't want to have just a little wash?"

Kerry shook her head. "If you'd just get me my pain killers, I'd be fine."

Kim reluctantly fetched the pills and some water, then stood there watching while Kerry took them. She did look exhausted, Kim thought. Maybe a good sleep was what she needed.

She turned off the lights in the living room then wished her a good night.

Kerry mumbled a reply and Kim paused at the door, Kerry's name on her lips, suddenly wanting to cry. She stayed there for a while, then went to make up her bed.

Kerry lay in the darkness, listening to the thunderstorm that was pounding the heavens. She'd slept for a few hours but now the Percocet had worn off and her leg was aching viciously. She doubted sleep was going to come again before dawn, not without some chemical help and she was damned if she was going to call for Kim. So she lay there listening to thunder and trying not to think about the pain.

This had turned out to be even worse than she'd thought it would, stuck here in such close quarters, having to hear the sound of her voice and listen to the rhythm of her footsteps all day. Worst of all was that every time Kerry so much as glanced at her, all she could see was the look that Kim had given her when she'd spotted her in the hallway, a hundred years ago. Was it contempt? Disgust? Impatience? Maybe some combination of all of those.

To have her here now, acting like this, like she actually cared whether Kerry lived or died. It made her sick with embarrassment.

Somewhere nearby, in an adjacent room, there was a rustle of covers and a tiny whimper. Kerry held her breath and listened past the sound of pelting rain. The whimper again and mumbled words. Fear and hurt and panic. Kim was having a nightmare.

Kerry remembered a particularly bad one she'd had, one of the first nights they'd been together. She had woken Kerry with her tossing and her muted cries and then she had suddenly gasped and sat up, breathless. Kerry had held her, had felt Kim's heart pounding against Kerry's breasts, had stroked her head until she lay down again and went back to sleep. In the morning, neither of them had spoken of it -- Kerry wondered if Kim even remembered it.

A long roll of thunder and then a hoarse cry of fear from the other room. Kerry reflexively sat up, started to go to her, then chuckled at her own stupidity and lay back. She wasn't going far on these legs. She listened, stomach tight, for the next whimper, but none came. Instead, a whisper of blankets and then the quietest of footsteps.

Kerry watched the door to her office at the far end of the living room, saw a shadow appear there. It tiptoed silently across the room and as it passed by the sliding glass door, lightning flashed and lit the figure, spotlighting her tousled mane of hair. She was wearing a t-shirt and nothing else and Kerry watched her progress towards the kitchen. What had she ever been thinking, letting herself get involved with someone like Kim? Or more to the point, what could she have thought someone like Kim would ever see in her? Kim was so beautiful it took her breath away and even with hammering pain in her leg and this goddam catheter stuck in her, the simple sight of her walking across her living room partly naked made Kerry wet. She had been out of her league from the start and she should have known it.

"Can't sleep?" Kerry asked and Kim leaped.

"Jesus, Kerry!" she said, one hand on her chest. "You scared me half to death."

"Sorry," Kerry said.

"How long have you been awake?"

"A while."

"Need something for the pain?"

Kerry sighed. "Yeah, I guess so."

She listened to the quiet clinking of glasses in the kitchen for a while. Kim returned with two glasses and a vial of pills. She handed Kerry one glass and shook out the pills for her.

Kerry popped them in her mouth and swallowed. "What's this obsession you have with milk suddenly?"

Kim curled up in a chair and wrapped a throw from the couch around her legs. "Calcium for your leg," she said. "But I did give you chocolate this time."

Kerry shrugged and took another sip.

"So what was the nightmare about?" she asked.

The silence spoke volumes.

"How did you know I had a nightmare?"

"I heard you. And I know what your nightmares sound like."

"Yeah, I suppose you do, " Kim said.

"So? What was it about?"

Kim sipped her chocolate milk and debated lying. Finally she sighed. "It was about the other day in the hallway. When you were attacked."


"A little post-traumatic stress, probably. I wouldn't be surprised if you had some aftershocks, too."

Kerry looked into the darkness and was silent. Lightning lit the room suddenly making everything look flat and lifeless.

After a while, Kim said, "I don't know if this is the best time, but I think we need to talk."

"Yes, I think we do, too."

Kim sat up a little. "You do?"

"Yes. I think it's time I make myself clear. I really don't need anyone taking care of me."

"Trust me, Ker, you've been making that point more than clear for a couple of days now."

"All right, then you can leave in the morning."

Kim put her glass down and sat straight up. "Pardon?"

"I have a broken leg, I'm not a quadriplegic. This is ridiculous. Everyone's overreacting."

"Kerry, listen to me. They had to put your leg back together like Humpty Dumpty. You cannot put any weight on it for several more weeks, not to mention the threat of swelling and infection. You're so frail and battered that I doubt you could get yourself into that wheelchair on your own, let alone lift yourself onto the toilet without help. Your clothes and the bathtub are upstairs, you can't go get your prescriptions and since changing your nightgown exhausts you, I seriously doubt you're going to be able to cook. On top of that, and remember I am speaking professionally now, you're still in shock, you're in pain and I'd bet my next two paychecks that you're starting to slide into a depression. Now what part of that do you think is an over reaction?"

Kerry glared at her in the darkness and Kim could actually feel it. "Are you through?" Kerry asked.

Kim sank back into her chair, blowing out a frustrated breath. "For now."

"All right. None of you know what you're talking about, not you, not Anspaugh, not Luka. I am not an idiot. I know how to treat this leg, I know how to dose myself and I know how to drain and change a catheter, not that I need one. You're all gravely underestimating me. I've coped with much worse than this for most of my life. I don't need your help."

Kim rubbed her forehead wearily and wished there was something else in this milk besides chocolate syrup. She took a long breath and let it out slowly.

"Kerry," she said, her voice as soft and unthreatening as she could make it with her heart hammering in her chest, "it's not such a terrible thing to need some help."

"All I need is to be left alone," Kerry said.

"Kerry, come on --"

"Kim, I appreciate that you see things differently, but it's my leg, my life, my responsibility. I'd like you to leave in the morning."

Kim sat there in the darkness, mouth open.

"You're not serious," she said when she finally located her voice.

"I am serious," Kerry replied. "I just want to be by myself."

Kim shook her head in disbelief. "Do you really hate me that much Kerry?" she asked.

"I don't hate you."

"Could've fooled me."

"This isn't about you. I just want to be alone right now."

"What about Luka or Abby? Or maybe Carter?" Kim said. "If you don't want me around, maybe one of them could drop in on you, spend the night..."

Kerry shook her head vehemently. "No. I can manage. I'll be fine."

Kim threw up her hands. "Fine. If that's what you want, then fine," she said. "Cause I can't fight with you anymore and I sure as hell can't stand around and watch you do this to yourself because, although you might not want to hear this right now, Kerry, I do care about you."

She grabbed her glass and strode through the living room shadows to Kerry's den, where she'd made her bed.

Kerry watched her go, watched the light from outside cast shadows down her long naked legs and hated herself.

Kim lay on her sofa, a pillow scrunched under her head and Stephen King's latest hardcover in her hands. She was staring at page 57 and had been doing so for over an hour now. She couldn't seem to stay focused quite long enough to get to page 58.

Most of the day had been that way. When she'd gotten home that morning, she'd embarked on a furious round of housecleaning, scrubbing surfaces and restoring order to books, mail, bills and cupboards. It had taken her twice as long as usual to complete each task, because usually partway through, she found herself involved in some passionate internal debate, sometimes with Kerry, sometimes with her own better nature. Then she'd suddenly realize that she was standing in the bathroom with rubber gloves and a toilet brush, talking to herself and she'd give herself a mental shake and hunker down to work again.

And so it went.

By suppertime, she'd picked up the phone a dozen times -- to call Anspaugh, to call Luka, even to call Kerry although she was pretty sure that Kerry didn't really want to talk to her.

She knew she shouldn't have left her alone but even after a daylong argument with herself, she hadn't been able to come up with any alternatives. Kerry was, after all, a grown up (present behaviour excepted, she thought) and she had a right to make decisions for herself, even if they were stupid, self-destructive decisions. And there was not a single thing Kim could do about it.

She tackled page 57 again, convinced that this was the time she was going to get through it.

She was asleep in ten minutes.

It was well after midnight when the phone rang. Kim sat up quickly, dropping her book with a heavy thud. She glanced around frantically for the phone, disoriented from sleep and fatigue, finally found it on the coffee table under the newspaper.


A strange silence, punctuated by gasps and quiet noises.

"Hello!" Kim said again. "Who is this?"

A sob echoed in Kim's ear and even through miles of fiber optic cables, she recognized the voice.

"Kerry?" she said and she was on her feet, pacing. "Kerry, is that you? What's the matter, babe?"

Uncontrollable crying on the other end. Kim's stomach seized. "Kerry, I need you to talk to me. What happened? Are you all right?"

Laboured breathing and strangled sobs. "I -- I -- fell."

Kim's heart leaped into her mouth. "Oh God," she said. "Oh God. I'll be right there. Don't move. Don't do anything."

She threw down the phone and raced to her front door, jammed her feet into a pair of sneakers, grabbed her keys and flew out the door.

Section Two

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