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 Five

The votive candles had flickered out long ago and by midnight all that was left were the half dozen candles on the picnic blanket. Kim lay on her side, propping her head with her hand, looking at Kerry in the warm glow. Kerry was reclined into a mass of pillows and had just drained her wine glass.

"So are you going to tell me how you pulled all this together from your wheelchair?" Kim asked.

Kerry gave her a smug look. "It's all about delegation, my dear. Finn and I did the cooking together: I was the supervisor and he was my hands. Then, Finn moved the furniture, put out the candles, set up the blanket and read me the wine labels in Rachel's wine rack so I could pick." She held her glass out for Kim to refill. "Estelle dropped off a few groceries on her way out of town for her weekend off and Roger brought the blueberry pie from his wife's bakery."

Kim shook her head. "Well it was very impressive. And delicious."

Kerry turned to read Kim's face. 'Do you really think so?"

Kim nodded, her eyes locked on Kerry's. "It's lovely, Kerry. Thank you."

Kerry averted her gaze for a moment. "I wanted it to be special. I -- I feel like an apology isn't enough for some of the things I said yesterday. For the things I've done."

Kim held up her hand. "Don't. It's over. We don't need to talk about--"

"But I do, Kim. I do need to talk about it."

Kim held her breath. "Talk about what exactly?" she asked quietly.

Kerry considered her wine glass closely. "About being a lesbian," she said. "I -- I just need to talk about it. Is that okay?"

Kim nodded and smiled, those gentle blue eyes drawing Kerry in. "Well, since I'm currently the only lesbian you know, I guess it's okay."

Kerry took a long breath and when she let it out, it sounded ragged and uneven. "God, I don't even know where to start."

"How about when you first realized you might be gay?" Kim asked and Kerry suddenly knew why Kim must be so good at her job. Whatever she asked, there was something in the way she looked at you and waited that made you want to answer. That made you want to tell her everything so that she could make it all right.

"I realize now that I've always known. Or at least I've known for a very, very long time," she said. "I just didn't know what it was. I couldn't identify it as that. My whole life I'd felt different, you know, like I didn't fit in and I always thought it was other things, but now I think it was that."

"Fit in where?"

Kerry shook her head sadly. "Anywhere. In my family, my work, my school. I mean God, I was adopted, I was smart, I had a physical disability and a crutch...for one reason or another, I just always felt like I was separate from everybody. Different. Even in my own family I felt that way."

She paused and sipped her wine. "All these years, trying everything I could think of to just be accepted. And I've never been able to because I still felt like something was wrong with me, like I was still different somehow." She turned to look at Kim and she smiled. "And now I finally know what it is."

"Some people say that when they first realize that they're gay, they have a sense that some empty space inside them has been filled," Kim said. "As if some part of you was missing and you've just found it. I think I felt like that."

Kerry thought about this and nodded. "Yeah, it is like that. And it makes me realize that I've been trying to scale the wrong ladders all the time, you know? Trying to fix the wrong thing."

"What about your sexual experiences?"

Kerry shrugged. "What about them? They haven't been very notable. I mean, I enjoy men. I like working with them more than women sometimes because they'll be straight with you and they don't hold grudges. And I've known some exceptional men, a few of whom I've had relationships with and slept with."

"And?" Kim prompted quietly.

"It was all right. Satisfying in a way, I suppose." She looked over at Kim and Kim saw the sparkle again. "It was absolutely nothing like when I was with you, though." She studied Kim's face, a budding smile on her lips. "That was...that was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. I felt alive for the first time in my life."

Kim made herself study the blanket for a moment while she tried to pull on her clinical face again. "So what are your conclusions about all of this?"

"Well, obviously when I decided a few years ago that I had an unusually low sex drive, I was mistaken."

Kim chuckled. "Yeah, I'm in a position to speak to this topic and I wouldn't say your sex drive was low."

"It's not that my libido was lacking," Kerry said. "It was that I hadn't found the right way to express it. The right kind of person to express it with."

Kim reached over and took Kerry's hand. She squeezed it.

"So you're pretty sure you're a lesbian, huh?" Kim asked with a grin.

Kerry nodded and smiled. "The jury's in and it's unanimous."

"So now, you need to figure out how you're going to live out this part of yourself."

"And that's the hard part, isn't it?" Kerry said. "I've known lots of people who were gay but I never realized how hard it was to be gay in this society, in this time."

Kim raised an eyebrow. "Some people would say that this is the easiest time in history to be gay. Gay people enjoy more legal rights than ever, we're more accepted, gay characters are on television, we aren't living such closeted lives...."

"And some of us are tied to fence rails and beaten to death," Kerry said sharply.

Kim nodded sadly.

"I understand prejudice, Kim. My whole life I've been judged and categorized by people the moment they see my crutch. I stop being a person with unlimited potential and I become a member of a category. They just drop me in the 'crippled' box and move on." The ruby wine swirled in the bowl of the wineglass as she studied it. "In fact, that's been my stumbling block, I think. Because I've fought too damned hard and long to get out of one box only to get dumped into another. I don't want my sexual preference to be the central organizing principle of my identity."

"But it will influence things, Kerry. If you're going to actually let yourself explore this part of yourself, then there will be ripples. Even if you try to stay in the closet," Kim said.

"I know," Kerry said. "And that's why I realize that I really don't have a choice. I have to just come out and start living. Because the alternative is simply not an option for me."

Kim watched Kerry's face in the flickering glow of the candles. "What are you most afraid of, Ker?" she asked, softly.

Kerry stared at her wineglass. "Destroying my career, or derailing it anyway. Losing face with my staff. Being the butt of gossip and jokes, although, I suppose I'm already enjoying that honour." She looked off into the darkness and the wind whistled at the windows. "Coming out at an age when everyone else is settled and ending up alone." She turned and met Kim's gaze. "It's like it's a whole different world for me and I just don't know how I'm supposed to be. Am I supposed to adopt a different way of living? Go to bars? Am I supposed to become involved in all these causes and movements and things, because I really don't want to."

Kim grinned. "Oh, I see. So you're saying you'll play for the team, but you don't want to wear the uniform, is that it?"

Kerry propped herself up on one elbow. "You see, that's another one of those in jokes that I don't get -- like that U-haul thing and that stupid toaster oven thing. What the hell is that supposed to mean anyway?"

Kim rolled onto her stomach, laughing, then extended an arm to grab Kerry's hand. "Oh, Ker, I'll explain all of those to you sometime, okay?"

Kerry nodded her reluctant agreement, then sipped her wine, but did not pull her hand away from Kim's grasp. Lightning lit the room and there was a blast of thunder above their heads.

Kerry squeezed Kim's hand. "That's nice," she said. Kim smiled at her and rubbed the back of her hand with her thumb. So soft.

"I know we need to talk about us, sometime," Kerry said.

"It doesn't have to be now," Kim said, her face nestled into the blanket.

Kerry raised her glass of wine and smiled sheepishly. "Yeah, but this may be the best time."

Kim said nothing, just lay there and watched.

"I acted like an ass, Kim. I have never been as ashamed of myself as those days in the spring when you nearly lost your job."

"It's ancient his--"

"No, Kim, let me say this. You were being attacked and I did nothing to help you. I was consumed with my own insecurities and fears and I can't imagine how that made you feel." Her eyes were jade green in the candlelight and Kim thought she could see the reflection of tears. "Even if you can find it in your heart to forgive me for what I did, I doubt I'll ever be able to forgive myself." Kerry turned away quickly and took a gulp of wine.

The storm raged outside while they were silent.

"I let you down, too, Kerry. I knew that this was all new to you, that you were struggling with it. But I was so busy feeling hurt and embarrassed and angry that it never occurred to me that you needed support yourself." She propped her head up on her elbow again, moving closer to Kerry, never letting go of her hand. "I'd been courting Romano's wrath since before we met. I knew what was coming. And maybe I let it drive a wedge between us because I was scared of what I was getting into with you. I think I was terrified, deep down, that you were going to get up one morning and say, 'You know what? I think I like men better.'"

Kerry put her wine down and cupped Kim's face with one hand. "Oh, Kim, I would never do that."

Kim shrugged. "Well, I've had some less than satisfying times with 'straight girls' and I think I just didn't want to get burned again. So I let this crumble around me and then conveniently got to blame it on you."

Kerry's eyes never left Kim's.

"A wise little person reminded me the other day that some things are worth waiting for," Kim said. She chuckled. "I had almost talked myself out of being in love with you, Kerry."

"Almost?" Kerry whispered.

Kim nodded. "Almost. But not quite."

Kerry took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Okay. So we were both wrong and we both acted like idiots. What now?"

Kim shook her head. "I don't know." She squeezed Kerry's hand. "What do you want to happen next?"

Kerry felt the familiar draw into those soft blue eyes and knew what she wanted. She tugged on Kim's hand, pulling her closer. Kim's smile blossomed and she leaned in the rest of the way.

Kim's lips brushed softly against Kerry's and then Kerry's hands were on her, fingers tangled in her hair, gently, insistently holding her there. Kerry's mouth was warm and velvety and tasted faintly of expensive french wine. Kim felt the heat beginning to build in her belly and she moaned, a low mournful sound from deep in her throat. She reached down and brushed a tender hand across Kerry's hip and Kerry shuddered with need beneath her.

Kim pulled back far enough to see Kerry's flushed face.

"Are we going to do this?" Kim asked and she realized that she was out of breath. "I mean, should we? Do you want to?"

Kerry nodded. "Yes. To all three," she said and she pulled Kim back down to her and captured her mouth hungrily.

The sudden pounding at the front door shocked them both into stillness. They froze and listened.

"Kerry!! Kim!! It's me, open up! Hurry! Kerry!!"

"That's Finn," Kim said and sprang to her feet. An instant later she flung the door open and Finn was falling into her arms. His X-Men pajamas were soaked through, his feet were bare and his eyes wide with panic. Kim crouched down to look him in the eyes and he grabbed onto Kim's arms as if she were all that was keeping him from falling over.

"It's Gran!" he shrieked. "She's sick and Estelle is gone and she fell on the floor!"

"Who fell on the floor, your Gran?"

He nodded frantically, catching his breath. "Something's wrong with her and I don't know what to do and the phones wouldn't work and the power's off and she's laying there, Kim, come on, you've got to help her!" He nearly dragged Kim off her feet.

"All right," Kim said holding him by both shoulders to keep him in place. "Listen to me -- I need you to get Kerry's crutches from the kitchen and then help her get up, all right? Can you do that?"

He nodded, his chest still heaving.

"All right, go on now," she said, releasing him.

"Kerry, I'll get your bag," Kim said, jogging to the bedroom. She pulled two blankets out of the linen closet, located Kerry's medical bag and grabbed her cell phone. By the time she returned, Kerry and Finn were at the door, contemplating the sheets of rain that were coming down.

"I can't go quickly on the crutches, Kim, especially in the gravel," Kerry said. "I need you to carry me to the car."

"Kerry, I --"

Kerry met her eyes and Kim stopped. "All right," Kim said and she handed the blankets and bag to Finn. She crouched down and gently scooped Kerry over her shoulder in a fireman's carry, then slowly stood up. "Are you okay?" Kim asked.

Kerry patted Kim's back. "I'm fine. Go, go!"

They rushed to the car.

Finn preceded them into the house, calling for his grandmother. The house was dark and still. "She's in the kitchen," he said as he ran through the foyer and off into the west wing of the house. Kim doggedly followed, rain dripping off her and the load on her shoulder. Two turns and they were in a huge, well-appointed kitchen. A couple of candles were burning on the counter and it afforded just enough light to make out Mrs. Ryan, prone, on the floor, her dressing gown splayed out around her.

"Gran? Gran?" Finn said. He was crouched beside her, shaking her shoulder gently. "Gran, I brought Kim and Kerry and they're going to help you, but you have to wake up." He opened his mouth to speak more, but choked on his tears.

Kim deposited Kerry on the floor beside Mrs. Ryan then grabbed Kerry's bag from Finn and opened it up. Kerry took a two-finger pulse at Mrs. Ryan's neck then turned to Kim. "Okay, get on your cell phone and see what kind of EMT support they have out here and tell them to get here now."

Kim nodded, whipped out her phone and walked out of the kitchen, pushing buttons.

"Okay, Finn," Kerry said, sliding herself around parallel to the old woman's body, "I need your help sweetheart, you're going to have to be my assistant, okay?"

Finn sniffled, wiped his nose on his pajama sleeve and nodded.

"All right, when I say go, I want you to roll your Gran towards me, okay? We're going to roll her over together." She indicated where she wanted the little boy to push. "Now be gentle, okay? One, two, three, go."

Maureen Ryan lay in front of Kerry, her jaw slack, her skin an unhealthy gray. Kerry quickly covered her with one of the blankets Kim had brought, then she grabbed her stethoscope and started listening. "Finn, does your Gran have any medicine that she takes?"

He nodded.

"Do you know where she keeps it?"

He nodded again. "In the cupboard in the bathroom upstairs."

"Okay, I want you to go and get all of it and bring it to me, okay?"

He raced off into the darkness, his wet feet slapping against the ceramic tile floor.

Kim hurried back in. "There is an ambulance service out of Beaver Point and they're sending a van now. They said it's going to take at least twenty minutes."

Kerry rolled her eyes. "Take her blood pressure, would you?" She handed Kim her stethoscope and the blood pressure cuff, then grabbed a small spray tube, eased Mrs. Ryan's mouth open and sprayed under her tongue.

"Heart attack?" Kim said, as she inflated the cuff.

"It's likely," Kerry said, shining a small flashlight into the old woman's eyes. "Finn's gone to get her prescriptions. Maybe they'll tell us something."

Kim let the air out of the cuff slowly, then frowned. "She's hypotensive," she said.

Kerry grabbed the stethoscope back from Kim. "How long did they say they'd be?"

"Twenty minutes," Kim said, glancing at her watch. "Maybe eighteen by now."

Kerry listened carefully to the woman's heart, moving the stethoscope's diaphragm around and pausing every so often. Finn scurried back into the room, an armful of small and large prescription bottles clutched to his chest. He set them down beside Kim.

"Is she okay? Do you know what's wrong with her? Is she going to wake up soon?"

Kerry kept listening to Mrs. Ryan's heart for another moment, then she grabbed Finn's arm and pulled him beside her. "Your Gran is sick, Finn and you were very smart to come and get us. Now, I think she's had a heart attack --"

"Kerry," Kim said, two large amber bottles of medicine in her hands. "It's not her first heart attack."

Kerry nodded. "Give her another nitro spray, Kim."

Finn watched Kim while Kerry continued. "Right now, what's most important is that we get her to the hospital where they have machines and medicines that can help her. It's really, really important that the ambulance find this house quickly, okay? Now Kim's already phoned them and they're coming, but I'm going to need you to go stand at the end of the driveway, with a flashlight and watch for them. Can you do that, Finn?"

He nodded, glancing back and forth between his Gran and Kerry. Kerry took his hands in hers. "We're going to do everything we can to make her better, all right?"

"Okay," he said.

Kim got to her feet. "Come on Finn, we'll get some shoes on you. I think I have a raincoat and a flashlight in the trunk of the car. We'll get you set up out there." She reached out her hand and he quickly got to his feet and took it. They hurried out of the kitchen.

Kerry took the old woman's hand and felt for her pulse, counting off the beats in her head. And then Kerry lost the weak thudding. She repositioned her fingers, feeling for the pulse again. Nothing. Goddammit.

She flipped the stethoscope back on and listened intently, directly over Mrs. Ryan's heart.


Three minutes later, Kim hurried towards the dimly lit kitchen and stopped dead in the doorway. Kerry was struggling to kneel on one leg so that she could provide compressions to Mrs. Ryan's heart.

"Did she arrest?" Kim asked as she dropped to her knees and took over for Kerry.

"No," Kerry said, swinging her legs back out in front of her and catching her breath. "I think she's in V-fib -- it's hard to be certain without a monitor, but I think there's just a flutter of heartbeat right now." She scooted around to put her ear close to Mrs. Ryan's mouth to listen to her breathing. "That would make sense, since hypotension indicates ventricular dysfunction due to ischemia. She's probably had a large infarct and I'd bet that it's her right ventricle."

Kim pushed rhythmically on the old lady's chest. "Is she going to make it?"

Kerry began inflating the blood pressure cuff again. "Not if we don't get her to a hospital soon."

Kim glanced at her watch as she continued forcing blood through Mrs. Ryan's body. Another ten minutes before the EMT's. If they were lucky.

She squeezed her shoulder blades together to stretch out some tension and continued the compressions.

They heard Finn long before they saw him.

"Kerry!! They're here!! They're here!!" he hollered as he led the two EMT's and their gurney through the darkened hallways of the huge house.

Two men, young enough to look like high school seniors burst into the kitchen right behind Finn. They stopped and stared at the woman with the cast sitting on the floor with the unconscious woman.

"All right, I need her on a cardiac monitor, right now and get your defibrillator charged. Move!"

They did as she said.

"Are you a doctor?" one of them asked hopefully as he unfolded the monitor and untangled the leads. "I'm uh, Bill."

"Yeah, I'm a doctor. I work in an ER in Chicago," Kerry said. She glanced at the other young man, made sure he was moving quickly with the defib paddles, then grabbed the paramedic shears from her bag and started cutting a path through Mrs. Ryan's nightgown. She signaled for Kim to stop compressions while she and Bill slapped the leads onto the appropriate spots. They both turned to stare at the tiny monitor.

"She's in V-fib," Bill said.

Kerry didn't seem to hear him. "She needs a large bore IV, Bill, and I want her on 100% oxygen by mask. And give her a 50 mg bolus of Lidocaine as soon as you can."

Kim stood up and moved back to let the other nameless EMT move closer to Mrs. Ryan. Her neck and shoulders ached and she dug at the sore muscles with one hand as she watched Kerry and the two paramedics work on the old lady.

And then her eyes fell on Finn. He was opposite her, standing a step or two behind Kerry and his eyes were fastened on his unconscious grandmother.

Kim stepped around the equipment clutter and went to his side, then crouched down.

"Hey," she said. "Are you okay?"

His eyes never moved from the old woman on the floor and he said nothing.

Kim touched his shoulder and realized that he was drenched through and shivering in a thin pair of wet pajamas. She looked around for the other blanket she'd brought, and spotted it on the floor near Kerry's bag. She retrieved it, then sat down beside Finn, spread it across her legs and gently pulled him down. He sat on her lap and she wrapped the blanket and her arms around him.

"Charge it to 250...clear!" Kerry said and Mrs. Ryan's body was jolted off the floor for a moment. Kerry and the paramedics studied the monitor intensely. "Charge to 300," Kerry said and the whine of the defibrillator batteries filled the kitchen.

"What are they doing?" Finn asked Kim in a hushed voice.

"Your Gran's heart is beating in a funny rhythm. Kerry is giving it a shock of electricity to make it beat right again," Kim said.


He watched Kerry inject something into Gran's IV, then he turned to look at Kim. "Is she going to die?"

Kim hesitated. "Kerry is a really good doctor, Finn, and now that the paramedics are here we can take --"

"Kim," he said and it was one part rebuke, one part desperation. "Is she going to die?"

Kim pursed her lips. "We don't know for sure yet, Finn. Maybe."

He looked back at the scene unfolding in front of him and saw Kerry shock her with the paddles again. He turned and regarded Kim with those serious, sad eyes. "When you know for pretty sure, will you tell me, please?"

Kim searched his face for signs of what was going through his mind. "Okay, if you want us to."

He turned back towards his Gran and watched, a resigned look on his face.

Kim glanced at the sleeping figure sprawled out beside her on the couch. Finn's X-Men pajamas had been changed for a dry pair with Batman characters all over them, his little feet were in Kim's lap so that she could bandage the scrapes and cuts on his feet and a very tired looking stuffed rabbit was pressed to his cheek. Not exactly how Kim had imagined the evening would end when she'd come home to Kerry's romantic living room picnic. But then, life was like that sometimes.

The remains of their meal, the snuffed out candles, even their half-empty wine glasses were still strewn across the floor and Kim couldn't help but think of where things were going when Finn had arrived, so hysterical, many hours ago.

It had been a long night.

But Mrs. Ryan had been flown out to Chicago and to her own cardiologist, (at Kerry's very vocal insistence) and was holding her own. And even though the sun was probably going to rise in another hour or so, they were home at last. Her head swam a little from fatigue, but the crisis had been managed.

She could hear Kerry in the kitchen, on the phone with Maureen Ryan's doctor in Chicago and Kim saw her again, sliding herself around the kitchen floor, flinging the dead weight of her broken leg out of the way to get a better angle on her patient. Kim shook her head. What a woman, she thought. What a passionate, brilliant, stubborn woman.

She finished taping the gauze on Finn's left foot and laid it to rest back in her lap, then reached for the right to inspect it for cuts. He'd run barefoot for almost a half mile on the gravelly shoulder of the road to reach them and there were minor abrasions and lacerations on his soft pink feet. Thank God there hadn't been a broken bottle somewhere along the way. Finn sighed and shifted a little as she propped his foot up a bit and applied antibiotic cream. He'd been something of a hero tonight, first by summoning them and then by his stoic demeanour at the hospital. Which was sad really, when she thought about it -- it meant that illness and sudden death had been enough a part of his life that he'd become practiced at it. She tenderly rubbed the cream into his skin and gazed at his face, even more angelic in sleep.

She heard the phone being put back in its cradle and Kerry wearily wheeled herself into the living room. She steered herself close to Kim.

"When did he fall asleep?" Kerry whispered.

"As soon as he laid his head down," Kim replied. "He's exhausted."

"No wonder," Kerry said and did as Kim had been doing, just stopped to look at his beautiful young face. "I didn't think I'd ever say this, but I've never been so glad to sit in this wheelchair. I'm beat."

"Yeah, you must be," Kim said and she started winding gauze around Finn's foot to hold the sterile pads in place. "How's your leg?"

"Not much sorer than any other part of my body, frankly, " Kerry said.

"Do you want a painkiller?"

"No, I'll just take some ibuprophen and go to bed."

"Okay, let me just get him tucked in and I'll bring you the pills, okay?"

"Okay," Kerry whispered and she turned to touch Finn's face. "Goodnight, Finn. You did good, buddy." Her hand lingered on his cheek and then she pushed herself away from the couch and towards her bedroom.

Kim stuffed the first aid supplies back into Kerry's magical medical bag, then got to her feet and stretched. She wanted to sleep for a thousand years. Maybe more. She sat Finn up and hoisted him into her arms where his head immediately dropped against her shoulder. She grabbed the fallen bunny, then carried him to the bedroom, pulled back the sheets and slipped him under them. He roused himself enough to turn over and hug his pillow while Kim covered him with the blankets and replaced the battered stuffed toy where he would feel it. She leaned down and kissed his forehead. "'Night, Finn. Sleep tight."

Kerry was sitting in her chair beside the bed when Kim entered with water and some pills.

"I know it's pathetic, but I don't think I have the strength to stand up by myself to drag my butt into this bed. Would you give me a hand?"

Kim chuckled. "I'm not surprised, Ker. You worked the better part of a shift tonight. Sitting on the floor." She gave Kerry the water and ibuprofen, and flopped down on the bed while she took them.

"You look pretty tired, too," Kerry said.

Kim nodded. "It's been a big day."

Kerry looked at her for a long moment. "I hope you won't forget about what we were talking about...you know, before everything happened."

"I haven't forgotten," Kim said with a smile.

"Good." Kerry's eyes danced despite her fatigue. "But first, a little sleep, right?"

"That's probably a good idea," Kim said. She got to her feet and helped Kerry out of her wheelchair, steadying her as she transferred herself to the bed. Kerry fell back into the pillows with a sigh. "Oh, God, that's better," she said. "You know, I'm not going to bother getting undressed or anything. I'm too damn tired. I'm just going to sleep like this."

Kim bent to pick up Kerry's paperback, which had been knocked from the bedside table as she'd been getting from the chair to the bed. She stood upright again and suddenly the whole room was pirouetting around her. She stuck out a hand and grabbed the bed while the blood made its way back to the proper organs.

"Whoa, head rush," Kerry said. "Sit down for a minute." She guided Kim to the bed and watched her carefully. "You all right?"

Kim rubbed her forehead. "Just dizzy. I do that when I'm really tired, sometimes, I just get all spinny."

"Lie down for a moment," Kerry said, tossing two pillows to Kim and pushing herself over to make room on the bed. "Because the last damn thing we need tonight is you opening your skull on the bathroom tiles."

Kim stretched out on the bed beside Kerry and sighed tiredly. "On the bright side, we're on a first name basis with the entire staff of the Beaver Point District Hospital."

Kerry chuckled and reached for Kim's hand. "Yeah, but I don't know if that's the good news or the bad news."

Kim closed her eyes, felt Kerry's warmth seeping into her tired body. "Good point. I'll just lie here for a minute, until I don't feel so weak..."

They were both asleep in less than a minute.

It wasn't the mid-morning sun that woke Kerry up, so much as it was the tantalizing smell of freshly brewed coffee. She stretched her stiff limbs, careful not to disturb Kim, then sniffed the air again. No, it wasn't a hallucination brought on by lack of sleep, there really was coffee being perked in the house. And since Kim was here beside her...

She listened more carefully and could just make out the quiet opening and closing of cupboards and drawers and the tinkling of china. She smiled to herself.

Beside her, Kim moved a little and moaned softly and the sound sent a shiver through Kerry's center. How could you go through the hell that Kim had during the previous 24 hours, sleep in your clothes and still look so beautiful? She touched the back of her fingers to Kim's cheek and closed her eyes at the feelings that it sent ricocheting through her. God, thank You for the second (or was it third?) chance and please help me not to fuck it up this time.

Kim's eyes fluttered open and for an instant, Kerry almost pulled her hand away. Then she stilled her nerves and continued caressing Kim's silky skin.

"Hey," Kim said and her voice was still hoarse with sleep.

"Hey yourself," Kerry said and she couldn't stop smiling.

Kim's forehead wrinkled. "Do you smell coffee?"

Kerry chuckled. "I think Finn might already be up."

"Oh, God bless him," Kim said, rolling over and stretching like a cat. "I guess I didn't make it to my bed last night. I hope you didn't mind."

Kerry never took her eyes of the tall blonde. "I didn't mind at all. In fact, I'd like to wake up with you more often."

Kim rolled her head over to look at Kerry. "So would I."

"Then we'll have to do something about that."

"I guess we will."

A polite tapping at the door interrupted.

"Hey Finn, come on in, we're up," Kerry called.

The door swung open, yielding to a gentle kick and Finn slowly entered, balancing a steaming mug in each hand.

"Good morning," he said and he took his eyes from the mugs long enough to glance up at Kim and Kerry. "I made coffee," he said, a proud smile on his face.

"I can see that," Kerry said, struggling to sit up so she could take a mug off his hands. "I didn't know you could make coffee."

He nodded as he made his way around to Kim to give her the other mug. "Kim taught me. She said it's an essential life skill."

Kerry smiled. "Kim's right."

He handed Kim her mug and she grabbed him and hugged him. "You are a wonderful little boy, you know that?"

"You're just saying that because of the coffee," he said, blushing slightly.

"Well, maybe, but that doesn't make you any less wonderful."

He laughed and climbed onto the foot of the bed. "Kerry, did you hear about my Gran this morning? Is she okay?"

"Well, as of three o'clock this morning, she had arrived in Chicago and was at the hospital. She's in the intensive care unit, but she's stable, which means she's mostly okay. I talked to her doctor last night and he said she was doing well."

Finn's face glowed with the news.

"Oh and your grandfather had arrived at the hospital and he was staying with her, so she wasn't alone."

"So she's going to be okay?"

"It looks good," Kerry said, sipping her coffee. "You can probably talk to her this afternoon on the phone."

The little boy fairly bounced with excitement.

"You should be proud of yourself, Finn. You're a big part of the reason that your Gran is okay," Kim said.

He regarded his gauze covered feet. "I was pretty scared," he said.

"Everybody's scared when something like that happens," Kim said. "But the heroes are people like you who are scared, but who do the right thing anyway." She smiled at him. "I'm starting to see why they named you after Finn Mac Cool."

He beamed and flushed a bright red and stared at his feet.

"Hey," Kerry said. "I don't know about you guys, but I'm starving."

"Me, too," Finn said.

"How about pancakes?" Kerry said.

"Yeah!" Finn agreed.

Kim rolled her head to look at Kerry. "You're not thinking of cooking, are you?"

Kerry shrugged sheepishly. "Actually, I was sort of hoping you'd make them."

Kim laughed. "Okay, I'll make them."

"Finn and I can set the table," Kerry said.

"No," Kim said, dragging her legs over the side of the bed and standing up. "Finn is going to be in the kitchen with me, learning his next essential life skill: pancakes."

Finn bounced up and down on the bed. "Okay! Can we make blueberry ones?" He jumped off the bed and followed Kim out of the bedroom. "Or how about animal shaped ones? Oh! Or maybe ones that are like letters, I saw that one time at a restaurant with my dad..."

Kerry watched them go and chuckled.

The beach was spectacular that morning. So many shades of blue in the sky and water that you could lose count, a sweet, soft breeze from the lake and just the right amount of sunshine to rock you to sleep and caress you like a warm blanket.

Kerry paused for a moment to consider that this was the same beach, the same horizon, the same lake that she'd looked at morning, noon and night since they'd arrived, but somehow, it looked different this morning. Better. She and Kim were reconnecting, God was in her heaven and all was right with the world.

Kim had dozed off, a few yards away, in a deck chair, a trade paperback clutched to her chest. They had come close to arguing at breakfast and Kerry still felt like an ass. Kim had mentioned that it had been nearly two weeks since her trip to see Dr. Fisher at the local what-passed-for-a-hospital. Kerry had blithely ignored the comment, knowing very well where Kim was going with it. And, Kim continued, doggedly cheerful, hadn't Dr. Fisher said that he wanted her to come back in oh, two weeks or so, for another x-ray to make sure that all was as it should be? Kerry had looked up from her pancakes and barely held back a growl.

"Why don't you want to go have an x-ray, Kerry?" Finn had asked, genuinely puzzled. "They don't hurt you know. I've had one before. You don't feel anything."

Kim had smiled, somewhat smugly, Kerry thought, as if to say, there, try and argue with that.

She had said that she'd think about it, in a tone that let everyone know that the discussion was now over.

And so, having won a conditional victory on the x-ray front and after breakfast had been cleaned up, Kim had emerged onto the deck with wet hair from a shower, wearing her bathing suit and the sarong she'd worn the night that Luka had visited. Kerry had had to take a deep breath to keep herself from losing it, right then and there. Did Kim have any idea what the sight of her in that particular ensemble did to her? Probably not, she'd just tossed it on to cover up the bathing suit until she was set to swim or tan. But God, there was just something about it -- the way it rode low on her hips and hugged her in places where Kerry longed to run her hands, or maybe the way it all accented her waist and her breasts. Whatever it was, Kim was hot in it. She wanted to roll her eyes at her own sophomoric choice of words, but there was no escaping it, she was hot. And henceforth, should ever Kerry's status as a lesbian be in doubt, she knew she could just summon up the image of Kim ambling through the house in her bathing suit and sarong to seal the deal.

The door slid open and Finn emerged just then, portable phone in one hand.

"It's my Grandpa. He wants to talk to you," he said, giving Kerry the phone and slipping into a chair beside her.

"Hello?" Kerry said.

"Dr. Weaver, is it?"

"Yes, I'm Dr. Weaver."

"My name is Francis Ryan, Dr. Weaver. I'm Finn's grandfather. I was phoning to thank you."

"There's no need, Mr. Ryan. It was our pleasure."

"I understand from my wife's doctor that you were instrumental in saving Maureen's life. That is no small debt I owe you."

"We were happy to help," Kerry said.

"My wife has told me quite a bit about you, doctor," Mr. Ryan said.

Kerry's grip on the phone tightened. "Has she now?"

Francis Ryan chuckled at Kerry's tone. "So has Finn. My grandson is very fond of you and your friend and now I can see why. I have to tell you, I can't remember when I've seen him so happy."

"I'm very glad to hear that," Kerry said. Finn wandered back into the house, quietly closing the door behind him.

"I am wondering if we could impose upon you for one further favour, Doctor. A rather large one, I'm afraid."

"How can we help?"

"My wife and I were wondering if Finn could stay with you and your friend Dr. Legaspi for a few weeks."

Kerry blinked. They must have the old lady on some great painkillers.

The elder Mr. Ryan continued. "I know it's a grave imposition, but my wife's going to need to stay in Chicago for tests and to be near the hospital and her doctor for some time and ...well, as between letting Finn stay at the beach with you and dragging him back to Chicago with us, I have the feeling that he'd never forgive us if we made him leave the beach."

Kerry watched Finn slip back out of the house, in his bathing suit, with a copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in one hand. He settled into the deck chair beside Kim's and started reading. "We would be delighted to have Finn stay with us for a few weeks," Kerry said, her eyes on the boy. "For as long as you'd need, Mr. Ryan."

Finn's head whipped around and he stared at Kerry. Really? he mouthed, eyes wide. She nodded.

"That's very kind of you, Dr. Weaver," Mr. Ryan said. "I'm not sure how you've done it, but you've gotten through to him in a way none of us have been able to. I am very grateful. And I won't soon forget what you've done for my family."

Kerry watched Finn doing an energetic but silent dance of joy on the deck and she smiled. "He's a remarkable young man, Mr. Ryan. We're grateful to your family for sharing him."

Kerry heard Kim's soft footsteps, crossing the living room, turning off lights. She put down her book and peered over the top of her glasses at the bedroom door, watching hopefully. A moment later, Kim slipped into the room, quietly shutting the door behind her.

"Is he asleep?" Kerry asked.

Kim's smile betrayed the answer before she spoke. "Sleeping like the proverbial baby," she said, heading to the bathroom to switch off the last light. "He and Mr. Bunny only lasted through two pages before he crashed."

Kerry put her book and her glasses on the bedside table. "He must be exhausted."

Kim nodded, her brush in hand. "It was all pretty traumatic."

Kerry leaned back into the pillows and regarded Kim. Oversize t-shirt, paisley boxer shorts and still she made Kerry's heart flutter in her chest like it was about to give out. Kim ran the brush through her hair a few times.

"Can I?" Kerry asked, stretching out a hand to Kim.

Kim paused, a smile slowly dawning, then she nodded. "Yeah, sure." She sat down on the side of the bed, close to Kerry and gave her the hairbrush.

Kerry's strokes were short and tentative at first, then grew longer and more confident.

"So this must be what it's like to be a parent," Kim said, her eyes closing at the feeling of Kerry's hands in her hair. "Always waiting around for the kid to go to bed so that they can get it on."

"Yeah, I guess so," Kerry said, chuckling. "That and braces and chicken pox and you've pretty much got the experience."

Kerry's steady brushing lulled Kim, made the tension drain out of her shoulders.

"Have I told you that you have the sexiest, most beautiful hair I've ever seen?" Kerry said softly.

"You might have mentioned something like that." A smile.

"And that you can make a pair of boxer shorts incredibly arousing?"

Kim turned slowly and met Kerry's eyes. "Are you trying to seduce me?"

"Yeah, I am," Kerry said. "How am I doing?"

"Really well," Kim said and she turned around all the way and kissed her. A long, deep, burning kiss that left no questions as to her intentions. Kerry responded in kind, dropping the hairbrush and wrapping her arms around Kim's waist and pulling her long, slender body against her.

The feel of Kim's lips made Kerry dizzy with need and she slipped her hands under the tail of Kim's t-shirt, discovering silky skin that flowed underneath her fingers. Kim groaned at the touch and arched her back, then broke away from the kiss. She got onto the bed, straddled Kerry's lap and then pulled her t-shirt over her head in one flowing movement. The shirt fell onto the bed and Kerry quickly recaptured Kim's lips.

Her center burning, Kerry traced the line of Kim's spine with tender fingers, following the ridge of one rib and caressing the warm, soft flesh of a perfectly sculpted breast. Kim pulled away from the kiss and sat back, let Kerry's hands find her breasts, let Kerry's strong and delicate fingers caress her nipples. Her head tossed back in reflex to the exquisite torture of Kerry's touch and suddenly there were tears welling in her eyes.

Kerry's hands were cupping her face now, wiping tears with her thumbs. "Oh sweetheart, oh I'm so sorry," Kerry said. "What is it? What's the matter?"

Kim wrapped her arms around Kerry and hugged her tightly. "I'm all right, I just -- I hadn't let myself think about how much I missed you," she said. She sniffed and then another sob shook her lithe body. "How much I missed us. I -- I though we were never going to --"

"Shhhh," Kerry said. "Don't even say it." She stroked Kim's hair with one hand and rocked her. A moment later, Kim sat back and looked at Kerry's eyes, a smile slowly blooming through the tears. Kerry kissed her just then.

It was like coming home.

Finn put his pencil down and sighed. "Okay, I did finished that question," he said, pushing it across the table to Kim. Kim pushed her laptop aside and inspected the paragraph he'd painstakingly scrawled onto a piece of loose-leaf paper.

"All right," Kim said, "what are we looking for today?"

"Spelling and organization of sentences," Kerry replied, wheeling herself out onto the deck. "How'd he do?"

Kim nodded as she read. "Pretty good. You'll want to look up 'people' and 'decision,' but otherwise spelling is good." She reread it and then handed it back. "The sentences are well organized and they flow together. I'd give it an A."

Finn nodded glumly, took the page back and reached for his dictionary.

Kim gave Kerry a questioning look.

"Finn," Kerry said. "Are you all right? You've looked pretty discouraged about your lessons for a week now. Is it the schoolwork? Or are you worried about your Gran? Because she's doing really well, you know."

He shrugged and continued flipping dictionary pages. "No, I know she's all right."

"Is it your schoolwork then?" Kim asked. "Do you need a break from it maybe?"

He shrugged again. "It doesn't matter."

"Finn, sweetie, look at me," Kerry said gently. He raised his eyes from the dictionary. "What's the matter? Please tell us."

He fell back in his lawn chair and sighed. "It doesn't matter. There's nothing you can do about it."

"About what?"

"About going back to that stupid school."

"You mean the Blackburn Academy?"

He nodded. "My dad keeps saying that I'll get used to it, that I just have to be patient and everything and that he didn't make friends right away when he went there either."

"So it's pretty bad there for you, huh?"

He nodded, looking miserable. "And I have to stay there all week. It's a boarding school. And sometimes I have to stay there on weekends when my dad is away on business." He played with a loose thread on his t-shirt.

"Finn, have you talked to your dad about how you feel?" Kim asked. "He needs to know that you're unhappy at this school."

"Yeah, but it doesn't do any good. It's stupid because my dad didn't like it there either. He used to tell me how he would get homesick and how the big kids picked on him but no matter what happened, Gran made him go back every year."

Another knowing look passed between the two women.

"So it doesn't matter what I do, I have to go back and the big kids will beat me up and not get caught and I'll still be the stupidest one in my class and I'll still feel homesick all the time." He tore the thread off and wound it around his index finger, deep in thought. Finally, he sighed, scooted to the edge of the seat and picked up his pencil. "Okay," he said wearily, "what question do I have to do now?"

Kerry's eyes met Kim's gaze and held it. You do it or I will, Kerry saw in the blonde woman's face.

"You know what?" Kerry said, slamming two of Finn's textbooks shut.

"What?" Finn looked startled and intrigued.

"We have neglected to teach you another essential life skill," Kerry said.

"Oh yeah? Which one?"

"Reading x-rays."

Finn's face went blank. "What?"

"You heard me, young man," Kerry said, stuffing his notebooks and papers into his backpack. "I don't know what we were possibly thinking, overlooking such a crucial one as that."

"Crucial," Kim said, shutting down her laptop.

"But lucky for you, today is the end of the second week since my infection and I am supposed to get my leg x-rayed, this very day, to make sure it's healing properly."

"You're making that up," Finn said, but there was doubt in his face.

Kerry crossed her heart. "I kid you not. We have to get ourselves to the hospital and have my leg x-rayed and then, I'm going to teach you how to read an x-ray."

"Cool," Finn said, perking up a bit.

"Furthermore, as the head tutor here at the beach, I am declaring a two week homework holiday, beginning right now." She tossed his knapsack over into the corner for emphasis.

Finn's eyebrows shot up. "But, Gran --"

"Leave Gran to me," Kerry said. "Everybody needs some holidays, especially little boys who have already been working for over a month, don't you agree, Kim?"

"Absolutely," she said, with a smile.

"Good. Well, then, since we're all in agreement, who's going to get my crutches so we can get on our way?"

"I'll get them," Finn hollered, scrambling out of the chair. He galloped off into the house.

"Put some shoes on!" Kim called after him. She let her gaze fall on Kerry.

Kerry noticed the attention and half-smiled. "What?" she asked.

Kim leaned over and kissed her cheek. "Nothing. Just thinking about how much I love you." She followed Finn into the house.

Kerry blushed.

Kim heard them before she actually saw them.

"...now in this one, look at these bones here, see how small they are?"

"Wow, I've got that in my hand too?"

"Uh hunh. Except for that broken one there."

"What about this one, what is this one?"

Kim rounded the corner to see Kerry, sitting in a chair with her crutches propped beside her. Finn was slapping another film onto the light table. Somebody had pulverized their elbow.

"Hey, you guys, sorry I took so long," Kim said. "It turns out Dr. Fisher and I went to the same medical school, a few years apart. We were catching each other up on our more colourful professors."

Kerry stopped herself from rolling her eyes. Maybe Kim wanted to catch up on old professors, but Kerry's money was on Dr. Fisher coming up with anything to entice the most beautiful woman he'd ever seen to stand there and talk to him for just one more minute. And of course, Kim probably hadn't even realized that he was flirting with her. Kerry shook her head. Incredible.

Kim leaned against the counter and crossed her arms. "Did they already shoot your films?"

Kerry nodded and said nothing.

"Do you want to see Kerry's x-ray, Kim?" Finn asked. He shuffled through the jumble of films on the counter and slipped the Kerry's x-ray up onto the light table. "See, this is where her ankle is and these are the bones in her foot..."

Kim stopped hearing the words as she inspected the ghostly images on the x-ray. Her eyes traced the tibia and fibula up and down and then she turned to look at Kerry. "Are you sure this is your x-ray?" Kim asked, indicating the one on the light table.

Kerry nodded, her smile starting to grow.

Kim glanced at it again, then looked back at Kerry. "Kerry, the bones are...it's like..."

"They're healing better than I had ever dared to hope," Kerry said. "Better than I'd imagined." She beamed as she said the words, but Kim could tell that there were tears not too far off. Kim reached down and swept Kerry into her arms, kissing her forehead, her cheek, her mouth, then holding her tightly. Kerry did not pull away.

"This is wonderful," Kim said. She looked over at Finn who was clearly amused by the sudden display of affection. "This calls for a celebration. Let's go out for lunch. My treat."

"Can we get milkshakes?" he asked, replacing the x-rays where he'd found them.

"Absolutely," Kim said. She gave Kerry a hand getting to her feet, then passed her her crutches. Their eyes met and Kim saw once again the relief and sheer joy in Kerry's eyes. Kim kissed her once more, a lingering kiss on the lips. Kerry smiled and ducked her head a little.

Maybe life was a great big gift after all and you just had to receive it.

She crutched her way back down the hall towards the exit, Kim and Finn happily chattering beside her.

Captain Jack's Café turned out to be better than any of them had expected, which shouldn't have been surprising, since they'd asked Anita for a recommendation as they left the hospital and she had told them that if they wanted good food and a pleasant atmosphere, Jack's was the only place to go. It was on the main street of the little town, flanked on one side by a hardware store and on the other by a store that sold appliances. Kim liked it immediately because the tantalizing smell coming from the kitchen told her that someone here knew how to cook with grease. Kerry gave it her approval because it was fastidiously clean. And Finn was delighted with the Billy Big Mouth Bass Singin' Fish that was near the cash register, which, when its button was pushed, would sing and dance to "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

They snagged a booth near the counter, Kim and Finn sliding in on one side to allow Kerry room to put her leg up on the other seat. They studied their menus carefully, Finn pointing out that they made a peanut butter milkshake here. He was not at all sure what to think of that.

"Oh, hey, I meant to tell you something," Kim said, closing her menu. "With all the excitement with your Gran, I forgot to tell you that I brought Kerry's telescope back that time I went to Chicago."

"Did you really?" He nearly bounced on the seat.

"Yup. It's in the trunk of my car. We can take it out when we go home."

"Oh boy," Finn said. "Do you think we could do some star-gazing tonight, Kerry? Could we?"

"I don't see why not," Kerry said. "So long as the weather's clear."

Finn clapped his hands on his legs. "This is so cool! I've never even seen a real telescope before."

Kim slung an arm around him pulled him closer, dropping a kiss on top of his head.

The waitress, a plump woman who was probably younger than she looked, sidled up to their table, pad and pen in hand. She looked from Finn to Kim then back again and smiled. "Well my goodness, it's sure not hard to see who you belong to," she said to Finn. "You are the spitting image of your mommy, now, aren't you?"

Kim froze, momentarily uncertain what to say. Then she saw Kerry's hand slide across the small table and close on hers.

"Actually," Kerry was saying, "he belongs to both of us." She squeezed Kim's hand.

The waitress looked from face to face, mentally doing the math. Then she tried to smile again and didn't quite make it. "Oh, I see, well isn't that nice?" she said. "Can I take your order?"

Finn immediately launched into the description of the milkshake he wanted. Kim looked across at Kerry who smiled benignly at her. Kim looked at their hands together on the table.

She hoped this wonderful woman never stopped surprising her.

Kim flipped the living room lights off and stepped out onto the deck. The night was balmy and the lake was almost perfectly still. There was only the slightest ripple of sound from the shore and from the crickets in the dunes beside the house. So still and peaceful. She had brought Kerry here looking for peace. It had taken a while, but they might just have found it. Finally.

She snapped on her flashlight and carefully made her way across the deck, down the stairs and out onto the sand, heading for a small oasis of light near the shore. As she approached, she saw that Kerry was shining a flashlight on Finn's astronomy book. Kim turned off her light and stood there, staring up into the heavens, letting her eyes adjust to the darkness.

"But why do they call them radio telescopes?" Finn said. "They don't have anything to do with radios, do they?"

"Well, no, but radios, just like radio telescopes pick up radio waves. But radio telescopes can also pick up lots of other waves like microwaves for instance."

"I still don't see why they just don't build humungous regular telescopes and look into them," Finn said.

"Because there are some stars that are so far away, we can't see them looking through a regular telescope," Kerry said.

"Then how do they know they're there?"

Kim chuckled and headed over to join them.

"Who was on the phone?" Kerry asked when she saw Kim.

"It was Luka," Kim said, settling back into her lawn chair beside Kerry. "He phoned to say that he has the next two days off and he wondered if he could come up and visit."

"Luka's coming?" Finn said. "Excellent!"

"Is he going to drive up tomorrow?" Kerry asked.

Kim nodded and snuggled deeper into her hooded sweatshirt. "Yup. He said he's going to leave early so he can be here before noon."

"Do you think he'll want to go swimming and play Frisbee again?" Finn asked.

"Oh, I'm pretty certain he will," Kim said. "And Finn, by the way, there was a message for you from your Gran."

The little boy paused. "Really?"

"Yes. She said she hoped you were behaving yourself and that you weren't having so much fun that you were neglecting your schoolwork."

Finn bit his lip and nodded. "I guess she's feeling better."

Kerry laughed. "Sounds like it."

Finn gave Kerry a long look. "We're not going to tell her, are we?"

Kerry shrugged. "Well, we're not going to tell her everything, if that's what you mean."

Finn beamed and went back to his astronomy book.

"Okay," Kerry said, "now you try and find Cygnus."

"Cygnus," Finn repeated, sitting down in the sand and adjusting the telescope's eyepiece. "That's the swan one, right?"

"Right. Now do you remember how I told you to find it?"

Kim turned her gaze to study Kerry in the glow of the flashlight as she talked to Finn. She longed to reach out and touch her face, her neck, to bury herself in Kerry's arms, to undress her slowly and deliberately, kissing every inch of skin that she exposed...

She felt a flush and a rush of moisture and she glanced over at Finn wondering when they might finally get him to bed.

"There it is! There it is!" he said. "I found it Kerry, come and look!"

"Okay, give me a minute," Kerry replied.

She gave herself a shake and chuckled. It didn't take much to get her all hot and bothered these days. She took a deep breath and let it out, let the tension drain with it.

She could wait. She would wait all night if she had to.

After all, some things were just worth waiting for.


Kerry teetered on her good leg while she unlocked the door, the late October wind doing its best to knock her over. She slipped inside and shut the door behind her, then dropped her umbrella, briefcase and the pair of oversized binders she'd lugged all the way from the car.

"Kerry?" Kim's voice from the kitchen.

She turned and Kim was there, holding a glass of red wine. She wordlessly handed it to Kerry, then kissed her and helped her off with her coat.

"Malucci was what?" Kim prompted.

"Oh, it doesn't matter," Kerry said, "it wasn't any different than any of the two million other bone headed things he's done this year." She followed Kim into the kitchen where the cooking smells intensified. "I swear to God, some days I feel like I'm running a day care not an ER." She perched herself on a high stool at the island and propped her crutch beside her. "My God, something smells good. What are you making?"

Kim chopped red onion for the salad. "I'm making a vegetable and beef stew and I'm baking bread."

Kerry raised an eyebrow and took a long, soothing sip of red wine. "I'm impressed. I think you should have more days off so you can do this."

"Be your wife, you mean?" Kim said with a mischievous smile.

Kerry considered this. "Well, no, I meant relax and cook, but now that you mention it..."

Kim shot her a look and resumed chopping.

"So how was your day?" Kerry said.

"Very nice, actually. I went to the gym this morning and this afternoon I did the groceries and cooked. And then I wanted to catch up on my journal reading..."

"Ah," Kerry said and sipped her wine. "How long did you sleep?"

Kim chuckled. "About three quarters of an hour."

"Well, it sounds like a perfect day off," Kerry said.

"Oh!" Kim said suddenly, wiping off her hands. "We got a letter today." She reached to the end of the island and plucked an envelope off a pile of mail. She handed it to Kerry with a grin.

Plain white envelope, child-like script. She glanced at the return address.

"Finn!" she said.

Kim grabbed her wine and pulled up a stool beside Kerry's while Kerry got the carefully folded loose leaf out of the envelope.

Dear Kim and Kerry,

Hi! This is Finn. How are you? I am fine. Thanks for writing me the letter Kerry. It was the first real letter I've ever gotten, like in the mail and everything.

How is your leg, Kerry? You probably have your cast off now. I hope you can walk okay. And remember to do your exercises okay?

I guess you don't know but I changed schools this year. I didn't have to go back to Blackburn Academy. Now I go to a much better school. It's called St. Joseph's. The only bad part is that we have to go to mass a lot, like every month. But I like almost everything else about it. The kids are a lot nicer there and the teachers are really nice too. I'm getting mostly B's and A's so far, so even Gran can't say that it was a bad idea to change me. I was so glad when Grandpa said he thought that maybe Blackburn wasn't a good idea for me...

Kim laid her hand on Kerry's. Kerry looked over.

"You talked to his grandfather, didn't you?" Kim asked.

Kerry hesitated. "Well, I didn't talk to him directly."

"What did you do?"

"I wrote him a little note, reminding him that he had once told me that his family owed me a great debt." Kerry shrugged. "He seemed like the kind of man who always pays his debts."

Kim pulled Kerry closer and kissed her cheek. "I like your style, Weaver."

...so now I can live at home with my dad and walk to school and everything. And my dad let me join a soccer league and he and I are taking Tae Kwon Doe together on Saturdays. It is so fun! My dad says one of these days he and I will have a fight and I will kick his butt!!

Anyway, the other reason I am writing is to tell you that I have a three week vacation at Christmas time. Gran and Grandpa are going to Europe for my Grandpa's business and except for the first week (when Christmas is) my dad probably has to work a lot. He said that if it was okay with you guys, I could take a plane all by myself and come and visit. But only if you wanted me to. Because I'm not supposed to invite myself he said. Except I didn't know how to ask you without sounding like I was inviting myself. Is that okay?

Anyway, you guys should write back or something and tell me if it's okay. I would really like to visit with you and remember, Kim you said sometime you would take me to a hockey game? Maybe we could do that. I've been saving my allowance and it could be my treat.

Anyway, I have to go because I have to go to bed now. I'm on the fourth Harry Potter and my dad lets me read for an extra half hour before I have to turn out the lights.

Please write back really soon and tell me if it's okay about Christmas. And I really hope it is. I miss you guys. A lot.

Love, your friend


P.S. I looked up a lot of words, so I hope the spelling is good.

P.S.S. Kerry, my Gran wants to know what hospital you work at because she would like to make a donation from you. To say thank you and everything.

P.S.S.S. Kerry, remember: Goodness in our hearts, strength in our limbs and truth on our lips!!!

Kerry folded the letter and put it back into the envelope. Kim watched her attentively, gauging her reaction.

"Pretty good spelling, wasn't it?" Kerry said, reaching for her wine. Kim saw the glint of tears in her eyes. She rubbed Kerry's arm affectionately.

"I miss him, too," Kim said and all Kerry could do was nod. "In fact, I was thinking...how hard could it be to track down Finn's father's number? So that we could call and talk to him tonight."

Kerry pursed her lips. "If we couldn't get it through standard channels, I know a certain resident who comes from a very well-connected Chicago family. Maybe they could help us."

Kim nodded. "Then I think we should try to call him tonight." She slipped off her stool. "Why don't you start trying information while I put dinner on the table? If we haven't gotten the number by dessert then you can call in a favour from Carter. Not that you'd need a favour to call in. The boy has a soft spot for you the size of Wisconsin."

Kerry didn't move, instead sat there watching Kim putter around the kitchen, slicing bread, assembling salads. She followed every move with her eyes until Kim paused, two warmed bowls in hand and looked over at Kerry, a hint of concern in her expression.

"Kerry?" she asked. "You okay?"

She'd almost lost this. Almost lost her. Because she'd been afraid.

She was never going to let that happen again.

"I'm fine," Kerry said, sliding down off the stool. "I'm just fine."

The End

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