DISCLAIMER: I do not own them. Yet.
THANKS: To my first-rate beta, Gail. Her suggestions helped me immensely in the development and completion of this story. She is the BOMB.
SPOILER: Post-Surrender. I'm quite sure I'm totally off on this one, but there's spoilage up until RPS.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This was written well before we ever caught a glimpse of 305 Temple Street.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

By Harriet

Kerry's gait was uneven as she navigated the snowy sidewalk, her hip aching in the freezing weather. She'd walked up and down the same block four times, debating whether or not to make the call. Snow fell heavily on her shoulders, and she cursed the fact that she'd forgotten her furry hat for once. 'Oh well, I deserve it,' she thought. Her nose was running from the combination of cold weather and crying, and she searched her pocket for a tissue without success. She looked up at the building she'd been circling tentatively. After sitting in her car for a half an hour in the parking garage at the hospital, the Honda seemed to drive itself in this particular direction. Tears had blurred her vision, and she'd had to pull over twice so as not to cause an accident. Facing a night in her empty house after today was impossible, but she found it difficult to follow through on her plan to talk to Kim. 

She glanced at her watch. Almost midnight. 'She won't be awake. She'll be busy. She won't be home.' Kerry never thought for a minute about the safety of her own situation; here she was strolling about a lonely Chicago neighborhood, in a snowstorm, practically in the middle of the night. But her mind couldn't be bothered with such details. She could only think of two things: Kim, and the hospital. The former consoled her, and the latter filled her with a profound sense of dread.

A grey haze had settled over her vision, clouding everything she saw. She felt lost, more lost than she could remember being for ages. All she held sacred had been shaken to the core today, and she didn't know how to respond. But somehow the thought of Kim's gentle eyes and eloquent smile comforted Kerry even from a distance. She felt physically pulled to her, connected by an invisible string that she'd hardly noticed forming over the past few months. 

She closed her eyes, desperation finally spurring her into action.

Kim sneezed. Dusting wasn't exactly her favorite thing, but it had been too long since she'd tackled the overflowing bookshelves. After the holidays she tried to make it a point to start the new year fresh with a clean apartment, but she was rarely successful. This year was better than most; it was only the first of February and she'd already made a huge dent in the living room. The kitchen was another story, but its mess was more from disuse than anything else. Her cooking skills were limited, but she was excellent at ordering out. The refrigerator was well stocked with take-out containers, stored in the unlikely event that Kim might want to dip into them again.

Her spacious one bedroom apartment was a warm, inviting place despite the clutter. Paintings adorned the walls; some prints, some originals done by friends. A stone-framed fireplace added to the homey feeling, and it was one of the reasons why she'd taken the place. A good heating system was important, but a fireplace (even a gas one that turned on with a switch) was a priceless commodity in her book. There were candleholders everywhere, and a well-appointed entertainment system lurked in the corner. She didn't get a chance to put it to use very often, but having a brother in the electronics business had its perks. Jason had delivered it and hooked it up himself, insisting that Kim needed it, or would at some point. She was grateful--it was certainly nice to have a stereo system she could hear over the vacuum cleaner. Thom York's mournful voice flowed through the speakers, and she was reminded how important it was to finally have soundproofed walls. 

Work had been quiet in psych during her early morning shift, and the restlessness that had followed Kim all day was what inspired her cleaning frenzy. A week earlier she and Kerry had a breakthrough, or rather Kerry did. In the time since their conversation they'd played phone tag and shared a few quick cups of coffee on the run in the halls. Kerry was working doubles with Mark recovering from his surgery, and Kim hadn't been able to pin her down to meet. They'd made eyes at each other over a few patients, but that was no substitute for conversation. 

Kim was quite sure that Kerry firmly wanted to keep their relationship under wraps. She understood the myriad of reasons why this was so, not the least of which was Kerry's overwhelming need to keep her private life separate from the hospital. She'd marveled at the lack of information her co-workers knew about Dr. Weaver. Kim had made subtle inquiries for months as their friendship progressed and learned exactly nothing. "She has a crutch." No shit, Sherlock. "She wears her glasses on a chain and yells a lot." Really? "I think she made out with some African guy in the hall once a couple of years ago." Hmm, interesting, yet unenlightening. It appeared that the good Doctor Weaver was as big a mystery to the hospital staff as she was to Kim. Now, even as she learned more about Kerry day after day, the mystery remained; at every little discovery, new questions kept popping up. 

When it came to keeping their blossoming relationship quiet, she figured a few clandestine clinches would make it interesting for the time being. In the back of her mind, Kim knew if things were to last between them Kerry would have to loosen up. But hell, a few weeks wouldn't kill her. She knew from experience that sneaking around could be fun in the right circumstances. 

As she continued to methodically dust the bookshelves, she thought back to that evening in Magoo's with a little smile on her face. After a day of insulting remarks and classic avoidance techniques, Kerry approached Kim and laid it all out on the table. She was nervous. She was afraid. But Kim was more terrified of losing her than anything, and when Kerry took her hand it was more than she'd ever expected. Kim's heart had literally stuttered for a moment as she gazed into Kerry's grey-green eyes. That was not the look of a friend to a friend, and the pressing of Kerry's fingers into her hand had stolen the moisture from Kim's mouth. "I'd like you to stay." After accepting that Kerry had really spoken those words, had taken her hand, Kim nodded and rasped out an "Okay." 

They'd sat for a few hours, as Kim listened to Kerry's explanation of her experiences of the past two weeks, two months really. The recognition of her feelings for Kim had been a stumbling block, but once the realization happened Kerry did whatever she could to keep her emotions from leaking out all over the place. On the job Kerry wanted nothing to do with the psychologist, convinced her feelings were written all over her face. Kerry hated feeling like someone else had the emotional upper hand in any situation, and Kim's self-assurance irritated her. The whole ridiculous thing had come to a head with Carter's patient, and Kerry apologized profusely for her childish behavior. Then Kim interrupted with her own apology for her "I don't need any more friends" statement, and the two laughed in tandem. 

"I just couldn't figure out what the hell you were doing, buying me that book, calling, paging, God you wouldn't leave me alone! All I wanted was to be away from you. It hurt to see you and know you'd never feel what I felt."

Kerry looked at her with sympathy, and Kim watched her carefully shred her napkin in thin, perfect little strips. "I'm so sorry, I don't think I knew what I was doing myself. I just wanted to be near you." She looked down for a moment. "It hurt me, what you said."

Kim closed her eyes. "I'd take it back Kerry. In a second. But in a way, I'm almost glad it happened." Kerry raised her eyebrows at that. "I couldn't go on the way things were going, and I don't think you'd have believed me if I'd just said 'I want to kiss you all the time, I'm crazy about you, get it?'" Kerry choked out a laugh and colored slightly in embarrassment. Kim peered at her as though inspecting a squirming insect through a magnifying glass. "You don't think I could feel that way about you, do you." Kim smacked her forehead loudly, suddenly understanding something that had eluded her for months. "At Thanksgiving, you were so surprised. It probably never even occurred to you that I'd be attracted to you." Kim exhaled in frustration. "You're so lovely, so beautiful." Kerry was shaking her head from side to side imperceptibly without even realizing it, but Kim caught it. "You are!" she exclaimed. "I wish you could see yourself through my eyes. You just have no idea at all." 

Kerry swallowed and brushed it off. She had moved from shredding the napkin to tying her straw wrapper into tiny knots. "Thanks. Yeah, I mean, okay. But I'm sorry anyway."

Kim's eyebrows drew together in surprise. "You're changing the subject. Here I am, trying to woo you, to shower you with compliments, and all you do is ignore them." Kim leaned in and reached out her hand, carefully tracing a fingernail down the center of Kerry's palm. "It's true, Kerry. I could look at you all day and not get tired." 

The blush suffused Kerry's whole face, pinking her cheeks in the most charming way. 

And that was the image hovering in Kim's mind when the phone rang.

She rummaged down under the couch where the cordless had gotten shoved by some out of control vacuuming. "Hello?"

"Kim?" a quiet voice asked, sounding as though it was coming through a cell phone.

"Ker? Hi, where are you, it's not a good connection."

"Um." There was a lengthy pause. "I'm, I'm downstairs, outside." Her voice was wavering. "Do you think I could come up? I need," she huffed for a moment, trying to catch her breath in the cold. "I need to talk to you."

Mortal fear struck Kim. 'She's changed her mind. She's breaking up with me and we aren't even dating. You idiot!' Out loud, she responded, "Sure, that's fine. I'm in 315, third floor. But I guess you knew that, right? I mean you're outside, you have the calling code," 'Shut UP! Just buzz her in!' "I'll just buzz you in!" She pressed 9 on her phone for a ridiculously long time to be sure Kerry got in. Then she realized what her place looked like: piles of books on the floor by the bookcase, psychology periodicals forming a mountain on the side table. All she could think was, 'Thank God she didn't get here two hours ago.' 

She ran into the bathroom just to get a quick look at herself and nearly fell over. A bandana kept the hair pulled back from her face, and her pink Bewitched t-shirt was patched with dust. She looked down at her ancient jean shorts; at least she hadn't worn the ones completely gone through in the rear. She spoke to her reflection. "Well, what does she expect, calling me from downstairs? The least she could do is let me down easy while I'm wearing something stylish."  Her heart was pounding; she took a few deep breaths and tried to steel herself for whatever happened. "It doesn't matter, I can get over this. Relax," Kim whispered to herself. "You'll be okay."

There was a faint knock at the door, and Kim could barely breathe as she approached it. She checked the peephole and saw the top of a red head. Yep, this was it. She unchained the door and opened it, and could not have been more surprised at what greeted her.

Kerry looked more distraught than she'd ever seen. Her eyes were red-rimmed and bloodshot, and her hair was wet from melting snow. Really wet. "What is it? What's happened?" She extended her arm and shepherded Kerry inside, and slush dripped from the hem of the full-length coat as well. When she got a look at her in the better light, she noticed Kerry's face was red with cold, and Kim placed her hands on her icy cheeks to warm them. "Jesus, you're freezing! Kerry, what did you do to yourself?" 

There was no response; she could see Kerry's mouth opening as if to say something, but no sound came out. Kim took action, pulling the full length green coat from her shoulders and hanging it on the rack by the door. "Come on, come inside and sit." After leading her in she pulled a comfortable armchair close to the gas fireplace and sat Kerry in it, panicking a little when she offered no resistance. She flicked the fire on and knelt down in front of her, taking her hands between her own. "What is it, honey? Just tell me, I'm getting worried," she said with her nervous laugh.

Kerry swallowed, eyes downcast. "I had a bad day." That was all that came out. 

Right. Well, then. Kim took a breath, and stood to get a chair for herself. She had a feeling this was going to take longer to figure out than thirty seconds. Sitting down close enough to touch, she prodded, "Okay, a bad day. What kind of a bad day are we talking about here?"

"Some bad things happened, and I'm responsible." She glanced up and Kim didn't say a word; she just looked back patiently. Kerry strained to get the words out. "Some people came in with work-related injuries from a sweat-shop, and I called the authorities." At this point the words just started rushing out of her, as though once they started the pressure was just too great to hold them in any longer. "The owners freaked out when they heard I'd made the call, so they torched the shop." The breath caught in her throat as she finished the thought, "With everyone still inside." Kim's face was all compassion and understanding, but she remained silent. "Fourteen people were brought to us, and we lost three." Her face twisted in agony at the memory of seeing the burned victims, some singed beyond recognition. The screams of the women rang through her head and she unconsciously put her hands over her ears to block the noise. The smell was still in her hair, on her clothes. Kerry imagined it had seeped into her skin as well, and that she'd never be able to get rid of the stench of burned flesh. She whispered, "I should have known what would happen. It was my fault."

Kim peered closely at the distraught face before her. "Your fault? How is it your fault?"

Kerry's eyes expressed her incredulity. "If I hadn't been stupid enough to call OSHA, none of this would have happened. None of those people would have died!"

Kim sat quietly. "Are you sure?"

"Of course I'm sure," Kerry responded, her voice breaking. She shifted gears for a moment. "Remember when you got Mr. Mellonstone a new social security number when we found out he'd been AWOL all that time?" Kim nodded. "I never, ever would have done that. The thought wouldn't have crossed my mind, to do something so... so... Well, illegal. But you don't always play by the rules; you decide when to color outside the lines. I, on the other hand...I don't know any other way to play." There was a wildness in Kerry's eyes that Kim didn't recognize; it spoke of a desperation to grasp how things had spiraled so out of control.

Kim thought for a minute about what Kerry had told her. "So you think since you wanted to shut the sweat-shop down, it's your fault that the owners set a fire and people died." Kerry nodded. The wheels were turning in Kim's mind. "What would you have said to Carter if he had made the call?"

Kerry flinched in surprise. "What?"

"Carter, you know, John Carter. What if John had called the authorities, and the same thing happened?"

Kerry looked down at her hands. "He wouldn't have done it." A tear slid down her cheek as she imagined Carter's response. "He would have assessed the situation, maybe he'd have seen something I missed. He would have swept it under the rug, you know, lost some paperwork. He knows how to color outside the lines, too. Like you do."

Kim just sighed. "Maybe. Maybe not. You don't know that for sure. No one can predict what anyone will do in any situation. If you had done nothing, you'd still be feeling guilty for not trying to help--it was a lose-lose situation that you had no part in creating." Kim paused for a breath and contemplated the sad face before her. 

The tears were flowing freely down Kerry's face now. "But if I just hadn't followed procedure so closely like I always do, this would never have happened. If I could have kept my big mouth shut for a change those people--"

"Might have been injured again tomorrow. And the day after. And been worked obscene hours for a pittance, and been taken advantage of indefinitely." Kim caressed Kerry's soft cheek. "You did not light that fire, Kerry. You'd be responsible for the loss of life if you had gone to that sweat-shop, lit a match and set the fire." She paused, hoping against hope that this was sinking in. "The person responsible for the deaths of the workers was the person who lit the match, Kerry. Not you. Not you."

Kerry's breath was hitching in her chest painfully. "But I still feel like I made the wrong decision. I mean, what am I going to do the next time this happens? The next time I have to make any kind of choice like this? I have no idea! How do I follow the rules when anyone can change them whenever they feel like it?" Sobs started wracking her body even as the words kept coming. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do tomorrow, or the next day, or ever if I can't be sure I'm making the right choices for my patients." She looked up at Kim. "I don't know what to do."

Kim leaned her forehead against Kerry's. "I wish I had an answer for you, honey. Believe me, I wish I could make this all go away. But it's not something you'll be able to just fix overnight. It will take time for you to figure some things out, and you won't be able to rush it." Kim reached out and took Kerry's hand in hers. "But I'll be here, to talk to you, and I'll hold your hand when you need me." 

The kindness in Kim's voice shattered the last bit of composure Kerry had, and Kim caught her as she collapsed into her arms. She rocked Kerry as she cried, cooing softly in her ear and stroking her hair. All Kim could do was wait, and she felt enormous relief that Kerry had come to her instead of going home to torture herself and mourn silently. It was a great gift, this trust Kerry had shown. Her own eyes stung as she felt the river of tears seeping into her shirt and on to her skin, and she crossed her fingers that Kerry would listen to and understand all Kim had said.

After an interminable time, Kerry finally started to calm down, and her breathing slowly returned to normal. She pulled away slightly to wipe her nose indelicately on her sleeve. "Thank you, Kim. I- I don't deserve you."

Kim shook her head, once again marveling at Kerry's lack of confidence. She took Kerry's face in her hands and ran trembling lips gently along her hairline, murmuring, "Yes, you do, Ker. You deserve everything." 

Self-awareness was starting to return as Kerry took in Kim's rather informal attire as though seeing it for the first time. She noted the tearstains and faint streaks of supposedly waterproof mascara on her shirt. "I'm sorry, I've practically soaked you," she apologized, then stopped. "You're wearing a Bewitched shirt," she uttered, staring at it as if it were an entirely foreign object in her universe. 

Kim's eyebrows arched. "Ye-es," she replied slowly.

And Kerry smiled for the first time in hours. "I like it. It suits you."

Kim had the sudden urge to thank the heavens that Kerry hadn't called ahead of time. This was now her new favorite shirt. "I'm glad you like it." Embarrassment crept up on Kim as she watched Kerry take in the sorry state of her apartment. "Um, I was cleaning when you called. It's kind of a mess in here."

Kerry sighed and rested her head on Kim's shoulder in exhaustion. "It's perfect as is." She swallowed and gathered her courage. "You're here; that's all that matters to me."

Kim felt the words as a physical jolt. Sometimes Kerry had a remarkable way of saying the most wonderful thing at the most unexpected time. Wordlessly she wrapped her arms around the small figure and held on, her throat closing with emotion. She sighed after a moment. "I know you're not done with this, Kerry. You need time, and I don't want you pretending everything is all right now that you've had a good cry." She continued running her fingers through Kerry's hair, rocking her in a loose embrace. "If you feel badly, tell me. I'll listen, I promise."

Kerry picked up her head from its resting place. She smoothed her hand down Kim's cheek and answered, "I believe you." She quirked a half smile. "I'll try."

Kim nodded once. "That's all I can ask." Glancing at the clock on the bookshelf, she made a decision. Looking intently into Kerry's eyes, she said, "You're staying here tonight. It's past midnight, it's snowing, and you're miserable. I want to keep my eye on you, Dr. Weaver, so I'm admitting you for overnight observation." She immediately recognized the stiffening in Kerry's posture as complete panic. 'Those eyes hide nothing, Weaver. Do you realize how much I see when you look at me?' Chuckling, she added, "Don't worry, Doc, I'm *putting* you to bed, not taking you to bed." For emphasis, she leaned closer and whispered seductively into her ear, "Believe me, you'll know the difference when it happens." Astonishingly, Kim could actually feel the path of the shudder that ran the entire course of Kerry's body. Kim licked her lips in response, and reminded herself that this was not the time. No matter how delicious and enticing the thought was. Save it for later. There's nothing like a little delayed gratification to make it all worthwhile. 

"You take my room, okay? You've caught me on a good day--the sheets are clean since I just did laundry for the first time in six months." At Kerry's blank look, she laughed, "I'm kidding. But I did do laundry for a change. It's silly for me not to have my own machine here, since I have the hook-ups and everything. It's strictly out of laziness, I assure you." Kim stood and headed for the closet to grab a pillow and extra blanket for the couch. In Kim's mind it registered that Kerry hadn't even put up a fight; she was so distracted by the evening's events she didn't even think to argue. 

Meanwhile, Kerry still sat in the chair with a slightly dazed look in her eye. "You want me to sleep in your bed?"

Kim licked her lips again. She needed an ice cold glass of water as soon as possible. "Unless you plan on sharing the sofa with me, which probably isn't the best idea. It's really not built for two." 'At least in these circumstances,' flashed through her mind. 'Ugh, stop it!' 

That finally got Kerry to her feet after leaning to the floor to retrieve her crutch. "No, no, don't be ridiculous. I'll stay on the couch. Or," she hesitated uncertainly, "or we could share your bed. We're both adults. I trust you." 

"Don't worry about it, Ker. I fall asleep out here all the time." 'Liar,' the little voice in her head whispered. "It's not a problem."

Suddenly Kerry wished Kim would change her mind and stay with her in the bed. The thought of Kim's smooth skin next to hers sent a frisson of heat through her, reminding her of the daydreams she'd indulged in recently. The nausea Kerry had been fighting all night suddenly shifted in a new direction as her stomach twisted with want. She watched Kim flitting back and forth between the living room and bedroom with wide eyes, consciously focusing on *her* instead of the war going on in her mind.

After a couple of minutes, Kim returned. "Okay, it's all ready. I've left towels and stuff in the bathroom if you want to shower or take a bath. I don't have an extra toothbrush, but," Kim smiled rather sheepishly, "you can use mine if you like. Unless, of course, you think that's gross." She grimaced and kept on going, while Kerry approached her cautiously. "I can run down to the 7-11 if you want me to get you a new one, and I can pick you up some things, shampoo, or soap, or coffee, since I don't have any coffee in the house. I'm sorry, I just don't like it. I have diet coke, or water, or milk..."

By this time Kerry was standing right in front of her and had placed her free hand behind Kim's neck. Her babbling lost steam as the hand pulled her head down, and Kerry's lips met hers. It wasn't their first kiss, or even their second, but it was the first in private, with no possibility of interruption. 

The first she barely counted; that hasty, aborted attempt to get Kerry to understand her intentions. The next was an intense, fumbling encounter in the parking garage after the Magoo's evening. It was brief, but extremely memorable. Kerry's single-mindedness when it came to expressing exactly how she felt about Kim thrilled her. Kim hadn't known what to expect, really. But to physically be the focus of all of Kerry's considerable energy and enthusiasm had put any fears about compatibility to rest. Those few minutes had fueled a week's worth of dreams, and only whetted her appetite for more.

Now more was here, but it was so different than before. Kerry was thanking her, slipping her arms around Kim's waist, drawing her closer. Kim thought the top of her head would come off, it felt so good. She slid her hands into Kerry's hair and cherished this moment, this woman who offered her kiss so generously. Kim's tongue tenderly explored Kerry's mouth, and the response was reciprocal. She felt the heat rising in her, flowing through her limbs as her muscles relaxed into the circle of Kerry's arms. 'This is what I wanted. This is what I've always wanted.' She pulled back a bit, not wishing to push her luck. 'Not now, Kim. Just a little longer.' She nuzzled Kerry's cheek, then that velvet patch of skin under her ear. She whispered, "You should sleep, Ker. You have to rest."

Kerry only burrowed further into Kim's arms. "This is restful."

Kim laughed. "If this is restful I can't wait to see energetic." She kissed Kerry's ear. "Come on, I'll tuck you in." She knew Kerry was only trying to think about something other than the fire, and that was fine with her. "Are you on tomorrow?"

Kerry stiffened at the thought of going back to the hospital. Kim led her to the bed and they sat on the edge of it. "Yeah. I'm on at four in the afternoon." Her head drooped between her shoulder blades as fatigue set in.

Kim stroked her hand. "Okay. I'm on at nine. I'm sure I'll end up waking you, so I apologize ahead of time." She leaned in and kissed Kerry's cheek softly, lingering for a few moments. " I want you to try and sleep. Will you do that for me?"

A slight bob of the head was the answer. Kerry opened her mouth as if to speak, then hesitated. 

"What is it?" Kim asked.

Turning to her, Kerry asked, "Will you stay with me for a little while?" 

Kim's breath caught in her throat at the openness of such a simple question. The expression on Kerry's face was filled with insecurity, and Kim was quick to answer. "Of course I will. You just go get ready and I'll be here when you're done." Again Kerry nodded and walked to the bathroom. When the door closed, Kim shot across the room and pulled off her clothes, opting for sweatpants and a clean t-shirt. She'd left a similar change of clothes in the bathroom for Kerry. She paced around the room for a bit, listening to the splashes of water going on behind the door. Butterflies were making a ruckus in her stomach, despite the knowledge that nothing was going to happen tonight. But just the thought of having Kerry so close was enough to send her nerves through the roof. 

Finally, Kerry emerged, her face scrubbed clean, her eyes still as red as they'd been when she first arrived. Kim smiled a little on her way into the bathroom, brushing her hand in passing. She quickly went through her nightly routine, and grinned when she noticed her toothbrush was wet. 'I guess she doesn't think it's that gross.' By the time she was done, the nervousness had abated, and she tried to focus on how to help Kerry sleep. 

Kerry was wrapped up in the comforter in a little ball, waiting patiently for Kim's appearance. After leaving the bathroom, Kim padded out for a moment, hitching the door chain and turning out the lights. She came back and switched off the bedside lamp, her hands shaking faintly. The only illumination was coming through the semi-closed blinds, and the light reflected from the snowy streets gave the room an unearthly blue tint. Gingerly Kim crawled behind Kerry, close enough to touch but not enough to smother. "Good night, Ker."

"G'night," a strangled voice replied. Kim heard the tears in her voice, and slowly began to run her fingers through the soft red hair lying inches from her face. Touch was the best comfort she could offer, and after a few minutes, Kim heard a muted sound of pleasure escape from Kerry's throat. "That feels so good."

"I'm glad," she said, nuzzling her nose into the back of Kerry's neck. She continued her ministrations, memorizing the scent and feel of the small body resting so close. Some time later, Kim recognized the sound of deep, even breathing, realizing Kerry had finally dropped off to sleep. 'I'll stay a little longer, just to be sure,' she told herself. Her eyelids drooped, and her fingers gradually slowed their faint movement. With one hand resting on Kerry's hip and the other tangled in her hair, Kim closed her eyes and joined Kerry in slumber.

The End

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