DISCLAIMER: ER is the property of Constant C Productions, Amblin Entertainment, and Warner Brothers Television.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This useless piece has absolutely nothing to do with anything I've written in the ER continuum. It's just a place for some dialogue that I couldn't conceivably fit anywhere else.
SPOILERS: Situated somewhere after Rampage and before the Season 8 madness commences.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To sbowers04[at]yahoo.com
Recasting the Primal Scene
By Sharon Bowers
Chapter One: Writing it off as a one night stand
It certainly wasn't the first time she had woken up and wondered what the hell had happened. Nor was it the first time she had eased herself away from a peacefully slumbering body in the middle of the night to slink away and contemplate the many failings that had brought her to this point. Two things, however, marked this night as vastly different from any other she had passed.
The first was her reluctance to abandon the figure stretched out on the dark field of burgundy, the blankets pushed away to reveal a golden length of skin over whose smoothness the moon seemed delighted to linger.
The second was that Abby Lockhart was fatally, irrevocably stone cold sober.
She couldn't blame what had happened on the booze or the things that had driven her to seek solace in alcohol in the first place. Which meant that she couldn't blame her mother who was gathering up the scattered pieces of her own life in Minnesota now. Nor could she blame her ambivalence over just about everything these days-- from returning to medical school to her future, or lack of one, with Luka.
Somehow she was going to have to deal with the reality that for one impulsive moment, one of the desires she kept hidden in the lockbox of her psyche had escaped-- and in a sensually carnal instant What if... became Why not... which became, in turn, Please, now...
And she had reveled in every hedonistic, indulgent second of it.
Tugging her jeans over skin sensitized to the brush and caress of graceful hands, once more she turned to contemplate her lover's oblivious somnolence. The venetian blinds played coy with the beauty she saw there-- shyly concealing one slip of flesh while decadently revealing another. Transfixed, Abby followed the blinds' progression, her hand tentatively reaching out to stroke the satiny skin covering the delicate rise of the crest of ilium and the coxal articulation joining long leg to slender hip.
"You keep doing that and you're gonna blow your clean getaway."
Though the low illumination dimmed the brilliance of the blue eyes looking back at her, nothing could hide the glimmering amusement and quiet concern in Kim Legaspi's eyes.
"You suggesting that I sabotaged myself?" Abby asked ruefully.
Kim shrugged, her bare shoulders moving lightly against the dark sheet. "I think I'm suggesting that maybe you don't want to leave." A hesitant pause, another graceful smile-- self-deprecating and enticing all at once. "At least that's what I'm hoping."
Lazy fingers captured the hand that still had not stopped stroking her skin and tugged gently. Abby allowed her legs to give way beneath her, the slow fall cushioned by Kim's welcoming arms even as she protested, "I should get going."
"Why?" The question a patient murmur, lips brushing over eyelids that fluttered shut at the touch.
"Don't ask me that."
An arch of fine brows punctuated the silent question.
"Because if we get all introspective, I'm not going to be able to write this off as a one-night stand."
"Ah... that would be complicating matters, wouldn't it?"
Abby blinked at the ironic tone in Kim's voice, contrasting strongly with the reality of both their lives. She didn't know the exact sequence of events that had driven Kim Legaspi into bed with her, but she knew good and damn well the motivating factor wasn't true romance. "You going to tell me you think we should fall in love?"
"No..." Kim confessed. "But what's wrong with having some seriously casual sex?"
"I never knew you were such a pragmatist."
"Abby, as much as I love some of the delightful ways that you bend... at heart you're a straight girl."
"Not to mention you seem to have a reputation as someone who has trouble committing to a conversation."
"Using a word like commitment around a psych is a dangerous thing," she demurred.
"Your repartee skills aren't in question here, Kim... So put the rapier down," Abby commanded brusquely, somehow wanting to get behind the facade of control that hadn't slipped even when Kim was spread naked beneath her, skin slick with sweat, voice hoarse with desire. "You asked the question."
"You think you should be going because I'm a bad relationship risk?"
"I think I should be going because this has the potential to turn into something I can't handle." A measured truth of sorts. Bad relationship risk or not, Kim's heart belonged elsewhere-- whereas her own equivocation was threatening to take her down a path that would lead to nothing but more pain. "If I stay, this becomes more than a one-night-stand-thing..."
"It becomes a morning-after-thing," Kim finished for her.
"And a when-we-see-each-other-in-the-hospital-thing. And a what-do-I-tell-Luka-thing..."
"Not to mention a-how-the-hell-does-Carter-fit-into-this-thing." Abby did a double-take and rolled onto her back, sighing in exhaustion. In response, Kim smoothly entwined her long form around Abby's slighter length, her head coming to rest on Abby's stomach. She chuckled at the nurse's quizzical expression and teased kisses along her lover's abdomen. "Oh come on, you can't think I'm the only one people talk about in that hospital? The place is a cesspool for nourishing rumors. Especially one that juicy."
"And they're saying..?"
"That Carter's got it bad for you, but you won't give him the time of day."
"Sounds about right." She snorted. "For once."
Kim lifted her head, blue eyes peering intently at the woman above her. "You let him help you with Maggie," she said by way of contradiction.
"You helped me with Maggie too," Abby pointed out.
"Well... that is sort of what I do for a living." Not bothering to point out the obvious concerning their current situation.
"And you track all patients' family members down and give them unsolicited advice?"
"Which you weren't exactly receptive to."
"No..." Abby admitted. "But I took it, just the same."
"I'm glad." The honest sincerity in Kim's tone brought Abby up short. So much of their time together had been The Art of War in application-- feint and parry, advance and retreat. Tonight, however, their lovemaking had confirmed the tenderness that bled through all of her professional interactions was something innate and fundamental to Kim's core-- the cavalier insouciance she projected simply part of a facade protecting... what? Abby wondered, not for the first time.
Without thinking, she pulled Kim towards her, tracing her thumbs lightly down the sharp arc of Kim's cheekbones, exploring the square cut of her jaw, the tiny cleft in her chin. Golden hair was burnished bronze by the early morning hour; the curls an orchestrated chaos of sorts, showcasing two crystalline eyes and a dazzling mouth.
The face as work of art.
"You're so very beautiful," she murmured, realizing she spoke aloud only when Kim turned her face into Abby's palm and pressed a kiss into the heel of her hand.
"I never know what to say when someone tells me that."
"I'm sure you've thought of something over the years," Abby teased, provoking a severely arched brow from the woman draped across her.
Slipping away from Abby, but leaving their legs coiled together loosely; Kim leaned on one elbow, propping her head in her hand. "I'm not responsible for winning the genetic lottery," she replied in a light, albeit slightly annoyed, tone.
"You won just the same."
"And you think it privileges me."
"I think the world privileges beautiful people as a rule, yes."
Kim opened her mouth to speak, but seemed to think better of it, shaking her head and offering a wry smile in place of the words she had discarded. "You have an odd idea of pillow talk, lady."
Intrigued by Kim's uncharacteristically clumsy attempt to bat the subject aside, Abby perversely pursued it. "This really bothers you."
"There are all kinds of outside."
"As in don't judge a book by its cover?"
"As in being there looking in. I've done my time."
Abby regarded her for a moment before shaking her head in denial. "Why do I find that hard to believe?"
"Because you buy into what the world promises having this face and this body means," Kim answered without rancor. "But honestly... it doesn't mean a damn thing. There will always been some people who put me up on a pedestal because of it, others who will completely discount me because it contradicts what they think I should be, and still more who want to use me to fill whatever void they have in their own lives." She turned onto her back, staring at the ceiling and avoiding Abby's gaze. "This face has very little to do with who I am."
It was the oddest admission of vulnerability Abby had ever heard; and though she knew Kim would deny it as such, she couldn't help being moved by the words. She leaned over the woman whose body and mind she had only begun to decipher. "Nonetheless... you wear it well."
Seeming to recognize the gesture for what it was, Kim captured Abby's mouth with her own, sapping the breath from the nurse's body with a searing kiss. "That mean I don't come across as a complete basket case?"
Her own line of reasoning reduced to its most base level by the taste of herself on Kim's lips, Abby could only shake her head in sort of a dazed amazement. "What on earth are you talking about?"
Kim chuckled darkly, whether from her effect on the woman on top of her or for more nefarious and unfathomable reasons, Abby couldn't discern. "Well, let's see... in the last three months I was suspended and fired..."
"Exonerated and rehired..."
"The woman I'm madly in love with only acknowledged her feelings in a letter after we broke up..."
"At least you knew she felt the same..."
"And for my most recent accomplishment, I've managed to become the transitional girl for a woman going from a bad relationship to a worse one."
Abby's hands abruptly ceased the meanderings they had begun across Kim's torso. "What's that supposed to mean?"
Kim merely arched a brow in reply.
"You think that I've decided to leave Luka and use you as an excuse to do it?"
"That wasn't my thesis exactly, but interesting that you should characterize it that way."
"Interesting Dr. Legaspi should decide to reappear now of all times," Abby shot back, rearing off Kim only to be caught up in the other woman's arms.
"Now don't go getting all bent out of shape."
Half-convinced that she should have fled when she had the chance, Abby nevertheless allowed herself to be soothed by the deceptively gentle strength in Kim's arms and the psychiatrist's unwavering gaze. Kim had never soft-pedaled anything with her, not even when discussing Maggie's chances to survive another depressive cycle as severe as this most recent one. It only stood to reason that she wouldn't begin to do so now. "I'm not using you," she said quietly, uncertain of why it was so important that Kim know this.
The other woman's face softened into a smile whose openness threatened to snatch what reason Abby had left. "I never thought you were." Her fingers traced random paths over the exposed skin they discovered, alternately stroking relaxation and renewed arousal into the small woman's body. "But I do think you-- or at least some part of you-- has decided to leave Luka." She hesitated, ducking her head. "And that decision was what gave you permission to act on... what was between us."
"Between us?" Abby couldn't help but smile at the description.
"Oh come on." She rolled her eyes. "You can't possibly think that all that antagonism was over Maggie?"
"You saying you were hot for me all along?"
"I'm saying you were hot for me all along," Kim contradicted, settling herself more firmly along Abby's side. The rough jeans pressed tightly along both their bodies, and Abby wondered if Kim found the contrast as strangely enticing as she did. "Not that I'm complaining, mind you. I'm rather enjoying the muscle fatigue."
"Never let it be said that you lack self-confidence."
"Am I wrong?" A genuine question lurked behind the teasing banter and the brightness in Kim's eyes; and again, Abby longed to know what forces had shaped the woman in her arms, whether Kim had bent herself toward or away from their will in her search for self.
"No, not wrong," she admitted softly, bringing Kim's lips to hers once more and losing herself in the subtle exploration of texture and shape so different from other lovers she had known. It was a lazy drawl of a kiss, their mouths more than familiar with each other now-- opening willingly, joyously to one another. Kim approached kissing with a kind of reverence alien to Abby, somehow managing to imbue that single, fragile gesture with a desire and passion that left them both, quite literally, breathless.
Tangling her fingers in the golden mane, Abby urged Kim higher-- groaning into their kiss when she felt Kim's legs part and her thigh slip between them. At the same time, the tight press of Kim's leg against seam of her jeans enflamed already dangerously sensitive nerves and threatened to swamp her precarious resolve. Her back arched towards Kim's fingers as they slipped down slick skin in the infinitesimal space between their bodies. The buttons of her fly gave way as Kim roughly broke their kiss, pulling back on her heels to jerk the denim swiftly over Abby's hips and toss it to the bottom of the bed, where the sheets and blankets had long ago been relegated.
"I thought I was leaving." Though the protest seemed token even to her own ears.
A fervid intensity glittered in the sapphire brilliance of Kim's eyes as she swept back up Abby's body, entwining their legs once more and wrenching an audible gasp from the woman beneath her. "You can leave later."
"If I don't leave now, I won't." Her gaze locked on Kim's-- the words a subtle warning, plea and promise.
Kim hesitated only a moment before murmuring into a void that was abruptly filled by the taste and touch of her mouth on Abby's. "Then stay."
Chapter Two: "Welcome to the morning-after-thing."
"You don't strike me as a 70s-AM-Gold kind of lady."
The wry comment brought Kim from the shallows of her slumber and into awareness of the tinny sound of Peter Frampton trying to drown out thousands of caterwauling teenagers with only his reedy voice. "Only the sound of something I loathe is powerful enough to drag me out of bed every morning," she rejoined, opening her eyes with difficulty and grinning at the sight in front of her. "Especially when it would be so easy to get distracted."
Abby was sprawled gracefully on top of her, both women having fallen asleep where they lay after making love for the last time-- which she reckoned, if the alarm clock's digital readout wasn't teasing them, wasn't much over two hours ago. Kim let out a jaw-popping yawn and stretched her arms in the air, relishing the glorious soreness answering her movement. "Welcome to the morning-after-thing," she said softly, lifting her head to brush a gentle kiss over Abby's lips.
"Ah... that would be what this is, isn't it?"
"How're you handling it?"
"I hate to break it to you, Kim, but you're not the first woman I've been in bed with." Kim managed to contain the jolt of surprise to her limbic system within just a mild arch of her brows, but the gesture wasn't lost to Abby. "Ten years of serious drinking managed to put me in some... ah... interesting... situations," she elaborated.
"But, I'd hazard a guess that I'm the first one you've woken up to?" Not sure why she wanted to differentiate this morning from those other encounters.
Abby inclined her head. "You'd be right about that."
"Is this an official consult?" Abby asked instead of replying. "Cause if it is, maybe we should meet back later in your office."
Accepting the gentle rebuke with a rueful smile, Kim glanced at the clock again and reluctantly released Abby from their embrace. ""Speaking of which... I'm on in an hour and a half."
"That makes two of us."
"Can I interest you in a scenic tour of my bath facilities?"
"Will you promise to keep your hands to yourself?"
"Good. Then you're on." Abby kissed her again swiftly and slipped out of bed, padding towards the bathroom. Kim remained supine, shamelessly enjoying the view until Abby shut the door on her with a roll of her eyes. Usually camouflaged by shapeless scrubs or bulky leather coats, the nurse's unexpectedly lush curves had been something of a revelation that she had delighted in discovering and had hastened to explore. The sense memory of those well-defined legs wrapped around her waist roiled through Kim's musculature, tiny neurons sparking in recalled pleasure.
Shaking her head to dispel the momentary paralysis, she rolled over and slapped the clock radio off. "You probably want to go ahead and turn the shower on," she called over her shoulder. "It takes a couple minutes for the water to heat up."
A muffled, unintelligible reply-- followed by the sound of rushing water-- emanated from behind the closed door.
Guessing that Abby would probably want to take care of some necessities before jumping into the shower, Kim made her way into the living room-- where the sight of her jeans flung haphazardly under the coffee table brought her up short. Unexpectedly, the substantial weight of what she had done last night came to rest somberly on her bare shoulders. While she had long ago reconciled herself to having a tempestuous nature that sometimes overrode her better judgment, she wasn't sure she could completely attribute last night to one of those times.
Maybe the concealed world of hurt bleeding out through sienna eyes too knowing for their own good had gotten to her. Maybe their resonance was an echo of a shared pain, acknowledged and cauterized by this healing touch. Or maybe it was just her own heartsore weariness of seeing Kerry every day and being unable to move on, despite her protestations to the contrary. Whatever the reason-- an enmeshed coil of conflicting emotions, motives, and needs had all conspired to bring her to this point, and she couldn't bring herself to regret it.
"Water's ready." A voice behind her, and Kim turned to see Abby leaning around the door frame. She watched the subtle register of her own contemplative expression in the other woman's eyes. "You okay?"
Kim managed an easy smile and shrugged. "I was going to put some coffee on."
"We can have coffee later," Abby replied, reaching out and linking their hands, tugging Kim gently away from the melancholy precipice of her thoughts.
She allowed herself to be led into the steaming shower, folding her arms around Abby's slighter shape from behind and letting the water rush over their twinned forms. "You're so very small," she murmured in the nurse's ear.
"I didn't notice you complaining before," Abby teased, resting her head against Kim's chest.
"That's because I wasn't," she replied dryly. "It's just..." She hesitated-- a newfound tenderness resting uneasily amid the scattered debris of her feelings for Kerry and the renegade hope that things between them might change. Conversations about pragmatism and seriously casual sex aside, Kim knew Abby Lockhart wasn't a woman to be trifled with; but she had no idea how to incorporate this change into the daily functioning of her life. Unthinkingly she tightened her embrace, nuzzling the warm pulse point in Abby's neck and shutting her eyes to the impossibility of the situation.
Turning in their embrace, Abby twined her arms around Kim's neck and pulled the taller woman down for a lingering kiss. "Shh...." she whispered between lazy tangles of their lips.
Droplets of water traced serpentine paths down the slender breadth of Abby's shoulders, and Kim lightly echoed their movements with her fingers. "This mean I don't have to have all the answers?"
"I don't know how you could, Kim. God knows I don't."
At this, Kim yielded to the persuasive strength of Abby's mouth once more; allowing herself to delve deeper into the uncertainty of what was between them-- bypassing the ephemeral notion of what ought to be and instead tethering herself to the undeniable reality of their physical connection. She pulled Abby still closer, hands spreading touching meeting over the expanse of her back. The slick slip of wet skin on skin washed away the trace evidence of the night before; leaving, however, the resonance of their need firmly intact.
Long moments were lost to the arch and flex of taste and touch, fueling a fascination with each other's flesh that hadn't yet begun to be exhausted.
"Time..." Abby gasped.
"Right..." Kim groaned into her mouth, hand blindly groping for the shower knob and shutting it off. Silence replaced the roar of pounding water, disturbed only by their ragged breathing and a single, shared and unblinking gaze. "That's a hell of a way to start the morning," she managed, unable to wipe the suddenly blossoming grin off her face.
"I'll say," Abby agreed wryly, pushing the shower door open and reaching for the towels Kim had laid out. "Next time set the alarm for earlier."
Arching a curious brow at the nurse's casual words, Kim silently accepted the towel Abby offered her. Briskly drying her long form, she wrapped the towel around her waist and padded into the walk in closet. "You need something to wear?"
"Just a shirt or something for under my... whoa." Abby stopped dead in her tracks, looking around at the wonderment that was Kim's closet. "You actually wear all this?"
Kim chuckled at the less-than-unusual-reaction and shook her head. "From sixteen on, I've been pretty much the same size. And my friends accuse me of having not thrown anything out since." She nodded her head at the right side of the closet, where an indeterminate number of pairs of black slacks and gracefully tailored blouses hung. "That's usually what I wear. The rest..." she gestured loosely. "Help yourself."
"You do realize that you could go to a costume party every day and not ever have to rent anything, don't you?" Kim shot her a mildly scathing look and turned to snag a blouse and slacks at random from the rack. "Not that one," Abby said over her shoulder. Obligingly, Kim moved her hand away from the pale green shirt and slightly to the right, where it hovered over a royal blue silk blouse.
"Care to elaborate?"
Abby shrugged, ducking her head as she turned away to contemplate the wall of fabric in front of her. "I like you in blue."
It occurred to Kim to ask if that had been the reason Luka had been looking so dapper of late; but somehow, the idea of them both bearing Abby's imprimatur was oddly unsettling. Shrugging off the ghost of her discomfort, she watched Abby pull an all-too-familiar blouse off the rack. "Uh...." she started, then stopped, unsure of how to say what came next."You probably don't want to wear that," she finally suggested.
Mild intrigue coloring her dark eyes, Abby cocked her head. "Do I want to know why?"
"Because it belongs to Kerry. And while I don't think she'll recognize you wearing one of my blouses, I'm not willing to make that same wager concerning one of her own." She had been aiming for a wry and mildly amused bit of banter, but Kerry's name was an internal wrench to her solar plexus; and her words emerged hoarser and far more blunt than she had intended. Worst of all, none of it was lost to Abby's alert gaze. Feeling foolishly exposed, she jerked a pair of slacks over her hips, irritably aware of herself flushing darkly under the benign scrutiny.
"She is everywhere in your life, isn't she?" Abby said softly, erasing the few steps between them; cool fingers brushing across her blazing cheeks. "Still."
"We never... ended," Kim admitted, shaking her head-- whether in disbelief or denial, she wasn't sure. "Not really."
"You just stopped," Abby remarked.
"There wasn't anywhere else for us to go. I couldn't live the way she needed to; and she couldn't live any other way."
"That's changing," the nurse pointed out.
"The damage is done. I wouldn't know how to begin to repair it even if I had the chance."
"And do you? Want the chance?"
"I can't answer that." She crossed her arms defensively. "And I'm a little surprised that you'd ask the question given what we were up to last night."
Abby bit her lip ruefully. "You know what they say about fools rushing in."
"This your way of saying no one's ever accused you of being an angel?"
"That's an excellent assumption. But actually it was more of a comment on my own idiotic behavior." Abby grinned at her and broke their gaze, hair falling softly in her eyes as she dropped her head.
Of its own volition, her hand reached out to brush back the chestnut locks and lingered on the gentle curve of Abby's cheek. "Regrets already?"
A soft sigh of exhalation brushed over her fingertips, and she watched Abby's mouth twist in dark humor. "Yes..." She nodded wearily. "No..." Entwined their hands. "Yes..." Pulled her down for a quiet kiss. "No..." Their lips joined in silent communion, seeking a reassurance that their hearts and minds couldn't provide.
"I know..." Kim whispered as Abby wrapped her arms tightly around her and brought her head to rest against the reassuring breadth of Kim's shoulder. "I don't know what we're going to do about it..." She brushed her lips over the crown of Abby's bowed head. "But... yeah... I get it."
Chapter Three: Across a Crowded Room
"I missed you last night." The words were endearingly sweet, murmured low and away from everyone else's hearing-- but somehow they still rang flatly in Abby's sullen ears. She chafed under the combination of pleasure and tenderness in his gaze, uncomfortable with the awareness of having been naked in someone else's bed less than three hours ago. Unsettled by the great desire to do nothing more than return there.
She mustered a smile that must not have been as convincing as she thought it was, for a tiny furrow formed in his brow. "Sorry," she shrugged helplessly. "I should have called... it just got so late."
"You had a good time?"
"She's an interesting woman," Abby allowed, though a part of her snickered that interesting wasn't the half of it.
"That surprises you?"
"No. It's just..." Treading carefully, she elaborated, "I think a lot of people get distracted by the obvious with her." She laughed. "Of course, anyone who can convince my mother that therapy is a good thing is a genius in my book. So maybe I'm not the best one to say."
"I'd say Kerry would agree with you." Luka nodded with his chin at the admit desk, where Kim and Kerry stood talking. A consult of some sort, Abby guessed, from the way Kim was gesticulating broadly with the chart in her hand.
"We didn't discuss Kerry," she replied quickly. Too quickly, she realized, watching the quirk of his brows.
"No." Not until this morning-- when the single, heartbroken catch in Kim's throat as she tried to say her ex-lover's name told Abby more than she ever needed to know about the nature of the psychiatrist's feelings for the Chief of Emergency Medicine. "Do you and Kerry talk about Kim?"
Luka smiled wryly. "Kerry's not much for... that kind of talk."
"And you think Kim is?"
He seemed taken aback by the vehemence in her tone. "Abby, is something wrong?"
"I just don't understand why you feel the need to interrogate me about my dinner with Kim Legaspi," she snapped sharply, using the blonde's full name to distance herself from the visceral recall of having called out Kim's name under other, far more intimate, circumstances.
"I wasn't..." he started, then stopped, shaking his head. "I'll talk to you later, okay?"
Abby watched him walk away from her with a curious mixture of frustration, sadness, and relief. Luka wasn't to fault for her own impulsive actions last night, nor was he to blame for renegade urge to repeat them. Those two little truths, however, didn't stop her from taking her confusion out on him-- and for that, she was truly sorry. Sighing and rubbing a weary hand over her brow, she wandered towards the admit desk and the lean figure that had been in her peripheral vision the entire time.
Kim had been aware of Abby and Luka's quiet presence from the moment she had arrived in the ER; however, her attention had been more than diverted by her own wary tango of a conversation with Kerry. Over these last weeks, they had been in the process of regaining some professional equilibrium; but-- for Kim at least-- everything had been thrown into dramatic disarray once more by the act of taking Abby Lockhart to bed. Shaking her head to dispel the conflict roiling in her thoughts, Kim took one look at the woman beside her and realized she wasn't alone on the ocean of uncertainty. "You okay?"
Abby chuckled wryly. "I look that bad?"
"Nope," Kim assured her. "But I did see Luka walking away from you with a frown on his face." She paused, wrapping her arms around her ubiquitous clipboard. "Which, I understand, is Croatian for I just had a huge fight with my girlfriend."
"You must speak the language better than I can."
"He being broody and inscrutable?"
"No..." she paused. "That would be me," she admitted.
"This is harder than I expected."
"Tell me about it," she muttered, her next thought interrupted by Kerry's returning presence across the desk.
"His parents want to talk to you. You mind?" Kerry looked at her expectantly, oblivious to the significance of the woman standing beside her ex-lover-- and Kim suddenly found herself wondering what Moliere would have done with this.
"Be right there," she called over her shoulder, choking down a snort of cynical laughter and then returning her gaze to Abby. Her fingers surreptitiously brushed the nurse's arm in tacit acknowledgment and support. "We'll manage," she whispered, moving briskly past the slender figure.
"Not like we have much choice."
Kim rolled her eyes as the dry comment drifted into her hearing and shook her head. Joining Kerry on the other side of the admit desk, she fought the urge to flush under her ex-lover's curious glance. "She okay?"
Despite the casual tone, Kim realized with a sinking heart that maybe Kerry wasn't oblivious as she had hoped. "Just having a bad day," she remarked lightly. "And she needed to see a friendly face. Where are the parents?"
"They're with him now. I told them to step outside when they were ready to talk to you." Kerry paused a moment, stuffed her hands in her lab coat pockets. "I didn't realize you two had gotten so close."
Despite the sirens wailing dangerously in her head, something in Kim refused to back away from Kerry's determinedly interested question. Though she had serious reservations about the wisdom of what had happened last night, she wasn't ashamed of anything they had done-- and she certainly wasn't going to hide the genuiness of their friendship and the respect she had for Abby. "Maybe she thinks of me as someone she can trust," she replied evenly. "After all, I was in the middle of everything that happened with Maggie."
"And she's okay with that? That you treated her mother?"
Kim shook her head irritably at the assumption. "She's not a patient, Kerry. She's a friend. We had dinner last night." Not sure why she added this last.
Kerry ducked her head, seemingly lost in contemplation of the scuff marks on the tile floor. "Oh."
"We didn't talk about you," she added awkwardly, not wanting Kerry to think she had betrayed any of her ex-lover's confidences.
"You could have," Kerry said quietly. "If you had wanted to." A pause. "Or needed to."
White noise roared in the back of Kim's head-- confusion, doubt, along with the omnipresent urge to tilt the downcast head upwards and claim the tentative heart of the other woman as her own warred with the molten awareness of how opening her body to Abby's questing hands and mouth had chased away the shadows that coiled around her soul. If only for a night. Perhaps that was the pull, she realized, she hadn't needed to say anything to Abby. Somehow... the other woman just knew, and that was enough. To be understood, to need; and to understand and to accept someone else's need in return. "Kerry... There's something..."
Both women jerked their heads towards the intruding sound of a man's hesitant tenor. Kerry's face immediately reassumed the professional mask that had dropped so briefly, and Kim shook her head, knowing the moment was lost. As she turned to greet the middle-aged couple emerging from Exam 1, she caught Abby looking at her with an inscrutable expression coloring her curved features. She managed a quick smile in the nurse's direction before her full attention was claimed by the people in front of her. "Mr. and Mrs. Bollington... let me introduce Dr. Legaspi..."
"You're staring." Carter's voice was unexpectedly close, and Abby couldn't stop the start of surprise that skittered through her nerves.
"Weaver and Legaspi. You're staring at them."
"No I wasn't," she swatted his observation away with a wave of her hand.
"Yes, you were."
"Does this have a point?"
"I was just wondering what you found so interesting about them."
"I wasn't finding anything so interesting about them."
"Because you weren't staring at them."
"Then what were you doing?"
She glared at him. "Did you need something, Carter?"
"Can you help me with some traction? I need to reset this guy's shoulder."
"Is that the 250-pound college wrestler they just brought in?"
She glanced down at her own small frame and back at him. "Don't you think Malik would be more helpful?"
"Well... yeah... but then I wouldn't have gotten to see what was so interesting about Weaver and Legaspi." He grinned, a calculatedly boyish smile that Abby had seen fell lesser women. "Other than the obvious."
"And what might the obvious be?"
"Randi says there's something going on between them."
"Randi needs to keep her mouth shut," she snapped without thinking.
A puzzled look flickered through his eyes. "You don't agree?"
"I think it's none of my business, none of Randi's business and none of yours."
He inclined his head in cession to her point. "You're right, but..." He shook his head and glanced back across the desk. "I just hope Kerry doesn't get hurt."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Come on, you've heard the rumors." He leaned closer, ducking his head conspiratorially. "It's pretty clear that Legaspi has been around a block or three when it comes to women."
"And you know this because..."
"Why are you suddenly confusing Randi with NPR?"
"Grapevine broadcasts 24/7," he said, the shrug clear in his voice. "Beats summer reruns."
"Well broadcast this... what makes you so sure that Kim's out to hurt Kerry? Or that Kerry can't hurt Kim?"
"Kim?" He looked at her incredulously. "Since when did fuck-with-my-head-fuck-with-my-life-Legaspi become Kim?"
Abby blew out an exasperated breath, irritated that her frustration with Carter had goaded her into opening her mouth. She knew better than to play the telephone-game-of-gossip and should have just pointed out some of the outlandish things that had been bandied about concerning his drug use to make her point. Instead she had rushed to Kim's defense, when God knows the woman didn't need some kind of knight errant in a creaky leather jacket and pink scrubs taking up her banner. Still, from the fascinated look on Carter's face, she knew she wasn't going to get out of the topic without parting with at least a crust of information. "Since we became friends, Carter."
"When did this happen? And how did I not know?"
Temper fracturing, she shot back, "Gee... I guess I didn't exactly feel obligated to consult you about my social schedule considering you were the one who told me that you didn't want to be my girlfriend."
Carter's eyes narrowed and his face began a slow burn that would have put a flare to shame. "You better be careful using that word around Legaspi. She's likely to take it literally."
"I could do worse." A measured beat. "I have before."
"Does Luka know about this newfound fascination you have with the good Dr. Legs? Or maybe I should warn him that he's got some competition coming around the bend."
The conversation had not just veered over the ad hominem line, it had cleared it with several feet to spare. Before things could get any further out of hand, Abby put up a placating hand. "Are you really that angry with me?" she asked softly, at a loss for how to reach him.
"I'm not angry with you."
Abby rolled her eyes at the blatant untruth. "Carter..."
"You think I'm lying?" He folded his arms tightly and snorted derisively. "Great. Now I'm angry and a liar."
A spread of warmth emanated suddenly from the base of her spine, accompanied by a gentle pressure of fingers whose shape she was coming to know well. Relaxing minutely into the reassuring touch, Abby looked up into the placid reflection of Kim's blue eyes. "I'm sorry to interrupt," she said quietly. "But could I borrow you for a second? I need some help with a patient in Exam 1." Kim glanced at Carter briefly, her eyes taking in his rigid posture with studied nonchalance. "Do you mind, Dr. Carter?"
"No, I was just looking for Malik, actually." He smiled blandly. "She's all yours. Now, if you'll excuse me."
Her hand still lightly on the small of Abby's back, she guided the nurse through the swinging doors of the exam room. "Where's the patient?" Abby asked, glancing around the empty room in surprise.
"Already discharged," Kim confessed. "Feel free to slap me down for doing this, but Carter's face was the color of freshly exsanguinated blood and you were wearing that incredulous sneer you usually get right before you go off on somebody." She held out her hands supplicatingly. "I thought a quiet intervention might be in order."
"Like I said, feel free to slap me down." Entreaty glimmered in her eyes, along with a genuine concern for Abby's well-being that bore no claim or condition for its continued existence. In that instant, Abby knew that, no matter down which tangled path their relationship might unfold, Kim would always squarely and unequivocally be in her corner. They might not always agree, but Abby knew if she called-- Kim would be there.
"You're right," she said, sighing heavily and sitting down on one of the nearby stainless steel stools. "He was just giving me a hard time."
The elegant arch of a brow prodded her to continue.
"Over you, actually."
"You told him about us?" Kim asked mildly.
"Would that bother you?"
"Existentially, no. But I wouldn't want Kerry to hear it second-hand. If that's the case, I need to talk to her before Radio-Free-Randi gets ahold of it."
"I think we're safe," she said, fairly secure in her conviction. Carter was angry and jealous, yes; but over her continued involvement with Luka. The idea that she might actually become involved with Kim just wasn't in his frame of reference. If it had been, he certainly wouldn't have been taunting her with the idea. "Is it just me or did things seem so much simpler before we woke up this morning?"
"If they did, that was probably why," Kim agreed. "Sleep has a way of smoothing everything out."
"Then do you care for a nap?" Humor laced Abby's tone, but the reality of what she was suggesting lurked behind her smile.
"Sounds great, but just think of the rumors if Haleh were to walk in here and find us snuggled up on the exam table."
She snorted at the image and agreed wryly. "I don't think I want to imagine the fallout." She nudged Kim gently with the toe of her shoe. "And your reputation, missy, can't really take any more hits."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"You seem to have quite the reputation as a skirt chaser."
"You're just now finding out about this?" Her words were casual enough, but the icy wall of reserve-- that Abby had only begun to breach-- clearly loomed behind them, reflected in the pale blue of Kim's eyes.
"I honestly hadn't paid the rumors much attention before," she admitted.
"And now you are."
"Let's just say I listen a little more closely when your name crops up."
"Because of what happened."
"Because I care about you," Abby contradicted, standing and laying a reassuring hand on the arm that was tightly folded around her clipboard. The muscles were bunched tensely under the supple skin exposed by her rolled-up shirt sleeve; she could feel their smooth delineation, aware of the deceptive strength at rest there. "That happened a long time before last night."
Kim's face softened, a rueful smile crossing her features. "That your way of trying to placate me?"
"No. It's just my way of..." Abby trailed off, lost for a moment in contemplation of those things both separating them and bringing them closer to together. "I'm not sure what I'm doing."
"I think the same can be said of both of us."
"Then why are we doing it?"
"If that's a request for a consult, I'm afraid I'm going to have to pass."
"You mean plumbing the human psyche for a living doesn't give you any special insight?"
"Not when it comes to myself."
Abby considered her words for a moment, nodding lightly to herself. "I saw you with Weaver," she said after a moment.
"I saw you with Luka." Kim paused, then added. "And Carter."
"We're just getting in deeper..."
"With every conversation."
"You're going to tell her, aren't you?"
The question seemed to take Kim aback, and she recoiled lightly. "I... I almost told her at the admit desk. Just blurted it out. Talk about horrible timing, but she was asking me about you, saying she didn't know we had gotten close."
"Seems to be going around."
"Telling her wouldn't serve any purpose other than to hurt her. I'm not a sadist in any sense-- clinical or otherwise-- of the word."
"If you don't, it's only going to come between you."
"There isn't anything to come between. Kerry and I are finished."
Abby put a warm hand over the cool silk of Kim's shirt, beneath which she could feel the strong beat of the psychiatrist's heart. "Not here, you aren't."
"Doesn't matter." Kim shook her head angrily, upset not with Abby's statement but with her own recalcitrant heart. "Speaking of which... what about Luka?"
"Luka will handle it like an adult. Carter, I'm not so sure about."
"Give me a heads up, okay? When you do it."
All that needed to be said between them, really; an acknowledgment of real world lives and loves pressing in, claiming them in a way that they never could or would claim each other. Except, Abby realized, she wasn't moving, and Kim was responding by tangling her fingers over the trespassing hand that even now rested against her chest. "I don't want this to stop," Abby found herself murmuring into the voracious silence.
"This?" Kim's voice a burr prickling sensually against Abby's hearing.
"But you don't..."
"I do," Kim reassured her, ducking her head low and idly turning Abby's palm upwards. "I can't... justify it."
"Do we need to?"
"Your suitors might think so."
"As would yours."
"Thought you wanted to write last night off as a one night stand?"
"Waking up together pretty much took that possibility off the table."
"He'll either understand or he won't."
Kim looked at her solemnly. "He won't, Abby. Not in a million years."
"You're not giving Luka much credit."
"Carter," she corrected softly. "Carter won't understand this."
"This..?" she questioned. "Two women?"
"You and me. This..." She brushed a fleeting kiss over Abby's palm. "How it doesn't change a damn thing, but makes it all... more tolerable somehow."
"I thought you didn't have any particular insight."
"I guess I lied."
Abby looked at her closely. "Have you?"
"To myself? Frequently. To others? Rarely." She tracked Abby's eyes down with her own and held them in an indigo gaze. "To you? Never."
"That's as menacing as it is reassuring."
"Rather like the situation."
"So what are we supposed to do?"
"Go forward, Abby. I don't really see any other choice. We go forward."
Chapter Four: Truth Be Told
"Blue is definitely her color."
"Oh yeah. Those eyes. That hair. Blue's the way to go."
"Although I noticed Weaver was more interested in that black silk camisole underneath."
"You think she did that deliberately to drive the chief nuts?"
"I don't know, but she's definitely dressing for somebody today. I mean, normally, she looks hot-- but it felt like somebody turned the thermostat up about ten degrees when she walked down here this morning."
Timing had to be everything, Abby thought irritably as she stepped inadvertently into the lively conversation taking place in the middle of the admit desk. And hers sucked. It didn't take a trained or particularly clever monkey to figure out what-- or, more accurately, who-- the huddled forms were talking about. "Guys... can we just give it a rest?"
She watched Randi and Carter exchange significant glances and wanted to smack the resident for his deliberate indiscretion. "So..." Randi leaned closer, propping both elbows on the admit desk and resting her chin in her hands. "I hear that you and Legs have been hanging together. What gives? She and Weaver an item?"
"What she and Weaver are is none of our business."
The coolness in Abby's tone didn't deter the desk clerk. "Carter said you'd say that."
"Give it up, Randi," Carter chided in a singsong voice. "She's more interested in playing Viola to Legaspi's Olivia than in giving you the scoop."
Abby bristled at the nasty undercurrent in Carter's tone. "Don't listen to him, he's just being an elitist swine."
"Whatever. But seriously..."
"Randi, I'm not going to discuss your theories about Legaspi and Weaver."
"I though it was Kim," Carter interjected. "What happened? You guys have a fight in Exam 1?"
She turned on him. "Shut up, John. I mean it. Right now."
The vehemence in her tone must have startled them all, for a disquieted lull fell over the group, and Abby mercifully thought the subject was closed. But the gleam in Randi's eyes had turned speculative, and she cocked her head thoughtfully. "So if you won't dish on the romance, how about the fashion?"
"The ensem-- too bruised or is she working it?"
Without her realizing it, a lazy smile crept around Abby's lips and perched itself there. "Oh, she's working it all right."
"So... how come? I mean," Randi elaborated. "The working begs the why."
The question brought Abby up short, her thoughts unconsciously casting her back a few hours ago and the sight of watching that silk slip over Kim's bare shoulders at her request. It also made her disconcertingly aware of the black T-shirt under her scrubs, the unfamiliar scent of the other woman's linen in her nostrils and the way she had carried it against her skin all day. Unthinkingly, she crossed her arms over her chest. "What?" she asked gracelessly. "Is that English?"
"If Legaspi's not giving it up for Weaver, then who's the lucky girl?" Dave translated. "It's gotta be somebody we know."
Too many pairs of eyes were upon her, and she couldn't stop the violent flush she felt rushing up her chest towards her face. The culmination of her frustration with how recklessly everything had been careening out of her control for the last nine months blew what little reserve she had left. "You know what?" she snapped, jerking the house phone out of its cradle and holding it aloft dangerously. "Let's just page her and ask her. Dr. Legaspi, could you please come down to the ER and tell us who you're fucking so we can collectively jerk off to the idea? I mean, seriously, why speculate, when we can get the answer straight from the ho's mouth?" She pinned each one of the assemblage with a dirty glare. "Yes, she has a life. So what? You guys should follow her example and go out and get one yourselves."
Luka had appeared as Abby's tirade was winding down, and he watched with a hooded gaze as the cluster at the admit desk dispersed in uneasy silence. "Did I miss something?" he asked lightly.
"Just the latest hormone-induced frenzy that Kim Legaspi has inspired down here," she snapped, rubbing her face wearily and sighing. Picking up the inventory sheet she had originally gone to the desk for, she jerked it off its peg and turned on her heel. Realizing Luka was walking with her, she continued, shaking her head irritably. "Is it because she's gay? That they think her personal life is fair game?"
Luka cocked his head and smiled, but it didn't quite reach the somberness of his eyes. "They do that with everybody," he said, the tone of his voice cajoling her to release her anger. "You know that. They'll probably be doing it about Dave or Jing Mei in the next hour."
Abby wasn't mollified. "It's different," she disagreed, stepping into the drug lock-up and blindly counting vials, not recording her tallies and not seeing the labels. "There's this kind of..." Her voice trailed off, having no words to explain the salacious air dripping from the conversation. How her friends, unknowingly, tainted not just what had happened between the two of them last night-- but, more painfully to her, the extraordinary woman she was coming to know.
"Abby, what's bothering you?"
He was standing close in the confined space; and though she wasn't looking at him, she could hear the concern in his voice, knew it was written on his features. "I just don't share or enjoy this locker-room mentality in supposedly mature adults."
"That's not it," he prodded gently.
"No?" She swung around to face him, her jaw setting defiantly. "Then, you tell me, Luka. Since you apparently know what's wrong with me better than I do."
"You seem to get angry every time Kim Legaspi's name is mentioned today," he said diffidently, waiting for her response.
She watched him gather his breath, hating his measured patience, his soulful eyes. He seemed so infinitely wounded, yet so completely self-contained and capable, that there was no room for her. She was adjacent to him, in his life yet never of it. Whatever comfort she could provide him, he ultimately found a far more plentiful source in himself.
Last night, she and Kim had reached for each other, that first moment of blind panic quickly succumbing to a keenly reciprocated desire. A need that no one else in their lives could, or would fill.
He was waiting.
"I slept with her," she blurted, shocked as he was by the words that fell from her lips. It wasn't what she had planned to say at all.
He blinked, brows furrowing, and leaned slightly away from her. "What?"
"Kim... I... we..."
"Yeah," she answered lamely, shrugging.
"Were you drinking?"
Abby rolled her eyes and ruefully shook her head, not sure if she should be flattered or appalled at the question. "No."
"It's just..." He gestured in confusion. "I didn't think..."
"It wasn't a gender thing," she replied, knowing it wasn't the time to explore her rather extensive history of vodka-induced sexual experimentation.
"Obviously." His mouth was tightening, the reality of what she was telling him finally beginning to register in his eyes.
"What the hell were you thinking?" he hissed, his voice low. "It's not enough with me and Carter... but did you have to go and add her to the list?"
Abby stared at him, shocked into silence; and something in the back of her mind realized that she had believed she would have to defend Kim to him-- that he had listened and heeded the rumors and she would have to explain that it just wasn't so. Apparently, that wasn't to be the case.
"Do you have any idea what you've done?"
The hostility in his voice snapped her back to the reality of the situation. "I'm not a child, Luka."
"Well, you're certainly acting like one. Don't you know that Kerry still loves her?"
"And she still loves Kerry."
"Then why the hell..."
"It wasn't about Kerry," she snapped. "And it wasn't about you. Or Carter," she added, acknowledging the dynamic that existed between the three of them for the first time.
"Then what was it about? Instant gratification?"
"That's not fair."
"Fair went out the window when you slept with her." He waited, arms folded tightly; and Abby wondered how so large a man could confine himself within so small a space.
When it became apparent that he wasn't going to speak again until she answered his question, she raked an impatient hand through her hair and set the inventory sheet on a shelf out of the way. "It was about her, Luka. And me. And how she... I don't know... gets me in a way that I don't have to explain. She just... knows."
"She's a psychiatrist," he pointed out.
"That's not it." She waved his explanation away. "She understands..." Abby struggled for the words. "Pain... and loss..."
"And I don't?" he interjected incredulously.
"I'm not saying that," she stopped him. "Not at all. But, Luka... your pain is something I can never touch. You wouldn't let me, though God knows I tried. Whatever peace you needed to make with it, you have. I know, because I've seen the difference in you. But you wouldn't let me be a part of that process. And now there's something in you that's closed off to me forever."
"And I suppose she's an open book?" His question was skeptical.
"Not by a long shot," Abby rejoined, feeling the adrenaline jolt from the shock begin to wear off and the steadiness in her legs return. Now that it was out in the open, she felt more emotionally centered than she had at any time since that first incendiary kiss. "This thing with Kerry is tearing her up inside. And she let me see that." She paused, thinking back to the night, the line of Kim's body in the dim moonlight, then tension in the muscles she found there as she stroked the other woman's neck. "And for a little while, she let me make it hurt just a little less."
"What did you get out of it?" Brutal. Inquiring.
"I wasn't thinking in terms of quid pro quo," she replied dryly, taken aback by his tone. The question was something she would have expected from Carter, not him.
"So you were just acting out of the goodness of your heart?"
"Take a good look at Kim Legaspi, Luka," she retorted angrily. "She's not exactly the type to inspire pity fucks."
He reared back, his face flushing at the blunt words. "You wanted her." Not a question.
"For a long time," she replied, admitting the truth behind the gentle banter of the night before. "But I needed her too."
"Because she gets you."
"Yeah," she said softly.
"Are you going to see her again?"
"We haven't discussed it," Abby answered quickly, although she knew that if Kim still wanted her after today's freefall, she wouldn't even dream of saying no.
He was more adept at reading her than she had thought, for he shook his head slowly in response to those things she hadn't said. "Even though it may cost her a future with Kerry."
"I don't know what it's going to cost her with Kerry. I know she's already paid a dear price for loving that woman. And I do know that she's planning on telling her."
"Were you going to tell me?" Ignoring her poorly concealed barb about the ER chief.
She hesitated. "I'm not sure," Abby confessed. "Most likely. But definitely not today. And certainly not like this. It was never my intention to hurt you."
"You two are going to hurt a lot of people," he replied, ducking his head. "Not least of all yourselves."
"I know," Abby conceded. "We know. It wasn't something we'd planned on."
"And yet you're still going forward," he observed, unconsciously echoing Kim's earlier words to Abby.
She shrugged helplessly, not knowing what else to say and certain that anything she added would only make things worse. He acknowledged the gesture, as well as the current futility of further conversation, and backed out of the drug lock-up.
As he turned, a lean blond form intent on a patient's chart collided with him. Instinctively, both parties reached out to steady the other; and when Kim looked up to meet Luka's eyes, the pain she saw there snatched the breath from her body and threatened to topple her composure.
Kim knew that Abby cared for Luka, knew also that she wasn't ready to love the taciturn immigrant. What she hadn't counted on, however, was his depth of feeling for Abby. She had seen the two in corridors and elevators, but she wasn't quite sure when the genial attraction she had observed in their encounters had turned to love. Perhaps it was only now.
Their eyes locked and held, and she became aware of Luka searching for something in her face-- some sign of what she didn't know-- before he shook his head softly and turned to go.
"Luka..." She caught his arm gently, putting herself in his path, vividly aware of what Abby must have told him. "I'm sorry." Never meaning the words more in her life.
"I hope you know what you're doing."
But he cut her off. "I've never raised my hand to a woman in my life, but I swear to God if you say that you never meant to hurt anybody..." His urgent words trailed away under the din and rowl of the ER.
Kim nodded once, more than understanding the rage and pain that directed the words at her. How she was a far easier target than the woman he loved. "We weren't thinking," she told him evenly. "Least of all of the people outside the two of us that we might hurt."
"I'm glad at least one of you recognizes that."
"Are you going to be able to get past this?"
He snorted derisively. "I manage to work with Carter every day. I'm sure you'll be much more discreet and pleasant about the whole thing. And with even less reason."
"I meant you and Abby."
"I don't think Abby wants to get past it."
He waved her concern away and pointed at the drug lock-up. "She's in there. You'd best go see to her."
The dark head was bowed as Kim edged into the tiny room, slim shoulders echoing the S-curve of her spine. "I saw Luka outside," she murmured, her instinct to go to the other woman and comfort her at war with all the things inside that knew better.
"I guess that was your heads-up," Abby replied hoarsely, not looking up. "Sorry that it was after the fact."
"It doesn't matter." Wanting Abby to look at her. It wouldn't do either of them any good to embrace circumspection at this point. "How are you doing?"
The concern evident in Kim's voice must have found its way through the cacophony in Abby's thoughts, for the nurse turned stormy dark eyes upon her. "I've been better."
"Are you?" Abby barked. Kim flinched at the harsh sound, but kept unswerving eyes fixed upon the woman so recently her lover. "Because, God help me, I'm not. I wanted to be, standing here trying to explain this mess to Luka. And I couldn't." She dashed away angry tears before they had a chance to fall. "Not even when Luka told me I may have destroyed your chance to make things right with Kerry."
Kim rocked back on her heels, astonished as much by Luka's accusation as Abby's admission. Luka and Kerry had gotten close-- that she knew. She had seen them go to lunch more than once or exchange hurried smiles in the ER hallways. His words could only mean that Kerry's feelings towards her hadn't substantially changed over these long months of their separation. And while that didn't alter the essential terrain of Kim's emotional landscape, it certainly made the air a little more difficult to breathe.
Yet, at the same time-- like Abby-- she couldn't bring herself to honestly repent of the impulse that first responded to the brush of Abby's mouth across hers. It was the same fugitive stubbornness that had prompted her to respond to Kerry's inquiries that morning. It surfaced vehemently now-- moving her to reach out to the other woman and engulf her fiercely in her arms. "No, Abby. I'm not sorry. Not for making love to you. Not for asking you to say." She pulled back and captured the small face in her hands. "Never that."
"I was afraid..."
"Don't be." She brushed soft lips across Abby's mouth in a fleeting kiss that only reminded her it was unwise to do so. "The only thing I truly regret is that what happened is going to hurt other people. Until I saw Luka, that honestly hadn't hit home with me."
Abby nestled more closely into her embrace, head resting against Kim's heart. Somewhere against her ribcage, Kim felt the tentative beating of the nurse's heart, felt the fragile cling of Abby's arms around her. Distantly, Kim knew that the rules of the game were changing. The only trouble was, she didn't know what the game was, or even if she were even playing at all any longer.
"Abby..." she began hesitantly, but she was looking down into warm sienna eyes full of pain she knew too well and whose desire she had only begun to recognize. Their mouths met, held briefly. Then again. Then longer-- as a vague sense of propriety began to raise its somnolent head, and was quickly silenced by the stealthy encroachment of Abby's tongue across the barrier of her lips.
Kim lurched into the pleasure, a lush sinking sensation of need and answer. Felt a low moan in her throat. Heard a startled gasp that took her a fleeting eternity to realize belonged to neither herself not Abby.
Destroying the kiss, both heads turned to see a flashing glimpse of red hair retreating down the hallway.
Chapter 5: FreeFall
"Kerry! Wait!" Following her ex-lover into the ladies room, Kim flipped the lock as the door shut with a pneumatic snick. Damn anybody else who needed the facilities in the meantime.
Kerry's face was inhumanly pale as she turned to face Kim. "I'm sure you're going to tell me it isn't what I'm thinking," she said evenly, though her voice was belied by the shudders that racked her small frame.
"No..." Lies had never been Kim's strong suit. As a child she had never been able to keep her stories straight, and that had broken her of the habit far more quickly than any parental lecture ever could have. "I'm sure it's pretty much exactly what you're thinking."
"Then tell me why..." Her tone hardened, an unmistakable knife's edge in her eyes. This wasn't the stumbling, tentative woman who had awkwardly asked her about Lori's early morning presence-- not by half. Abby had said that Kerry was changing, and Kim was beginning for the first time to realize how much.
She dropped her own eyes against the intensity in that gaze-- hating herself for the tacit admission of guilt, for making her night with Abby into something dirty in a sense that it wasn't. The knowledge, however, that Kerry-- more than Luka or Carter ever would-- knew in a bone-jarring, stomach-churning way exactly what had transpired between herself and Abby, what pleasure Kim would have evoked from the other woman's body, what her own release would have looked like-- was more than she could bear.
"Do you care for her?" The question, the reality of what was happening sinking in and delivered on unsteady breath, shattered a crystalline silence Kim knew she wouldn't have been able to break.
Lifting her chin, pushing away the shame that Kerry herself had been the one to bring back into her life, she met her ex-lover's eyes. "Yes."
Kerry faltered, perhaps surprised by the admission-- clearly wounded by it. Kim's arms jerked in the same comforting impulse that she had been forced to stifle so many times-- beginning on a cold February afternoon in a lonely elevator. Both fight and flight, backing away from Kerry that day had been pure survival instinct-- fighting the need to comfort her lover once more at the expense of her own self, fleeing in agonizing solitude to lick those wounds inflicted upon her collaterally. A pause, and Kim could see the painful effort these questions were costing Kerry. "Do you love her?"
"No," she replied steadily, with no answering hesitation of her own. She wasn't sure of all that was between herself and Abby Lockhart, of what-- if anything-- was beginning or where it might lead. But it wasn't love, and she seriously doubted it ever would be.
Unexpected, this. She couldn't conceal the start of surprise jolting through her body. Could she? "Maybe," she admitted, her honesty emerging with an unexpected and unintentional brutality.
Kerry nodded once, that nod of acceptance which mean that she didn't understand or accept what she was being told at all-- and the scattered fragments of Kim's heart broke once more to be the cause of its return. "If Luka wasn't in the picture," Kerry said as if to herself.
"If you weren't in the picture," Kim blurted, unwilling to pretend for a single moment longer that she had been any better able to move on than Kerry.
Kerry's face registered incredulity as she shook her head, pain visibly twisting turning into something else. Something far more fierce and on the edge. "You're telling me that you hopping into bed with Abby Lockhart is my fault?"
"What's happened isn't a car wreck," she replied dryly. "There's no fault involved. Or blame to be assigned." Kim folded her arms and took a deep breath, fighting the anger she felt rising in her chest, seeing its reflection in the tightening of her ex-lover's features. "And I didn't do it because of you." Her voice softened as she continued, "I tried that with Lori."
"Getting your taste out of my mouth, your touch off my skin," she answered thickly. "I knew after one night that you'd always be with me. So why bother fighting it? So, no, Kerry-- Abby and me aren't about you."
A long silence fell between the women; and in those moments, Kim realized that there was no going back from here. The conversation they had been assiduously avoiding since Kim's suspension was about to happen. But Kerry was shaking her head rapidly and stepping around her. "It isn't any of my business, Kim."
"Yes, it is," Kim contradicted her as Kerry flipped the lock to the door open. "Because I love you," she said, expecting Kerry to walk out the door, to refuse to hear her once more. To refuse to see the truth between them. "Because the part of me that belongs to us has never ended. But it can end. Right here and right now, if you want it to. Or it can go forward."
Soft in tone, gentle in its wrappings though her words were, it was still the most dangerous thing she had ever said to Kerry Weaver.
Kerry's body stilled, fingers wrapping around the door handle, knuckles whitening. "I cannot believe you just said that." The smaller woman turned on her, eyes going thundercloud green. "Six months of sentiment and moving on and I know this must be hard for you-- and now you decide to tell me you love me? After I catch you making out with a nurse in my own ER?"
"What about lifestyle and between us and your damned silence?" Kim shot back. "Three months of it, Kerry, that's all I had while the Chicago PD tried to decide whether or not I was a child molester. While Robert Romano set fire to my professional bridges and you sat on your hands about it because you were paralyzed by what other people might think about you and the Psych Dyke. Admit it, Kerry," she finished with a weary sigh, the fury draining from her as quickly as it had erupted. "We both fucked this relationship all to hell."
The burst seemed to clear the air, at least momentarily; and Kerry acceded to Kim's point with a graceful incline of her head. "That's a colorful way of putting it."
"I'm fresh out of tact and discretion."
"I noticed that in the drug lock-up."
"You probably won't believe me, but I was going to tell you."
"How long has it been going on?"
"Honestly? About 19 hours."
Kerry seemed to consider this answer for a long moment before she spoke, as if deliberating something. "You never answered my question." At Kim's imploring look, she elaborated, "Why?"
Kim took a steadying breath, more than a little surprised that Kerry hadn't continued out the door, that she had instead chosen to stay. The paradigm of retreat as solution had been established early on in their relationship, and-- if the almost overwhelming urge she had to escape right now was any indication-- it was going to prove the hardest to shift. "Do you remember that girl I admitted last week? Louisa?"
Kerry cocked her head in confusion, blinking rapidly as she searched her memory. "The one with all the scars on her arms? The attempted suicide?"
Kim nodded in confirmation. "Except she's not a suicide. She's a cutter. You familiar with the pathology at all?"
"Mostly young girls with body image issues, isn't it? They derive some sort of pleasure from wounding themselves. Punishing their bodies."
Kim grimaced and shook her head. "Not exactly." She blew out a breath and paced the length of the bathroom before turning to face Kerry once again. Her ex-lover was leaning against the door, watching her with an open expression miles away from the shuttered reserve that had marked their interactions of late. For better or worse, Kerry was really seeing her; and the idea made the painful convulsion of her heart even stronger. "Cutters bleed for two reasons. One is that they're in such emotional pain that they literally don't have the words to express how they're feeling. The cut does that for them-- it's okay to hurt now because, look, there's the injury."
"And the other reason?" Kerry asked slowly, awareness beginning to creep over her features.
"The other reason..." Kim echoed faintly, her eyes drifting away from Kerry's and roving over the institutionally sickly green walls. "The relatively minor physical pain they suffer... it... distracts them from the larger, more incomprehensible emotional pain they're in. To them... the physical pain actually makes the other... more bearable."
Then: "She's your way of cutting." This in a whisper.
Kim swallowed tightly, not wanting to see what was reflected in Kerry's eyes. "She's on her way to someplace else. Someone else. I'm just..."
"She's the worst thing you could do to yourself, Kim." The sorrow and regret clear in Kerry's voice.
"It doesn't hurt quite so much when I'm with her."
"At what cost?" Now Kerry was in her face, small fingers gripping her jaw and forcing their eyes to meet.
"What kind of scars do you want?"
"They can't be any worse than the ones I've already got," Kim replied calmly. "Or the ones I've left you with."
"We're not talking about me right now."
"That's just it, Kerry, we are talking about you right now. And me. And us. And all the wounds we've inflicted on each other, and all the healing we haven't done. All those scars rip open inside of me every single day, and I can't stand it anymore." She twisted her head away from Kerry's grasp, the warmth of her touch too intimate to bear. "Being with her... what it gives me isn't peace, but it's the closest thing I've had to it since I walked away from you."
Heads ducked immediately and eyes averted hastily as first Kim, then Kerry, emerged from the ladies room with no visible damage done to either of their persons. "So what do you think happened in there?" Chen leaned close to Abby, speculation glittering in her brown eyes.
"Do you really think I'm the one you want to be asking about it?" she snapped quietly, keeping her own head down as Chen gingerly backed away. She hadn't really realized what was happening until Kim was out the door, hot on Kerry's heels, trying as discreetly as possible to flag the redhead down. She couldn't believe that out of all the people in the ER to see them together, Kerry had to be the one. Of course, in a twisted sense, it was perfect-- because, God knew, the ER chief wouldn't be telling anyone else about it. She knew that kissing Kim in the drug lock-up should earn her some sort of Darwin Award, but she hadn't quite been able to stop herself from falling into those blue eyes and the concern that shone so unmistakably from them. "What the hell was I thinking?" she muttered to herself, wanting nothing more than to beat her head against the brick wall of her own foolhardiness.
"You weren't," Luka advised quietly.
She jerked her head up at his words and shook it angrily. "I'm really not ready for Round 2 of What the hell have you two done? right now. If that's okay with you."
"Neither am I. I take it Kerry saw something she shouldn't have?"
"I'm not sure what Kerry saw, or what Kim's telling her."
"Hopefully the truth."
"What is that? Do you know? Because I sure as shit don't," she hissed, trying to keep her tone low as her temper threatened to run away with her. "All I know is that the world seems to have rotated ninety-degrees from where it was this time yesterday. And somehow the fact that I woke up with Kim Legaspi is the only thing that makes any sort of sense right now."
"What were you doing waking up with Kim Legaspi this morning?" Carter's voice was oddly strangled and his face unnaturally red as he stared at Abby and Luka over the admit desk.
Abby shot Luka a helpless glance, but he only shook his head briefly. "You're on your own for this one."
"Come with me." She grabbed Carter's arm and towed him into the lounge. Once there, she swatted Malucci's feet preemptively off the lunch table and asked, "Could you excuse us?"
"Dave-- get out."
Malucci scrambled to his feet, staring at Abby as if she had finally sprouted those horns he was always warning her about. "Geeze, we need some sort of mass psych consult down here today or what?"
"Get out." This from Carter and Abby both.
The door had barely closed on Dave's retreating form before Carter turned on her. "You're fucking Kim Legaspi?"
Abby pinched the bridge of her nose in exhaustion and sighed. "Not exactly how I would have put it, but essentially-- yes."
"Last night," she answered, some part of her nonetheless aware that this wasn't any of his business.
"No wonder you were so worried about Kerry hurting Kim."
"Look," she interrupted before he could get any further. "This isn't an explanation because I don't owe you one. This is damage control. What you heard stops here-- do you understand me? No snide comments to Randi, no guy talk with Dave, no huddled conferences with Luka in the hallway. Nothing."
"Isn't it a little late to be worrying about your reputation?"
"It isn't my reputation I'm worried about."
"Gallant of you to want to protect your lover." His face hardened, features threatening to twist into someone Abby recognized from a very long year ago. Someone who had stolen drugs and lied about it. Someone who was more than capable of taking the truth and completely distorting it to protect himself. "But I could really give a damn."
"Actually I was thinking about Kerry? Do you really want people talking about me and Kim in front of her?"
He stared at her incredulously. "She's seeing both of you?"
"They've been over for months." Not adding that from where she was standing it seemed as though the two women still loved each other beyond reason. Not wanting to think about what that might mean down the road for her and Kim. If there was a road for them at all.
He shook his head again. "I don't... I just... Why now? Why her?"
"I'm not going to debate this with you, Carter. It's not for you to get or not get. I may have hell to pay with Kerry or Luka, but not you."
"Because we're not friends."
"That was your choice."
"And if we were? Would that have made a difference?"
"In what?" She looked at him, baffled.
"In deciding to sleep with her."
Abby threw up her hands in exasperation. "Why is it so difficult for everyone to realize that maybe what happened between me and Kim wasn't about anyone but the two of us?"
"Maybe because it's affecting a hell of a lot more people than just you and Legaspi."
Before Abby could snap off a reply, the lounge door swung open and a blonde head tentatively poked through. "Malucci said you were in..." Taking one look at the angry set of Carter's jaw, Kim pushed through the door and leaned casually in the frame, crossing her arms. "Why do I think my ears should be burning?"
"We were in the middle of a private conversation, Dr. Legaspi," Carter replied roughly. "So if you'll excuse us."
Kim cocked her head, her eyes glancing thoughtfully from Carter to Abby. "You okay?" she asked the nurse.
Abby only shrugged helplessly-- everything was already so off-the-rails-out-of-control it couldn't get any worse. Unless someone started a fistfight. And judging from Carter's expression as he tried to stare Kim down, that wasn't too far out of the realm of possibility.
Kim nodded once, stepping completely into the room and shutting the door. "Sounds to me like this conversation is over, Dr. Carter."
"That's not exactly your decision to make," he shot back.
The angular features of Kim's face iced into a glacial stare as she closed the distance between them. "You can be as angry as me as you like, for as little or as much reason as you think you have-- but Dr. Carter, no one is going down this path with you. If you want to throw down, it will have to be with someone other than Abby. And it will have to be some time other than now."
Carter began to retort, but Abby held up a hand. "Just go, John."
"This conversation isn't over."
"Just go," she repeated. "Please."
He jerked his head in an abrupt nod and spun on his heel, leaving the field to the two lovers.
"I could have handled him," Abby said irritably, looking at the tense expression on Kim's face, wondering what she had said to Weaver.
"I'm sure you could have," she rejoined. "But quite frankly I didn't want to be fragged in the cross-fire, and I'm sure my character will be assassinated many times over in the next few days. Don't blame me for wanting to hold it off for a little while longer."
"This isn't going to stay quiet for very long, is it?"
"I'd say we have about thirty seconds of peace left. Carter's just looking to explode, and Luka threatened to beat me up in the hallway."
"And Kerry?" Not sure she wanted to hear the answer.
"Kerry..." Kim sighed and ran an elegant hand through her hair. "Things could have gone worse with her." She rolled her eyes. "Of course, they could have gone better-- but we actually managed to really say something to each other for the first time in months. Maybe it was the shock of seeing you and me together, but she wasn't able to hide behind that maddening distance of hers. She stayed to fight."
"Oh, she's furious with me. Of course, she has been for months-- this thing with you and me is just what jack-knifed her out of denial."
Dark eyes probed blue ones, not yet adept enough at reading their reticence and subterfuges to know exactly how Kim was doing, but reading them well enough to know that Kim was nowhere close to as calm as she seemed. "Sounds like a very reasoned analysis, Doctor."
"You suggesting I'm doing a little denying of my own?"
Abby only shrugged in reply.
"The truth is, Abby, I just want to sit down in a corner and cry somewhere." A cynical snort of laughter. "But I can't do that right now. I've got four hours left on-call down here-- three hours and forty five minutes of which are going to be sheer hell." She paused, looking at the diminutive form of her lover. "For us both."
"Not so much me, I think."
"Because I'm the evil, predatory lesbian?"
"Because they don't get you. You're as close to an unknown as they come around here. Me, I'm easy."
Kim shot her a swift look, peppered with a breaking smile Abby hadn't seen all day. That the nurse was beginning to fear she wouldn't see again soon. "I wouldn't say that."
Abby twined their fingers briefly, gave the cool hand in hers a squeeze. "Thank you."
Kim cocked a curious brow. "For defending the difficulties I had overcoming your virtue?"
"For giving me that smile."
"Anytime, lover. Anytime."
"We're getting out of here." Luka's low voice startled Kerry out of the reverie she had fallen into sitting in the lounge. Thankfully, the afternoon had brought one unmitigated medical disaster after another-- giving her little or no time to think-- and Abby had had enough sense or tact to stay the hell out of her way. She had to give the nurse credit though-- during the one brief encounter they'd had in the doctor's lounge, Abby hadn't flinched. Aware of the gentle press of Luka's hand on her shoulder, she began to demur-- but he only shook his head firmly. "If you don't need a drink, you can watch me."
They made their way to a quiet, out of the way pub she had discovered many years ago. A place that was amenable to a single woman bent on enjoying a good bottle of wine and the odd book or two. Where the few men who did approach were easily turned away and no one was tactless enough to be distasteful. She and Luka settled themselves in the discreet booth that had always been her favorite, a stiff shot of Connemara in her hand, a dark ale in Luka's.
Grimly they toasted each other, and Luka slouched wearily against the back of the booth. "I threatened to hit her," he said.
Kerry looked at him in surprise, startled both by the non sequitur and its content. "Abby?"
She snorted into her drink. "What'd she say?"
"She seemed to understand."
He looked at her closely. "You don't seem as upset as..."
"As I should be?"
"Truth be told, Luka, I think I'm in shock. But..." She took a deep draught of her whiskey, shuddering delicately as it chased its way through her palate. Connemara was Kim's drink, rougher than the Macallen scotch Kerry preferred, but she had found herself drinking it more often of late. Remembering the taste of it on Kim's mouth as they kissed, knowing how it represented the sometimes surprisingly jagged edges her lover had revealed beneath her silken, tailored surface. "I think too... as much as Kim can, she understands what she's doing."
"More than I can say for Abby."
Kerry looked solemnly at her new friend. "I'm sorry, Luka."
"Nothing for you to be sorry about."
"You would seem to be the innocent in this situation," Kerry disagreed. "Collaterally damaged in the fallout."
"No... I did my part to create this mess between Kim and me."
"You didn't put her in bed with Abby."
They both winced at the blunt statement, the loss of their lovers and the sanctuary the women had found in each other hammering home with painful reality.
"No..." Kerry said after a long silence where they both caught their collective breath. "But I'm responsible for the pain that she's running from right now. I can't help her with that. Maybe Abby can."
"Abby can't help herself, let alone anyone else," Luka contradicted. "She's only going to hurt Kim in the long run."
"You don't think Kim knows that?"
Luka stared at her in surprise. "What did she say to you in that bathroom?"
"More than we've said to each other in a long time," Kerry confessed. "More than I was ready to hear. More than I was ready to admit."
"And... I love her." She stared at the refraction of light in the shimmering gold of her glass. "I've never said that," she continued quietly. "Not to myself. Not to anyone. Certainly not to her."
"That's not good enough." Kerry looked at him intently. "That's what I realized today. I counted on her to know so many things, to know me better than I knew myself, and to act accordingly. And when she didn't..." She shrugged. "Things fall apart. You know?"
"So you can just forgive and forget?"
"Not by half."
"Meaning, she told me today that the part of her that belongs to us has never ended. But that it could. Or we could go forward."
"And I've chosen to go forward, Luka. Finally. Like you told me a long time ago. I don't know if it will bring us back together. But, whatever happens, I'm going forward."
The knock on her door wasn't completely unexpected, but still the noise started Kim out of the sullen bleakness she had allowed to swallow her normally sunny disposition. Ambling to the door, she swung it open to be greeted by Abby's wry smile. Immediately her eyes focused on the bottle in her lover's hand, and she frowned darkly. "Don't tell me I've driven you back to the sauce."
"Hardly. But I hear you like this stuff." She handed the bottle of Connemara to Kim. "Can I come in for a minute?"
"Sure. Hell, stay for two. Or five even. It's not like I'm doing anything."
Abby took a look around the barely lit house and noted the ominous silence echoing off the walls. "Kim, if you're going to brood, at least turn on some music. And why the hell is it so hot in here?"
Kim snickered, padding into the kitchen and pulling out two glasses. Fixing herself a stiff shot and a glass of tea for Abby, she sprawled gracefully beside Abby on the couch. "You know I did my undergrad in Atlanta, right?" At Abby's answering nod, she continued. "My last three years down there, I had this house with three other girls." To the nurse's mildly inquiring glance, she rolled her eyes, "And yes, I was sleeping with all three of them. Not simultaneously, mind you. Anyway. This house was well over a hundred years old, rebuilt just after Sherman burned the town-- and it was magnificent. There was something unique about each room-- my bedroom was this gable with windows around its entire circumference overlooking the whole neighborhood. It had this big wraparound porch that seemed to go on for miles. And hardwood floors that creaked whenever you tried to sneak in. The only trouble was..."
"No air conditioning."
"You got it."
"How did you survive?"
"Mostly by wearing cut off blue jeans and not a whole lot else."
Abby whistled low in her throat at the image. "I'm sure your roommates loved that."
"They were rather fond of the situation," Kim admitted with a rueful smile. "Anyway..." she shrugged. "After you've survived Atlanta in July with no air, everything else is pretty much a cake walk."
"So you enjoy marinating?"
"In a manner of speaking, yes."
Eyeing the 501s that clung to the length of her lover's legs, the white linen shirt more unbuttoned than buttoned, and Kim's bare feet; Abby grinned. "You seem to be a bit overdressed."
"This your less than subtle way of trying to get me to strip down?"
"Truthfully, it's not what I came here for... but..." Abby fought the blush she felt suffusing her features, though realistically she knew in the dimness it was concealed to Kim.
"You wouldn't mind."
"I didn't come to stay."
"Sure you did," Kim cheerfully contradicted her.
"You didn't come here to drop off a bottle of liquor for me and then leave. If you'd wanted to leave, you wouldn't have come in the first place."
"Fairly presumptuous of you, Dr. Legaspi."
"Dr. Legaspi got left at the hospital," Kim muttered darkly.
Sensing the dangerous shift in Kim's mood, Abby reached out and wrapped her fingers around Kim's. Despite the humid warmth of the house, Kim's hand was frighteningly cool. She'd not seen Kim aside from a few quick glances for the rest of the afternoon. "How bad did it get?"
"Not as bad as it's going to, I'm afraid."
"Not just him. People are taking sides."
"And none of those sides are mine." She sighed wearily and took a long, deep swallow of her drink. "Not that I expected anything else."
"You may have more supporters than you know."
"Yeah, like who?"
"Like me," she said quietly.
In response, Kim slipped a long arm around Abby's shoulders and pulled her close. "I don't want to be a bad thing for you," she murmured, brushing a gentle kiss over the nurse's temple.
"You aren't." Abby nestled close in the sheltering strength of this remarkable woman's body, wanting more than anything to absorb some of the courage she had found there. Almost of its own volition, her hand slipped beneath the wrinkled linen of Kim's shirt, coming to rest on her lover's heart. "And Kerry."
Kim stirred slightly. "What about Kerry?"
"I think she's in your corner too."
The psychiatrist harumphed softly. "I've hurt Kerry too much for too far long for her to be in my corner. That's a graciousness I don't deserve from her. Let alone expect."
"Nonetheless, I think you might have it."
"What makes you say that?"
"I tried to stay out of her way after the whole drug lock-up thing. Salt in wounds, you know? But we accidentally ran into each other in the lounge right at the end of my shift."
"She told me to take care of you, Kim," Abby confessed, not at all sure she wanted to be saying the things she was saying right now, but unable to lie about something so dear to Kim. "As much as you'd let me. As much as I could."
The shudder that wracked Kim's body was deep and painful; and Abby clung to her, offering whatever shelter from the storm of emotions ripping through her lover that her small length was able. A long silence drifted over the women-- awash in memory, awareness, and regret and yet, somehow, still, unrepentant.
Distant moments more, and Kim finally whispered, "I'm not asking that of you."
"I know." Moonlight filtered their gaze, shadows flickering in both their eyes as their bodies fit together in spite of everything they knew was going to unfold. Lips met, telling truths more deceptive and painful than either was willing to admit. Kim's hands tangled in Abby's hair as small fingers fumbled with buttons and belts, stripping the cloth away to meet slick skin with hungry mouths. A warning pause, and Abby searched the darkness for Kim's eyes. "I'm offering."
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