DISCLAIMER: ER is the property of Constant C Productions, Amblin Entertainment, and Warner Brothers Television.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: Thanks to Harriet, creative consultant and jurist; Charlotte for the encouragement and the loan of her name; and to Gracie, who lights the candle that shines on me.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Resting in the Arms
By Ainsley Wallace

Section Four

Kerry peered around the door frame and looked into Kim's office. She sat in her rocking chair, knees drawn up, facing her small window, staring out at the darkening sky. Kerry tapped a knuckle on her door. She didn't even turn.

Kerry took a few steps into her office and quietly closed the door. "You disappeared," she said.

Kim didn't look back. "Did she die?"

Kerry swallowed hard. "Yeah," she said softly. "Yeah, she did. Her brain injuries were…extensive."

Kim said nothing and Kerry risked a few steps closer. "I didn't know that you had talked to her until I saw her chart from earlier today."

Kim nodded. "Yeah, she's just one more of my success stories."

Kerry navigated around the low coffee table and sat down at the very end of the sofa, close to Kim.

"I know it sounds weak, Kim, but it's not your fault." Kerry studied Kim's face in the half-light and wondered if she'd been crying.

"Yes, it is, Kerry," Kim said and her voice was so flat and lifeless that for a moment, Kerry was frightened. "I had a chance today to help her. To save her life. And I didn't. So because of me, tonight, three children watched their mother be beaten to death."

"Kim, you did everything you could," Kerry said.

"No, I didn't. I could've pushed her husband into saying something that I could have held him for."

"And three days later, he goes home and does this anyway," Kerry said, "and you've put your license at risk which would keep you from helping all the other people who need you."

Kim ran an impatient hand through her hair and got up. "I've got to get back to the ward," she said. "Are you going home soon or are you --"

"Kim, please," Kerry said, getting to her feet. "Just stay and talk to me for two minutes."

"I can't," Kim said, smoothing her hair. "I'm the only attending on tonight and I should be back at the ward."

Kerry huffed. "Kim, you're upset. Please just --"

"I've got to go, Kerry," she said and she grabbed her clipboard from her desk and hurried out the door.

Kerry sank back down onto the sofa, willing the tears in her throat to retreat.

The glowing readout on the clock radio said 2:36 a.m. when Kim carefully slipped out of bed. She paused for a moment and looked down at Kerry and at the space she'd just left in the bed. Kerry lay on her side, the blankets clutched to her chin. Kim longed to reach over and touch her face, to maybe ground herself, but she couldn't wake her, not at this hour, not right now.

She found her robe and slipped into it, tying it with numb fingers as she crept towards the bathroom. She shut the door softly behind her and turned on the light. Her reflection assaulted her and she averted her eyes. She sat down on the edge of the tub, leaned her elbows on her knees and started to cry.

Silent tears at first and then hiccupping moans. She rocked herself and thought about the faces of those three kids, sitting there in the exam room, the oldest girl fussing over the little boy, holding hands and whispering in each other's ears. The oldest couldn't have been more than eight. The noise in the house would've surely wakened her -- because even though it was becoming common place to take a human life, you still couldn't really do it quietly.

A sob escaped her and she quickly put a hand over her mouth and tried to smother the noise. Had she crept downstairs, that little girl in the mismatched clothes that Kim had met only that afternoon? Had she gone down to check on her parents, to maybe defend her mom, or perhaps just to assess the risk to her and her siblings? Whatever the case, she'd probably seen it. Probably watched her father pinning her mother in place so that he could hit her. She'd probably witnessed the fatal blows from the baseball bat, had very likely been looking at her mother's face when Amy Walker had realized that she should have left him.

Another sob ripped through her throat and Kim struggled to suppress it. Both arms wrapped around her waist, rocking violently in an ill-fated attempt to comfort herself, she cried. She cried for that little girl, she cried for Amy Walker and she cried for herself.

She wondered if she'd ever be able to stop.

Kerry rooted deep in the back of Kim's closet, pushing past worn out running shoes, boxes of photographs and in-line skates, wondering where in hell her statuesque lover kept her goddam bathing suit. A small suitcase was open on the bed and beside it were neat little piles of clothes for each of the women. Kerry had managed to find the pair of plaid flannel boxer shorts that Kim liked to lounge around in, her favourite most broken in jeans and two of her most beloved pullovers. But she couldn't find her bathing suit and that fact was making her want to curse.

Kerry stepped out of the closet and looked around the room, thinking.

Aha. Lingerie drawer.

It had been the look on Kim's face this morning that had set this plan in motion. Kerry had fairly leaped out of bed while Kim was still in the shower to put the coffee on. By the time Kim had dragged herself downstairs, dressed in black wool pants and a black sweater, Kerry had made fresh fruit salad and was taking muffins out of the oven. And then she'd seen her lover's face.

The make up hid nothing this morning because the sadness and exhaustion that lined her face were not cosmetic. Kerry could tell she'd been crying, her clear blue eyes now puffy and red-rimmed, and she doubted that she'd slept at all.

She'd sat down at the island without a word, not brooding, but clearly unable to speak and Kerry had poured her coffee and put a bowl of fruit salad in front of her. Kim had managed an anemic smile, recognizing that Kerry was fussing, but she looked at the bowl of carefully sliced fruit and had looked like she wanted to sob.

And that had been it. The plan had formed in Kerry's mind while she sat with Kim and drank coffee, urging her to have just a little muffin, just a little fruit. Kim had departed soon after, but not before Kerry had a tucked a paper lunch bag into her briefcase, with a sandwich, fruit and a muffin. She'd stood at the door in her bathrobe and watched Kim drag herself down the street to her car and then she'd started.

The first call was to Carl De Raad, who fortunately happened to owe her a favour and who, when he heard what Kerry was up to, was happy to help anyway. Kim had the next day off and he easily rearranged her shifts for the following day giving her two days off in a row.

Next, Kerry dug out her address book and sorted through several dozen business cards until she found the one she wanted.

"Deerhurst Lodge," a smooth voice said.

"Good morning," Kerry said. "I want to make reservations for two nights, arriving tonight and departing Sunday." She heard the clerk typing away at his terminal.

"Very good, ma'am and what sort of accommodation are you looking for?"

"I want a suite please, with a fireplace and Jacuzzi tub. Oh, and I'm going to want flowers delivered to the room and a good bottle of champagne waiting for us."

"Just one moment, ma'am and I will connect you with our concierge," the man said.

Ten minutes later, it was all arranged and Kerry had started to pack.

That was when the phone rang.

Kerry didn't hear it until the third or fourth ring since she'd been fishing through cupboards in Kim's bathroom, looking for Kim's toiletries bag. She hustled out into the hall to try to hear the voice on the machine, in case it was Kim.

"Hello, Dr. Legaspi, this is Elise at Dr. Goldman's office. Dr. Goldman asked me to call to confirm your appointment on Monday at 6:00 p.m. Thank you."

Kerry stood motionless and listened to the answering machine rewind itself.

Dr. Goldman. And it wasn't a consultation, Kim had an appointment with this doctor. And had never mentioned that name before.

Kerry crutched her way back into the bedroom and sat down on the edge of the bed.

It wasn't her GP. Kerry knew her GP's name was Winston. And her gynecologist was a woman named Epstein, Kerry knew that because when Kerry's obgyn had left the city, Kim had recommended Dr. Epstein.

She sat there, staring into space.

If Kim was sick, she would have told her… wouldn't she?

Kerry thought about the feeling of loneliness she'd had these past few weeks. How it felt to her like Kim was pulling away. She could very well be sick and would not have told her, Kerry realized and she had a queasy feeling suddenly in the pit of her stomach.

Dammit, why did this have to be so hard for her? Did everybody else just get some sort of manual that told them how to be in relationships? Because that's what she wanted -- some sort of operating manual or instruction book that could tell her how she was supposed to handle things, how she was supposed to be in this relationship with Kim.

Kerry sighed and looked around at the suitcase and the carefully folded clothes on the bed. She couldn't just sit by and let what she had with Kim crumble. It meant too much to her -- hell, it was everything to her. She had to figure out what to do.

She'd snagged a parking spot right across the street from the bookstore, but once she'd turned off the engine and gathered up her crutch, she froze. The sign to the store looked like it had been hand painted -- a gorgeous carved wooden sign with fantastical designs and the name in an elegant script: Sister Friends Bookstore. It had taken almost an hour to get here, but to Kerry, there had really been no other choice. She had not been able, in her most fevered imaginings, to see herself walking into one of the other two lesbian bookstores she'd found in the Yellow Pages -- Bush Fire or The Cunning Linguist, so she'd happily driven the extra miles to get to this point. Now the trick was getting herself out of this car and into that store.

With a disgusted shake of her head, she pushed the car door open, closed and locked everything, then crutched her way across the street. There was a window display of books by women poets but Kerry only glanced at it as she pulled the door open.

She wasn't here for poetry.

The store was much bigger than it looked from the street and whoever ran the place was making use of every square inch. Shelves and shelves of books, ceiling to floor, a few racks of CD's and video's, a tiny kid's section where a small sized table and chair and a toy box sat. To her immediate right was a display case of jewelry, most of which looked handmade. To the left of the check out desk Kerry spotted rainbows -- rainbow bumper stickers in every imagine shape, rainbow triangles, rainbow flags of varying sizes, t-shirts with rainbows, hats with rainbows, rainbow mugs, rainbow key chains, rainbow mouse pads, rainbow mobiles, rainbow boxer shorts…

She couldn't help but stand and stare for a moment. It was all just a little too…well, the word 'gay' came to mind, but perhaps given the circumstances, 'cheerful' would have to do.

"Good morning, can I help you find anything?"

Kerry turned at the sound of the voice. A woman, probably several years older than Kerry had emerged from behind a display case. Her salt and pepper hair was cut very short and her face was tanned and somewhat lined. She had a row of piercings along the outside edge of one ear and she wore jeans, a crisp white t-shirt and a colourful vest with geometric designs, which looked to Kerry like Navajo art.

Kerry realized she was staring and she gave herself a shake. "Uh, no. No thank you, I'm -- I'm just looking."

The woman smiled at Kerry and Kerry was struck by the softness of her eyes -- there was a wisdom there, or some sense of knowing some wonderful secret. "All right. If you do need anything, just shout." She ambled off to unload paperbacks from a box.

Kerry scanned the store, searching for the section she wanted. And what section would that be now, she asked herself? The Brand New Scaredy Cat Lesbian section? Or maybe the My Lover Seems Distant And I Don't Know What To Do section? Kerry rolled her eyes at herself yet again. She had come here to learn something. Her whole life, whenever she had needed to know something -- cooking to sex to medicine to investing -- she had been able to find the answers she needed by reading the right books. And she sure as hell wasn't going to learn it by cowering by this orgy of rainbows. She plunged forward.

Passing fiction, glancing at names -- "Daughters of Darkness: Lesbian Vampire Stories" and "Best Lesbian Erotica 2001" -- she spotted Self-Help, Sexuality and Relationships clustered together on one wall and she made a beeline. She barely overcame the urge to look over both shoulders as she started to skim the titles, and quietly hated herself for being a little pleased that she was the only customer in the store.

She slid a finger along the spines of the books -- "What the Bible Really Says About Homosexuality," "A Legal Guide for Lesbian and Gay Couples," "The Art of Meeting Women: A Guide for Gay Women."

She sighed a little and checked the next shelf. Her eyes fell on a volume and stuck there. "Lesbian Epiphanies: Coming Out Later in Life." This time she did glance over her shoulder, then slipped the volume out and opened it. She started to skim the pages, then slowed more and more absorbed as she read.

She had no idea how long she'd been standing there when the clerk passed by with an armful of books and paused. "There's an armchair over there, if you'd like to sit and read for a while. You'd be more comfortable."

Kerry very nearly threw the book in the air, having been startled by the woman's voice, but mainly because she could not seem to shake the feeling that she was doing something wrong, by being here.

"I'm -- I'm fine, thanks," she managed to say and the clerk in the colourful vest looked at her a little longer than she needed to, then nodded and headed on her way.

Kerry caught her breath, then tucked the book under her arm. Although it wasn't what she had come for, "Lesbian Epiphanies" was hitting very close to home and it merited further investigation. She continued her search.

She cocked her head and read more spines: "The Essential Guide to Gay and Lesbian Weddings," "The Persistent Desire: A Femme-Butch Reader," and "Now That You're Out of the Closet."

The clerk was two sets of shelves away now, restocking some paperbacks and Kerry stole a glance at her. She was humming along to the music that was being piped through the store's speakers -- two women with nice voices and complicated guitar music -- and Kerry studied her for a moment. The woman felt her gaze finally and she turned and smiled.

"I like your vest," Kerry said. "It looks like a Navajo design."

"It is," the woman said. "I got it at a women's music festival in New Mexico last year."

Kerry nodded and smiled and couldn't make herself speak.

The woman gave Kerry a puzzled look. "Are you sure I can't help you find anything?" Those soft, reassuring eyes again.

Kerry stood there for a moment. Then she took a deep breath. "I'm not sure you have what I'm looking for," she said.

The woman waited, her face open and encouraging.

Kerry looked at her feet and cursed herself for her fear. "I'm -- I'm still kind of new at this," she said.

The woman nodded, took in Kerry's fidgeting hands and smiled. "I understand. I'm Rhonda, by the way."

"Kerry." A clumsy smile.

"Can you give me a general sort of idea what you're looking for?" Rhonda asked.

Kerry bit her lip. "Something about…relationships," she said. "And how to…well,…be in them?" She wanted to beat her head in against the shelves in embarrassment the moment the words were out of her mouth.

Rhonda, however, was immediately on the case. "I think we might have something along that line," she said, slipping past Kerry to a shelf a few feet away. She pulled out two trade paperbacks and held them out. Kerry scanned the titles -- "Permanent Partners: Building Gay and Lesbian Relationships That Last" and "Lesbian Couples: A Guide to Creating Healthy Relationships."

"I've read 'Lesbian Couples,'" Rhonda said, "and there were some good things in it. Probably what you're after. Except…"

Kerry's eyes shot up and she studied the older woman's face. "Except what?"

Rhonda fidgeted, then leaned against the book shelf. "Well, I suppose everybody's different, but I just found that a lot of what they say in these relationship books is kind of common sense."

Kerry listened intently. "Common sense? Like what in particular?"

"Let me put it this way," Rhonda said. "If I was writing a book about lesbian relationships, I would have two main points." She ticked them off on her fingers as she spoke. "First of all, lesbian relationships aren't that different from any other kind of relationship. After all, it's about love and communication and respect and that sort of thing, right?"

Kerry weighed this and nodded.

"The big difference is that it's two women, which to my way of thinking can only make things easier," Rhonda said. "I mean, women are supposed to be the emotional, intuitive sex, right? It's just like women who feel afraid when faced with their first sexual encounter with a woman. I mean, a woman knows how a woman wants to be touched, am I right?"

Kerry nodded and smiled slightly.

"It's as natural as falling off a log," Rhonda continued. "Anyway, my second point would be this: just relax and follow your instincts."

Kerry's expression turned thoughtful suddenly. "What if your instincts are wrong?"

Rhonda shook her head vehemently. "Your instincts are never wrong. The only thing that's ever wrong is how we decide to act, after we hear what our instincts have told us to do." She raised an eyebrow at Kerry. "And you're already ignoring the first part of that rule -- the relax part. It's not brain surgery -- you don't have to try so hard. Just…., well, it sounds corny, but just follow your heart." She smiled again and Kerry basked in the warmth of those twinkling eyes. "Who knows? Maybe you'll be better at it than you think."

Kerry stood there for a moment, her mind whirling with what she'd just heard. Rhonda watched her then said quietly, "So, did I talk you out of those books or are you still interested in buying them?"

Kerry looked at the volumes in her hand and shook her head. "Maybe I don't really need them after all," she said and she handed them back to Rhonda. "I would like to get this one though." She held up the book about women who came out later in life.

Rhonda nodded her approval. "Good choice," she said and she led Kerry to the cash register at the front of the store.

She rang up the sale and rooted under the counter for a small bag for Kerry's book. "May I ask who the lucky woman is?" Rhonda said, slipping the purchase into the bag.

Kerry smiled without intending to and looked down at the counter. "Her name is Kim," she said. "And she's…incredible. I think I'm the lucky one."

Rhonda's smile grew by degrees as she studied Kerry's face. She handed her her book and receipt. "Take care, Kerry. And drop by again."

Kerry took the bag and gave Rhonda one last good look, then nodded and slipped out the door.

October skies were flying past her small window and every few sentences, Kim found herself looking up from her notes on her therapy session with Michael Lynch and his family, to mindlessly soar along with the mashed potato clouds that she saw.

The session could have gone worse, she supposed. For instance, something could have caught fire.

She sighed and picked up her pen again, resumed transcribing her thoughts, clinical observations and anything else that might help the four of them communicate a little better, the next time they met. Michael had held up remarkably well, but Kim wasn't entirely convinced that that wasn't some sort of defense. However, she had immediately liked Michael's mother, could see where he got his features, his eyes. Maybe even his temperament.

Dad on the other hand, was a retired Marine major who had shown himself to be a by-the-book, no-faggots-in-this-family kind of guy and who had gone from sobbing with relief at the sight of Michael, through stone-faced denial ("Are you crazy? Of course you're not a homosexual! That's ridiculous!") and straight on to fury ("No God damn son of mine is going to be a faggot!") in a little over forty minutes.

Kim wanted to sigh even now, thinking back on it. The look on Michael's face before and after he'd told them -- she'd wondered at one point if he was actually going to faint, right there in her office. Then there was the shade of purple that Major Lynch's face had achieved while he'd bellowed impotently about this outrageous situation. And of course, Mrs. Lynch, who'd reached out and took her son's hand more than once, whose wise and compassionate eyes had never left Michael's face as he spoke. The look on everyone's face when Kim had flatly told Major Thomas Lynch, USMC, (ret.) that he would either speak civilly to his son or he would be asked to leave.

A step forward. An infinitesimally small step perhaps, but a step nevertheless.

The soft knock on her door made her look at her watch. Dammit, she was off now, couldn't they just leave her alone?

"Come in," she called and Kerry's face appeared through a crack in the door.

Kim's eyebrows shot up in surprise. "Hey," she said. "I wasn't expecting to see you here."

Kerry studied her lover's face, saw the fatigue and the discouragement and knew that this was just the thing. "Get your coat," Kerry said. "I'm taking you someplace."

A little more than two hours later, Kim took a few steps into the lobby of Deerhurst Lodge and stared, open-mouthed, at the cathedral ceiling of this huge, warm room. Built entirely of logs, it was a stunning feat of architecture, a sort of rustic skyscraper and she doubted she'd ever seen anything like it before. In the center of the room, at the peak of the ceiling and stretching down to the floor, was a massive four-sided field stone fireplace. Two of the four hearths were lit and there were pillowy sofas and armchairs scattered around the huge stone pillar. Kim turned to look at Kerry, her eyes still wide with wonder.

"When you said you were taking me someplace, I thought you meant, you know, dinner," she said.

Kerry chuckled. "Oh, we can get dinner here, too," she said. She smiled at Kim's expression. "You keep staring and I'll go check us in."

The front desk was across the lobby and was all dark wood paneling and forest green accents. An incredibly well-groomed young man snapped to attention as she approached.

Kerry gave him her reservation number and he dispensed with the necessary paperwork quickly, then told her that the "special arrangements" that she had requested had been taken care of by the concierge. Then, he handed her a room key and a pamphlet that listed the many seasonal activities that guests were welcome to enjoy. Kerry glanced at the list -- horseback riding, tennis, golf, mountain biking and rock climbing, cross country skiing, snow shoeing and skating. She paused as she tucked her credit card back into her wallet. There wasn't a single thing on that list that she could do with Kim without completely embarrassing herself, or, more likely, injuring herself. Not one. She looked across at Kim, who was inspecting one of the fireplaces and she felt a sudden pressure in her chest, near her heart, like someone was squeezing the life out of her. How long was it going to take for her slightly-younger and much more mobile girlfriend to get tired of being dragged down by her disabled, quasi-geriatric partner? Kerry stood deathly still for a moment and panic started to overtake her. And then Rhonda's gentle eyes came to her and she heard her wise words again.


Kerry took a deep breath and let it out in a whoosh, then stowed her wallet in her coat. She lifted her chin defiantly and set off to get Kim.

The roses were in a lovely glass vase and there were a dozen and they were long stemmed, just as Kerry had requested. The concierge had left them out on an end table in the small sitting room of their suite, so that these beautiful blood red flowers were the first thing you saw upon entering.

Kerry watched Kim read the card. She had agonized for ever over it and in the end had gone with the simple but elegant, "I love you, Kerry," and had hoped that that had been a good choice. Kim looked up at her after she'd read it and she wordlessly took Kerry in her arms and held her. Apparently, it had been a good choice.

"Thank you," Kim said, finally, when she released Kerry from her embrace. "Thank you for this. For all of this."

Kerry suddenly found she couldn't quite meet Kim's eyes. "Well, I just thought, you know, you've been working so hard…you could use a break."

Kim nodded and Kerry didn't like the look in her eyes. "Yeah, I guess I could."

"Well, listen, why don't you put something comfortable on and I'll open the champagne and when we're ready, we'll take a look through the menu and see what we might like for supper," Kerry said.

Kim cocked her head. "You want to eat in?" she asked. "Are you sure you don't want to go to the dining room?"

Kerry shook her head as she made her way towards the bottle of 1989 Louis Roederer Brut that sat on the coffee table, by a cheese tray and a small fruit basket. She noticed that champagne was even the year she'd requested. "I'm happy to stay in tonight," she said. "We can always do the fancy dining room tomorrow."

"That sounds good," Kim said and she headed off to the bedroom to change.

Kerry picked up the corkscrew and the bottle and watched her go, silently imploring the gods to let this help whatever was wrong.

They feasted on fresh sole and green beans provançale and potato rosettes that had been baked to fluffy perfection and Kerry noted, with some relief, that Kim was eating eagerly and matching her glass for glass of the spicy Viognier they'd ordered with the fish. But none of this quite wore away the gnawing feeling that she was sitting there by herself at times, so withdrawn and distracted was her lovely dinner companion.

Kerry tried safe topics, but didn't get far. She studiously avoided any mention of work, since the whole point of this little trip was to put some distance between Kim and that place -- not that it didn't appear that she'd carried all of it with her, judging by the slump of her shoulders. Kerry even considered bringing up the topic of the mysterious Dr. Goldman, whose message she'd overheard and then a terrifying thought struck her, made her breath catch in her throat. What if it wasn't work that was weighing so heavily on Kim, making her look each morning like she'd been crying all night? What if she was ill -- seriously ill -- and that knowledge was what was stealing the light from her beautiful eyes?

The urge to blurt out the question struck and Kerry opened her mouth to ask, then froze. Kim drew her eyes from the fireplace and looked over at Kerry, who sat beside her on the sofa. She raised her eyebrows in a question at the tiny woman.

Kerry held her breath.

"What?" Kim asked, then drained her wineglass.

"Nothing," Kerry said, finally, her heart slamming against her ribs. "I was -- I just -- I was thinking that you looked tired."

Kim nodded. "I am," she said. "I think I might turn in soon."

Kerry sat there, dumb. "Uh, sure. Yeah, That would be good."

Kerry slipped out of the bathroom and made her way to the huge four poster bed in the center of the room. She propped her crutch nearby, then shrugged off her robe and eased herself under the sheets, sighing at the crisp coolness of the cotton. She looked over and saw Kim, curled up on her side, her lean form outlined by blankets, her hair tucked back behind her ear. Kerry watched her for a long moment, realizing that she seemed so far away in this gigantic bed, and then chided herself for taking that personally.

Follow your heart, Rhonda had said. And she was determined to.

She turned off the light and then slid closer to Kim, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling herself against Kim's long warm back. The very touch of her skin made moisture rush between Kerry's legs and she felt her own breathing deepen. She kissed Kim's creamy shoulder and nuzzled the vulnerable patch of neck just beneath her ear. It made her want to moan, the smell of this woman, the feel of her. She slid one hand up Kim's belly and caressed the silken side of Kim's breast.

Kim stirred. "Kerry?"

Kerry froze. "Yes?"

A pause. "I'm just -- I don't think I can --"

Kerry's hand flew off her as if she'd been burned. "Oh, okay. That's all right. I understand."

Kim rolled over and propped herself on an elbow. "I'm so sorry, it's not you, it's me, I just don't --"

"No, no, it's not a problem, Kim. I completely understand."

Kim peered at her in the darkness. "I'm really sorry. I'm just so tired."

Kerry was tucking the blankets tightly around herself. "You're right. You need to sleep. You just sleep now."

Kim sighed. "Maybe tomorrow? Can I get a rain check?"

"Sure. You just sleep."

"Okay," Kim said and Kerry could hear the sorrow in her voice. "'Night."

"Goodnight, Kim."

The covers rustled and Kim laid back down, a thousand miles away from Kerry.

Kerry lay on her back, staring at the ceiling.

The alarm clock on Kerry's side of the bed trumpeted the fact that it was 3:37 a.m. and Kerry sighed.

This was not how she had hoped things would go.

Beside her, in the dark, she could just hear Kim's slow, regular breathing and she realized that she was grateful that Kim was asleep. She needed some rest, Kerry certainly didn't begrudge her that.

It was just the fact that Kerry longed to touch her, physically ached to move closer to her, slide an arm around her, anything, any sort of contact at all. But she didn't -- couldn't actually, because she was so thoroughly humiliated. She had tried to touch Kim, hours ago, had laid herself on the line, made herself totally vulnerable. And Kim had said no.

And so she lay there, well over on her side of the king-sized mattress and she worried.

She worried about Kim -- what was wrong? She'd never seen her like this and then suddenly the phone call from Dr. Goldman's office was replaying itself so loudly in her ears that she was afraid it might wake Kim up. What was wrong? And why wouldn't she talk about it? She cursed herself for not looking in the phone book for Dr. Goldman's address and specialty -- which of course would be invading Kim's privacy, something she would never do. If Kim wanted to talk to her about it, then she would do so in her own good time and Kerry would just have to be patient.

But what if it was serious? What if she was seriously ill? Time might be of the essence and even if Kim thought that it didn't concern Kerry, Kerry would be there to tell her that it did, it absolutely did. She had to know what it was. She thought about waking her up, right then and confronting her about it.

A sigh from Kim and she shifted slightly in her sleep, then fell back into her long, peaceful pattern of breathing.

Maybe it wasn't about Kim at all, Kerry thought. Maybe it was about her. After all, it seemed that Kim was able to keep her game face on all day at the hospital. It was mostly when they were alone that Kerry saw the cracks, that Kim was so tired, so withdrawn, so --

Oh my God. It was her. How could she have not seen it? It was exactly as Kerry had feared from the very beginning -- she had so little to offer Kim and Kim had either tired of her or had started to realize that Kerry just wasn't enough for her.

Kerry's body was rigid with fear now and tears were quickly pooling in her eyes. She rolled over, away from Kim, slipping a trembling hand over her mouth to hold back the sobs.

She should have expected it, really. What had she been thinking? This young, vibrant, beautiful woman hooking up with her? This wasn't insecurity, Kerry thought, this was just a case of facing the facts. She was old -- she knew it and as much as she tried to take care of herself, gravity and time had a way of working on you that no amount of exercise or skin cream could undo. Add to that the fact that she limped and was wedded to that damn crutch -- she had a flash of how she'd looked that day at the Kim's health club, when she'd spotted her reflection in the mirror. What could Kim ever see in a goddam cripple, she thought bitterly and she wanted to spit the words out, yell them out into the stillness of the bedroom.

The silent tears were hot as they slid across her nose and down her cheek and she brushed them away with an impatient hand.

No wonder she doesn't want to make love with me, Kerry thought. No wonder.

A noise from the other side of the bed -- a frightened little moan that sliced through Kerry's heart. She propped herself up on an elbow and peered through the gloom towards Kim.

A ragged breath and a whimper and Kerry rolled over and slid close to Kim, who was moving deadened limbs and groaning at some dream danger. Kerry stroked Kim's forehead, smoothed back her disheveled hair.

"It's okay, baby," she whispered. "It's okay. You're safe."

She touched Kim's cheek, caressing the skin, soothing the woman back into peaceful sleep.

When Kim was still again, Kerry wiped away the last of the moisture from her own cheeks and she lay back, burrowing into the pillows with a deep sigh.

None of this matters, she thought. None of it. I have never given up on anything before in my life and I'm not going to give up on this. Maybe I am older. And maybe I've never had a relationship like this with a woman -- hell, with anyone. And maybe I can't go running with Kim or cycling with Kim or climb bloody rock faces with Kim. What mattered -- all that mattered, she thought, was that she loved Kim -- more than she'd ever loved anyone else before. Surely that was worth fighting for.

Kerry sighed wearily, closed her eyes and longed for sleep.

It was the chill that woke her. Kicking and tossing in her restless sleep, she'd managed to throw most of the covers onto the floor and the cool air had roused her from her flimsy rest.

Kerry hiked herself up a little, unable to pinpoint what was wrong. And then she felt the void nearby and she looked at Kim's side of the bed. The sheets were tossed back and she was gone.

Kerry's stomach seized with fear and she bounded out of bed, grabbing her robe and her crutch as she went. She peered quickly into the bathroom, then shuffled towards the sitting room, grabbing a heavy blanket from the bed in passing.

The silhouette at the window startled her until she realized that it was Kim, sitting on the window seat, knees drawn up and arms wrapped around herself, whether for comfort or warmth, Kerry didn't know. She wondered if she should leave her to her thoughts but a moment later, she was making her way across the room towards her.

Kim looked up at the movement, but didn't seemed surprised to see her.

"I hope I didn't wake you," Kim said.

Kerry shook her head as she settled on the bench, opposite Kim. "You didn't." She handed Kim the blanket and Kim wrapped it around her shoulders, then turned her gaze back out the window.

"The leaves have changed a lot more here than in Chicago," Kim said, "You can even see it in the moonlight."

Kerry glanced blindly out the window, then looked back at Kim. "Kim, what's wrong?" she said.

Kim shrugged. "I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep. I guess I'm still wound up from work."

Kerry's gaze was piercing and soft at once. "No, I mean what's wrong? You're not yourself these days."

Kim sighed a long, heavy sigh. "Work," she said. "Too many shifts, too many patients." She looked apologetic. "Too much stress, I guess."

Kerry stared at her for as long as she dared. "Who is Dr. Goldman?"

Kim returned the stare with a blank expression. "Dr. Goldman? Oh, you mean Charlotte." Then her brow furrowed. "How do you know about --?"

"Her office phoned for you yesterday," Kerry said, desperately wanting to avoid looking at Kim now. "I -- I overheard the message on your machine."

Kim wasn't sure whether to laugh or just get up and leave. "Charlotte is a psychiatrist. And also an old friend. She was my therapist when I first became a psych resident." Kim paused there, slightly annoyed and not too sure why.

Kerry finally spoke. "Why didn't you tell me you were seeing her?"

Kim looked back out the window and pulled the blanket closer around her. "Because it wasn't important and because I didn't want you to misinterpret it and get all worried." She arched an eyebrow at Kerry. "Although apparently, I didn't do a very good job of that, did I?" She studied the smaller woman's face. "What? Did you think I had a brain tumour that I was keeping from you or something?"

Kerry tried to chuckle in a good-natured fashion, but of course, that was only one of the horrific scenarios that she had entertained since she'd overhead the call. She quickly moved on to divert attention. "So, how long have you been seeing her?"

Both women heard the tone that she had not intended to use -- one part subtly jealous, one part accusing, one part hurt. Kerry saw the change in Kim's expression and would've died to take the words back just then.

"I've only seen her once, recently," Kim said. "But for the record, it's not like I'm sneaking around behind your back, having an affair."

"Kim, it came out wrong. I -- I shouldn't have asked," Kerry said.

Kim shook her head in frustration. "God, give me some credit, Kerry."

Kerry looked at her, searching her eyes, her face. "I feel like I don't know what to do for you, lately," she said, finally, her shoulders slumping slightly as she spoke. "Like I don't know you very well anymore."

Kim drew in a long breath and blew it out, then looked Kerry straight in the eye. "Look, we need this time together. Alone together, with no beepers or residents or patients." She took Kerry's hand and held it. "I don't want to talk about anything serious or important for a few days. I just want to be here, in this lovely place, with you. Can't we just do that?"

Kerry nodded, measuring the sadness in Kim's eyes. "Yeah, we can do that," she said but something at the back of her mind was whispering to her.

"Okay," Kim said and her smile was at least a decent imitation of her real smile. "Let's go back to bed, all right?"

Kim shook off the blanket and stood, extending a hand to Kerry. Kerry looked at the long, graceful fingers, imagined them plucking the strings of her body.

"I'll be along in a minute," Kerry said.

Kim paused and tried to read her face, then nodded. "All right."

Kerry watched her go, her silky robe swaying as she moved and she wondered why Kim hadn't wanted to tell her what she was seeing Charlotte about.

The smell of coffee and the stabbing pain in her neck roused her suddenly from her sleep. Kerry tried to sit up and grab the offending neck muscle at the same time and it all went badly. She collapsed back onto the sofa cushion that she'd propped her head on when she'd laid down, hours ago.

Kim's face came into view above her and Kerry rubbed her bleary eyes.

"Good morning," Kim said and her smile was genuine, it made Kerry smile a little with her.

"Morning," Kerry said, dragging herself cautiously to a sitting position. "I must have fallen asleep on the couch." She rubbed her neck and experimented with moving it.

"Would coffee help?" Kim asked. She was wearing jeans, her favourite sweater and loafers and she sat down on the coffee table before Kerry, holding a mug with steaming, aromatic coffee. Kerry accepted it with grateful thanks and sank back into the sofa and sipped the hot beverage carefully.

"Listen, Kerry, about last night," Kim started.

Kerry shook her head. "No, I was out of line and I --"

"No, you weren't. I've been so--"

"It's not you, Kim, it's me. I know I --"

Kim held up a hand. "Just hear me out, okay?"

Kerry hesitated, then nodded.

"I realize I haven't been there for you, lately. I haven't even been able to keep a simple dinner date some days." Kim steepled her fingers together and studied them. "That must have made you feel…like I've been avoiding you or something, like I didn't want to spend time with you." She smiled a little and looked deep into Kerry's sleepy rimmed eyes. "Nothing could be farther from the truth, you do know that, don't you? You're the most important thing in my life, Kerry, and I would do anything for you."

Kerry studied Kim's face. "Then you have to start taking better care of yourself, Kim. For me. Because you're exhausted and you're stressed and it's hurting you." Tears were in Kerry's eyes and she cursed them. "I can't watch you hurting yourself, Kim. I can't."

Kim slid off the coffee table and onto the sofa and took Kerry into her arms. "I know. And you shouldn't have to." She dropped a pair of kisses on top of Kerry's head. "I'll do a better job when we get back. I promise."

They sat together soaking up the warmth of the other's body, until there was a knock on the door. Kim got to her feet. "I ordered breakfast," she said, searching for her wallet. "And after breakfast, I think we should try out the Jacuzzi tub and then decide what to do with the rest of our day." A big, goofy smile. "Sound good?"

Kerry smiled along. "Sounds great." And it did.

They had a private little table for two, away from the bustle of the main dining room, with candles and linen napkins and an attentive waiter who knew to only show up when they wanted him. Kim was just pouring the remainder of a bottle of pinot noir between their glasses and Kerry could feel the glow in her cheeks from this bottle and the one before it.

Kim took a drink from her glass and savoured the wine a moment. "I think I like this one better than the first," she said. "What do you think?"

Kerry gazed across the table at her lover, whose cornflower blue silk blouse was making her eyes extraordinarily deep and electric in this light and she thought to herself that they could be drinking water from a garden hose tonight and she'd like that just fine.

"Kerry?" Kim asked. "You still with me?"

Kerry nodded, smiling at herself. "I was just thinking." She picked up her glass and tasted the burgundy liquid. "It's very good," she said. "I don't think I could pick."

"You know what would be wonderful?" Kim said and she played with her wine glass, swirled it in little circles across the pristine tablecloth.


"To take some time off in the spring, or next fall, whatever, and fly to Oregon, rent a car and then drive south, hitting all the wineries and vineyards, staying in B and B's until we got to San Francisco."

Kerry's eyebrows flew up. "That would be wonderful. And we could stay in San Francisco for a couple days, see the sights, eat some seafood."

"Well, then, it's a plan," Kim said, and she reached over and touched Kerry's hand and Kerry felt her temperature rise another few degrees. She doubted that it was the wine.

She gazed at Kim for a long moment, just smiling.

"What?" Kim said, her own smile growing while she watched Kerry.

"Nothing," she said, shaking her head absently. "I just had -- I had a really nice day today."

Kim's smile grew and she touched Kerry's hand again, squeezing it before letting go. "Good," she said. "You deserve it." A flicker of mischief passed through her eyes and she added, "And the day's not over yet, is it?"

Kerry couldn't take her eyes off Kim -- hadn't been able to all day. Not while they strolled through the little artist's village that had sprung up not far from the lodge, or while they had sat at the tiny French bakery in a nearby town, sipping petits cafés and eating croissants filled with luscious chocolate. She had watched Kim try on hand made silver jewelry, she had watched her examine pottery bowls and platters in a small gallery, she had even watched her browsing through first editions in the stacks of a used bookstore. She couldn't get enough of her and it was only dawning on her now, why exactly that was -- Kim was back.

Kerry could barely contain her joy, it was making her chest feel uncomfortably full, but the fact of the matter was that whatever part of Kim had been gone these past weeks and months -- it was back. It was back and she was more like herself than she'd been in so long.

Kerry thought she might cry, right there in this beautiful, stately restaurant.

"Do you feel like getting dessert?" Kim asked. "Because I saw that they have a cheesecake here that --" The look on Kerry's face made her stop. "What?" Kim said, the dessert menu in hand.

Kerry shook her head. "I don't want dessert," she said softly.

Kim put the dessert menu down. "Oh, okay," she said. "We can always wait a little and…" Kerry's eyes unhinged her, made the sentence die in her mouth. And then her eyebrows rose.

"Oh," Kim said. And then again, with the hint of a smile. "Oh." She quickly looked around for their waiter and when she caught his eye, she motioned for him to bring the check.

Kim leaned closer to Kerry and gazed into her eyes, tried to see all the shades of green that sparkled there. "You never stop amazing me, you know that?"

Kerry's eyes never wavered. "Hurry up and sign the check," she said.

They walked hand in hand back to their room, oblivious to the odd double take from other guests. Kerry had worn her black suit -- the only piece of tailored clothing that she owned -- with her purple blouse. It was the only non-beige neutral suit that she had and she'd managed to match it with a bright blouse that was the lowest cut thing that she currently owned, Randi's advice ringing in her ears all the while.

The thought of asking Randi to go shopping with her was almost too much to bear.

But then, when she'd emerged from the bedroom, dressed for dinner and Kim had looked up from the newspaper she was reading, Kim's face had changed. Slightly astonished, then softening to approbation. She'd gotten up and come to Kerry, smiling foolishly, then had cupped Kerry's face in both hands and kissed her slowly on the mouth. "You look beautiful," she'd said and Kerry had flushed with delight.

Kerry knew that not only was she going to take Randi shopping, she was probably going to buy her lunch.

Kim unlocked the door to their room and let Kerry pass through first. Kim followed, shut the door, then stood there, a few feet away, looking at Kerry in the dim light.

"God, I've missed you," Kerry said and her voice caught in the back of her throat.

Kim spanned the distance between them in two strides and kissed her, wrapped her long, strong arms around the smaller woman and held her like she intended to never let her go.

"I want to make love to you," Kim whispered hoarsely in her ear, once she'd broken away from Kerry's lips.

Kerry nodded, her heart pounding in her ribs and she melted against Kim, dropping her crutch, never caring.

Kim slipped an arm around her waist and led her to the bedroom.

They'd made love most of Saturday night and well into Sunday morning. Had in fact almost missed the lodge's famous gourmet brunch because they'd been laying in the huge four poster bed together, gloriously naked, drinking coffee and reading the Sunday paper, with every intention of making the eleven o'clock sitting. And then, Kerry had absently reached out to stroke Kim's leg as she read about the most recent execution in Texas and Kim had shivered at her touch and…one thing had led to another and they were lucky to have made it for the 1:00 p.m. sitting.

Even the drive home had seemed idyllic, the fall colours splashed across the landscape, Kerry playing her Best of Motown CD and singing along enthusiastically. Kim had almost forgotten about Cook County and its exquisite tortures.


"...I'm not running, I'm not hiding,
I'm not reaching, I'm just resting in the arms
Of the great wide open, gonna pull my soul in
And I'm almost home..."


Monday arrived with a vengeance and within twenty minutes of being in the building, Kim had found out they were an attending short, she'd had to reschedule most of her appointments for the afternoon and the ER was 911 beeping her.

Kim seriously doubted whether the weekend had happened at all.

She watched the numbers light up and dim on the panel above the elevator door. But it had been lovely, she thought. No, not lovely -- idyllic. And just in time for both of them.

An orderly got on the elevator with a gurney and Kim stepped aside to give them room. It had been a good idea, all in all, this trip to the luxurious lodge. And the fact that Kerry had planned it all for Kim made her get all teary if she thought about it too long. It was thoughtful and loving and so totally Kerry, and Kim realized, not for the first time, how lucky she was.

So why had she been worrying lately about losing her?

"Hey lady!" the young orderly said in a tone that implied it was not the first time he'd tried to get her attention. "Are you getting off or what? I gotta get this guy to the morgue before he rots!"

Kim shot a startled glance at the gurney, noticing that the white sheet had been pulled up over the patient's head. She looked back at the orderly, who was tapping his fingers impatiently on the metal bars of the rolling stretcher.

"Oh, I'm -- I'm -- sorry," she said and she stepped quickly out into the ER, turning to watch the elevator doors close.

Abby's face told Kim most of what she needed to know. She was standing beside the bed in exam room four, applying salve to a man's hands and forearms. There were burn bandages stacked on the cart beside her along with a dozen other supplies, and Abby worked slowly and methodically, peering up at her patient's face from time to time to check on his expression.

She looked up when Kim entered and tried to smile. "Dr. Legaspi, hi," she said softly. The man looked up at Kim and she could see that he looked much older than the thirty five years that the chart gave him.

"Did you speak to Dr. Malucci?" Abby asked, her hands still gently ministering to the man's hands.

Kim held up the chart. "He's with another patient, so I read his notes. He wanted me to speak with you, Mr. Lomask."

He lifted his lifeless brown eyes to her face again. "John. My name is John."

Kim pushed a stool closer to the bed and sat down. "Okay, John. I'm Dr. Legaspi. Can you tell me what happened?"

His eyes flicked away for a moment, like he'd just seen something scuttling into the corner. "I'm schizophrenic," he said and there was nothing behind the words. "I was diagnosed when I was 18."

Kim nodded. "Have you been on medication since that time?"

He nodded and watched Abby irrigating a patch of badly burned skin. "I've been on a couple of different ones, but I always took them. Always."

"But you're not on them right now, is that right?" Kim asked, gently.

He shook his head. "I lost my job. About four months ago. I'm a bookkeeper and the business I worked for -- well, I haven't got a job anymore. And I lost my health benefits and insurance and we've hardly been making ends meet and we've got two kids -- " He broke off abruptly and Kim saw an expression of horror cross his face. She and Abby exchanged looks.

"You haven't had enough money to get your medications, is that it, John?" Kim asked.

He nodded, absently staring at the wall. "The kids needed things and they had to eat."

Kim glanced at his baggy corduroy pants and saw how tightly his belt was cinched. She wondered if he'd been going without food for the children, too.

"Tell me what happened today, John," she said, her voice soothing and gentle.

"The spirits were back -- I'd tried to keep them away, but they just keep coming back. They were after my little girl."

"Could you see the spirits?"

He nodded and winced as Abby started to wrap one of his hands in gauze. "Yeah, I can see them. And I can see what they do to people. Even when nobody else sees." He dragged his gaze up to look at Kim's eyes. "They were going to do that to Laura. Thank God I wasn't on the medications right now, because I wouldn't have known what they were doing to her."

Kim nodded. "Laura's your daughter?"

A nod from the man and Kim thought about how much he looked like a skeleton, with his sunken eyes and prominent forehead.

"And you thought you could stop the spirits?" Kim asked.

"I did stop them," he said but there was little conviction in his voice.


"I poured gasoline on them and I set fire to the demons. That's what you have to do. You have to burn them."

Kim looked down at his chart and bit her lip. When she looked up, the composure was in place. "You didn't just pour gasoline on the spirits, did you, John?" Kim leaned forward, hugging his chart to her chest. "You poured it on Laura, too. Isn't that what happened, John?"

He looked at her, pleading. "They were inside her. They were going to eat her alive. Have you ever seen that happen? Do you know how the person suffers?"

Kim overrode the instinct to back away. Instead, she kept her expression calm and she nodded. "I understand what you're saying, John. You didn't want Laura to suffer."

Abby's eyes flicked up and she stole a glance at Kim.

"Okay, I think the first thing that we need to do is to get you on your medication again. How does that sound?"

"I don't know if that's a good idea -- when I take the pills, I can't see the spirits. What if they come back?"

"Laura will be safe here. I promise."

"Is she going to be all right?" he asked and Kim saw a tear glistening in the corner of his eye. "I know she was burned. But -- I didn't know what else to do, Dr. Legaspi. I didn't know how else to help her."

Kim looked at this tired, broken man in front of her and she tried to smile reassuringly. "I know you didn't."

There was a sharp rapping on the window of the exam room and both Abby and Kim jumped. Malucci was there, motioning for Kim to come out and speak to him.

Kim turned back to Mr. Lomask and picked up his chart. "Abby, could you give Mr. Lomask 5 migs of Droperidol, " she said and she noted her orders in his chart. "I'm just going to talk to Dr. Malucci for a moment and then we'll make arrangements for you to be admitted, John. I think for right now, we need to keep a close eye on you and on how you react to the medications. Is that all right?"

Lomask nodded. "Could you please find out how Laura is? I need to know if I got all the spirits out of her."

Kim made herself smile. "I'll find out how she is."

She nodded to Abby who was just finishing up with the bandages and she slipped out the door.

Malucci fairly pounced on her and Kim unconsciously took a step backwards and away from him.

"Hurry up and give him something to sedate him because the cops are on their way," Malucci said.

Kim's eyes widened and she made herself pause before she answered.


"I called the cops to come and get that son of a bitch," he said, pointing through the window at Lomask. "Man, I hope somebody beats the shit out of him in jail. Fucking psychopath."

Kim stared at Malucci's wild eyes and watched him bouncing around on the balls of his feet and realized that something had pushed him way, way over the edge. She glanced over her shoulder, into the exam room and saw Abby watching her, wearing an "I-wanted-to-warn-you" expression. Kim gently took Malucci's arm and led him a few steps away the exam room. He grabbed the chart from Kim's hands and scanned what she'd written.

"Oh, no. You're not admitting him. He's not hiding in some psych ward. That son of a bitch is going to jail," he said.

"Dave, he's a schizophrenic who has been unmedicated for several months. He's experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations and he's --"

"Well what the hell did he expect if he was off his meds?" Malucci said. "I say if you make the decision to stop taking your medication, then suffer the consequences that everybody else suffers, pal."

"Dave, this is a sick man we're talking about here, who has been on his meds for almost twenty years, who had a job and a family --"

"Yeah, until he decided to turn one of his family into a fucking roman candle!" Malucci yelled. "You didn't see her, Dr. Legaspi, you weren't here when they brought that little girl in. She was only eight years old, for Christ's sake! Eight years old! And that fucker doused her in gasoline and lit her like a goddam birthday candle!"

Kim felt the stares of the ER staff weighing on them.

"Do you know what skin looks like after it's been burned like that, huh? Do you?" Malucci was on the verge of tears now and Kim desperately hoped, for his sake, that he didn't actually cry, here, in front of everyone. "I'll tell you it makes it pretty fucking hard to eat those crispy bits of skin off the Thanksgiving turkey." He whipped open Lomask's chart, found the page where Kim had written her orders and ripped the page out. He crumpled it and jammed the wad into his jeans pockets. Kim saw Abby slip out of the exam room as Malucci finished his little tantrum.

"There," he said. "No consult necessary, Dr. Legaspi, you can go back upstairs. And Mr. Lomask can go directly to jail."

Kim sighed. "Dave, I think you've got some conflicts here and I think it would be better if another doctor handled this case, all right?"

Abby's eyes flicked from Kim to Malucci.

"Thanks for the opinion Dr. L., but I'm good. I can give this guy the care he needs." He started to go. Kim reached over and laid a hand on his arm.

"Dave, come on. Don't do this. We can still work this out between us. Just give me the chart and walk away, okay? We can pretend this didn't happen."

Malucci crossed his arms over the chart and looked down his nose at Kim. "Well that's big of you, but I'm the primary physician and I say I'm fine."

Abby started to open her mouth and thought better of it.

Kim rubbed her forehead. "Dave, I know you're upset about this and I'm sorry, but I need you to give me the chart."

"You're not even ER staff."

"No, but you're a resident and I'm an attending. Give me the chart, please."

Abby gave Malucci a look. "Give her the goddam chart, Dave."

Malucci stared them both down and Kim's patience evaporated.

"Dave, don't make me go to Kerry," she said.

"Oh, so that's it, is it? Run and tell your girlfriend when you don't get your way?"

Kim could hear her heart pounding in her ears. "Dr. Malucci, you're out of line. And this is the last time I'm asking. Please give me Mr. Lomask's chart."

Malucci stood there, vibrating with coiled tension, his eyes bouncing back and forth between Abby's face and Kim's.

"You're a good doctor, Dave," Kim said. "And you know this is the right thing."

His face crumpled and for an instant Kim wasn't sure whether he was going to hit her or just stand there and cry. Instead he handed her chart and walked away without a word.

Abby let out her held breath and watched his receding back. "He lost it when they brought that little girl in," Abby said. "It was Luka's case and he finally had to ask Dave to leave because he was just falling apart and getting in the way." She looked down the hallway where he had just disappeared. "Something about it just really hit home, I guess. And the only reason somebody hadn't pulled him off this case is because Luka and Kerry have both been too busy to notice that he had it."

Kim looked at the chart in her hands and wondered what had gone on in Malucci's life to make him this way. "How's the little girl?" she asked.

Abby shrugged. "Alive. But not for much longer." She ran a hand through her hair. "She's up in the burn unit."

Kim closed her eyes and wanted to curse. "Okay," she said, wearily when she had pulled herself back together. "Let's get Mr. Lomask admitted."

Section Five

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