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A fine state of affairs, part 9 by Marieke Vink


Abby stood out in the ambulance bay, waiting for the paramedics to bring in another stabbing victim. The threw her arms around her body as she shivered. The cold Chicago wind blew right through her uniform.

"Damn, why did I not bring out a jacket. They said ETA was 3 minutes and I have been waiting here for 7 already."

Luka shrugged his shoulders and mumbled that he told her to wear something warmer.

"Luka, I need you inside. Carter is having trouble restraining the Pneumonia-guy in 3!! I will take this one."

Kerry crutched towards Abby, trying to walk and get herself in to her yellow trauma-gown at the same time. Kerry looked at the shivering Abby and realized the nurse wasn't wearing a coat.

"Go back inside and wait for me there Abby. If you stay out here much longer you will catch your death right here. And I do not want any of my staff to die, let alone in my own ER."

"Nah, it is OK. I can not possibly get any colder than I am right now so I might as well hang around. Besides, they really can not be much longer."

"Well, in that case. Erhm............I am sorry that I did not say anything to you earlier this week about ...........well.....about what you told me."

Kerry stared at her feet, feeling extremely uncomfortable and out of her depth. Abby looked at her, not sure if the next thing was going to make her smile or cry. Right now, she would accept anything coming from Kerry. The redhead had put great effort in keeping conversation with the nurse limited to work-related issues and it had not gone unnoticed. Abby had decided that morning to call Kerry on it. If it didn't mean anything to her, then Abby could accept that, but right now she got no response at all. Kim had advised her to give it time but how much time could Kerry need to say: "Look I am not interested, I am sorry." The longer Kerry took to address the subject, the more Abby got her hopes up that it must be because Kerry was trying to come to terms with all her feelings. And the more Abby got her hopes up, the more desperate she became for a word from Kerry.

"I was thinking I could.........we.......would you like to go for dinner tonight?"

Abby was about to shout YES when she realized she probably shouldn't come across as too eager. She knew Kerry was allergic to threats to her personal space so a lover who would jump at every single opportunity to be with Kerry would probably annoy the hell out of her.

"Tonight? Hmmmmm......not sure I can make it. I actually already have an appointment. But maybe I can cancel it. I will have to call her. Can I let you know later?"

Kerry tried to hide her disappointment but Abby noticed the small flicker of surprise in those green eyes before she composed herself again.

"Oh don't worry about it. We can do it some other time. Are you ready?"

Abby nodded and they both walked towards the ambulance that had just come around the corner. The paramedics gave Kerry the bullet.

"26 year old male, Ian McFarlan.....got stabbed in a pub fight. Deep lacerations to the chest and neck, ran in two liters of saline, BP 115 over 70, pulse 120, he lost about a liter on scene."

Kerry followed the gurney as it was rolled inside.

"OK, trauma 1. Decreased breath sounds on the left. Let's get a trauma-panel, type-and-cross for four, Abby get me a chest-tube tray and a number 8 ET tube. Haleh, call for a surgical consult and get the portable x-ray in here..... Ian? Ian, open your eyes!! Ian, can you hear me? Open your eyes. Pupils equal and reacting. Ian, I am Doctor Weaver. You are in a hospital. You were stabbed. I am going to have to put a tube down your throat to help you breathe. You will not be able to talk for a while OK."

"Pulse-ox is 92 on 4 liters, 500cc in the thoraseal, BP dropping to 90 over 60."

"Hang 2 liters on the rapid infuser, I'm in, OK, bag him Abby."

These were the moments Kerry was at her best: quick thinking, decisive actions and authority over her staff. As Romano wheeled the man off to surgery, Kerry took off her gloves and gown and walked out of the room.

There were about 20 people waiting in chairs, the board was full and there were another 30 patients in the rack. This was going to be another very hard day.

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Abby thought how long would be an appropriate time before she could Kerry she had cancelled her other date for that night. Kerry had asked at 7.30am so Abby knew she would have to wait at least until 10.30 before she could tell Kerry she called her friend to cancel the date. Otherwise Kerry would know right away that it had been a lie. She felt like running straight up to Kim's office to tell her Kerry had asked her on a date but she resisted the urge. Now that Kerry and she might actually be on a path to somewhere, she didn't want Kim to be too involved. Abby knew full well how deep down Kim and Kerry were still not totally free from each other. Seeing Kerry with Abby might hurt Kim, no matter how much she was putting on a brave face about her ex moving on with someone new. No, this one was going to be between Kerry and Abby for a little longer. Until Abby felt strong enough not to be afraid every time she would see Kim and Kerry together. Strange how that had never occurred to her before. Only now that she and Kerry might actually get something going here, she started seeing Kim as a threat. Abby thought to herself.

She stubbed out the last of her cigarette and pushed the doors to the ER open. 10.15.........she was cutting it close but she was going to find Kerry and tell her that she had phoned her friend to cancel her date. She couldn't wait no more.

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Kerry threw away her gloves filled out the chart.

"Now next time you cross the street on your skateboard, make sure you check first to see if the road is clear, OK? It is only a minor cut on your forehead, but next time it might be a lot worse."

She ran her hand through the little girl's hair. Freckled little redhead. Kerry smiled as she recalled her own childhood photographs. She had looked just like that little girl. Kerry remembered one of the photographs where she was playing in the sand on the beach. Her father had propped up her tiny crutch right next to her in the sand and attached a flag to it. He had said: "That is not a crutch. It is a shiny flagpole that guards the fort we are going to build. That flagpole will help protect the fort. Because when hostile people come up to the castle, they see the flagpole and the flag, proudly supporting the Crest of the inhabitants of the castle who are known for being caring, loving but firm and determined, and they will realize that this is a fort they can not just barge in to and conquer. They will realize this is a place where negotiations and talking will get them much further than bluntness. And even then, it will never surrender. It might allow people to pass through on their journey, but it will never surrender."

How could her father have known his words would ring so true even today. All her life, Kerry had allowed people to pass through occasionally. But never had she surrendered completely. She had always remained at a certain distance so that she would always have control of the situation. And if she felt the control slipping, she would push people out. Only once had she let go and allowed someone else to control her. And Kim had abused that power. Kim had forced her in to dinner with those lesbian friends of hers when Kerry wasn't ready, Kim left her broken and battered after the rampage. Kerry had vowed to herself that it would never happen again. For a while, the had taken the flag down in front of her fort. For a while she had been prepared to let someone in without warning them of her inner strength, without telling them: I will never surrender. She had surrendered completely. And immediately it had broken her heart. That's when Kerry had realized she wasn't as strong as she thought. She needed other people to think she was strong and unapproachable, that way they wouldn't come too close.

"Doctor Weaver, just the person I was looking for."

Romano approached Kerry with an arm full of files. Kerry cringed, knowing what he was going to ask.

"There you go. The reviews for the Board of Diversity. I am sure you have nothing to do tonight so can I please find them on my desk by tomorrow morning. I am sure you are aware of the speech you are required to give tomorrow afternoon about the positions of impaired doctors in healthcare."

Kerry gave him an incredulous look. Why could he always do this to her? He knew she wouldn't say no. He knew she had too much professional pride to say she didn't have time for it. But today, something had shifted in Kerry. When she had asked Abby out for dinner, she had realized she was really looking forward to having a social life again, have time off from work. And the little weasel wasn't going to get her this time.

"Robbert, if I remember correctly, YOU are also a member of the diversity board and if I recall correctly, you recently had your arm re-attached. I would say that qualifies you as 'impaired' too. So why don't you do the speech yourself since YOU seem to have known about it for a while without telling me. I have plans for tonight as a matter of fact. Because I DO have a private life and because I am sick of you dumping all the work you don't want to do on me. So why don't YOU review those articles tonight? After all, you won't be doing much surgery for a while. It should leave you lots of time for the paperwork."

Romano's eyebrows twitched a little as he gave Kerry a blank stare. Kerry could see he was racking his brain for a smart remark but he failed to come up with one. For a split second Kerry thought she saw a look of hurt across his face. Immediately she felt guilty. She had not wanted to hurt him. But he was such a bastard sometimes. So she decided not to apologies. Not now anyway.

"So, if there is nothing else you want to tell me, I am going to get myself some coffee and sit down and rest my impaired leg for a few minutes."

And with that, she turned around and walked towards the lounge. She could see the nurses at the desk stare at her with their mouths open. Kerry could have sworn she saw Randi give her two thumbs up. Kerry felt like walking on air as all the staff that had witness she encounter looked at her. She caught Abby's eyes, staring at her.

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Abby understood Kerry's look and made her way to the lounge. As she pushed the door open, Kerry was standing near the coffee machine, leaning against the wall, her hand in front of her eyes, trying to catch her breath.

"Kerry, are you OK? Wow, that was quite something you did there. I think we all wanted to cheer out loud. I think he would have fired us all on the spot if we had though."

Kerry looked up at the nurse and gave her a small smile.

"I am not good at standing up for myself Abby. It takes a lot of strength and always makes me feel guilty. I mean, that was a horrible thing for me to say about his arm. I know how much he suffers from not being able to do surgery right now. Hell, I even stood by his bed listening to him cry. So how can I say things like that?"

" Because he is using you and he has always been using you. You know he uses everybody for his own benefit. And because he likes torturing people slowly. So I think it was really good that you lashed out at him with his own sword. And by the way, I would have been really pissed if you would have cancelled out date after I just had a big argument with my friend about canceling our date in favor of dinner with you."

Abby wanted to skip over this point quickly so she wouldn't get caught up in her lie.

"You cancelled your date? For our dinner? Thank you. I think I can use a good night out with a friend after today. God, and it is only 10.30pm. Still have until 3.30pm to go."

Heading for the coffee machine, Abby brushed Kerry's arm. She felt a shiver trough her body as she remembered those arms around her the week before. When Kerry had held her all night. How she longed to hold Kerry now and tell her she did the right thing in lashing out at Romano. That he deserved that.

"Hey, but at least we both have dinner to look forward to. Where are you taking me anyway?"

Kerry smiled op at Abby --oh what a wonderful smile--Abby thought.

"Well my suggestion was going to be Italian but if you are game, we could try something a little more outlandish. You know, do something you wouldn't normally do."

Abby could have sworn there was subtext in Kerry's remark. And when she looked the redhead in the eyes she knew for certain: Kerry was flirting with her. hah, she could play this game too.

"Well, I have always heard that YOU are the great cook here so I will go along with anything you think I might like tonight. I have been told you have great taste.......at least in food."

"Ok. So how do you fancy Ethiopian? I know this wonderful little place down by the lakeshore. Shall I pick you up or will we take the El?"

"Well I don't know how much you are planning to drink but I think we can better be on the safe side and take the El. We can always grab a cab back if we feel like it. You live on the way to the El station so why don't I pick you up at...say 7?"

Abby felt her heart jump, she actually offered to pick Kerry up and they were really going out on a date tonight. --Hang on Lockhart, you are going out for dinner. Dinner is NOT a date. But it might become one. Yet, no need to get your hopes up. She might still dump you or tell you she doesn't want this.--

"Sure. 7 it is. Now let's get back to work and cure some people."

And with that, Kerry held the door open and they walked into the hustle and bustle of the ER again. Unknown to one another, they were both reeling with excitement at their date tonight.

A fine state of affairs, part 10