Project #3 - “Together Again”

Timeline: Missing scenes between “Bygones” and “The Letter”
Contributors: Mangababe, 42olives, Juliana, Peanut41 & Piney

Total number of scenes: 5

Rating: R (except Scene 2 - NC-17)
Disclaimer: All ER characters belong to NBC, Constant C Productions, Amblin Entertainment and Warner Brothers Television. We only lovingly borrowed them for a while. No attempt is made to profit from them.

Scene 1

Found - by Mangababe

(This story picks up where "Bygones" left off...and is mainly told from Sandy's point-of-view)

"You were right. You did do me a favor."

Did I just hear that correctly?

Kerry leans forward and places a gentle kiss on Sandy's lips. The word "forgiveness" doesn't even begin to describe the emotions conveyed in that one simple act.

Momentarily disarmed, Sandy drops her gaze and begins to speak in a much softer voice, "Come to think of it, it was a pretty cool save. The fire went to 3 alarms. I couldn't see my hand...", her story cut short as Kerry reaches out for Sandy's cheek and pulls her in for another kiss. The second touch of the redhead's lips was all it took to undo Sandy's guard...she melted into the kiss, throwing her arms around the ER doc. What started out as a tender press of the lips soon ignites into a very passionate kiss. Sandy can feel Kerry trembling in her arms...she breaks away from the kiss and buries her face in Sandy's shoulder. "I thought I'd lost you...", the small redhead mumbles into the fabric of her jacket.

" found me..." she whispers in Kerry's ear.

They need to talk. Sandy didn't think she'd ever see her favorite doc again, not after that last good-bye; but for now, all she wants to do is enjoy the warmth of the body wrapped around her.

It had been a rough day, one in which the feisty firefighter got a brutal reminder of the thin line between life and death. It's customary, after a big fire, that before the crew scatter home to their wives and girlfriends...they usually stopped in at "The Moose and Squirrel," to toast another job well done and that they all made it out alive. This firefighter had gotten used to having a couple of beers and going home to an empty apartment.

So the fact that she was now enveloped in her ex-lover's arms was especially sweet. They stand in the street, next to Sandy’s car, for several minutes...holding the ER doc in her arms until the trembling subsides. Breaking the silence, Sandy whispers in her ear,” I’m happy you found me.... but you've got to understand, Kerry, I just can't go on playing this game with you." Sandy releases her hold on the ER doc just enough to be able to see her face and those hazel-green eyes. "It hurts too damn much."

"I know," is Kerry's whispered response. "I'm sorry it took nearly losing you to that fire today, to make me see that. Can we go somewhere to talk, other than the middle of the street?"

Sandy let out a chuckle and says, " you have a car?"

Dr. Weaver answers, "no, I took the El to work today, and a cab from there."

"You've got my keys...I guess you'd better drive," Sandy says as they break apart. She walks around the front of her car to the passenger side door.

Once inside the car, neither of them says much, except for an agreement on Doc Magoo's as the destination. It's a safe, neutral place where they can talk, and it's open. It's late, so Kerry finds a prime parking spot along the curb in front of the diner. They settle into one of the comfy booths at the far right of the room, sitting across from one another…The distance uncomfortable, yet necessary. The waitress approaches and brings with her a fresh pot of coffee, filling the cups before them. "That will be fine, thanks," Kerry says as the waitress places two menus on the table in front of them. Grabbing her coffee cup between both hands.... Kerry looks up into Sandy's eyes.

Sandy is the first to speak..."I did you a favor, huh? What made you change your mind.... if I recall you were mad as hell."

"I was mad. After I left the firehouse that night, I went home and lay awake for hours. Too angry to sleep. Sometime around 3am I realized that I wasn't upset that you kissed me in the middle of my ER; but that you took the choice away from me. It should have been my choice to come out at work. I was no longer in control. A place I'm not used to being." Kerry pauses and takes a sip of her coffee.

"I...." Sandy begins to reply, only to be cut off by Kerry, "please Sandy, let me finish before you say anything." Taking a deep breath, Kerry picks up her thought, "I was terrified when I walked in the door the next morning. I wasn't sure what the staff's reaction would be, except for Luka. He knows. I tried to busy myself with work, keeping a low profile and making sure everyone was busy enough to minimize the idle chatter. Then Frank, the desk clerk, came up to me at the admit desk and said,’ So you're gay, huh?' I snapped back, 'Yeah Frank, I'm gay.' He proceeded to inform me that homosexuality was wrong and that I would burn in hell. I just walked away from him. I was too mortified to say anything more." The small redhead let out a breath she wasn't aware she was holding. Sandy sat across from her this whole time, calmly listening, chin on one hand, occasionally glancing down into her cup as if it to read the surface of the liquid.

Resuming her story, Weaver continues, "I spent the rest of that day and the following week waiting for more snide comments and sideways glances. It was like I was a child all over again, having to deal with my inability to walk with out a crutch. They never came. Then in the last week or so...I began to see that you were right...I needed to be out; it was preventing me from really living. And that maybe it was better that it just happened like it did.... no grand pronouncement.... just there it is. I was still annoyed at you for taking away my choice, but I couldn't see the point of staying that way." the timbre of Kerry's voice was a bit slower and deeper than usual...Sandy could tell that this was hard for her.

After a very long pause, Kerry begins to speak again, this time her voice seeming less steady, less sure, as if maybe she were afraid the words might escape before she could say them. "Today began the same as yesterday, the same as last week, until the paramedics brought in a woman suffering from burns and smoke inhalation. I was waiting on a stabbing.... but the teacher came in first. As the EMT gave me the bullet, the firefighter accompanying him said that he had to get back, that an elementary school fire had escalated and all available units were called. He told us to expect more casualties and asked how many we could handle. As we treated her, my mind kept thinking of you. When I got her stabilized and had a moment to step away.... the fear hit me."

"The realization that I had never had the experience of worrying over a loved one's safety. It kept gnawing at me as the casualties kept rolling in. Then they brought in an injured firefighter, from the 38. He said that he'd been caught in the building when a wall caved in. I could feel my stomach tying itself in knots...and while assessing the extent of his injuries, I asked if they had managed to get the rest of the firefighters out. He said that when they loaded him onto the ambulance, there were still three men trapped and proceeded to name them....Hansen, Jefferies, and Lopez. At that point my concern for your safety over-rode everything else and I asked point-blank if it was you. He confirmed my fear and said that you were the first one in...." Kerry pauses briefly and looks up from the table, directly into Sandy's eyes... which were beginning to well up with tears. "Right then, the possibility that I might never see you again...the reality that you might not be as lucky as the man on my table, it hit me. Hard."

Kerry's words took the firefighter the moments she spent fighting for her life today. Sandy reaches across the table and takes hold of one of Kerry's hands. Kerry continues, "I have already lost one relationship because of my cowardice and the realization that I had let myself do it yet again - combined with my fear for your life regardless of whether or not we were together, was just too much. I told myself that if you came out of the fire alive; I would let go of everything but my desire to have you back in my life." Kerry gives a gentle squeeze to the hand she is holding and reclines back against the seat, extending her arm so that she holds on to the firefighter's hand. She takes a deep breath and is still.

Lt. Lopez is sitting in the booth across from her ex-lover all this time, listening intently, surprised and warmed by Kerry's admission. Emotions welling up in her from the harrowing rescue of the little boy and her crew that got trapped.

After a few moments of silence, her eyes brimming with tears...she spoke. "I didn't mean to hurt you...I didn't do it out of spite. Really. I was just so hurt that you couldn't acknowledge me in public. I paid my dues, many times over, and I was not willing to go back to the closet, even for you. That day in the hallway...I could see that you were struggling. I thought that if I was patient enough you would talk to me, we could work things out. Then there were all those interruptions...and I was so frustrated. I couldn't see how I could get it through to you that I really cared for you, but was unwilling to hide my feelings. When you followed me and grabbed my arm, my first thought was that the time for words had passed, and I needed to show you how I felt - so I kissed you and left. There was nothing else for me to say. As I walked out the door, I realized what I'd just done...not only had I just outed you to the entire ER...I'd probably also lost you for good. But, I had to take that risk, Kerry. I needed you to understand what your denial of our relationship was doing to us, to me."

Sandy pauses, taking the hand that has been resting in her lap and reaches over to take Weaver's other hand. Holding onto both of Kerry's hands across the table, she continues, "I fell for you Dr. a big way. And it pained me to think that you might never speak to me again...especially after what I had done. I understand the control issue.... I was just as angry when you refused to obey my commands at the accident site, where we first met. However, I was willing to risk losing you, in order to get you to understand how much I care for you." The last three words seemed to hang in the air between them. "Thank you for coming after me...'

By now, both women have tears in their eyes, faces flushed with emotion, and their hearts laying open before them. They sit, gazing into each other's eyes across the table. After a few seconds, Sandy lets go of the ER doc's hands and gets up from the table...the sudden loss of contact causing Weaver to visibly flinch.

"It's ok..." Sandy speaks as she slides into the booth beside Kerry. The physical distance between them has become too much, as the emotional distance disappears. She takes the ER doc into her arms. "God, I missed you..." Sandy breathes into her ear, "...will you come home with me?" It feels so good to have Kerry in her arms again, especially after a day which came close to being her last.


Scene 2

La Paciencia Ritmica/Rhythmic Patience - by 42olives

Previously in the Sandynista project: The night of "Bygones". Sandy and Kerry embrace in a booth at Doc Magoo's. "God, I missed you..." Sandy breathes into her ear, "...will you come home with me?"

Kerry felt the warmth of Sandy's breath against the skin of her neck, smelled the cigarette smoke from the bar clinging to the curly hair, and as she nuzzled more tightly into Sandy's neck she noticed the sharp tang of harsh soap. A scent that Kerry learned last winter was the firehouse soap, and meant that the woman in her arms had tried to wash away the memory of danger and fear in the locker room shower. Kerry held tighter, the substance of the firefighter's body a welcome weight in her arms. "Yes, oh yes, I'll come home with you."

Sandy felt the knot of tension that had been sitting beneath her breast bone, unacknowledged for over a month, release and relax at Kerry's words. She put her hands on Kerry's shoulders then slid her palms down the biceps, gently pulling herself from the embrace. She smiled and slid from the booth. Standing, she held out a hand to Kerry. "You'll drive again?"

Kerry nodded, while she slipped on her trench coat; Sandy pulled out her wallet, tossed a ten onto the table and gave a quick wave to the waitress, who was refilling the pepper shakers at the counter.

The pair quickly left the harsh light of Doc Magoo's, to go into the darkness of the still chilly March night.

Kerry settled into the driver's seat again after carefully stowing her crutch behind her seat. She turned to smile at the woman beside her, but the smile stopped at the sight of the strong profile. She felt her eyes drawn to the full lips; she reached to stroke the soft skin under the chin, then Sandy turned, brow furrowed, "Kerr..."

Her words were stopped by a kiss, as Kerry's hungry mouth sought hers. Ignoring the impediments of gearshift, emergency brake and seat belt, Kerry lifted herself seeking to press as closely as possible against Sandy. Her fingers tangled in the silken curls at the nape of Sandy's neck as her searching tongue savored the coffee flavored mouth. Breathless Sandy twisted her head away from the demanding kiss.

"Kerry, calmate. We're going to my home, you have to drive, okay?"

Kerry gasped for breath.

"You remember how to get there?"

Kerry sank back into the driver's seat and nodded, "The expressway, get off on Division."

"That's right. You can do it, girl."

Kerry nodded again, "Okay, okay," as she turned the key in the ignition. They steered through the quiet night.


Sandy unlocked the door to her apartment. As Kerry stepped in she was greeted by the scent of cinnamon and lemon cleanser. A scent, she thought as she put her coat on the hangar Sandy handed to her, she had missed without knowing it. After quickly hanging up her own coat, Sandy moved into the main room of the studio apartment turning on the soft light of a bedside lamp, and bending down to open the valve and coax more heat from the old steam radiator, which sighed acquiescence. Kerry followed, then stopped and blinked at what she saw, "No sofa bed?"

"I couldn't sleep, they said it was bad for my back. But I still couldn't rest." Sandy shrugged, then their eyes met and the women exchanged wistful smiles. Sandy took Kerry's hands and leaned to kiss the rosy lips. "You're here, I couldn't even dream that you'd ever be here again." Sandy sank onto the foot of bed and pulled Kerry down to sit next to her. Then she leaned in again for another kiss, opening her mouth to nurse on the softness of Kerry's lower lip, licking gently as her hands stroked the strong forearms, then lifted to knead the upper arms and shoulders. She felt firm hands on her lower back. And their tongues met, licking and dancing together. She sighed as she felt the thirst build within her, and she broke the kiss. "Kerry, are you ready? Really ready to be with me?"

Kerry saw the troubled crease between the brows, "Oh, yes. And not just for tonight."

"No hiding."

"No more," Kerry softly shook her head, "I can't hide anymore."

"You're ready to face it all, even the hardship?"

"Everything, even the hardship. I want to face it with you, together."

Seeing the resolute set of the head, Sandy caressed the delicate arc of the determined jaw and moved down the throat to tease along the edge of the blue v-neck pullover. She leaned forward for a quick kiss, and then back as she pulled the red t-shirt from her own body. She smiled when she saw Kerry's eyes widen. Then tossing the t-shirt onto a chair she stripped off her sports bra. Her dimples deepened as she noticed Kerry's hungry eyes, and she caught the pale hands as they reached for her breasts. "Oh no, It's your turn now."

"Um hmm." Smiling, Kerry peeled off the pullover, dropped it at her feet and hastily reached behind to unfasten her own bra. Then she pulled Sandy to her and moaned when their flesh met.

Sandy's hands sought the familiar curves of Kerry's back, but to her stroking hands the curves did not seem as familiar, and when her fingers found the corrugation of Kerry's ribs she exclaimed, "You're so skinny."

"Yes." Kerry's head sank as she dejectedly leaned her forehead on the strong shoulder, She whispered, "I just couldn't eat. I felt so alone I didn't even want to think of food."

Sandy shrugged and looked ruefully down at her own belly, "I think for every pound you lost I gained one."

Kerry noticed the slight new softness over the abs and running her hand down the smooth skin, her fingers teased inside the waistband of the black jeans. She pulled back and tugged at the top button of the jeans, "Sandy?" her nimble fingers undid the top button and her pleading eyes met Sandy's.

Sandy cupped the delicate chin and she ran her thumb along Kerry's jaw, "You want to cocíname algo sabroso."

"Sabroso?" Kerry was enchanted by rolling 'r', but the scholar within her frowned at the unfamiliar word.


A small smile graced Kerry's mouth, "Yes, I'll cook you something tasty," the tip of her tongue peeked out as she unknowingly licked her lip.

Sandy grinned. She pulled off one boot and, with a grunt, the second. With two quick motions she discarded her socks. She stood, met Kerry's green eyes, and unbuttoned her fly. She dragged her jeans down, with her panties until they were bunched on the floor, then stepped out of them. Pulling down the bed covers, Sandy reclined against the pile of pillows then she reached back to remove the clip from her hair and with a satisfied and mischievous grin, she met Kerry's eyes and said, "Your turn."

Kerry swallowed, overwhelmed by the sight of Sandy's self-assured nudity. For a moment she was at a loss. Then she quickly kicked off her clogs; her socks took some tugging and toe wriggling before they were discarded. She cautiously stood, unzipped and removed her slacks and panties, and placed them on a chair. Aware of the smoky eyes watching her, and with the aid of her crutch she slowly made her way around to her side of the bed. Shyly, she settled into the bed, then she turned to face Sandy.

Sandy could see the rapid pulse at the base of her throat. "Cariño, it's okay," Sandy cupped Kerry's cheek caressing it with her thumb, "what matters is that we're together."

Kerry pulled Sandy close. The two women sank deeper into the bed, snuggling closer, learning and remembering how they fit as they settled together. Kerry's hand finding Sandy's breast and cupping it. She leaned upward to gently kiss Sandy's lips, remembering their softness and fullness. Sandy's breast still fit perfectly; as she kneaded the nipple stiffened into her palm. Her kiss was slow as she reacquainted herself with the taste of Sandy's mouth. Sandy basked in the heat of the pale body pressed against her side, and relished the nimble tongue that was tracing small circles inside her lips.

Kerry's hand trailed downward; there was a was a slight softness, a convexity, below Sandy's navel and above the flat plane that lead to the rise that was covered with crisp dark hair. After cupping the slight tummy bulge and kneading it's softness, Kerry dragged the backs of her fingernails downward to comb the short curls.

Kerry's kiss had become deeper and more passionate as she drank from Sandy's mouth. And when the pale fingers parted the hair to touch her moist vulval lips, Sandy gasped and murmured, "Oh, Kerry, please."

"Sandy, I want to see you."

The steam radiator, which still sighed softly, had done its work and the small apartment was now quite warm. In a few moments, Kerry constructed a nest for them and slid down between Sandy's legs.

Before her were Sandy's dark curls; she delicately spread the outer lips revealing a multitude of shades of rose and pink, the redness of the inner lips, the clean arc of the hood and the rosy clit peeking out from underneath. For Kerry there was nothing clinical about this, she just wanted to see again this intimate nook of Sandy's beloved body. She sighed as she saw the glistening wetness on the folds. Sandy moaned sharply when she felt a cooling puff of breath on her vulva. Alarmed, Kerry pressed herself upward, emitting her own startled gasp as her breast pressed against the slickness. The lovers stared at each other.

"Do you feel this?"

Sandy nodded, her mouth open.

Kerry shifted her torso experimentally, rubbing her breast against Sandy's sex. "I've never felt anything..."

"It's so good." Sandy marvelled at the sensation, Kerry's breast was so much more pliant than a thigh; the silky pale skin seemed to mold to each fold of her vulva. Sandy tipped her hips, again marvelling at the silky yielding friction.

Holding each others' gaze, the lovers rocked against each other; relishing the silkiness and heat of their bodies brought together. Sandy could feel the need and desire build within her, "Kerry, I want you inside me."

Reaching below her own breasts, she entered Sandy gently with her second finger, and began the light, rapid strokes she remembered Sandy needed. As the silky sex churned against Kerry's breasts, the scent of Sandy's arousal rose. Kerry was intoxicated by the clean, savoury, salty aroma; she inhaled deeply and felt herself salivate. Kerry could see Sandy's head tip back, spreading the rich brown curls across the pillow; and she could hear Sandy's tiny, high-pitched mewing moans in time with the rhythm of their contact. Sandy was as open as Kerry had ever felt her, so she inserted her index finger alongside, then she changed her motion but kept the tempo and with the two fingers she made a rapid stirring motion deep inside. Sandy gave two swift cries, and Kerry could feel the flutter of Sandy's release on her fingers.

As she felt the spasms subside, Kerry lifted herself from Sandy, who lay, limp and breathing deeply, against the pile of pillows. As Kerry gingerly eased her fingers from inside Sandy, the scent of Sandy's climax washed over her and she dipped her head and gently kissed the outer lips of Sandy's sex. She longed to stay there and savour. The taste, she remembered, was sweeter and saltier than the scent. But she knew, even in the warm room, Sandy would chill quickly. And she knew and felt gratitude deep within her, that there would be another night and another chance.

Kerry dragged herself up the bed along the languid body, pulling the covers over Sandy's sweat-covered form. Settling at Sandy's side, she started massaging large languid circles on Sandy's belly. She saw that the smoky eyes were nearly closed, she planted a line of small kisses along the hairline at the temple then down the cheek and across the jaw. She heard a small moan of contentment, and she added a last kiss to the full lips.

"I feel so good," Sandy's eyes eased open. "I haven't felt so good in a long time." Kerry smiled a small smile of triumph. Beneath the covers, Sandy caught the hand that had been massaging the soothing circles, "But if you keep on rubbing my tummy, you're going to send me to straight to sleep." Her thumb started to stroke Kerry's palm, making small circles at the base of each of the strong pale fingers.

"And that would be a bad thing?" the smile quirked the corner of Kerry's mouth. The circles made by Sandy's thumb expanded to cover the whole palm.

"It is when I want to make love to you." Sandy pulled the cream white hand from beneath the covers, and brought it to her lips. Her mouth followed the same path that her fingers had around the outside of Kerry's palm, sucking and gently nipping the pads at the base of the fingers. Then her strong tongue followed the path, licking, coiling into the center of the palm, which she hit with short firm strokes. Kerry gulped, transfixed by the sensations, and she shimmied closer, settling her leg over Sandy's thigh. Sandy's tongue made one last swirl in the center of the palm, then licked up the outside of Kerry's index finger, tasting her own earlier arousal. As her tongue trailed down the space between the two fingers and she delicately licked the web between, Kerry's breath turned ragged and she felt the heat build within her and a fresh flood of wetness. Finally, when Sandy began to suck and nurse on her fingers taking them deep into her mouth, Kerry began to rock, grinding her hips rhythmically against Sandy's thigh.

"Do you know what you do to me?"

Sandy grinned, "I've got an idea."

"You do?"

"I can feel how wet you are."

"Uhn." Kerry coughed in embarrassment.

"No, it's good." Sandy slid her strong arms around Kerry. "Come on get on top."

Kerry squirmed a bit, until she was lying on Sandy, their legs entwined. She felt so secure, with Sandy holding her and she nuzzled into Sandy's neck. Sandy caressed up and down the length of Kerry's back, finally resting her hands on the start of the flared curve of Kerry's ass, encouraging the rocking motion of Kerry's hips. She cupped Kerry's buttocks, the sides weren't symmetrical but both yielded to Sandy's strong hands as she kneaded. She felt Kerry sigh against her neck, "Kerry, baby, you want to ride?"

"Yuhhm." Sandy felt Kerry nod into her neck, so she pulled Kerry upward, she could feel the hot, slick fluid of Kerry's arousal paint a trail as she settled Kerry on top of her belly.

Kerry arched her back and settled her forearms on each side of Sandy's head. As she looked downward at Sandy, their eyes met and they both smiled. Sandy burrowed her head a beneath Kerry and caught one of her breasts in her mouth. She licked across the nipple and then sucked; finally she took it all into her mouth, nipple and areola, as much as possible, caressing it between her tongue and palate. She sucked and nursed on the breast in time with the rocking of Kerry's hips.

Sandy could hear the change in Kerry's breathing, the little gasps and catches mirrored the motion of her hips. The once steady rhythm had become erratic as Kerry pressed her sex onto Sandy's belly. She cradled Kerry in her arms and slowly rolled, easing Kerry onto her back. Then she lifted herself, looking into the dilated eyes, with only the slightest trace of green surrounding the green pupils. "I've got you cariño, I'll take care of you." She slipped her hand between the pale thighs and parted the soft hair.

"I'm here, baby, I'm here."

Sandy parted the vulval lips and caressed the length of Kerry's sex. Kerry sighed and sank back onto the pillows.

As Sandy eased two fingers inside Kerry, she could see the tension leave Kerry's jaw and shoulders. Her thumb swirled through the moist vulval lips seeking Kerry's clit, she teased back the hood. Unknowingly, Kerry arched her hips up, pushing herself further onto the strong fingers as Sandy's thumb continued to circle in a steady tempo. Her fingers kept the rhythm as they firmly stroked and curled within Kerry's vagina.

Sandy marveled at the beauty of the woman below her; the fair creamy skin of her breasts, the delicate curve of her jawline thrust upward by arch of her neck. She listened to the slow deep rasp of Kerry's breath. As her eyes admired the elegant arch of Kerry's brow, the heavy lidded eyes opened.

"Do you need more?"

The pale head nodded, stirring the red hair against the pillow.

Sandy's third finger joined her others, pressing deeply within Kerry.

"Stay." whispered Kerry.

Sandy stilled the motion of her fingers, and softened the pressure as her thumb widened the circles that it was tracing, brushing not only Kerry's clit but the full length of her vulval lips. After a while Kerry murmured, "Please."

Sandy resumed her motion deep within Kerry. Kerry kept her eyes open, needing to know this was real, that what she felt was right, that she was really here, held closely, not alone, held warmly, held tight, by Sandy.

As the spasms of release overtook her, Kerry cried out again and again until finally she lay, spent. With the last of her energy, she rolled over and clung to Sandy. Sandy withdrew her fingers and cradled Kerry's head against her shoulder, brushing the sweat soaked hair from her forehead. She heard a small moan of contentment, and saw that the green eyes were nearly closed. "Sleep, Kerry. I'm here."

Kerry's eyelids fluttered open and she placed a kiss on Sandy's mouth. "I'm so glad to be back here, with you." Sandy smiled, dimples deepening. Then she reached behind her to turn off the beside lamp and snuggled back close to Kerry. Kerry heard Sandy's breath soften and the curly head sank close to her shoulder. As her own eyes became heavy, Kerry whispered into the night "Cariño."


Some Spanish words used in Scene 2:

calmate - relax; compose yourself.
Cariño - darling; honey.
Cocíname algo sabroso. - Cook something tasty for me



Scene 3

Certain Realizations - by Juliana

Kerry awoke face to face with Sandy, her lover’s strong limbs intertwined with her own. The sun wouldn't be up for a while yet. She was used to waking early and the alarm wasn’t due to go off for another half hour. There was no need to go back to sleep; all the peace in the world was to be found, fully conscious and aware of what she possessed, here in the arms of sweet firefighter Lopez.

She looked so beautiful and defenseless, a slight smile on her lips and still clinging to Kerry. There was nothing between them but heat and one synchronized pounding of two hearts. Kerry was so aware of her, skin like silk over hard, relaxed muscle. What a joy it was to give yourself to another person, to know that person inside out, and to let yourself be so vulnerable.

Sandy began to stir, sensing her partner's consciousness. Her long, curly eyelashes fluttered, and she smiled, still incoherent, before burying her face deeper in Kerry’s shoulder. “What time is it?” Her voice was muffled by a spill of dark ringlets.

“Five-thirty.” Kerry loved running her fingers through Sandy’s hair. She could not help reliving what had happened in this bed just hours before. She pulled Sandy closer to her, remembering all the looks and touches that would change how they’d look at each other this morning. All the whispers that would change how they’d look at each other forever.

Still not fully awake, Sandy sat up, propping herself on one arm. Slow satisfaction melted across her face.


Sandy’s hesitation was prolonged by the return to consciousness. Certain realizations. “I’m just... I just... like how you look first thing in the morning.”

Kerry blushed, definitely about to disagree.

“In my bed.” She sank back down into the softness of Kerry’s embrace, squeezing her possessively. “Mine.”

She smiled to herself and squeezed Sandy back, not over the novelty of being reunited. I almost lost you, and now I am yours. Maybe forever. The separation had taught her there was such a thing as too independent. It actually felt good to belong with someone. I don‘t think I ever want to leave this bed. "Believe me," she reassured her lover. "This is just the first of many mornings we will have to appreciate being together."

“Agh,” Sandy sat up again. “I’d be appreciating it more if you didn’t have to run off to the ER.”


Kerry pushed Sandy further down and kissed her hard enough to bruise. Lips and tongue worked their way over to Sandy’s ear and down her neck. Kerry’s hands ran roughly over Sandy’s breasts, and down her body, pulling at fabric.

“Kerry... Don‘t tease me.” Sandy’s kisses were helpless. She’d wanted it, waited for it all day. Kerry knew that.

Kerry's hand traveled up under the dress, up the muscular, tan thigh, slowly.

“What are we doing?”

You are going to lay back.” Kerry shoved Sandy, who was still propped up on her elbows, back into the soft plush of carpet. “And what I am going to do will become clear in just a moment.” Sandy’s dress was up around her waist, and Kerry was tugging a lacy, black thong down over her hips.

She kissed her belly button. Sandy shivered, and grabbed two fistfuls of red hair as Kerry very slowly kissed lower, and lower, until the thong was thrown across the living room and Sandy's legs were wrapped around-

“Earth to Dr. Weaver!” Kerry was jerked abruptly out of her fantasy and found herself face to face with Chen, standing above her, arms crossed, glaring.

She was definitely not in her own apartment making love to her girlfriend in front of a roaring fire. All that was open in front of her was a chart, page blank, in need of her professional scribblings.

“What is wrong with you, Kerry?” wondered Chen out loud.

Kerry’s face burned. She felt caught with her own pants down, but was not about to be engaged in conflict. “Could be lack of sleep. Why do you ask?”

“You’re distracted... and actually smiling,” Chen retorted. Kerry didn’t buy into it for one second. Suddenly, as a matter of fact, the whole world was smiling with her. So what if the Chief of Emergency Medicine had been sitting idle for five minutes (well, ten...) dreaming about sex with a beautiful woman? It wasn’t a crime.

Her confidence was bolstered by her lack of shame. “What is it you want, Jing-mei?”

“You are wanted on the phone.” There was a catch in her voice that didn’t bother Kerry in the least. “It’s Sandy Lopez.”

“Well, thank you,” she said with both smothering kindness and ripping sarcasm. She gathered her clipboard, the chart, and her crutch, and headed out of the lounge toward the station, calling over her shoulder to her colleague. “Next time you don’t have to track me down to deliver my messages; just page me!”

All eyes were on her. It seemed like every doctor and nurse on the clock was lingering, exchanging glances. Nothing seemed to change around here.

Sandy’s voice made her heart beat faster. “Hi, Kerry. I’m sorry to call you in the middle of the shift. I know you‘re busy.” Kerry smiled. Busy indeed!

“Oh, that’s okay Sandy,” she purred. “I was just thinking about you.” She considered adding the word naked, but decided this was not a good idea. Luka was across the desk, smiling from ear to ear, giving her the thumbs-up. “What do you need?”

“Among other things,” Sandy laughed, suggestively before becoming serious, “...your approval. I forgot, I was supposed to go out with some of the guys this afternoon for a late lunch. Kind of a celebration type thing.”

Kerry’s brow furrowed. Sandy certainly did not need her approval to socialize, even if they did have tentative plans. “Do you want to just catch up with me later?”

“Well, um, actually...” Sandy took a deep breath. “I want you to join us. Some of the men are bringing dates, and everyone’s been asking about you.”

"I'd be glad to go." Kerry was touched, if anxious about meeting Sandy's co-workers. She'd made a bad first impression the night she went storming into the firehouse. "If you're sure it's okay. I wouldn't want to intrude."

"Don't worry about it." Sandy seemed to know where Kerry's apprehension was coming from. "They know how much I..." She swallowed her initial impulse, and the pause was noticeable. "How much you mean to me."

Kerry’s voice lowered, so as not to make a spectacle of her feelings. “I can’t wait to see you. I’ll leave at one today; I can spare the overtime. I just have to stop at home to freshen up.”

Sandy had swallowed her feelings and recomposed. “Then I‘ll swing by at two...” There was a little pause. “Talk to you later, okay?”


As Kerry hung up, she knew what was missing in all those little pauses.


Kerry barely heard the doorbell over the hair dryer. Sandy had to be the most punctual person she had ever dated. Not yet dressed, Kerry bent over to pick up the fuzzy purple bath towel that was still damp at her feet. It wrapped easily around her small frame. She laughed softly the whole way to the door. Her senses were still reeling from a whole day of not being able to get sex off her mind. Maybe, just maybe, they’d show up fashionably late for lunch.

After checking the peephole to confirm that it was *definitely* Sandy-- she dropped the towel, and the normally conservative doctor swung the door wide open without further consideration of the possibilities.

“Oh shit.” Sandy’s mouth dropped. The long stemmed red rose she carried fell to the ground, forgotten, as she flung herself forward to hide Kerry. Lieutenant Jefferies, just a couple steps behind, spun around and hid his face, shouting, “I didn’t see anything, I swear!” Trying, however ineffectually, to diffuse the embarrassment.

Kerry was mortified.

“Excuse us for a few moments,” Sandy said, shutting the door.

Jefferies called, “I’ll be waiting in the car... just take your time getting dressed!”

Inside the house, Kerry had pulled away from Sandy and re-wrapped herself in the towel. Sandy grabbed her fiercely and pulled her close, rubbing her back and shoulders wondering what in the world to say.

Kerry spoke first, looking down with watery eyes. “I’m sorry. I just didn’t expect-”

Sandy cut her off. “No, I’m sorry. I should’ve told you I was giving him a ride. Since we had some time I just thought you’d feel better if you knew someone before we got there.”

“I guess I ruined everything.”

Sandy helped Kerry to the couch and hugged her again, smiling and brushing a strand of hair out of her eyes. She lifted Kerry’s chin and couldn’t help but see the humor of it all. “Hardly.” Her memory produced an image of a young Kerry Weaver dancing naked around a wall of flames, and her smiles broke loose. She chose not to allude to this.

Kerry’s smile was weak. “You’re not mad?”

At this, Sandy laughed, and kissed her playfully on the cheek. “I’m anything but mad.” She took Kerry’s hand and kissed it, letting the fingers linger sensuously by her lips. “If I’d known what you had in mind, I would have shown up alone. But Jefferies is waiting in the car, and you should get dressed.”

“I can’t go now!”

Sandy rolled her eyes. “He won’t say anything to anyone.”

“Yes he will! And I have a reputation to-”

“I’ll talk to him,” Sandy promised. She went to Kerry’s bedroom and came back with the clothes which had been neatly laid out on the bed. “Here. You’re coming, because I’ve been waiting for way too long to show you off.” She looked at her watch. “We still have a while. You get dressed, pour three glasses of wine, and I’ll go get Jefferies. God knows he’s probably more embarrassed than you are.”

“I doubt that,” grumbled Kerry, slipping into gray slacks and a fitted cream colored blouse. But once completely decent, she felt herself relax a bit. Sandy took a few minutes getting Jeffries out of the car. Kerry had time to gulp down one whole glass and pour three more before they came back in.

Sandy entered the kitchen and held out the rose, reclaimed from the front porch. Her dark eyes held the promise of all the passion Kerry could handle. Later.

"Thank you." Kerry could not resist pulling Sandy into a long, passionate kiss before pulling away, to retrieve a glass from the cupboard.

"How much restraint do you think I have, woman?" Sandy's voice was thick with the desire she was holding back on.

Kerry placed the rose in the glass in the middle of the table. "Well now maybe you know a little of what I've been feeling all day." They entered the living room quickly to avoid what could have happened in the kitchen.

The man sitting on the couch when they came out looked to be in his early thirties, dark hair with blue eyes, clean cut, dressed casual, and completely red in the face. Kerry decided to pretend nothing had happened, set a wine glass before him on the coffee table, and extended a hand. “I‘m pleased to meet you, Lieutenant Jefferies.”

He shook the hand. “You can call me Ron. And the pleasure is mine. I’ve heard sooo much about you.”

He deferred to Sandy, who stood protectively by her side, beaming. “Of course, I’d have nothing to do with that.”

Kerry blushed for what seemed the hundredth time since she’d met Sandy.

“Really, you two are quite the couple.” He thought for a moment, and observed, “You seem to round each other out.”

Sandy‘s smile was tender. “She just might settle me down.”

Once seated, wine and comfortable banter replaced the strained politeness. Sandy and Kerry leaned into each other, each anticipating the other‘s words and actions. The male firefighter was actually quite tactful and Kerry thought, charming.

Together the women told him how they'd met in the rainy Chicago streets that night. Sandy became very animated, gesturing wildly and nearly acting out the part where she threw Kerry on the ground. Kerry enjoyed the way her partner got louder and more excited as conversation progressed. "And there we were, laying in a puddle, and all I could think was how bad I wanted to kiss her!"

Kerry was genuinely shocked. "You never told me that!"

"Oh, like it wasn't too obvious..."

"It wasn't!!!" Kerry decided to pour herself another glass of wine. Just wait until I get you alone, Sandy...

There was a lull in the conversation. Sandy flashed Jefferies a wicked grin. "So, speaking of crushes, aren't you going to ask her about you-know-who?"

He looked down at his lap, and shook his head.


Kerry was confused. "What is this all about?"

Sandy was determined. "Jefferies seems to have a problem opening up. I really think he needs to talk about his feelings. Feelings, say, toward a certain surgeon seen from time to time around your own ER..."

"Stop!" His ears were red.

Kerry raised an eyebrow. "Dr. Corday? Elizabeth Corday? How did you happen to meet her?"

He shrugged. “I love a woman with a sexy accent. I heard her talking in the hall. I was there being treated the night of the school fire. I just heard her, in passing, and kind of hung around hoping to, you know, talk to her.”

"You stalked her!" Sandy was extremely amused by his predicament.

Kerry felt bad, and shook her head. "I can certainly understand the attraction, but she's happily married, with a daughter. I‘m sorry."

“He knows this!" Sandy roared. "And I keep telling him, go for Nurse what’s-her-name?” She looked blankly at Kerry. “You know, the cute one.”

Kerry stiffened with a slight pang of jealousy, and Sandy noticed. Somewhat pleased and ashamed of herself.

More than happy to change the subject to time, Kerry broke up the small party. "Shouldn't we be heading to the Moose and Squirrel? It's almost three o'clock!" Then something occurred to her. She turned to Sandy, acutely concerned. "Are you able to drive?"

Sandy was. She'd hardly touched her wine.


The Moose and Squirrel was not what Kerry remembered. The place was now carpeted, instead of a tile floor slick with beer and spit. The animal heads and firearms had been taken down in favor of some tasteful outdoorsy paintings. There was no longer a wall of half naked women on beer posters behind the bar. The paisley linoleum booths had been replaced with solid oak tables and chairs. Seedy twang did not blare from a radio behind the bartender. She was a young blonde in a uniform chewing gum, instead of a toothless guy in a mullet and greasy wife-beater, gumming tobacco. There was now a jukebox off in the corner. No doubt it was full of country albums, but one could not get too picky.

The blonde bartender cracked her gum. “Hey Jefferies...”

He nodded respectfully toward his companions. “I’ll be right back.”

Sandy turned to Kerry before they got to the table. “I know this is far from fancy, but they do have great sandwiches.”

“Believe me, I can have fun anywhere with you.” Kerry was beginning to think she’d never get over how lucky she felt to be at Sandy’s side. Among other reasons, Sandy made her feel like herself, and comfortable with that.

Two men, one with a wife or girlfriend, were seated at two adjoined tables for four. “Where’s Hanson and Joanna?” Sandy asked the man sitting solo, and introduced him. “Kerry, this is Gilroy. Gilroy, Kerry Weaver.”

He nodded, and smiled at Kerry, before answering the question. “He said they’d be about a half hour late.” He winked.

Sandy laughed aloud, rolling her eyes. “I don’t even want to know why!” (Though it seemed she already did.) She gestured toward the couple sitting across from Gilroy. “This,“ she emphasized, “is Brody Lorenzini and his girlfriend, Gina. Meet Kerry Weaver.”

Kerry worried that perhaps a heterosexual woman would not be very receptive to her. But Gina rose and grasped her hand warmly. “It’s nice to meet you.” Brody added, “To finally meet you.”

Sandy seated Kerry between herself and Gilroy, across from Gina.

Ron Jefferies reappeared with another man. ”Looked what I dragged in off the street!”

“Marty!” Sandy was glad to see him. “Get your ass over here and meet my girlfriend!” Marty obliged, introducing himself. “I’m Marty. Pleased to meet you.”

“The pleasure is mine,” Kerry assured him, with a firm handshake.

Jefferies suggested that they go ahead and order, and took his seat across the table from Sandy. Kerry was, in fact, relieved to have the one person she knew besides her date sitting in conversational range.

Marty sat next to Sandy. She inquired, “So what made you decide to show up?”

“Aw, they cancelled Ronnie’s street hockey game. Rain.”

“Ronnie’s his son,” explained Sandy. “He’s named after Jefferies!” And to Marty, “That’s too bad.”

He leaned forward. “So you’re the big-shot ER Doc always patching up my comrades.”

Sandy interjected, “I think she’s bandaged you up on more than one occasion.”

Marty smiled wide. “So I’ve noticed.”

Brody called from the corner, “Why don’tcha quit hitting on Sandy’s woman and find one of your own. And order something while you’re at it!

“My ex-wife doesn’t allow me to date.”

The waitress, glad to finally be noticed, shook her head. “Always the loudest table in the bar...” Her smile showed she didn’t really care.

Marty ordered a Coors.

“Corona with Lime for me, please,” Sandy ordered.

“I’ll have the same.” Kerry was in the mood for beer, a rare occasion. She was having fun, and hadn’t expected to. It warmed her heart to see a group so close-knit. She spent a few moments wishing she had this type of relationship with her staff. Before remembering, sadly, that she could not relinquish her professional cushion of space.

Brody broke into her thoughts. “Seriously, Dr. Weaver, we’re glad that you could join us this afternoon. And I think I speak for all the guys-”


“And girls... when I say we’re thankful for doctors!”

Gilroy started the applause. Brody stood and took a bow. Kerry didn’t know what to say. She ended up having to say nothing. Jefferies stood up and shouted, “We’re thankful to be alive!”

The applause doubled. Sandy laughed, pointing out some regulars at the bar joining in. Marty stood up and raised his bottle. “We’re thankful to have beer!”

Gina threw a wadded up napkin. Laughter and talking resumed.

Under the table, Sandy squeezed Kerry’s hand. “Are you okay?”

Kerry nodded, genuinely enjoying herself. “Actually it’s been a while since I’ve had a good time.”

Sandy leaned over and whispered, “I had a good time last night.” And this was one of the times her expression of lust was almost frightening to Kerry. She was speechless. Sandy leaned over and gave her a very slow, loving kiss. “Thank you for coming. This means a lot to me.”

When Dan Hanson and his wife, Joanna, arrived, they were introduced. He had to pull up a chair to join the group at the overflowing table.

Enlivened by the entrance, the conversation turned quickly to the play-by-play of the school fire. But Kerry’s attention turned introspective. She observed how much in love the married couple seemed to be, how Joanna looked at her husband when the others praised him for his heroism. She felt a lump in her throat, recognizing Joanna Hanson’s pride as the way she felt about Sandy.

She watched Sandy, her heart growing larger and lighter as time passed. The food came, and was eaten. She barely tasted her club sandwich. All she could think about was what a big heart Sandy had, and how badly she wanted to be alone with her again. Not only for sex. That was great and would always be great. But to tell her over and over how much she would always need her, to tell her they must never be apart again. Those words, among other words, could not be overlooked, could never be taken for granted.

Sandy excused herself to the ladies room. Gilroy turned to Kerry, smiling. “I’ve never seen her like this,” he said.


Marty piped up. “Meaning she’s getting all... sentimental. Like girly-women get. She’s like a sister to us, so it’s sorta cute.”

“Sandy used to seem so... sad inside. You know, underneath all that fun. But I think you make her happy, and bring out the best in her. I just hope you intend to be around for awhile.” Jefferies was expecting an answer. Because he cared. They all cared, about Sandy.

She took the plunge. “Believe me.” She eyed the object of her affection approaching the table, beauty her very aura, and lowered her voice. “I don‘t ever intend to try to live without her.”

It occurred to her for the first time that it didn’t matter to one person in the room that she was gay. Suddenly, a lifetime of denying herself freedom seemed absurd. She raised her own bottle just slightly off the table to toast firefighters, being truly alive, and of course, beer.

There were questions in Sandy‘s eyes, unspoken needs in her kiss. She hadn’t heard a word of what was said, and still knew it had been about her. But since everyone was nearly drunk, the conversation shifted again, ever lively. That was alright. In time, all questions would be answered.

When that time came, Kerry decided, she had some very serious things to say.


Scene 4

Intermezzo - by Peanut41

The thumping bass from the stereo speakers sent vibrations through the living room floorboards and up into Kerry's feet and legs. Aretha's voice - powerful, confident, in control - filled the room and was echoed with surprising strength and clarity by Kerry's normally reedy alto.

"What you want...."

Kerry spun on her left foot and gracefully completed the pirouette with her right foot and crutch.

"Baby, I got...."

She paused briefly to spread her arms, throw back her head, and proclaim - with the help of the Queen of Soul -

"What you need, you know I got it...."

- and then continued to whirl about the room with a freedom and abandon that recalled distant, assumed forgotten, childhood memories.

Sandy had only just dropped Kerry off at her house a few minutes earlier. The smell of cigarette smoke from the Moose and Squirrel clung to Kerry's hair and skin and she had wanted to come home to shower and change for their dinner date while Sandy went back to her studio to do the same. (Sandy had no toiletries or clothing at Kerry's, an unacceptable oversight that Kerry made a mental note to correct as soon as possible.) They would meet back here at 7:30. She had just less than ninety minutes to prepare but was in no hurry at the moment. The shower could wait. For as soon as she had turned on the music, the desire - no, need - to dance had overwhelmed her.


Kerry spun past a mirror with a silver inlayed frame that she'd picked up on a trip to Mexico. From the corner of her eye she glimpsed a reflection in the mirror of a woman she didn't recognize and stopped abruptly, thinking for a moment that a stranger had somehow found her way into Kerry's living room. The woman's red hair was tussled, her cheeks flushed, her eyes sparkling. And a gleeful grin crinkled the corners of her mouth and eyes.

Kerry studied her own reflection with a mixture of amazement and curiosity. What was this? There was a word for this and the doctor in Kerry struggled to find it, to diagnose the phenomenon, to name what she saw in the mirror.

The song changed on the stereo.

"Lookin' out on the morning rain

I used to feel so uninspired...."

She felt certain this was the same feeling that had enveloped her last night and again this morning, as surely as Sandy's arms had enveloped her. She'd heard it now in the sound of her voice singing just as she'd heard it earlier today in the sound of Sandy's laughter at the Moose and Squirrel.

Before the day I met you, life was so unkind.

But you're the key to my peace of mind."

Kerry was only subconsciously aware of the song now playing, but the lyrics prodded her toward understanding. The word danced on the tip of her tongue, as it frequently seemed to whenever she was with - or thought of - Sandy. And though it wasn't a foreign word she sought, she knew that the feeling it described had been foreign - or lost - to her until just recently.

"When my soul was in the Lost and Found

You came along to claim it.

I didn't know just what was wrong with me

Till your kiss helped me name it."

Kerry's eyes widened, a look of almost childlike wonder on her face. She could see the word in her mind now, could hear the sound of it in her head. And so as not to break the spell of this moment, Kerry whispered it to her reflection in the mirror.


"You make me feel, you make me feel,

You make me feel like a natural woman."


It had been an unseasonably warm day, downright balmy for March in Chicago. But now, as the sun disappeared, a damp chill crept into the air. Sandy watched through her windshield as pedestrians darted across the intersection, their collars turned up against the cold. She chuckled to herself as she watched a sudden gust of wind pick up and carry away a baseball cap and the owner scuttle after it like a crab. Sandy felt immune to the cold this evening, found it bracing, invigorating. Her car window was rolled all the way down, the stereo pounding out an old, somewhat obscure R&B song.

"If you want my lovin',

If you really do,

Don't be afraid baby, just ask me.

You know I'm gonna give it to you."

Aretha, she thought, but wasn't absolutely sure. She'd have to check with Kerry on that. Kerry was the expert on All Things Aretha.

Funny, she'd only just dropped Kerry off at her place, was going to see her again in ninety minutes (less, if the traffic cooperated). Yet she could think of nothing, or no one, else. She thought of the startled look on Kerry's face when she'd opened the door to surprise Sandy and found she wasn't alone (and at the thought of Kerry standing nude at the door, a grin beamed across Sandy's face). Of Kerry settling into first comfortable and then enthusiastic banter at lunch with her pals from the 38. Of Kerry in her arms this morning, Kerry in her arms last night.

A flush of desire darkened Sandy's cheeks and she felt a little disappointed in herself. There was so much more that she felt for Kerry than mere physical desire. She loved her, of that she had no doubt. She was fascinated by her, could listen to her talk for hours. And she felt a fierce protectiveness that surprised her - that she should feel protective of this strong, capable, self-sufficient woman, a woman who gave no indication of needing Sandy's or anyone else's protection. Yet desire for Kerry tugged at her constantly, like a demanding child pulling insistently at her sleeve. And like a demanding child, it would persist until she gave it her full attention.

The sound of a car horn blasting jolted Sandy out of her daydream. In her rearview mirror she could see the impatient motorist behind her gesture angrily to the now-green light and mouth an obscenity. Sandy only raised her right hand in acknowledgement and mouthed "Thanks" in her mirror in response. She proceeded slowly through the intersection. His anger did not touch her.

Sandy continued to wonder at this need she felt to protect Kerry. She had been protective of Anna, but there had been a sad desperation to that, a frantic effort to slow the descent of a woman careening toward self-destruction. With Kerry, her protectiveness was almost maternal (although her feelings for her were anything but motherly). She knew Kerry well enough to know that there was a lot she didn't know. But she sensed in Kerry a certain "newness"; and she knew intuitively that many of the things that Kerry was now feeling, doing, risking were fresh and unique experiences. So much seemed to catch her by surprise. When she felt challenged, when it seemed that the comfort of the familiar was threatened (however unfulfilling or dysfunctional the familiar might be) she was perfectly capable of lashing out, of throwing a tantrum. But there were times when Sandy would catch a look of puzzled wonder cross Kerry's face, much like the look on a toddler's face as she takes her first tentative steps alone - a mixture of trepidation and exhilaration. And then, like a child, she would rush head-on into her new experience, as a toddler will go from one or two wobbly steps to a full-out giggling run.

But one doesn't go from a step to a run without a few falls. Sandy wished she could protect Kerry from all harm - from a scraped ego or bruised feelings - but she knew that wasn't possible, or even healthy. And Kerry wouldn't allow it anyway - she couldn't stand to be coddled. So Sandy would stand by, watching and marveling at Kerry's joyful run. And she would insert herself, whenever possible, between Kerry and life's sharp corners and hard landings.

Yes, it was Aretha. Definitely Aretha.


Scene 5

Ashes, Ashes, We All Fall Down - by Piney

To what purpose April, do you return again? Beauty is not enough. You can no longer quiet me with the redness of little leaves opening stickily. I know what I know. The sun is hot on my neck as I observe the spikes of the crocus. The smell of the earth is good. It is apparent that there is no death. But what does that signify? Not only under ground are the brains of men eaten by maggots. Life in itself is nothing, an empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs. It is not enough that yearly, down this hill, April comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers. -- Millay

Angela O’Neill walks slowly and carefully up to the casket supported above the freshly dug grave that will receive her husband’s body. She steadies herself with a trembling hand to kiss the black lacquered box and kneel beside it. Her forehead rests against it--the remainder of his life and love, and she prays, crossing herself slowly, seeming to hold back tears and a desire to wail. Such restraint is expected of the spouse of a dead firefighter; so is the grief pulling at her face. She rises, appearing resolute and newly composed, to remove a pendant from around her neck and place it on the casket alongside a single red rose.

Kerry watches the ritual from deep within the gallery of spouses and friends of the 38th division of the Chicago Fire Department. It is cool and bright in the low afternoon sun of late April. Crocuses have emerged through patches of the last spring snow, evoking regret among the gathered rather than promise. It is the first spring John will not see and in which Angela will not find renewal. The division stands in formation behind the family. Sandy is in the front row of the phalanx of men in formal dress and identical stoic expressions. She breaks ranks to offer condolences to the now emotionless woman. The others follow her lead to form a long line meant to show the widow that she is not alone and will continue to be held closely by the family of brothers and sisters.

The black uniforms mix into the crowd and couples and families stand together as a bagpiper plays an Irish hymn. The piper walks slowly from beside the grave to stand under a tree on a nearby hilltop. Kerry and Sandy walk silently up the rise toward their car, escaping from the heavy pall into a fresh breeze. Kerry speaks the one thought she has been distilling for the last hour.

“There are a hundred ways for a firefighter to die aren’t there Sandy?” Sandy searches Kerry’s face, gauging the depth of her remark. Fear has found a new home in the back of Kerry’s eyes.

“Yeah Kerry,” Sandy looks back to the gravesite, “A hundred ways.” The bagpipe wheezes to a stop and the last of the graveside mourners begin to move off. Life is never stilled. It is only slowed in the mind long enough to remember a favorite, fleeting form.

“Organized stardust.” Kerry murmurs.


“Nothing.” Philosophy can be an insult to grief.

“I have to pass on dinner tonight.” Sandy says flatly, her caring overcome by fatigue. “Jackson’s wife went into labor this afternoon. I told him I would cover his shift.” They stand together looking over the hill as cars pull away to form a slow-motion jam at the cemetery exit. They too must leave for the groundskeepers to complete their work. “I don’t have to go to the firehouse—just on call--but maybe we should do it another night.” Her face is pale where the crisp breeze should have made it ruddy and away from the men, Sandy has allowed her eyes to fade into sadness. Kerry watches Sandy withdrawing into a dark solitude and she reaches to squeeze Sandy into her shoulder.

“Why don’t you come over for dinner then. I’ll cook something simple.” Sandy doesn’t answer but turns to bury her face in Kerry’s coat. She allows herself only a few tears before emerging, the wetness chapping her skin in the cool air.

“I’ll swing by the firehouse for some gear and come over,” she says, after collecting herself. The sun has dropped below the line of trees separating the buried dead from the living city. They pull away from the gate and close their minds to what lies behind them.


“Hey Cap.” Sandy’s greeting is subdued but warm. Today it is hard to hold professional distance with Captain Shaw. He has been her mentor and friend since she first joined the department. “Did my medal come in?’

“Yeah.” Shaw fights a smile as he reaches into his desk to find a dark blue jewelry case. “Planning on making an honest woman of that doctor friend of yours?” His smile infects her and she grins slyly, “Maybe.” She opens the case to see the Saint Florian medal just as she had ordered it—sterling silver in the shape of an oval. She checks the engraving on the back. “Please protect Sandy Lopez #177825.” She places the medal back carefully and slips the case into her uniform jacket. “It was a good service, Cap.” Shaw slumps in his chair a little deeper. “Your eulogy was…” Sandy tries to find the right words to praise reluctant excellence. “It was good. I am sure Angela appreciated it. We all did.”

“Thanks.” Shaw sits up again, pushes papers around on his desk to shift his attention before his emotion is revealed. Sandy steps around the desk quickly and places a kiss on his cheek before he can realize her intent. She turns and hurries out the door without looking back for her sake as well as his.


Sandy helps herself to seconds from the platter of pot roast that Kerry has placed in the center of the table. Kerry had planned this meal to be comfort food. She had cut the potatoes, carrots, and onions into large chunks as would a farmhouse cook, hoping to bring to mind a warm country home. She had browned the rib-eye roast and cooked it slowly, adding the vegetables in their time, until the meat was done and the vegetables were just tender and still colorful. It had been a relief to take action after feeling so powerless. The caramelized onions in the bottom of the pan added flavor to the rich gravy she designed to be poured liberally over the meat and potatoes. She served it with green peas, applesauce, and warm, buttered potato rolls. The art of this meal is equal to the best haute cuisine she has prepared in the past. Kerry is satisfied with her effort. How else could she comfort Sandy or ease her own chilling thoughts from the day’s events. They each pour a tall glass of cold milk.

Sandy finishes with a flurry of roll and gravy and washes it down with the last of her milk. She expects to be called at any time and has eaten a little too quickly. She fidgets with an unused spoon as she waits for Kerry to finish. Her thoughtful glances at Kerry’s plate are mixed with nervousness and could be mistaken for impatience.

“What is it, Sandy?” They have spoken only a few words since Sandy arrived, mostly about the food and the weather.

“Kerry, what will you do if I am killed in a fire?” Kerry looked sharply at Sandy. How could she want to talk of that now when everyone is still in shock over O’Neill’s death? Kerry stares into her glass and waits. “It could happen Kerry. Every run…I know it could be the last.” Kerry still hasn’t looked up. “I just want to know if you still want to go on with us.”

“What do you mean? Do I want to be with you knowing you will die one day?” Kerry pops up from the table to retrieve an apple pie from the oven. “I may die before you do, you know. I could get hit by a bus, catch an exotic disease, get knifed in the ER, hit by a drunk…”

“Stop it Kerry; you know what I mean. It isn’t the same thing.” Sandy’s intensity brings Kerry back to the table and she gives Sandy her full attention.

“Okay, you’re right. It isn’t the same thing. There is extra risk. It is dangerous work.” Kerry begins with irritation but softens as the thought forms in her mind. “That’s why you do it. Somebody has to take the risk.” She takes Sandy’s hand across the corner of the table and caresses it with her thumb trying to soothe away the difficult truth.

“It isn’t just my risk anymore…It’s yours too…as long as we’re together…you can get hurt.”

“I always knew that”

“Yeah, but it seems more real now doesn’t it?” Sandy waits for Kerry to find her honesty.


“And every time I go on a run you have to worry if I’ll come back or if I’ll be hurt. You’ll listen for the phone and jump when it rings.”

“I know.”

“Kerry, I need to know…” Sandy quiets Kerry’s caress with her other hand “…are you sure you want to do this?” Kerry stops breathing.

“Be with you?”

“Yeah, I mean really be with me. Be more with me.” Kerry releases Sandy’s hands and stands again to clear the table. Sandy picks up the glasses, follows Kerry to the sink and leans against the counter to wait for Kerry to collect her thoughts now swirling in the rinse water.

“Sandy, no one knows how long they will live. I see people die everyday. We all have to make the most of what time we get.”

“Yeah, sure. I get that. But everyone doesn’t walk into burning buildings. Families have to worry all the time.” Kerry stores the word “families” in the back of her mind.

“What about your guilt for making me worry?” Sandy holds the breath she has collected for her next argument and frowns admission. Her guilt has driven her to ask the question in the first place. The guilt is just as heavy a burden.

“Sandy, you fight fire because you want to serve.” Kerry dries her hands and places them on the sides of Sandy’s face. “You serve because you care. You care because that is who you are…and that is why I love you…”

The words hit Sandy squarely in the chest. She lets them seep inside slowly. “…I love you more than I have loved anyone…ever.” Kerry’s words flow to fill every crevice of Sandy’s heart, leaving no room for fear or regret or any other ache one may nurture in love’s absence. Sandy draws her slowly into a tight embrace forcing Kerry to finish the thought into her neck. “Seems only fair that something this special comes with a price.”

“Come here.” Sandy leads Kerry by the hand into the living room. She reaches into the pocket of her jacket lying over the back of the couch and pulls out the blue box. “Sit,” Sandy instructs. She snuggles in closely beside Kerry on the couch, lets out a deep, tense breath and lays the box in Kerry’s lap. “I want you to have this.”

Kerry slowly opens the box already suspecting what she will find. “Sandy…” Kerry flushes.

“It’s a St. Florian medal. I am hoping you will wear it for me. It is something the wives do…”

“I know, Sandy.”

“It’s a tradition.”

“I know.”

“It means…we are together. That I love you and want you in my life.” With no response from Kerry, Sandy begins to ramble nervously. “Kerry, I know we haven’t talked about this…”

Kerry surprises Sandy with a strong kiss. “It is beautiful, Sandy. I’ll wear it very proudly.” She resists telling Sandy how much she had hoped for this gift. Sandy pulls the medal from the case and places it around Kerry’s neck. Kerry’s cheeks are wet with tears. Seeing this, Sandy’s eyes begin to well.

“I guess it means you’re mine.”

“Sandy, I’ve been yours for a long time.” They sit back into the couch, Kerry with one hand squeezing Sandy’s hand and the other pressing the medal.

”Sandy. I don’t take my life, or yours, for granted. I can’t promise I won’t worry, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I couldn’t.”

“I know Kerry. What would I do without you?” Sandy dries her cheeks with her sleeve and laughs, turning solemness into joy. “How about some of that pie. It smells so good!” She stands and pulls Kerry up off the couch into her embrace.

“I thought you wanted pie!” Kerry protests weakly as she squeezes Sandy hard against her body—both forms yielding to pressure and creating warmth. They stand holding one another quietly for a long moment. It is these moments that make the journey possible.

Kerry starts for the kitchen and stops in midstride at the sound of Sandy’s beeper. She turns to see Sandy reach into her pocket, read the beeper and quickly grab for her jacket. “I have to go. It is warehouse row—4 alarms.” Kerry has witnessed the call to fire once before, but then her anger had protected her from the stomach-squeezing dread she was now feeling. She can’t afford to show it just as Sandy can’t afford to take fear with her to the fire.

“I will be here when you get back.”

“Don’t wait up”

“I won’t.” Kerry knew she would not sleep. “Be safe.”

“I will. I love you.” Sandy captures Kerry’s eyes to be sure her expression of love was heard in the rush.

“I love you too.”

Sandy kisses Kerry quickly and turns to run out the door to her car. Kerry watches and fingers the new pendant and the raised letters around the figure, ‘Saint Florian--Protect Us’. She sees Sandy wave from the car and disappear from view.

“A hundred ways to die” she whispers to herself. She turns away from the door and heads back to the kitchen. “And only one way to live.”


Sandynista Fanfic Series

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