Second Chances

part 17

by Lynne Norris

Please see part one for all disclaimers.


Chapter Eighteen

 

Regina finished changing into her scrubs and shut her locker. She slipped an elastic band from her wrist and pulled her damp hair back into a braid. She wasnít sure how she managed to wake up on time, because she laid awake in bed thinking for a long time after Alex had drifted off to sleep, emotionally exhausted from her confession.

Alex had held her firmly at armsí length for so long despite the attraction that they both felt was there. Regina smiled to herself, knowing that last night had been a crossroads of sorts for them with the older woman finally letting her inside. She liked being there, knowing that for Alex there were few people who she trusted enough to let them get that close. It made her feel special.

The door swung open and Sandy bustled in, interrupting her thoughts.

"Hey, Regina." Sandy walked over to her locker and opened it. "What did you and Alex end up doing last night?"

Regina stared at Sandyís back for a few seconds before her brain finally kicked her mouth into gear. "Uh, we went for a walk."

"Yeah? Whereíd you go?" Sandy asked, as she tugged her scrub top over her head.

Alarm bells started sounding in Reginaís head as she tried not to stammer.

"By the reservoir," Regina said, certain that her face was now three shades darker than when the conversation first started. She turned around and opened her locker, fishing inside needlessly for an extra pen. "Howís it look out there today? Busy?" she asked, hoping to change the conversation.

"Well, if it was going to be quiet, you just jinxed us for sure." Sandy winked at her and opened the door. "Oh, hi Alex. Have a nice walk last night?" She smiled impishly up at the attending and walked out into the department.

Alex looked at the closing door, then back at Reginaís face. "Hi. You ok?"

"Yeah, Iím fine. I just need some coffee." Regina stifled a yawn. She wasnít sure what made her so uncomfortable about Sandy asking her about last night. Maybe it was just the fact that Sandy knew Tina and well, thatís how stories got started around here.

The taller woman nodded at the white bag she set on the bench. She had extricated herself from Reginaís embrace around five a.m. and kissed the blonde, telling her she would meet her at work. "I picked up a couple of cups at the diner. Milk and sugar."

Regina watched as Alex slipped out of her shirt, leaving well-toned upper body clad only in a sports bra. "Thanks, you didnít have to do that."

"I know." Alex pulled a set of scrubs from the pile on the cart. Quickly stripping out of the rest of her clothes she pulled on her scrub top. Regina blinked and felt a wave of heat rush through her body as she watched from her seat on the bench.

Alex turned around as she pulled on the bottoms. Noticing the slightly unfocused look on Reginaís face, she raised an eyebrow in question. "Whatís wrong?"

Regina shook her head. "Nothing, I, uh, oh boy." She quickly stood up and walked to the door feeling flustered by her reaction to seeing Alex undressing in front of her. "I need to go. Iím going to go check and see if we uh, have any patients."

"What about your coffee?"

Regina turned and opened the door, slipping out of the locker room, and left Alex standing there wondering what she had just missed.

The resident didnít see the medical director bearing down on her until it was too late and she collided into Dr. Jameson. The stack of folders he was carrying flew into the air and scattered across the floor in disarray.

"Oh, Iím sorry." Regina dropped quickly to her knee and scrambled to pick up the papers that dropped to the floor.

"Son of a bitch! Why donít you watch where the hell youíre going next time?" he said as he rushed to pick everything up. He glared at her and yanked the papers quickly out of Reginaís hand.

Regina stood up and took a breath, watching him walk down the corridor and disappear around the corner. "Prick!" She said under her breath and headed over to the nurseís station.

Sandy looked up as Regina appeared in front of her. "God, is he always such a jerk?" Regina asked, still feeling stung by his obnoxious remark.

Sandy nodded her head. "Heís got absolutely no social skills whatsoever. Donít waste your time on it. Hey, Marcus is down in room five. I think he could use a hand in there."

"Whatís he got?" Regina asked.

"A shoulder dislocation that he canít reduce." Sandy said. "The guy was screaming before Marcus even touched him."

Regina switched directions and headed down the hallway, grateful for the chance to be busy with a patient. Marcus looked up at Regina as she walked into the room and gave her a pathetically relieved smile. "Regina, I canít reduce his shoulder. He fell off a ladder and popped it out when he landed on the ground."

Regina walked up to the stretcher and peered down at the man. "Hi, Iím Dr. Kingston. Whatís your name?"

"Thomas." He looked Regina up and down, his eyes widening. "You said you were getting help, doc." He looked over at Marcus, a worried look on his face. "Sheís half your size. Whatís she going to be able to do if you canít yank it back into place?"

Regina gave him a wry smile. She pulled on a pair of gloves. "You look like you play football."

"Yeah." He said, watching her warily as she filled a needle with medication.

"What position?" Regina asked.

"Linebacker."

"Hold still. Iím giving you some more muscle relaxant." He winced as the needle pierced his skin. "So what were you doing up on a ladder so early today?" Regina asked, glancing up at Marcus giving him a knowing look, as she threw the needle in the sharps container. "Thomas, I want you to roll over and hang your arm off the edge of the table. Marcus get me a sandbag so I can weight his arm down."

"Is it going to hurt a lot?" He asked.

Regina sat on the floor and crossed her legs. "Probably when the joint slips back in place. Ok, Thomas Iím going to strap this weight around your wrist." She took the sandbag that Marcus handed to her.

"Now what?" Thomas said, looking down at Regina.

Regina smiled up at him. "Tom, this will go a lot easier if you trust me." Regina took hold of his arm after a few minutes and turned it slowly back and forth. She felt a subtle pop as the joint slid back into place. "Ok, that should do it. Marcus, let me know what the post-reduction film looks like."

******

Alex walked into the conference room and spotted Jon sitting at the other end of the table. She walked over and slipped into the chair next to him. "Hi. Howís Chris doing?"

"Tired and sheís pulling a double shift today," he said, reaching across the table for a donut.

Alex surveyed the table. "Oh great, Jameson calls us in here so we can listen to another drug rep. Wonderful, like we donít have better things to do with our time."

"How do you know itís a drug rep?" Jon asked, wiping the white powder from his lips.

"Who else comes in here and plies us with this crap?" She pointed at the pile of donuts on the table, then crossed her arms and tilted her head so she could peer under the table. She spied a brown box and reached out with her foot, tilting it toward her. "Uh, huh a whole box of samples to give out."

Jon shook his head. "Alex, you are getting too cynical in your old age."

Alex sat back in her chair, her eyes narrowing as Dr. Jameson walked into the room smiling and laughing at what the woman walking beside him was saying.

"Thanks for inviting me, Dr. Jameson." She smiled and looked around the room as he took his seat. "Hi everyone, my name is Donna Sanders."

Jon turned his head and rolled his eyes at Alex as the bubbly personality standing in front of them, dressed in a snug fitting pant suit, launched into her monologue. Across the room, a beeper shrilled noisily and the medical director fumbled with the one on his belt in irritation, finally silencing it after several seconds.

"I know youíre all really busy so I wonít keep you long." The rep breezed through several minutes of research about a new drug she wanted the doctors to try for their trauma patients.

Alex settled back in her chair and crossed her arms, letting her mind wander far from the meeting. A smile played at her lips as her mind conjured up an image of one blonde-haired petite woman smiling back at her. Jon leaned over and discreetly nudged her elbow.

"Care to let me in on whatís so amusing?" he whispered to her.

The dark-haired woman turned her head slowly and raised an eyebrow.

"Ok, Iíll take that as a Ďnoí," he said quietly and went back to listening to the woman at the head of the table.

Alex watched as the woman dug through her leather briefcase and pulled out a thick file that she set on the table.

"Dr. Margulies, I was wondering if you could look at something for me?"

Alex lifted her head and met challenging brown ones staring back at her. "Iím sorry, I didnít get your name." She leaned forward in her chair, folding her hands loosely on the table.

"Donna. Donna Sanders," the woman replied impatiently.

Alex nodded her head, feeling the tension in the room rising palpably, as Dr. Jameson shot her a warning look from across the table. What are you up to now, Jim?

"Whatís your question, Ms. Sanders?"

The drug representative opened the file and pulled out several packets of paper. "I was wondering why your team of doctors havenít been using this medication on your trauma patients that are at risk for cardiac complications in this emergency department."

Alex raised an eyebrow and reached her arm out across the table. "May I?" She smiled easily up at the woman and took the file from her. She scanned down a list of names -most of them were patients that had been treated over the second and third quarters of the year in the emergency department. She recognized several by the primary diagnosis and detailed medical history printed on the sheets. Her irritation growing at the presumptuous attitude, Alex shoved the papers over to Jon and picked up the file containing the research.

"Dr. Margulies?" The drug rep leaned forward on the table, watching with interest.

Alex scanned the data quickly, set the file down on the table and closed it. She looked up, her eyes narrowing as she focused on the adversary standing across from her.

"Ms. Sanders, this," Alex looked down at the folder in disgust and shoved it back across the table at her, "research isnít worth the paper itís written on. For one thing, there arenít enough subjects for it to be statistically relevant and a first year med student could put together a better research model than your staff did."

"That research has been backed up by the AMA," the rep defended testily.

Alex laughed. "Really? In what journal? Oh, and let me guess, T&M funded the research trials? From what Iíve read, that medication is useful on a very small population and there are no independent trials that have proven that its benefits outweigh the complications of prolonged use, which the FDA reports is longer than twenty-four hours." Standing up from her chair, Alex ran her fingers along the surface of the table as she stepped closer to the woman. "Tell me Ms. Sanders, whoís paying who for the list of patient names from our ER?" Alex glared at Dr. Jameson as she said this.

The womanís face reddened and her body stiffened at the accusation. "That is perfectly legal. You know that pharmaceutical benefit management firms approve every drug a patient takes. Itís in our database."

"Legal or not," Alex was face to face with the woman now, "I think these patients would find it rather embarrassing that some stranger knows the intimate details of their medical history, all for the sake of selling a drug and making a profit. I find that offensive. Why donít you come back when you have something of relevance to discuss?" She stalked out, leaving the rest of the room in stunned silence.

She was halfway down the hall when Jon jogged up beside her. "Jesus, Alex, are you trying to make enemies in there?"

She turned to him, still bristling at the brazenness of the drug rep. "Do yourself a favor, Jon. Stay out of whatever scheme Jameson has going on."

"Iím with you Alex, but be careful. Jameson is already gunning for you. All you did was just piss him off more."

"So let him." She took a breath and shook her head, letting go of some of the anger that welled up inside from the unexpected confrontation.

The door from the conference room banged open behind them and Dr. Jameson stormed past the two doctors. He stopped mid-stride and whirled around, glaring up at Alex. "This isnít over by a long shot, Alex. Iím still the medical director here."

"Then act like it." She pushed open the stairwell door she looked back at Jon. "Iíll catch up to you later. Iím covering the clinic this afternoon."

******

Aside from the normal minor accidents, mostly bumps and bruises, the day had been relatively quiet so far. Regina finished the paperwork for the man she treated earlier. He was in surgery now, having his index finger re-attached after a run in with a lawn mower and stick that was stuck in the blades.

The resident looked up at the clock and realized that it was late in the afternoon and she had yet to see Alex after they met in the locker room when they first came in to the hospital. She walked down the hallway toward the nurseís station, hoping to find her.

Sandy was busy talking to a doctor at the other end of the room. Turning around, Regina noticed a man standing at the desk holding a clipboard, looking lost and definitely out of place in his suit and tie.

He smiled, obviously relieved as he saw Regina approaching him. She groaned inwardly, hoping that this wasnít another drug rep peddling their newest, latest concoction that had a list of side-effects long enough to make a dead person roll over in their grave. They were always coming in, trying to get the doctors to use another medication, taking up valuable time spouting off statistics from supposed studies that had been funded sometimes from the company producing the drug.

"Hi, my nameís Dean. Is Dr. Jameson around?"

"I donít know. I can have him paged, if you want." Regina said, more than happy to pawn him off on someone else.

"That would be great. I have some new IV pumps he wanted to use in the department. I just need his signature to release them to him."

The unit clerk looked up at Regina. "I got it, Dr. Kingston." She picked up the phone and dialed the number. "Hi. I need Dr. Jon Jameson paged to the ER. Thanks." She hung up the phone. "If heís in heíll call back." She looked at the man standing in front of her.

Regina went back to pulling up some lab reports on the computer, then finished writing out discharge orders for two of her patients and called radiology to check on another she sent down earlier for a series of tests. She was aware of Dean fidgeting as he stood by the desk, looking nervous and checking his watch periodically.

"Excuse me." He leaned over the desk. "Do you think you could page him again? I have another client I have to meet with and I donít want to be late."

Regina looked up from the computer and glanced over at the clock. This was sure to piss their medical director off, paging him twice in less than fifteen minutes. "Iíd give him some more time."

Two minutes later the ER doors banged open at the other end of the hallway. Dr. Jameson stormed toward the desk. "Who the hell paged me out of my meeting?" He ignored the startled glances he got from the staff and patients alike as he marched past the crowded waiting room.

Regina watched as his nostrils flared and the pupils dilated in his eyes as his nervous system shifted into overdrive. Oh shit. "He needs a signature to release these pumps to you." She pointed at the rep standing across from the desk.

"Dr. Kingston, donít you know anybody could have signed for these goddamn pumps! What are you stupid?" He shouted at the resident, leaning over the desk at her.

Regina stepped back, staring in shock at the doctorís outburst. "Dr. Jameson, IÖ"

"Damn residents," he cursed. "None of you can make a decision without someone holding your hand."

Sandy leaned across the desk. "Why donít you shut your mouth, before you have every patient in the waiting room out here watching your performance."

"Stay out of it," he snapped at her.

"Uh, Dr. Jameson." The rep tried desperately to intervene. "You probably just donít remember. You said you were the only one who could sign for these."

"Thatís ridiculous. I canít believe you people would pull me out of a meeting to come down here and sign for this crap." He grabbed the clipboard out of the repís hands and hastily scrawled his signature on the sheet, ripping the edge of the paper with the force of his pen.

Slamming his hand down on the counter, he glared at Regina. "Next time, sign for the pumps yourself." He never finished his sentence as a look of utter shock came over his face. His jaw worked and his hand gripped the chest high counter, the skin over his knuckles whitening as he held on for support. His eyelids were fluttering closed and Regina could see the whites of his eyes as they rolled back up into his head.

"What theÖ?" Ah, shit." Sandy jumped to her feet and darted past the desk.

"Get out of the way." Regina scrambled around a chair, pushing the drug rep out of the way. She grabbed Dr. Jameson around his waist, as he started an awkward slide down to the cold tile floor. Regina staggered back under his weight, trying unsuccessfully to let him down slowly. She scooted around to his shoulders and shook him roughly. "Dr. Jameson?" His eyes fluttered open and for a moment he focused on her and then the light seemed to fade out of brown eyes, leaving them flat and lifeless.

Regina felt for his carotid pulse in his neck. She closed her eyes, willing her own heart to stop racing so she could concentrate on feeling for the heart beat. She shook her head and bent closer over his mouth, listening and feeling for air. Damn. "Sandy! Get the crash cart, now!"

"Do you have a pulse?" The nurse started backpedaling down the hall.

"No. No pulse, no respirations," Regina called out to her. Son of a bitch, I canít believe this is happening. She tilted his head back and pressed her mouth over his, pinching off his nose and giving him two breaths. She slid down to his chest and started pumping on his chest.

"CÖcan I do anything?" The rep asked, bending over her.

Regina glanced up at his face, as she kept pressing down on the medical directorís sternum. "Yeah, go sit down and put your head between yours knees." I donít need you passing out, too. She scooted back up to Dr. Jamesonís head and blew air twice more into his lungs.

Sandy pulled the cart up beside them. "Iíll get a twelve lead on him." She ripped open his shirt, popping the buttons off and scattering them across the floor. The nurse started slapping the leads and wires onto his chest, then flipped the portable monitor on and waited for it to pick up the rhythm of his heart. "Stop compressions."

Regina sat back on her heels and grabbed the ambu-bag off the top of the cart. She looked over at the nurseís station and found the unit clerk staring down at them in shock.

"Call a code. We need help down here." She looked back up at the monitor. "Shit, heís in V-fib." Regina watched the rhythm on the monitor that told her the chambers of his heart were contracting ineffectively, his blood pooling uselessly there. "Give me the paddles and charge to 200 joules." Sandy squirted the gel on and rubbed them together, handing them to Regina. She waited until the machine charged. "Clear!"

Regina leaned over and depressed the buttons. The high-pitched whine of electricity powered through the cables and the medical directorís body convulsed on the floor as the counter shock tried to get the heart to start beating normally.

A door slammed open and she heard footsteps running down the hallway from behind her, then Alex was crouching down on the floor beside her. "What happened?" The attending looked up at the monitor, studying the rhythm briefly.

"He was yelling and then he just went down," Sandy explained.

"Sandy, we need an IV line hook-up and a blood gas."

"Got it." She handed Alex the setup from the cart.

Alex bent over the doctor and snapped rubber tubing around his upper arm. "Someone, get these people out of here. We donít need an audience," Alex ordered as she saw several family members walking hesitantly toward the commotion on the floor. She jabbed the vessel with the needle and reached up, taking the line from Sandy and piggybacking it to the IV catheter.

Regina watched as the rhythm of the heart on the monitor fluctuated and then fell back into ventricular fibrillation. She reached up and turned the knob to 260 joules. "Clear."

Alex sat back on her heels and lifted her hands away from the body.

Placing the paddles on the already reddened areas of his chest, Regina depressed the buttons and watched as the electricity shocked the heart briefly out of its near-fatal rhythm. "Shit, come on, donít you do this." Regina charged the machine to 300 joules and shocked him again.

Setting the paddles down, the resident yanked open the drawers on the code cart and pulled out an ET tube. "Iíve shocked him three times and heís still in V-fib."

"Give me one milligram of epinephrine." Alex held her hand out for the syringe.

Regina tilted his head back and opened his mouth. Inserting the scope, she slid the ET tube down into the trachea. "Itís in. Bag him."

"Iíve got it," Dr. Torres said breathlessly as he knelt down next to Regina. He heard the code being called just as he was sitting down to eat in the cafeteria. The doctor took the bag and began rhythmically squeezing it. More footsteps came running down the corridor as the rest of the code team arrived only minutes after it was announced overhead.

"Charging at 360." Regina leaned over Dr. Jamesonís chest. "Clear!" She depressed the buttons and shocked him again. Over the clamor of voices and the chaos around them as other patients were brought into the ER, they went through the same sequence three more times. After the third defibrillation and an injection of lidocaine, they finally managed to get a normal rhythm on the monitor.

Alex looked up at the crowd of faces, mostly junior residents and interns that always responded in code situations. She pointed at one of them. "You, go get a stretcher and make yourself useful. Somebody call the cardiac unit. Tell them we need a bed now."

No one moved as they stared down in shock at the medical director lying splayed out on the floor, covered in a sprawl of wires and IV tubing. Alex glanced around and pulled herself up to her full height. "I said move. Now!" They scattered. She stared back down at the floor littered with bloody gauze, ampoules of medication, and packages of medical instruments. "Sandy, find out what attending is covering the cardiac service tonight and tell them to get them in here now."

Several of the junior residents lifted the limp body of Dr. Jameson up onto the stretcher.

"Letís get him up to the CCU now," Alex said, as she slipped a portable cardiac monitor onto the stretcher and hooked the leads to it. "Weíve got it." She looked over at Dr. Torres.

He turned the ambu-bag over to Regina, who took over squeezing the bag as she started pulling the stretcher and Alex pushed from behind. They stopped at the elevator and waited, neither saying anything as the shock of the whole situation settled on them. The doors opened and several staff members turned around laughing and joking amongst themselves.

"Off, now, we need the elevator," Alex said, motioning with her head. The laughter died down and they filed quickly out to either side of the stretcher.

"Thanks," Regina said quietly, as one of the nurses looked up at her and smiled faintly. The doors slid closed behind them and Alex punched the button for the third floor.

She looked down at the monitor, checking the rhythm, and then back up at Regina. "You ok?" she asked, seeing the haggard look on Reginaís face.

Regina nodded her head and went to move her hair back off her face until she saw the blood on her hands. She made a face and wiped them off on her scrubs. "One minute heís standing there screaming at us because of some stupid IV pumps and the next," she spread her hands out in a helpless gesture, "he just gets this weird look on his face and goes down."

Alex looked up as the door opened. She leaned back and pulled the stretcher out of the elevator. It was a short walk down the corridor and through the glass doors, onto the critical care unit. Alex waited at the desk as Regina started writing a note in the medical record. She hesitated before she leaned over and touched her shoulder. "Iíll meet you downstairs while you finish up here. Iíve got to make some phone calls."

An hour later, Regina still felt numb as she pushed the door open and walked into the ER department. The evidence of the chaos that took place earlier was gone except for a small group of staff, standing at the back of the department talking in hushed tones.

Sandy walked up to Regina as she neared the desk. "How is he?"

"Alive. Heís got an eighty percent blockage in three of his arteries. Theyíre going to take him down to the OR and do a triple bypass."

Sandy stood beside the resident. "You ok?"

"Yeah, just great. I guess I need to finish seeing my patients." Regina looked up at the board and noticed that most of the patients she had been treating before were gone. "Hey, who took my patients?"

"Jon and Alex."

Regina walked down the hall and stuck her head into one of the rooms. "Hey, you didnít have to finish all my patients, Alex."

"I didnít. Jon and I split them. We needed the beds." She finished tying off a knot on the leg wound she was stitching closed. "Donít worry, you didnít miss much. Two head lacerations and this one," she nodded at the man lying passed out on the stretcher, "kicked in a plate glass window." She took the scissors and cut the silk thread. Alex looked up at Regina. "How is he?"

Regina shrugged her shoulders and repeated what she told Sandy earlier.

Alex nodded her head impassively. "Our shiftís over. You want to get something to eat? Iím almost done here."

"Thatís the best offer Iíve heard all day." Regina felt a warm thrill pass through her as the tired blue eyes lit up and a radiant smile flashed back at her.

******

The diner was crowded and noisy, so they ordered Chinese food instead. They were both off tomorrow, the first time all week, and neither cared about staying up late.

"Hey, I know a great spot where you can see the New York City skyline. You interested?"

"Letís go." Regina chuckled, knowing that Alex couldnít stand being around crowds of people for long, especially after a hectic day in the hospital.

True to form, Alex drove through a winding, narrow one-way road that led up to a vacant parking lot. Together they walked over to a couple of benches and settled down next to each other to eat. It was a clear night and they could see the skyline lit up from across the river.

Alex leaned back, stretching her long legs out in front of her and crossed her ankles. "You did good in there, today."

Regina finished chewing her egg roll and swallowed. "Thanks. I donít think Iíd want to be in that position too often. Itís very surreal working on someone you know."

"Mm." Alex turned her head and regarded the blonde. "Have you heard anything from your parents?"

Regina shook her head. "I talked to Jeff yesterday. He wants to come out here for the holidays and bring Darryl with him."

"So you could spend the holiday with part of your family." Alex glanced over at the blonde, who was chuckling. "Whatís so funny?"

"I was just thinking about you, meeting my brother."

"Is that a problem?"

"No, except that I think he thinks youíre a guy."

"What? You told him about me?"

"Kind of. I called him when we got suspended to ask his advice and he just made the assumption. I didnít correct him and at the time it didnít seem that important."

Alex snorted and slumped lower on the bench. "Didnít seem important, humph."

"At the time, it didnít seem important," Regina corrected and poked her playfully in the side, trying to keep the conversation from getting too serious.

Alex grabbed her hand and kept Regina from trying to tickle her again. "Is it important, now?"

"You mean telling my brother about us? I think it is," Regina replied softly.

"Whyís that?" Alex leaned closer, letting her lips graze Reginaís ear.

The blonde closed her eyes and gasped softly as Alex slipped her arm under her jacket and pulled her closer. "I canít concentrate with you doing that," Regina protested weakly.

"Do you want me to stop?" Alex stopped nibbling on her earlobe and pulled back to look at her.

"No," came the breathless reply.

"So, why is it important now?" She pressed as her lips moved softly over the exposed skin on Reginaís neck.

"Oh, I God, I canít believe weíre doing this on a park bench."

"Thereís no one around besides us and a few animals," Alex chuckled and rubbed her cheek against Reginaís. "You havenít answered my question, yet." Her hands started a gentle rhythmic stroking of her back.

"IÖI care about you, Alex." Her hands slid around Alexís neck as she pulled her closer. "I donít know where this is going, but I know how I feel inside."

Alex backed off and rested her forehead against Reginaís. "I care about you, too, but IÖIím scared," she admitted.

"Donít be scared, Alex. This feels incredible." Regina lifted the dark womanís face and smiled before she leaned up and placed a slow, lingering kiss on her lips.

They sat there quietly absorbing the warmth from each otherís body as their heart rates and ragged breathing returned to normal. Alex spoke first, breaking the companionable silence between them.

"So, what are you doing tomorrow?"

Regina hugged her gently, burying her head against the black leather jacket. She inhaled the smell of the rich leather and smiled at the vague sense of familiarity. "Try everything that I should have done this week but havenít. How about you?"

"The same and then I have to head over to the hospital and do some things in Dr. Jamesonís office that he hadnít gotten to before today."

"Want some company?" Regina glanced up at the pale blue eyes looking back at her.

******

Later the next day, the doctor sat behind the medical directorís desk, her dark hair hanging loosely around her shoulders. She looked forlornly at the scattered piles of medical journals, discharged patient records, and stacks of paper, littering the small office. Great. How the hell am I supposed to find anything in this disaster area? With a resigned sigh, she set to work on organizing the office for a while and then, when she finally found it, finished putting together the budget for the emergency department that was already long overdue. As she sat at the desk, finishing her work, the doctor glanced out the window, her thoughts drifting easily to a more pleasant subject.

It had been a long time since Alex had someone that she shared similar views with, not just about treating patients, although through their work they did have a lot in common. There was a synchronicity that she felt with Regina, something intangible, that she just couldnít put words to, but nevertheless it was there and she liked the way it made her feel inside.

A knock came at the door and Alex pulled herself out of her daydream. A now familiar face peered back at her from the doorway.

"Hi." Alexís face brightened and she stood up from the chair, stretching the kinks out of her tall frame.

Regina pushed off the doorframe and held out a bag. "Here, I figured you could use some food by now. Since you probably havenít stopped to eat anything all day."

"You didnít have to do this, Regina." Alex leaned against the desk, peering inside the bag. "Thanks," she added softly.

Sheíd never been comfortable with anyone doing things for her. Usually it meant they were looking for something in return, although Alex was slowly learning, for Regina that was not the case, it was just who she was. Pulling out the container, she looked over at Regina in surprise. "You cooked this?" she asked, holding it in her hands.

Regina turned away hiding the warmth she felt spreading over her face and looked around the office before she answered. "Yeah, when was the last time you ate something other than cafeteria or take out food?"

Alex chuckled. "Good point. Wow, this is really good," she said, in between bites of the pasta.

"God, this office is a mess," Regina leaned on the desk, looking around in disgust.

Alex nodded as she swallowed another mouthful of food. "I already spent two hours sorting through junk. Do you know anyplace where I could rent a fork lift?"

Covering her face with her hand, Regina snickered. "You want some help going through the rest of this stuff?" She motioned with her hand at the waist-high stacks of dust-covered journals.

"Sure. Why donít you start over there?" Alex pointed to a pile of journals in the corner of the office. "Anything over two years, just throw it out. The medical library has copies anyway."

They worked side by side for several hours, sorting through outdated journals and filling several garbage cans with trash. At one point, Regina looked up to see Alex folding up a piece of paper into an airplane. Sitting back, she watched quietly as Alex, totally engrossed in what she was doing, creased the folds into the paper, inspected her work carefully and then raised her arm up for a test flight. Their eyes met when Alex glanced up and the look of surprise on her face made Regina think of a little kid getting caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar.

"IÖuh," Alex cleared her throat and looked down at the paper plane. "Just some stupid game my brother and I used to play when we were kids." She shrugged her shoulders and tossed the plane into the air. It arced lazily upward, looped once and then spiraled toward the floor, coasting out into the hallway.

Reginaís eyes lit up as she watched it and she scrambled quickly to her feet, retrieving it from the floor. Standing in the empty hallway, she tossed the airplane into the air. It flew upward and then spiraled down to the floor, hitting nose first.

Alex followed her out, watching as the plane hit the ground, crumpling its nose. "Hey, you busted my plane," she protested, pushing out her lower lip into a pout. She bent over and stood up holding the paper plane in her hands.

Regina looked up, her eyes widening and then she burst into laughter at the comical expression on Alexís face. "I think we can fix it," she assured the older woman, after she stopped laughing. Regina took the plane from Alex and smoothed the nose out with her fingers and handed it back to her. "Howís that?"

Alex took the plane, looking quickly down the empty hallway in both directions. With a glint of mischief in her eyes, she turned Regina around, put the plane in her hand and stood behind her. "Like this," she said, and pulled Reginaís arm back. "Let go when I tell you. Now." Regina released the plane and watched as it looped twice and spiraled halfway down the corridor before it glided silently to the floor.

"Wow." Her mind lacked for any other description as her body reacted instantly to the sensation of Alexís strong hands on her hips and Regina somehow found herself leaning back into her body.

Alex backed up a step as the more rational and logical side of her brain tapped her soundly on the shoulder and asked her if she might be losing her mind. What the hell is wrong with you? Christ, all you need is one of those ultra-conservative, highly starched executives to walk down the hall and youíll both be history. "Uh, yeah. I think I should get back to this stuff. I still have a lot to get through." Alex quickly turned away and ducked back into the office, still berating herself for acting so silly around Regina.

Regina let the erotic sensation fade before she finally moved from the spot she was standing and trotted down the hallway. Retrieving the plane, she smiled to herself as she held it in her hands, wondering if Alex realized how much of herself she revealed when she let her guard down like this. Walking back into the office, she set the plane on the desk.

"You didnít tell me you had a brother, Alex." Regina went back to sorting through journals, noticing that Alex tense briefly before she answered.

"I guess it just never came up before."

"Whatís his name?" Regina asked, trying not to sound like she was prying. She wanted to know more about Alexís family but it was like pulling teeth to get her talk about herself.

"Michael."

Regina considered asking Alex another question but decided she would leave it for another time. "So how long do you think Dr. Jameson is going to be out?" She smiled, congratulating herself for backing off when she did, as she watched Alex relax visibly in her chair.

"If all goes well, I imagine somewhere between six weeks and three months."

"Mm. Housekeeping is going to love this," Regina commented as she stood up and dragged another overflowing container into the hallway.

Alex grinned and crumpled a piece of paper in her hand and tossed it at Regina.

"Thereís more for your collection," she teased, as Regina caught and flipped it into the can. Alex set to work on another pile, sorting through papers. Her hands stilled and she stared down at the documents she uncovered moments before.

"Aw, shit."

"Whatís wrong?" Regina wiped her hands on her jeans, leaving two dusty handprints on her thighs. She walked over and knelt down beside Alex on the floor, peering over her shoulder at the papers.

Alex threw them down on the floor and cursed again. Standing up, she paced back and forth across the office.

Regina picked the papers up and read them, a frown creasing her brow. "Alex, I donít understand. I thought all the research projects going on in the hospital had to be approved by the research committee."

Alex stopped pacing and stood with her hands on her hips. "Youíre right," she pointed at the papers Regina was holding. "Apparently, heís got a deal going with this drug company. Every time he dispenses this medication to a patient, he writes a note about the effectiveness of the treatment, even if it isnít." She snorted derisively. "If thatís what you want to call it. And then, they pay him."

"Didnít you tell me he did this before?" Regina sat back on her heals still looking up at Alex.

Alex nodded her head, staring down at the floor. Talk about stepping in shit. She turned to Regina, her eyes darkening with anger. "That son of a bitch. No wonder he was so hot to get me out of here. He knew if I found this, I could bury him, this time."

Regina watched as Alex paced back and forth across the office. "Alex, what are you going to do?"

"Well, that depends. I could report him to Office of Investigations for medical mal-practice and fraud or I could let the hospital handle it. Either way, heís screwed."

"Alex, couldnít you go to him and tell him what you found?"

"What for? So he could try and weasel his way out of what heís been doing?"

Regina stood up and held the papers out to Alex. "No, so he has the opportunity to come clean about it and let the hospital handle it how it sees fit."

Her mind raced through everything that Jameson had put her through over the past year. You donít owe that bastard anything. You know he would fry anyone in the emergency department for much less than this. Alex stared back at Regina, her jaw clenching and unclenching as she considered her options. "Why would you want to go easy on him? He tried to suspend your privileges as well," Alex asked, trying hard to understand why Regina felt this way.

"Who says itís going easy on him? If he wonít admit to what heís done, then, go to the medical committee. Heís going to end up losing either way. Let the committee be judge and jury, not you."

Alex contemplated what Regina was saying to her. It would be sweet to even the score with Jameson, with a very public humiliation. The bastard certainly deserved it for what he had put her through. Then again, Regina had a point. She could still make sure Jameson was punished for getting monetary kick-backs from a drug company. Sheíd just let him hang himself in his own good time.

Alex hastily retrieved the papers from Regina and locked them in one of the file cabinets. "Iíll talk with him when heís out of the hospital."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Nineteen

 

 

It took several weeks of wading through old medical records and reviewing the files in Dr. Jamesonís office for Alex to get to this point. The tip off that something was wrong was the list of patient names that the drug representative handed her at the meeting over several months ago. She cursed the fact that she had been asked to step in as medical director and then ended up stumbling into this mess, but Alex had never been one to back down from a challenge and she wasnít about to start now with this. The attending slowed to a halt as she approached the medical directorís office, noticing that the door was ajar and the light was on.

"I didnít expect to see you back here so soon." She leaned against the doorframe and crossed her arms, holding the large envelope against her chest. She looked at the pale and gaunt visage of the doctor whose post she was temporarily occupying.

"Did you think Iíd let you run this department for one minute longer than I needed to?" Dr. Jameson asked coldly from behind his desk.

For a long tense moment their eyes locked, then, the medical director returned to rummaging through the piles of paper that were stacked on his desk. "At least you did a half decent job of cleaning up in here."

"Really? You look like youíre having trouble finding something." Alex stepped inside the office and shut the door. Good thing I made copies of everything I found last week.

The medical director sat back in his chair and regarded the dark-haired woman standing before him. "What do you want, Margulies?"

Alex lowered herself into a chair and crossed her long, muscular legs. "I thought I might give you an opportunity to explain this to me." She handed him a three-inch thick folder that she pulled out of the envelope.

"These are all patients you gave that new cardiac drug to in the emergency department. Thereís at least twenty that should have never received it. They simply just donít fit the protocol for it." She waited as the doctor flipped through the medical records.

"Itís experimental. Whatís your point?" He threw the file on his desk in irritation.

"Itís a pretty simple concept, actually. You prescribed medication that wasnít appropriate, simply because this drug company was willing to pay you for using its products."

"You donít have any proof." The medical director shifted uncomfortably in his seat, his eyes darting nervously from Alexís face.

"Actually, I have enough proof to bury you and that woman you brought in here peddling those drugs. Here, why donít you take a look?" Alex stood up and upended the envelope onto his desk, showering it with checks and vouchers for free airline miles that had been sitting in the top drawer of the doctorís desk. She smirked as the smug expression slowly faded, replaced by a look of panic. This is bad; Iím enjoying this way too much.

"What the hell do you want?" Dr. Jameson asked, wiping a hand nervously across his mouth.

Leaning on her hands, she towered over the doctor. "Funny you should ask. I want you to go to Dr. Mitchard and the medical review committee and tell them exactly what you did. You jeopardized patientsí health for the sake of making money, you bastard."

"What, are you nuts? Iíll lose my license," he stammered.

Alex shrugged indifferently. "You should have thought about that before you got involved with this crap again. At the least, theyíll probably turn it over to the Office of Investigations. From there, who knows?"

"What makes you think Iím going to tell them anything?"

"Because if you donít, I will, Jim. Itís your choice. I think your chances are a hell of a lot better theyíll be more lenient if you report yourself than if I do it."

The medical director sat back in his chair and looked at the pile of papers littering his desk. "You know I could make this worth your while, Alex. Thereís a bank account I have, here." He fumbled through his desk and pulled out a folder. "You could take everything thatís in it and we could just forget about all this." He waved his arms over the desk.

Alex shook her head. "Not interested. Youíve got a day to make up your mind, Jim. After that, Iíll go to Dr. Mitchard myself," Alex leaned over and picked up the folder containing the bank account. "Iíll just hold onto this along with everything else I have. Remember, youíve got one day." Alex walked to the door. "Oh, by the way, if youíre interested, you can thank Dr. Kingston for saving your life."

Not waiting for an answer, Alex walked out into the hallway and bypassed the elevator. Running down the stairs, she burst into the ER, the door swinging closed loudly behind her.

She spotted Sandy coming out of one of the trauma rooms and fell into step alongside the nurse. "Have you seen Regina?"

"Yeah, sheís in room four." Sandy looked up at Alex suspiciously. "Whatís up with you, that youíre in such a hurry?"

"I promised to do something for her and Iím late." Alex slipped quietly into the room, leaving Sandy standing in the hallway with a perplexed look on her face. Peering around the curtain, she saw Regina sitting on a stool, leaning over the counter. "Regina?"

She heard the muffled curse, as the resident set the syringe down and glared back at her. "Alex, I wish you wouldnít sneak up on me like that."

"I wasnít sneaking." Alex protested, then walked up beside her and rested a hand on her shoulder.

"If I donít hear you, then yes, you are sneaking."

The attending chuckled softly as she looked down into the fiery green eyes. "Why didnít you wait for me? I told you Iíd do this." Alex took the band from around Reginaís arm.

"I didnít want to bother you."

Alex sighed and looked down at Regina fondly. "You are not bothering me. Donít you know that by now?"

Reginaís smile reached her eyes, making them shine brighter than they normally did. "Did you talk to Dr. Jameson?" Regina asked, looking up as Alex rubbed her hand over her arm looking for another vein.

"Yeah, I told him he could tell the board himself or I would do it for him."

"So, what did he say?" Regina winced as the needle pierced her skin.

"Sorry," Alex said, glancing up at her quickly. "He offered me his bank account to keep quiet."

"He what?"

"Itís in that folder. Ah, ah, hold still or youíre going to have one heck of a bruise. There." She slipped the vial on and watched as it filled with blood. "Ok, all done."

Regina picked up the folder and opened it, her eyes widening as she read what was inside. "Holy shit. Thatís a lot of money. "

Alex looked down at the tube of blood she was holding. "Yeah, can you imagine how many people he gave these drugs to make that amount? I think what we found was just the tip of the iceberg." Alex took a breath. "Let me get started running the tests for you."

 

She looked at Reginaís face, her heart skipping a beat as she saw her eyes brimming with tears. "Hey, are you ok?"

Regina lowered her eyes. "Iím sorry. I canít believe how nervous I am."

"Hey, none of that, now. Youíve made it this far." Alex moved closer and wrapped her arms tightly around the smaller woman. "Whatever happens, Iíll be here. You know that, right?"

Regina leaned into Alex, resting her head against her side. "I know."

Alex slipped her hand under Reginaís chin, lifting her face up to hers. "As soon as I know anything, Iíll find you." She pulled Regina into a quick hug and then let her go, disappearing out of the exam room.

******

Regina walked into the staff lounge and slumped down onto the creaky, old, vinyl-covered couch. She was exhausted after being at the hospital for forty-eight hours straight. Her shift was long over and she should have been home sleeping in her bed many hours ago. Instead, Mother Nature had alternate plans, engulfing the whole east coast in a major winter storm, dumping close to three feet of snow from North Carolina to Massachusetts overnight. All the medical and ancillary staff that were on duty at the medical center the day before had been mandated to stay until the state of emergency was lifted and the rest of the employees could get to work.

Curling up on the couch, Regina settled down for a quick nap. The door opened and she cracked one eye open, watching as Sandy walked in and collapsed unceremoniously into an old, orange, vinyl chair with a loud groan.

"I donít think Iíve ever seen this much snow before."

Regina tilted her head back and yawned. "I looked out a couple of hours ago. I couldnít see the tops of the steps down to the parking lot."

Overtired from lack of sleep and too much caffeine, Sandy giggled. "Forget about getting your car out, itíll be plowed in for days."

"You havenít heard from Alex, have you?" Regina asked, pulling her lab coat around her.

"No, she was scheduled off today and tomorrow." Sandy sat up straighter suddenly more alert. "What is up with you two, anyway?"

Regina scrunched down against the back of the couch, folding her arms across her chest. "Weíre friends, Sandy."

"Oh please, spare me," Sandy waved her hand in the air dismissively. "Iíve been there Regina, ten years; I tell you, I know the signs." Sandy turned the chair around and propped her feet up on the couch, cutting off any chance for escape that Regina might have been considering.

"What do you mean, you know?" Regina resorted to closing her eyes against the probing look she was getting from Sandy.

"Listen, I know what Alex has been through in the past year and Iíll tell you I havenít seen her look as happy as she does than when sheís around you, my friend."

Regina hung her head, hiding the heated blush she felt on her face. "Come on, Sandy."

"You donít believe me? I swear, Iím going to throttle you both. Let me tell you something. Alex does not, I repeat, does not allow herself to take a personal interest in any of the residents she works with. So you tell me, then why sheís taken you home when you were sick, personally took care of your lab tests, and resigned her position so Jameson wouldnít go after you three months ago?"

Sandy dropped her feet onto the floor and leaned forward, looking into stunned green eyes. "Didnít know that, did you? Well, donít tell Alex I ever told you that because sheíd kill me if she knew." Sandy stood up and stretched. "Iíll see you later, Doc. Get some sleep." She left the young resident sitting in the lounge alone with her thoughts.

Next, Sandy snickered to herself as she walked out into the hallway and spotted Alex coming through the door.

"Hey boss, what are you doing here today?" Sandy smirked, knowing Alex hated when she called her that. She coined her new title the day after she found out the doctor was appointed acting medical director of the emergency department and had taken every opportunity to tease her about it.

Alex stomped her boots off inside the door and shook the snow from her hair, pointedly ignoring Sandyís comment. "Figured I come in and help out. They held over the staff from last night. Right?"

Sandy nodded her head. "Yeah, weíre all pulling double shifts until they lift the snow emergency. Itís been dead here anyway. No patients are coming in and none are going home. Speaking of which, how the hell did you manage to get in here, anyway?" She crossed her arms and regarded Alex coolly.

"I have my ways." Alex brushed past her.

Sandy made a face. "Uh huh. It wouldnít have anything to do with the fact that a particular resident has been stuck here for the past day now would it?"

"Give me a break, Sandy." Alex slipped out of her coat, trying her best to avoid looking at Sandyís face. "Actually, I came in to check and see if her blood tests were ready. Howís everyone else holding up?"

"Exhausted. Most of yesterdayís day shift is passed out on anything that resembles a bed in the hospital."

Alex turned around. "Where is Regina anyway?"

"In the lounge, asleep." Sandy tried hard not to let the knowing smile creep across her face.

"When she wakes up, let me know," Alex said, as she walked into the locker room to change.

She spent the next several hours checking on patients, giving the already exhausted staff a chance to rest. When she was done with her rounds, the doctor trotted down the stairs and walked into the emergency department. "Hey Sandy, is Regina awake?"

"She just went looking for you."

Alex rolled her eyes. "Damn. She went up to Jamesonís office?"

"Yeah."

Alex leaned on the desk, raising an eyebrow at Sandyís ear-to-ear grin. "What are you smiling at?"

"Nothing," Sandy said, as she quickly found something else to do.

Alex sighed, talking more to herself than to Sandy. "Might as well stay here. Sheíll be back down as soon as she sees Iím not there." She tapped her hands on the desk restlessly and looked down the hall.

Moments later, the door swung open and Regina walked through them looking rumpled and still half-asleep. Alex met her half way down the hall.

"What are you doing here?" Regina stifled a yawn.

Alex took hold of her arm and pulled her over to a room. "I just got your blood tests back."

"Oh God." Reginaís eyes widened. "Did you read them?"

Alex handed her the paper and smiled down at her friend. "Youíre home free, kiddo."

Regina let out a scream and threw her arms around Alex, pulling her into a bear hug. "Oh god, I canít believe itís over." Tears ran down Reginaís face as she held onto Alex. "Itís really over. Oh this is so awesome." She squeezed Alex again. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."

Alex gave her a crooked smile and extricated herself from Reginaís arms. "Easy, I need those ribs."

Alex found herself the recipient of another bear hug. "Um, Regina, I think maybe you should let me go. Weíre going to have an audience out here in a minute."

They both heard the nurseís voice from down the hall. "What are you carrying on about down there?"

"Sorry." The resident quickly released Alex from her grip, immediately self-conscious of the attention she was drawing to them. Stepping back, Regina saw Sandy leaning over the desk, looking down the hallway at them.

She laughed at the expression on Alexís face and ran down the hall toward Sandy, briefly turning around and looking back at the doctor. "Donít go anywhere."

Alex rolled her eyes and shook her head. She could tell this celebration was going to take a while. Marcus staggered out from one of the rooms, still half asleep, to see what all the commotion was about. She watched the brief hesitation of emotion as Regina showed him the piece of paper and then he pulled her into a bear hug, lifting her off the ground and spinning her around in the air.

Walking over to the nurse, Alex tapped her on the shoulder. "When sheís done celebrating, tell her thereís something in the refrigerator for her."

"Where are you going?" Sandy eyed the doctor suspiciously.

"Iíll be outside. Iím going to help Jon try and shovel his car out, so he can get the hell out of here and go home." Slipping away quietly, she got dressed and headed outside into the snow.

A while later, Regina walked back to the desk and flopped down into the chair besides Sandy. "I think I know what itís like to be floating on a cloud right now."

Sandy reached over and cuffed her across the shoulder. "Now thereís a reason to celebrate. We should go out Friday night."

"Yeah, thatís a great idea." Regina sat up straighter and looked around the department. "Hey, where is Alex?"

Sandy rocked back in her chair and feigned boredom. "Outside, shoveling snow. She said to tell you thereís something in the refrigerator for you."

"Oh." Regina tilted her head and frowned. "I guess I should go see what it is." She jogged into the staff lounge and opened the refrigerator door. A smile spread across her face and she closed her eyes. "Oh wow, she remembered," Regina shook her head, pulled the box out and opened it.

The resident laughed, remembering the hopeful words she had uttered several long months ago. She pulled the bottle out of the box and noticed a card attached to it. Pulling it off, she opened it and sat down to read it.

Regina,

Hereís that bottle of chilled champagne.

Have fun celebrating.

Alex

Regina tucked the note in her pocket and headed to the locker room. Changing quickly out of her scrubs, she headed down the hallway towards the ambulance bay, carrying her backpack with her.

"I guess they gave up trying to shovel snow." The resident stood next to Sandy, their breath fogging the glass door as they peered outside at the falling snow.

Sandy glanced over at her and chuckled. "Be careful out there, I donít think Alex is taking any prisoners."

Regina snorted as she saw several of the staff engaged in a snowball fight. Alex was perched menacingly on the hood of one of the snow-covered ambulances, gamely picking off anyone who came to close too her. Unable to resist the opportunity, Regina scooted out the door and packed a ball of snow in her hands. Oh, this is way too easy. Wading through the drifts of hip-deep snow she crept closer and took aim. The attending was busy nailing Jon with a flurry of snowballs and never saw the one that Regina threw at her with unerring accuracy until it was to late and the wet, hard-packed snow struck her in the side of the head.

"Hey!" Alex whirled around, her eyes seeking her attacker. She brushed the snow from her hair and cackled wickedly, jumping down into the snow. "You are in serious trouble, Dr. Kingston." She shook a finger at Regina, her eyes gleaming as she advanced on the wide-eyed resident.

Regina started backtracking, laughing at the same time, knowing it was futile to try and get away. She tried anyway and was quickly caught by two strong arms curling around her waist. The blonde-haired woman screamed, flailing her arms, and got pummeled with snowballs as Jon and Marcus converged on the two of them. Regina felt herself lifted out of the drift and carried over Alexís shoulder as the woman tramped through the white stuff toward a large pile of snow.

"Alex, donít you dare." Regina struggled in vain, trying to get loose from the two powerful arms wrapped around her legs.

Alex laughed. "Too late. Whoops." She dumped Regina off her shoulder and into the drift of powdery snow.

Regina struggled to sit up, only managing to sink deeper into the pile of snow she was sprawled in. Alex reached down and pulled her up, grinning at her. Another volley of snowballs descended, pummeling Alex in the back. Turning around, she arched an eyebrow as she saw Marcus preparing to throw another one.

"Donít even think about it, Marcus," Alex warned him.

"Ah come on Alex, youíre no fun."

"Oh, Iím lotís of fun. Just remember I have keys to the on call room." Alex looked over at Jon. "What was that we did to that resident a couple of years ago? You remember, donít you? We rolled him down to the morgue one night. Toe tagged him and all. Shouldíve heard him screaming when he woke up between two cases."

"You didnít," Marcus asked, his face notably paler than a moment ago.

"Oh, yes she did, Marcus." Jon swatted the packed ball of snow out of his hand. "Iím cold, how about you?" He winked at Alex before he started walking away.

Alex turned back around, green eyes regarding her curiously.

"You didnít," Regina asked, staring up at her.

"No, but I wouldíve liked to. Ooh, you are going to be cold." Alex bent and brushed the snow off Reginaís coat.

"Yeah, no thanks to you." Regina threw a handful of snow up at Alex who ducked away from most of the powdery cloud. "You remembered what I said that day it happened."

Alex looked down at her hands and then glanced up almost shyly at Regina. "How could I forget?"

Shaking her head, Regina looked up at Alex and ran her hand down the front of her jacket. "I just came out to say thanks Ė for everything."

"Really? Heck of a way to say it, nailing me in the head with a snowball." Alex smiled at Regina, her eyes sparkling a pale blue in the brilliance reflected off the white snow. "Here, I wanted to wait until you got your results back to give this to you."

"Whatís this?" Regina frowned and took the envelope that Alex handed to her.

"Just open it." Alex stomped her feet, shaking the white flakes from her boots and pants then, walked over to where she had parked her Jeep and started brushing the snow off the windshield.

"Alex." Regina looked up from reading the lab results and walked over to the where the doctor was standing a few feet away. "You didnít have to do this."

"Yes, I did." Arms crossed her arms over her chest, peered down at her boots and rocked back on her heels. "Six months ago, I would have never considered it important; you changed that. You changed everything in my life."

Regina tugged on Alexís jacket. "Feel like celebrating with me? Iíve got this great bottle of champagne we can open."

******

Slipping off her coat and boots, Alex followed Regina into the kitchen. She watched with amusement as Regina climbed up onto the counter and retrieved two wine glasses from the top shelf of the cabinet. "Need help?"

"No." Regina slid back down the floor and turned around. "Can you open this for me?" She held the bottle out to Alex.

"Sure." Alex popped the cork and poured the champagne into the glasses Regina was holding. "So, what are we toasting to?" Alex set the bottle down and met Reginaís gaze.

Leaning back against the counter, Regina ran her fingertips over the rim of the glass, trying to collect her thoughts. "You know, something occurred to me the other day, Alex."

"Mm, whatís that?" Alex asked, her heart beating a little faster as she waited for Regina to finish.

"Youíve been the only person whoís been there with me, through everything the past few months." Regina exhaled nervously. "Youíve been my best friend, my confidante-"

Alex looked down at her glass. "Regina, you donít have to say anything."

Stepping forward, Regina reached up and slid her hand around Alexís neck, pulling her closer and kissing her thoroughly, leaving no doubt in Alexís mind as to what she wanted. Pulling away, Regina looked up into half-closed eyes and smiled. "You didnít let me finish," she whispered.

"I guess I didnít," Alex leaned forward and touched her lips to Reginaís again. Slowly she increased the pressure, her tongue gently probing and teasing the blondeís lips apart, slipping inside to caress and explore the smaller womanís mouth. She pulled away, then dipped further, exploring the curve of her neck. Reaching behind Regina, Alex picked up one of the glasses. She held it up to Reginaís lips so she could drink the champagne and then did the same for herself.

"To my best friend," Alex offered and kissed Regina deeply again, tasting the champagne they had just shared. She felt Regina press her body against hers in response, so she continued her nibbling, letting her hands roam gently over her back pulling the smaller woman against her. "Mm, you feel good."

"So do you." Regina let her head fall back, giving into the intense sensations she already felt stirring in her body. Alexís touch was quickly driving coherent thought from her head and her legs were beginning to feel weak. "Oh, ah, legs, um, I donít think I can stand."

Alex chuckled and slid her hands around Reginaís waist. She boosted her up onto the counter and leaned forward. "Better?" she asked, blue eyes twinkling as she looked into Reginaís.

"Oh, yeah, I think I like this vantage point," Regina wrapped her legs around Alexís waist and pulled the taller woman closer between her thighs. Her hands ran up the front of Alexís shirt, exploring the curves and valleys, before undoing several buttons to reveal the soft skin she was seeking. "Mm. I definitely like this."

Taking full advantage of her newfound height, Regina ran her lips over the sensitive skin at the base of Alexís neck, then working her way lower to the swell of her breasts. She heard the dark-haired woman gasp and lean forward, steadying herself on the counter with her hands, as she continued to nip gently at Alexís neck with her teeth. "Having a problem standing?"

Alex growled in her ear and found Reginaís ear lobe, tugging playfully on it with her teeth. "Just you wait."

"Iíve been waiting," Regina undid several more buttons and slid her arms underneath Alexís shirt, running her hands over the smooth skin of her stomach.

Alex found Reginaís mouth again, quieting the gentle banter and eliciting a moan from her as she tugged gently on her lower lip, pulling it into her mouth. Regina responded, deepening their kiss until they both were breathless.

Alex looked at Regina. "Um, I think maybe we should find somewhere else to continue this. What do you think?"

In answer, Regina hooked her legs tighter around the taller womanís waist, pressing her pelvis against her and kissed her again.

"Do that again and weíll both end up on the floor," Alex gasped, in between ragged breaths. Regina held on and giggled as Alex slipped her hands under her thighs, lifting her off the counter. "You better stop that or Iím going to drop you," she growled playfully.

Regina looked at her, grinned sheepishly as she stilled her hands from roaming over the full breasts, and taught nipples restrained by Alexís bra.

The dark-haired doctor carried her into the bedroom and sat back on the edge of the bed with Regina kneeling astride her legs. Reginaís eyes widened and she yelped as Alex leaned backwards, falling onto the bed taking Regina with her.

"IÖIíve never done this before," Regina admitted, a sudden surge of uncertainty plaguing her as she leaned over Alex, inches from her face.

Alex reached up and brushed Reginaís hair back over her shoulder. "Shh. Itís all right. Just lie here with me." She shifted on the bed, pulling Regina up alongside her.

Snuggling against the taller woman, Regina settled her head against her shoulder. She let her arm drape over Alexís waist, running her fingers idly over the soft cotton shirt. It was so easy for her to get lost in the sensation of Alex rubbing her hand lightly over her side, lightly grazing the curve of her breast.

She basked in the warmth radiating between their bodies as they touched along their length, closing her eyes, Regina felt soft lips press gently against her forehead. She propped herself up on her elbows and studied Alexís face; Alex watched as she leaned in, and gently touched Reginaís lips with hers.

Regina let out a small whimper at the intimate touch and pressed into it, feeling Alexís fingertips tracing the sensitive skin over her face and neck. Rolling over onto the dark woman, their bodies molding perfectly together, Regina felt a surge of heat flow through her as Alex moved her hips, rubbing slowly against her. Regina brushed her lips against Alexís chin, then nibbled the corners of her mouth. She could feel Alexís mouth curve into a smile as their lips pressed together and she pulled back to look at her.

Shaking her head, Alex tried to get a handle on the giddy feeling that was swirling around inside her gut. She ran her hand up Reginaís arm, grinning at the gooseflesh that followed her touch. Reaching down, Alex intertwined her fingers with Reginaís and brought her hand up to her lips.

"Are you sure you want to do this?" She kissed the back of Reginaís hand, looking up at the woman who had stolen her heart over the past few months. She was pretty sure she knew what the answer was but she wanted to ask Regina anyway.

Regina looked down at their hands clasped together between them, feeling herself being helplessly drawn toward Alex. "GodÖyes," she answered, feeling an ache deep inside her.

She watched as a mischievous grin broke out on Alexís face. "Alex what are youÖoh, ah." Her words cut off as Alex took Reginaís thumb into her mouth pulling, and sucking seductively on it with her lips and her tongue.

"ThisÖmmÖis what I want to do to you, all over," Alex whispered hoarsely.

Regina opened her eyes and focused on Alexís lips as she slowly took each of her fingers into her mouth, sucking gently and teasing her mercilessly with her tongue. Each stroke sent shivers up her spine and her head lolled forward as she gave into the exquisite sensation.

She felt Alex run her fingers through her hair, letting them rest lightly on the nape of her neck; Alex relinquished her attack on her fingers and instead nuzzled her lips against the soft skin below Reginaís ear. The blonde closed her eyes, letting her head fall forward onto Alexís shoulder. "AlexÖplease hold me," she gasped, her senses reeling.

"Itís ok." Alex rubbed her hands over Reginaís back. "I wonít do anything you donít want."

The blonde nibbled the sensitive skin at the base of the dark womanís throat. "No, I want you," Regina whispered as she ran her hands through Alexís silky, soft hair.

Feeling her own body responding to Alexís touch, Regina knelt over Alex and quickly undid the rest of the buttons on the taller womanís shirt, tugging it impatiently from her jeans. Briefly, she met pale blue eyes darkened with desire and she pressed her palms against the warmth of Alexís skin, running them lightly over the well-toned stomach, and her own body, shuddering as she felt the muscles quiver involuntarily to her touch.

Alex sat up and pulled her lover with her so they sat facing each other, the blondeís legs draped over her hips. Their eyes met and Alex took Reginaís face in her hands pulling her mouth to hers, kissing her gently, then, more intensely as Regina responded to her.

Hands trembling slightly, Alex reached up between their bodies and started unbuttoning Reginaís shirt. She felt Regina stop the gentle kisses to her neck and instead grin against her skin. The blonde pulled back to quickly unbutton the last few for her.

Regina shrugged out of her shirt as Alex slipped it from her shoulders; the brunette slid her warm hands across Reginaís back dexterously unclasped her bra, sliding it off her body. Her caress sent tremors through the younger womanís body. Alex bent her head and pressed her lips to the skin at the base of the womanís neck then trailed her mouth lower, cupping her breasts and teasing her nipples into erect peaks with her fingers.

"Youíre beautiful." Alex raised her head and looked into Reginaís slightly unfocused eyes, before she kissed her again.

Their lips parting, Regina helped Alex the rest of the way out of her own shirt. She ran her fingertips over the dark womanís face, trailing them over her neck and exploring the strong curves of her shoulders. Tracing her fingers down over the taller womanís ribs, the smaller woman slipped them down inside the waistband of Alexís jeans, feeling the shallow, rapid breaths of pleasure in response to her touch.

Regina watched as Alex closed her eyes and let her head fall back on her shoulders. She undid the button and eased the zipper open on the dark-haired womanís pants, sliding her fingers down inside through the curly hair, then finally between.

"Oh, Regina, ahh -"

She heard the sharp intake of breath as her fingers cupped, then brushed against, the silky wetness as she parted Alexís lips. Her own desire skyrocketed as she realized the effect she was having on this woman.

Alex jerked her head forward, and clamped her hand over Reginaís wrist, stopping her hands from their gentle exploration.

"Come here," Alex growled. She pulled the smaller woman to her, claiming her mouth.

The blondeís world rotated and she found herself pinned underneath Alexís weight, her breathing gone ragged as the dark-haired woman resumed her intimate exploration, leaving a fiery trail down Reginaís neck and belly, tasting her skin with her tongue. The blonde shifted her hips as Alex undid the smaller womanís jeans and pulled them off her legs.

Alex leaned over her and let her hair brush over Reginaís body as she slowly kissed her way back up to her face.

She felt Reginaís hands on her hips pushing her back, and she protested the interruption. "WÖWhat?"

"Uh, uh. These go too." Alex caught her breath as Reginaís hands roughly tugged her jeans down over her hips. The blonde smiled up at her and pushed her over onto her back, pulling them the rest of the way off. "I want you naked against me."

Her jeans landed in a heap on the floor.

Regina leaned over Alex, running her hands up over Alexís ribs, letting her palms gently circle over her breasts and tease her already taught nipples. She leaned closer and captured one hardened nipple between her lips and then, tenderly caressed it with her tongue.

Alex arched her back and threw her head back, closing her eyes, willing her body to slow its eager response. She lifted Regina away from her and deposited the smaller woman on her back, shaking her head as Regina protested weakly.

"Not so fast. I get to lead first," Alex teased, lowering herself down, slowly touching her lips to Reginaís in a long, slow kiss as their bodies came together.

Regina was trembling, only aware of her loverís gentle touch and the contact of their bodies. Her body turned and arched under Alexís capable hands as they moved over her, stroking and caressing her flesh. A soft cry escaped the blondeís lips as she felt Alexís hand sliding up the inside of her thigh, her fingers gently exploring, increasing her desire with her feather light touch.

"Do you like that?" Alex whispered, as her fingers swirled and dipped along the edge of her wet opening.

"Alex, oh god - need you inside, please." She arched her back, her hips shamelessly rocking beneath the teasing rhythm of Alexís fingers, moaning softly as Alex claimed her breasts hungrily with her mouth.

It was the contact of Alexís fingers as she finally slid deep inside the blonde, filling her completely, then withdrawing slowly to her lips, and the rhythm of their bodies moving together, that brought a ragged cry from Reginaís lips. She wrapped her arms tightly around Alexís back, holding her desperately, her body becoming taught; wave after wave crashed through her, leaving her struggling for breath, her heart hammering wildly in her chest.

The sensations were overpowering and when they finally released in a rush of warm, incredible feelings that suffused through her core, Regina felt Alexís touch deep inside her soul. The blonde opened her eyes to look up into smiling blue ones and she knew with a certainty she couldnít begin to explain that she had come home.

Alex lowered her head against Reginaís shoulder, still amazed at Reginaís response to her and no less surprised at her own climax that came seconds after her loverís. Jesus, since when does that happen to me? Slowly, she pulled the young woman against her and held her tightly, wondering what she had done to deserve someone this precious in her life.

Afterwards, Regina lay curled tightly against Alexís body, wrapped securely in her arms, listening to the slow steady beating of Alexís heart in her chest, feeling content and peaceful. She didnít know why but suddenly tears came to her eyes and she tightened her grip on Alex.

Her lover lifted her head and peered down at Regina, feeling the change in her breathing. Lifting a hand to cup her cheek, Alex wiped the wetness away with her fingers. "Whatís wrong?"

Regina shook her head, embarrassed. "Nothing. I just Ė no one ever made me feel that way before."

Alex ducked her head and captured Reginaís lips, gently exploring her mouth with her tongue. Clasping Reginaís hands in hers, she pressed them into the bed over her head as their kiss deepened and they finally broke away breathless. Slowly, sliding down Reginaís body, Alex caressed her belly with her lips.

"Let me do this for you," she whispered and tugged Regina to the edge of the bed; Alex knelt on the floor, her tongue brushing the inside of Reginaís thigh.

"Alex, mm, oh God." Regina gasped and arched her back in response to Alexís warm breath, followed seconds later by the warm, delicate touch of her lips.

Alex watched as Regina closed her eyes, her mouth opening slightly in an Ďohí of pleasure. Listening to Reginaís breathing coming in ragged gasps, the dark haired woman touched her lips to the engorged flesh, tasting now what she had possessed with her fingers before. Feeling her own desire burning on the edge of control, Alex slowly explored Regina with her mouth.

Reaching down, the smaller woman clasped the dark womanís hands, holding tightly, her body shaking as Alexís mouth claimed all of her.

Wrapping her arms around the blondeís hips, Alex felt Reginaís shuddering orgasm as she collapsed against her. She heard her lover calling her name and she slipped up beside her, cradling Regina in her arms. Alex lay on her side, rocking the smaller woman in her arms. "Iím right here, baby. Iím right here," she whispered in her ear. Afterwards, they lay curled around each other slowly drifting off to sleep.

When Regina woke up it was dark outside the window and the clock on the nightstand read two oíclock. It took her a couple of seconds to shake the cobwebs out of her brain and realize that it was two oíclock in the morning. Lifting her head from Alexís shoulder, she looked up at her face, for once relaxed and peaceful. She was still sleeping so Regina lay quietly next to her, soaking up the warmth of their bodies lying tangled together beneath the covers. Regina mentally shook her head as she let her body remember what they shared earlier. She pulled herself up onto her elbows and brushed an errant lock of hair out of Alexís face. The moonlight was just reaching through the window, its soft light reflecting off of Alexís face and Regina felt her breath catch in her throat.

In that instant, it was like pieces of her heart and soul that she didnít even realize she was missing suddenly fit perfectly into place. Regina bent forward and gently kissed Alex on her lips. She settled back, watching the eyelids flutter open and sleepy blue eyes look back at her. Alex smiled and reached up, brushing Reginaís face with her hand.

"Hi there," Alex said, her voice deep and husky from having just woken.

"Mm. Sorry I fell asleep before." Regina said, as she smiled and lowered her head, nibbling at Alexís earlobe, eliciting a soft moan from the woman.

"Donít be." Alex slipped an arm underneath Regina and pulled her closer.

Regina moved her lips to Alexís neck, kissing the sensitive skin over her collarbone. She stretched her body out along Alexís taller frame, rubbing against her, enjoying the simple pleasure of lying pressed up against her solid length.

"Oh, I want to make love to you." Moving back up to Alexís mouth, she kissed her lips with the increasing intensity of her own desire.

Slowly, she caressed Alex with her hands, feeling the sharp intake of breath as she lowered her head and kissed the softness of her breasts, remembering what Alex had done to her and wanting to give that same feeling back in return.

Regina slid her hands over Alexís stomach, gently exploring the planes of the womanís body and shifting her own body so she could reach down the long muscular lines of her legs. She stroked her lightly up her calves and behind the sensitive skin of her knees, before she finally moved her fingers back up between her thighs.

Alexís hands tightened on Reginaís shoulders, her hips moving, responding to Reginaís gentle, stroking touch. "Oh god, Regina, can you be inside me...please?"

"Anything," Regina whispered.

"Regina -" Alexís fingerís dug into Reginaís shoulders. Her breathing quickened to ragged gasps and Regina felt Alex begin to tremble around her fingers as she moved inside her. Alexís voice trailed off as she gave herself over to the overwhelming rush of sensations cascading through her body; she felt like she was falling but the fear and the doubt were gone.

After, Alex lay on the soft bed, looking down at Reginaís gentle face. Reginaís head was nestled in against Alexís chin, eyes closed, her breathing slow and even. It was like the whole world had disappeared around them, leaving just the two of them and all Alex felt was a quiet sense of peace. With one arm wrapped around Reginaís shoulder and her other hand holding Reginaís own on her chest, Alex rubbed her thumb over the soft skin of Reginaís wrist.

They had been lying quietly together, absorbing the gentle contact of their bodies, when Regina stirred and looked up at Alex. "What are you thinking about?"

"Do you have to ask?" Alex asked, smiling seductively and rolling over, pressing her body into her.

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