Alex ran back up the stairs. "Ok. Thatís it." She jogged back into the apartment and rounded the corner, stopping when she saw Regina standing with her back to her, staring out the window. She walked up behind Regina and laid a hand on her shoulder, peering into her tearful green eyes. "Regina, are you ready to go?"
Regina nodded her head. "I guess so." She wiped her face with her hand. It was weird, she thought, that she didnít feel scared or nervous; it was almost a sense of being on the outside looking in at all this happening to somebody else, not her.
"You can sleep in the back if you want," Alex offered.
"That sounds like a good idea. I feel wiped out."
They walked down the stairs together and Alex locked the door behind them. She waited as Regina crawled into the back of the Jeep and lay down, covering her body with the blanket Alex handed to her. The doctor shut the door behind her, slipped in behind the steering wheel and turned on the engine; she looked up into the rearview mirror and tilted it so it was focused on Reginaís huddled form, lying across the back seat. Just relax. It could be something else, Alex kept telling herself. She pulled out of the driveway and headed west on Route Six toward Boston.
After driving for about ten minutes, Alex dialed a number on her cell phone and waited for the operator to pick up. "This is Dr. Margulies, page Dr. Ivez for me. Itís an emergency."
She waited impatiently for David to pick up as she negotiated through the sparse traffic.
"Alex? Itís been a long time; I canít believe youíre calling me. Whatís up?" It had been almost a year since he had last heard from Alex. The last time he had seen his friend was at the memorial service for Lana. He tried to offer what support he could to Alex but she kept everyone at a distance that day.
"David, I need your help. Iíve got a friend whoís in trouble and I need you to look at her."
"Well, Iím here all night so come on in."
Two and half-hours later, Alex turned the Jeep into the emergency department parking area at Boston Medical Center. She looked over her shoulder into the back of the darkened interior of the Jeep and could see Reginaís sleeping form curled up on the back seat, underneath the blanket.
"Hey." Alex reached over and touched her shoulder. "Time to get up. Weíre here." She watched as Regina blinked and sat up slowly. "How do you feel?"
Regina brushed strands of hair out of her face and looked up at Alex. "Iíve been better."
"A friend of mine I know from medical school works here. Heís going to take a look at you," Alex said, as she held out a hand to her.
Regina nodded her head and let Alex help her out of the Jeep. They walked through the doors of the emergency department where Alex looked over at the desk and spotted the scruffy looking, brown-haired man whom sheíd formed a friendship with during her last two residencies in New Jersey. He was thinner than she remembered and his hair was beginning to gray around the temples.
"Thatís him over there." She pointed the doctor out to Regina. "David Ivez." She put her arm over Reginaís shoulder as she felt her shiver against her. "Do you want a wheelchair so you can sit down?"
Regina shook her head vehemently and stepped away from Alex. "No. I can walk."
Alex held her tongue in check and led Regina over to the desk. She knew her stubborn streak well enough by now to realize that arguing the point would be futile.
"David?" Alex called his name as they walked up to the desk.
"Alexandra." He smiled as he stood up and walked around the desk. "You always hated when I called you that." He pulled her into a hug.
"I still do," Alex said, as she broke off the embrace.
"So I see." He grinned back at her and directed his attention at her smaller companion standing next to her.
"David, this is Regina."
He frowned and brought a hand up to her face, glancing quickly up at Alex. "What happened here?"
"Itís a long story," Alex offered quickly.
"Well, letís go in the back, Regina. Iíve got a booth set up for us."
Regina looked back at Alex as David took her arm. "Wish me luck," she said, trying to ease some of the nervousness she was starting to feel inside.
"Youíre going to be all right, Regina." Alex stepped forward as if to follow.
"Iíve got her, Alex. Iíll come out and get you when Iím done."
Alex felt a pang of helplessness, coupled with jealousy as David took Regina from her. He glanced back at Alex as he led Regina down the hallway. "Alex, thereís some paperwork she needs to fill out for insurance. Maybe you could do it for her while you wait?"
"Sure." She nodded her head and watched as they turned the corner and disappeared from her sight. So what did you think he was going to do, ask you to go in with them? You asked for his help. Alex stood in the middle of the hallway, staring at where Regina had just been standing a second ago, oblivious to all the activity that was going on around her.
"Hey, lady, get out of the way." A paramedic yelled at Alex as he pushed past her, with a stretcher in tow.
"Sorry." Alex awkwardly stepped back away from paramedics, who ran past with a patient strapped securely to the stretcher. She was vaguely aware of a loud rushing noise in her ears and a hand touching her arm.
"Maíam are you all right?" a young twenty-something nurse with bright green eyes, asked.
"Yeah, yeah. Iím fine." Maíam? Shit, Iím not that old. Alex pulled her arm away, irritated by the nurseís close physical presence. Come on, get a grip here Alex. You work in a hospital, whatís your problem? She turned to the woman. "I, I need to fill out some paperwork for a friend."
"Sure, no problem. Let me get you a clipboard and a pen."
Her heart beat rapidly in her chest and she felt slightly nausiated as she sat staring at the pale blue walls in the empty waiting room. This sucks being on the other side. I hate hospitals. No, face it Alex, you just canít stand not being in control. The doctor stared at the paperwork and decided she answered all the questions that she knew about her young friend. The rest of them Regina would have to answer later. She stood up and walked over to the desk. The nurse who spoke to her earlier looked up and smiled a little too brightly at her.
Alex shook her head. "No. There are some questions my friend is going to have to answer. Can I go back and see her?" Alex asked, knowing what the answer would most likely be.
The womanís smile faded. "Iím sorry, but only family members are allowed back to see the patients."
All right, lets try a different attack. "Listen, none of her family is here with her. I brought her in."
"Iím sorry, but the doctor will come out and talk to you when heís done examining your friend," the nurse said, her tone more official now.
Alex bristled. Ok fine, two can play at that game, sweetheart. Alex smiled at her and took the papers off the clipboard. "Is there a bathroom around here?"
"Sure, first door down on your left."
Alex made a quick detour out to her Jeep and returned with her backpack. She walked down the hallway, found the linen room and picked up a set of scrubs. Five minutes later she emerged from the bathroom dressed in blue hospital scrubs and a lab coat. She clipped on her id badge and flipped it over so her picture was hidden from view.
With her clothes rolled up and tucked neatly into her backpack, Alex headed down the hall to the emergency room doors. She tapped the button on the wall and walked inside as the electric doors slid quietly open and headed directly over to the nurseís station. "Whereís Dr. Ivez? He asked me to meet him down here to consult on a patient."
"Heís in booth ten with some AIDS patient," the nurse said without looking up from her paperwork.
Her heart leapt up into her throat at the nurseís response. "Excuse me?" She leaned over the desk and roughly pushed the paperwork away from the nurse with her hand. She barely restrained herself from grabbing hold of the nurseís scrub top. "SinceÖwhenÖ doÖyouÖgiveÖoutÖany information on a patient?" The nurse stared back at Alex with a look of shock on her face. "What if someone from her family was here? Then what? And how the hell do you know whatís wrong with her anyway?" Alex asked, bringing her face to within inches of the stunned nurse. "Well?"
The nurseís jaw worked several times. "I, uh I donít know. Iím sorry."
"Youíre damn right you donít know," Alex practically shouted at her.
"Iím sorry, really I am." The nurse nervously gathered up her paperwork and backed quickly away from Alexís hateful stare.
Alex stood, holding onto her desk for a minute waiting for her legs to stop shaking. Goddamn, son of a bitch, I canít believe she just said that. Regina would freak out if she heard that. The brunette walked to the back of the ER, letting her senses filter out the familiar noises from all the activity going on around her. She heard Davidís voice through the curtain as she approached and a muffled response that could only be Regina answering him. She rapped her knuckles on the wall dividing the booths.
"In here, Alex." He looked up as she walked into the booth. "No luck getting past the front desk in your street clothes, huh?"
Alex cuffed him on the shoulder. "Funny, very funny, David. Yeah, all it took was a pair of scrubs, a lab coat and a bad attitude." She walked past him, trying very hard not to be angry with him. There was only one way that nurse knew why Regina was here and that was David. She set her backpack on the floor and walked over to Regina. "Hey, how are you doing?" She leaned over and squeezed her shoulder affectionately.
Regina shook her head, trying her best to muster a grin. "Ok. We were just talkingÖabout options." Regina closed her eyes, still feeling like the fever was sucking the energy out of her, and not wanting Alex to see how close to tears she was.
Alex turned around and looked at David. "So, do we have an idea about what is going on yet?"
He closed the chart he was writing in and looked back at her. "We drew some blood, so weíre waiting for the test results to come back. We should know something in the morning. Regina tells me she had a pretty severe reaction to the medication early on, so itís possible it could be happening again. Obviously weíll check to see if sheís developing the antibodies." He looked at both of them. "In the meantime, we hope for the best."
"Are you going to admit her tonight?" Alex asked.
David shook his head. "I canít, Alex. I wish I could, but the hospital is full. Weíve got no beds available." He looked at Regina. "I guess youíll be bunking in down here tonight. Sorry."
"Thatís ok. Thanks for doing this, David." Regina lowered her head to the pillow and closed her eyes again.
"Alex, I can show you where the on call room is if you want to crash there," David offered.
She shook her head. "Thanks, but Iíd rather stay here."
"No problem. Besides, I got a chance to trade stories about you. Just between us, right Regina?" He laughed and nudged Alex in the ribs.
Alex rolled her eyes at Regina, who was looking back up at them. "Great, there he goes tarnishing my stellar reputation again."
"Never," Regina said, grinning as she recalled one of the stories David told her.
David snorted. "Yeah, I think that halo of yours needs polishing, Alex."
"Mm, thanks for the reminder, David. Iíll get right on it," Alex replied sarcastically. "David, can I have a word with you?" She motioned with her hand. "Outside."
"Sure." David looked at her uncertainly and walked out of the booth. He turned around. "Whatís up?" he asked, holding the chart in front of him as he crossed his arms over his chest.
Alex walked past him. "Not here."
David walked after her, seeing the line of tension in her shoulders. "Alex, whatís going on?"
"You," She turned around and jabbed a finger into his chest, making him flinch, "Breaking Reginaís confidence; is whatís going on." Alex stood in front of him with her hands on her hips. "Some nurse at the desk told me you were in booth ten with some AIDS patient." Her eyes darkened as anger swept through her. "How the hell did she know that, David? The only answer I see is the one standing in front of me right now."
David stepped back against the wall. He started to say something but stopped. "I must have let it slip after you called me." His voice was a whisper. He rubbed his face with his hand. "Iím sorry Alex. I had no idea someone would repeat that, let alone to you."
"That kid has been through hell the past few weeks. She doesnít need any more bullshit to deal with. You should know better, David." Alex gave him one last cursory glance as she headed back to the booth where Regina was.
"Hey, what took so long?" Regina pushed herself up onto her elbows.
Alex gave her a half grin. "Whatís wrong, did you miss me or something?"
"Yeah, I did." Regina looked up at Alex. "David is nice. I like him."
"Heís a good doctor," Alex replied, trying not to let her anger slip through.
"Alex, why donít you go to sleep in one of the on call rooms? You must be exhausted after everything." Regina could see the dark circles under Alexís eyes and the normally startling blue color seemed subdued.
"Iím fine." Alex walked out and rolled a vacant recliner back into the booth next to the stretcher. "Do you need anything, Regina?" Alex sat down facing her.
Regina opened her eyes and shook her head. "Can you lower this?" She rattled the rail on the side of the stretcher. "I feel like Iím in jail."
"Sure." Alex lowered the bed rail, resting her hands on the thin mattress.
Regina sat up and rubbed her temples, grimacing at the dull pounding behind her eyes. She looked down at Alexís hand. "Did you put any ice on your hand? That looks awful." She brushed her fingers over the swollen and bruised knuckles of Alexís right hand.
"Quit worrying about me. Iím fine." Alex pulled her hand away, all too aware of Reginaís touch and the tingle of sensation that ran up her spine from it.
Regina clucked her tongue. "You need to take care of yourself Alex. It might be broken."
Alex sighed. "Itís not." She flexed her fingers and made a fist to show Regina that it wasnít broken. Unimpressed, Regina rolled her eyes. "Youíre not going to quit on this are you?"
"Nope, go get some ice. Iím not going anywhere with this leash attached to me." She waved her arm that the IV was in. She pulled the blanket up over her shoulder and motioned at Alex to leave. "Go on."
"Fine," Alex groaned with an exasperated sigh. "Iíll be right back." She pushed her body out of the chair and walked out of the booth in search of an ice machine.
Alex returned a short while later, carrying a plastic bag filled with crushed ice. Regina opened her eyes as she heard Alex step into the booth and close the curtain behind her.
"I never got to thank you for um, taking care of Derrick."
Alex looked at Regina as she sat down in the recliner. "Somehow I donít think Derrick would think of it that way." She gingerly placed the bag of ice over her swollen knuckles, hissing as the plastic and the cold made the raw skin sting. "He deserved it. How did he manage to find you, anyway?"
Regina shook her head. "He checked my credit card and found out I bought an airline ticket."
"Slick. Nothing like using his position to get information now, huh?" Alex asked, settling back into the recliner and closing her eyes.
"It wouldnít be the first time heís done it." Regina said, thinking back to the day he confronted her outside the hospital and told her about Alexís suspension six months earlier.
"Heís an asshole, Regina. Howíd you get involved with him in the first place?" The words were out before she could pull them back. Shit. Alex looked up and saw the surprised look on Reginaís face. "Ah, Iím sorry, Regina," Alex apologized. "I, uh, I donít censor what comes out of my mouth very well sometimes."
Regina shook her head a sad expression covering her face. "Itís alright. He is an asshole." She was quiet as she lay back, looking up at the ceiling. She let out a sigh. "Iím scared, Alex."
Alex looked at Regina lying on the stretcher. I am too Regina. Damn, I wish I knew what to say to you. She tossed the bag of ice on the recliner behind her and moved over to sit on the edge of the stretcher next to Regina. She was used to being able to do something - change a medication, order a test, or recommend surgery. In this case, as much as she hated to admit it, she could do nothing except wait and hope, neither of which she was very good at. Alex touched Reginaís face and brushed her hair back over her shoulder. She sat quietly for a moment, looking at Regina and rubbing her hand over her back. "Your parents donít live far from here, right?"
Regina nodded her head. "Why?" She was enjoying the comforting touch of Alexís hand and the question brought her back from her quiet reverie.
"Do you want to call them and let them know that youíre here?" Alex inquired. She immediately regretted her question when she saw the look on Reginaís face. Sheís not a kid, Alex. If she wanted them here she would have called them herself.
"They wouldnít understand, Alex. They think HIV and AIDS are only something that my brother Jeffrey could get."
"What do you mean?"
Regina glanced up at Alex quickly. "Heís gay."
"Oh." She was beginning to realize some of the pressure her young friend was getting from her family about her lifestyle. "Does he live around here?" Alex asked, probing carefully. She wasnít sure by Reginaís response if she was uncomfortable about her brotherís lifestyle or her parentís rigid beliefs.
"No, heís in San Francisco. He hasnít lived at home since he was seventeen. My parents," Regina looked over at Alex and shook her head, "theyíre not very liberal - minded. When he told them he was gay, it was like world war three. My mother threw him out of the house and told him never to come back."
"That must have been pretty awful," Alex said, feeling badly that Regina had seen that happen to her brother.
"It was. I still keep in touch with him, but my mother acts like he never existed. Pictures, awards, clothes, books - she threw all of it out." Regina recalled the fight she had with her mother only a couple days ago. Sheís probably filling up the trash bags with my stuff as we speak. "I miss him."
"Can I ask you a personal question, Regina?" Alex looked down at the floor. "You donít have to answer it if you donít want to."
"Yeah." Regina rolled onto her side and fiddled nervously with the sheet. She had an idea where Alex was going with this and she wasnít sure if she really wanted to answer the question.
"Well, the other night in the apartment, when I kissed you, and we, um," Alex looked up at Regina. Just ask her will you? "Have you ever been with a woman before?"
Regina ran her fingers over the sheet and shook her head slowly. "No, I, I havenít. I, um, when I realized I was attracted to women, I was in college." She looked up at Alex nervously. "I mean I knew before then, when I was in high school, but after what Jeffrey went through with my parents, I just pushed it aside. I couldnít deal with it or what it would do to them."
"Yeah, I can see how you might not want them to know." My parents hardly cared what I did when I was younger. Dad was too busy drinking himself into oblivion, and my mother wanted to pretend that everything was fine. She pushed the errant thoughts out of her head and looked back up at Regina. "But, what about you? How come you never got involved with anyone, Regina?"
"I had some friends who were gay in college that I hung out with, but I wasnít interested in anyone." Regina shook her head. "Besides, some of them went through relationships like water and I didnít want that, I donít want that."
"I know what you mean." Alex had a feeling that she fit those particular criteria Regina was referring to at one point in her life. There had been a time, Alex remembered, when she thought she would find that one person she could share her life with, but then things happened that altered what she always thought she would believe in, and she gave up hoping that she could find someone who she could spend her life with.
Regina flopped back down onto the pillow and covered her face with her hands as she flushed a deep red. "I canít believe weíre having this discussion here," she groaned, in embarrassment.
"Iím sorry, Regina. I shouldnít have brought it up." Alex stared at the cuts and bruises on her hand.
"No, itís all right." Regina rolled over and looked at Alex. "Iím glad we have a chance to talk. This week has been crazy; so much has happened since we left the hospital."
"Regina." Alex leaned forward resting her elbows on her knees. "It can stop right here if you want it to. I shouldnít have pushed you, and Iím sorry if I made you uncomfortable the other night."
"Alex, you didnít push me." Regina reached out and touched Alexís face, stroking her cheek with her hand. "AndÖI donít want us to stop," she lowered her head, "unless you want to."
Alex swallowed and shook her head, speaking quietly. "No, I donít want us to stop, Regina." Despite all the reasons why she thought she shouldnít get involved - having lost Lana just less than a year ago; the differences between herself and Regina and the reason they were in the hospital tonight - Alex realized with startling clarity that she didnít want to lose the bond that was starting to grow between them.
Regina flicked the IV tubing in disgust. "This sucks." Tears ran down her face.
Alex was still absorbing what Regina had said to her when she realized what Regina was trying to do. "Regina, hey, donít do that." Alex tried to take hold of Reginaís hand but the woman yanked it away from her.
"ThisÖfuckingÖsucks!" Regina cried through her tears. She started ripping the tape off of her arm.
"Oh no you donít." Alex jumped up, grabbed her arm and stopped her from pulling the needle out.
Regina struggled against Alex, trying to shove her away.
"Let go of me, damn it." Regina struggled as the taller woman held her hand firmly over the IV. "All because of some stupid needle stick," Regina cried as she finally gave up struggling and leaned against Alex.
Alex held onto Regina as she cried in her arms. She tilted her head back and closed her eyes. Oh God, please, please, donít let this happen to her. She doesnít deserve this. She felt a flash of panic rising in her chest that left her feeling weak-limbed as it passed. Alex hastily wiped her eyes with her hand. She placed Reginaís hand over the IV line. "Easy now. Hold this for me, Regina. I just want to re-tape it so I donít have to get Nurse Sunshine to come in here." She turned away to look for tape.
Regina held her arm out as the doctor re-taped the IV. She looked up at her and laughed softly through her tears. "You mean the one with the green eyes that lit up when she saw you when we first walked in here?"
Alex shot her a look. "You noticed?"
"Iím sick Alex, not dead Ė of course I noticed. It was kind of hard to miss her reaction when we walked up to the nurseís station before."
"Yeah, well somebody can tell her to save the effort." Alex smoothed the tape down over Reginaís arm, idly stroking her thumb over the soft hairs on her skin.
Regina shifted on the stretcher and groaned. "Ugh, Iím going to get bed sores lying on this damn stretcher all night."
"So switch with me. This lounge chair is pretty comfortable."
After a minute of finagling with the IV pole and moving it around in the crowded booth, Regina settled herself in the chair with Alexís help. She closed her eyes and dozed fitfully for a few minutes. The waiting was awful and for as tired as she was, Regina couldnít stay asleep. Oh, somebody needs to invent an off key for the brain, she thought to herself as she shifted in the chair.
So much had happened this week - between their suspensions, Alex almost committing suicide and Derrickís attack, it hardly seemed real. Regina turned her head and looked at the brunette stretched out on her side, head propped on her hand with her eyes closed.
"Alex, are you sleeping?"
A slight grin crossed the dark-haired womanís lips. "No. Why arenít you sleeping? Itís late," Alex chided her as she looked at her watch and shook her head. "Itís two in the morning. Go back to sleep, Regina."
"I canít." Regina huddled down into the chair and drew her legs up to her chest. All the sounds she hardly noticed when she was working in the hospital seemed magnified tonight. She heard every beep from the IV pumps, the nervous whispering of the patients and families around them in the other booths, and the soft buzz from the fluorescent lights overhead.
Alex reached out and felt her forehead. "How do you feel?"
Regina burrowed farther under the thin blanket. "I keep getting chills."
Alex looked down at the blonde from her perch on the stretcher. "Gee, I wonder why? Letís see, weíve got cold IV fluid running into you, a fever, and a flimsy gown, in a lovely shade of faded blue, I might add. Too bad they donít have it in green, it would bring out your eye color."
Reginaís shoulders shook as she stifled a giggle. "Iím glad youíre here with me, Alex."
Alex stifled a yawn. "Me too. Do you want me to get you another blanket?"
Regina nodded her head and shivered again under the blanket she already had. Alex slid off the stretcher and disappeared, returning several minutes later with another blanket and a pair of scrubs. "Here, I thought these might make you feel warmer instead of that gown." She handed the blonde the bundle.
"Oh, thanks." Regina sat up in the chair and slid the pants on over her bare legs. The blonde stood up, fumbled with the ties on the pants, then reached back and undid the tie holding the gown closed.
Alex backed up, realizing that Regina was going to just drop the gown onto the floor. "Uh, let me step outside while you do that." She hastily slipped out of the curtain and leaned up against the wall.
She heard Regina snicker. "What are you laughing at?" Alex realized that Regina was enjoying her obvious discomfort with this.
"Alex, youíre a doctor. If youíve seen one set of breasts, youíve seen them all."
"Uh, not quite, Regina." Alex rolled her eyes and banged her head back against the wall. We almost made love the night before and I really donít need to see you half naked now, Regina, because Iíll never get to sleep tonight. Shit, what is wrong with me? I shouldnít be thinking like this. Sheís sick. "Are you decent yet?" Alex growled through the curtain.
"Yes, Iím decent, Alex." Regina pulled the blanket back up over her body as she sat in the chair.
Alex walked back into the booth, feeling Reginaís eyes following her as she sat down on the stretcher. She slipped her lab coat off and draped it over the front of her as she lay back on the stretcher and closed her eyes.
"What are you doing?"
"Iím going to sleep." The woman crossed her ankles, folded her arms over her chest, then turned her head and opened one eye. "Which is exactly what you should be doing."
"I know. I always have a hard time sleeping in a strange place."
Alex could hear Regina shift in the recliner as she settled down. Well, this is about as strange of a place you can be in. She opened her eyes and looked over at Reginaís huddled form under the blankets. Bright fluorescent lights that donít turn off, loud noises, strange smells and not even a decent bed to sleep in. Hmm, I think I will take David up on his offer of using the on call room. He owes me at least that.
Alex slipped quietly off the stretcher and went in search of the doctor. She found him in the staff lounge working on a pile of charts. "David."
"So, youíre still talking to me, huh?"
"Yes, I am." Alex ran a hand through her hair and sat across from him. "Can I still take you up on that offer for the on call room?"
"Sure, let me get the key." David stood and walked past Alex, hesitating as she grabbed his arm.
"You know, I never thanked you for being there Ė at the service."
He smiled sadly at his friend and patted her shoulder. "I know. IÖI didnít know what to say to you. You were hurting so bad." David turned his head away as he saw the tears in Alexís eyes.
He pulled the chair around the table and sat next to his friend. "You didnít break your hand did you?"
Alex smirked and shook her head. "No."
"You were always quick with your fists. Hit first, ask questions later."
"I guess deep down Iím still that angry, pissed off, kid you met in college."
David leaned closer and wrapped an arm around her shoulder. "That angry, pissed off, kid saved my life from a bunch of thugs that night."
Alex hung her head, refusing to meet his gaze. "This woman, Regina, she means a lot to you."
Alex smiled sadly. "You know, Iíve never met anyone in my life like her. Sheís special."
David nodded his head and stood up. "Let me get you that key."
A short while later, Alex returned to the booth where Regina was now sleeping. She knelt down beside her and brushed her hair back behind her ear. "Regina?"
"Mmm. What? I just fell asleep." Sleepy green eyes peered up at her.
Alex put a finger to her lips. "Iím sorry. I got you a room to sleep in," she said, and helped Regina into the wheelchair.
"Where are we going?" Regina blinked at the bright lights overhead and pulled the blankets up around her shoulders.
"Youíll see." Alex wheeled her down one of the hallways and stopped in front of an unmarked door. She unlocked it and pushed the door open. The room was small; the size of a closet in fact, and there was just enough room for a single bed. She flicked on the light next to the bed. "I thought you might be able to sleep better in here. Itís quiet and you can turn out the light," Alex explained, as she helped Regina out of the chair and into the room.
Regina sat down on the single bed and smiled up at Alex. "Thanks."
"Iíll come back and check on you later. Get some sleep." Alex turned and reached for the door.
"What?" Alex turned back around.
"Donít go. Stay with me."
"You sure? That bed is awfully small."
"Please, I donít want to be alone." Regina held out her hand.
Alex looked down at Regina, a smile playing at the corners of her lips. "Alright, let me get in behind you, that way youíre not up against the wall." Alex crawled onto the bed lying down on her side, stretching out next to the concrete wall. "Thereís not a lot of room Regina, are you sure you want me to stay?"
"Yes." Regina lay down and snuggled up with her back pressed tightly against Alex. "Thanks for taking care of me today again, Alex."
"Anytime, my friend." Alex pulled the blankets up over the both of them. "Are you warm enough?"
Regina mumbled something Alex couldnít understand then reached behind her, finding Alexís hand and pulling it forward over her stomach.
Several hours later, Alex woke before Regina and lay next to her, listening to her breathe. The smaller woman stirred slightly as Alex lifted herself up on her elbow. Neither of them moved during the night, which surprised her because she was always a restless sleeper. She removed her hand from Reginaís grasp and felt her forehead. Good, it feels like the fever broke while she slept. That has to be a good sign.
She reached up and felt for the light switch, turning on the light. From the hallway she heard a voice coming through on the paging system. Might as well get up, she thought, and slipped out of the bed. She looked down at her rumpled scrubs and shrugged her shoulders. Oh well, at least Iíll fit in. Iíll look like any other resident in the hospital who was on call last night.
"Alex." She turned to see Regina rolling over and stretching out onto her back. "What are you doing?"
"I figured I would try and find us something to eat that resembled real food. Any requests?" Alex ran a hand through her tousled hair.
"No oatmeal. I hate lumps," Regina mumbled.
"No oatmeal," Alex repeated. "Just sit tight. Iíll be back in a little while." Alex leaned over and pulled the blanket away from Reginaís face and shook her head when she saw that the resident had already fallen back to sleep.
The doctor negotiated her way through the maze of corridors, following the signs that led the way to the hospital cafeteria. It was still early so only a few employees that worked the early shift were wondering around and looking at the possibilities for breakfast.
She picked up a tray. "Letís see whatís safe in here." She walked past the counters of hot food and stopped at the grill. She ordered two cheese omelets, figuring that was a safe bet since she wasnít sure what Regina liked. While she waited, the doctor selected a couple of bananas, two muffins, and milk and juice for both of them.
She paid at the register and headed back towards the on call room where she left Regina sleeping. Alex opened the door, slipped inside and sat on the edge of the bed.
"Mm. Iím awake." Regina rolled onto her side and curled her body around Alex. She closed her eyes and snuggled against the taller woman, causing Alex to catch her breath at the sudden surge of heat that flowed through her belly.
"Sure you are. Wake up sleepy head. David said he would come down and talk to you before he starts rounds."
"Oh, why canít mornings start later?" Regina grumbled from beneath the covers.
"Itís the best time of the day. Come on, you need to eat."
"Its the best time of day for who, the birds?" Regina protested.
Alex regarded her in silence and raised an eyebrow.
"Oh god, donít tell me youíre one of those morning people." Regina untangled herself from her cocoon and sat up. "Boy, I must look awful." She brushed her hair back behind her ears. Hey, I think my fever broke."
"No, you donít and yes, it did." Alex told her. "Here, eat this." She handed her the paper plate with the omelet on it. "I hope cheese is ok. I wasnít sure what you liked."
"This is fine," Regina said in between bites. She scooted back so she was leaning against the wall and set her plate in her lap. "Ugh, Iím eating too fast."
"Slow down, nobodyís going to steal it from you," the doctor teased gently. She eased back so she was sitting next to the blonde.
"You never ate a meal with my brothers. They were awful when they were teenagers. If you turned your head theyíd swipe something off your plate."
"Youíre kidding me." Alex laughed.
"No. I got them back though."
"On no, what did you do?"
Regina sat up straighter and snickered before she started to tell Alex the story. "My parents werenít home one night so I made the age old brownie recipe Ex-lax. It was easy, all I had to do was tell them not to eat them because they were for school the next day."
Alex stared at Regina silently for a second and then broke into laughter. "Oh my God. That is cruel."
"Yeah, but they never touched my food again after that."
They sat side by side both eating in silence. Alex stole a couple of glances at her younger companion and wondered how Regina felt about her. Weíre so different, Regina. I wonder, do we really have a chance at being together?
"That was good." Regina reached in front of Alex, and snatched one of the muffins off the tray.
Alex stared at her empty plate with an amused look on her face. "I guess you were hungry, huh?"
There was a knock on the door. They heard Davidís voice on the other side.
Regina stopped eating. "Oh, I think I just lost my appetite," she said, her face paling slightly.
Alex tenderly squeezed her arm with her hand. "Whatever it is, weíll deal it. Youíre not going to have to go through this by yourself, Regina."
Regina nodded her head. "Thanks, Alex. You donít know how much that means to me."
"Come on in, David."
The door opened and the scraggly-looking doctor stepped into the cramped room. "Boy, I forgot how small these rooms were." He leaned up against the wall and crossed his arms over his chest. "Not bad, room service. I wish I were that lucky." He cocked his head, looking at the blonde thoughtfully. "How do you feel, Regina?"
"Better. My fever broke during the night. Did you get the results of the test back?"
"I did. The good news is thereís no sign of the antibodies yet in your system."
Regina leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes. "Thank god. So, whatís going on with me then?"
"Well, thatís where the problem is. The drugs youíre taking to prevent your body from developing the HIV virus are doing some bad things to your system. For one, your red blood cell count is low. Thatís one of the side effects of the drugs youíre on. The other problem is that your white blood cell count is drastically low as well. That concerns me because the drugs which are protecting you from developing the antibodies are essentially killing youíre ability to fight off any infection you might get."
"So, what should I do?" Regina asked, looking first at Alex and then at David.
"If it was me, Iíd stop taking the drugs, Regina. I know what youíre thinking." He held up a hand to stop her sentence. "Itís a calculated risk. Youíve been on the drugs almost three months now. Thereís a better than sixty percent chance you wonít develop the antibodies."
Regina stared down at her hands. "How much better than sixty percent? Sixty-one, seventy percent?"
"I donít know Regina. Iím sorry I canít give you a better answer."
"David, whatís the bottom line if she stays on the drugs?" asked Alex.
David shook his head. "Here, look at the lab values yourself."
She took the papers from him. Running her finger down the list of numbers she frowned, not liking what she saw.
"What do you think, Alex?" The blonde leaned closer to read the lab values.
"Youíre liver function tests are up. Thatís not good. And look," she pointed farther down the page, "your kidneys are being affected too."
"If I stop taking the drugs will my liver and kidneys start to function normally?"
"If you stop now I would say they probably will." David replied cautiously. "The other issue, Regina, is if you stay on them, they could make you infertile. I donít know if thatís a concern for you or not but thatís something you need to think about as well."
She stared up at him. "So if I stay on the drugs I could have permanent liver and kidney damage, be prone to infections, and possibly become infertile. On the other hand, if I stop taking the medicine I could still develop the antibodies. Great choice." Regina groaned and slumped back against the wall.
"I wish I could have better news for you. The choice is ultimately yours to make. Give yourself some time and think about it, but donít take too long. Iíll write the discharge order so you can leave whenever you want."
"Thanks for doing this, David. At least now I know whatís going on." Regina replied.
Alex stood up and held out her hand. "Thanks, David. I owe you one."
"Donít mention it, Alex." He looked at his watch. "Iíve got to go. Listen, stay in touch. Regina, good luck." He slipped out of the room, leaving the two of them alone.
Alex turned around and looked at Regina.
"It could have been worse, right?" Regina looked back at Alex.
"Yeah, it could have been, but it wasnít." Alex sat down beside her on the bed, her hands resting on her thighs.
"Do you think Iím making the right decision if I stop taking the drugs, Alex?"
"I donít think thereís much of a choice. If it was me, Iíd stop taking them, Regina."
"I wish I had been able to stay on them longer before I started having the side effects."
Alex turned and faced her. "Do you want me to see if I can find out if thereís anything else you can take? We can check out the internet and look at the latest research if you want."
"No, no more pills, Alex. Iím sick of taking them. You know I forgot to take them yesterday?" Regina shook her head, then looked up at Alex. "Howís your hand feeling?"
Alex turned it over and made a fist. "Itís fine, just a little stiff."
Regina leaned over and looked at it. "Wow, the swelling is almost gone. You heal quickly."
Alex made a face and nudged Regina with her elbow. "Nah, just a good doctor looking after me, thatís all."
Regina couldnít help the smile that crossed her lips. She shook her head and rubbed her face with her hands. "Ugh, I feel gross. I need a shower and then I have to get my car back." She looked up at Alex and her eyes widened in alarm. "What, why do you have that look on your face like somethingís wrong?"
"Uh, with everything that happened last night, I didnít get a chance to tell you."
"Tell me what?"
"Derrick had your car towed back to New Jersey and impounded," Alex said, casting a wary glance at Regina.
"Oh, that son of a bitch! How the hell am I going to get home? Ah shit!" She cursed and put her face in her hands.
"Hey, easy, Iíll drive you home. Donít worry about it. Weíll get your car back on Monday after the meeting."
Regina snapped her head up and stared at Alex. "Wait. Does that mean youíre going back to the hospital?"
A smile tugged at the corner of Alexís mouth. "Dr. Mitchard wonít accept my resignation so itís up to the board if they want me back or not."
Regina stared at Alex. "Why didnít you tell me?" She grabbed the womanís arm, shaking it in her excitement.
"I didnít get a chance until just now." Alex smiled at the expression on Reginaís face. "I take it you think thatís a good thing, huh?"
Regina stood up facing Alex, put her hands on her shoulders and pushed her back so the taller woman had to look up at her. "Of course it is." Regina resisted the urge to just lean in and kiss her. "So, any chance we can take a shower before we head home?"
"I think we can find a shower." Alex stood up and reached for the younger woman. "Regina?"
"Everything is going to work out." Alex pulled her into a hug, wrapping her arms around her tightly. "Letís go find the locker room so we can get the hell out of here."
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