The following night it seemed things returned to relative normalcy as Regina walked down the hallway from the ambulance bay. A brown-haired boy about four years old was cradled on one hip, and walking next to her holding her other hand was his older brother.
Sandy looked up as she walked past the desk. "Hey, who do you have there?" She peered over the counter top at the two boys.
Regina shifted the boy in her arm, settling him higher up on her hip. "This is Mason." She nodded her head to the one standing next to her holding her hand. "And this is his brother, Thomas. Their momís in room five. The ambulance driver brought them in with her. Nobody to take care of them at home," she explained.
"Hi Mason. Hi Thomas." Sandy smiled down at them.
"Who are you?" Thomas asked, standing up on his toes to get a better look at her.
"Iím Sandy." Thomas nodded his head as if satisfied with her answer. "Guess theyíre staying with us for awhile, huh?"
"Yeah, they may be admitting their mother." Regina lifted Mason up onto the counter, giving her arm a rest. "Anything special we need to do?"
Sandy thought about it for a minute. "Thereís no family we can contact?"
Regina shook her head. "No, the mother has custody of the boys and thereís no other family in the state."
"Iíll call a volunteer and see if they can come sit with them." Sandy drummed her fingers on the desk, thinking. "We wonít do anything until we know if momís being admitted."
Regina looked up at the clock. "Youíre not going to get a volunteer at this hour."
"Nine oíclock? Ooh, I didnít realize it was that late. Youíre right." Sandy looked around the ER. "Well, weíre not too busy right now. I think we can handle them for the time being."
Sandy turned away, her attention drawn toward Alex as she walked out of one of the exam rooms shaking her head. "What are you laughing at?" The nurse inquired curiously, seeing the wry grin on the doctorís face.
The dark-haired attending leaned on the desk, her braid falling over her left shoulder as she rested on her elbows. "I just got propositioned by an eighty-six year old Ė man." Alex stopped mid-sentence, cutting off the less than flattering description she had on the tip of her tongue, when she caught Regina out of the corner of her eye standing at the end of the desk with two young boys in tow.
Sandy crossed her arms and grinned. "Lucky you. What did you tell him?" She couldnít resist teasing Alex since opportunities arose so infrequently.
Alex smirked, leaning across the desk and whispered in her ear. Sandy glared back at her and smacked her hard in the arm. "You jerk! Great, just great. And now I have to go in there and put a catheter in him?" She stalked around the desk and grabbed Alexís arm. "Youíre coming with me."
"Hey lady." The young boy standing next to Regina pulled on Alexís lab coat. "Whatís a prop?" He stopped and frowned. "A proposition?" he asked, sounding out the word.
Alex stopped and peered down at the inquisitive face peering up at her. "Uh." She looked up at Regina who scowled back at her, arms crossed over her chest, waiting for Alexís response. Oh boy, youíre in for it now. "Um, itís an offer," she struggled to explain the word to the boy without getting herself into more trouble.
Alex swallowed and looked over at Sandy for help and got none. Ok, so this is what it means to be hung out to dry, Alex thought wryly. "It could be for anything."
Regina snorted and shook her head. "All right, showís over guys. We need to go find your mom." She lowered Mason back down to the floor and started to turn away.
"No. I want to know." Thomas demanded and tugged impatiently on Reginaís arm.
"Nope. Come on, letís go." Regina glared back at Alex.
Sandy snickered at the predicament Alex managed to get herself into and elbowed her in the ribs. "Ooh, you just pissed her off."
"Yeah, thanks for jumping right in and helping me out there, friend."
"Ah, but it was so much fun to watch you try and get yourself out of trouble."
"Mrs. Frank," Regina leaned over the stretcher and touched the womanís shoulder. "Your boys are here. I know you wanted to see them before you went down for your tests."
The frail-looking, dark-haired woman rolled over and peered down at the two boys standing beside Regina. "Ah, Thomas, come here."
The older of the two boys stepped closer. "What Momma?"
"I need you to look after your brother while Iím here. Youíre both going to behave yourselves, right?"
"Yes, Momma." Thomas leaned up against the stretcher and took hold of her hand.
"I donít want you to go," Mason started to cry.
"Now, thereís nothing to cry about. The doctors just need to check some things and Iíll be back in a while. Promise me youíll be good."
Mason nodded his head, wiping the tears off his face. "I promise."
Moments later the transporter appeared and wheeled the stretcher out of the room, taking the woman down to the radiology department. Regina turned around and looked down at the two boys standing beside her and tried to think of something that might keep them occupied and out of trouble, while Sandy figured out who could watch them.
"Let me see. I want to listen," Thomas said, reaching up for the instrument hanging around Reginaís collar.
"Ok." Regina pulled the stethoscope from around her neck. She held the metal prongs open, letting him grasp the earpieces and stick them in his ears. Thomas walked over to his brother.
Regina sat back and watched them, enjoying the comedy being played out between the two of them. She glanced up at the clock. It was already ten oíclock and their mother wouldnít be back from radiology for a while yet.
"Let me listen to your heart, Mason." Thomas reached out his hand and placed the stethoscope on his brotherís stomach.
"I donít hear anything." Thomas looked back at Regina. He frowned and tapped the plastic covering, blinking in surprise as the sound registered loudly in his ears.
Regina stifled a giggle. "Thomas, whereís your heart?" Very seriously, he pointed to his stomach. "Thatís a little low, donít you think?"
He threw his head back, letting out a loud laugh. Regina grinned and slid off her stool, kneeling down beside him. "Here." She lifted the piece up and placed it over his brotherís heart. "Do you hear it now?"
Mason looked up at his brother. "Whatís it sound like?"
"Thud-thud, thud-thud," Thomas said, as he listened intently and moved the piece around his brotherís chest. Masonís lower lip started to quiver. "Hey, why you cryingí?" Thomas pushed his brother in the shoulder.
Regina looked up at the younger boy. "Mason, whatís wrong?"
"Momís heartís broken. Is it going to sound like that anymore?"
Regina cocked her head, suddenly confused. "Mason, your momís heart is fine," she said reassuringly.
"No, itís not. She told me so." Tears rolled down the boyís face.
Regina sat back on her heels and reached out for the boy. She heard the door open to the room and turned around to see Alex looking in at her. Their eyes met for a moment and Alex gave her a quick smile of apology. "Sandy is trying to find someone who can stay with them." The dark-haired doctor walked over to the stretcher and sat down, watching the two boys warily. "Everything all right?"
Regina shrugged her shoulders and looked back at Mason. "What did your mom say about her heart, Mason?"
He sniffled and wiped his nose on his sleeve. "SÖshe said that daddy broke it when he left." Mason threw himself against Regina and wrapped his arms around her neck, holding her tightly in his grasp.
"Stop crying, Mason," Thomas said.
"Thomas, itís all right if he cries." Regina said, reaching out and ruffling the older boyís hair.
Regina wrapped her arms around Mason and lifted him up. She walked over to Alex and deposited the smaller boy into her lap. "Here, hold him. Iím going to see if thereís a room I can get them settled in."
Taken aback, the doctorís blue eyes widened in surprise. She slipped her hands around the boyís middle and set him gingerly on her thighs. "IÖI think the room across from the nurseís station is open," Alex finally managed to get out, looking at the boy like she was holding a piece of china.
"Good. Iíll be back." Regina turned and disappeared out of the room.
Alex peered down at the little boy. He curled himself up against the doctor, one hand clutching her lab coat and the other wrapped around her upper arm, holding her tightly. Thomas climbed up onto the stretcher and sat cross-legged peering up at Alex. "Are you going to make my mother better?"
"Weíre going to try," Alex said carefully.
A little while later, Regina walked back into the trauma room carrying a couple of stuffed animals and two small gowns from the pediatric floor. "You two ever sleep over at a friendís house?" She looked at Thomas and Mason. They both nodded, staring back at her. "Well, thatís what this is going to be like tonight." Regina looked at Alex. "Sandy got a couple of beds from the hallway so they can sleep in the empty room."
"Did she find anyone to watch them?"
"Not yet and Jameson is already giving her a hard time about keeping them here."
Alexís brow creased at the worried expression on Reginaís face. "The Division of Youth Services isnít open now so he canít call them until the morning. Weíll figure something out."
Alex stood up, cradling Mason awkwardly in her arm, and headed to the door. "Letís go, guys. Itís bedtime." She pushed the door open and held it for Thomas and Regina to walk through.
"Since when do we run a day care center?" Dr. Jameson asked, as he met them in the hallway. He stared down at the two boys in contempt.
"Since their mother is having testing done, and thereís no family for them to stay with." Alex glared back at him defiantly.
"There has to be someone. Make sure you call family services as soon as you know sheís being admitted. We canít keep them here indefinitely." Giving them both a cursory glance, he walked quickly down the hallway.
Regina gave Alex a worried look. "He canít do anything, can he, Alex?" The young doctor followed the taller woman into the room Sandy set up for them.
"He canít do anything unless sheís going to be admitted and then itís up to the mother if sheíll give consent to place them temporarily," Alex reassured her.
"What?" Regina looked down at the serious expression on Thomasís face.
"Mason canít go to sleep unless mom tells him a story."
"Oh." Regina scratched her head and looked at Alex.
"Donít look at me. I sure donít know any." Alex set Mason down on the bed next to his brother. She patted Regina on the back. "Good luck."
"Thanks." Regina looked back at Thomas. "Ok, I think I can do this."
Alex listened for a minute as Regina started to tell them a story and then quietly shut the door behind her. She walked over and leaned against the desk, looking back into the room across from the nurseís station.
"What?" Alex asked without turning around. Regina was sitting cross-legged on the hospital bed talking to both of the boys; one of them tilted his head back and laughed, falling over onto his side in a fit of giggles.
"Why donít you go in there? Weíre not busy and your shift is over," Sandy told the attending. "Theyíre just kids."
Alex turned her head and scowled at the nurse. "Very funny, Sandy. You know kids arenít my forte."
Sandy looked up at Alex and chewed on the end of her pen. "Hmm."
"If the mother needs to be admitted weíre going to have to call family services in the morning." Alex looked back inside the room. She hated the thought of having them placed in a foster home even temporarily, but she hadnít figured out a way to get around that particular problem yet.
Sandy stood up and put a hand on Alexís shoulder pulling her close to her. "I donít think itís the kids that are bothering you."
"What are you talking about?" Alex quickly shrugged Sandyís hand off of her in irritation.
"I think youíre scared of her. She got in there, didnít she?" Sandy leaned forward and tapped Alexís chest.
"Yeah right, Sandy." Alex pulled away from the nurse, giving her a puzzled, almost angry look.
"Oh donít bullshit me, Alex. How long have we worked together, now?" Sandy saw the look of surprise on Alexís face and smirked. "You bring the kid home when she got sick, you did the blood work for her tests -ha, you even resigned your damn position so Jameson wouldnít go after her."
"You know you are so full of shit." Alex clamped her mouth closed as Regina appeared at the desk and looked up at the two women.
"Hi." She was surprised to see the scowling blue eyes. "Whatís up?"
Alex glared back at Sandy. "Nothing. Not a damn thing." She pushed away from the desk and stalked off down the hall.
"Ooh, what got into her?" Regina asked, watching Alex disappear into the staff lounge.
Sandy shrugged indifferently and walked off to check on a patient.
Regina stood at the desk for a moment, trying to figure out what happened, and then walked down the hall. She opened the door to the lounge and stuck her head inside, seeing dark-haired woman sitting at the table hunched forward, her hands idly spinning an empty can of soda between them. The resident stepped inside the door and closed it quietly behind her.
"Do you mind the company?"
The bowed head raised up and Alex sat back in her chair. "Hi."
"Mm. Hi yourself." Regina walked over and sat down in the chair next to the doctor. "You ok?" She watched as the woman fidgeted nervously with the tab on the top of the soda can.
"Yeah, Iím just tired." Alex rubbed her eyes.
"Did Sandy say something to upset you?" Regina leaned forward, trying to see past the guarded expression on Alexís face.
Alex stared at her then dropped her eyes down to the table. "Youíre getting the restraining order tomorrow, right?" she asked, ignoring Reginaís question.
Regina gave Alex a puzzled look. "Yeah, I go to the courthouse at ten in the morning."
"You want me to come with you?" Alex broke the tab off the top of the can and dropped it inside.
"I didnít think you could."
"I might be able to get someone to cover for me at the meeting."
Regina studied her companion from across the table. Something was bothering the older woman but for the life of her she couldnít figure out what it was. "AlexÖwhoa." The lights went out and they sat in total darkness.
"Theyíre just checking the emergency generator. The lights will come back on in a second," Alex explained quietly.
Seconds later, the emergency lights flickered on, dimly illuminating the lounge. "Iím going to go check on Mason and Thomas. Hopefully theyíre already sleeping." Regina stood up and walked out into the hallway.
She heard Mason calling out for his mother before she even got to the room. Regina walked over and picked him up off the stretcher. "Hey, youíre ok. Your mother will be back when sheís finished with her tests."
The boy would hear none of it and continued to cry inconsolably.
"Geez, whoís got the set of lungs I can hear all the way down the hall?" Alex pushed the door open and walked inside behind the younger doctor. Mason hiccupped and reached his arms out for the taller woman.
Regina laughed. "Well, we know who his favorite is."
Alex rolled her eyes and gathered Mason up in her arms. "God only knows why," she replied as Mason wrapped his arms tightly around her neck and held on for dear life.
Regina frowned, hating when Alex put herself down. "Hey, isnít your shift over now?"
The taller woman shrugged her shoulders. "Iíve got a ton of paperwork to catch up on. Figured Iíd stay and get some of it done." She looked down at the boy hanging off her hip. "You want to help me?" Brown, tear-filled eyes looked back at her and Mason nodded his head. "You agree now, but wait thirty years or so," Alex chuckled wryly.
The blonde watched the interaction between the doctor and the boy quietly, then walked past the dark-haired woman. "Iím going to call radiology and see whatís taking them so long." Regina slipped out of the room, glancing back as Alex gathered a pile of charts in one arm and set them on the counter.
The doctor sighed as she looked down into the brown eyes. "Listen, Mason, you need to go to sleep." Alex placed him on the hospital bed behind her and glanced over at his sleeping brother. Who are you kidding? Youíre just staying here so you have a chance to be around her. You just canít admit it now, can you? With a sigh, Alex sat down on the stool and opened the first in a huge stack of charts she needed to review.
Moments later, two hands touched her shoulder, and Alex glanced up to see Mason standing on tiptoe in the bed, leaning over the railing and peering over her shoulder.
"What are you doing?"
"What are you reading?"
"Work stuff," Alex sighed. "Mason, youíre supposed to be asleep."
"Iím not tired," he announced and rocked back and forth on his feet restlessly.
"Uh-huh." Alex spun around on the stool and regarded him seriously. "Do you know what happens if you donít go to sleep?"
"I donít believe in the boogey-man."
Alex rubbed her eyes. Shit, now what? "Come here." She lifted her arms up, expecting the boy to just lean forward; instead he jumped from the mattress and she scrambled to catch him in mid-flight. "Whoa, what do you think, you can fly?"
"I like to fly," he giggled, balancing himself on her muscular thighs.
"And how do you manage to do that?" She frowned, holding him firmly in her grasp.
"On a swing and then I jump."
Alex chuckled as she got an idea. "Iíll make a deal with you. You get to fly once and then you go to bed. Deal?"
Mason eyes sparkled and he nodded eagerly.
"Ok, here goes Champ." Alex stood up off the stool and lifted him up high over her head. He squealed and laughed as she turned him in her arms and held him upside down, before setting him back on his feet.
He smiled back up at her. "That was fun. One more time, please?" Mason tugged her hand impatiently.
The dark-haired woman glanced out the door then, quickly scooped the boy back up into her arms. Mason giggled as he was lifted overhead and then set back down on the floor.
"Oh sure, Miss ĎKids Arenít My Forteí. Youíre just a an overgrown version, yourself."
Alex jerked her head up to see Sandy standing in the doorway with her arms crossed over her chest. "IÖI was just bribing him to go to sleep."
The curly-headed nurse rolled her eyes and walked over to the doctor. "I could think of better ways." She pursed her lips and regarded the doctor coolly. "Donít stay too late, Alex. I let the next shift know about our two visitors here so someone can come in and watch them when youíre ready to leave."
Alex nodded and sat down on the stool, feeling rather foolish for having been caught with her guard down. "Sandy, do you know if that nurse up on pediatrics still takes foster kids?"
"Yeah, the red-head."
"I think so, why?"
"Their mother probably isnít going to agree to being admitted if she has to give these kids over to youth services. Thereís no guarantee theyíll keep them together in foster care."
"So, you want to see if Sheila will take them for a few days?"
Alex leaned back against the desk and blew out a breath. "Yeah, I do."
Sandy looked at the two boys. Thomas was curled up on his side fast asleep and Mason was leaning against Alex, his arms draped over her thigh. "Heís taken a liking to you."
Alex glanced down at the curly brown head and then rubbed his back affectionately. "I think he reminds me of my brother."
The nurse ran a hand through her hair and sighed. "Iíll give Sheila a call and see what she can do."
"Thanks, Sandy." Alexís eyes watched her walk out of the room. She looked down as two small hands pulled on her lab coat. "What, Mason?"
"Can you do it again?"
Alex smiled crookedly at the boy. "Sandy was right. There has to be a better way to get you to go to sleep. Alright, just one more time."
By the time Regina extracted herself from the sudden influx of patients, it was well after one in the morning. She finished writing the orders on her last patient and pulled the order tab up, slipping the chart into the cart next to the unit clerk. On her way to the on call room, she stuck her head in the room across from the nurseís station to check on the two boys. She couldnít help the surprised smile that spread across her face, when she saw Alex sprawled out on her back on the hospital bed, sleeping. A pile of charts lay untouched at her feet and Mason was curled up next to her, his head resting on her shoulder and a hand clutching the lapel of her lab coat.
The image stuck in the young doctorís mind long after she left the hospital that night and headed home from her shift.
The blonde sat in the courtroom leaning back against the hard wooden bench, silently praying that Derrick wouldnít show up today. It wasnít unusual for him to have at least one or two days a week that he spent in court waiting to testify for cases he was involved in.
Regina closed her eyes, wishing that Alex been able to come with her. She got held up at the medical center at the last minute and left Regina a message that she probably wouldnít make it over to the courthouse in time. Not that there was anything the doctor could do, but she just wanted her presence and moral support.
The resident sighed as she thought about Alex. It was so hard to read her. The older woman kept everything inside closely guarded and despite the time they spent together, Regina wondered where their friendship was ultimately headed. She really wanted to get to know the woman better but it was almost impossible to get her to open up since they had been back from their suspensions.
She closed her eyes trying to calm her nervousness. A part of Regina still couldnít believe she was actually doing this. She had never been afraid of someone hurting her until Derrick changed all that several months ago. Her last violent interactions with him convinced her to stop making excuses for Derrick and get a restraining order.
It was a simple enough process and without Derrick to argue his side of the story, the judge quickly granted the restraining order after he read over the police and hospital reports Regina brought with her to the court.
The somber faced gray-haired man looked over the ornate desk at Regina. "You understand that he canít come within five hundred feet of you. The only complicating factor is his job. Once his suspension is over, and he is reinstated to active duty, I canít restrict his access to the hospital if he has reason to be there. Any questions?"
Regina shook her head, reaching up and taking the papers from the judge.
"Well, good luck then."
The resident slipped on her trench coat and walked hastily out of the courtroom. A slight breeze was blowing and the first autumn leaves were swirling down from the trees, fluttering around her feet. Regina tugged her coat closely around her as she walked along the broken sidewalk. A car door slammed shut somewhere ahead of her as she approached her own car and she heard her name being called.
Looking up, she stopped in her tracks. "Shit."
Derrick pushed himself off of his police cruiser and stepped around, blocking Reginaís path. He looked her up and down his dark, angry eyes boring into her. "You bitch. I canít believe you did this."
"Get away from me, Derrick." Regina summoned as much anger as she could to hide the fear she felt inside her. Her heart hammered in her chest as she moved to step around him.
"You got me fucking suspended!" He moved, blocking her again. "They stuck me with desk duty for a month." Derrick stared down at Regina. "Do you know what thatíll do for my chances of getting promoted?"
Regina stepped back. "I donít care, just leave me alone, Derrick." She heard another car door slam shut and footsteps came running up behind her.
"You better back off, Derrick." Alex growled as she stepped up beside Regina protectively.
"Whatís wrong? Didnít I beat your queer ass enough last time?" Derrick taunted, his upper lip curling up in a snarl as he glared at taller woman.
"Iím not the one nursing broken ribs, now am I?" Alex retorted sharply.
Derrick glared at her. "Get lost, this is between Regina and me."
"Iím not going anywhere."
"You need to drop the charges, Regina," Derrick growled, turning away from Alex.
"Like hell I will. Iíve got a retraining order, Derrick. Stay the hell away from me." Regina stepped around him.
"What the hell are you talking about?" He reached out to grab Reginaís arm and yelped in surprise as Alex stepped forward and grabbed his wrist, twisting it painfully behind his back.
"Derrick, one last time, back off, unless you want a matching set of ribs. Believe me, Iíll gladly accommodate if you like," she hissed in his ear.
"Let go of my wrist," he snarled.
She yanked his arm up higher, forcing him to bend over. "You leave her alone, you sick bastard."
"I meant it when I said I got a restraining order against you, Derrick." Regina glared at him, feeling braver now that Alex was there. "A month is nothing. If you keep harassing me, youíre going to end up in jail again and next time you wonít just be suspended."
Derrick blinked and hesitantly looked around them aware of several curious stares from people walking by. He shrugged away from Alex as she released his wrist. "Youíre a damn fool for getting involved with this bitch, Regina."
"Save it, Derrick. I donít care what you have to say."
"Yeah? Well, why donít you ask her about her dyke friend who deals drugs? Thatís right." He took in Alexís surprised expression. "Itís amazing who you meet when you spend a night in the slammer. Go ahead and enjoy your time with this one, Regina. When that bitch gets out of jail, Alex, sheís coming for you and there isnít going to much left when sheís finished."
"Go to hell, Derrick." Regina stepped closer and put her hand on Alexís arm.
Looking at the two of them in disgust, he spat at their feet and walked away. Regina felt Alex slip her arm around her shoulder. "You ok?"
"I didnít think you were coming."
"Dr. Ortiz covered for me at the meeting. Are you all right to drive back to the hospital?" Alex felt Regina trembling under her arm.
"Yeah, I just need a minute." Regina steadied herself and walked slowly toward her car. "Alex, whatís going on with Dana?"
The dark-haired woman stared down at the ground as they walked, knowing she needed to tell Regina what was going on. "I canít get into it now, Regina, itíll take too long. Weíll talk Friday night." She saw the doubtful expression on the blondeís face. "I promise." She knew sheíd been keeping her distance from Regina since they got back, mostly trying to sort out her feelings for the younger woman. The doctor squeezed her shoulder and walked with the resident to her car.
Alex held the door open as Regina slipped inside behind the steering wheel. "I thought youíd want to know, one of the nurses on pediatrics is taking the boys for a couple of days. The mother gave her consent this morning," Alex commented quietly, leaning against the side of the car as she watched Regina settle in her seat.
"How did you manage that?" Regina darted a quick surprised glance up at the blue eyes that were looking back at her.
The dark-haired woman shrugged casually. "I know a couple of the nurses on pediatrics take foster kids. I just got lucky that one of them could take Mason and Thomas for a few days."
"So the mother is staying to get the procedure done then?"
"Yes, she should be ready to go home in a few days." Alex nodded her head, wondering how something as simple as Reginaís smile could make her feel this warm inside. "Iíve got to get back or Dr. Ortiz is going to have a fit. Are you going to be ok?"
"Iím fine, Alex." Regina reached out and grabbed her hand. "Thanks for finding a place for those kids to stay."
"It was luck it worked out that way." Alex smiled down at her. "Iíll see you tomorrow night."
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