Bruised Hearts





Kerry took a sip of her wine. The first time I go out of way to let someone in, she thought, they don't budge. And Malucci certainly hadn't. He was silent and sullen all the way to her place. Now, he just sat on her couch holding the glass with the bitter liquid in his hand. He'd barely touched it, and seemed to be off in another world. He looked haunted. And scared.

The last person she expected this of was Malucci. Was she that naive to think that he would just start bawling to her about whatever terrible thing might have happened? For someone who had always closed herself up, she had no idea how to bring someone out. And here was this second year resident she barely knew sitting in her home, a complete wreck, and she had no clue what to do about it. Who did she think she was trying to play heroine all of a sudden?

Kerry had invited him in, but now she would have to go further. She was frightened. This was her worst fear. That when she wanted to get to know someone she would have to let the cat out of the bag. She hadn't even done it with Carter. But for once she couldn't just sit back and play the alpha female role she so often locked herself into. She had a heart, but deep inside she knew that she would have to unlock it before Dave would give her the key to his.

"The masks are cool."

"What?" Kerry snapped out of her thoughts.

"The tribal masks -- on the wall -- they're cool."

"They're from Africa," Kerry responded. She took another sip of the wine.

"Since when were you in Africa, chief?" Dave questioned. He seemed to be easing into his surroundings, but there was still something about his face that upset Kerry.

"I lived in Africa, Malucci" Oh god. It was the tapestry of her life. And that was the first string pulled that would eventually cause the entire thing to unravel.

"Cool." Cool. At that point, Dave seemed like such a child. Such a teenage boy who only knew how to respond to something by calling it 'cool'. At that point, she knew what she needed to do. She had a feeling of how to bring him out. And in doing it, she would let herself go for the first time. Kerry took another sip of her wine and paused. There was no turning back.

"Do you know who Haphaestus is, Malucci?"

"You mean the guy on 'Gunsmoke'? Festus?" Dave was confused. Who the hell was she talking about?

Kerry laughed. It was obvious he didn't know anything about Greek mythology. More the Nick-at-Night kind of guy.

"No, HA-phaestus." Dave was still confused.

"The guy on 'Xena'? Chief, I always figured you were the type who like 'Xena'." Kerry smiled. While she had watched the show a few times, she knew he was getting closer. At least Dave seemed happier now. Kerry finished off the wine and poured herself another glass.

"You know, Malucci... we all hide behind masks. Especially me. I don't usually tell anyone anything. I'm a very private person."

"I've always sensed that about you, Chief," Dave responded sweetly making Kerry turn the deep color of the wine.

She looked at him. "Call me Kerry," she said boldly. She looked down at the glass. Maybe it was the alcohol giving her the confidence.

"Okay... Kerry," he said, trying it out.

"Malucci..." she started to say.

"Call me Dave," he retorted.

"Dave... Haphaestus was a character in Greek mythology. He was Hera's son who was cast off Mount Olympus because he was deformed. As a kid, I was obsessed with him. I relate to him." Here goes nothing, she thought.

Dave sipped his drink tentatively. "Why, Kerry, I knew you were the 'Chief' but I didn't know you thought of yourself as a god," he said jokingly trying to ease the tension that seemed to be building. His smile was goofy now, and his discomfort continued to wane.

"No, Dave," she laughed. "I mean about being damaged goods. About not being wanted. Remember when you first came to County? You asked everyone about my limp. Except me."

Dave looked at her apologetically. "I'm sorry Chief, er, Kerry. I guess I just didn't know what to say to you."

"It's okay," she responded. "No one does. In school, all of the other kids teased me. I wore glasses, I was smart, and I was born with this dumb, fucked up leg." Kerry could feel the words flowing. She rarely shared this with anyone. It felt good. "I was unwanted from the start. I bet you didn't know I was adopted, Malucci. My parents didn't want me. They didn't want me because of it. Because I wasn't normal."

"Ker, I had no idea..."

Her voice began to crack. "No one has ever wanted me. The only people who ever cared about me are gone. My adoptive parents are dead, Gabe Lawrence is wasting away, Ellis West used me and Mlungisi lives in Africa. I've been the geeky short red-head with the bum leg my entire life. Do you know how awful that feels? Do you know how I've constantly had to close off, bitching to everyone, living in constant pain..." she broke off.

Kerry sunk down onto the floor. The wine glass fell out of her hand and spilled, staining the rug with it's dull red. She felt so drained and her body shook uncontrollably with sobs.

The next thing she knew, she felt two arms engulf her. Kerry looked up, her eyes all red. Dave Malucci held her rocking her back and forth like a child. "It's okay, Ker. It's okay. I'm sorry about what happened, I'm sorry I asked." She sniffled. At that point, she was staring at him. His dark hair was still damp from the rain. She wanted to know more then ever what force had been so strong to hurt this great guy so badly. But he beat her to it.

"Kerry, I've got to tell you something."

***

The night air was cool. The vast Carter estate was like a mirage in the desert, a place too good to be true. The overhanging trees cast shadows that danced across the high walls. The world seemed to stand still as everything was in it's place, the picture of money, status and perfection.

However, one side was dark. There was no light and no sound. The gloominess did not let the moon shine through and it's haunting beauty was enough to make someone wonder what tortured should was confined to this space despite it's vastness.

John Carter lay awake. The spot of imperfection had become him. John thought of his family. They would sooner turn to alcohol or drugs then confront their problems. And now, it was him who lay awake. He had already taken four painkiller, three tranquilizers plus the two anti-depressants from before. He still felt the bitter taste of the Xanax in the back of his mouth. The sharp pain seemed to be constantly shooting through his back.

Carter rose. He reached for a pack of Marlboros that he had bought earlier. When he was in college, he took up smoking to relieve the stress of his business major combined with the premed courses. Once into med school he managed to kick the habit, but every so often he craved a cigarette. This was one of those nights. In fact, they were becoming more and more frequent. The same went for the late night walks.

Kerry Weaver had told him she was worried. He lied to her, hell, he'd been lying to everyone. It was becoming second nature -- deceit without worries. Now it was starting to frighten him, the ease at which he was able to tell half-truths and full out lies. He used to be honest. Before.

Now out in the cool night, he inhaled and exhaled a puff of smoke. It was hot in his throat and lungs, but it was relaxing. Another shot of pain hit him and he nearly doubled over into the soft lawn.

Damn, he thought, nothing will stop it. He needed something stronger. Something to make it go away. The painkillers were losing their effects; they didn't work anymore. Carter's mind was in a jumble. He felt confused and disoriented. His thinking was straight. His mind flashed from his back to Sobriki to Lucy lying on the ground with her pathetic eyes needing to be saved to Kerry's look of concern and back again. John tossed the cig into the grass, then stomped on it before a flame could spark up.

He stumbled back into the house. Tomorrow he would ask his doctor for something stronger. Something to make the pain disappear. Once back to his room, Carter opened another pill bottle and set two more painkillers down his throat. He set the pack of Marlboros back down onto the night stand. The clock glowed 2:15. It always did.



Part 4
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