Disclaimer: I'd like to own them...but DEK said no (he's so mean to poor little girls).
Summary: Takes place loosely after DG and BK were back from Africa and after Lisa Catera and Robert Yeats were added. Daniel Nyland, of course, would be around, but he's not really mentioned in my story for reasons even unknown to me. Please enjoy! It's the first CH fan fiction story I've ever successfully completed! Some facts are loose, and unreal, and don't fit with CH episodes. But hey, this is fiction, and in the fiction world, we know that anything can happen. Enjoy!
Billy moaned and reluctantly opened his eyes, glancing at the clock on the nightstand on his side of the bed. It was 2:30 in the morning. He frowned and sat up. He had awoken when he had felt Diane wiggle out of his arms and throw on a tee shirt, heading for the bathroom. "Babydoll, are you okay?" He called, his voice groggy with sleep. He heard the bathroom door open and heard the soft pattering of her bare feet on the floor.
"I'm fine," Diane replied, slipping back into bed. "I just had a really bad headache. I took aspirin." She settled back down next to him, placing her cheek against his bare chest.
"What time do you get off from work today?" It was Friday morning, by the way. "We can have dinner, see a movie..." Billy suggested.
"That'd be great, if I don't have too much paperwork to take home," Diane replied, her voice suddenly thick with sleep. She yawned. Then dozed off peacefully and safely in Billy's strong but gentle arms.
Late that next afternoon, Billy opened his locker and pulled out his gym bag. He had just finished assisting a heart transplant with Kate Austin and Keith Wilkes, and he was looking forward to getting away from the hospital with Diane to have a relaxing weekend. Both of them had worked seven days a week for nearly two weeks, due to a slight decrease of staff after spring had arrived bringing warm weather to Chicago.
"Tough day," Keith said, who had emerged from the shower. "That was a close one. Austin did good, though."
"Yep, as usual." Billy replied. "She's been really...chipper lately."
"Well, she hasn't had to work seven days a week in a while, either." Keith remarked. "Or it might be that that rumor that she is having a secret affair is correct.
"Nope. Found out that the guy was a gay fifty-year-old friend of hers that teaches second graders when he came into the ER yesterday with chest pains," Billy replied.
Keith shook his head and chuckled. "So much for that juicy rumor."
Diane jumped when she felt warm lips graze the back of her neck. "Billy, you scared the hell out of me!" She breathed. She had been waiting for him standing outside the hospital.
"I love it when you wear you hair up," He whispered, biting her ear. "Plus you smell good. What perfume are you wearing?"
"None." She answered. She turned around to face him and wrapped her arms around his neck, placing her head against the crook of his neck and shoulder. "Where are we going?"
"I was thinking about skipping the movie and fancy dinner and taking a walk on Lake Michigan. We could sit on the beach and watch the sunset and eat corndogs or gyros." Billy replied.
Diane smiled. "That sounds so romantic." She whispered, kissing her lover's nose. "It's a beautiful evening, too."
Billy ran a hand through her hair and smiled back. "Then lets get going."
Diane sighed and held up the half of her gyro that remained. "You want the rest of it?" Billy had already finished two. He nodded and swallowed it practically whole. "Pig." Diane said, rolling her eyes. Billy reached over and tickled her ribs. They sat on the grass, Lake Michigan in front of them, the sun low against the horizon. It really was a beautiful evening.
"You already full?" Billy asked, burping. "Those things were small."
"I know." Diane said, rubbing her stomach. "I was really hungry but after half the sandwich my stomach feels stuffed."
"Did you eat anything at work?"
"A cup of coffee Lisa bought for me from Starbucks and a small salad from the cafeteria at lunch." Diane replied.
Billy rolled her eyes. "You must have PMS or something." He ducked as Diane reached to grab his hair and they tackled onto their backs on the grass. They lay there for a while, side by side and holding hands, watching a little boy and girl maneuver a kite across the pink, orange, and purple sky.
"What a perfect evening." Diane sighed. "What made you think of doing this?"
Billy shrugged. "Spur of the moment. Looked into your eyes and the idea popped into my mind."
Diane turned on her side, towards him, and propped herself on her left elbow, and stared into his deep, twinkling eyes. "You are so sweet. So adorable." She leaned down and gently kissed him on the lips. He ran a hand through her hair. "You really mean so much to me."
Billy kissed her back. They rarely got so sentimental and romantic like this, but her eyes captured his gaze. "You're so special." Then, for the first time in their relationship, he whispered, "I love you."
And, for the first time in their relationship, Diane was able to whisper back, "I love you, too."
"Morning, babe." Diane said, entering the kitchen. "Nice to see you finally up." She was wearing a pair of baggy terry-style blue pants and a tight white cotton shirt, a towel wrapped around her head. She had just gotten out of the shower. Billy sat at the kitchen bar, sipping coffee. She kissed him, and he took in the sweet smell of her, and also happened to notice that she wasn't wearing a bra.
"You kept me up all night," Billy replied coyly. "I can't believe you still found the energy to get up and go running this morning. What time did we fall asleep last night."
"Actually, it was this morning," Diane replied, joining him at the bar with her own cup of coffee, sitting down on one of the tall chairs. "Around four AM. You fell asleep." She took a sip of the warm coffee. "I never did."
"You didn't sleep at all?" Billy asked, surprised.
"Nope. I laid in bed for half and hour, then got up, fixed coffee, watched the early morning news, and attempted to go jogging." She frowned. "I didn't get very far. I was soon out of breath. I must have had too much coffee. I came back to the apartment and took a long shower."
"Man," Billy said, shaking his head, "You must be beat."
Diane shook her head. "I'm not. I'm a little exhausted, though, which is strange. I must be coming down with something. I had to take aspirin this morning for a huge headache. I also felt a little dizzy when I woke up."
Billy was silent for a moment, thinking hard. They usually were safe, but just three weeks ago, in the heat of the moment, he remembered he had forgotten to... "Did you vomit?" He suddenly asked.
Diane raised an eyebrow. "Um, no. Why?"
Billy blushed. "I...well...remember...?"
Diane suddenly caught the drift. "Oh my God, what if..."
Billy laughed. "We better go purchase a pregnancy test!"
Diane came out of the bathroom, holding the tester. "This is it," She whispered to him. He gripped her hand as they watched. "Red for not pregnant, Blue for pregnant..." She reminded Billy, as they watched the little piece of plastic in her hand. "I am so nervous."
He kissed her cheek and squeezed her hand. "Come on, come on, come on..." He murmured to the tester, as if that would speed things up.
They suddenly got their answer. Diane let go of Billy's hand, letting out a sigh. "Oh my Lord..." she murmured.
"Well, that's that, then, I guess," Billy whispered back. He watched as Diane tossed the little white instrument in the trash.
"Red," She said in a shaky voice, "Not pregnant." In personal relief, the two of the held each other. They knew that they weren't really ready for children. Hell, they were still only lovers.
Diane closed her eyes. Something deep inside of her was still out of tune. She felt...no, she knew that something was wrong, something was wrong with her. She buried her face in Billy's chest, knowing that not even that would help her hide from the future.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" McKenzie Taylor said, holding up a hand, smiling. "You thought you were pregnant?"
Diane nodded. "God, I was so scared, McKenzie, you have no idea!" Diane and McKenzie, her best friend since the eight grade, were at the mall, shopping. Billy and McKenzie's husband, Michael Taylor, were hockey teammates, and they were at hockey practice that Saturday afternoon. Diane and McKenzie, a nurse, had gone through high school, college, and medical school together. They had definitely been there for each other over the years. Both knew each other inside out.
"Don't you have emergency contraception?" McKenzie asked, looking through a clothing rack for her size in skirts. McKenzie had long, black hair, green eyes, and smooth, ebony skin. McKenzie had been born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her father had been a successful lawyer and her mother had went back to school to become a nurse. When McKenzie was thirteen, her family moved to Chicago. Her father had been born and raised in Milwaukee too, and then, when he was twenty-one, traveled to Kenya, where his parents had been born and raised before becoming American citizens. There, a friend introduced him to McKenzie's mother, a beautiful Kenyan woman, and the two fell in love. They moved to the U.S.A, Mrs. Taylor became a citizen, learned English, and soon their little baby girl was on the way.
"Yes, but I don't usually have to use it. I didn't realize that we hadn't used a condom." Diane replied. "We were careless that one time."
"Well, I guess you're lucky, girlfriend," McKenzie said. She held up a green-gray skirt that fell above her knees. "My color?"
Diane sighed. She hated Mondays, especially this one. She had woken up that morning early as usual, and had gotten dressed in a pair of sweats and went out to go running. She had only been able to run one half of the distance she usually did, walking back to the apartment exhausted. She was tired and her back was sore, something that never usually happened since she was in very good shape.
She had taken a long, slow shower, and by the time she was dressed and her hair was dry she had realized that Billy had left and she was late for work. Diane was angry with Billy for leaving without her.
Just the man walked up to the nurse's station right then, a smile on his face. "Morning, beautiful. What's up?"
Diane did not look up or offer a smile, but replied coldly, "I'm tired, sore, have a terrible headache, and I was late for work. Really late." She finally looked up at Billy, glaring. "Whereas you seemed to get here right on time. Thank you so much, Billy." She picked up her charts and scooted away to her office, leaving her boyfriend standing there, very hurt.
It had been a long day. Too long, as a matter of fact. Billy was in the locker room, changing his scrub shirt for a cotton gray tee, when Kate Austin walked in. "Uh, evening, doctor. May I check your eyesight?" He muttered to her. He quickly pulled the tee over his head and zipped up the fly to his jeans.
"Sorry, but it's urgent. I need someone to assist me tomorrow morning at 8:00 with a triple bypass. I was wondering if you were free? I need to know soon, if I have to explain why I walked into the men's locker room." Kate explained.
"No, sorry," Billy replied, "I'm doing a hysterectomy at 8:15." He walked over to the sinks and mirrors and put on some cologne. "Get Wilkes or a resident, like Underhill."
"Damn." Kate answered. "No one is free. No one!" She ran a hand through her hair. "Half the staff is on spring vacation, the other is loaded with work, and I can't find an assistant, which I really need." She sat down on a changing bench, thinking. "Hey, what about Diane? She's assisted before, hasn't she?"
Billy nodded, "But not for a long time. Quit the OR early in her career for research. I don't know if she'd be willing to do it. What about Philip?"
Kate stood up. "He's got a meeting. I'll talk to Diane. All she'll basically have to do is hold the clamps and cut away a bit of tissue, and maybe close up. Do you know where she is?"
"She's probably in her office. She's really pissed at me."
Diane was sitting at her desk in her small office, reading an article on new research findings about the spread of AIDS in Europe. She looked up, startled, when someone knocked at the door. "Come in!" She called, folding the medical magazine up and putting it away. Kate stepped into the office.
"Hey, Diane." Kate said. "How was your day?"
"Fine, thanks," Diane replied. "Exhausting, to tell you the truth."
Kate sat down in Diane's comfortable overstuffed couch. "Yeah, I heard about the seven-victim traffic accident that pulled into the ER. And the three burn victims, too. Everything under control?"
Diane nodded. "Eight of the ten are in the ICU. I've got four of them on my already long list of patients. The reason it's so hard working around here lately is caused by the sudden lack of staff and the absence of residents on vacation, which is absurd. Think about when summer comes around!"
"Actually, the lack of staff is what I came to talk to you about." Kate confessed. "I need somebody to assist a triple bypass tomorrow at 8:00 AM. Everyone is busy." She looked pointedly at Diane.
"It's been a long time since I've been in the OR, Kate," Diane shook her head, "I can tell I wasn't your first choice." She chuckled. "I don't know...couldn't you just ask someone from County?"
Kate laughed. "No! Not until I'm forced to kiss a rat's ass will I willingly work with anyone from County. They're not half as intelligent and talented as our staff. Please?"
Diane sat at her desk for a moment, thinking. Finally, she said, "Oh, okay." Kate did a little cheer. "On one condition, though..." Diane warned, holding up her right hand. "You buy me lunch afterwards!"
Diane lay in bed that evening, trying to get to sleep. She could hear Billy moving around their apartment, probably fixing himself something to eat. The bedroom door suddenly opened and the light from the hallway spilled into the room, falling onto the bed and illuminating Diane's body curled up under the covers. "Babydoll? What're you doing? It's only 7:30, honey." Billy walked over to Diane's side of the bed and kneeled down so they were face to face. He caressed her cheek lovingly and brushed a wisp of soft, coppery hair away from her forehead. "Do you feel okay?"
Diane shook her head slightly. It hurt to even move; her eyes were so pained. "I have...a terrible headache...I think it's a migraine...I'm not sleepy at all, but I can't stand the light." Diane whispered, every syllable pounding in her ears. "It even hurts for me to talk. Any little movement hurts."
Billy frowned, worried. He left the room and dimmed the lights throughout the apartment, then turned off the hallway light, so that it was dark in the bedroom except for a simple nightlight near Diane's nightstand. He kneeled back down beside her.
"Let me get you something. Migraine medicine would help. Want me to get you Motrin?" Billy offered. "And some water and maybe a humidifier."
Diane managed a painful chuckle. "A humidifier isn't necessary, baby, but thank you."
Billy smiled, kissed her forehead, and then brought her the pills and the water. He watched as she swallowed and settled back down onto the bed. "Maybe you shouldn't go to work tomorrow. You know that triple bypass with Austin? I'll take it and let Keith get a resident that can help him. He can handle a hysterectomy alone."
"No," Diane replied. "If I feel better in the morning, if this migraine is gone, I'll do the bypass with Austin. Then I can go home." She bit her lip as pain slashed through her forehead. "Ouch."
Billy was very worried, but decided not to voice it. "Are you hungry? You never ate dinner. I was just fixing some Mac and Cheese."
"No, no thank you. You go ahead and eat." She closed her eyes, and heard Billy get up. She heard the bedroom door shut quietly. But instead of leaving to eat dinner, Billy settled down onto the bed on her right.
"I'm staying right here," He whispered, taking her in her arms. "If you need anything, just say so." He kissed her forehead and watched her finally drift off to sleep.
Diane turned off the water in the shower and stepped out, grabbing a fluffy white towel from the towel rack and wrapping it around her body. She wrung out her wet hair into the sink and stepped out of the bathroom, walking down the hallway into their bedroom. She heard Billy in the kitchen, fixing breakfast that Tuesday morning. Her stomach growled as she inhaled the scent of bacon sizzling on the stove and fresh coffee.
She felt a lot better than she had the night before. All that was left of the evidence of any migraine was a small, dull, barely noticeable at the back of her neck. She shut the bedroom door and pulled open the closet, searching for something to wear. Her towel suddenly slipped and crumpled to the ground, gathering around her feet. She glanced up and caught a glimpse of her naked body in the full-length mirror attached to the closet door. She stepped back, frowning.
She couldn't believe how thin she was. She wasn't even thin. She was stick-skinny. Her frown deepened. She must have lost a lot of weight during the past month. And that meant a lot of weight, considering how skinny she was. She bit her lip as she counted her ribs. Jesus! She had never really been able to count her ribs before. She turned to her side. No wonder her clothes had started to feel loose and baggy. Her stomach was tiny. She had been a size 5-6. Now she bet she was a size 2-3 at the most.
"Diane?" Billy was watching her from the doorway. She hadn't heard him come in. "Are you okay?"
Diane made to reach for the towel on the floor, then decided against it, gesturing for Billy to join her at the mirror. He stood beside her, a confused look on his face, staring at her reflection. Diane pointed below her breasts.
"I can count my ribs."
"What?" Billy replied.
"I can count my ribs," Diane repeated herself patiently. "I've never been able to count my ribs. And look at this." She turned to her side so he could see the width of her stomach. "Look at that! That's a size 2-3 at the most. I used to be a 5-6." She sighed, turning to the front again. "Even my breasts are smaller!" She moaned.
Billy raised an eyebrow. "What's wrong with losing a little weight, baby? I thought that's what a lot of women try to do."
"A little weight?" Diane cried. "Billy! This is impossible! I've told you, it's been getting harder for me to exercise lately, and I've been eating less." She shook her head. "I shouldn't have lost this much. I look like I'm anorexic. But I'm not!" She sounded near hysterical.
"Diane, Diane it's okay, I know you're not." Billy assured her. Wrapping his arms around her weights. She stared at him through the reflection on the mirror. "So this is serious, right? Go see your doctor."
Diane frowned even deeper, shook her head, and wiggled from his grasp. "I'm not sick. I...I don't know what's wrong." She pulled on a pair of panties and a sports bra. She finally settled on just wearing a pair of wrinkled scrubs, since she'd just be changing into a cleaner pair later for the triple bypass surgery. Diane turned and faced Billy. "I'll be okay, I'm just being a ninny."
Billy sighed and shook his head. "There's nothing wrong with worrying about your body and your health, Diane," he said, "If the weight loss is drastic, you've been eating less, you're not tolerating exercise as well as you usually do...that pretty much adds up to a doctor's visit."
Diane stood there for a few seconds, trying to stare him down, but she blinked and gave in. "Okay, okay, I'll schedule an appointment with my doctor as soon as I can." They embraced and she smiled against his chest. "You worry to much, honey."
Diane stared down into the patient's chest, holding the clamps as wide as possible. Only a few more minutes, a few more minutes...She thought. Her migraine had returned, and it was becoming unbearable. She blinked and cut away some more muscle for Kate as the cardiologist worked expertly on the patient's heart. She blinked again. A wave of nausea washed over her, but she forced herself through it.
She nearly fainted when Kate finally said, "Okay, we're done here." They watched the monitors and cheered, as the rhythm remained stable. Kate nodded to the OR team. "Okay people, let's close up." Diane was also grateful that Kate did not ask her to close on her own.
Fifteen minutes later, the two of them were emerging from the OR, tired and worn out. The surgery had taken a long time, and it looked like Kate would be buying Diane a late dinner instead of a lunch.
"Thanks for assisting, Diane," Kate said, as they showered and changed in the locker rooms. "You were fabulous."
"Thanks," Diane replied, brushing her wet hair out. She winced as a splinter of pain slashed through her temples. She gasped, dropping her brush and grasping her head. "Ouch..." she moaned.
"Diane!" Kate cried, hurrying over to her. Lisa Catera, who had been taking a shower, turned off the water and hurried out, wrapping a towel around her. "Diane," Kate said, "Diane, are you okay?" She her right hand on Diane's left shoulder and her left hand over Diane's right hand, which was pressed against her right temple.
Diane managed a stiff nod. "Uh-huh...I'll be okay...just really hurts."
"What happened?" Lisa whispered to Kate, kneeling beside her and Diane.
"She just suddenly gasped, like in pain, dropped her brush and bent over." Kate replied. "Diane, is it a headache?"
Again, Diane nodded stiffly, wincing in pain and keeping her eyes still closed. "There's Motrin in my locker...it'll help." She whispered.
Lisa went and got the medicine and Kate fished a bottle of water out of her own locker. "Here you go," she said, helping Diane sip the water and swallow the pills. Diane sighed and leaned against the wall, massaging her temples.
"Are you going to be okay?" Lisa asked.
"I'll be fine, thanks." Diane whispered. She managed to open her eyes and look at her two friends and fellow doctors. "I never usually get headaches so bad."
Lisa frowned. "Have you seen your doctor?"
Diane sighed, exasperated and impatient. "I scheduled an appointment with him for this Friday. Only three more days." She stood up and gathered her stuff. "I'll survive, okay?" She headed for the door.
"What about dinner?" Kate called. "It's still on, isn't it?"
Diane turned and shook her head. "How about tomorrow night. You, me and Lisa, and my friend McKenzie, too. She's a nurse at this hospital. It'll be a girls' thing."
Lisa nodded. "It sounds like fun!"
Kate agreed. "How about we meet at my place at seven."
"It's a girls' night out, Billy, I'll be fine!" Diane cried. "Stop worrying!" She quickly applied light makeup and ran a brush through her hair. She was dressed in a short, black skirt, a white silk top with no sleeves but straps, and a dark green silk cardigan.
"I'm trying not to worry, baby, but you might be seriously sick." Billy said calmly. He sighed when he realized Diane wasn't going to give in. "Who is going?"
"Kate, Lisa, McKenzie and I." Diane replied, turning away from the bathroom mirror and facing him. "See! Two other doctors and a nurse! We're seeing a movie, having dinner, and maybe going to the Puddle afterwards. A normal, very safe night out." Diane pulled on a pair of black tights and slipped a pair of black pumps on. "Nothing to worry about. Jack and Michael Taylor are going to hang out at Lisa's place. Go over there and hang with them."
Billy gave in. "Okay, okay. I'll go. Just make sure you're careful!" He took her in his arms and kissed her collarbone. Diane ran her hands through his hair.
"Of course I'll be careful, baby." She whispered, as his kisses started to trail lower. She pulled away. "No, not now...I gotta go..."
"That was a gross movie!" Kate cried. "That was so sick!" She looked at her three companions. "You three are so perverted..."
Lisa shrugged, smiling brightly, still laughing from the comedy "Scary Movie". "So we like a little sick humor, that's all!"
Kate snorted. "A little?" They were walking down a Chicago street, which was crowded even at nine o'clock at night. "Where are we eating?"
"I know this great deli near here," Lisa offered. "It's got great salads."
Kate, Diane, and McKenzie shared a look. "Or...we could eat at that Chinese restaurant..." Diane said, pointing to a sign. "Nice, greasy honey chicken..."
"I'm in!" McKenzie cried.
"Sounds great!" Kate agreed. "Okay with you, Mrs. Bugs Bunny?"
"Ha, ha, very funny. Sounds yummy." Lisa said, giving up.
"Hmm, that was fabulous!" McKenzie said, rubbing her stomach. "You didn't eat much, Diane..."
Diane shrugged. "I'm full!"
"Are we still going to the Puddle?" Kate asked. "Let's catch a cab there..." She waved at a taxi driving up the busy street.
"We won't fit!" Lisa cried.
"We'll take a separate one," Diane said, gesturing to McKenzie as they caught a second one. "Too bad the damn El doesn't stop near here...let's just get to the hospital and walk from there."
"Chicago Hope Hospital," Diane said to the driver as she and McKenzie settled in. "Really, that movie was...funny." she said to her friend.
McKenzie chuckled. "Hilarious. Doesn't seem like Kate thought so. She seems like more of the..."Titanic" or "The Patriot" type."
"I am," Diane admitted. "I usually go for chick flicks, but I was in a funny mood today..."
"You sure are acting funny, girlfriend!" McKenzie said, flipping her long head of braids behind her shoulder. "What's wrong with you? You've been acting so weird. First of all, your headaches, or, shall we say, your migraines..."
"Oh, yes they are, girl!" McKenzie cried. "Don't deny it. And then this weight thing, Diane, don't think I haven't noticed. There's a diet, there's losing a little weight after nothing, and then there's...you."
Diane shot a look at her. "Are you implying that I have a eating disorder..."
"You have something, baby, and you need to see a doc." McKenzie said firmly. She raised up her hand to silence Diane, who had opened her mouth to reply. "Ah-ah-ah, I know what you're gonna say, but I know it isn't true. Make that doctor's appointment, Diane."
Diane sighed. "Okay, okay, I'm sorry I lied." She stepped out of the cab as it pulled up to the hospital, handing the driver some money. "I will make it tomorrow as soon as I get to the hospital, okay?"
"Uh-huh," McKenzie said, looking at her firmly. Then she muttered under her breath, "Doctor makes the worst patient."
The Puddle wasn't very crowded, even for a Wednesday night. The four of them sat in the back, at a booth, Kate, Lisa, and McKenzie with beers and Diane with a coke. Soft jazz music played and on the television sets above the news was on.
"Hey, Lou!" Kate called up the room to the bartender and owner. "What's with the gloomy settings?"
Lou shrugged. "Haven't been getting much business these past few weeks, so I play what like to here, instead of that heavy metal crap your boys always put on the disc player."
The four women laughed. "It's because of a decrease in staff at Chicago Hope, I bet," Lisa told him. "Everyone's on spring vacation or they have some other excuse to be out of here."
"Looks like your ladies got stuck here, huh?" Lou chuckled. "Glad to see somebody from 'Hope remembers this place. Seems like less and less docs and nurses come to visit these past few years."
"We'll be here more often, we promise." Diane told him, sipping her coke. "As long as you keep playing this music, of course."
"I will, I will," Lou said, turning to a customer who had just walked in, looking forlorn and glancing at the woman for a second before turning and ordering a shot of whisky.
"Really, everything has gotten so busy at 'Hope lately," McKenzie said. "I've been pulling off longer and longer shifts."
"Me, too," Diane agreed. "It's really gotten bad. It's never really happened before, such a decrease in staff."
"It's not just over here, it's at County, too." Kate said, playing with a napkin. "Damn spring."
McKenzie stood up. "I have to use the ladies' room. I'll take a couple of minutes, I need to redo my makeup."
Diane rolled her eyes. "You're so vain." She joked, as her friend passed her to get to the bathrooms.
Ten minutes later, McKenzie still hadn't come back. The man at the bar, had disappeared too, and Lou was staring fixedly at the news.
"Does she usually take this long?" Lisa asked, checking her watch.
Diane sighed and stood up. "I have to use the bathroom myself. I'll see if she is okay."
But McKenzie wasn't in the bathroom. "McKenzie? McKenzie, come on, this isn't funny." She frowned, walking out of the bathroom and peering into the bar. "She's not here, guys," She said to Kate and Lisa, who reluctantly stood up.
Diane walked back to the bathrooms and noticed the exit to the alley was ajar. "McKenzie?" She called, pushing it open and stepping out into the cool night air?
She gasped. The man back at the bar had pushed McKenzie against the wall. He had one hand covering her mouth tightly and the other traveling up her skirt. Her silk blouse and been torn open and hung off her shoulders. McKenzie gave a strangled cry when she saw Diane.
The man pulled away from McKenzie and spun around. Before Diane knew it, a gun was shoved in her face. "Make a sound, either of you, I'll blow your..."
A cry escaped from the exit, where Lisa and Kate now stood. "My god..." Lisa gasped. McKenzie had crumpled to cold cement ground, clutching her chest. Diane couldn't see anything but one of the man's gold teeth as he glared at her. I'm going to die, I'm going to die... she thought, fighting back panic.
But it looked like the man was the most panicked. "Damn it!" He cried he swung the gun around at them, backing up. "Don't move!" he hissed. Diane tried to scoot over to McKenzie but he saw it, and his gun exploded. Everyone screamed, hitting the ground. The man fled.
Diane had been hit in her left leg, thanks to the man's very bad aim. He had hit her femur, just above the kneecap. She moaned and sunk painfully to the floor next to McKenzie, who screamed.
"Diane! Jesus, Diane!" She cried, scooting over to her friend. "Oh lord, oh lord, oh lord," She moaned.
"I'm...okay..." Diane gasped. She grabbed McKenzie's hand and squeezed it. She was in so much pain.
"Call for help!" Kate ordered Lisa, who ran into the bar, nearly knocking Lou down, whom had arrived to see what was going on.
"Lou!" Kate cried, looking up at the bartender, who looked shocked. "Give me your sweater!"
"W...What?" he stammered, staring at the blood spreading around Diane's leg. "Oh!" He quickly took his sweater off and tossed it to the cardiologist, who used it as a tourniquet. She took off her own cashmere cardigan and used it for compression, to stop the bleeding.
"It's going to be okay, Diane, it's going to be okay," she kept repeating, trying to sooth her friend.
Diane tried to mumble something, but it was incoherent. Instead, she slipped into unconsciousness.
"Where is she?" Billy called, running into the ER. He grabbed Keith by the doctor's scrub sleeve. "Where is she?"
"She's in the OR, Billy," Keith replied. He grabbed Billy before his colleague could take off. "Jack's going to look at her leg, she'll be okay. Why don't I take you up to the ICU to wait for her?"
"Yeah. She was unconscious when she came in, Billy, so we're going to stay safe and run a few more tests." Keith said, leading Billy to the elevators.
"She was shot in the leg?" Billy stammered. "Are you sure? Is it going to be fine?"
"She was hit in the femur, in the thigh bone," Keith explained, punching a number on the elevator pad. The doors closed and they were soon moving up. "It wasn't a simple fracture, from what I was told, but Jack will handle it."
Billy nodded, clenching and unclenching his hands. "And McKenzie? McKenzie Taylor?" He, Michael Taylor, and Jack, all who had been watching sports at Jack's place, had rushed to the hospital as soon as they had got the call. "Michael Taylor's with her now..."
"She was attacked by the man who had shot Diane," Keith explained. "She was raped."
Billy cursed softly, and they entered the ICU. Billy sat in the lobby, waiting impatiently.
"Kate!" A voice called down the hallway. Kate had been hurrying to the OR theater to watch Diane's operation. Lisa was with McKenzie. "Kate, what...what happened?" Philip approached her, gesturing to her bloody blouse and jeans.
"Diane was shot, Philip, in the leg," Kate explained. "Jack got here just in time and he's in the OR, taking a look at her leg, trying to remove the bullet."
The two of them finally arrived there, joining Lisa. "Hey," she said, softly. "He found the bullet, removed it, but it doesn't look good."
"What? What's the fracture like?" Kate asked.
"Almost no fracture. Half the bone was blown into different pieces, but Jack is certain he can set it properly, that she'll be okay, but she's unconscious."
Philip sighed. "I hope it's just her leg, that nothing else is wrong, but..." He shook his head. "I'll make sure that some more tests are going to be run." He turned to Kate and Lisa. "Are you two okay?"
"Yeah, we're fine..." Lisa said, as a nurse stepped into the theater. "Um, Dr. Austin? Dr. Catera? An officer is in the ER. He wants you two to go down to the station, to identify man..."
Kate and Lisa exchanged glances, and then Kate nodded. "Okay, we're coming." As they headed out the door, Kate called back to Philip, "Page me when Diane comes through."
Billy was pacing in front of the ICU's main nurse's station, his fists clenching and unclenching still. When he got his hands on the man that had did this...
"Billy," he heard a familiar voice greet him. He looked up, relieved and a bit apprehensive to see that it was Jack. "She's being transferred into a personal room right now. She's still unconscious."
Billy nodded. "How is her leg?"
"It's going to be fine. It was a difficult fracture, but it's under control." Jack assured him, walking with the surgeon to Diane's room. "It should set properly."
Billy and Jack entered the room. Diane lay in the hospital bed, looking so small and pale in contrast to the huge bed and the blue, tan, and white sheets and blanket. Billy sat down next to her, holding her hand, caressing her long, graceful fingers.
"I'll be back later, Billy, to check up on her," Jack said, "and Keith should be here soon with some test results."
"Babydoll," Billy whispered, "Babydoll, I'm right here for you. Everything's going to be okay. Kate and Lisa are fine, and McKenzie is going to be okay. I'm here for you."
"That's him!" Kate and Lisa cried at the same time the minute they looked into the mirror where a line of men stood uncomfortably. They pointed to a tall, skinny man with shaggy, greasy black hair, a stubby chin, and a long nose. "Ask them to open their mouths," Kate told the officer, who gave her a look but told the men to do so.
Sure enough, the man they had identified had the golden tooth Diane had had to stare at. "That is definitely him," Lisa said.
The officer nodded, chewing her gum noisily. "We found him not too far from the crime scene. Okay, everyone leave except number 7!" Number 7 glared very angrily. "We also found a gun on him, so that should prove as evidence." She led them out of the room. "Thank you, doctors, we appreciate it. We'll send our best to Dr. Grad and McKenzie Taylor, and we'll be in contact with them both."
Kate and Lisa were climbing into Kate's car when her pager beeped. She looked at it. "It's Philip! Diane must have awoken!" She quickly drove back to the hospital.
"B...Billy...?" Diane murmured, her eyes fluttering open. She weakly squeezed his hand. "...hey..." She looked up to see Billy, Keith, Jack, and Philip.
Billy leaned down and kissed her. "Hey, baby," he said softly. He brushed a strand of coppery hair from her eyes. "How you feeling?"
"Tired..." she replied. "How's my leg?"
"It's set properly." Jack assured her. "I removed the bullet and everything."
"How's McKenzie? And Kate and Lisa?" She asked, looking over at Keith.
"McKenzie is doing as well as can be expected. Her husband Michael is with her. She's getting dressed." Keith told her. "I expect she'll be around to see you soon, although it's past visiting hours!"
Diane looked up at the clock next to the television on the wall. It was almost 12:30.
"Kate and Lisa identified the man that did this," Philip explained. "They found him a block away, running from the scene with the gun and everything. Kate and Lisa..."
"Are here!" Lisa panted as the two of them walked in. "We ran all the way here. How you doing?"
"Fine, how are you?" Diane said jokingly. "My leg is going to be okay."
"But I'm not sure that Diane is going to be okay," Keith whispered to Philip out in the hall. Kate, Lisa, Billy, and Jack were still Diane's room. "Look at these. Tests run immediately when she got to the ER."
Philip flipped through the pages, frowning. "High blood cell count, Anemia, signs of thrombocytopenia, even swelling of the liver..." He looked up at Keith. "If I didn't know any better..." He sighed. "First thing tomorrow morning, a lumbar puncture needs to be done. Bone marrow needs to be checked, and just to make sure, more blood chemistry testing."
Keith nodded. "Will do, sir." He slipped the papers into Diane's folder. "I shouldn't tell her about this tonight...?"
Philip shook his head. "Oh, no, no, no. Let her rest. I'm going to go chase those people out of there. For now, this is between you and me."
Diane woke up early the next morning to an uncomfortable pricking in her arm. "Ouch..." she moaned.
The nurse responsible for the pain chuckled. "I'm sorry, Dr. Grad." She apologized. "We just have to take some blood for a couple of tests..."
"Well, good morning, sunshine!" A male voice said. Diane looked up at Keith. "You're sick."
Keith laughed. "thank you. Billy is catching a few in the on-call room. Right now, we're going to have to do a lumbar puncture."
Diane looked up, surprised. "A lumbar puncture? What for?"
Keith suddenly looked serious, sitting down in the chair next to the hospital bed. "Diane, I need to ask you a question, and you need to be completely, 100% honest with me, okay?"
Diane looked scared. "O...Okay, of course, anything..."
"Have you been experiencing any kind of weird changes in your body lately. Any symptoms you haven't been able to explain?"
Diane looked at him for a moment, curious, then told him everything. "Okay...well, there have been migraines, which I never get, um...I've lost a lot of weight, and I mean a lot of weight...when I eat, I get a sense of fullness and sometimes pain in my abdomen, I had a slight fever about a week ago, I haven't been reacting to exercise as well lately..." She sighed, trying to think. " Let's see...I've been feeling weak lately and I sometimes get blurred vision, and about five days ago I got a small nosebleed." She looked up at Keith apprehensively.
After a moment, Keith asked, "Diane, have you thought of...um, well, doing the norm...seeing a doctor?!"
Diane jumped at the severe tone and volume of his voice. "Of course! I was in fact going to schedule a meeting with my doctor this morning, but seeing that I don't have to..." she looked hurt. "God, I'm...I'm sorry...I just..."
Keith patted her hand. "It's okay, It's okay. It's just...we need to do the lumbar puncture."
"We got the lab results back from the lab," a nurse said, handing Keith a bunch of papers. "Thanks," Keith muttered. He walked to the cafeteria, taking his lunch break. There, he studied Diane's lab results and tox screens.
"Keith, are those the results?" Philip sat down at the table next to him. "Let's see them..." he studied them as long and as thoroughly as the ER doc. When he was finished, he looked up at Keith, down at the tests, then up at Keith again.
"Yeah, I know," Keith said gravely. "Shall I tell her?"
Philip thought for a moment, then shook his head. "No, no, I'll do it."
Diane was actually sitting up in bed, holding Billy's hand. She looked up at the chief of staff as he walked in, noticing the grave expression on his face and his serious posture. Suddenly the room took on a very miasma atmosphere.
"Hi, Philip," Diane said. She gestured to the papers in his hand. "Are those the test results?" She had been telling Billy about the lumbar puncture, all about the terrible pain it had caused. "Please tell me hearing my back 'pop' wasn't needed..."
"I'm sorry, Diane," Philip said firmly but gently, "Through the tests and your symptoms, we've concluded that you have chronic leukemia."
Diane lay in bed, her eyes closed, trying to fight off panic and tears. Philip had explained everything, had given her a list of the best oncologists in the area, and had left. She had then persuaded Billy to leave, to give her some time alone to think.
"SURPRISE!" a bunch of voices suddenly shouted. Diane nearly jumped out of bed in fright.
"Jesus H..." Diane swore. Kate, McKenzie, Lisa, Michael, Jack, Aaron, Dr. Bobby Yeats, Maricella, and Karen Wilder were now standing in her room, bearing presents and cards and flowers and balloons.
"Hey, Diane, how you feeling this afternoon?" Michael's loud voice boomed, laughing. "We're sorry we scared you so much! It took us fifteen minutes to get past the nurse's station alone with all this."
"I...I'm fine," Diane lied. "My leg...thanks to Jack it'll be fine." She said. "This is...this is all very sweet of you!"
"Where can we put this stuff?" Karen's muffled voice was heard from behind a huge plant she was holding. They all laughed.
"Anywhere it'll all go, I guess!" Some of the presents and cards were handed to her to open, and they all had their little 'party' until a very annoyed head nurse of the ICU came in, telling off even the doctors, and managing to get rid of Jack, Michael, Aaron, Bobby, Karen, and Maricella.
"I guess you three ladies are just not going to leave, right?" She glowered at Kate, Lisa, and McKenzie, but a smile played around her lips. "And if I catch you with anything other than hospital food..." she warned Diane. But as she left the old, gray-haired head nurse finally let out a smile and slipped a wrapped box of chocolates to her. "If you even dare..." Then she left, chuckling.
"Finally!" Diane said, opening the chocolate box. "Real food." They all helped themselves, relaxing in hospital chairs (as well as they could) or leaning against the wall. Diane sat up, her leg in the cast stretched out in front of her.
"Open some of the presents..." Lisa coaxed her. Diane got glow-in-the-dark socks from Karen ("I'm not surprised") a sweater from Maricella that was tie-dyed ("Funky!") and a bunch of other weird, funny gifts and chocolates, including chocolate-covered crickets from Bobby.
"Ooh, lets try them!" Lisa said. She popped one in her mouth. "Crunchy!" They all laughed.
Then there was silence. Diane exchanged a look with McKenzie. "How you doing?" she asked.
"I'm doing fine," McKenzie replied softly. "If you hadn't come when you did...I hate to think about how far that...man could have gone... I didn't sleep last night."
"Neither did I..." they all chorused.
"So, how is your leg really doing?" Kate finally asked. "You seem really pale, and I saw Billy in the cafeteria on the way over here. Tried to get him to come, but he seemed...in shock. Still wants to kill the guy?"
Diane chuckled. "You know it. If he was given the chance..." she shook her head. "I'm fine."
McKenzie put the box of chocolates away. "No, you're not, there's something wrong." She stood, waiting for Diane's reply. Diane shook her head but said nothing. "Fine, we better leave then, girls. Diane needs to get her rest. Jack might let her go home tomorrow..." they headed for the door.
"He won't!" Diane managed to call out. Her three friends turned around, waiting for an explanation. Diane sighed. "I...I'm going to be in here 'till Friday, at the least. Victoria Erlenberg will be hanging around, running a bunch of tests."
Kate frowned. "Vicky? I thought she was an oncologist..."
Diane nodded. She replied softly, "She is. She's one of the best. I guess my presentiment was true. I have chronic leukemia."
Things moved quickly from then on. Diane met with Victoria 'Vicky' Erlenberg, Illinois's best oncologist, possibly the best in the country. She was a tall, slender woman, very erect and cold-seeming in attitude, yet once you knew her, she was like your closest friend. Vicky decided that since the cancer was early detected, they'd treat Diane with chemotherapy, and a possible bone marrow transplant.
"We'll insert a venous access device right below the skin in your chest," Vicky explained. "That way, the chemo can be inserted into your veins without having to stick you all over. It'll be quick, painless, and it will allow you to come in periodically for the treatment, and then leave."
"What if I get really sick from the chemo? Will I end up staying here?" Diane asked.
"You'll probably be hospitalized for a day or two a couple of times after the treatment. The chemicals in chemotherapy can cause serious side affects. Hair loss, mouth sores, lower resistance to infections, loss of appetite...nausea, vomiting, fatigue...stuff like that. We'll give you counter drugs called 'growth factors' after the chemo treatments. We'll also be giving you strong antibiotics against possible infections."
"What about red blood cell and platelet transfusions?"
"Those will be necessary as well." Vicky added. "We'll also try to prevent humor lysis syndrome by taking drugs like sodium bicarbonate and allopunind."
Diane nodded. "And how long will all this take?"
"We won't stop fighting until the cancer's all gone, Diane," Vicky said, holding Diane's hand. "I promise."
Diane smiled. "Thank you. I can tell that you're an excellent doctor." Vicky stood up.
"I've heard the same about you, Dr. Grad," Vicky said, smiling, "I'll be here tomorrow, for your first chemotherapy treatment. You should be home in a few days."
Four weeks later, Billy sat on the beach of Lake Michigan, alone, picking at an unfinished gyro. Diane was at home, in bed. She was so week, so fragile. She had started to use crutches, but with her aggressive chemotherapy treatments, she was almost always too weak to use them. He threw the rest of the gyro into the lake, watching the birds flock at it. It was a cool evening for July, and he rubbed his arms to keep warm.
He didn't want to go home. It wasn't that he didn't want to be with Diane. He would give anything to let her be close to him right then. He just hated being with her when she had to suffer all the pain of not being able to go out, to enjoy life. He hated knowing that he might lose her.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and looked up, surprised. "Jesus! Diane!"
Diane smiled, carefully lowering herself onto the sand next to Billy. "Hey."
"Hey to you!" Billy replied. He helped move her crutches out of the way. "How did you get here?"
"I called Lisa, and she and Jack picked me up." She gestured to a couple walking away from them, down the beach. "They were going to take a walk anyway."
Diane was thin, thinner than she had ever been in her life. Her coppery hair still fell perfectly around her face. She hadn't lost much hair, thanks to the new chemotherapy experiments and the growth factors. But Billy could still see the cancer inside of her, slowly robbing her of her life.
Billy put an arm around Diane, pulling her to him. "You should be careful."
"You should be happy that I can be out here."
"I know. I'm sorry," Billy apologized. He kissed the top of her head. "I am. I love being with you."
Diane pulled away, and he saw tears in her eyes. "Do you?"
"Of course I do, baby!" Billy replied, shocked, wiping a tear from her pale cheek. "Why would you ever question that?"
Diane shook her hand. "Sometimes I wonder...sometimes I wonder if you are going to leave me."
Billy was dumbfounded. "Baby..." he choked. Had he really been acting so far from her lately? He swore at himself inside. "Baby...I love you," tears were falling from his eyes, now, and his voice was heavy with passion and grief. "I would never leave you, never! I'm so sorry if I've lead you to doubt...to doubt my eminent love for you."
Diane threw her arms around Billy's neck, and they held each other tightly. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she sobbed. "I know it...I know it, but sometimes...sometimes..." she wiped her wet cheeks on Billy's shoulder. "I love you too. I love you more than anything!" They held each other like that, until all their tears had dried away.
Billy pulled away and pointed across the water. "We're missing the sunset, baby." And they lay back, side by side, hands entwined, watching the horizon as the beautiful, warm and cool colors played across the sky.
"Hey!" A voice shouted along the lake. Diane and Billy sat up. The sunset was over, and Jack and Lisa were running down the beach towards them, their shoes in their hands and looking very happy.
"Hey!" Jack panted. "Let's catch dinner!" He said, slinging an arm around Lisa's shoulders. "Man, it's chilly out here!"
"Duh! It's almost 8:00!" Lisa replied, poking Jack's stomach. "You're a ditz!"
"It's a beautiful evening!" Diane mused softly. She looked at Billy. "Want to catch dinner with these two clowns or what?"
"I say we join the circus!" Billy said, helping her up and handing her crutches to her. "Where's the car?"
"Up the street," Jack replied. "Come on, Lisa, I'll race you!" The two lead off, laughing.
Billy looked down at Diane, running a hand through her hair. "I'll always be here. Always."
Diane smiled softly. "I know. I love you."
"I love you too." They started through the sand, heading towards Jack's car where Jack and Lisa stood waiting, catching their breath. Billy watched Diane struggle with her crutches. "Hey, you don't need these!" He said. He took the crutches and to Diane's surprise and glee, swept her off her feet and into his arms. "Come on! I'm starving!"
And so the two of them started away, leaving the last few birds on the lake, picking at the rest of Billy's gyro. And, if one looked closely, they could see Billy's 'footprints in the sand', where he had walked, carrying the love of his life and the woman that would be with him to the end of time.