Disclaimer: I don't own the characters

Author: Claire (queenclaire@chickmail.com)

Disclaimer: I don't own the characters. Too bad, huh?

Notes: Set after "Witch Hunt".

"I need to see a psychiatrist."

Kim Legaspi stared at him in disbelief. "In case you haven't heard, Dr Malucci, I'm suspended for the time being. You sure you want to talk to me?"

"Hey, I figure you know what you're talking about. And Romano's a jerk. So…" he shrugged. "Is this okay, I mean…"

"You showing up at my apartment? Oh, just fine," she sighed, and then saw his face. "Sorry – it's just been a really bad day. Come in."

"So I heard," he said. "Want to talk about it?"

She could have laughed. "Aren't we going to discuss your problems, not mine?" Besides, from what she knew of Dave Malucci, he wasn't exactly the most compassionate individual. What was he doing here, anyway? She vaguely recalled hearing something about him getting into a fight and a child abuse case. Of course, she hadn't exactly paid close attention to the goings-on in the ER all day. She'd had other things on her mind.

"I guess," he shrugged. Again.

"Are you sure you want to talk about whatever it is that's bothering you?" she asked gently, leading him to a couch. She sat down next to him.

"Yeah. I do. It's just – I want to, but it's hard –" he looked frustrated.

"It's okay. I'm not going to rush you." She paused. "I heard you got into a fight today."

"Yeah."

"What was it about?"

"Some guy . . . he was beating up his kid . . . it just, I don't know, it really got to me."

"You can't think of any reason why it upset you so much?"

"It was a kid! Of course something like that upsets me."

"Do you think getting into a fight was the best way to handle it?"

"It's the way I was brought up," he said.

"You were taught that fighting solves everything?"

"No. It didn't. It doesn't. But I had to do it. To protect myself."

"What did you have to protect yourself from?"

When no response came, she tried again. "What was it? Dave? Why did you have to protect yourself?"

"My dad," he whispered.

"Your dad," she repeated. Damn it, she'd known it, but she hated being right in cases like these. Parents beating their kids. The scary thing was, she was hearing more and more stories like these. Were there any kids out there whose parents loved them and didn't hurt them?

He looked at her. "Yeah. He beat me. Beat the crap out of me. Every day of my life until I was big enough to fight back."

"I'm sorry."

"Yeah, me too."

"What about your mom?"

"She put up with it. She knew it was going on – but I don't think she – I don't know, I think maybe she didn't want to believe it was happening. She really loved him. He never touched her, you know, just me. I loved her, but I hated her for letting me go through that."

"People do crazy things when they're in love, I guess."

"You ever been in love, Dr Legaspi?"

"Call me Kim."

"Kim. Have you?"

God, what a question. "Have you?" she countered.

"I don't know. I guess I'm kind of scared of the idea. If being in love with someone means that you put up with them doing something like that – well, it doesn't sound great, you know what I mean?"

"Yeah. I know." A thought occurred to her. "Hey. How did you know about me being put on leave by Romano? I didn't think everyone knew."

"Word gets around. There aren't that many secrets in the ER."

"Oh."

"So, you and Weaver broke up, huh?"

Her jaw literally dropped.

He grinned. "I told you, not many secrets."

"But Kerry's been so insistent on keeping our relationship a secret . . . and you're telling me everyone knows?" Oh boy.

"Have you seen the way she acts around you? She'll be yelling at one of us, you walk in, and it's all, 'Oh hi Kim' in that very rarely heard soft tone, and smiles all around. Give us some credit, please."

She laughed.

"So – did you two have a fight?" he asked.

"Something like that," she sighed. "She wouldn't stick up for me in front of Romano. She's so worried about anyone finding out she's a lesbian that it's practically controlling her life. And I love her, but . . . "

"It's hard?"

"Yeah."

"She'll find some way of coping."

"Maybe."

"She loves you too much not to. It's obvious. She's just scared to get close to anyone."

"Anyone?"

"Anyone."

"How can you be so sure?"

"She builds up walls around her. She's allowed to help people, but never to be the helpless. She keeps everyone that she might be able to love at a distance. You got in there because she didn't see you as a potential lover. She didn't realise what was happening until it was too late."

"Who's counselling who, Dave?" she smiled.

He grinned. "You, definitely. If I mess with the chief's girlfriend, she'll batter me with that crutch of hers. And I've had enough of that for one lifetime, thank you very much."

"I'm not her girlfriend."

"I give it two days, max," he said. "Randi's running a pool."

"What does everyone else think?" she asked out of curiosity.

"The general opinion is a week. I'm an optimist."

She laughed. "Anyone betting on it being permanent?"

"God, no. We're realistic."

"Maybe we should get back to discussing why you came here," she decided to change the subject.

He sighed. "Okay. Back to 'Dr Dave, this is your life', right?"

"Something like that. Is that all right?"

He nodded, and began to talk.

He searched for a pair of socks before heading over to her apartment. After the conversation they'd had yesterday, Dr Legaspi had suggested he come see her again. He didn't mind. She was easy to talk to, and it was a relief to get all this stuff off his chest.

He finally made his way there, and buzzed her. "Kim, it's me."

"Dave? Come on up."

"Dr Malucci," Kerry Weaver greeted him as she left Kim's apartment.

"Hey, chief. How's it going?"

"Fine," she responded brusquely.

"As sweet as ever, I see," he remarked.

"I've no idea what you're talking about, I'm always charming," she replied as she left.

"So . . . " he said to Kim, who was standing in the doorframe.

"You lost your bet, Dave," she sighed, and smiled. "Come on in."