(I own nothing!)
"Nicknames." I look up at Tommy from over the top of my beer.
"What?" Mina asks arching an eyebrow at her equally tipsy counterpart.
"Nicknames, we should have nicknames. Cool ones, you know?"
"I think you have had too much to drink." Charlie says walking up.
"I'm not drunk, trust me, I drank a lot more in medical school."
"That's not something to brag about, Tommy." Mina says sipping her own drink. Things between Tommy and Mina are stressed to say the least. Tommy is in love with her, he whines to me about it every night while I am making dinner, but Mina is involved with Fer. Mina complaines about both of them to me every night after dinner.
"Anyway, we should have nicknames."
"You already have one, remember? Cole gave it to you on your first day?" I remind him. He wrinkles his nose at the memory.
"But I don't much care for that name."
"Doesn't matter, once you have a nickname you're stuck with it." Mina says, grinning.
"Oh yeah, well at least Plastics is better than Blondie."
"My nickname is not Blondie!" Mina snarls leaning towards Tommy.
"It is now, so I guess you're stuck with it." Tommy taunts back. I quickly move between them.
"Guys, calm down."
"Yeah, it could be worse. Your nickname could be Benji." Okay laughing at another's misfortune is mean, but sometimes you just can't help it. We all laugh.
"Okay so who doesn't have a nickname yet? Dr. Keeton is Benji, Dr. Alvarez is Zee, and Dr. Cole is Loca. That leaves you and Charlie."
"Nope, Charlie's nickname is Shorty." I proudly announce as Charlie's face goes red.
"Oh, and just how did he acquire this nickname?" Tommy asks ordering another beer.
"We were in the infirmary putting away supplies, I couldn't reach the top shelf and Charlie was teasing me about it, then we found out he couldn't reach the top shelf either. And now he is known as Shorty." I wrap an arm around him and ruffle his hair.
"Then I guess that just leaves you, Lily." They all stare at me intently making me more than a little uncomfortable.
"Well let's see, what would be a good nickname for you?" Tommy is so close to me, I'm going cross-eyed.
"She's the one we go to when we need advice; she cooks most of our dinners, and she can keep a secret."
"She's almost like a-" Mina stops talking and they all share a knowing look.
"She does, doesn't she?" Tommy says looking me up and down.
"I noticed but I never really thought much of it, I mean it's just how Lily acts." Charlie pipes up.
"So it's agreed?" Mina asks and they nod.
"What's agreed?" They look at me. Mina writes something down on a napkin, turns it over and slides it across the table to me.
"Don't look at this till five seconds after we leave. Got it?" I nod and they stand up and pay the bill.
They walk to the far end of the bar, by the door, and watch me. Waiting five seconds, I pick up the paper and flip it over.
"You have got to be kidding me!" I shout at them as they run off into the night laughing like lunatics.
The next morning Charlie joins us for breakfast. They try out my new nickname while I make eggs. I get stuck with kitchen duty since Mina can set snow cones on fire and Tommy is only capable of making toxic waste.
"Why out of every name you could think of did you guys have to pick that one?" I moan as they say the blasted name for the twentieth time that morning.
"Because it fits." Charlie says setting out the silverware.
"Can't you change it?" I'm trying not to whine.
"You know the rules; once a nickname is given it cannot be changed." Tommy says gleefully.
"But-" I try and think of a good but to give. "Fine, it seems that I can't change your minds, but please don't use it while we're at the clinic." They nod.
Their promise doesn't even last a week.
I sigh and set down a chart. It is time to hit the cantina. Walking along the dark path, I look at the stars. The Southern Cross is easy to spot. I smile at the memory of Firefly Lake.
The cantina is packed so tightly I can't find the rest of the doctors. Figuring that they must not be here yet, I sit at the bar and order a beer.
'Where the heck are they?' I think sipping my beer.
"MOM!" I wince as my nickname is shouted across the room. I turn to see all of the doctors of Cruz del Sur sitting at a table across the cantina, laughing their asses off at my nickname.
"I hate you." I say to Tommy, as I take my seat at the table. He just smiles.
"Love you too, Mom." I roll my eyes.
"Now how in the world did you come up with that as a nickname?" Zee asks leaning against Cole. They had been inseparable since they had gotten back together.
"It fits." Cole says running his hand through her hair.
Ryan wasn't with us at the table. She had packed up for good this time and left, that was almost two weeks ago. Clark had snapped after Dr. Simpson had left and told Ben that he needed to make up his mind between her and Abby. The ensuing break-up had all the doctors and most of the patients ducking for cover.
I sigh. Sometimes love isn't enough. I didn't blame her for leaving. It's hard knowing that there is a part of their heart you'll never reach, because someone else is still holding it.
"So if you guys are done making fun of me and my nickname, I would like to get down to the business of kicking your butts at poker." I pull a deck from my pocket and began to deal.
"And I believe that means I win." I smile as I rake in my winnings. I count the pesos and store them in my pocket.
"I thought mothers were supposed to let their kids beat them?" I grin up at Tommy.
"Not when money is on the line. Now you two go to bed. You have to get up early tomorrow." I make a shooing gesture, before turning back to my beer.
I am alone at the table, the others having headed to bed. Well, I am until a voice rings out behind me.
"So 'Mom,' huh?" I smile at the sound of Keeton's voice.
"Hey, at least it's better than 'Benji'." He winces as he slides onto the seat next to mine.
"Yeah, not my first choice for a nickname." He chuckles, it's nice to hear it since it hasn't graced our ears since Ryan left.
"And you think 'Mom' is mine?" I ask leaning back in my chair.
"I suppose not." I enjoy spending time with him. The awkward silence that likes to creep up on us? Not so much.
"So how are things with Mateo?" I wince.
"There are no things." I mutter to my glass.
"I thought you two were together?" Apparently I didn't mutter quietly enough.
"We were." And as usual when I'm talking to him, the words flow out of my mouth before I can stop them. "Things with Mateo ended about a week ago. The police came, ruined his crop, threatened his mother, and burned down his house, so they left to live with his uncle." I can feel Keeton's eyes on me.
"You know he asked me to go with him?" I finally look at him but his eyes are guarded.
"Why didn't you?" His voice rolls over me like a wave on the sand.
"My home is here at the clinic." I sip my beer. "Anyway, who else would keep you people in line?"
"We're not that bad."
"Are you forgetting the prank war that the team had last Tuesday?" I ask. He groans into his bottle at the memory. Mina and Cole against Tommy and Zee, now that was a nightmare I wasn't eager to relive.
"Okay, you have a point. But we're not that bad."
"They put vinegar in the coffee and need I remind you about the ketchup incident?" I shudder at the memory.
"Well then," I watch as Keeton raises his glass. "A toast. To the only sane, horribly nicknamed, relationship-challenged doctors in this jungle." I clink my bottle to his and drain my bottle. Setting it down, I pay the tab.
"Walk me back?" I ask not trusting myself to make it back in the dark just yet.
"Sure." I wait while he pays his tab and then we head out the door into the night.
We walk in comfortable silence most of the way, just looking at the stars.
I look at him confused. "Sorry for what?"
"That you guys have to pick up the slack since I chased off Clark." His face is hard to read even in the moonlight.
"You didn't chase her off."
"Didn't I? I couldn't let go of Abby and so I lost Clark." His voice is hard.
"There isn't anything you could have done about that. You are always going to love Abby with some part of your heart. It's just hard at first for a woman to accept that she's never going to be the only one."
"You're talking from experience." I nod.
"Her name was Tina. She was married to my fiancé two years before she died from breast cancer. The day I found out about her we were on our second date, and suddenly I felt like I was a replacement. But how he loved her and how he loved me was so different that to even try to compare them is impossible. But I will tell you it's not easy, sometimes it does feel like you're coming in second, but it's worth it if you love them." I look at him; we had stopped walking and were just staring at each other.
"You're a one-of-a-kind, Lily Brenner."
"Thank you. You're quite odd yourself." He chuckles.
I kiss him. I don't know why, I just reach up and plant one on him. His lips are soft and dry. I start to pull away but his arms come up trapping me to him. His mouth is hot against mine and I open up to him, deepening the kiss.
Finally we pull apart. He opens his mouth to speak but I place a finger over his lips.
"Tell me in the morning when we aren't both tired and under the influence of alcohol."
I walk to the clinic the next morning late since my morning alarm, A.K.A Dinner, has what Mina calls a cold. I just barely make it out of the jungle and into the main clearing when a voice stops me.
"Morning." I turn to look over my shoulder and am surprised to see Keeton.
"What are you doing here; I thought you'd be at the clinic already?"
"Looking for you, actually."
"Why were you looking for me?"
"I needed to give you my answer." He kisses me and I swear my brain short-circuits.
Then from the clinic porch I hear some very familiar voices.
"Benji and Mom sitting in a tree, K-I-S-S-I-N-G-" I pull away and look at Keeton.
"I'll take Tommy and Mina, you take Cole and Zee."