Abby rolled her shoulders and checked her watch. 8:30 pm Christmas Eve. Only an hour and a half more. Not that she had anyone to get home to. The day before Clarke had unexpectedly shown up at the house to ‘spend the holiday with the only family I’ve got left.’ But, not more than an hour after arriving, when she had found out Abby was working on Christmas Eve, she had stormed out of the house shouting that she would be spending the holiday with people who actually appreciated her. Abby hadn’t seen Clarke since. Abby tried to remind herself that this shift had been scheduled six months ago - back when Clarke had been nowhere to be found and Abby had firmly believed she would have no one to celebrate the holidays with.
Abby had all of Christmas day off, and (before the dramatic exit) had offered to host Clarke and her friends for a dinner in the evening, but it didn’t seem to help. The whole situation had strained an already tense relationship, and Abby had no idea what to do about it. In that way it was a relief to be at work; she knew what she was doing here at least.
Her moment of quiet over, Abby entered the next waiting room and picked up the chart at the end of the bed, glancing at its occupant. “Hi, I’m Dr. Griffin.”
“Hey, Doc.” The woman lying on the bed was gorgeous, probably in her twenties, and dressed in cargo pants and a red henley. Nothing was obviously wrong (no knives sticking out of body parts, obviously broken bones, or discoloration due to lack of oxygen). In fact, she was certainly well enough to be trailing her eyes appreciatively over Abby. Blushing slightly, Abby looked down at the chart.
“This says you’re suffering from leg pain, Ms. Reyes?” Abby clarified.
“Raven. And, yeah. A jack broke and the car nicked my brace on the way down. Since I’ve told my boss a thousand times that jack was going to break he insisted I get my leg checked out so he doesn’t get sued. As if he has anything worth suing for.”
Abby blinked, trying to focus on only the pertinent medical information. She must have been tired because her first thought was far more personal than professional. Blinking again, she pulled something vaguely medical out of what she had just heard. “Your brace?”
A lazy hand pointed across the room to where a crumpled piece of metal lay next to a worn-out backpack.
“Okay.” Abby looked down at the chart, pulling her eyebrows together in confusion. The check-in nurses were usually more than thorough when they filled out the entrance paperwork, but Raven's chart was missing a few vital pieces of information. Abby decided not to take any of the nurses to task about it; it was probably just the general madness of the ER and the extra distraction of the holiday that caused the slip-up.
“Well, Raven, I have a just a few more questions before we get started.”
“Sure thing, doc.”
“Let’s see, got your name, birthdate, all of that. Insurance?”
“Don’t have any.”
That wasn’t unusual, so Abby just made a small note to add this to her list of pro-bono work. It wouldn’t completely get rid of the charges, but it would help. “Are you allergic to any medications?”
“None that I know of.”
“Any pre-existing conditions? High blood pressure, diabetes, heart murmurs . . .”
“Does shrapnel in my lower back count?”
Abby paused. It didn’t look like the woman was joking.
“Yeah. Too close to my spine to operate, so they left it in there. It’s what messed with the nerves in my leg, hence the brace.”
“Ah. And you’re worried what happened this evening damaged it more.”
Abby scanned the rest of the paperwork and set it down before approaching Raven to do another, more detailed, visual, examination. Raven had excellent upper body definition and her right leg was more muscular than her left. She was curvy in all the right places and had eyes you could melt into. Abby tore her gaze away and focused back on the whole doctoring thing. It was really not the time to remember those college “experiments”.
“Left leg?” Abby asked. Her voice came out huskier than she would have liked and she cleared her throat.
“That’s the one.”
“Do you mind if I take your pants off?” Abby asked, luckily back to sounding professional. “I’d like to do a physical examination first.”
“Dr. Griffin, you can take my pants off any time.”
The seductive tone of Raven’s voice had Abby jerking her head to Raven’s face. Raven gave her a smirk and a wink and popped the button on her pants.
Abby gaped. “Uhhhh.”
Raven paused. “Um. Were you not checking me out just then?”
“I’m working.” Abby blurted. “Not . . . shouldn’t . . . harassment.”
Raven smiled knowingly. “No flirting while working, got it.” She helped Abby pull her jeans off (leaving the boy shorts where they were thank you very much) and Abby gently began feeling along her left leg. “Tell me where it hurts, please.”
Raven nodded and obligingly called out the most tender parts and even a few spots where she had no feeling whatsoever.
Satisfied with the front half, Abby asked Raven. “Roll over?”
Raven complied, and Abby was very gentle as she examined her lower back and leg. She could see the scars from what appeared to be the original wound and some surgeries and understood why the doctors didn’t want to risk it. One slip in the operating room and it would leave Raven worse off than she was with the shrapnel still inside her body. Even if the surgery went as planned, there was no guarantee the nerves would heal completely. The body was a finicky beast.
Abby was palpitating along Raven’s hip when Raven spoke up again. “So, what bum luck has you working on Christmas Eve?”
“I volunteered,” Abby explained. “To give the doctors with young families a chance to spend the holiday with them.”
“That’s generous. No family of your own?”
“Um. A nineteen-year-old daughter. But that relationship is . . .” Abby shrugged and hurried to change the subject. They did not need to get into her family situation. “What about you? Why were you working so late on Christmas Eve?”
A flash of understanding crossed Raven’s face and she accepted the change of subject gracefully. “Didn’t really have anything else to do. And I like the work.”
“What sort of work is that?”
“I’m a mechanic. Well, when I’m not in school. Classes don’t start up again for another couple weeks, so I’m trying to get as many hours in the shop in as I can.”
Abby hummed in acknowledgment. She remembered working her way through college.
“Well, Raven, besides being very tense, I’m not feeling anything wrong with your leg. All the joints are in place, and I don’t feel any swelling. Does it hurt more than usual?”
“No?” Raven scrunched her nose a little as she thought. “It’s sore, but that’s normal. It hurt when it got hit, but there’s no tingling or anything.”
“That’s good. And your lower back? Any pain there?”
“Nope, not even the usual twinges.”
“Also good to hear.” Abby smiled, running her hands back down Raven’s leg and starting to massage her calf. “If you want, we can take an x-ray to see if any of the shrapnel has shifted. Do you have access to your old scans for comparison?”
“Do digital copies work?”
“They should.” Abby moved up to Raven’s thigh and kneaded deeply. “I didn’t know any of the specialists released digital copies, though.”
Abby chuckled. “Perhaps I shouldn’t ask too many questions?”
Raven shot her a grin. “Probably not.”
“Well, if you have the scans, we can take an x-ray and compare if you want.”
“What do you recommend?”
Abby shrugged. “Honestly, I don’t know that I would recommend either. With back injuries, more information is better, but you also don’t feel any worse than usual, and I trust your assessment of your health. If you’re worried, the scan can help give you peace of mind, but it also could be completely unnecessary.”
Raven hummed thoughtfully. “Could I come in and get one later if I start feeling worse?”
“Absolutely. And if you’d rather not deal with the stress of the ER you could also go to the clinic on Lafayette. They’ve got all the equipment and would be happy to do a general checkup. They prefer appointments, but they’re very good about working with walk-ins.”
“Where on Lafayette? I don’t remember any clinics over that direction.”
“It’s two buildings north of 23rd street. And I’m not surprised you haven’t heard of it; it’s quite new. I only started it about a year ago.”
Raven looked suitably impressed. “You started it? The ER not busy enough for you?”
Abby smiled. “I’m trying to phase out of the ER. I want regular hours and more time to work on my relationships. I must be getting old.”
Raven smirked. “I wouldn’t say old. I’d say just right.”
“That’s very flattering.”
She rolled over and pulled up her pants. “So, does this mysterious clinic have a name or number?”
“Oh, of course. Let me get that for you!” Abby patted her pockets, finding a slightly worn business card that had all of the clinic’s info on it and passing it over to Raven. “I work there Thursdays 10 to 7.”
Their fingers brushed as Raven accepted the card. “And how late do you work tonight?”
Abby smiled, giving in. “I’m off in an hour.”
Abby swallowed and pressed forward. “You know, after my shift I like to take some time winding down before going home. I usually go to the diner on the corner. Get a cup of coffee, something to eat.”
Raven smiled. “Sounds nice. I might try that.” She swung her legs over the side of the bed.
“Oh!” Abby said. “Do you need a new brace?”
“Nah, I’ll just fix that one up. I could use a crutch or a cane in the meantime, though.”
“Of course, be right back.” Abby ducked out of the door and into her office, digging through the closet for the cane she was sure was back there. She finally found it and triumphantly presented it to Raven.
“Thanks, doc. See you around.”
Glancing at her watch (to prevent herself from watching Raven leave), Abby decided to head back to her office. With luck, she would have enough time to finish up her paperwork before her shift ended. And, fingers crossed, there would be no unexpected surgeries to hold her at the hospital longer.
The walk to the diner was short and cold, but pretty. The city had wrapped ‘holiday lights’ around most of the lamp posts and many of the business had decorated with wreaths and tinsel and faux candles still twinkling in window-sills. Even the diner, the perpetually-stuck-in-the-fifties diner, had wrapped red ribbon around the door and draped candy canes and mistletoe from every available surface.
As she walked up to the door of the diner, Abby saw through the window Raven sitting at a booth, the cane propped up against her seat and her leg stretched out beside her. She looked like a serious young college student: a cup of coffee shoved off to the side, papers scattered across the table, and her backpack tucked in the corner.
Abby felt a bubble of elation well up inside her seeing Raven. She very nearly shoved it down as she had so many times before, but stopped herself. It was Christmas, Clarke was in town (even if she wasn’t at home), and there was a beautiful woman in that diner waiting for her. She was allowed to be happy.
Nodding firmly to herself, Abby made her way to the booth. Raven didn’t notice her coming, so Abby placed her hand gently on Raven’s shoulder. “Fancy meeting you here.”
Raven looked up with a smile. “Heya, Doc!”
“Abby, actually. Now that I’m off the clock.”
Abby slid into the other side of the booth while Raven hastily gathered her papers together.
“What are you working on?” Abby asked, in lieu of asking about the things she really wanted to know, like how Raven got shrapnel in her back, or how she got a hold of digital x-rays without the doctor releasing them. Those were hardly things you asked a potential hook-up.
Raven shrugged a bit bashfully. “Just some designs. For a brace. The one that broke was good, but could be a lot better.”
“Oh?” Abby perked up. She was always interested in better medical technology. “May I see?”
Raven opened her mouth hesitantly but was interrupted by a server sidling up to the table and refilling her coffee.
The served nodded a greeting to Abby and poured her a cup of coffee as well, before focusing back to Raven. “What can I get you?”
“A stack of waffles, a side of bacon, and a glass of chocolate milk.” Raven immediately answered.
“Good choice,” the server replied, writing the order down in some incomprehensible shorthand. “Your usual, Abby?”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Abby replied. She looked over at Raven and winked. “I’m feeling like something new today.”
“Well, we’ve got our Christmas special.” the server suggested, completely missing the innuendo. “It’s ham, scalloped potatoes, a side of your choice, and a slice of pie.”
Raven hid a smirk and Abby looked back to the server. “That sounds good. I’ll take that, with the salad side.”
“Sure thing; what kind of pie do you want? We have apple, rhubarb, cherry, pumpkin . . .”
“With cheese or cream?”
“I’ll get those right out.”
Abby turned back to look at Raven, only to find her staring in disbelief.
“I thought the cheese on pie thing was a myth perpetuated by Hollywood and stereotypes,” Raven said, clearly skeptical of the dish.
“Not a myth,” Abby replied. “Just not as common as it used to be. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.”
“Hmmm.” Raven leaned forward and said in a softly seductive tone, “I can think of something else I’d rather try.”
Abby nearly spat her coffee across the table. After getting her lungs and throat back under control, she looked up to find Raven smirking at her across the table.
“Can’t take what you dish out?” Raven asked, with mock consolation in her voice. “That’s too bad.”
Abby set her coffee to the side and leaned forward to match Raven. “I’m more used to doing than saying, but if that’s how you want to play it . . .” Abby changed her tone to what her group of friends had once jokingly called the “panty-dropper voice”, “I’ll pleasure you with my mouth all night.”
Raven’s jaw dropped before she responded with a grin. “Abby, I think we’re going to have a wonderful time together.”
Abby raised an eyebrow and hummed. “Yes. We are.”
Leaving the diner wasn’t awkward at all like Abby had feared. They paid for their meals separately and walked outside with their arms brushing. There was a brief pause on the sidewalk where Abby looked at Raven and Raven pretended to be busy adjusting her backpack. Despite the aggressive flirting they had done in the diner, Raven seemed a little tentative to keep going.
Abby reached out and ran her hand down Raven’s arm, letting herself toy with Raven’s fingers. “You know,” she said, almost conversationally, “In keeping with the holiday spirit, I have far too much eggnog at home. Would you like to help me drink it?”
Raven cocked her head. “That depends. Is it spiked or not?”
“Oh, definitely spiked. With top-shelf brandy, even.”
“Well,” Raven twisted her hand around to clasp Abby’s. “Lead on.”
Abby smiled and gestured back towards the hospital. “My car is still in the staff lot. Did you drive to the hospital?”
“I got dropped off.” Raven replied, “but I need to pick up my bike from the shop anyway, so maybe I can meet you at your place?”
“Of course.” Abby dug in her coat and found a mostly used pack of post-its and pen hiding away in an inner pocket. She scrawled her home address on it and stuck it teasingly to Raven’s forehead.
Raven peeled it off and glanced at the address. “Oh, that’s not too far from the shop, actually. I can be there in 45 minutes, tops.”
“Great.” Abby gave Raven another smile and they headed off in opposite directions.
As soon as Raven was out of sight, Abby put on the speed. She hadn’t been lying about the large amounts of spiked eggnog at home, but she hadn’t mentioned the laundry lying about either. Luckily, the roads were abandoned (it was, after all, very late Christmas Eve. Or was that very early Christmas morning?) and she got home in twenty minutes. She tore through the house - dirty dishes shoved into the dishwasher, dirty laundry into the hamper in the closet. Fresh sheets on the bed, then back to the living room to fold the blankets on the couch and run a very quick vacuum over the rug in front of the fireplace. Hang the coats neatly on the hooks by the front door and put her heels on the shoe rack (instead of tossed sort of close by) and she had just enough time to run through the shower and change into something comfortable (but sexy) before the doorbell rang.
When she opened the door, Raven was there, grinning, and she’d obviously taken some time to spruce up too. The small remnants of grease around her fingernails had disappeared and she was wearing a cleaner pair of cargo pants.
Abby smiled and waved her in. “Can I take your jacket?”
Raven handed over her leather jacket and toed off her boots, placing them carefully on the shoe rack. She turned back to Abby and leaned in, pressing a gentle kiss to Abby’s cheek. “Thank you for inviting me.”
“I’m glad you came,” Abby replied. “Make yourself at home; I’ll just go grab the eggnog.” Abby went into the kitchen and took a deep breath. It was fine. It was just a young, very attractive, very smart woman sitting in her living room. She could do this. She pulled down two glasses from the cupboard and fetched the pitcher of nog from the fridge. Apparently she had taken a longer moment than she thought collecting herself, because when she made it back to the living room, she found that Raven had laid and lit a fire in the fireplace.
“Oh, thank you.”
“A fire is always cozy, I think,” Raven replied. She took the glasses from Abby’s hand and carefully placed them on coasters on the end table next to the couch. Abby poured out a generous portion in each glass and lifted it up.
Raven clinked her glass. “Cheers.”
Sitting on the couch talking and drinking eggnog turned into Abby sitting in Raven’s lap and making out. That, in turn, eventually ended up with them lying on the rug in front of the fireplace, sweaty and satisfied.
“I have a bed, you know,” Abby said as Raven tugged the blanket off the couch and over them.
“In a bit.” She replied. “Don’t think I can get up just quite yet.”
Abby smiled proudly. She clearly hadn’t lost her touch, even if it had been years since her last night with a woman.
Raven raised an eyebrow. “Don’t be so smug. I doubt you can get up either.”
Abby chuckled, admitting the truth of Raven’s words. She felt as limp as a cooked noodle.
With a little adjusting, the two of them ended up rather comfortably on the floor; Raven was on her back with her bum leg propped up on a pillow, Abby on her side next to her, resting her head on Raven’s shoulder. The blanket was neatly tucked around them, and the fire cast a warm glow over the room.
Abby glanced at the clock. It was well into Christmas morning. Hardly a surprise, when she thought about it; she’d gotten off work late, and then there was everything they’d done afterward. Smiling, she pressed a kiss to Raven’s cheek. “Merry Christmas, Raven.”
“Merry Christmas, Abby.”
They lazily began kissing again, Raven’s hand rubbing at Abby’s back. The kissing and stroking were not meant to arouse, but just to enjoy.
There was a loud thud at the door, followed by a key scraping in the lock, and then Clarke stumbled into the house. She blearily glanced around while trying (unsuccessfully) to untie her shoe. She focused on Abby briefly. “Oh, hey, Mom.”
The two women had frozen at the unexpected noises, but Clarke’s greeting spurred them into action. Raven shifted to cover herself more fully while Abby clutched the blanket closer to her chest and cleared her throat. “Hey, Clarke. I didn’t think you’d be home tonight.”
Clarke opened her mouth to respond, but suddenly clapped a hand to her face and bolted down the hall. Sounds of vomiting quickly followed.
Raven began to snicker. “Was she so drunk she didn’t even see me or is she just that chill with you having sex?”
Abby opened her mouth. Closed it. Opened it again and just shook her head in disbelief.
Raven chuckled again. “I should probably let you deal with this, huh.”
Abby sighed and glared half-heartedly down the hall towards the bathroom. “I was hoping to spend the rest of the night in bed. With you. Not dealing with the aftermath of my daughter’s poor decisions.”
Raven pressed a lingering kiss to Abby's lips. “She’s lucky to have you.”
“Mmm.” Abby wrapped her hand around the back of Raven’s neck and pulled her into another kiss. “If you say so.”
“I do say so.” Raven pushed herself up and began scanning the room for her clothes. “And you know I’m always right.”
That got a small huff of laughter from Abby before she got up and started getting dressed as well. She took a moment, while Raven was lacing up her boots, to grab a personal business card and add her cell number to the bottom. Raven finished with her boots and stood up, pulling her jacket on.
“Tonight was . . . really good.” Raven said, glancing up at Abby before fiddling with the zipper on her jacket.
“It was.” Abby agreed, tugging Raven forward into one last kiss.
“I should get going.”
“You should.” Abby kissed her again, sliding the business card in her hand into Raven’s pocket.
Raven pulled out the card and glanced at it in confusion before looked back up to Abby.
Abby smiled in response to the cautious hope showing in Raven’s face. “Are you doing anything for New Years?”
Raven grinned. “Not yet.”