I suppose you'd call this either an alternative ending or a missing
moment for the episode 'Virus'.

Text set off by '*' indicates thought.

All standard disclaimers apply. Please be gentle.

***********************
ROOMING WITH ROMEO
T. M. Cole

"I'll tell you what's really rough, and that's having young Romeo
here as a roommate…" Dr. Kelly Brackett in 'Virus'.


Sometimes, as that hackneyed phrase clearly states, the cure is worse than the disease. The Koki virus had nearly killed him and although he was grateful to be alive, deeply and profoundly grateful, he was beginning to wish he'd remained comatose for a while longer.

It was no secret that he wasn't a patient man by nature; his legendary short fuse now a standard part of the `Introduction to the Emergency Department' lecture given to each new paramedic, nurse and resident, not to mention assorted members of the house staff, cleaning staff, ambulance drivers and police. The Rampart public
relations department had learned long ago to circumvent the entire
problem and deal directly with Dixie.

Today any limited threshold of accommodation he possessed had been reached and breached before noon. First there'd been the steady parade of nurses. Individually and collectively they'd been regaled with the dramatically escalating recitation of Gage's alarming collapse atop a scaffold. While Kel did have to concede that it made a much better story than keeling over in the doctor's lounge, he wondered if Gage really thought that women were that impressionable and gullible? *Or do I just judge every woman now on the basis of a singular feminine yardstick?*

Then there was the requisite visit from the other members of 51's A- shift. An improvement, at least in his eyes, over the nurses since Gage's boasting was met by equal parts good-natured bashing. Chet Kelly had been in particularly fine form, offering Gage a bunch of bananas before launching into a series of increasingly lame monkey jokes. The firemen had at least included Kel in the conversation,unlike the nurses who found him too intimidating.

Limited visitation, however, had also left Kel with several hours of what he hoped would be relative peace and quiet. He hadn't counted on Gage's love of television. He'd made the mistake of surrendering control of the remote to Johnny and compounded his mistake by assuring Johnny that he didn't care what he watched as long as he didn't crank up the volume. So Brackett had spent the better part of the afternoon tormented by sitcoms. Not intelligent, well-written and well-acted sitcoms. No, Gage's tastes were decidedly more plebian. Kel was treated to `Get Smart', followed by the inane `I Dream of Jeanie', which was followed by the even more dreadful `Hogan's Heroes'. Gage had then insisted on `Gilligan's Island' after Kel had stupidly admitted he never seen it. Brackett found himself fascinated by the sheer stupidity of the whole concept. He was puzzling over why anyone would pack such an extensive wardrobe for a three-hour tour what Gage asked, "So Doc, Mary Ann or Ginger?"

"What?" Kel was baffled.

"Mary Ann or Ginger? Which one would you pick?"

"For what?"

He was saved from an explanation by the timely arrival of dinner, over which Kel discovered that Gage would not only eat anything put in front of him but he'd provide running, open-mouthed review while he did. *If he does that on a date, Kel thought, it's no wonder he has trouble keeping a girlfriend. As it is, I'm never going to be able to look at Jello again.*

By evening, Brackett had had enough and had taken charge of the situation. He'd stolen the remote while Gage was in the bathroom. They were watching `Gunsmoke' and after that football. Luckily Johnny was perfectly happy with that decision.

Three hours later, Kel was considering abandoning Monday Night football for sleep. The game was boring and Cosell's commentary wasn't improved by Gage's ceaseless natterings. Then, early in the fourth quarter, Dixie showed up.

"What are you still doing here?" Kel asked. She'd dropped by a couple of times during the day to check on them both, but her shift shouldhave ended over an hour earlier.

"We got busy downstairs," she explained. "Traffic accidents. Besides, you didn't think I'd leave without wishing you two good night."

"Come to tuck us in, eh Dix?" Johnny suggested.

"Splendid idea Johnny." Dixie crossed over to Johnny's bedside and switched off the television, leaving the room lit by only the dim reading lights over each bed. "Why don't you both try and get some sleep," she said, adjusting the sheet and blanket over Gage's chest.
As she reached up to turn off the light, Johnny asked, "No kiss good night?"

A fresh remark from anyone else would have received a swat, but John Gage led a charmed life, at least as far as Dixie was concerned. She was terribly fond of both John and his partner, and his nearly fatal battle with the virus had affected her more than she cared to admit. "How remiss of me," she murmured before leaning down and brushing his forehead with her lips. "'Night Johnny."

Surprised, Johnny offered only a subdued "'Night Dix," before settling under the covers.

Dixie turned to Kel, "I suppose you expect the same?" Her tone was teasing but her expression was pensive. They'd been fools, both of them. They'd taken the easy way out when problems had surfaced in their relationship and, rather than work through them, had chosen to preserve the professional relationship rather than deal with thornier issues of independence and commitment. The last few days however had given them both a new perspective and although they hadn't had much time, or privacy, to discuss things since he'd been moved from ICU, it was agreed that both wanted to give their relationship another try.

As Dixie straightened Kel's blankets, his hand covered hers. Her answering squeeze was followed by a wink as she turned off the lamp, the darkness hiding the fact that her goodnight kiss to Kel fell several inches south of his forehead, And lasted quite a bit longer.

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