The Answer To Our Lives

Part five:

"Carter, it's time to get up."

Carter heard a voice calling to him. He didn't want to get up. The night had been to short.

"Carter!" There was that annoying voice again, this time someone was shaking him.

"Ugh what time is it?" He grumbled rolling over almost falling off the gurney.

"It's almost eight." Kerry barked at him.

"I told Chen to wake me up at Seven." Carter grumbled wondering why Chen didn't wake him up.

"I told her to let you sleep until 8 since you had to come in last night. You can have 30 minutes to run grab coffee and eat but I want you on the floor by 8:30." She said to him.

"Thanks Kerry." John said sitting up.

"By the way Abby is looking for you. She said that she tried calling you but you didn't call her back. I told her that you got called in here last night."

"Thanks Kerry I will find her later." He said throwing heading out of the room "I am going over to Doc's would you like me to bring you back anything?" He asked.

"No thanks, but thanks for offering." She said, "I am headed home. I'll see you later though. If you need me you know where I am."

"Later Kerry." John said he grabbed his coat out of the lounge and headed over to Doc Magoos. He was hungry and well it was the closest thing to food. He was not going to eat in the cafeteria. That food was pretty bad, no it was down right awful. He had to eat hospital food when they were trapped in the ER during the Small Pox scare and he vowed then never to eat that horrible stuff they called food again. He headed out in the Chicago air. It was a little chilly as he headed across the street he could hear Abby calling for him from behind.

He had a long night and right now she was the last person that he wanted to deal with. He didn't think that she was on until later in the day. Carter slowed down so that she could run across the street to catch up with him. He wanted food and no one was going to stop him from getting it before he started another 12 hours shift.

"Carter do you have a minute that I could talk to you." She asked looking at him.

"Yeah I have a couple. I was going to get something to eat." He said looking at Doc's. "I didn't get a chance to eat this morning. You can join me if you want.”

They walked into Doc's and Carter ordered from the waitress. Abby just had coffee.

"What are you doing here. I didn't think you worked until later." Carter said breaking the silence.

"I'm not on until noon. I came down here to find you." She said looking at the table.

"Well you found me." He said playing with the spoon that was laying on the table. “What is so important?”

"Carter, why didn't you pick up the phone last night?" Abby asked.

"I was on my way to the hospital Abby and I'm sorry that I didn't get the chance to call you back we got busy and I never had the chance." He said hoping that would pacify her.

"I went to a meeting last night." She said her eyes looked elsewhere as she spoke to John. “I’m not going to hide anything from you anymore.”

"Good for you." He said. But her drinking wasn't the entire reason that he had walked out the door.

"I want this to work between us. I don't want you to walk away from me." She said, “I love you John.”

"I don't want to walk away from you either." Was all that he could say.

"Then don't. We can get thru this." She said, "we just need to work together. Talk to each other."

"That's what is missing Abby. It’s not just the drinking. Its the talking together. You and I don't have that, we never have. I want that more than anything but it's not there." He said rehashing everything that they had talked about already. "I don't want to go over this again Abby."

"I can open up to you John," She said. "Just give me time."

"How much time Abby? How long to I have to sit here and watch things go bad? You run away every time things get bad. I don't want to live my life wondering when you are going to share your life with me." He said to her, "I am going away for awhile. We can talk about this when I get back."

"You're leaving just like that, you are leaving." She said sounding astonished. Carter knew that this wasn't something new that he was telling her. Kovach had spilled the beans about this awhile ago.

"Yeah I am. I am taking that missionary trip. I think that it would be good for me right now." He said.

"Do I have any say in this?" She asked.

"No." He said firmly.

"Really you are just going to drop all of this I need to communicate with you, open up to you and you are going to run off. Carter who is doing the running away now." She stammered.

"Abby I am not going to do this. I am not running away." He said standing up and walking out of Doc's. She followed behind him.

“If this isn’t running away then what is it John. Why the sudden need to leave town.” She asked.

He spun around to face her, “Abby I am not suddenly leaving. You and I have talked about this. I guess what I have to say isn’t important enough for you to listen to. We talked about this several times. Especially when Luka had mentioned it in the trauma room. I am doing this for me. I’m sorry if you think that I am running away from you, that’s not what I am doing. I am going to go where medical help is needed the most. I’m tired Abby. I am going to go and do this and when I get back we can see where we stand.”

He was tired of everything getting turned around. He would be leaving for Africa in a few days. He started to walk in the ER, Abby was hot on in his tails. She obviously wasn’t done with this conversation.

“Carter don’t do this.” She said, “don’t walk away from me right now. Please don’t.”

Abby almost seemed to be begging looking for any reason to make Carter stay. He couldn’t and wouldn’t play into this.

“Abby I am going. That’s the end of it. You can tell me how you feel when I get home. I’ll be gone for a month.” He walked into the hospital.

“I won’t be here when you get back.” She was almost screaming. Everyone in the hospital stopped what they were doing and stared at the two of them.

“Fine Abby. Have it you’re way. You can either be here or not be here when I get back. Right now I don’t care. I’m done.” Carter walked into the lounge.

Abby turned and stormed out the ambulance bay doors. She couldn’t believe that she just said that to him in front of the entire ER staff. Carter sat on the couch wondering how he was going to face the ER staff now that Abby had managed to throw that fit in front of everyone.

Susan came into the lounge. She wasn’t going to say anything about what she had just witnessed. All she wanted was a cup of coffee before they got hit with patients. The board was empty and there were just a couple of people in chairs right now.

“Go ahead Susan, say what you want to say.” Carter said looking down at the floor. He knew that people were going to be talking about what just happened.

“Carter, I’m sorry.” She said, “really I am. I just came in to get a cup of coffee really.”

John watched as Susan poured herself a cup of coffee. He started to change the subject. “How can you drink that stuff Susan?”

“Coffee is coffee, this just happens to be the rot-gut version but it’s all we got. There’s never enough time to get over to the coffee stand. I try and leave and the minute I head for the door it never fails that we get a multiple trauma.” She said smiling.

“Ah so you are the one that jinks all my breaks. It’s you just trying to get a decent cup of coffee. I’ll have to remember that and bring you one when I get the chance. I’d hate for you to suffer ulcers because you’re treating Chicago’s finest.” He said laughing. She had managed to take his mind off of what had just happened with Abby.

Abby. What was he going to do now. She made it perfectly clear that she was done with him. That if he went to Africa she wasn’t going to be waiting here when he got back. His smile turned into a frown. He loved her, but if she wasn’t going to try there was nothing that he could do about that.

“John, what’s wrong?” Susan asked. She wasn’t going to pry, “you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, just remember I am here if you want to talk.”

“I really don’t want to talk about it. Maybe after work.” He said.

“Sure,” She said, “I’m off at 4.”

“So am I,” John said, “Do you want to join me for dinner.”

“Sure I would love to have dinner with a friend. Sure beats a TV dinner for one.” Susan said smiling at him.

“I got to get back to work.” Susan said heading out the door.

“I’ll be there in a minute.” He said, “I just need a minute to myself.”

“No problem Carter.” Susan said as she let the lounge door go closed.

Carter sat there for a minute collecting himself before he headed out to face the rest of the world. The buzz was going to be that he and Abby had broken up. Had they really ended it. He wasn’t sure. She said that if he went to Africa that she wouldn’t be there when he got back, well he hadn’t left yet. He was still planning on it. He should talk to Abby but he didn’t want to do that. He had made himself perfectly clear about what he wanted from her, and she made it clear what she wanted from him. There was nothing more left for them to talk about. Abby was probably at home right now buried in a glass of wine or some other form of alcohol. That is how she had dealt with everything lately and he was almost sure that this was going to be no different. How could it be any different. She was still the same ole Abby. If anything she was consistent with what her reactions.




Part 6

Carter finished his shift at County and met Susan in the lounge. He was looking forward to having dinner with her.

“Are you ready to get out of here?” Carter asked.

“Yeah, it’s been on of those days.” Susan said.

“Tell me about it.” Carter replied. “I am wishing that I hadn’t gotten off that gurney I was sleeping on.”

Susan cringed remembering the events that had taken place earlier that day. “I understand that. Let’s go unwind. Do you have any place in mind?”

“No.” Carter answered, “where do you like to go?”

Susan thought for a minute as they walked out to his jeep. “There’s a little place just down the street that we could go to.”

“Sounds good to me.” Carter said, “I am starving.”

Abby had ruined his breakfast and Carter hadn’t gotten another chance all day to eat. If he didn’t get to eat soon he was going to get a lot grumpier than he already was. Carter drove them to the little restaurant just down the street. They got a table and looked over the menu. The waitress came to the table.

“Can I get you something to drink?” She asked.

“I’ll have a glass of zinfandel please.” Susan said.

“Anything for you sir.” She asked John.

“The same.” He said. John wasn’t a drinker. He hadn’t had anything since he had gotten into rehab. But tonight was different. He wanted to kick back and be as normal as he could be.

“What Carter, you a drink. You haven’t done that in forever.” Susan said amazed that he had ordered alcohol.

“Yeah I know, but it’s been on of those days.” He responded. “It could be worse though.”

“You know you can talk to me about what’s going on. I am not going to spread it anywhere. I’m a friend remember.” She said going on, “I might not be your girlfriend, but I’m a good friend.”

“I know, it’s just that I don’t know what is going on. I gave Abby an ultimatum and I think today she gave me her answer.” He said.

“I thought that things were going really good between the two of you. What happened?” Susan asked.

“Yes and no. Things were going good between us and all I wanted from her was that she open up to me, to be able to talk and share what was going on with me. Every time something has happened she pushes me to the outside and goes running to something else for comfort. I just wish that she would let me in to be there to help her thru what ever it is that is going on.” He said with wet eyes.

“You love her very much, don’t you John?” Susan asked.

“Yes I do and that’s what makes this even harder.” He said going on, “I waited in the wings for her for a long time, I even tried to just be her friend, to be someone she could talk to. That back fired cause at the time I only wanted to be with her and all she did was talk about her relationship with Luka. I have loved her for a long time. I didn’t want it to end like this. I walked out on her Susan. I just upped and left like she didn’t mean anything to me. But she does. She mean the world to me yet I don’t understand why can’t she trust me enough to let me be there for her.”

“Maybe she just isn’t ready to yet John. The two of you have been thru a lot. I hate to see it end like this too. I was really happy for the two of you when you got together. Have you talked to her about this?”

“Susan I am so tired of trying to talk to her. Yes with Abby lately it has been trying to talk and I haven’t gotten anywhere with her. Every time I try she turns it into something that it isn‘t or she tries to shift the blame onto something. It’s like she likes where things are, she’s comfortable with it, but I’m not. When something happens and she’s hurting I want to be there one who’s there for her. Not the tequila bottle or a beer. I know that I told her that I would just sit back and wait for the train wreck but I can’t do it anymore. It’s gotten to be to hard for me to do that.”

“I understand.” Susan said.

“I don’t know if she’ll be here for me when I get back. From what she said earlier today I think it’s to late for amends.” Carter said.

“Where are you going?” Susan asked.

“I was going to go to Africa for a month on a doctor’s with out boarders mission.” He said. “I thought that it would be good for me to do some good somewhere else besides here in Chicago.” He said looking at her.

“Abby doesn’t want you to go I take it.” Susan replied.

“No she doesn’t. She said that I was running away from talking to her by leaving. That’s not what I am doing at all. Just because I wouldn’t talk to her today and now I am taking this trip doesn’t change anything. I was going to use the time to try to sort out some of this mess.” He said as the tears started to fall from his cheeks. “But there won’t be anything to come back to in Chicago if I know that we are done before I even leave.”

“Carter maybe she didn’t mean it to come out quite like that. I know that Abby loves you. You can see it in her eyes whenever you come into a room. I can’t imagine that she is willing to completely give up on the two of you. She was probably just upset with everything that has been going on the past couple of days.”

“I don’t know anymore Susan. That’s it I just don’t know. I don’t want it to end. But if that’s how she feels, how she truly feels at least I now know where I stand with her.” He said.

“I wouldn’t say that Carter. She was just upset. I mean it’s Abby we are talking about. It’s your relationship. I would hate to see the two of you break up and stop talking, that and it would make county an awfully awkward place to work.” She said trying to get him to smile even just a little.

The waitress brought their drinks and placed them on the table. Carter and Susan ordered and sat there in silence for a few minutes. Carter didn’t know what he was going to do. Nothing would be the same if he ended it with Abby and that would be a heartache he didn’t know if he could recover from.

After dinner Carter drove Susan to her apartment. It had been a long day and he just wanted to crawl into bed.

“Goodnight Carter. I hope that things get better for you and that you have a safe trip to Africa.” Susan said.

“Thanks. Take care and I will probably see you later before I go.” He said.

Carter watched to make sure that she got in the building okay before pulling away and driving home himself. He wanted to crawl into his own bed and put an end to his misery. Yet he found himself driving by Abby’s apartment. He wasn’t sure why he was sitting there in front of the building either. This had been the second time that they had gotten into an argument and after he ended up here. The first time it was about Abby’s drinking. This time it wasn’t. There was more two it then a beer and some sneaking around to drink. He parked the car and sat there for a minute. He wanted to go up there, to take Abby in his arms and make all of this go away. To change this nightmare they were calling life into something a whole hell of a lot nicer. But he didn’t. He sat there staring at her window, wondering if she felt as bad as he did about all of this. If what they had said to each other were just words in the heat of things, or if they really words aimed at each other to hurt like daggers.

“Abby I love you.” John said as he pulled away from her building. Going to her was going to have to wait for another night. He just wasn’t up to it tonight. He emotionally and physically couldn’t handle it. John walked up the stairs to his apartment and dropped down onto the bed.

His sleep was restless the nightmare that had plagued him for so long after Lucy’s death were back. John knew that he had made a mistake in letting Abby go, but it was her choice and he was just going to have to live with it. He would see where her heart was when he got back from his trip.

Carter awoke in the middle of the night. The nightmares were back. They were just as intense if not worse than they had been after the stabbing. He thought that he had gotten rid of them during rehab. That all the skeletons in his closet were gone. He didn't like this, he didn't like waking up scared to go back to sleep. Abby wasn't there to comfort him and give him a calming presence. He had no idea how he was going to get back to sleep now. He got up and walked to the bathroom. He opened up the medicine cabinet. He couldn't do this, he had worked so hard to get to where he was now, he couldn't afford a slip-up. He stood there with his eyes closed for a minute. He could see Mark and everyone gathered around him. The day of the intervention, the day that he almost threw his entire career away. And for what a quick fix to the pain his was feeling. It was an escape, even though it might have only been a momentary escape it was still an escape. Carter was in pain now. It wasn't the physical pain that he felt after the stabbing it was emotion pain from his heart breaking. The words that Abby said still rang in his ears.

He didn't know what to do. The urge was there. He was desperately trying to fight it. But the longer he stood there the more the urge called to him. Was this what he wanted. Was he willing to risk it all for a minutes peace. The feeling of not having to deal with it even as temporary as it might be.

"Yes," Carter said to himself, "it is worth it. I don't want to feel like this anymore. I don't want to feel the pain that is radiating from my chest. The pain of the broken hearted. She broke my heart. And why, all because I wanted her to be more open with me. To let me in where I could help."

John stood there, it took a minute for it to sink in that here he was faced with the same decisions that Abby was. If he did what he was thinking then he was no better than she was. He was hiding from her, taking the trip to Africa was an excuse to get away from her, yes he wanted to do some good, but he was also getting out of Chicago away from the person who had put his heart into so much turmoil. He reached up into the medicine cabinet. Right now he didn’t care, he wanted the pain to end. How could he let her do this to him. He was mad, upset and most of all he was scared. He had walked out on the most important person in his life. And she had told him that in his leaving that she wouldn’t be there when he returned.

What reason do I have for staying in Chicago? She was the only thing I had going for me and now she’s gone. I need this. I need to do this. It will make it all go away.

John pulled his hand away from the medicine cabinet as if he had been burned by something. I can’t do this to my family and friends again. They believe in me, yet I can’t believe in myself. I have ruined the most important thing that I had going. No, I’m right this is what needs to be done.



Carter paused for a minute, he knew what he was doing. He turned and walked out of the bathroom and picked up the phone. He dialed Abby’s number. He needed her, more than he realized when he walked out on her. He had been miserable. Hearing those words from her, knowing that if he walked away she wouldn’t be there for him when he came back. That was something that Carter couldn’t live with. Not now, not ever.

“Come on Abby pick up. I really need you tonight.” He said as he heard the phone ring. On the third ring the answering machine picked up.

“Abby it’s Carter, please if you are there pick up." He waited he hoped in his heart that she would pick up. There was nothing.

"Abby please, I really need to talk to you. It's really important." Carter pleaded with her to pick up the phone.

He waited another minute and then hung up the phone. She wasn't picking up and he couldn't blame her. After what had happened between the two of them. He couldn't blame her for being hurt. He grabbed his coat. He decided to drive over there. He walked down to his car, he knew it was late, but he was afraid of what might happen if he didn't talk to someone. He hadn't felt this bad in months. The urge was back and he didn't know if he could resist it alone. Abby had been there for him when he had gotten back and he had learned to rely on her, to lean on her for support and now here he was finding that he was going to need to depend on her again.

He pulled his car up in front of Abby's apartment building. He looked up at her window and could see that the light was on. She wasn't in bed. He hoped that when he got up there she would talk to him. To ease his fears. He took the walk up the stairs, his feet were heavy as he took each step not knowing what he was going to encounter when he got up there.

He knocked on her door. He waiting to see if she would come an answer it.

"Who's there." Abby called out.

"It's me." He said.

"What do you want Carter." She snapped back.

"To talk to you." He said, "I really need to talk to you Abby."

"You want to talk now."

"Yeah I do." He replied.

She opened the door and let him inside. Carter pushed the door closed behind him. She was beautiful. As beautiful as she always was. He had missed her. Deep inside his heart he knew that he could never walk away from her completely.

"I'm sorry Abby." He said.

"So am I." She said back. Abby was giving John the cold shoulder, and he knew that he deserved it.

"Abby, I don't want to end it like this. I don't want it to end. I need you in my life." He said to her walking closer to Abby, "I love you."

"John I love you too, did you think that we could honestly just pick up right were we left off after what we have said to each other over the last two days." She asked.

"No I suppose not." He said hanging his head down low.

"Is this the reason that you came over?" She asked, "to tell me that you were sorry and to get me to forgive you."

"Abby, that's part of it." He said.

She looked into his eyes. John always wore his emotions on his sleeve and she could instantly tell that something was bothering him, and it was something that he wasn't going to be able to deal with it on his own.

"What is it John?" She asked.

"The nightmare's are back. They came back the night we had the argument and they have gotten worse every night now." He said, "I hurt every where and the pain won't go away. I didn't think until I set things right with you that it would go away." He said looking at her.

Abby was silent for a minute. She wasn't sure what to say to him. "Did you do anything that you shouldn't have?"

John knew where she was going with this. She knew the routine. She had been there many times herself.

"No, I thought about it and I came close, but you, the thought of what you would think if I had. How disappointed you would be in me." He said.

"I'm glad you came here," she said, "I'm sorry that I didn't pick up the phone."

"If you don't want me to, I won't go to Africa." He said.

There was silence between the two of them for a minute. Abby wasn't sure what to say. He was willing to stay in Chicago for her. She looked into his eyes, she say the sincerity in his voice, but she also saw the pain that was there. His heartache was eating him as hers had been at her. Abby hadn’t been as strong as John had been able to be. She had drowned her sorrow’s in a beer with Chen. She also was able to spill her guts to her, which is the only reason that she had told John that if he left for Africa she wouldn’t be there when he got back.

“I’m sorry I gave you that ultimatum, it wasn’t fair of me to say that. I know that you were planning on taking that trip to help people who really need your help. Not to run away from me.” She said.

“I’m glad you know that Abby. I could never run away from you. You mean to much to me.” He said.

John wanted to take Abby in his arms and hold her close to him. To feel her against him. To know that she felt the same for him as he felt for her.

“Can we make amends?” He asked, hoping that they could work thru this and go on with their lives together rather than apart.

“I’d like to John, but it’s going to take time.” She said.

He had no choice but to give her the time that she needed. For whatever reason, she wasn’t ready to jump back into their relationship again. He couldn’t understand it, but he needed to give her the space that she was asking for.

“I’ll leave then.” He said reaching for the door. “Goodnight.”

John walked out Abby’s door again. This time maybe not for good, but it hurt still none the less.

Part Seven

Carter walked down the stairs to his jeep. That hadn’t gone nearly the way that he thought that it would. But did he really expect her to open back up to him with open arms as if nothing had happened between the two of them.

He climbed into the jeep looking up at Abby’s window hoping to see her there, to call him back upstairs to pick up the pieces and be a somewhat happy couple again. Knowing that there was still hope in the relationship gave him a feeling that maybe it would all work out in the end.

He drove him and climbed back into bed. He was exhausted. He needed sleep yet the nightmares weren’t going to give it to him. He tossed and turned all night once again. They were too intense and hard to deal with. The pain in the nightmares was to fresh and it was ripping him in two.

He was having a hard time dealing with this. He needed to escape, yet how could he escape the nightmares that were plaguing him every time he laid his head down to sleep. He needed to do something. Abby hadn't helped him as much as he hoped she would have. John felt as if nothing was ever going to be the same again. Not knowing if Abby was ever going to come back to him. He was losing all feelings of hope. The darkness that had plagued him after Lucy's death was starting to set in again. There was so much baggage attached to both of them, that Carter began to feel as if it was dragging him under. He couldn't breathe, he couldn't think, he needed to run away and fast. But for now there were other things that he needed to do.

Carter went thru the motions of working at the ER. Everyone could tell that he just wasn't himself. He plugged on seeing patients. He was short with several of them, which was just not him. He managed to avoid Abby all day long. Which was no small feat in itself, for it seemed that she was everywhere that he turned. Even Abby, when she was near him, could feel that there was something wrong with John, but she just couldn't put her finger on what it could be. It was nearing the end of his shift when she finally managed to approach him.

"Are you going to tell me what is eating at you or are you going to continue to snap at patients the rest of the day?" She asked.

"Nothing Abby, nothing is eating at me. I am done for the day I won‘t be snapping at anyone." He said turning to walk away from her.

"Don't lie to me Carter, everyone here can tell that something just isn't right with you today. You are the last doctor here who would ever snap at a patient, yet all day today you have been snippy with several of them." She said.

"Don't worry about it. It's nothing. I'm having a bad day that's all." He said.

"Bad day my ass Carter!"

"Nice to know you care." He said walking off.

She grabbed him by the arm. "Why won't you tell me what it is? Let me help talk to me. After all isn‘t that what we are supposed to do."

He looked at her. He still loved her, there was no doubt about that. It was not knowing where they were headed that had him in the foul mood that had him in the dark place where he didn't want to be. "Abby I don’t have anything to tell you. I think we managed to say everything that we needed to say to each other last night. You don‘t have to worry about me. I got the picture I‘m not your boyfriend anymore." Carter walked off trying to get away from Abby as fast as he could right now.

Susan walked up behind Abby. "Did he tell you what his problem was?"

"No he didn't. He didn't seem to want to talk to me, and he's been doing a good job at avoiding me all day too." She said watching him walk down the hall.

"Kerry is going to lay into him if he doesn't snap out of this fast. He needs to get that bug out of his ass right now." Susan said.

"Maybe that's what he needs right now, to have Kerry remove that bug for him, he sure doesn’t want me to do it. Susan, I haven't seen him act like this in a long time. There is something seriously wrong with him and he doesn‘t want anyone to know about it." She said.

Carter headed into the lounge. His shift was over and he was getting out of this place. He didn't feel like being around any of the people here right now. Everything grated on his nerves, everyone here was grating on his nerves with them giving him the fifth degree. The lack of sleep had made him extremely irritable. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Kerry walk into the lounge.

“Carter I need to talk to you.” She said.

“I’m off Kerry what do you need.” He said, “I really want to get out of here.”

“John, are you going to tell me what is bugging you?” She said “You know that I am here to talk if you need too. Remember I’m your friend I’m not a foe.”

“Why does everyone seem to think that something is bothering me.” He said, “can’t a guy have a bad day. Hell I‘m not perfect.”

“Yes you can have a bad day John, I have just never seen you take it out on patients before, that’s not like you.” She said, “and it’s just that I am worried about you.”

“Well Kerry there is no reason for you to worry about me. Nothing out of the ordinary is wrong. everyone can stop worrying about poor John Carter.” He said.

“Does this have anything to do with the disagreement that you and Abby had in the Ambulance Bay yesterday?” She asked.

“What if it does, what goes on between me and Abby is really no one else’s business. I don‘t care if she did decide to pick the fight with me in the ambulance bay where everyone in the hospital could see and here what was going on between us. You know what hell I don‘t care if everyone knows that we are no longer together, but everyone sure as hell can leave me alone.” He said point blankly to her.

“Come on Carter, I’m not the enemy here. I can’t have one of my doctors treating patients like that.” She said to him.

“It won’t happen again Kerry. I put in a request for a month off, do me a favor and let me have the time off.” He said.

“What do you want a month off for John?”

“Do you ask everyone who comes to you for some time off what they are going to do? I need a break Kerry I need to take a vacation, relieve some stress. Do you really have a problem with that. You have enough attending docs and med students around that you won’t miss me.” He said to her trying to make a point that he didn’t need to tell her or anyone what was going on in his life.

“Yeah John, you can have a month off, but let me make myself perfectly clear on this point when you come back you had better have a better attitude that when you leave here today.” She said to him.

“Oh don’t worry Kerry I will. I’ll let you know in three weeks if I even intend on coming back to County.” John said heading out the door, “cause I really don’t know if I want to deal with any of this anymore.”

Kerry stood there shocked at what the young doctor had just said to her. What did John mean by that. There was more to this than what was meeting the eye. She just hoped that he wasn’t headed down a road that he wouldn’t be coming back from, or thinking of doing something even worse.

“John stop right there, what do you mean by that. You’ll let me know if two weeks if you are coming back or not?” She said grilling him.

John turned looked at her and kept right on walking. He didn’t feel like giving her a straight answer about that one. He didn’t even fully know what he meant by it. Over his shoulder he shouted to her, “Just that Kerry. Hell if you want I can let you know tomorrow if I intend on coming back to work.”

Kerry walked over to Abby and Susan who were both standing there with their mouths hanging open. “Do either of you know what this is about?”

“Kerry honestly I have no idea.” Susan said, “John and I went out for dinner and drinks last night, but he didn’t lead on to anything like this coming out of it.”

“I think that I might know and I hope to god I am wrong.” Abby said looking at the two of them.

“What Abby?” Kerry said. They all knew that something was wrong with John.

“John came over last night.” She said to them, not knowing how much of this she should share with the two of them in the middle of the ER. “Let’s go somewhere so that everyone doesn’t overhear any of this.”

The noticed that the ER had gotten quiet after what John had just said and Abby didn’t want the entire staff to know what she was going to share with Susan and Kerry. That she was worried, terribly worried about Carter right now.

Susan and Abby followed Kerry into the empty exam room. “What is it Abby?”

“Last night John came over and said that he wanted to make amends for what had happened. I told him that we couldn’t just go back to the way things were, but he also mentioned to me that the reason that he had come over was that the nightmares that he had when Lucy died are back. That he had a pain deep inside him that he couldn’t get rid of again. You can tell by looking at him that he isn’t sleeping again. I’m afraid of what he will do. I think that he thinks everything between us is over, it’s not. I need to go and talk to him before something terrible happens to him.” Abby said with worry in her eyes.

Abby cared about John, she loved the man. She loved him greatly. She couldn’t deny that to anyone. Most of all she couldn’t deny that to even herself. She needed him just as much as he needed her. And right now John Carter really needed her.



Part Eight

Abby caught the EL. She needed to get to Carter and get to him fast. She was extremely worried about him. She had tried calling his cell phone several times, but he wouldn't answer it. She knew that he wouldn't have had enough time to get all the way home yet. She should have known that something was up when he came to her apartment last night. He was looking for someone to talk to, for someone to understand what he was going thru right now. Something had been amiss then, she just could take her mind off what was going on between the two of them long enough to actually focus on John. She just hoped that she wasn't to late to undo anything that he might have done. She hadn't waited for Susan or Kerry to come with her. She needed to do this with out them.

Abby got off the EL and started to head up the street to Carter's apartment building. There was a little bar on the corner and as she walked by she saw his familiar face sitting there. She didn't expect that she would find him in there of all places, and who he was sitting with came as a shock as well.

Carter had left the hospital. He was angry at the world. His heart ached something awful and he was pretty sure in his mind that what ever he and Abby had was gone for good now. When he got off the EL he for some reason had decided to stop at the bar on the corner. He walked in and sat down at the bar.

"Beer." He grunted at the bar tender. This was going to be the start of his fall from grace. If he was going to crash and burn he thought to himself he might as well enjoy the ride down. He didn't expect Luka to walk into that very bar.

"Carter what are you doing here, I didn't think that you drank." Luka said to him. He seemed as surprised as Carter was that he was here.

"Rough day today. I thought that I would unwind and drown my sorrows before heading home." Carter said, "want to join me?"

"Sure." Luka said, they moved from the bar over to a table in the corner near the window.

"Do you come here often?" Carter asked to Luka.

"Just every now and then on my way home." Luka said to him, "what about you?"

"Nope, I live just down the street and was on my way home, saw the place and thought that I would come in."

"I see." Luka said taking a swig from the beer bottle.

"I'm sure you've heard the news by now." Carter said. He wasn't a big fan of Luka's but he thought that since they were both here, he might as well try to make some conversation. It beat awkward silence.

"What news?" Luka asked. He hadn't been there when Abby started screaming at John in the ambulance bay.

"About Abby and I," John said, he could tell by the look on Luka's face that he hadn't heard from the rumor mill yet what had unwound at County yesterday. "Abby and I split up. And today I told Weaver that I wanted a month off and I would let her know by tomorrow if I would be coming back or not."

"What are you talking about, you live at County why wouldn't you come back to work. Even I haven't been able to leave there and I have only been there a couple of years. County has a strange hold on it's doctors." Luka said.

"I'm tired of it all. And I don't want to have to face Abby every day." John said finishing his beer, he motioned for the bar tender to bring him another one.

"I'm sorry about you and Abby. I really wanted her to be happy with you." Luka said.

"It just wasn't meant to be. I thought that with time she would open up to me, let me in her live, but she doesn't seem to want to do that. I was foolish enough to give her an ultimatum and she gave me her answer." He said, "she broke my heart when she left and there's nothing left here for me now."

"Come on Carter. You're a great doctor and you are needed at County. I've never worked with a better doctor than you. There's plenty of reason for you to stay at county. Abby or no Abby." Luka said. He could tell that the young doctor was in trouble.

Carter finished his second beer and started a third and they hadn't been there for more than 10 minutes. He was really guzzling them down. The bartender brought him a third one. Carter finished that one, and started a fourth. Luka watched him.

“Hey Carter I think that you had better slow down there.” Luka said knowing that Carter hadn’t drank in a long time and was probably starting to get intoxicated.

“I’m fine. You know I haven’t drank since before I went into rehab until the last two days.” Carter said. “Everything changed for me when I went there. Here I thought that I was getting everything back on track, but we all have our slipups now don’t we. After all doc’s are only human now too.” Carter said beginning to slur his words.

“Carter sure you are only human.” Luka said, he was there when Carter went into rehab.

He remembered to clearly what the young doctor had gone thru. He wasn’t close to Carter when it all happened, but he remembered Abby helping him get back up on his feet. He didn’t want to see Carter go back down that road. Luka was just coming off a path of self destruction himself. No one should go down that road if it could be helped. Carter finished his beer and set it down on the table. A fifth one arrived. Carter started to drink that one as well.

Luka thought that he saw Abby standing outside the bar. He looked again, it was her. He motioned for her to come in. He didn’t know if she could help Carter or if she was only going to make the situation worse for the young man. Abby came inside. She walked over to where Carter and Luka were sitting. She couldn’t help but notice the beer sitting in front of Carter.

“How many has he had Luka.” Abby asked.

“I’m sitting right here you don’t have to talk around me.” Carter said sarcastically adding, “oh wait that’s all you do.”

“He’s on his fifth one Abby.” Luka said, “I found him here on my way home.”

“He’s losing it.” She said turning her back to John and lowering her voice, “I’m afraid he’s stumbling.”

Luka understood what she was saying and just nodded in response. Carter hadn’t heard her and didn’t realize that she had said anything to him.

“Carter come on, why don’t you and I go home?” Abby said to him.

“We don’t have a home.” Carter said to her.

“Okay why don’t we go back to your apartment or my apartment.” She said trying to reason with him. He was drunk. Carter was bloody drunk. He had always been the one taking care of her, and here she was going to be the one needing to take care of him and pull him up from the pits of despair.

“I don’t think that we should. You know I mean we’re not, not dating anymore. I don’t t-think t-that we should do t-that.” Carter’s words were starting to slur together even worse than they were a few minutes ago.

“No John, I think we really need to.” Abby said and she tried to put his arm around him to lead him home.

“Come on Carter, let’s go.” Luka said noticing that Abby was having trouble convincing him that he needed to go home. “Let me help you.” He said looking at Abby. He was going to have to help her get him back to his apartment. He assumed that they would be taking him to his apartment since there was no way that they were going to get Carter this drunk across town to Abby’s apartment.

John reluctantly went with them. The world was starting to spin on him and he realized that he had gotten himself drunk. He put his arm up on Luka’s shoulder, “guess that I did have a little to much to drink.”

“That’s an understatement John.” Abby said to him, “come on let’s get you home so you can sleep this off.”

Luka and Abby helped John to his apartment. Abby opened the door and they led him down to the bedroom. He collapsed on the bed. Abby and Luka walked back out to the living room.

“Is what he told me right, are the two of you not seeing each other anymore?” Luka asked.

“If that’s what he said.” Abby said to Luka. “I told him that we couldn’t go on as if we didn’t have the fight. It was until just a little while ago that he said that we were through.”

“Is that what you wanted?” Luka asked.

“No it’s not. I just wanted a little more time to work thru the issue’s that we were having. I didn’t see last night when he came to my apartment that he was starting to self destruct again. After he left the ER tonight it became clear what was happening with him. Kerry let me leave the ER to come and find him. We were all worried about him. I hate to see him like this.” She said.

“It’s always hard to see someone you love doing something that you know that they shouldn’t be doing. Maybe when he sobers up you two can talk and try to work things out. What ever has happened between us, Abby I really do want you to be happy. And you seem happy with Carter.” He said.

“I am Luka. I am very happy with Carter.” She said, “the past couple of days have been hard on both of us. I just didn’t realize how hard it had been on him. Walking out on me during out last fight had to have been tearing him apart, I just wish that I could have seen it sooner.” She said.

“Abby do you think that he has started using again. I mean that could explain his odd behavior.”

“No I don’t.” She said, “but there’s only one way to find out.”

Abby walked to Carter’s bathroom. She looked in the medicine cabinet for any sign that Carter’s addiction was back. Then she walked into the bedroom where he was snoring loudly. She checked his arms, and under his watch. When he was abusing last time he had hidden the needle marks under his watchband. She didn’t see any tell tale signs that his addiction was back. She opened up the nightstand draw and what she found inside shocked her. There was a bottle of Soma. She picked it up and headed out to the living room where Luka was sitting.

“I found this.” She said tossing the bottle at him.

“Oh man.” He said, “why would Carter have this. Has he done something to his back recently that you know of. I don’t want to think that he has this for any other reason. But then who would prescribe something like this for him knowing that he was a recovering drug addict.”

“I don’t know. Carter didn’t say that he was going to see anyone about any pain in his back. He hasn’t even mentioned that it has been bothering him lately. He’s slipped up again Luka. That could be the only reason.” She said the tears starting to fall from her eyes.

Luka couldn’t stand the sight of her in so much pain. What was going on between her and Carter was tearing them both apart something needed to be done to get this relationship back on the right track.


Part Nine.

Abby had laid her head on Luka's shoulder and fallen asleep as they waited for Carter to wake up from his drunken state. They both wanted answers from him. To find out just what was going on in his head. Something wasn't right with him and they were going to make sure that they got to the bottom of it. Carter's phone rang. Luka reached over to answer it before it woke Abby or Carter.

"Hello." Luka said answering it.

"Luka it's Susan." Susan said, "Is everything alright?"

"Yeah. Abby and I are here with him. He's sleeping off what he drank. I'm sure that when he wakes up he's going to have one hell of a hang over." Luka told her.

"Oh man. I was just worried about him. Have you and Abby been able to get anything out of him." She asked.

Luka wasn't sure how much he should tell her. He knew that at one time Susan had cared for Carter and that they were friend. He decided against it. "No nothing yet. I'm sure that he'll talk to us when he wakes up. I'll tell him you called."

"Thanks Luka." Susan said.

This was going to be rough when Carter woke up. It was just him and Abby there to try to get to the bottom of it. He silently wished Benton was here. Although he didn't like the surgeon he had gotten Carter to crack last time. He knew that the young doctor looked up to Benton for what reason he couldn't understand. Kerry wouldn't be happy when she found out about this, but then maybe she didn't have to. It would all depend on what Carter had to say when he awoke.

Luka closed his eyes and fell asleep he was certain that Carter would be sleeping for quite some time. He pulled Abby closer to him in his sleep out of old habit.

Carter awoke to a pounding headache. He didn't remember getting into bed. He had no recollection of how he got home. Oh god, he remember going to the bar and sitting with Luka. He couldn't remember how much he drank but he knew that he had to have been way to much. He stumbled to the bathroom to find the asprin, his head was killing him. He opened up the medicine cabinet and reached for it. Taking two of them he headed into the kitchen. He saw Luka sleeping on the couch, but what he couldn't believe was that Abby was curled up sleeping in his lap. Carter just stood there in disbelief.

Abby awoke to a noise in the kitchen. How long had she been asleep. She opened her eyes. She realized that she was curled up on Luka's lap. She sat up and saw Carter standing there in the kitchen staring at her.

"Good morning." She said.

"Yeah." Was all Carter could say. He turned an tried to find a glass to get some water.

Abby walked over to where he was standing, "how do you feel?"

"Like shit Abby." He aimed his words to hurt, "I don't know how you could do this."

Abby let that one go. She knew that Carter was trying to provoke her on purpose. "Would you like me to make coffee?"

"Not on my account," He said.

"Carter, we need to talk," She said. "Luka and I have been here all night worried sick about you. What's going on?"

"I don't want to talk about it Abby. Not with you, not with Luka hell I won't even talk with Weaver for that matter." He said.

"Carter, don't you understand anything I've been trying to tell you." She asked.

"I got the picture Abby, and I think that you've spelled things out quite clear now." Carter was hurt, angry and damn his head hurt something awful.

"No, I don't think you do." She said softly. "We can't end like this Carter. I don't want things to end with you."

"You have an odd way of showing that Abby." Carter said. "I know what I saw this morning."

"You know what you saw this morning. Two people who care about you Carter, spending the night on your couch to make sure that you didn't drown in your own vomit. You made sure that you got home from the bar where you were completely drunk. I was worried sick about you Carter. Your threats at the hospital. Never coming back again. You had us all scared shitless. And then I bring you here after finding you drinking at a bar and find this." She threw the bottle at him, "what are you thinking? What are you doing to yourself?"

"What am I doing to myself? You're crazy Abby. I'm not doing anything to myself yet. I haven't touched these. Do you have so little faith in me that you would think I'd turned back. No, instead I call you, I try to talk to you, to let you know that I needed you, and you tell me that things can't be the same as they were before. I was turning to you for help Abby and you shut me out!"

Carter yelling woke Luka up. He saw the two of them standing in the kitchen facing off. "What's going on?"

"Nothing is going on." Carter yelled. "You two have gotten it in your heads that I am nothing but a weak recovering addict who has slipped. That is so far from what has happened."

"Carter then tell us what has happened." Abby said, "let me in. Show me that we can talk."

"I don't have to show you anything. I don't have to prove anything to anyone." Carter said defensively.

"No you don't have to prove anything to me Carter. Just explain to me why the hell you have a bottle of Soma here. Come on you and I both know you are a recovering addict. Why the hell would anyone prescribe you soma. It's a highly addictive drug. Shit of course you know that but then you won't tell me what the hell is going on NOW WILL YOU!" Abby let him have it. She didn't care if Luka was standing there with his mouth hanging wide open listening to Abby lay into John. She was lit. He had pissed her off. "God Carter get it thru your think head, I love you, but right now you are making it awfully difficult."

Carter didn't say anything. He didn't know what to say. He didn't want to get into it right now and he thought that he was doing a pretty good job avoiding getting into it with her, but she had called him on the Soma.

"What do you want me to say Abby?"

"The truth Carter. Tell me what is wrong. Let me help you."

"I don't want your help Abby." He said.

"Carter we have been thru to much together to end it like this. I am not going to walk out on you. I can't do that. Don't ask me to do it." She said.

He was breaking and he knew it. He could feel the room closing in on him. "What are you going to go running to Kerry again. Mark's not here for you to go running to this time." He spat.

"If I have to do that I will. But don't make me. Luka is here to Carter don't put him between a rock and a hard place with all this. I am not going to let you just wash your hands of everything you have worked for that easily." She said to him.

"You want me to spill the truth to tell you everything. FINE!" Carter said, "you broke my heart Abigail Lockhart. I loved you, but you wouldn't let me in, you wouldn't let me be a part of your life. You would only let me look in from the outside. You kept everything to yourself, all the pain and hurt you wouldn't let me help you carry any of that burden. I cried that night that I left your apartment. It hurt, and it hurt badly. Now I find myself unable to sleep you are all I think about day in and day out. The fact that I can't have you the way that I want you. I don't want you to change, I just want you to trust me enough to lean on me when things get rough. But no you didn't want to do that. It was as if you were slapping me in the face. God damn it Abby I love you!" John's voice was rising, tears were starting to fall. "The nightmares are back. The pain is back and I can't handle it on my own. And I know damn well that the only reason it is back is cause I can't handle living with out you in my life. I need you so bad it makes my heartache when you are not here."

"I'm not going anywhere John, we had a fight and what I was telling you the other night was that I needed a little more time to think about what you had told me. I was trying to work my way up to be being more open an honest with you. It's not that I don't want to be with you, god help me I do. I love you more than I have ever loved anyone else. You mean the world to me. Please believe me when I say that."

John pulled her close to him. "We have to work this out Abby."

"I know we do, and we will." She said letting herself go to him.

Abby put her arms around his neck and held him so close that could barely breathe. They both knew that this is where they belonged. With each other no matter what came their way.

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