Best I Ever Had
SPOILERS: Up to "Orion in the Sky"
ARCHIVE: Sure, just tell me where
DISCLAIMER: I own Carter! I've just always wanted to say that. Kay, fine, I really don't own him. I wish I did though. It'd be fun to have Carter as my love slave. Wha? You thought I'd own Carter and NOT make him my love slave????
AUTHOR'S NOTES: So you sailed away into a grey sky morning... Sorry, I have this horrible habit of listening to music when I write. Which is why I end up with fics titled after songs. Anyway, since TPTB are morons and wrecked the possibility of a believable relationship between my favorite characters, I figured that I could fix it. So this is set, post "Orion in the Sky", but this section is a bit of a prologue to fix what TPTB screwed up.
Carter, to say that he was cute would be an understatement, but ever since his first day as a med student we all knew he was cute... well, beyond cute, actually. There was something about him, something that just drew people to him. Maybe it was his kind nature, maybe the fact that he really cared about people, maybe it was that he was just a good person. Whatever, it was, Carter drew people to him, though in terms of relationships, it was never the RIGHT kind of people. First there was Liz, who caused him quite a bit of embarrassment, then of course, Harper. He was awfully sweet to me the night that Div left. I found that when he went in for that kiss, I wanted to kiss him back, very much so. Yet, I knew it was against the rules, he was a med student, I was a resident, and there were rules against it. I knew it would hurt my career, but I was more worried about it hurting Carter's. He'd worked so hard, had so much potential. Sure, I'd probably catch most, if not all of the heat, but I couldn't put him in the line of fire. Even if he didn't have any repercussions for it, he would still be suspected of "sleeping his way to the top". Carter was too good of a doctor, too good of a person to have to deal with that.
So I avoided his kiss that night, trying not to focus on the disappointment on his face. After all, I was stinging over Div still and even if no one ever found out, it wouldn't be right for me to use Carter this way. So I went inside alone. Time passed, Mark became single again. Mark was a nice guy, we certainly got along, and while we were great as friends, I just... I didn't feel attracted to him THAT way. Of course, I didn't discover this until I decided to leave for Phoenix, and realized that while I would miss Mark's friendship, that was all of him that I would miss. Meanwhile, I tried to ignore the pang of jealousy I felt when I saw Carter with Harper. Carter seemed completely in love with her, but something about how she felt about him seemed... off, somehow. I later heard through the ER grapevine that she cheated on him with Doug Ross. I had briefly wondered, if this would mean Carter was now available, but I brushed those off and tried to convince myself that I liked Mark.
Mark, he really is a great guy, I probably already said that. The thing is though; Mark seems more like the brother I never had than someone who makes me hot. I'd had a history of falling for jerks, so when Mark started to show interest in me, I was... well, flattered, but beyond that, I wanted to break my own pattern. I figured I could develop feelings for Mark. I could finally fall for a nice guy, and stop dating flakes. Chemistry can't be forced though, and I learned that with Mark. The harder I tried to make myself develop something more than friendly feelings for Mark the more I caught myself fantasizing about other men. Unfortunately, the other man that kept springing into my thoughts was Carter. Maybe it's the beautiful brown eyes, the thick hair, the sweet smile. Maybe it was just Carter, the sweet guy I worked with every day, he was becoming a great doctor, as I knew he would. In odd moments, I found myself wondering what would have happened if I had let myself kiss him that night.
Little Suzie leaving was the last straw as my life in Chicago went. Things hadn't felt right for a while there, maybe it was because I was trying to make myself love Mark as more than a friend while he was trying to work up his courage to ask me out. I found that I was hoping that he WOULDN'T work up his courage instead of hoping he would. That thought alone distressed me. Then there were my nightly Carter fantasies, the more I tried to push him out of my mind, and the more I found I couldn't stop thinking of him. Add to the mix that the child that I raised, the little girl I loved dearly was now gone and it was too much to bear. I found myself starting to think about escaping. At first, I thought about going to work at a different hospital so I wouldn't have to deal every day with the Mark/Carter situation. However, as time went on, I realized to truly escape the situation, I would have to go away... far away. After my trip to Phoenix, I found an easy solution to my problem. Yes, I wussed out and took the easy way out. I guess I've never been one for confrontation.
So I left, left the confusion of Mark and Carter behind. It seems Mark finally worked up his courage as I was getting on the train. I felt bad for him; I've always loved him as a friend, but nothing more. I convinced myself I wasn't exactly lying when I called back that I loved him as the train pulled away. In the years that passed, I've heard about Mark's dating exploits through Carol. I wanted to stay in touch with him because after all, we were friends, but I was afraid that I'd hurt him and how could I tell him that I was partially leaving because I knew he loved me and I didn't return his feelings? It wasn't something that was easy to say. I took the coward's way out, I knew I did.
As for Carter, well, I tried to avoid him the best I could. I just tried to put him completely out of my mind. I really didn't hear much about him since I left Chicago. One part of me was glad for that, and I tried to ignore the other part, the part that ached for him still. I convinced myself that it was just a crush, that was all it was. As time went by I slowly became involved in my life in Phoenix. I met this guy, he seemed nice, and so when he asked me to marry him I said yes. Just like with Mark, though, I didn't feel anything for him. When I realized I was in the same exact situation that I had thought I escaped by leaving Chicago, I panicked. I broke off the engagement. To say that the breakup was an easy one would be a blatant lie. He was hurt, I was upset that I had hurt him and wondered how I kept getting into these situations.
I went back to, well, back to my fallback plan, running away. Although different parts of the country looked appealing to me, I felt drawn to go back to Chicago. Maybe it was because I figured that Mark would be over me and it would be safe to go back, or at least, that was what I told myself. I figured that Carter would be long gone from County by then. I wouldn't have to face him, and I figured that by now he was married to someone else. So I went back to Chicago to look for a job, I decided to drop in to see Mark, just to see what he'd been up to. Seeing Mark was nice, familiar, and I was relieved to find out that he was now married. Things reminded me of how they were before. I felt horrible not being there for him, especially when I had heard of all he'd been through since I left. Still, he didn't seem angry with me and that was a good sign. The plan to move back to Chicago seemed great... well, except for one thing.
Carter was still at County, and somehow he seemed even MORE adorable than he had five years ago. A quick update and I found out that he was single still. Now, chief resident, he was more comfortable with himself, more self-assured, but the qualities that I was attracted to five years ago were still there. My heart skipped a beat when I saw him. Of course, he was friendly, remembered me and greeted me with a big hug. I wasn't eager at first to take the job Mark offered me at County, but as he tossed me my old hideously smelling lab coat, instead of how bad it smelled, I found myself thinking that it wouldn't be against the rules to date Carter now. I was surprised by my own thoughts. I forced myself to focus on the friendship Mark was offering me, instead of what my hormones, which had kicked into overdrive the moment I'd seen Carter. I thought that five years could have dulled the feeling, unfortunately not.
Against my own better judgment I accepted the job at County. Carter and I quickly became friends. My heart soared the day that he told me that he used to have a crush on me. We started dating and it seemed like what I had fantasized about for years was finally going to come true. Sure, I'd heard the rumors that he was secretly pining after Abby Lockhart. Again, another woman who didn't seem to love him back. I tried to ignore it but he DID seem to follow her around like a lovesick little puppy. I felt stupid for ever thinking that he could have loved me. For that reason mainly, I decided that we'd wait to sleep together. I just couldn't face the thought of being with Carter knowing that he was in love with someone else.
The final straw came the morning after I spent the night taking care of Mark. Carter was acting incredibly jealous and I… well, considering the way he looked at Abby, I didn't think he even had the right to. We spent the day in that stupid sexual harassment seminar, I discovered more as the day went on that regardless of what Abby thought of Carter, Carter was in love with her. He practically spent most of the time competing with Luka for Abby's affections. I felt like such a fool. When we finally got outside, I kissed him and asked if he felt nothing as well. Relieved, he admitted that he didn't, and we peacefully parted ways. All in all, I was satisfied with the way things ended between us, except for one thing, I lied.