A Birthday Surprise
AUTHOR: Victoria May
SPOILERS: Spoilers-most of season 6.
DISCLAIMER: er is property of nbc, warner, constant c, amblin, etc. no profit but the kind words from the fans.
SUMMARY: John's 30th birthday turns out to be much more than he expected.
John struggled to breath evenly as his heart pounded in his chest. His legs felt like putty and he was grateful to feel an arm wrap itself around his shoulders and support him. His wide eyes began to focus and he looked around the foyer, slowly recognising the mob of faces. Aunt Theresa, Uncle Rob, Estelle, Aunt Miranda, cousin Lenora, cousin Alfred. His gaze settled in the far corner as he saw Kerry, Mark, Dave, Abby, Luka, Haleh, Connie-all his friends from work gathered there. 'What was everyone doing here?' he wondered to himself.
"Happy birthday son." John was surprised to see his mother, who he had assumed was still out of the country, approach him. She smiled as she held him in a quick embrace, planting a kiss on his cheek. He was even more surprised as his father grasped his hand.
"Happy 30th son."
"I thought you were still in Taiwan." John said, still in shock from seeing his parents.
"Oh, they wouldn't miss this birthday for anything John," his grandmother said as she gave him a gentle squeeze.
John's mother peered at him and said, "Are you alright John? You're so pale." She paused and her eyes grew wide. "Oh John, I'm so sorry! What was I thinking? A surprise party is so innapropriate after. . ." She was interupted by John's father.
"Nonsense Nancy. The boy's fine. Now come on John, smile and greet your guests," his father ordered.
John took a deep breath and glanced quickly at his grandmother who smiled and wrapped her arm around his shoulders again. Gently, she led him over to his Aunt Martha and Uncle Stephen.
John mustered the most sincere smile he could manage and greeted them. "Aunt Martha. Uncle Stephen. It's so good to see you both. Thank you for coming. This is quite a surprise."
"It's good to see you up and about Johnny boy. Happy birthday. The big '3' '0'. You kids are growing up too fast. It's always a bit disconcerting to see our Patrick heading up a board meeting or wining and dining some big wig. I think to myself, 'that was me thirty five years ago.' Did you catch him in last months Forbes? Threw me for a loop I tell you." His uncle laughed with pride for his own son's achievements. "How are things at that hospital you work at John? I still can't believe that you went back to that place after what happened. You know, we're all still waiting for you to come and join us in the business. I'm sure we can scrape up a nice corner office with a fine view for you. Just say the word."
John had recognised the speech and had fallen into Carter mode while his uncle droned on. He smiled appeasingly and laughed. "Hold that office for me Uncle Stephen, you never know, I just might surprise you one of these days. You never know when all the glamour of medicine will wear off."
John moved on, greeting family members and his family's business associates. He received birthday wishes intermingled with condolences for his "accident", as well as a few more exclamations of horror that he returned to work at the place where he was nearly killed. Slowly, he was making his way to the back corner where his friends and colleagues were gathered. As he was about to greet Luka, he was stopped by his Great Aunt Edith.
"John, darling. It's so wonderful to see you. You're looking well. A bit pale, a bit thin, but that's to be expected I would assume. So how are you? Please tell me that you have decided to come to work with the family. I believe we have a vice-president spot open somewhere. If not, we can create one. Please, tell me I will be graced with your presence at my next business luncheon."
John smiled placatingly. "That sounds wonderful Aunt Edith, but I'm happy where I am."
His aunt responded condescendingly, "John, when are you going to outgrow this childish fantasy of yours? You know we need you in the business. You did so well in your financial courses. We all assumed you would head up the accounting department of the division of your choice. You still can, you know."
John sighed. He didn't have the patience he once had to placate his relatives in this matter. It didn't help that he had considered joining the family after he was stabbed, and the thought still plagued him from time to time.
"Please, Aunt Edith. I've worked very hard to become a doctor. It's what I want to be. It's what I love doing. I wish you could understand that."
John's aunt was quickly becoming distraught. "I don't understand it John Carter. I don't understand it at all. Why would a man of your intelligence and social position want to throw away everything that has been handed to you? Your Great Uncle Bryce, God rest his soul, worked night and day to help the business get to where it is today. Your grandfather, your father. And you spit on all of their hard work!"
John realised that he had to say something to calm his aunt, before she drew a much dreaded spotlight on him. It was bad enough everyone he had greeted so far had asked when he was joining the business, now his aunt was becoming agitated and the other guests were starting to stare at them.
John reached out and took his aunt's frail hand in his own. He realised just how old his great aunt had gotten and felt guilty for not empathising with her need to see him rejoin the family. In her own way, she was pleading with him to close the gap that had grown to an almost insurmountable proportion.
He looked into his aunt's eyes and spoke gently. "I'll think about, okay? Why don't you send me the materials on all the divisions and I'll look through them and make my decision."
"Oh John. That's wonderful. I'm going to go and call George and have him put together the information for you. I am so happy." John's aunt glowed and made her way to the library to call her personal assistant. John felt badly for the man. He probably had a family and now he would have to go back to the office, and it was already nine o'clock at night.
John noticed his friends from the ER looking at him, surprised and shocked looks on their faces. He hurried over to them so he could explain.
"I see that you all heard that. Sometimes it's better to tell them what they want to hear. Save the confrontation for later."
Kerry nodded in understanding, as did Mark and Jing Mei. Luka looked at him with concern.
"Are you all right? You look ill."
"I'm alright. A bit surprised is all. I wasn't expecting this. And to see my parents here, well, let's just say it ranks up there under the pope coming to see me. I do wish my gamma had warned me though. I thought my heart had stopped for good when I walked in."
"I could tell. The look on your face was priceless." joked Dave.
"Ha ha Dave. Thank you very much. I'm having a heart attack and you're laughing."
"Not laughing my man-I was too stunned to laugh. I can't believe this place. You live here? This place is as big as the Taj Mahal. If I were you, I'd get on the bandwagon and ensure my rightful place on the throne." Jing Mei elbowed Dave in the ribs.
"That is so uncouth Dave!" Jing Mei glowered at him. "You may think it's all roses and wine coming from a family like this, but believe me, it's not. We have as many skeletons in our closets as the next family. We can just afford to hide them better. And besides, are we supposed to sell our souls for a chunk of the inheritance? How fair is that? Aren't we entitled to decide for ourselves what we're going to do, who we're going to be?"
"Whoa! I'm sorry. I didn't realise you rich folk had it so rough." Dave grumbled.
"Okay you two. Knock it off. It's my birthday, remember? And I say no fighting. Got it?" John scolded.
"Sorry John." Jing Mei said.
John noticed his father signaling him to join him across the room. "I'll be right back. Now behave!"
Jing Mei started to walk after John and put her arm through his. "I thought you could use a little support over there. I know how parents can be." Jing Mei smiled up at John. John smiled back and patted her hand.
"You must be a mind reader."
John and Jing Mei approached his father. "Father, I would like you to meet Jing Mei Chen, she's also a resident at County." John's father reached out and took Jing Mei's extended hand, and brought it to his lips, lightly kissing it.
"A pleasure." Jing Mei blushed. John's father turned to John. "John, I have someone I would like you to meet. This is Gerald Moyers, president of GlobalCom International." An older man with white hair and a matching white mustache reached for John's hand.
"Good to meet you son."
John shook his hand and replied, "Mr. Moyers. How are you?"
John's father leaned forward and said, "That's why I called you over. Mr. Moyers isn't feeling too well. I thought maybe you could look him over. You know, use some of that education I paid for."
John peered at the older man. He did seem to be breathing with some difficulty and his face was flushed. "Of course. Why don't we go into the library where we can have some privacy." He turned to Jing Mei. "Deb, would you join us?" John signaled for one of the staff and asked him to bring his medical bag downstairs.
The four went into the library and John helped Mr. Moyer onto a couch. Soon the staff arrived with his bag. John examined the elderly man and is was obvious he was experiencing a heart attack.
"Mr. Moyers, I need you to relax. You're having a heart attack. I want you to get as comfortable as you can. Dad, call for an ambulance."
John's father did as he was instructed and returned to find John and Jing Mei treating his friend. A blood pressure cuff was around the man's arm and John had his stethoscope pressed to the man's exposed chest. He watched as Jing Mei injected something into the man's arm, but was too afraid to ask what it was. He'd already had too many friends die from heart attacks and feared that he was about to lose another. Finally he cleared his throat and questioned his son.
"John, what's happening? Is he going to be alright?" John stood up and asked Jing Mei to continue monitoring the man and walked over to his father.
John lightly put his hand on his father's arm. "He's having a heart attack. We're doing everything we can to help him and make him comfortable. But we can't do much until the ambulance gets here." John sensed how concerned his father was and was surprised. He didn't know his father could care this deeply about another person.
"Dad, why don't you sit down here. We'll let you know if anything changes. But for right now he is stable. Are you okay?" John's father nodded. "Okay. I have to get back and keep monitoring his vitals."
The elder Mr. Carter watched as his son worked diligantly on his friend. His breath caught as John's voice grew louder.
"Mr. Moyers! Can you hear me?" John turned to Jing Mei. "He's going into full cardiac arrest. He's not breathing. Check his pulse!"
"No pulse!" Jing Mei responded. "We have to do CPR. I'll start rescue breathing, you start compressions." Jing Mei and John alternated between pumping on the man's chest and breathing into his lungs. Finally, after about three minutes, Jing Mei motioned for John to stop his compressions.
"I feel a pulse! He's not breathing yet-I'll continue rescue breathing!" Jing Mei said.
She stopped after checking for breath a fourth time and said, "He's breathing." She sighed as John leaned forward and listened to his chest.
"We've got a steady rhythm and good breath sounds." Mr. Moyers stirred and opened his eyes.
"Just lie still Mr. Moyers. Your heart stopped and we had to do CPR. Your ribs are probably cracked, so lie still until the ambulance arrives." John looked at Mr. Moyers with the concern he usually showed his patients in the ER.
Mr. Moyers reached out to John. "Thank you," he whispered.
"Your welcome," John responded, giving the man a gentle smile. "Now just relax, you're going to be fine. I hear the ambulance, you'll be at the hospital in no time." John squeezed the man's hand reassuringly.
Suddenly the library doors flung open and John's grandmother hurried into the room. "What is going on? There's an ambulance outside! Is someone hurt? Is John alright?"
"I'm fine gamma. Mr. Moyers here had a heart attack. The ambulance is for him."
The paramedics were ushered into the room at that point and began to load Mr. Moyers onto their gurney. One of the paramedics turned to John and Jing Mei.
"Hey Dr. Carter, Dr. Chen. Can't catch a break huh? And I bet you thought you were off duty. Looks like it's someone's birthday. Hope this doesn't ruin the festivities."
John laughed and waved at the departing paramedic. John's father had been sitting quietly and now stood.
"Ms. Chen, if you could excuse us, I'd like to have a word with my son." Jing Mei looked at John, who nodded at her. She gently touched his arm as she passed.
John's father collapsed into a chair and John rushed to his side. "Dad? Are you alright?" he asked concerned.
"I thought I was going to lose another friend tonight John. You may not know this, but Gerald is my closest friend. He was my mentor when I was first getting into the business. You saved his life John. He would have died. If I had my way, he would have died. I can see now why you chose to become a doctor. Watching you work on him, save his life, it made me realise how foolish I have been all these years. How ignorant I have been. We've all been. I know I don't act like it very often, but I am a God fearing man, and you have God working through your hands John. To save lives, that is a gift. To think that I have looked down on you for such a wonderful gift. I have been a fool John. I can only hope that you can forgive me."
John watched as his father crumpled foward, burying his face in his hands.
"Dad. I know how important the family business is to you. I always have. For the longest time, I tried to convince myself that I would be happy being a part of it. But deep down, I knew otherwise. So when I got to college and had the opportunity, I tried premed. And it felt so good. It felt right. Maybe the way the business feels to you. I'm grateful that you didn't stop me when I applied to medical school. I know that I disappointed you, but you allowed me to follow my dream. I have always remembered that. Maybe that's why I have been able to tolerate all the pressure to join the business. Knowing that you believed in me enough to make up my own mind has kept me going."
John's father looked at him, his eyes full of compassion. "Son. I have always believed in you. And when you went back to work after that God-awful incident, I saw a strength in you that isn't in the rest of us. You faced death, straight on and kept going. Maybe there were a few bumps in the road, but you survived. You came out on top. I never doubted that you would. You make me proud son." He walked over to John and embraced him.
"Let's get back to the party. They're probably missing the guest of honor by now."
They walked to the door and opened it, stepping out into the crowd. John's father grabbed two champaigne glasses and handed one to John. He raised his glass and motioned for silence.
"I'd like to propose a toast! To my son-the best doctor in the whole city of Chicago! Happy birthday John."
"Here, here!" A cheer went up through the room. Jing Mei walked up to John and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
"For the birthday boy." she said, grinning coyly. John watched as she walked back towards his friends. She turned before reaching them, and winked at John. He could feel the blush spread across his face. As if seized by some unknown force, he raced after her and caught her in his arms. Twirling her around, he ran his fingers through her dark hair and brought his lips down to hers. Passionately he kissed her and felt her arms slide up his back, coming to rest on his neck. He pulled back and grinned down at Jing Mei.
"Thank you." he said.
Jing Mei smiled at him. "We do make a pretty good pair, don't we John?"
"And how," John laughed. He faintly heard the cheers and catcalls of his guests, in response to the display, as he took her into his arms once again.