Bruised Hearts





The lights flashed, the music roared. A sea of bodies bounced up and down. It was an odd crowd: a mix of hard-core rock fans and fifteen year old boys, and Dave Malucci was partying in the mix. He emerged from the wild crowd hot and sweaty, and he ordered an ice cold beer from the bar. He sat down, popped his head back and sent the icy, bitter taste into his mouth, and listed to the music. With all that had happened, Dave was unsure whether he was trying to remember or forget what had happened that day.

Kerry had been in a particularly lousy mood that morning, contrasting sharply with what her demeanor had been *that night*. Then, there was Abby Lockheart. Yeah, she was cute, but what the hell was she thinking? Okay, he knew he had a problem with not actually seeing patients before he signed off on charts, but he thought Abby could handle it. She was a freakin' OB nurse and that had been one of his weakest areas. Besides, he was preoccupied with other things and she didn't even wake him up when Cathy first came in.

He didn't even want to think about Elizabeth Corday. He hadn't spoken to her more then a couple of times in the whole year that he'd been there, so what the fuck was up with her trying to make a judgement call on him?! But, she was fucking Mark Greene, so she was probably just listening to whatever Mark told her. At least, that's what he hoped.

Dave's biggest fear was that no one liked him or at least respected him in some way. Sure, he had made mistakes, but he was a good doctor. He was sure of it. But if nobody liked him... that was different. Abby would probably never speak to him again, Jin-Mei seemed more interested in Carter, and Mark didn't trust him. He had tried to be friendly with the trauma fellow, Peter Benton, but he didn't think that the "Dr. Pete" comment went over too well. Besides, he was with Cleo Finch, and her words about him were hardly kind either. He didn't speak to Luka Kovac much, but then again, no one did except Carol, and she had apparently run off -- to someone named Doug Ross in Seattle -- as the nurses gossiped. They knew all.

Well, there was Carter, but something was wrong with him. Dave tried making jokes, figuring Carter knew Kerry's story as well. "Festus" and "Hoss". It was supposed to be some odd, distorted joke. Carter didn't seem to get it, though. He just seemed detached.

Kerry Weaver a.k.a. "Chief", was different. Sure, her mood was god awful that morning, but whose wasn't after pulling a double? So, even if her words weren't too nice early, they were later. After the Cathy incident, he was obviously reported to Kerry by Dr. Corday, so he wasn't surprised that she called him into her office while he was going over some charts. He was almost sure he was toast.

But no... Kerry was surprisingly ice about it. Sure, she reprimanded him and she was upset, but she told him that she had also talked to Abby and told him that she was upset with Elizabeth as well for saying such demoralizing things. After all, Kerry was the only one who knew the truth about him. What Corday had done was not only inappropriate but incorrect. She respected him. She thought he did a good job. Maybe not in this case, but she told him he would be able to continue his residency.

Dave took another swig of his beer. He wished Kerry was there. Hold on a minute, he thought. Did he just want Kerry to be there? Ever since that night, he found himself thinking about her more and more. He didn't even mind putting up with her whistle and her temper as long as they were on the same shift. Besides, she was a great listener, a great teacher, a great doctor... and she was pretty. Everyday, he seemed to be thinking about her more than Jing-Mei or Abby or Randi.

He shook his head and took another gulp of his drink. It must be the beer. He couldn't possibly have feelings for his raven-haired boss. Well... he did have a thing for red-heads -- Kate Kelley -- the first girl he slept with had a mass of red hair, and boy was she gorgeous. But Kerry was different. There was more to her than just her pretty red hair, her smile, her eyes, they was she laughed, the way she yelled... She was even prettier when she was angry.

That's when it hit him. It wasn't the beer. Dave had been happier sleeping on her sofa then in any other woman's bed. He, Dave Malucci, the screw-up, the jerk, the insensitive little prick, was head over heels in love with Dr. Kerry Weaver. As he made his way back into the ocean of bodies, a smile spread across his face.

***

Carter couldn't believe what was happening to him. He had been shooting Gamma's medicine into his wrists until that morning when she had severe attack and he became insanely anxious that someone would discover his secret. He took about five of his pills instead, but his moods were erratic, his emotions were flying and he almost killed someone -- and with this, the lies increased.

Now, he drove on, sweating and shaking, headed towards his destination. Stealing narcotics from the ER was one thing he still couldn't do, but getting them from a friend was another option. He just needed the sweet liquid flowing through his veins to bring him back to normal so he could function like a human being. A thick, black watch now graced his wrist in order to hid his secret.

John knew that Kerry had chronic pain in her leg. And he knew where she kept her supply of codeine. He'd seen her take it sever times, but not too often in the needle form, so he doubted she'd notice if a few cc's were missing. He continued driving, in disgust that he would stoop as low as stealing drugs from his friend and boss. It made him sick to his stomach, but he NEEDED it. And it would be much safer then shoving a syringe in his pocket in the middle of a trauma.

He knew he couldn't tell his doctor he needed more med, though. According to that quack, who must've gone the "Dave Malucci School of Medicine", his pain should've ceased and he should start easing off the painkillers. That was why he needed to pay his former landlady a visit.

Carter glanced at the clock on the dashboard. 11:15. Kerry should have just gotten home and is probably pouring herself a drink and sitting down to read the latest Bestseller or some medical journal. It was doubtful that she would be displeased or suspicious of her unexpected guest. He kept telling himself, "Hi, I was in the neighborhood and figured I'd stop by." He had done it a couple of times, so it was unlikely she'd find anything unusual.

However, something in the pit of his stomach was telling him something was wrong. John shook it off. He wasn't about to go buy something on the street. He was too smart for that. Kerry Weaver it was. He spotted her house and parked his jeep. He was still shaking; the pills had had no effect. Soon he would get his fix. Carter approached the familiar house and knocked on the door. This visit was different, but she would never know.

***

Kerry poured herself a second glass of wine. It was so sweet after a long day, and boy, today had been long. First of all, she had worked all last night as well, so she was completely exhausted and took it out on everyone. Then, she had to deal with Carol walking out in the middle of her shift. Yes, she knew where Carol went, but she also knew that she would never be back, and it was now Kerry's headache to name a new nurse manager.

After that, there was Malucci. She had been thinking about Malucci a lot lately. That moment *that night* when she thought he was going to kiss her played in her mind again and again. Which may have been why she was especially crabby towards him that morning. Then came Elizabeth going on and on about his competency. However, Corday's judgement was a bit cloudy in the situation because of Mark... Not that her opinion was completely impartial either.

Kerry sighed. She was about to open her favorite Judith Krantz book and get lost in the racy world of "Scruples", when she heard the doorbell. It was strange that someone would stop by in general, let alone this late at night. Kerry limped over to the door, wine glass still in hand. She opened the door and saw none other than John Carter and his beautiful smile standing in her doorway.

Kerry felt an odd feeling of deja vu come over her. She remembered the first time she had seen Carter at her door when he came to rent the room. As she looked at John now, something was different. He looked god -- he always looked extremely attractive -- but he was obviously sweating and she noticed his hands shaking a little.

"Come in, Carter. I wasn't expecting you so late," she said awkwardly as John stepped over the threshold. Carter's heart was beating a mile a minute. He was fazed for a second, but he kept the plastic smile on his face.

"Umm... I was in the neighborhood... looking at condos, and, umm... I figured I'd stop by," he managed to stammer out. God, he really needed the codeine. His back was throbbing and so was his head, and he could feel his hands shaking. Kerry wondered why he was looking at places this late at night, but she wrote it off. It was nice to see Carter; he had seemed to distraught at work lately.

The two made their way over to the sofa. "John, do you want something to drink?" Kerry asked, rising again.

Carter nodded through the pain. "Just some coffee... decaf would be fine." It was time to get what he had come for. He felt the fresh syringe burning in his pocket. "Umm... Kerry... I'm gonna go use the bathroom, okay?"

Kerry didn't look up. "You know where it is."

Carter made his way to her bathroom. Something about the familiarity was surprisingly comforting to him. He still felt terrible about doing this, though. Carter entered the small, tiled room and quickly locked the door. He opened up the medicine cabinet. there were Kerry's pills, her vitamins, some over the counter meds, all spread out before his eyes. They roamed about until they lay on the small bottle of clearly marked liquid. Warnings were scrawled across the label, but Carter knew he was ignoring all of them.

He produced the syringe and began filling it. It hit him once again that he was stealing narcotics from his friend. Stealing. Narcotics. How many people came into the E.R. everyday desperate for narcotics. Now he was becoming one of them. It scared him shitless, but he still needed this. His brain felt like mush. Carter stared at the needle for a moment as he prepped his wrist.

As the sharp penetrated his skin and the cool liquid flowed into his veins, Carter began to calm down. His hands stopped quaking and the pain ceased. He felt like he was alive again. It was a wonderful feeling and every time it grew more intense; a stronger urge to feel the medicine flow through his veins. John removed the needle and placed it back into his pocket. Then, he put the small vile back into it's place.

Carter had sunk to an ultimate low. He had just injected Kerry's pain medicine into himself. A wave of guilt washed over him. She was his friend. He clutched the porcelain sink and swallowed hard while staring at himself in the mirror. The, he turned without looking back to face Kerry once again.

***

Kerry poured the coffee into two mugs. Instinctively, she poured a bit of milk and a pack of sugar into Carter's. Funny how she could still remember exactly how he took his coffee. She missed his company, but she knew he couldn't stay there. there had been too many nights where she wanted to go downstairs and lie down with him and have him hold her and kiss her and make love to her... But it was too risky. With her being ER Chief and his desire to be Chief Resident -- hell, she couldn't ruin his career for her fantasy.

She turned around and there he was, leaning against the wall. Something seemed different about him once more, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. A smile slowly spread across his face and she smiled back, blushing as her knees went weak. Dave, who? she thought. "Just how you like it," she said, producing the mug to John. he took a sip and smiled once more.

"You know me, Kerry," he responded. Carter was feeling better, but the now used syringe continued to burn in his pocket. Kerry looked good. So natural. Her soft, red hair fell loosely around her face. He always knew she was pretty, but she looked special tonight... Maybe it was the drugs talking. The pair made their way over to the sofa and sat down. The quilt that Dave had slept under still hung on the back, however, his spot was taken by another.

Kerry turned to Carter, her eyes very serious. "John, I've been worried about you. You just don't seem like yourself." She took a sip. The black coffee was hot and bitter as it went down her throat.

"I'm fine, Kerry," Carter replied wearily. That seemed to be what he was always saying lately.

"But, John, everyone cares about you... I care about you. And there's something different." She pleaded with her eyes. She wanted to know what was plaguing him. She already told him about her leg after Audia was killed. He was distressed then and it got him to talk. So why was he bottling things up again?

"Kerry, I'm sure you wouldn't be all that fine if you were stabbed with a seven inch butcher knife." The words came out so harshly, so un-Carter like. John glanced at the large black watched that graced his wrist. He finished his last sip of coffee. "Ker, it's almost one. I really better get going,"

"You know, Carter, it's quite a ways to your grandparent's. what don't you take you're old room for the night. I think some of your things are still down there," she offered. She so wanted him to say with her.

"That'd be nice, Kerry," he replied. Truth be told, he missed the basement. He smiled at her again. Boy, did she looked nice, he thought. He leaned over to kiss her cheek. At least, that's what he was aiming for. But his lips touched her lips instead. Gently, delicately.

Both were take aback. They looked at each other. For once, Carter's mind wasn't on his back or his meds or Lucy. Kerry turned the color of her hair. She never expected Carter -- or anyone she worked with for that matter -- to kiss her like that.

John placed his hand on her cheek and kissed her again, this time intentionally on her mouth. Kerry kissed back. This was longer, but just as soft, just as gentle, just as wonderful. Kerry had always dreamed of kissing John that way. When they finally broke apart, Carter smiled at her once more. "Well, I'd better get some sleep," he said, standing. He bent down and kissed her quickly. Then, he opened the door and disappeared into the basement.

Once alone in the dark, Carter removed his suit jacket. The needle still sat in his pocket. He pulled out his pack of cigarettes, opened the window, and lit one. It glowed in the darkness of the room. What had happened to him? One minute he was stealing Kerry Weaver's codeine, the next minute he was making out with her. Confusion coursed through his mind. He took another puff before putting out the cigarette. The hot smoke burned his lungs. He lay down on his back on the old bed and stared up at the ceiling. what was fuckin' happening to him? Was it the PTSD? The drugs? Or something else? Carter would lay awake once again. When he glanced at the clock, it said 2:15. It always did.

Kerry made her way into the bathroom. She was flushed with happiness. John Carter had kissed her. It was better then she had ever dreamed. She opened up the medicine cabinet, took out a bottle, popped one of her prescription pills into her mouth, and drank it down with some cool water. That's when her eyes wandered to the vile of codeine. She hadn't needed it for awhile, but for some reason, it looked a little more -- empty. Could John have...? she thought for an instant.

No, she corrected herself. John could never have... She could never believe it. But in the back of her mind, she was worried about the events that had taken place in her home that had taken place in her home that night. Including the brief moment of passion that had taken place between them. Yes, it made her feel as if she was dancing on air. However, it worried her too. Nonetheless, even she couldn't see what would happen next...



Part 6
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