Bruised Hearts





Kerry slammed the door behind her, and slumped up against it. Tears streamed down her cheeks. She couldn't believe it. Not Carter. Why? she couldn't stop thinking. Why would he do that to himself? How come no one noticed earlier? Why didn't she come to him? Questions swarmed through her mind.

She kept going over the day's events again and again in her head. The realization, the intervention, his leaving, Peter's phone call saying they were on their way to Atlanta. Now, all of the trauma he was put through because of the stabbing would double with him needing to go to drug rehab.

Her thoughts couldn't stop coming back to John's face. It frightened her. A face that was normally so tender and loving had been so cold and scornful. Kerry wiped her eyes, her fingers sweeping against the warm water that flowed down her cheeks.

She had fallen in love with John well before he had kissed her about a week ago. He had been the most wonderful person Kerry had ever met. Now, he was lost to his addiction; to his demons. She had wanted to reach out and pull him back, but he wouldn't let her. She couldn't believe that he would steal from anyone, let alone the hospital. She never thought Carter was capable of stealing.

Her thoughts roamed back to the night he kissed her. He had shown up so odd looking -- all tired and sweaty -- but he had gotten over it and was able to share that blissful moment with her after he returned from the bathroom....

"SHIT!" Kerry cried out loud as the pieces of the puzzle began to fit together. Carter knew about the narcotics she sometimes took for her leg pain. Could he have really...? She tried to erase the thought from her mind, but it kept coming back to her. If he did, did their moment of passion occur only because he was high and not because he felt anything for her?

In a tearful rage, Kerry crutched to the bathroom and tore open the door. She opened up the medicine cabinet with such force that the mirror slammed into the wall and a long, jagged crack ran across it. Bottles flew all over as she swept through the cabinet, each landing on the floor with an initial bang followed by several smaller clicks. The only thing left standing after the storm was the bottle of codeine.

Kerry wiped her tear-stained face once again as she lifted the bottle out of the cabinet. She stared at it intently as she limped slowly out of the bathroom. When she reached the foyer, Kerry stopped and held it up to the light. The amount of medicine was clearly depleted. The realization dawned on her. John Carter who she CARED about so much, John Carter who she LOVED had stolen drugs from her.

As a loud sob escaped her throat, Kerry flung the glass container at the door. It shattered, and the delicate liquid no lay in a puddle on the white tile. Kerry turned her back, made her way to the sofa, and flung herself on top of it as the tears cascaded down her face. She clung to the quilt that still graced the back of the furniture. The same quilt that Carter had leaned against the night he kissed her. The same quilt that Dave Malucci slept under after he told her about his sick, twisted childhood memories.

The first time she let herself get close to people, she ended up an absolute mess. She had gone too far. Malucci seemed more subdued. More eager to get help, but his fire seemed to have disappeared. She saw something different, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. Now, John Carter, the man she loved was on his way to Atlanta to go into a drug treatment program.

Kerry thought back to that afternoon; to the intervention. She had been so blind to his problems, so into him that she hadn't noticed his addiction. When he flipped out and left, she was so frightened that he would disappear forever. Luckily, Peter Benton had called her from the plane. He reassured her that he was with Carter on the plane to Atlanta, and would make sure he was checked in before returning. Yes, it made Kerry breathe a sigh of relief, but she still couldn't believe what was happening. Just as she couldn't believe it when Lucy died.

Lucy's demise had been the catalyst. If only she had been able to save Lucy. This entire incident would be on her head forever. The party; everything was her fault. Even her sternal saw study would now haunt her for all eternity. However, Carter's life was in her hands as well.

Kerry wanted to open a bottle of alcohol and drink everything away, but she didn't. She couldn't turn to chemicals this time. She had to let it hurt; that would be her punishment. Kerry continued to cry until her eyes ran dry and she disappeared into the darkness.

***

Dave Malucci sped down the sidewalk on his bike. Something had happened at work that day, and he needed to get to her -- he needed to help her. Kerry Weaver was the raven-haired love of his life, and she needed his help.

That afternoon, he had been checking the board when he saw her red-faced and sniffling on the phone. Dave managed to pick up a few words of the conversation: "Benton... Atlanta.... rehab... Carter." What the hell had been going on? Dave wanted to follow Kerry out of there -- she promptly left after the phone call -- but Mark Greene stopped him. Told him to cover the rest of Carter's shift. Dave agreed, but he wanted to be with Kerry now. She had helped him and now she needed his help.

So, the moment the clock struck 11:00 p.m., Dave grabbed his bike and pedaled out of there like lightning in the direction of Kerry's place. Ever since the realization hit him that he was in love with her, he wasn't quite sure how to act. He couldn't flirt and smirk like he did with the other women at County. No, Kerry was different. So, he continued to refer to her as "Chief", counting the hours until their next shift together, and going straight to her on any medical cases he was having a difficult time with.

Kerry wasn't just "Chief" to him now. She was HIS "Chief", his motivation, the force behind him. She was everything. And now, she was distraught. He wasn't stupid. He knew what was up with Carter. Dave had seen his share of friends get addicted to all sorts of drugs -- it wasn't hard to see that the signs were all there. But the others were blind to it, and now it was quite obvious where the popular doctor was headed. However, for some reason, it was hitting Kerry hard. Dave was more afraid of what that reason might be then anything else.

Sweat dripped down the sides of his face, his dark blue scrub top that still graced his body clung to him as he sped through the streets of Chicago. Through the slums, through the pain and terror of the streets, through the ghosts of his own past, through the smell of death and decay, until he came out into the light of the middle class townhouses and apartments. Into an area of hidden problems -- alcoholism, abuse, suicide.

The light shown dimly through one window. The familiar light from Kerry Weaver's living room. Hell, Dave would feel better just sitting out on her front stoop then anywhere else in the world. He slowed and then stopped his bike. He carefully dismounted, sweated and determined, and pushed the kickstand down with his foot to steady the bike.

Dave Malucci walked up to Kerry's front door and swallowed. It was the moment of truth. He rang the doorbell.

***

An addict. The words rang clear in John's mind. Four months ago, that word meant many things to him. It described the countless number of people who came into the ER day after day either drug seeking or overdosed. IT described his cousin Chase, whose heroine use rendered him brain damaged. It covered his many relatives who bounced in and out of AA. Four months ago, John would never have equated the word with himself. But that was four months ago. Before the stabbing that turned his world upside down.

Now, he was on a plane to Atlanta, headed to a rehab center. A drug rehab center. For addicts. There was that word again. How did he ever let it come to this? First the pills, the Gamma's meds, then Kerry's, then... Kerry. Carter felt terrible. He had betrayed her; played on her affections. During the intervention, when he had mentioned drug-seeking tendencies, he realized she knew. First, he had stolen her medication, but then why did he have to go and kiss her too? Why did all of his built up affection choose that moment?

Carter's thoughts were interrupted by his traveling companion. "Carter, you want something to drink?" Peter Benton asked him. John just shook his head. He couldn't believe what he had done that day. Stealing the Fentanyl and letting himself get caught. Breaking down in Dr. Benton's arms. What would Dr. Benton think of him now? An addict. Damn, there was that word again.

Defeat. That's how CArter felt when he was sitting on that plane -- defeat. He wasn't able to chase his demons away, and now they had engulfed his entire mind, rendering him to a mere spectator to the events that had been taking place. And now, here he was, headed into the unknown. John stared out the window wondering how long it would be before he no longer embodied the word. An addict.

***

Kerry was still lying on the sofa with tears streaming down her face, when she heard the doorbell. This temporarily put her thoughts of John on hold, as she wondered who it could be.

She picked herself up into a pseudo sitting positions using her palms. Once she was centered, she wiped her tear-stained face for the umpteenth time that night. Was it Mark or Luka wondering if she was all right after she had stormed out of the ER in a whirlwind?

Kerry grasped her crutch firmly for the deformity that was her leg felt weak and heavy. Once into the foyer, she meekly cried out, "I'm coming", as the doorbell sounded again. Upon reaching it, Kerry flung open the door to see none other than Dave Malucci standing in the dim light that shown on the landing. Before Kerry could open her mouth, Dave spoke.

"Kerry, are you all right?" Before she could respond, and overwhelming burst of sadness came over her, and the tears once more flowed down her face. Almost instinctively, Dave stepped over the threshold and embraced the pathetic, cringe creature that he loved so much. "Shh... it's okay", he repeated over and over. The familiar smells of the room reminded him of the night when he poured his heart and should out to her -- all things hidden had come out. But now, there was something wrong, and she obviously needed him. However, he continued to carefully assure has he carefully stroked her hair.

The minutes felt like hours before she finally spoke through the tears. "John... Carter... stolen Fentanyl... rehab" was all she managed to get out through the sobs. This confirmed Dave's suspicions, but he couldn't let her know that he knew.

"Ker, are you telling me that Carter's in rehab?" Dave asked innocently, looking at her.

Kerry sniffed; the tears had momentarily stopped. "In Atlanta. He... he's been stealing narcotics. Abby caught him this morning injecting himself with Fentanyl... after a trauma... and... and a few weeks ago... he... he stole some of my own medicine... I couldn't believe it... Carter... John... Why didn't he talk to me? Why didn't he tell me? I could've helped....." The tears stared up once more.

Dave cupped her face with his hands. He used his thumbs to wipe the tears from her eyes. "Kerry," he said softly, "you helped me. You reached out to me like nobody ever has before. I haven't had a nightmare since that night, when you let me tell you about my dad. Ker, don't feel bad about Carter. No one could have known. You can't blame yourself. You're a wonderful person. You're smart, you're caring -- you're beautiful. When I'm away from you, I feel like a part of me is missing, and being with you made me feel complete. Nothing anyone could say or do could change that. I love you, Kerry Weaver."

The words had come out of his mouth. He had said those three words that seldom passed through his lips. He repeated them again softly, "I love you."

Kerry was taken aback. Dave Malucci, slacker, goof-off, skirt chaser, had just told her that he was in love with her. She felt her face turn red. She couldn't deny that there wasn't a spark between them, but at that same time, she was unsure. However, she let the moment overwhelm her. Dave held her face in his hands tenderly and slowly leaned down. as their lips touched, a volt of electricity ran through Dave's body. The kiss was gently and sensual; soft, but deepening as it went on. The two pairs of lips parted and met again in perfect sync.

As Kerry returned Dave's kisses, immense confusion came over her. She remembered what had happened with Carter. His smile and his gentle kisses. Kerry never dreamed she would kiss one of her coworkers, let alone two, and she knew her job would probably be affected by these "incidents". And even as she stood there kissing him, she knew it wasn't Dave she loved. It was John Carter and only John Carter that she would risk losing it all for. At once, Kerry broke off the kiss and pulled away.

Dave was surprised at this. "What's wrong, chief? Was that...?"

She cut him off. "that's exactly it. I'm your boss. We shouldn't be doing this."

Dave was hurt and angry. His eyes burned from the tears. Looking at Kerry, he knew she was lying. "No, Kerry Weaver. I know that's not the problem. I'm not Carter, goddamn it!" Kerry looked at him surprised. How did he -- how could he know. Malucci continued, "Joy think I don't know what's going on? The way you look at him. But if you opened your eyes you'd realize that there's a guy who worships the ground you walk on, and he's standing right in front of you."

"Malucci," Kerry said, trying not to hurt the young man's feeling, but knowing what she said was going to, "about a week ago something happened between us."

Dave grew pale. "You mean you slept with him?!" Just the words made him sick to his stomach.

"No," Kerry responded, "but... he kissed me, and I don't know what's going on between us. That's why I have to see him. I don't know if it's because he was on my meds or if he actually cares about me. Dave, I'm sorry, but I need to find out."

Dave stared out into the distance. Droplets began to form in the crevices of his eyes. His heart had just been ripped out; shattered into thousands of pieces, unable to fastened together again. He glanced back in Kerry's direction, giving her a look of such heartbreak, that it melted her own mind too much.

On a last ditch effort to win the heart of the woman he loved so dearly, Dave reached down and lifted her off the ground and once more, pressed his lips to hers. Kerry released her grip on the crutch and let it fall to the floor as she let herself taste his sweet lips once again.

For Dave, this kiss felt like an eternity; for Kerry, only a moment. However, her mind was made up. As he set her down gingerly, she declared, in a voice that only she had the power to use. The authoritative, declarative tone that defined her as the "chief".

"I'm going to Atlanta."

"Then I'm coming with you."



Part 7
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