Care To Join Me?

CATEGORY: Friendship/Romance
RATING: PG-13 I guess - if u disagree please let me know!
SPOILERS: " The Letter", a small spoiler for " A Simple Twist Of Fate", " On The Beach" - although I suppose u must b very far behind if you don't know about Mark's death.
ARCHIVE: Urm don't mind but if it's newhere other than the lounge, can u please let me know. Thanks! :)
DISCLAIMER: I don't own ER or ne of the characters, some lucky millionaire does I guess but I sure wish I did! I don't make ne money from this and I'm only borrowing the characters. U could probably sue me but all I own is a cat and some stargate videos so it wouldn't b worth it!
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Set sometime after " On The Beach" - Carby fluff, I can't help it! Those 2 are so sweet! Oh and reviews would be very much appreciated, flames will be eaten!
SUMMARY: After a hectic day in the ER, Carter goes 2 eat ... and invites Abby to join him. I know, doesn't sound very exciting does it? Oh well please just read it. It's better than it sounds, trust me!

     Carter entered the lounge and headed straight for his locker. It was well past the end of his shift and he was exhausted. After five major traumas, an angry drunk, an annoying little brat with an ear infection and a bus-load of irate elderly people with minor cuts and bruises, all he wanted to do was go home, have a nice, hot shower and go straight to bed. He put his white coat and stethoscope into his locker and grabbed his jacket as he slammed the locker shut and headed for the door. Just as he reached for the handle, somebody on the other side flung open the door and ran straight into him.

" Excuse me!" " Oh I'm so sorry!" came the simultaneous apologies. Suddenly they both erupted into laughter as they both realised who the 'other' was.

" Going somewhere in a hurry Abby?" quipped John, still grinning. Smiling back, Abby replied

" Shift's just finished. Just grabbing my stuff from my locker and then I'm outta here!"

" Got any plans?" he asked. She shook her head. " Oh well, are you hungry? I was just about to go get dinner at Doc Magoo's. Care to join me?"

Figuring that the only thing waiting for her at home was a frozen TV dinner, a half bottle of wine (that had once belonged to Luka and was long since abandoned) and some soppy '30s movie she had rented over a week ago and had not got around to watching, she decided that Carter's offer was much more appealing. So she accepted.


On the way out of the unusually quiet ER, they said goodnight to Frank, Jing Mei, Chuny and the few other nurses that were floating around the desk checking the board and filing charts. As the door closed behind them, Frank commented

" I wonder where they're going?", to which Chuny replied

" I don't know but I'm pretty sure Luka wouldn't be too happy about it!", causing Frank to shrug.

" Doctors!", he sighed. Then, suddenly realising that Dr. Chen was listening to their conversation, he quickly added, " No offense!". Looking up from her chart she smiled,

" None taken."


" Hey Carter, why don't we go somewhere a little nicer? I think Doc Magoo's has stopped serving dinner anyway. Come on, my treat!" Nodding his head Carter replied,

" Got anywhere in mind?" She was tempted to say her place but restrained herself.

*Abby!*, she mentally scolded herself, *He's your BEST FRIEND!* So instead she said

" Well as long as there are no Croatians or French-speaking waitresses, I don't care!"
Carter chuckled.

" Come on, I know just the place!" he said as he took her hand and dragged her in the direction of the river. After about ten minutes they came to a small riverside restaurant filled with tables lit by candlelight.

" Um, Carter, don't you think we're a little underdressed for this place?", Abby queried. Smiling he looked at her and answered,
" Of course not. Anyway you always look beautiful to me no matter what you're wearing." Abby tried to hide the small blush that had crept into her cheeks. As they entered the restaurant, a waiter showed the pair to their table and took their coats. Just as Abby went to sit down, Cater pulled out her chair and motioned for her to take a seat.

" Thankyou." Abby said, blushing again at his actions. She was not used to this kind of special treatment. They ordered their meals and the waiter returned with a bottle of sparkling peach water (on ice!). He filled both wine glasses with the 'fizzy water' as Abby called it and then replaced the bottle back into the ice bucket before leaving the table.

" To ..... Happy endings and new beginnings!" Carter said he raised his glass to propose a toast.

* I'll drink to that* Abby thought as she raised her glass to Carter's and then took a sip. *This is ... nice!* She wasn't used to being taken to nice restaurants, you know, the kind with expensive linen and good lighting and delicious food that, although it may have won first prize in a presentation contest, was not enough to fill anyone's stomach. It was nice to just sit here and enjoy the evening in the company of her best friend, not having to worry that her 'date' would either walk out on her or only be expecting one thing by the end of the night! Sighing coonentedly, she threw a smile in Carter's direction who responded in kind.

" So how was your day? Pretty horrible eh?". Yes, she decided, this was just the thing she needed. Someone with whom she could talk, someone who asked her how her day was and genuinely cared. How lucky she was to have John Carter.

By the end of the meal, Carter no longer felt tired or depressed. * It's amazing, the effect she has on me* He thought to himself * She's just such a positive person at times. She's definitely my light at the end of a very long, dark tunnel* He asked the waiter for the check and when Abby offered to pay, he declined. " S'ok, I'll get it. I invited you, remember?" Abby smiled and said

" OK you play the gentleman tonight but next time, I'm paying!". Grinning, Carter raised an eyebrow.

" So there's going to be a 'next time?!?"

" Oh yeah definitely. And, if you're really lucky, you might get a movie next time too!"

" Oh really? Then I'll just have to wait in anticipation, Ms. Lockhart!"

After they left the restaurant they took a stroll alongside the river. It was a chilly night; they could see their breath in front of their faces. At 12.30 am, as the city slept, Chicago was quiet except for the occasional car or ambulance on it's way to the ER. Noticing how quiet she was suddenly, Carter stopped dead and turned around to face her.

" Is there something wrong Abby?", he asked with a look of concern on his face. Deep in thought, Abby was a little startled at his voice suddenly being so close to her.

" Oh, oh yeah! Sorry Carter, I was just thinking about everything that's happened recently, you now, with Dr. Greene. He was a good man and a great Doctor. He will be missed greatly by everyone in the ER.". Looking him in the eyes, she continued, " Carter, you do know that now that he's gone everyone will look to you for guidance don't you?". Sighing, Carter replied

" That's what Mark and Kerry said. I'm just not sure if I can though. Maybe it's just too much responsibility for me to cope with right now. It hasn't been that long since my recovery from rehab. I'm just scared that the added pressure of that and then Gamma and my parent's divorce....I'm just not sure Abby, I just don't know ..." He looked down at the floor, suddenly finding his feet very interesting. If he had seen Abby's expression he would have been shocked. She looked like a little lost puppy. She bent slightly to come level with his eyeline and shuffled from one foot to the other, folding her arms across her chest.

" I believe in you.", she stated and when his eyes lifted from the floor to meet her gaze, she broke eye contact and turned away towards the river. " It's getting cold." she added and pulled her coat tighter around her as if to emphasize the point. She was trying to avoid the questions that she knew Carter had formed in his mind after she had said that one simple truth. Instead of speaking, he surprised her. He silently crept up behind her and she felt his strong arms slip around her small waist as he rested his head on her shoulder.

" There, that better?" he asked. She didn't reply, just snuggled closer to him. He kissed the top of her head and then rubbed his cheek against her ear. They stayed there in each other's arms for an hour, just watching the nightlights of the city shimmer across the rippling water.

Hesitating, not wanting to break up the moment but knowing that they were both back on at 7.30, Abby removed herself from Carter's grasp and they walked back to her apartment in silence.

Entering her new apartment building, Abby took out her key and slid it into the lock. As she opened the door, Abby turned to face Carter.

" Thankyou for a wonderful evening. Do you want to come in for some coffee or something?" she asked somewhat awkwardly. She had no idea why she was so nervous. Actually, that was a lie! She knew exactly why she was nervous. * This is Carter! Your best friend, oh and yeah, also the man you happen to be in love with!* A voice in her head told her. Shaking his head, he declined.

" I'd better go home and get some sleep before my shift begins." he explained. " Well, goodnight Abby. I had a good time tonight. Maybe we could do it again sometime?"

" Sure!" she replied, delighted that he had enjoyed the evening just as much as she had. As he turned to leave, she stopped him. " Thanks Carter. For everything.", she said as she kissed him briefly on the lips. With a huge grin, he replied.

" No Problem! Hey anytime you want to do this again or just talk, call me OK?" He shouted as he retreated backwards down the hall, almost falling over a table with a potted plant on it, causing Abby to laugh out loud.

" Goodnight Carter!" she called as he grinned at her once more before disappearing around the corner and down the stairs out of sight. Sighing contentedly, she leaned against the door frame for a few seconds, fixing her gaze on the spot where she had last seen him standing. Then, quietly closing the door, she thought,
     *Never mind Superman, I'll take Dr. Carter any day!*

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