Coming Home

AUTHOR: Kate Rosen
EMAIL: Please let me know what you think! This is my first fanfic.
RATING: PG-13 (language)
SPOILERS: none, if you're up to date with season 10
ARCHIVE: Just e-mail me first to ask.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own these characters, I just borrowed them.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Takes place in the future, when Carter returns from Africa for good. Some elements of the present have been tweaked a bit, but not much. You might think that the ending's a little cheesy, but I'm a sucker for happy endings…
SUMMARY: What I hope happens when Carter returns from Africa for good. Carby fans will be pleased!!

Chapter 1: Feeling Like an Outsider

This is weird…Carter thought, as he strolled through the ambulance bay at Cook County General Hospital for the first time in over three months. Everything was the same-exactly the same, yet he was the one who had changed. He felt like he was looking at it all through a new set of eyes.

He picked up some snow, and felt it with his fingers. It was so cold that he pulled his jacket tighter around him. He hadn't experienced cold weather in quite some time; it was always hot in the Congo.

He pondered for a few minutes whether or not he should go inside the ER. How would his colleagues react? He had left so suddenly, without much of an explanation. How many of his old friends were even still working here? It seemed like the staff was constantly changing. Was he ready to come back? Why had he come back? Why had he left in the first place? While still mulling over these questions in his mind, his feet made the decision for him and he stepped inside.

The same bustle of activity that had always been in the ER was still there. Babies were crying, monitors were going off, some people were yelling because they hadn't been seen, the phone was ringing off the hook…

"John?" Carter turned to his left to see the face of his old friend, Jing-Mei Chen.

"Deb, it's so good to see you! How have you been?" Carter replied as he gave her a quick hug.

"Good. I'm so glad you're back, but I've gotta run. There's a GSW to the chest rolling in. I'll see you later!" Well, at least one person was happy to see him. But Chen wasn't exactly the person he was worried abo-

"Well, if it isn't John Carter…Decided to grace us with your presence once again?" Carter's thoughts were interrupted by the voice of another old friend-Susan Lewis. At first he didn't know what to gather from her tone of voice. Susan must have noticed the look of concern on Carter's face, because she quickly relaxed her face into a smile and said, "I'm kidding, Carter. Come here and give me a hug; it's so good to see you." Relieved, Carter hugged Susan.

"Good to see you, too," Carter replied. "How have things been going around here?"

"Lots of new staff coming in, too many med students to count, a few new residents, too…"

"Change is good, but so is coming home."

"So, are you home for good this time?"

"Yeah. I might go back sometime in the future, but Chicago is my home."

Just then, a nurse ran by them. "Dr. Weaver needs you in Trauma 1, Dr. Lewis," she said.

"That's my cue," said Susan. "I'll catch up with you later, Carter. Coffee? Around 3-ish?"

"Sounds good," Carter replied as he watched Susan race toward the trauma rooms.

Just then, a woman down the hall caught his eye. She was working on a patient in Curtain 1. She almost looked like…but she was wearing a lab coat…and yet... The women turned, and he finally saw her profile. It was Abby. He had almost forgotten how beautiful she was. The male patient she was talking with must have been flirting, because Carter caught her smiling and blushing. That smile of hers… He began to feel pangs of jealousy, but then he realized that they weren't together anymore, thanks mostly to himself, and she had the right to flirt with whomever she wanted.

Abruptly, Carter abandoned his thoughts when he realized Abby had finished with her patient and was now walking in his direction. Thankfully, she was looking down at the chart and didn't see him. He wasn't ready to talk to her yet. He had no idea what he would even say. He escaped into the lounge quickly, before she looked up.

"Dr. Carter, it's good to see you," Gallant greeted him and shook his hand.

"You too, Doctor Gallant." Gallant smiled and walked out. Carter was left in the room with Luka Kovac.

"So, do you feel odd being here?" Kovac asked.

"Yeah, like an outsider. It feels like it's been longer than three months," Carter answered.

"I know how you feel."

"Hey, I never thanked you for picking me up from the airport last night. Thanks."

"No problem."

Carter hesitated for a second, and then said, "Well, I guess I better go talk to Weaver and see if I still have a job…" He turned to leave.

"Have you seen her yet?" Luka's words stopped Carter in his tracks, but he didn't turn around.

"Yeah, but she didn't see me."

"You're going to have to talk to her sometime."

"I know."

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