One Day At A Time


AUTHOR: Debbie Mraz
EMAIL: dmrazcmt@aol.com
CATEGORY: JC/Cast Angst/Drama/Friendship
RATING: PG-13 (some language)
SPOILERS: Not really.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own the characters of ER, Warner Bros can claim that. But, the ideas are mine, as is the character of Helen Nussbaum. I make no money from this, it is for entertainment only.
SUMMARY: John Carter finds himself at odds with management over the use of Naltrexone. He feels the side-effects that he is experiencing are more than he can bear, or are they?



John rubbed at his throbbing temples, he felt yet another headache coming on. It seemed he always had a headache these days. He felt it was due to the stress of work and having to attend the daily AA meetings. He needed some down time. He felt he couldn't ask. He felt lucky to still have a job, let alone need time off of that job. He sat at the desk revieiwing the charts of the morning, and trying his best to concentrate at the task at hand with the throbbing of his head making that next to impossible. One hour to go. He glanced up at the clock for the millionth time that day. He had a day off tomorrow, he planned to do absolutely nothing, save for the AA meeting in the evening. He had to get rid of this headache from hell. "Oh, great," he thought, "here it comes again."

Mark handed him the container, John knew what was expected. He no longer tried to lighten the mood surrounding these daily indignities. It wasn't funny. Not to him, or to his co-workers. He went to get up, and immediately sat back down. The world was spinning around him, he must be coming down with something.

"Carter, you okay?" Mark asked.

If he had a dime for every time he had been asked that question, he'd be very well-off to say the least. "Yeah, just have a headache."

"Take anything for it?" Mark asked concerned.

John just looked at him, tried to keep the sarcastic look off of his face, and failed miserably, "and what would you suggest?"

"Look, I'm just trying to help." Mark responded indignantly.

"I know." John averted Mark's gaze, also for the millionth time. It seemed he couldn't bring himself to make eye contact with anyone anymore. They all knew, he was a user. He could still hear Romano's crass comment ringing in his ears, "drugstore cowboy." That is what they thought of him, a useless, drug-seeking, drain on the ER. Maybe his grandmother was right, maybe he should consider going into private practice. No one to monitor him constantly, no other co-workers to worry about pleasing and appeasing, he'd be his own boss. It was definitely something to consider.

John pushed himself out of the chair, held onto the desk for a moment until his vision cleared, "are you going with me?" He asked.

"You already know that answer." Mark replied.

"May I ask you a question?"

"Sure."

"Will you ever be able to trust me again?" John locked eyes with Mark for a split second, and looked away, he saw his answer, that was all he needed. "Never mind."

They two walked toward the bathroom, so John could take care of business. All the while his head throbbed in time to his feet hitting the floor on the way to the men's room.

He handed the specimen cup back to Mark and pushed past him to wash his hands. He exited the men's room without another word, what could he say? He'd made a mistake, no one is perfect. He didn't feel he needed to pay for that mistake each and every day of his life. He'd done everything they had asked of him,. what more could they possibly want? Did they still think he was using? It had been prescribed medication, for the most part, except for a few times. How long did they think they could constant berate him for this? Had no one else every screwed up? Only him, John Carter, M.D., the outcast, the "drug store cowboy", the useless drain on the ER. The whole situation just, for lack of a better word, sucked.

He sat back at the desk, signing this, marking that, paying little attention to what he was doing, just wanting to get the hell out of there before he lost his mind, his temper, and then his job.

He put the last chart up on the desk to be sent to medical records. He stretched, and made his way toward the lounge, his coat, and home. He couldn't wait to get home. He hoped his grandmother didn't make a trip down to the guest house tonight. He just wanted to be alone.

"Meetings at 9:00 right?" Abby asked.

John did not respond. He didn't even hear her, he was so focused on gathering his things and getting out of there.

"Carter?"

"Yeah." He turned to look at her.

"You okay?" Abby asked.

Well, that's at least .50 today in "are you okay's" he thought to himself, and smiled ruefully.

"Yeah, just have a headache and want to get home and go to bed."

"9:00 o'clock." Abby reminded him.

"I know." He closed his locker, and headed out the ambulance bay doors, shoulders hunched over, head down, making eye contact with no one. The humiliation was too much for him. He was going to get rid of this headache, and start thinking. He needed to think long and hard. He didn't want to spend his life constantly being reminded of the things of his past, and every time he walked into County, that was exactly what he was doing. Oh, they all wanted to "help" alright. "Thanks, but no thanks." He thought. Their idea of "help" was apparently to demoralize and humiliate him at every available opportunity. "Help" like that he could certainly do without.

He made his way to the parking garage, unlocked his jeep and rubbed at his temples another minute. God, his head hurt.

He pulled out of the garage, and made his way home. "Good," he thought, "gamma's car is gone, a few minutes of peace and quiet." He stripped out of his clothes, and put on his sweats and a T-shirt, made some hot chocolate, and sat at his kitchen table. It was time to take a good, long look at his life. His throbbing head wasn't helping matters. He walked into the bathroom, and rummaged through the medicine cabinet, Tylenol, Motrin, and then he spotted it, the Percodan he had been given for his back....No, no way...he closed the medicine cabinet, without throwing away the bottle.

He swayed slightly on his feet, he knew this was a migraine, and ignoring it was not going to make it go away. He headed back to the medicine cabinet, grabbed the Percodan, shook one then two into his hand and swallowed them dry before he changed his mind. He walked back toward the kitchen, gulped down the rest of the cooling hot chocolate and went to bed.

He was awakened by the ringing phone...he ignored it, the machine picked it up...he listened intently..."Carter, this is Mark Green, you need to come back in to work, there was a problem with your uh...specimen....call me." Then the familiar click of a dead phone.

"Great," he thought, "I certainly can't go back in now..." He ignored the request, for all they knew he wasn't even home, he was off the next day, so it wouldn't be until Friday that he was back on, and even then, he could always call in sick, which he would if this headache didn't quit.

He pulled the covers over his head, blocking out any remaining light that was quickly fading in the room. The pain in his head was still throbbing away, it had been 45 minutes since he took the Percodan. He lay there for another half an hour, with no relief. He swung his stockinged feet over the edge of the bed, his head swimming, his eyes not quite focasing, and felt like he was going to vomit for a moment. The hot chocolate was churning around in his stomach in a most unpleasant way. He took a few deep breaths, then stood up. The room spun for a moment and he grabbed onto the nightstand for support. He stood this way for several minutes, then made his way back to the bathroom. He stared at his reflection in the mirror, he found he couldn't even make eye contact with himself. He opened the medicine cabinet and reached for the Motrin, shook out two, no that wouldn't do a thing, three....four, that's 800 mg...he remembered taking that for his back too, except then it was just one 800 mg tablet, same thing...he swallowed down the four tablets, gagging slightly as he followed them with a gulp of water. The way he felt right now, the world could fall apart around him, and he could not care in the least. Maybe it'd be better that way anyway.

The phone rang again....again...he ignored it...."John, if you're there pick up?" It was Abby. She had taken to calling him Carter at work and John outside of work, whatever, he could care less. "Okay...um...I guess you're not home..." her voice sounded strained...."I just wanted to let you know, I'll be there tonight, but I may be a few minutes late." He could hear in the background, her mother, he assumed, ranting about something...Abby sounded stressed. He thought about picking up the phone, after all, he had offered her an ear and a shoulder if she wanted to talk. His throbbing head said no. He heard the click of the phone line, and went back to bed.

What felt like a few minutes later, he was again awakened by pounding on his door. "John?" It was his grandmother, "John, are you there?"

She knew he was, his jeep was parked outside, where else would he be? He tried to keep the sarcasm out of his voice, pulled on his robe, and made his way to the door. He opened it a bit, trying to keep the warmth inside.

"Hi gamma." He said groggily, his mouth was so dry, and he still had this damned headache.

"Oh, are you alright?" His grandmother asked.

Oh boy, the $6,000,000.00 question of the day! Are you alright? Of course he wasn't alright!

"Yeah Gamma, I'm fine, just have a headache."

"Oh, well, I'll let you get back to sleep. You do have a meeting tonight right?" She asked.

"Yeah, 9:00 o'clock." He replied.

"Alright then, I'll make sure and wake you at 8:00 then. Would you like me to send you something to eat?"

"Thanks Gamma, but I'm really not hungry, I just want to go back to sleep."

"Alright then, I'll call you at 8:00."

He closed the door, and laid back down, still in his robe, and pulled the pillow over his aching head. Successfully shutting out the world for at least a little while.



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