AUTHOR: Cimerene
SPOILERS: story begins after "May Day" (seas6 finale)
DISCLAIMER: E.R.'s characters do NOT belong to me, but I do admit to borrowing them for a while.
SUMMARY: This fic is set after the return of John Carter from the atlanta rehab. facility. It is a mostly lighthearted fanfic: full of tender moments, a few reality checks, and no angst!

Kerry felt invisible. Sometimes when she crutched down the hallway she wondered if anyone even noticed she was alive. She knew she was feeling sorry for herself today but she really didn't care. She hated how she felt on days like this. But she knew from experience you have to go with the mood, wherever it took you.

Kerry had woken up on the proverbial wrong side of the bed. She had stayed up later than usual, reading an interesting article on bowel obstructions. Really, she thought, it would be nice sometimes to stay up late for reasons other than work or reading for work. She sighed as she entered County's E.R.

She walked past Mark, he was busy reviewing a patient's chart. He nodded slightly to her. Same invisibleness she always got from every male in her life, she thought. She nodded back. No "How was your evening", no polite chatter, just a nod. She continued walking down the hallway. She passed Dave flirting with one of the new nurses, Simone she thought her name was. Pretty little thing, she thought to herself. Dave looked up long enough to say "Hi, chief," then continued his flirtation.

As she walked into the lounge she hoped it would be empty. She was slightly disappointed to see that John was there putting his lab coat on. It wasn't John she objected to, rather the fact that she had wanted just a few more moments to herself before she had to be sociable. She had forgotten that they were both scheduled for the same shift.

Sometimes she found herself wondering more about him more than was strictly comfortable. She watched him put his lab coat on, flip the collar out and shake his gorgeous hair out. He had the kind of hair a woman could run her fingers through. She shook the thought out of her head. She shouldn't be thinking these thoughts, especially about John. She was just a lonely old maid, she told herself. On a normal day, a day that wasn't filled with gloomy thoughts, she knew she wouldn't be giving John a second thought. At least that's what she told herself.

She shook her head slightly, at herself, making her short red hair momentarily bounce. She told herself, like she always did when she met him, Keep it light, make it impersonal. But just as she always did she looked into his face to see what he thought of her. Same expression as always, the same one she got from every man she met. Damn she hated being invisible!

"Hello, John, how was your evening?" Good tone, she congratulated herself, that's right, keep it impersonal. She wondered how he was doing today. He had been so quiet since he had come back from the rehabilitation center. Several months had gone by without a real conversation between the two of them. She worried sometimes that maybe John was still angry with her for her part in his rehabilitation.

John smiled at her briefly. He was busy at his locker, looking through his briefcase, rearranging things before putting it away. "It was quiet," he replied. He noticed while she was taking off her coat that she was wearing a light brown shirt. It looked pretty on her was his random thought. He wasn't sure why a detail like that would stick in his mind but it did. She looked very nice today. His sudden thought came unbidden: But then she usually does. He tried in vain to erase that thought from his head.

Kerry opened her locker; she placed her jacket inside and reached for her lab coat. She never truly minded wearing her lab coat, but she sometimes wondered if it too helped in her general air of invisibility. She placed her purse inside, grabbed a small notebook and a pen then placed them in her pocket.

"Did you do anything exciting?" she asked him, still in the same light and friendly tones as before. She grabbed her stethoscope and proceeded to place it around her neck. As she did so, it fell onto the floor. "Damn!" the thought came unexpectedly out of her lips. John looked up to see what the problem was. She was reaching for it when she realized that John had done so also. Their banged heads was the last thing she expected. They both jumped back from the shock of their impact. Usually an occurrence like this would have been guaranteed to produce a wonderful bout of cussing. For once Kerry was quiet. She waited silently absorbing the pain and also waiting for the stars that where whirling to stop their dance in front of her eyes.

"Let's not do that again," she said lightly. She could still smell his cologne, she thought hazily. She tried to wipe the thought out of her mind. John looked over at her concerned.

"Are you ok, Kerry?" he said, ignoring the same whirling stars in front of his own eyes.

She snorted. "I've had worse. I'm positive I'll live." John glanced her for a second; sorry he had hurt her inadvertently. He ignored the pain in his own head.

"Accidents happen," she said in a matter a fact tone of voice. He watched as she ran a hand through her short pretty hair.

"Don't move Kerry!" John said lightly, only partially joking. He then reached down and grabbed her stethoscope. He noticed that it was starting to wear in some spots. "Looks like it's time to replace yours," he said quietly. As he passed the stethoscope to her his fingers slightly brushed hers, giving her fingers an unexpected jolt. The stethoscope did look tired, she thought.

"Can't, my adopted mother gave it to me when I graduated." She realized at that moment that she was letting John get a brief glimpse into her personal life. "But maybe you're right; it might be time to replace it." She took a tighter grip on her crutch, and hurried out of the room. She smiled at him, a distant smile, already trying to put more space between them.

She deliberately decided to put him out of her mind. After all, he was an incredibly handsome man, he would never be attracted to a woman with her limitations. She shook her head and headed off towards her office. It was time to get to work.

The whole encounter left John feeling a bit bemused; he wondered why Kerry was such a solitary person. Then he mentally laughed to himself. Kerry was a probably just a private person, because she was. It was as simple as that. He noticed that she looked pretty today, but a little sadder than normal. He wondered if she too was having a hard time handling the fact that today was Memorial Day. He was still wondering about Kerry when he closed the door to his locker and left the room.

Several hour later

John entered the break room after a very hard trauma. It had been a tough go for a while there but his patient, an elderly woman, was going to make it and was on her way to recovery. He had been worried, but everything had come out all right. He reached for the coffeepot only to discover it was empty.

He was at first irritated then relieved. After spending so many hours at counselor's office's worried about his addictions now he was worried now about being addicted to Caffeine. He decided against making a fresh pot of coffee and decided to drink a cup of decaffeinated tea instead. Just let Dave come in and try to make fun of him he thought to himself.

He grabbed his cup, and wearily sat down at the table, he stretched his legs out and appropriated another chair so that he could rest them properly he closed his eyes and attempted to fall asleep.

Kerry entered the lounge wearily, she was so tired. She glanced over at John's handsome features; he looked as tired as she felt, she thought to herself. He appeared to be sleeping lightly. She made herself a cup of tea and sat down wearily. She was quiet for a few moments trying to figure out what to say next. Instead she said nothing. Eventually she leaned back and closed her own eyes. Her eyes had been closed for several moments when he spoke.

"You look tired." His bloodshot eyes had noticed her fatigue. "You probably should go home and have a nice hot bubble bath."

Kerry kept her eyes closed for a few more moments, she mentally tried to get the images out of her mind that insisted on popping in. "Now that's a great idea. Few more hours and I just might do that."

John smiled briefly.

"Are you settled into your new place yet?" Kerry asked him.

John smiled he loved the freedom that his new place gave him. It was so nice to come home after a long day and know that he had something he could call his own. "Almost," John replied. "There's still a few more odds and ends that I have to take care of." Like furniture. He currently owned a bed and a kitchen table and 2 chairs, and an old couch that Carol had given him when she had sold her house. Gamma had thoughtfully asked if he wanted her to get him a interior decorator.

But John had declined. He was looking into buying more furniture, but as yet he couldn't decide what he liked. So far the excursions he had planned for himself at the furniture store had ended up with him leaving more confused than when he started. "You'll have to come by some time and see it," he thoughtfully offered.

"You have plans after work?" Kerry asked him, sidestepping the suggestion. She wasn't sure she wanted to know. She took a hasty swallow of her tea, then proceeded to choke. John watched her with concern, checking to be sure she was all right. "You ok?"

Kerry coughed a few more times before answering. "I'm fine. Just went down the wrong pipe." She stopped coughing and took another sip of her tea. She looked down at her beeper as it went off. She grabbed her crutch, leaning heavily on it she gave John a small smile. "My turn," she told him. "Enjoy your nap!"

John smiled at her as she left, then leaned his head back, he was so tired.

Several hours later

Kerry was not having a good day. She had been through the ringer emotionally today, she thought. She had lost a patient early on in the day. A cute little girl with blond hair... Odd how the details seemed to linger in the mind, she thought to herself. Ever since then her temper had become just a bit erratic. She had yelled at everyone from Yosh to Randi.

She remembered John's suggestion and thought that it sounded wonderful. She should go home and have a nice hot bubble bath. Then she remembered the conversation she had with the exterminators earlier. She sighed, a bubble bath was sounding so good, but maybe what she really needed was just a good stiff drink. She took off her lab coat and carefully took out her notebook and pen. She was placing them in her locker, when John arrived.

"Are you off?" he asked her, as he opened his locker.

"Yeah. You?" Kerry replied, watching the way his dark eyes seemed to shine in the light. She shook her head at such fancies. She grabbed her jacket, proceeded to look through her purse for her keys.

John nodded his head as he wearily took off his jacket. His new brown sweater made him look even more handsome than normal.

"You have plans tonight?" she heard herself asking him. Keep it light, keep it impersonal, she told herself.

"I had planned on watching the game, but I don't have a tv yet." He laughed ruefully. He noticed that she seemed to be more tired than usual tonight.

"Are you going straight home?" he asked her.

"No," Kerry replied. "The exterminators are still there, I was told to give it a few more hours before I come back." She found herself telling him of the termite problem that she had, and how it was supposed to be fixed with the treatment her house was getting tonight.

She picked up her purse and her jacket and walked towards the door. He smiled as he put on his jacket, shut his locker, and headed after her, hurrying slightly to catch up to her.

"That's true." His courteous manners as always telling him to hurry up so he could hold open the door for her.

"Kerry, would you like to go somewhere and get something to eat?" John said unsure of why he had suddenly asked. Kerry was a very beautiful woman but hardly his type, he thought. He wondered why he was asking her, she just seemed so lonely to him.

Kerry paused as she touched the door, she turned around and searched his face, wondering why he had asked her. It wasn't like he was interested in her. He must be lonely, she thought. But the thought of a drink sounded nice. Somewhere away from the hospital, away from the smell of disinfectants, away from the suffering and the general aura of hurt that surrounded the place. She shouldn't do it, she thought, she should go somewhere else, with anyone else!

"Yes, I think I'd like that!" she found herself replying.

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