Eve of Faith


AUTHOR: Shirley Yoshinaka
EMAIL: shirlscorner@gosympatico.ca
DATE: Completed December 28, 1999
CATEGORY: JC/PB drama
RATING: PG
SPOILERS: Season 6, and takes place just after "How the Finch Stole Christmas"
ARCHIVE: You’re welcome to download this story for your own reading, but please do not archive my fanfiction on any website without my permission.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own any of the characters from ER. They are the property of Warner Brothers, etc.
SUMMARY: Benton extends a hand of friendship to Carter on Christmas Eve.



Leaning forward on the step, John Carter braced his head in his hands. He closed his eyes but that didn't help to erase the image of a broken, lifeless body of a child, lying so white and still on the gurney before him.

His eyes snapped open when he felt something warm and gentle on his cheek. He found himself looking into the soft brown eyes of a very young face. Managing a smile through his tears, he touched the hand that remained on his face, his long, slim fingers contrasting with the much smaller hand.

"Hey, little guy. Where's your daddy?"

As if on cue, he heard an anxious voice from around the corner.

"Reese! Reese, where are you?"

"He's over here," Carter called out.

Peter Benton suppressed a sigh of relief as he came upon his son, now starting to snuggle onto Carter's lap. Although he rationally knew Reese couldn't hear him, that hadn't stopped him from calling his name when he'd disappeared.

"I put him down, turned around for a second, and the next thing I knew he was gone."

Reese continued to trace the wet track down Carter's face with his finger, even as Carter hastily tried to wipe away the evidence. If Benton noticed, he refrained from comment.

"Yeah, little kids are fast on their feet." Carter cleared his throat. "On your way home?"

Benton smiled. A wide, joyous smile that lit up his usually somber face. "The family's getting together for dinner tonight and we've got cause for celebration." He sat down on the step and lovingly stroked the little boy's hair. "I just got some good news. Carla's not moving to Germany."

Carter raised an eyebrow, the surprise evident in his voice. "She was going to move away?" This was news to him.

Benton nodded, not quite sure why he was talking about this now. "And she was going to take Reese with her. I fought it every step of the way. But I was afraid. Afraid I was going to lose my son."

"And now you've worked things out?" Carter guessed. He flinched back slightly as Reese's tiny fist almost poked him in the eye. Chuckling softly, he shifted the boy around so his wandering hands weren't such a menace.

"Not exactly," Benton said slowly, remembering how bitterly Carla had relayed the news that Roger had lost the German job. But that truly wasn't any of his concern. His tone became brisk again. "Anyway, the main thing is that Reese is staying here, where he belongs."

"I'm glad. Especially at Christmas."

He watched as the younger man held his son, seeing the obvious pain in his eyes. What had happened? "So what are you doing tonight, Carter?"

"I'm supposed to go to my grandparents' house. Big traditional dinner. But frankly, I don't feel like it. I'm gonna say I'm working and just go home." Home to his empty apartment that he hadn't even bothered to decorate. No tree, no lights. He simply hadn't had the time or motivation this year.

"What's wrong? Something must have happened."

Carter glanced at his former teacher. "Nothing's wrong."

"I know you, Carter. You're upset."

"You don't know me. You never did. So don't pretend that you care now."

It was unreasonable, he knew, but he found himself growing irritated by Benton's uncharacteristic attentiveness.

Benton chose his words carefully. "Whether you believe me or not, I care. I always have. I just, never...I don't show it very well. But I'm trying." He gestured towards the boy that was now starting to nod off in Carter's arms. "For his sake."

A moving speech, but Carter wasn't sure he was buying it. He'd been slapped down by Benton so often in the past, he'd learned to keep his distance.

"I'm losing faith." He hadn't realized he'd spoken the words aloud, until he felt Benton's intense gaze upon him.

"Faith in yourself?"

"Yes. And in others. Faith in humanity." It all came gushing out before he could stop it. "I'm pretty stupid that way. I've always tried to believe in the goodness of people. But that's been getting harder and harder. After the things I've seen here...Lately, I've been wondering if I made the right choice. It wouldn't be too late to get involved in the family business."

"I hope you're joking."

"I'm dead serious."

The two men locked stares and Benton could see that Carter was indeed serious.

"Now that would really be a crime. And I'll tell you why. You have a gift. You have a way of dealing with people. You've always had it, even when you were just a med student. I've watched you working with patients. The way you reassure them and comfort them. And you know what? I'm envious. I always have been. I wonder how it comes so naturally to you and I have to work so hard at it. Constantly." He paused. "You made the right choice, you know. Not just in becoming a doctor, but switching from surgery to trauma. You belong here."

Carter was rather taken aback by Benton's passionate words. He desperately wanted to believe that was all true, but he was torn. He loved working here. He really did. But he didn't know how much more heartache he could stand.

"Just remember this," Benton continued on quietly. "Of all the things in the world that can be taken away from you, faith isn't one of them. If you lose faith, it's by your own choice." He reached over to gather the sleeping Reese into his arms, holding him close. "I told you I was afraid of losing my son and that's true. But I never lost faith. Because I knew he belonged with me."

*Just as I know I'm his father* he thought, kissing the top of the child's head.

Carter regarded the father and son. No one could question that they truly belonged together. It was obvious. But he still found himself pondering his own fate. "So, you believe I was meant to be a doctor?"

"What do you think?"

Carter knew the answer in his heart. But sometimes, he just needed reminding. He managed a small smile.

After a moment, Benton glanced at his watch. "Uh oh. I better get going before Jackie pages me again."

"Merry Christmas, Dr. Benton."

"Merry Christmas, Carter." Getting to his feet, he shifted Reese to his shoulder. He turned away and then hesitated, turning back once more to face him. "Are you still planning on going back to your apartment?"

He grimaced. "Yeah. I'm just not up to dealing with the Carter brood."

"Why not come to my sister's place, then? There's always enough food to feed an army."

"No, no, I don't want to intrude."

"You wouldn't. Besides, ever since you came down a few years back for Thanksgiving, my sister's been asking when that sweet young man is going to visit again. And I know she's not talking about me."

"Well..."

"Reese would love to have you there. And so would I."

Carter glanced up at him with uncertainty. He hated to admit it, but part of him wondered why Benton was extending the hand of friendship now after all these years.

Maybe Benton was right. Maybe he should just have faith.

Carter stood up, feeling a rekindling of hope; hope that all was not lost this Christmas, as he had feared. "Thank you, Dr. Benton. I would love to join you."

"Come on, then."

Together, they walked in companionable silence through the ER before heading home.

THE END

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