Hero in the Strife
ARCHIVE: Yes, please just e-mail me.
DISCLAIMER: John Carter doesn't belong to me. He belongs to NBC, and Warner Brothers, and all of the other people who own the rights to ER. See, I'm working on my steps.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is the first Part of a 5 Part story. It's an epic, so stick around!
THANKS: Steph, Lori, and Jen for your Beta help! Thanks for the encouragement! All my Carby pals at ff, we are insane and we aren't ashamed! Amers/'Kins/Bert/Luce/Amo/etc. You will always be the best friends and ER watching pal! And to all the rest of Carter's girls, Rena… Abby…. You know who you are. Most of all, I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! And thank you for reading!
SUMMARY: The life story of Jonathan Truman Carter III, MD. Better known as Carter. But not known at all.
"In the world's broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!"
~ A Psalm for Life, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
The voices of eager children and the sound of 25 sets of small feet echoed down the hall. The children were all dressed in nice pants or skirts, and white button-up dress shirts. The boys had to wear ties, which they frequently pulled at and removed, much to the dismay of their teacher. Nothing excited Mrs. Wickley's Fourth Grade class more than a chance to change out of their uniforms and into their gym clothes. The daily trip to gym was always the most exciting event of the day.
The girls were walking at the front of the line, as always. They would huddle together as far away from the cootie-infested boys as possible. Toward the back of the line, the boys were snickering and taunting each other.
"Kevin's got a crush on Jess-i-ca!" One of the boys called in a sing-song voice.
"I do not!" Kevin shouted, shoving the other boy.
"Do too!" the other shouted, pushing back.
"You're a liar, Caleb!" Kevin yelled, pushing Caleb forward with all his might. Caleb tumbled into the boy in front of him. The boy stumbled, and would have caught his balance except for the fact that he had always been clumsy, and he tripped over his untied shoelaces. He tumbled right into the girl in front of him. She shrieked as she fell to the floor, with the embarrassed boy falling on top of her. The boy pushed himself up, and his cheeks reddened.
"Sorry," he said shyly, offering a hand to his fallen classmate. She didn't take it. Her friends helped her up. The girls were giggling and the boys were snickering.
"Jonathan, what on earth are you doing?" Mrs. Wickley asked, not at all amused at the display.
The boy turned even redder. "Sorry Mrs. Wickley. It was an accident," he said, not daring to tell her about the other boys pushing him.
Mrs. Wickley turned back around, and continued to lead the calls toward the gym.
"Now we know who John likes," Caleb snickered. John's cheeks reddened, this time with anger. He straightened his dark brown hair and his tie, and clenched his teeth together in an effort to control his temper.
"John and Nancy, sitting' in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G....." John's classmates sang out.
"Shut up!" Nancy shouted. She shot John a glare, as if he were the reason for every problem in the world. John looked at the floor the rest of the way to gym class, in shame.
John was usually the object of the taunting and teasing in class. There were many reasons why. For one thing, the kids all knew that John was too kind to ever insult them back, and they knew he wouldn't tell on them. And while all the children at the private school came from well-off families, John's was by far the richest. Another thing that made John a prime target for hazing was the fact that he was smart. He was good at every subject, and he always worked hard in school. He also had a tendency to be clumsy. So John had learned to take everything in stride.
When the dismissal bell rang at the end of the day, the children poured from the school and down the steps. Some children's parents picked them up, and some rode in carpool vans. John headed for the bike rack, where his mode of transport was chained up. He unlocked the chain, and lifted his bike out of the rack. A hand on his back pushed him forward.
"Hey Scrub," said a voice behind him. "Time to get a haircut." The boy's hand messed up John's shaggy hair.
John slowly turned around and let out a sigh. "Hi Bobby," He said to his older brother.
Bobby didn't give much more thought to his little brother. He was a sixth grader, and he was popular. Plus, all the girls thought he was cute, while all the girls considered John a dangerous plague. John had come to accept that that would never change. And Bobby was definitely the favorite of both their mom and dad. Their dad wanted Bobby to take over the company in the future. Not much thought went into what John did, though he was extremely talented. Maybe he would go into business too. Not that it mattered much. Bobby was the favorite, and John figured he always would be.
Bobby unlocked his own bike and lifted it onto the sidewalk. He yanked his tie off and stuffed it into his bag. He untucked his shirt, and swung one leg over his bike. John straightened his hair, and loosened his tie. He climbed onto his bike and peddled off after his brother.
The two boys rode down the long, straight road. There were very few cars out this way, because most the property was owned by the boys' family. The only cars passing were visitors to the estate, businessmen and philanthropists alike.
They rode their bikes through the open, tall iron gates that were part of the fence, which encircled the entire expansive estate. Up the hill, and past the house, around the back. One of the garage doors was open, as always, and the brothers parked their bikes there. Then they headed back around the house to the front door. As they approached, they didn't need to knock, because the butler, Elliot, was there to open it for them when he saw them coming.
"Good afternoon Master Robert, Master Jonathan," he said with a crisp air about him. Bobby rolled his eyes, conveying how much he hated it when Elliot called him by his proper name. He was tired of reminding him anymore, though, as he knew it wouldn't do any good.
"Hello Elliot," John said in a cordial manner. "Are my parents home?"
"No sir, they are not home yet. They should be home shortly. They're off at the doctor's again," he said, lowering his tone at the end so Bobby wouldn't hear. Bobby did hear, however. He shot Elliot a spiteful look as he jogged up the stairs to his room. He didn't want to hear any sympathies.
John gave Elliot a reassuring smile, apologizing for his brother's behavior. "Sorry," he said.
"No need," Elliot said, with a slight smile. Young John was always trying to be polite, even to the point of apologizing for other people.
John walked up the stairs, with the well-placed lights reflecting in just the right spots all around him illuminating the staircase. The upstairs hall was the same way, only with softer tones. Classical paintings hung on the walls, and the floor was completely free of any clutter. John walked past Bobby's room, where the door was closed. He could hear Bobby talking on the phone to one of his friends, discussing plans for the weekend. John continued down the hall, to his room at the end. He walked in and headed for the desk, which was neatly organized. He pulled out the chair and sat down. He removed his shoes, taking the time to untie them and lie them neatly next to the desk. He flicked on the light over the desk and pulled his science book out of his bag. He opened it to the page with his assignment, and began to read. It was talking about muscles and how they work with things called tendons to move your bones. Most of the kids didn't take much interest in science, or any of the other classes, little less do their homework. But John found something intriguing about it. Yet even in his boring classes like Social Studies, he made sure to read whatever he was supposed to, pay attention, and do his homework. That was just the way he was.
John was so absorbed in his work that he neglected to look at the clock. He had heard one of Bobby's friends come in, and they were now downstairs watching a movie. But other than that, he had not been paying attention to what was going on. He heard a car pull up out front, and then the sound of two female voices, one that of an adolescent and one of a woman. He looked up at the clock. Five. He'd been up here for and hour and a half. He hurriedly closed his book, and turned off the light. He rushed out into the hall, and ran to the stairs. From his spot up above, he could see two figures. One was the figure of a dark haired girl with her hair pulled back in a loose bun, as was the 'style' among the freshmen in her high school. The other was the figure of a woman with graying hair standing beside her, with Elliot taking her coat.
"Gamma!" John shouted with delight, as he rushed down the stairs. His grandmother and sister both looked up to see him coming down the stairs. He ran up to Gamma and have her a big hug, which she returned.
"Goodness Johnny," she said when he pulled back. "I just saw you last week!"
"I know Gamma," John said with a smile. "But I'm still happy to see you."
"And I'm happy to see you too," She gave him another hug, and started heading for the sitting room to the left of the entryway.
John and his sister followed.
"Do anything fun today?" his sister asked.
"Not really," John said, thinking of the tripping fiasco. "What about you, Nell?"
Nell smiled and tucked a stray hair behind her ear. "Well, I got asked to the winter dance by a boy in my science class."
"Eleanor Millicient Carter!" Gamma exclaimed.
"The second," John piped in.
"That's lovely dear," Gamma said with a smile. "You just be careful."
"I know, I know," Nell said. "Boys are ornery." She tickled John, who cried out and dove behind his grandmother for safety. "Truce?" Nell said, holding up her hands.
John eyed her warily. "Truce," he agreed.
She pulled her little brother into a hug, and kissed him on the forehead.
"Eeewwwwww!" John said, wiping his forehead with the back of his hand.
Gamma laughed. "Someday, Johnny, you won't mind pretty girls giving you kisses."
John wrinkled his nose. "Ick," he said simply.
There was a knock at the door just then, and Elliot opened it. It turned out to be Bobby's friend's parents. Bobby's friend left, and Bobby was left with his family.
"Bobby, come give your old grandmother a hug," Gamma said, with open arms. Bobby obliged.
"Are you eating with us, Gamma?" Bobby asked. Gamma nodded. "Is Grandpa coming to eat with us too?"
"No, I'm sorry Bobby. He's on a business trip right now," Gamma said.
At that moment, the sound of a car pulling up was heard, and the slam of a car door. Elliot opened the door and greeted the new arrivals. "Good day Master Jack, Mistress Eleanor," he said politely as he took their coats.
Jack Carter smiled at his family. "Hello Mother," he said to Gamma. She got up and gave him a hug.
"Good afternoon, Eleanor," Gamma said to Eleanor Carter.
"Good afternoon, Millicient," Eleanor replied, not sounding at all excited about the visit.
There was a moment of tense silence, before Jack broke it by suggesting that they all have some lemonade on the lawn, which Elliot brought to them. The children were not warm and open with their parents as they were with their grandmother, however. Nell told them about the dance, to which her father asked a million questions about who this boy was, how late they would be out, how they would get there, and what she would wear. The typical nervous father questions. Her mother only offered a comment about how dull dances could be and how she regretted every one she went to in high school. Gamma made small talk about them all taking a vacation to Hawaii, whenever their hectic schedule allowed for it. John didn't say anything, nor did Bobby. They just sipped their lemonade and listened politely to the conversation, as they had been taught to do all their lives.
After the glasses were all empty, Jack decided he could not stall the inevitable anymore. "We visited Bobby's oncologist today," he said slowly.
John and Nell exchanged a look of apprehension. What was the news? Was he better? Worse?
"And he had the results of Bobby's most recent marrow test back," Jack continued. "The cancer has come back. You'll need to start another full course of chemo tomorrow. I'm sorry Bobby," he said sympathetically to his son, who was on the verge of tears.
Gamma reached over to give Bobby a hug, but he pulled away. He bolted inside and up the stairs to his room. The slam of his heavy oak door could be heard all the way out on the lawn.
"I'm going to go see if he's all right," Eleanor said, starting to get up.
"Eleanor," Jack said, catching her arm. He shook his head in a silent no. Eleanor nodded and sat back down.
"Oh dear," Gamma said, letting out a sigh. "The poor boy."
"Yes," was all Jack could say. "Nell, take your brother inside and you two wash up. We'll be in for dinner in a minute."
Nell nodded and she and John walked up the lawn toward the back door. John looked over his shoulder to see his Mother, Grandmother, and Father engaged in a serious conversation. He turned his attention up to his sister.
"Nell... is Bobby going to die?" John asked.
Nell froze, not knowing what to say. She didn't know the answer, not for sure. No one did for sure, she told herself. Sure, this would be Bobby's third round of chemo and he hadn't really been getting any better.... but no one knew for sure, she told herself. But how could she explain that to John? Sure, he was a smart kid, but he was still a kid. So she mustered up the best reassuring smile she could.
"No Scrub," she said. "Bobby's not going to die.