Maggie's sleeping body was sprawled out in the middle of the mangled blankets of the motel bed.
She was sleeping hard -- not even the echoed thud of a shampoo bottle hitting the bathroom tiles from the next room got a stir from her.
Abby Lockhart sat on her own bed, listening to the gentle tap of John Carter's shower coming from the connecting motel room. She idly watched the muted television, vaguely trying to extrapolate the story line and progress from the characters facial statement.
Giving up, she flipped the channel to the news, the room now cast in a bluish hue that the backdrop of CNN provided.
Abby was tired -- tired of the endless repetitive cycle of her mother's disease. She was surprised by how surprised she was each time her mother did this. Each time the cycled renewed. By now, she should have been used to it, she should have known what to do and what to expect.
Each time, though, it was some variation of the same theme for her: Abby was left dealing with the mess left in the wake of her mother's episodes.
It was different, though, this time. Different in a way that had nothing to do with her mother. Abby had Carter to help her. The casual companionship between her and Carter was another surprise. She didn't examine it too closely, though, instead pulling out a cigarette and making her way to the balcony.
Luka had tried helping her, supporting her through this time, but he didn't understand. Abby had to go to her mom, had to be there to fix whatever mess her mom had created. That's what Abby did, what she had always done.
Abby had been defensive and assertive since the first date with Luka. It was a vulnerable feeling, dating someone. Alcohol helped with that when she was younger, but now that she was recovering she was facing the same insecurities and doubts that had drove her to drink.
The rules were different with Carter. He'd been the vulnerable one, using drugs and recovering, seeking her out for AA sponsorship. He persisted, she relented and became his sponsor.
He persisted with friendship, and she found herself not even wanting to hesitate. It was a nice, companionable feeling.
Carter talked to her, expressed his feelings, and soon she found it easy to do the same. That was one of the reasons she didn't have a problem with Carter taking the initiative in helping her with Maggie.
Abby heard the shower shut off when she entered the motel room again. She walked around towards her bed, seeing that her mother had barely moved during her cigarette break.
The bathroom door in Carter's room open, hot steam whirling out of the opened door and into the cool air of the motel room. Carter exited his bathroom wearing boxer shorts and a white t-shirt, his wet hair slicked to his forehead.
"Hey." Carter entered her room through the open door. "How are you doing?" He asked, Abby's face shadowed in the dark room. Even so, he could still see the worried and thoughtful statement on her face.
Abby just shook her head slightly, looking over at Maggie's unconscious form. "I called the desk office. We're going to get a wake up call at six." She said, quietly as to not disturb Maggie.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Carter said, trying again to get her to talk.
"I'm fine," Abby said, not even sounding convincing to herself.
"Why don't you come have a donut in my room?" She hadn't eaten much all day, so he'd bought some donuts from the gas station in hopes of spurring her appetite.
"Donuts?" She said dubiously, but he could hear a hint of humor in her voice.
She was already moving towards his door before he could reply. He followed, grabbing the box of donuts from the small bedside table, and tossing the wet tall that was draped over his shoulders onto the bed.
Abby had taken a seat at the desk that was positioned next to the bed, maneuvering the desk chair sideways so that she was facing Carter.
When he set the donuts down on the desk by her side, Abby noticed the heat from Carter's shower was still evident by the fact that slight wisp of barely seen steam rose from his smooth, pale neck.
Her senses were flooded by the clean scent of the motel soap when he made his way past her, towards the counter.
"Want something to drink?" Carter was scooping ice out of the half melted bucket, proceeding to pour his half warm soda in the plastic cup.
"No. We should probably get some sleep," She looked over at the bleeding red lights of the bedside clock.
"Wait," Carter walked towards the bed, moving the skimpy tall off the comforter of the bed before sitting. "You didn't eat much today."
Abby sighed inwardly, distantly wondering about her earlier train of thought about Carter. She could talk to Carter, she knew that. But right now, she didn't know what to say. 'I'm frustrated with this redundant cycle. I'm sick of my ex-husband showing up unexpected in my life. I'm unsatisfied with my attempts to hurtled myself into a relationship with Luka. My career as a med-student seems to be over indefinitely. I like the the way the motel soap smells on John...' She thought to herself in a disorganized ramble.
Abby could only scratch the surface of all these thoughts that went fluttering through her head. If she started talking now, everything would come rushing out in one big blur.
Her mind couldn't focus on anything. Too many hours on the road, too much stress from her mother.
Carter leaned forward on the bed, earnestly. He had a patient, open statement on his face.
"I'll be fine," she said, when she realized Carter was waiting for her to say something.
When she made a move to get up, Carter lightly put his hand on her arm, stopping her.
She immediately felt the shower-heat of his skin in contrast to the cold motel air. She made no move to be released from this light grip on her arm, instead looking down at his hand, then into his eyes.
Carter felt tension as soon as her eyes met his. He had acknowledge his feelings for Abby some time ago, but still kept them at a distance, feeling that there was nothing more but friendship for the two of them.
What he saw in her eyes, though, in the dim light of the motel room told him differently.
Miles away from Chicago, the rules were different. He let himself sink into her eyes, revel in the feel of skin touching skin.
With his hand still on her arm, he stood up, hovering over her, noticing how tired she looked for the first time that night.
Abby felt her stomach knot up when Carter stood, her eyes moving up to meet his.
When he leaned in, it was surreal. She didn't even question to lack of surprise at the first brush of their lips meeting.
It was a gentle kiss at first, his hand moving up to her head, pushing her hair behind her ears before molding itself to the back of her head lightly.
She was reeling from emotion and thought. This was all too much to deal with right now. Her mind was briefly set on the sleeping form in the next room, on the tall, darkly quiet man back in Chicago, before she took the initiative to deepen the kiss, silencing all thought and doubt.
Carter tasted like mint toothpaste, his mouth a warm furnace. Their tongues caressed in a light battle, time seemingly stretching for hours.
When they finally parted, the uncertainty and doubt resurfaced. Abby wanted to leave -- leave the motel room, leave Carter, leave her mother, leave Chicago. These were familiar feelings, ones she had before turning to liquor. The urge to escape reality, and forget about life's problems for just a few hours.
Carter's skin looked slightly flushed when she pulled back completely. He licked his lips, furrowing his eyebrows, concerned and confused.
"I..." He didn't know what to say. The kiss had been impulsive, outweighing logic and rational thought. He saw his confusion mirrored on Abby's face.
Finally snapping out of her a daze, Abby shook his hand off her arm, gently shaking her head, trying to silence whatever words Carter was trying to put forth.
"We have to get up early," she said softly, after heartbeats of silence pasted. She didn't know what else to say, what else to do.
One last look, and Abby was making her way towards the door.
"Abby..." She hesitated before turning. "...Good night." He didn't know what he'd planned on saying.
One last pause, and she acknowledge his statement with a nod, turning and making her way into her room.
Carter scratched his head, trying to process what had happened, before sitting back on the bed and watching the door shut with a final click.
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