Last Day

AUTHOR: Victoria May
DISCLAIMER: er/ characters are property of nbc, warner bros, constant c, etc. I write for fun, not profit.
SUMMARY: A short look at Carter's last day in rehab.

John caught sight of a small brunette nurse coming out of Dr. Burrows office and head down the hallway away from him. John quickly caught up with her and grabbed her from behind.

"Missy, Missy. My favorite charge nurse."

"Oh John Carter! You scared me to death! Now let me go." John quickly released her from his embrace and stood up. Missy's heart pounded as she brushed at her uniform. Why did her always have to do that? His very touch sent shivers down her spine. If only she were twenty years younger or he twenty years older.

"What do you want now John?" She smiled at his innocent expression despite herself.

"Who me? Missy. I'm offended that you'd even think I was up to no good."

"Hmmn. Well, I apologize then. Now you'll have to excuse me John because I have work to get back to."

"Gee Missy. I don't know if I can accept that apology. You know, it might be a little easier to take if it were sugar coated. So how about telling me what Dr. Burrows is talking to Dr. Benton about in his office?" Carter looked at Missy mischievously.

"John!" Missy exclaimed. "You know better than to ask that. You know I can't tell you what goes on in Dr. Burrows' office. If he wanted you to know-you'd be in there with them. So just be patient."

John sighed and began to pace back and forth in the hallway.

"No you don't." Missy grabbed John by the arm and turned him towards a closed door. "I think you have a group session starting right about now. I'll come and get you when Dr. Burrows is ready to see you." She opened the door and a circle of faces turned towards them. "Sorry folks-got a straggler here." With that, Missy pushed John into the room and closed the door. Missy sighed, she was going to miss John Carter.

* * * * * * * * * *

"Dr. Burrows, thank you for your time. I appreciate you giving me this information. It will be helpful when John's back in Chicago." Peter Benton reached for Dr. Burrow's hand and grasped it firmly.

"Dr. Benton. All of the information I have shared with you was with Dr. Carter's permission. He understands how important it is to his continued recovery for you and his superiors at County General to be aware of this information. Now I think we'd better bring Dr. Carter in on this before he starts to think we've forgotten him."

Dr. Burrows, a large man with a gray beard and mustache and a head full of matching gray hair, turned to the door and opened it.

"Nurse Cleighton! Where's Dr. Carter gotten off to?" Missy looked up from a pile of paperwork at the nurse's station.

"I sent him into group Dr. Burrows. He was starting to pace a hole in the floor out here." Missy's eyes twinkled as she spoke of John. Peter knew that look well-and it usually came when ever John Carter's name was spoken.

Dr. Burrows crossed over to the group sessions room and opened the door. "Excuse me folks. John, we're ready for you."

John nervously got out of his chair and crossed the room. Men and women reached up to take his hand as he passed by, many smiling encouragingly at him. He had made many friends here Peter noticed. He wasn't surprised, John seemed to make friends where ever he was. John quietly closed the door behind him and walked towards Dr. Burrows' office.

"Don't worry John. It's the day you've been looking forward to. Now relax!" Missy squeezed his arm as she spoke her soothing words. John smiled at her, his nerves calming and entered Dr. Burrows' office.

John immediately went to Peter and grasped his hand. "Thanks for coming Dr. Benton." Peter pulled John into an embrace which John quickly reciprocated by wrapping his free arm around Peter's shoulders, their clasped hands between them-a masculine embrace. Both men were still somewhat embarrassed by their show of emotions last May.

John turned to Dr. Burrows and extended his hand. After shaking John's hand, Dr. Burrows motioned for John to sit.

"Well, John. This is it. Your last day. How are you feeling?" Dr. Burrows was a straight to the point kind of person and John liked that. No dancing around with small talk.

John shifted in his chair and ran his hand through his hair. "Honestly, I'm pretty nervous. I really screwed up back in Chicago. I have to prove to everyone-to myself-that I can be a good doctor. That I won't turn to a quick fix when things get tough. I'm not afraid of that. It'll be hard, but I'll do it." John looked down at his hands.

"Then what are you afraid of John?" Dr. Burrows prompted.

John looked over at Peter. "I'm afraid to go back and face everyone. I let them down. I didn't trust them enough to turn to them when everything got to be too much. And," John paused, almost too ashamed at his next confession to go on. "I care a lot about what people think of me, and when I, I used-no, abused-my pain meds, well, I have a hard time even respecting myself."

Peter spoke up. "Carter-look man. I would never put you-or your feelings-down. But I never thought I'd live to see the day that you got caught up in your pride. Yeah, you made a mistake, and yeah, your squeaky clean image is tarnished. But you're human man! If anything-we'll all feel closer to you. We've all made mistakes Carter. Remember that baby I almost killed? It took me a long time to get past that. To live with the fact that not only did I almost kill an innocent baby, but that I was human. I make mistakes. It wasn't my first and won't be my last. Just like this wasn't your first, and won't be your last. But you're still our friend, our coworker. We won't turn away because you made a mistake."

Dr. Burrows interjected, "John, I really couldn't have put that better. You made a mistake. I know you have the strength-the courage-to face your friends, coworkers, and family. You're a strong man who has gone through quite an ordeal. Hopefully this is your last trial. And you won't be facing it alone."

John looked over at Peter and smiled. "I know. I can do this, especially with Dr. Benton's help. I am ready to return to Chicago and to County General."

Dr. Burrows smiled at John. "John, you're going to do just fine. I've arranged for you to see Dr. Evers in Chicago for follow-up sessions. You already have the list of NA meetings and times." Dr. Burrows could feel his throat tighten. John Carter had touched his heart indeed. How he had made it so long without help was a miracle. God knew the man's family hadn't been there to support him. He cleared his throat.

"I think there's a party in your name starting right about now John." He stood and motioned towards the door. "Shall we?"

Without another word, the three men left the office, each knowing that John Carter would be O.K.

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