Never Can Say Goodbye

AUTHOR: Gayle Ben-Ezra
CATEGORY: JC/Cast Drama/Romance
DISCLAIMER: I don't own any of the characters, blah, blah, blah, although Noah Wyle IS my personal sex slave. Other than that....nah!
SUMMARY: Reflections on 9/11 and a different kind of Carby.

Carter closed his eyes and tilted his seat back, slightly. It was September 18, 2001, and he was on the NY to Chicago. Sitting there in his cushy, first class seat made the guilt rise in him, after all he'd just witnessed. Closing his eyes, in fact, only made matters worse. He went over the events of the past week in his head.

September 11, 2001 had been a regular day at County. There had been the average parade of drunks, GSWs, `weak-and-dizzy-all-overs`, nothing out of ordinary. Carter had been on all night, and was looking forward to going home and taking it easy for a while.

"Randi" he said, plopping a pile of charts on the desk, "I'm just gonna grab a coffee in the lounge. If anything comes in, come and find me."

"Yeah, okay, Dr. C." Randi said, "No problem."

Carter walked into the lounge, poured his tenth cup of the day, and plopped himself into a chair, loosening his tie. He picked up a magazine, and flipped through it, absentmindedly. "Wonder what's going on in the world?" He thought out loud, and turned on the television. What he witnessed next would haunt him for the rest of his life, he was sure. Time stood still as he watched an airplane, a jet mind you, not some little Piper Cub, fly into the World Trade Center, and burst into flame. "Holy shit!" He exclaimed, "Holy shit!" He knocked the coffee on the floor as he ran out to the Admit Desk.

"Randi!" He yelled, "turn off that damn talk show, and put on the news!" He was panting now, and his heart was pounding.

Randi rolled her eyes and whined "C'mon, Dr. Carter. I'm watching this." The look on his face told her to comply. Now. Randi changed the channel, and a crowd began to gather in front of the TV.

They watched in disbelief as the video was replayed, three, four, five times.

"Was that an accident?" Lydia said, her eyes wide, her jaw slack, as she watched the screen incredulously.

"I don't know." Haleh said, "I sure hope so."

The picture on the screen had everyone transfixed, patients and staff alike. Flames shot up the sides of the building, and smoke billowed out in enormous, black clouds. Bodies plunged from gaping holes in the building. Some were falling. Some were jumping, probably imagining that means might be less painful than burning to death.

"Nobody could've survived that crash." Malik said, "Nobody."

The crowd started speculating on what might have happened, and the conversation grew louder.

"Shhhh!" Carter yelled, "Quiet, I can't hear what they're saying."

No sooner had the words left his mouth, something unfathomable happened. As everyone stood and watched, a second jet circled around and plowed into the other Tower. The crowd gasped, and someone began to cry.

"That was no accident." Carter turned to Mark, who stood next to him, "What the hell is going on?"

"Looks like somebody's got a bone to pick with United States." Mark said, his eyes never leaving the television.

The ambulance bay doors swung open, and the paramedics brought in a patient. Nobody moved. Nobody even turned to look.

"Hello?" Doris said, "anybody home? We've got a nice little old lady here with an asthma attack. Hey, what's going on?"

Carter pointed to the television, "Somebody just flew two planes into the World Trade Center."

"I beg your pardon?" Doris said, "You mean on purpose?" She said in astonishment.

"It looks that way." Carter said glumly, "Tell me about your patient." He forced a smile for the old woman, and put his hand on her shoulder.

"This is Elsie McDonough, 72-years-old, history of asthma. She became short of breath while grocery shopping. No LOC, she's A& O times 3. B/P is 160/72, Resps 22, Rate 110. She uses an Albuterol inhaler p.r.n., which she did not have on her at the store. We gave her nebs, and a shot of Solu-Medrol. She's not much improved. She's satting at 92 on room air. She refused the O-2 mask." The whole time she was talking, Doris stared at the television.

Carter nodded. "Hi, Mrs. McDonough, I'm Dr. Carter." He tried to force a smile. He looked over at the crowd, searching for Carol. "Carol? Can I get some help over here with a patient?" He called.

Carol walked over to where Carter was standing, "Sure, Carter. What's up?" She sighed heavily.

"Let's get a PA and lateral chest film on Mrs. McDonough here." He listened to Mrs. McDonough's lungs. "Also, get a line started on her please, pulse ox, blood gas, CBC, chem-7, hook her up to a 12- lead, and call Respiratory for a breathing treatment. Thanks." Carol jotted down the orders, and went off to put them in the computer.

"Other than the Albuterol, do you take any medications?" Carter asked, just going through the motions. The patient shook her head. "Besides the asthma, any other medical problems?" Again, she shook her head. "Good. Carol's going to get some tests on you, and I'll be back in a little while."

A woman patted him on the arm, gently, waking him. "Dr. Carter?" The stewardess said "could I get you something to drink?" "Uh. No, thanks." He said and closed his eyes again.

The rest of that day was pretty much a blur. Shortly after the second plane hit the Towers, all hell broke loose. The Towers collapsed. Gone. Demolished. Obliterated, with over 350 firefighters, police officers, and paramedics inside. A plane crashed into the Pentagon, doing major damage, and killing hundreds. Another flight crashed into the ground in Pennsylvania, killing everyone aboard, but probably saving hundreds of lives, since it missed its target. The news was saying that there were heroes on board that plane; they had forced the plane down to the ground, knowing its intended target would have meant many more deaths.

Carter should have been off hours ago, but he couldn't tear himself away from the hospital. Working was the only thing that had kept his mind off the hell that was going on just a short distance away.

"Carter?" Carol came up behind him and tapped him lightly on the shoulder. "Yeah." He said, not taking his eyes from the television screen. "Got a minute?" She asked, quietly. "One sec, Carol." Carter read the "crawl" that ran across the bottom of CNN now. "Wow, did you see that?" He asked Carol. "They think the death toll at the Towers alone will be close to 5,000. God. I can't believe this is happening. They say it was terrorists. Who would do this?" "I don't know, John. I just don't know." Carol whispered.

"Do you need me for a patient?" He said, now giving her his full attention.

"Oh, no." Carol said, "I wanted to talk to you about something else."

"Sure. What is it?" He said.

"It's about Anna." Carol said, "have you heard from her?"

Carter looked at Carol, exasperated, "No. Why?" He really was not in the mood to discuss Anna right now.

"She does live in New York, Carter. I thought you'd be concerned." Carol said.

"I know she does, Carol, but she lives blocks from there." He said, now beginning to wonder if Carol might be right.

"Okay." Carol said, "I was just checking. I mean she could have been walking by there this morning, you never know. You just never know, Carter. Lots of people were in the wrong place at the wrong time this morning." She walked away, not waiting for him to answer.

Carter stood watching the news for another moment, and Carol's words gnawed at him. "I suppose she could have been walking by, but what are the odds?"

"Kerry?" Carter approached her. She had squirreled herself away in a corner of the medical library, presumably to dictate charts, but she looked as though she'd been crying.

"Yes, John?" She removed her reading glasses and rubbed her eyes, "Damn, I'm so tired." She was embarrassed to be caught in such a vulnerable moment. "What can I do for you?"

"Yeah, Kerry...I'm `tired' too." His own eyes were red-rimmed from the tears he'd shed that day.

"I actually came to let you know that I'll be taking a few days off." He said, keeping his eyes upward, trying to hold back the tears that threatened to come. He cleared his throat, "Uh, the news says that they are looking for trained medical professionals and physicians to go to "Ground Zero", that's what they're calling the World Trade Center now." He paused for a moment. "You know, to help with the people that they're pulling out of the wreckage. I need to go there, Kerry. I want to go..." he said, choking up now.

Kerry looked up at Carter, and replaced her glassed. "Sure, Carter. If that's what you need to do, go do it."

"Thanks, Kerry. I'll try to cover my shifts." He said.

"Don't worry about it. Just get out of here." Kerry said.

That had been seven days ago. The world was a different place now.

When Carter had arrived in New York, there were hundreds of doctors who`d come to help out as well. The blood banks were flooded with donations. People were standing in lines for hours, just to donate blood. Carter was amazed at what had happened to this city, to this country. People were coming together. Donations for the rescue workers at the site were pouring in. Carter, and other physicians, nurses, and EMTs, spent that first day waiting for casualties. Five firemen were pulled out alive the day after the attacks. Carter was at the triage area from dawn until late that night. The only patients he treated were rescue workers suffering the effects of fire, dust, and smoke inhalation. He had hoped he'd be able to be more productive.

Carter walked over to the Red Cross tent to get drink. He turned to a young doctor standing next to him, "Hi. John Carter, Chicago." He put out his hand, and shook the other doctor's hand firmly.

"Scott Benedetto. I'm from Long Island." He said. Staring into the distance at the still-burning skyline.

"I thought we'd be busier than this." Carter said, dejected. "I thought they'd be bringing casualties out for us to treat. I feel so helpless."

Benedetto nodded in agreement, "Yeah. I know what you mean. But, it's only the first day. There's a lot of wreckage there to dig through. It's still burning. People are trapped down there. They'll get `em out." He said, kicking at an imaginary spot on the ground.

"I sure hope so." Carter said, squinting into the darkness, "I sure hope so. A lot of good men and women were in there. Heroes."

"Yeah. Heroes," Scott said. "and accountants, and secretaries, and stockbrokers. Everyone left their houses yesterday morning to go to work; business as usual. Did you ever think you'd find yourself worrying that while sitting at your desk, a plane might plow into the building? Un-fucking-real." He said.

Carter nodded in agreement, and sighed, "Hey, it was good to meet you." He shook Scott's hand. "I have to go grab a shower. I've been here since 4 a.m."

"You too, man. See you around."

Carter started walking in the direction of his hotel.

He hadn't walked more than a few blocks when he caught sight of a familiar profile. The blond was engaged in conversation with a middle- aged man, dressed in surgical greens. Carter's heart started to pound in his ears. He was at once relieved to see that she was okay, and at the same time wanted to run in the opposite direction to avoid her. She happened to glance in his direction, and Carter turned his head slightly, hoping that by averting her gaze she wouldn't recognize him. Fat chance. She quickly dismissed the other gentleman and walked over, hurriedly.

"Carter? What are you doing in New York? The baby is with my parents. This is not a scheduled weekend. You should've called."

He looked at her, more than a little annoyed, "Hi, Anna. Nice to see you too. I'm not here to see Julie, actually, although it would have been nice. I'm here to help with the rescue." He tilted his head in the direction of where the Towers once stood. "And, also to see if you and the baby were okay." He added, more quietly.

"Oh." She said, feeling a little sorry that she had jumped down his throat, "Oh. Yeah, we're fine. Just fine. As a matter of fact, Julie and I were visiting my parents. We had been there since Saturday; I had the weekend off. With everything that happened, I decided that since I had to be back at the hospital, anyway, it was best that she stay there."

Carter nodded in agreement, "How is she?" He smiled now, broadly, thinking of his daughter. She was three, going on twenty, with big brown eyes, and curly blond ringlets. He missed not being in her life every day. He missed it like crazy.

Anna reached into her backpack and pulled out a handful of snapshots. "I meant to send these to you. They were taken about two weeks ago." She smiled as she handed him the pictures. "She's really starting to look like you." She whispered. She felt an ache in her throat as she said this.

Carter flipped through the pictures. He felt tears coming to his eyes, for about the hundredth time that day. "She's unbelievable. Does she ask for me?" He said.

"Well, she watches that video that you made of yourself all the time. She points to the screen and says " "There's Daddy". She remembers you. Don't worry."

He shrugged "I hope so. Once a month visits are really not what I had in mind, Anna. I can't really be a father to her when I only see her once a month..."

Anna cut him off, "Look. This is not the time or the place to be talking about this. I am not particularly in the mood to debate this with you."

"You're right. You're right." He said, and held out the pictures to her.

"I said those are for you." She said. He pocketed the pictures.

"So." She said, "Unbelievable, right?"

He breathed out heavily, "Yeah. The worst part is, is that we have all these docs standing around waiting for survivors, and..."

"There are none...." Anna cut in.

"Still finishing my sentences for me, I see." He said warmly, looking at her and smiling.

"Where are you staying?" She asked.

"Just a few blocks up at the Hilton." He said. "Want to walk with me?"

She hesitated for a moment. It had taken her so long to bury her feelings for him. Seeing him now, when she hadn't had time to prepare herself, was extremely difficult.

"Umm. Why not?" She said.

They walked for a few minutes silently, and then he said to her, "Have you eaten? Because all I've had all day is about a thousand cups of coffee and some Balance bars. Do you want to grab a bite?"

She turned to look at him. "There's a little coffee shop up here on the corner. It's reminiscent of Doc's but not as lethal." They laughed together.

"Let's go." He said.

They settled into a booth and sat silently after ordering. Carter couldn't believe how beautiful she looked. She had some loose strands of hair hanging down, and it was all he could do not to reach over and brush them away from her face.

"Tell me." Anna said, "How's everyone at County? How is Carol doing?"

"They're great. She's great. The twins are getting big. They're starting kindergarten soon, I think."

"Wow. Amazing how time flies." She said.

"Yeah. Amazing." He said flatly.

"And," she said after a huge pause, "So, how's Abby?"

He snapped his head up, never expecting her to ask such a thing.

"Oh. She's fine." He couldn't look Anna in the eye. "Yeah. You know the wedding's just two months away, so she's been incredibly busy...." He trailed off when he saw the look on her face. "She's fine."

He looked down into his coffee cup, not sure what else to do.

Carter felt extremely uncomfortable, "I'm sorry, Anna." He said, not quite able to look her in the face. "That was really stupid. I don't even know why I said that."

"Don't be silly," she said, her voice laden with hurt and surprise, "I knew it was inevitable. Congratulations on your engagement. When`s the big day?" She asked full of fake enthusiasm.

"Yeah. Thanks. Oh, it`s November 17. I was going to call you and tell you...." He said.

"I'm sure you were." Anna said, barely containing herself.

When their food arrived, they ate in silence.

"God, you are such an idiot!" He thought to himself.

He stole looks at Anna, who looked completely miserable.

"Look, Anna..." Carter tried to explain.

"John?" Anna said, "You really don't owe me any explanations. You obviously love her." She picked up her coffee cup and downed the remainder of it. "What I don't understand is..." She stood up, unable to finish the sentence. She was not going to cry in front of him. Not now. Not ever again. She threw a crumpled ten-dollar bill on the table.

"It was good to see you. I'll see you next month when you come to visit Julie. Call first, please." She stormed out of the restaurant.

"Anna..." John got up to follow her, "Anna, come on don't do this. Please come back." He went back into the restaurant to pay the bill. No sooner had he gotten back inside, did his cell phone ring. He answered on the first ring, thinking it could be Anna.

"Hello?" He said cautiously.

"Hey, sweetie. It's me." It was Abby. Carter was almost disappointed. "How are you doing? Is it terrible there? Of course it is. How are you holding up?" She said.

"Terrible." He said, not totally sure if he was talking about what he'd seen down at Ground Zero, or what had just happened with Anna.

"From what I see on the news," Abby said gloomily, "You haven't had too many survivors to treat."

"Not a one, actually." He responded "just some paramedics and firemen for smoke inhalation and burns. It doesn't look like they're pulling many people out, dead or alive."

"Oh, honey, that must be so hard for you." Abby said sympathetically.

"Yeah, it's not exactly your typical day at work." He said.

"Well, I'm sorry to have to ask you something so silly at a time like this, John, but...."

Carter's mind wandered to what had just gone on with Anna, and he didn't hear Abby's question.

"John? Which is it? Chateau Briand or filet mignon?" She asked.

"Sorry. What?" He said, "I didn't hear the question."

"I said, Chateau Briand or filet mignon." She said, wondering if he was paying attention to her at all.

"Oh, Abby, it doesn't matter to me. I've told you that a million times." He said, sounding slightly annoyed. He realized the tone in his voice and softened somewhat. "You do whatever makes you happy, sweetie. Okay? For all I care, it could be pork chops." He joked trying to lighten the moment, "As long as we're getting married, I don't care what we eat, what the flowers look like, or who sits with who. Just tell me when to show up."

"Dr. Carter?" Abby said

"Yes, Dr. Keaton?" He said, and it made him smile.

" Have I told you that I love you?" She said.

"I love you, too." He said, and just for a moment, he felt empty inside.

"Abby, I've got to go take care of some things. I'll talk to you later?" He said.

"John...are you going to see Anna and the baby?" She asked, with a little tremor in her voice.

"Uh, I actually ran into Anna before. The baby's with her parents." He said.

"Oh, I see." Abby said.

"Don't worry Abby." He said.

"I'm not." She sounded crestfallen.

"Yes, you are, and you don't have to ." He said, "It's ancient history. I'm marrying you. I love you."

"I know." She said, "but the history's not that ancient."

"It is." He lied, "I'm telling you it is. I have to go now."

"Call me when you get to your hotel?" She asked.

"Sure. `Love you." He said, and hung up the phone.

As he walked toward Anna's apartment, he tried not to think about what had happened nearly four years ago.

It had taken them both completely by surprise, actually. They'd been together a little more than a year. "Finally together." John used to tell everyone. Before they'd finally admitted their true feelings for each other, he'd been with Abby and she'd gone back to Philly to give Max, yet, another chance. Anna had come to him while he was reducing a dislocated shoulder and told him.

"I've got a surprise for you." She'd said.

"Help me do this?" Carter said, handing her the other end of the sheet he'd placed around the patient's shoulder. Anna had grabbed the sheet.

"So, what is it?" John said, "Don't tell me you got those Bulls tickets?"

"Not quite." Anna winced as the patient's shoulder popped back into place.

"Well?" Since the patient was three sheets to the wind, anyway, he stole a kiss.

"We're having a baby." She said, holding her breath, almost not believing her own words.

"What?" Carter said, "We're what?"

"I said, you.." She put her arms around his neck and kissed him, "are.." Another kiss, "going to be a Daddy." She kissed him again.

"You're kidding?" He'd said excitedly, "How'd this happen? Don't answer that. I know. When?" They both laughed.

"March. I`m about 12 weeks."

He'd picked her up and spun her around.

"You're happy?" Anna said.

"I'm ecstatic." He said, and kissed her.

"Good. Because, now that you've spun me around, I have to go puke...again." She ran from the room.

Carter smiled at the memory now, as he arrived outside Anna's apartment and sat on the stoop.

When Anna was about five months pregnant, Max had arrived back in town. He'd finished yet another stint in rehab, and was looking for a job. While Anna seemed happy to have him back, it was another story for Carter.

Anna had given him all the reassurance he'd sought. She'd told him not to worry. She loved him, not Max. She was having his baby, and they were finally going to be a family. They knew they were having a girl, and they played a game every night in bed, arguing over the name. They were incredibly happy. That was, until the day that Carter arrived for his shift and went to his locker, only to find Anna and Max kissing in the lounge.

Anna had cried and pleaded with him. She claimed it had been the first time it had happened, and that it would never happen again. Carter didn't want to hear it.

"You obviously are a glutton for punishment." He'd said to her. "If he means that much to you, then be with him. I'm out of here." He'd left the hospital and gone straight to their apartment and packed his things.

As he sat on the stoop now, he put his head in his hands, and his stomach hurt, just remembering the scene.

Anna had started her maternity leave early. Max had transferred back to CHOP.

In the interim, Abby Keaton had come back from Pakistan. She still harbored the same feelings for Carter that she'd had when she left. Carter had never completely gotten over her leaving. either. It was only natural that he turned to Abby for consolation.

When March came that year, and Anna gave birth to their daughter, Carter was not in the delivery room. Carol Hathaway was, and she assured Carter that Max was not present either. Max had left about a week after the whole incident, and Anna hadn't contacted him since.

"It doesn't matter Carol." Carter had said, "I don't want to be with her. I will be a father to my daughter. I don't want anything to do with Anna DelAmico." They'd worked out amicable visitation with an attorney, or so Anna thought, and she'd picked up and moved to New York when the baby was a year old.

Carter had never stopped loving Abby. It just wasn't the same kind of love that he'd shared with Anna. But, it only seemed natural for him to propose. Abby, had, of course accepted, and as Carter had told Anna, they were getting married in November.

Carter stood up and went upstairs to try to talk to Anna. He rang her bell, and she came to the door and opened it and walked away.

"What are you doing here?" She asked.

"I came to talk to you." He said.

"What's there to talk about?" Anna said.

"I want to...I want things to be straight between you and I." He walked up to her and brushed the hair from her eyes.

"Don't touch me, please." She said, "You lost that right a long time ago."

"I believe it was taken from me." Carter retorted, "By Max Rocher."

"Carter." Anna said, "I am in no mood to rehash this tonight. If that's why you came here, then you can just leave." Tears came to her eyes.

"I think we need to." Carter said, moving closer to her.

"We need to what?" Anna said.

"I think we need to.." Carter couldn't hold himself another moment and he kissed Anna squarely on the mouth.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?" She pushed him away, "You're engaged to Abby, remember?"

He was somewhat surprised at himself for what he'd done, particularly since their split had resulted from something so similar.

"I'm sorry." Carter said, "You're right. I just couldn't help it. Maybe I should go."

Anna looked at him, standing there with his tail between his legs. "Yes. I think maybe you should."

She walked him to the door and as he opened it, she pushed it closed and kissed him. She felt the all the emotions that she'd bottled up these years come flowing out of her. She was crying and kissing him at the same time.

"Anna." He whispered "Oh, Anna." He pulled back from the kiss and held her tear-stained face in his hands.

"I still love you." He said.

"I love you, too." She replied.

She began to undress him, standing in the middle of the den. "Carter. I need you. I need you to make love to me."

Carter kissed her neck and unbuttoned her shirt. "God. You're so beautiful." He said as he gently kissed her neck and caressed her breasts.

He lowered her onto the couch and began to make love to her. All of a sudden, he realized what was happening, and sat up.

"I have to go." He said, stepping into his pants. "I'm sorry. This never should have happened. For God's sake, I'm getting married. I'm in love with Abby."

He'd run from her apartment and gone to his hotel. He'd called Abby to tell her goodnight, and wondered if he should confess. Probably not the best idea, he'd decided. As he went to bed, he couldn't get the picture of Anna, standing in front of him, out of his mind. Then he remembered the picture of her kissing Max in the lounge three years ago. He fell into a fitful sleep.

The next day, he went back to Ground Zero. He'd never worked so hard in his life. And yet, he didn't treat a single person other than a rescue worker.

In the evening, he'd gone back to the coffee shop, hoping to bump into Anna, but she didn't show. She knew him too well; she probably had avoided it on purpose, knowing he'd try a stunt like that to casually bump into her.

Carter stayed six days in New York, and didn't run into Anna once after that second night. He had gone to Anna's building the night before he left and waited for her for a while but he'd lost his nerve and gone back to his hotel.

When Carter's plane landed at O'Hare, Abby was waiting for him.

He greeted her warmly, and she threw her arms around him. "I missed you so much." She had said, and he knew she meant it. "You're not allowed to go away without me again."

He smiled at her, "Of course not." The guilt ate at him, but he had decided not to mention anything to her. She'd never get over it, and why should she? He hadn't gotten over Anna's mistake. Or had he?

They got in the airport limo, and Abby filled him in on all he'd missed in the few days he'd been away.

"So." Abby said, "How did it go with Anna?" She said, testing the waters.

"It was fine. The usual." He lied. "I just wish I'd gotten to see Julie." Which was not a lie.

"Oh. I'm sorry, sweetie. You'll get to see her in a few weeks though."

Carter took out the pictures that Anna had given him and showed Abby. "She's really beautiful, isn't she?" He bragged.

"She sure is." Abby had to agree. "She looks just like you."

"That's exactly what Anna said." Carter replied.

"Sounds like the two of you had a nice little chat." Abby said, and Carter didn't know how she meant it.

"Yeah. We did." He responded.

"So. Let me fill you in on some details." Abby began to talk at length about the wedding plans, and Carter nodded, feigning interest.

"Now, there's just one thing." Abby said.

"What's that?" Carter asked.

"How would you feel about moving the date up to October 27?" She asked, grimacing.

"Uh. October? Why?" He asked

"Because my sister and her husband have a cruise scheduled for the weekend we picked, and since we just threw everything together so quickly, I figured it didn't much matter. So, does it matter?"

Carter smiled and shook his head, "No. It doesn't matter." He kissed her, "The sooner the better."

"You're the best." Abby said, and kissed him.

"Hey.." Carter joked, "Save some for the honeymoon."

Abby burst out laughing, "Oh, you just wait until I get you home alone." She threatened.

Carter kissed her again. "I can hardly wait." He said. And at that moment, he knew he was doing the right thing by marrying Abby.

The rest of September flew by. Carter had gone to New York again to see Julie, but Anna hadn't been there. Her parents had brought Julie to the hotel, and said that Anna was at a conference in Philadelphia. "Philadelphia?" Carter had wondered. "How convenient." He had a terrific visit with the baby. She was getting so big, and talking a mile a minute. He only wished he could see her every day. When he returned her to her grandparents a couple of days later, he had said, "Julie, you know Daddy loves you, right?" Julie nodded, and her curls bounced around her face. "I love you, too, Daddy. To the sky and back." Carter melted. He hugged her close and promised to see her soon. After she left, he cried. It happened every time, but this time it hurt more.

October. Anna ripped the September page off her calendar and threw it in the trash. Carter had called her after he had returned to Chicago to let her know the wedding would be this month. She had sat and screened his call on her machine. "Mazel Tov!" She had yelled sarcastically at the machine when he left the message. She had managed to avoid seeing him for Julie's last visit, because she was at a conference. No such luck this month. He'd be in New York this week rather than his usual third weekend of the month, because of the wedding. Anna wrote his hotel information down from his phone message. He'd sounded so happy. She hated him.

When Carter arrived for the visit the following week, Anna had tried to keep things cordial for Julie. She certainly didn't need to feel the tension between them. "Make sure she takes her vitamin." Anna reminded him, as she handed her over. "Yeah, I know." Carter said. "Oh, and she likes to watch Blue's Clues before bed." "Yeah, I know that too." He countered. "I know you do." She said, having nothing else to say to him. "See you in three days." She left.

Carter tried to explain to Julie that he'd be getting married next week. "You're going to have a new step-Mommy." He told her. "You mean like Cinderella?" Julie had asked. "Well, let's hope not exactly like that, but yes." Carter smiled broadly. Julie had nodded. "Daddy?" "Yes, baby?" He answered, "Well, don't you love Mommy anymore?" Carter's heart sunk. If he only were free to tell the truth. "Julie. I'll always have a special feeling for Mommy, because she gave me you." He paused, "But, I love Abby, and we're getting married." Julie seemed satisfied with this answer, and Carter was relieved. When Anna came to pick her up to leave, she said, "Well. Good luck." She took Julie and left.

The following week was just one thing after another. This cousin didn't want to sit with that cousin. The flowers weren't the right flowers, and Abby was in a complete panic.

Abby caught John in the Suture Room. "Oh! I can't wait till this is over." She said. "It's so stressful!"

"More stressful than holding someone's beating heart in your hand?" Carter joked and kissed her on the forehead.

"Only slightly!" She kissed him back.

"Let's elope." He joked.

"Not on your life!" She smacked him on the rear end, and left.

October 27 came around. Carter stood in the front of the church, waiting for Abby. All their friends and family were there. "Whew." Carter said to Benton, his best man, "I'm nervous as hell." "Take it easy, Carter. It'll be over before you know it, man.

The music started. The procession began, with the bridesmaids and ushers. Abby appeared at the end of the aisle. Carter beamed at her. She looked gorgeous. He mouthed "I love you." and she smiled at him. She stood next to him before the priest and they held hands. The priest cleared his throat, and the crowd settled down.

All of a sudden, the door at the back of the church slammed open. Carter and Abby both turned around, alarmed at the sound. He squinted to see what was going on. It was Anna. It was Anna and Julie. Anna had tears running down her face. Carter turned and looked over at Abby, who was crying, as well. He looked back and forth between the two women, not knowing what to do or say. "John." Abby whispered, "Go. Go to your family." Carter's jaw dropped, and he shook his head, puzzled. "I said, go on. You and I both know it's always been her. Let's not kid ourselves anymore. Go be with her and your daughter." Abby sobbed and ran out the side door. Carter swallowed hard. He ran to the spot where Anna and Julie were standing, and embraced them. He kissed Anna, passionately now. "I never could say goodbye to you. You know that." She kissed him and the tears ran freely down both of their faces. "Yeah." She said ,smiling through her tears, "I know."

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