Questions and Answers

AUTHOR: brin
CATEGORY: Carter/Gamma/Dave/Cast
RATING: PG - some violence and Carter angst
SPOILERS: Season 7
SUMMARY: Carter has a bad day involving many questions

He watched the tiny microscopic insect climb its way up the first blade of grass in between his legs. He first moved to remove its existence between his fingers, but then stopped. What did this bug do to die? Was its life somehow less valuable than his own, just because that life consisted of traveling up and down blades of grass? Who was to say his own life was more worth living than this bug?

It stopped at the top of the blade, with nowhere else to travel. Within a second, it crawled back down the blade, but not out of sight. It stopped briefly, then transferred its body onto another bit of grass.

John's fingers twitched to kill it; again he refrained himself from the simple pleasure. Its life was so carefree. All it did was go up and down grass stems. What else was there for it to do? It had no job, probably no real family to care for. All it did was eat and crawl on grass, or so he assumed.

The insect stopped again, this time dangling on the tip of the stem. It turned back and descended. Halfway down, it seemed to change its mind and went back up.

All it had to worry about was when it was going to die. But did insects have any concept of their own mortality? Did they know their purpose on this earth? What was their purpose? What is our purpose, John thought. What is my purpose? Am I more valuable than this bug? And if so, why? Why can't everybody just do as they do? Travel up grass blades. What was it that made his own life more important, more meaningful?

His subject in question froze on the blade of grass. Without hesitation, John reached down and pinched it between his middle and forefinger. He couldn't even feel killing it, and when he looked at his fingers, all he could see was a little black speck. That was what it became, a black speck.

How was it to kill off a living creature with such ease? Apparently too easy. He felt satisfied, knowing that the bug was no longer there to distract him. He waited, expecting to see another one come out and continue the meaningless ritual. What a boring life.

He folded his legs closer to himself and wrapped his arms around them. The sun was just beginning to peak up over the hills at the edge of the Carter property. Looking upward, he frowned slightly at the clouds that were slowly moving towards him. It was no longer going to be a sunny morning.

Millicent Carter gracefully stepped around a hedge, minding her footing as she crossed the lawn to where she figured John would be at that hour of the morning. He still had a tendency to disappear at the oddest hours. She'd heard him get up strangely at four, but when she had come downstairs at five-thirty, he was nowhere to be found.

She finally discovered him sitting by their pond, his legs tucked up to his chest, looking at the sky.

"John," she said primly. "You're up early."

He noted her concerned tone in silence. So are you, he thought.

"Did you eat breakfast?" He barely nodded. "Are you working today?"

John thought of how their relationship consisted merely of questions, her asking him and him answering to her. Of course, there were often times where they would engage in deep conversations, but lately all there was were questions.

"Yes," he answered, figuring she would have rather liked hearing his voice than seeing him nod again. He wasn't up to talking to anyone, but he didn't want her concern.

She seemed satisfied. Tightening her robe, she turned to head back.

"Are you coming in?" she asked to his back.

"In a minute."

She smiled at her grandson before walking away. It was silent again, which was what he preferred.

Kerry watched as Carter pushed the patient back down on the stretcher.

"Carter," she called into the trauma room. "Do you need some help?"

Carter looked to see his supervisor hovering in the doorway. Always watching to see when he'd screw up, he mused.

"I've got it Kerry." He turned his attention back to the patient, a 23 year old man with a head laceration, product of an auto versus parked car accident.

"How'd you cut your head, Mr. Woods?" he asked calmly, placing his hand near the open wound on the man's forehead.

"I'm fine," Mr. Woods answered in a shaky voice. "I'm okay. I just want to get out of here."

"Well, the sooner you sit still, the sooner I'll be able to evaluate you." He held his head back and shined a light into each eye, checking the pupil activity.

The trauma doors opened up as Dave strutted in the room.

"Dr. Weaver said you need some help, he announced, stopping by Carter's side as he overviewed the examination.

Damn her, Carter thought as he straightened up. He was either watched by Kerry and Mark or babysat by another resident. He knew he wasn't going back to drugs. Not ever again.

"I've got it Dave," he said angrily, trying to stay calm but not succeeding. "Don't you have a patient?"

"Actually, I did, but the Chief wanted me in here."

His voice told Carter he was totally oblivious to the fact that Kerry was using him as a watch dog. Or maybe he was in on it, too. Everybody at the hospital seemed to have an excuse to be around him lately, watching his every move.

He knew he wasn't going to get anywhere with Dave. "Fine, if you want to help, start an IV."

Dave nodded, moving to the other side to have access to the patient's wrist.

"Okay, Mr. Woods," Carter said gently. "I'm going to need you to sit still and relax. Your forehead needs a couple of stitches and we need to get a head CT."

He turned to get a suture kit. Mr. Woods watched him carefully as he set up the tray and unwrapped the equipment. His eyes settled on a small scalpel that laid innocently on the edge of the tray. He noted the other doctor's position on his side who was applying something cool and wet to his arm. Behind him, a nurse reported his BP then left the room.

His eyes shifted back to Carter, who was quietly explaining the procedure while he drew some liquid from a small bottle into a needled syringe. He knew he had to get out of there soon.

His exit came quicker than he had expected. He felt a sharp prick in his arm, which caused him to violently yank his arm away from Dave's grasp. His eyes trained on the exit door, he attempted to lunge from the gurney. Both doctors leapt into action, restraining him back. He snatched the scalpel from the tray and swiped at the nearest arm.

Dave jerked his arm back after the sharp metal cut across his skin. As he cried out cursing, the patient, scalpel in hand, jumped onto Carter. The two landed on the floor hard with Carter on his back and Mr. Woods on top of him, scrambling to get up.

Dave hurried to help pull the patient off of Carter. He managed to break the two apart and pulled Mr. Woods to his feet. He got hit in the jaw when Mr. Woods swung his arm back, and stumbled back, releasing him.

Carter was on his feet in an instant, still a little dazed but terrified. His patient almost slit his throat. But he pushed the fear aside as he saw Dave fall back into the counters and the patient approach him, knife still in possession. He crossed the room as quickly as his wobbly legs would go and grabbed him, pulling him away from Dave.

Mr. Woods, feeling a pair of arms tighten around his chest, grabbed the closest one and twisted it around.

Carter's arm burned with pain as he felt his body turn and soon Mr. Woods was behind him. A razor like object pressed against his throat and he froze.

Dave whirled around, half expecting Mr. Woods to pounce on him. What he saw was Carter, standing straight with an arm awkwardly behind his back. The patient was behind him, holding the scalpel to his throat.

"I want to leave," Mr. Woods shouted, his voice tight.

Dave held his hands out in front of him, a lame attempt to calm the patient.

"It's okay. Just put the scalpel down…"

"No!" Mr. Woods almost shouted. His grip tightened on the metal, and John flinched as he felt it dig deeper into the skin. Please don't let him hurt me, he prayed, clenching his eyes shut. He was becoming very much afraid and he didn't like this feeling of vulnerability.

"We'll let you leave," he heard Dave say. Oh God, he wished someone else was there right now. He wanted Dr. Benton there.

"You can leave," Dave continued as he slowly stepped forward. "But, first you have to let him go." He tried to look and see if anyone was in the hallway. Where the hell was everyone? Couldn't anyone see what was happening?

Mr. Woods body was trembling. Carter could feel his rapid heart beat against his back and knew his own heart was racing. What was Malucci doing? He was scaring the shit out of the patient. Give him some space!

"Dave, back away," he muttered, surprised that he could find his voice. Mr. Woods was pulling hard on his arm.

"Relax Carter, I'm trying to help." Dave continued to step forward. Carter felt his body being pulled back as Mr. Woods tried to keep a comfortable distance from the other doctor.

"You better listen to him!" Mr. Woods shouted, his head peering over Carter's shoulder. "I swear to God I'll cut him."

"Just relax, okay?" Dave couldn't think of anything to say. He was worried about the patient's mental status, and if he was actually serious enough to hurt Carter.

"Will you quit telling me to relax?" Mr. Woods screamed at the top of his lungs. Carter tensed as his arm was pulled higher and then he felt it.

A horrific pain entered his side. He looked down to see the scalpel halfway gone, dug somewhere deep inside of him. The metal had stabbed him.

Stabbed. The flashbacks were intense. He envisioned himself falling, falling hard onto the ground. Lucy was there, too. They were both going to die.

He collapsed on the floor. He tried to regulate his breathing. His mind whirled and he barely was aware of what was going on around him. He heard voices, lots of voices as they crowded around him. Malucci was gone, so was Mr. Woods. He heard someone ask him if he was all right, then sensed the presence of someone kneeling at his side.

"John, are you okay?" then, "Everyone back off and give him some room." Then everything disappeared as he passed out.

His body was in a sitting position on a gurney. He couldn't remember how it was he'd ended up there, but it felt good to lay on a soft surface. He glanced down at his side. His shirt was gone, replaced with a hospital gown. Peeking below it, he saw there was a strip of gauze taped to his side. He sighed deeply and laid his head back on the pillow.

"Carter, you're awake."

He jumped at the sound of the man by the window. Dave stepped towards him and slid in a chair.

"What happened?" Carter asked. "How did I get here?"

"You passed out."

"Before that."

Malucci paused. "You don't remember? Some freaking patient attacked both of us."

Carter closed his eyes and pressed the palm of his hand on his forehead. "Oh yah. Just took me a second." He smiled uncomfortably.

Dave cleared his throat. "Hey, man. I'm sorry the guy had to stab you like that. Believe me, I didn't know what to do."

"Dave, it's okay."

"You sure?" He stood up quickly, causing Carter to tense. "I'll go let Dr. Weaver know you're up." He quickly left the room, leaving Carter to piece together what happened. Suddenly he didn't feel safe anymore.

The door flew open again and once again Carter's heart leapt to his throat. Damn, he had to stop being so jittery. Kerry was there, along with Dave and Dr. Benton. He regarded him coolly. Before he'd wanted him there, but now he was slightly embarrassed that they had to worry over this.

"You okay, Carter?" Benton asked first. His former student nodded uneasily.

"The police took away Mr. Woods," Kerry informed him. "He had killed his wife this morning, and was in the process of fleeing when he ran into that car. That was why he wanted to leave earlier. The police will be needing a statement from you, when you're up to it of course."

"Of course," John's voice crackled.

"How are you feeling?" she asked.

"I'm okay. When can I get out of here?"

"Hold on. I'll get you a shirt to wear."

When she left, Benton eased himself on the edge of the bed, studying John. The young doctor was uneasy in seconds.

"What?" he asked nervously. He couldn't meet Benton's eyes.

"I just wanted to be sure you're okay."

"I am," he paused, then added quietly, "at least I was. I'm not so sure now." He felt Benton's hand on his shoulder. "I mean, I will be. I guess I'm just shaken up." He finally looked him in the eyes and nodded.

Benton rose just when Kerry came back in.

"I got you a shirt," she smiled.

The whistling teakettle shook him out of his thoughts. He quickly removed it and filled his oval cup, watching at the clear liquid turned brown. Inhaling the deep scent, he allowed himself a brief smile. When his tea was at the right concentration, he removed the bag and carried the mug out to the patio. After gently sitting down in a wicker chair, his side was still tender, he placed the cup on the table next to him and took in a breath of the cool afternoon air. He'd come to deeply appreciate any kind of nature. It was so full of life.

His thoughts again strayed back to the events of the morning. He should realize that if it happens once, it could happen again, and again. He was always hassled by patients in some way or another, just not always brutally attacked. The thought sent a shiver up his spine. There were times where he was even too scared to want to leave his own home. He knew Gamma wouldn't have a problem with it. She'd probably insist.

Why did Mr. Woods kill his wife? Was it for the same reason that he killed that bug in the morning? Was she just in his way? Did he think she held no purpose? Was there a real reason, or was he just crazy, and she happened to be the first person he saw when he snapped? Too many questions, never enough answers. He sipped his tea slowly.

He heard footsteps approach him, but he held his gaze on the countryside.

"You're home already?"

Yet another question, but it was rhetorical so he chose not to answer. His Gamma appeared at his side. "John," she said sternly.

"Hi Gamma," he said, smiling up at her.

She sighed, knowing his stubbornness was much like his grandfather's. "I suppose you're not going to talk to me now."

"No, I'll talk to you."

She gave him a sideways glance. "How was work?"

He returned to what he was looking at. "Like most days. Come sit down." He moved his legs and gestured for her to sit next to him. "Want some tea?" She shook her head no.

They stayed there until the maid came out and announced that dinner was served. However their time was not spent asking and answering questions. She listened as he told her things, things he wouldn't tell most people. In the end, they both got what they wanted.

It's been awhile

Since I could hold my head up high

And it's been awhile

Since I first saw you

And it's been awhile

Since I could stand on my own two feet again

And it's been awhile

Since I could call you

And everything I can't remember

As fucked up as it all may seem

And consequences that are rendered

I stretched myself beyond my means

And it's been awhile

Since I could say that I wasn't addicted

And it's been awhile

Since I could say I loved myself as well

And it's been awhile

Since I've gone and fucked things up like I always do

And it's been awhile

But all that shit seems to disappear when I'm with you

And everything I can't remember

As fucked up as it all may seem

And consequences that are rendered

I've gone and fucked things up again


Why must I feel this way?

Just make this go away

Just one more peaceful day

And it's been awhile

Since I could look at myself straight

And it's been awhile

Since I've said that I'm sorry

And it's been awhile

Since I've seen the way the candles light your face

And it's been awhile

But I can still remember just the way you taste

And everything I can't remember

As fucked up as it all may seem

I know it's me

I cannot blame this on my father

He did the best he could for me

And it's been awhile

Since I could hold my head up high

And it's been awhile

Since I said I'm sorry

Staind - It's Been Awhile

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