AUTHOR: Ash Carroll
SPOILERS: "Sand and Water"
ARCHIVE: Uh, sure.
DISCLAIMER: ER and its characters are the property of John Wells and Constant C Productions. I don't own anything except the story, and I don't have any money either, so please don't sue me.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Wow! I'm up to 4 already! :o) Okay, this is an alternate ending to "Water and Sand". As with my other fic, assume that Abby's alcoholism is known around the hospital. I don't have this episode taped, so I'm going entirely from memory. My apologies if I get something wrong. This is a short, little piece, kind of on the angsty side.
SUMMARY: After "Sand and Water", Abby contemplates the evening's events with a surprising companion.


She looked up at the sky, clear and black and dotted with stars, as she shifted the empty bottle of Jimmie Walker in her hands. Normally, she drew comfort from the millions of tiny sparkling lights amidst the sea of midnight, but tonight, it was the weight of the empty bottle, the glass cold against her hands, that gave her that comfort as she wondered what the stars stood for. How many children were born only to die before they ever had a chance to make their mark on the world? When would the doctors of the world stop treating unique cases as science experiments and start treating them as human lives? She didn't have the answers; didn't think she ever would, but it was nights like these that made her question her decision to become a doctor.

He stepped through the sliding doors, heading for his bike, but changed course when he noticed her sitting on a crate in the ambulance bay. He pulled his coat closer around his body, shivering in the bitter wind as he came to stand next to her. Boy, things had been just a little bit hellish ths evening. The ER had turned into a full-out three ring circus and he hadn't known which direction to move in first. He looked up at the sky.

Must've been the full moon.

"Crazy night, huh?"

She kept her gaze on the heavens, shifting the bottle to and fro between her palms. "Yeah. Always is when the moon is full."

Her voice was tinged with melancholy as he looked down at her, noticed the moonlight reflecting off the glass and paled. "Abby, please tell me you didn't drink that."

She didn't miss the concern that edged its way into his voice and laughed sardonically as she held up the bottle, focusing her eyes on some unseen speck in the asphalt. "This? No. Dumped it in the gutter."

He studied her for a few moments, wondering what had happened to her tonight. The ER was often rough, but it didn't usually bring her this close to losing her sobriety. Where the hell were the experts when you needed them? He was the wise-ass of the ER, the smart-alec, the pig. He wasn't qualified to deal with this, but it didn't look like she was making any attempts to leave his company, so he supposed he'd have to try.

"I really wanted that drink."

Her voice was so soft he had to strain to hear her. Silence stretched between them for a few moments before he thought of a response.

"You didn't take it," he reminded her.

"But I wanted to," she replied.

He sighed. "It's not a crime, Abby. We all have impulses from time to time. Hell, I wanted to clock Romano and Benton in the nose today."

She chuckled and he began to feel a little more relaxed about their conversation.

"You didn't," she said, echoing his earlier words, "but I'll bet you wish you had."

She giggled, and he laughed with her before turning serious once more. "The point is that you were strong enough to say no."

Abby gave no response so he filled the silence again. "What happened?"

She sighed. "The premie died. I just finished the death kit about an hour ago."

Now it made sense. He should have suspected it was something like that. "We can't save them all, Abby."

She sighed again. "I know. I've been sitting here thinking, 'why him? Why not someone else? Why not me on my way to work this morning?'. What did that baby do that was so terrible that it wasn't allowed to live and we were?"

He put a hand on her shoulder in what he hoped was a comforting gesture. "I don't know," he admitted. "Maybe we're supposed to see it as a wake-up call and appreciate the fragility of life."

She looked up at him. Of all the people who worked at Cook County General, he was the last one she expected to receive solace and encouragement from. Wonders never ceased. "You know, for a perverted scuzz ball, you're not half-bad," she informed him with a grin.

"Yes I am," Dave said, grinning back. "You must be going soft, Lockhart."

"Maybe I am." She shrugged, then cocked her head. "You know that drink that the residents traditionally buy the students?"

"Yeah . . ." he said slowly.

"Does it apply to nurses too?"

He pretended to think for a moment. "I'm not sure, but since I made up the rule . . . yeah, I guess it does."

She smiled, tossing the bottle into the trash as she looped her arm through his. "In that case, why don't we head over to Doc's and you can buy me a nice, strong cup of coffee."

Dave grinned as they began walking. "Throw in a hot chocolate and you got yourself a deal."

Abby laughed as they crossed the street and made their way up the steps. She cast one last glance at the sky. One of the stars seemed to be twinkling down at her. She shook her head as they stepped inside, the bell over the door ringing softly.

And up in Heaven, a new angel smiled down upon the Earth.

The End

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