The Shadow of Lighthouse
AUTHOR: Rach L.
CATEGORY: JC/JMC friendship
SPOILERS: "The Greatest of the Gifts", "Piece of Mind"
DISCLAIMER: I'm just borrowing them. I promise to return them in
relatively good health. ;)
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I've been a fan of John/Deb friendship for a long time, but there
were not many stories concentrating on the two. So I did what I
could--writing one myself. Not beta'ed (anyone who can help me out? *g*) and
definitely my first ER story. ;)
Feedback: Always welcome at email@example.com
SUMMARY: Carter finally realizes he still hasn't really gotten over his
"Darkness reigns at the foot of the lighthouse."--Japanese Proverb
"I'm not much of a help to you, am I?"
The shift had finally ended, and John Carter was just about to put his
coat back to the locker when the question from his long time friend,
Jing-Mei Chen, stopped him dead.
"What?" He frowned, not understanding the question. It'd been Deb's
--Okay, he knew she preferred to be called Jing-Mei, but old habits
died hard-- first day back to hospital after a brief maternal leave.
personally thought it was way too quick for her to be back at work, but
wisely held his tongue, not voicing his opinion. He'd expected her
show up in less than two weeks anyway when she'd left; he understood
well that without work, she'd become a wreck, emotionally *and*
The pretty Asian doctor repeated herself in a matter-of-fact tone, "I'm
much of a help to you."
He quickly closed the locker door and turned to her. "Not much of a
What are you talking about?" He tiled his head, perplexed. Many
had changed for the last seven years, but the way Deb did things was
familiar to him--the enthusiastic way she talked about medicine, the
immaculate way she cleaned the syringes, the way she filled out the
carefully from the top to bottom. Even the little gestures she made
unconsciously --a disconcerting frown on her face, chewing her lower
playing with a pen--- dated back to their medical school years. He
the fact something did not change.
But her abrupt question came from nowhere and it definitely didn't feel
She chewed her lower lip again --a gesture that came out whenever she
nervous-- and closed her locker, hesitating. "You...wouldn't talk me
when you're going through hard times. I'm not much of a help to you."
He froze, suddenly realizing what she meant. Had she been talking to
...Probably, because the last time he saw Abby, she'd been trying
make him tell Kerry about his...episode. Abby must have gone to Deb
oldest friend here could persuade him to talk to Kerry. Oh, damn.
don't know what you've heard from Abby, but..."
She didn't meet his eyes and only looked down. "I know that I wasn't
there for you when you needed help, because I was so wrapped up in my
"That's not true," he interrupted quickly. "You're always a great
know that. I don't know what Abby has been telling you, but that's
"--true?" Her tone wasn't accusatory or patronizing, but it contained
apparent disappointment. "...is it really?"
And it was the disappointment in her voice that cut him like a knife.
felt something inside him snap. "It's none of your business, alright?
thought you knew better than paying attention to what Abby had to say."
"John," her low voice warned him, "You don't mean that."
"Oh, yes I do!" Suddenly an unreasonable, completely unnecessary anger
boiled inside him. Even though he vaguely realized there was something
wrong, that he shouldn't be this angry, but he couldn't contain himself
anymore. "I really mean that hundred percent. Why, you trust some mere
nurse's words over my mine, is that it? Well, think whatever you want
but leave me out of it. Like you said, you're not much of a help."
He felt this strangely twisted pleasure at seeing her shaken up. He
hurt her, he knew. He had hurt her in the cruelest way possible--with
words. So now she wouldn't want to come after him with helpful
friendly 'you okay?'. She wouldn't, which was exactly what he wanted.
He couldn't stand there watching her hurt eyes, so he turned away.
"John, wait," Deb quickly tugged at his arm, "wait. I'm sorry. I
have thought like that. Of course Abby misunderstood. You're clean
right? I should've understood that you went through hard times to get
this stage. I shouldn't have doubted you. I'm really sorry."
He stopped, frozen. Deb stood in front of him, looking incredibly
Did she actually trust his words even though it should've been
obvious to anyone with eyes that he was lying?
What did he just try to do?
He lied to his friend, the one he thought he could be honest with.
Which was just like what he'd been doing until Doctor Benton had come
stop him a few months ago.
Because he still had problems.
He felt his knees weakening. He couldn't breathe.
He was still addicted, wasn't he?
"...John?" A soft voice asked worriedly beside him. "John, are you all
A hand supported him to stand up straight, so then he could breathe
"No, I guess not," he mumbled.
"John, look at me. Concentrate. Sit...just sit down."
Numbly, he followed whatever her concerned voice told him to do. The
moment, he was sitting on the couch, with Deb looking over him with her
terribly worried eyes.
"...it's okay," he finally managed to choke out a few words. "I just
little dizzy, that's all."
"No, you're not okay," her voice wasn't detached and matter-of-fact
it was supposed to be. Instead, it was filled with all-too-personal
concerns. "Have you eaten anything for the last few hours at all?"
The dizziness slowly disappeared, so he looked at her face and met her
"No, and she's right."
Deb blinked, not understanding. "Sorry?"
"Abby's right. She is...she's a great friend, and she understands what
going through. Maybe more than I do." He slowly leaned back to the
and gave Deb a small self-deprecating smile. "She's right. I still
gotten over it."
"...I'm sorry..." Her eyes softened. She watched him for a second,
sat down beside him. "...I...is there anything I can do? I mean..."
sighed, "I wish I could be more helpful to you."
She'd been always supportive of him, never judgmental and never
He was blessed to have her as a friend, he knew. "You are helpful.
I'm....sorry about what I said earlier. I guess...I just didn't want
"See you?" she asked. She looked pained as if she didn't want to be
the implication that he didn't need her at all.
How could he explain this? "...It's...it's like this, Deb. The
they know I'm going through hell right now, and even though they don't
it to my face, they all think I'm a time bomb waiting to explode.
You...don't do that. You don't skid around the topic as if I'm a mine
something. I just....wanted to keep you that way. Didn't want you to
His eyes didn't meet hers. Now *he* couldn't see her.
He'd thought he was okay. It'd felt okay, at least. He'd even
himself, pretended as if nothing had happened, as if he lived in the
side. He'd made himself believe that he was okay.
He hadn't realized that darkness reigned at the foot of the lighthouse.
"But there is no reason to feel that way," Deb's voice was earnest as
passionately tried to persuade him, "I'd never judge you. You've seen
weak I could be. We're only human, and..."
"You weren't weak," he grinned, "You're many things, but never weak.
fact, for the last few weeks, you were the bravest person I've ever
"Oh." She looked speechless, which, knowing Deb, was a pretty rare
"Well," looking slightly embarrassed, she quietly told him, "I wouldn't
been able to full it through it wasn't for you. So...thank you."
He smiled fully for the first time in a long time. "Well, guess we owe
other then, huh?"
"Yep," she grinned too. "And," she turned to him with a determined
expression, her eyes glittering with humor, "if you go all dark on me
"Swear what?" He looked back at her amusedly, his chin high.
"Well, I still got a few tricks here and there." Her eyes were
"If you're willing to repeat the practical joke contest, you're always
welcome to try."
At that, he had to laugh. It felt good to laugh like that, unconcerned
"You helped me get through my darkest hours, John," Deb whispered, "Let
help you. Please?"
He looked into his friend's sincere eyes.
He realized he trusted her.
"Thank you," he said truthfully. "Thank you, Deb."
She only smiled.
It was like as if heavy weight had been lifted from his shoulders. And
the same time, some hope seemed to be forming inside him. Maybe he
really get better this time.
Maybe he was ready to get out from the shadow of the lighthouse.
This was all he wanted. What more could he wish for?
....Maybe...just maybe... "Deb," he reluctantly started out,
have dinner with me tonight?"
He swore he could feel his cheeks burning in crimson. Why the heck did
have to feel like a teenager asking for a first date? He was *not* a
teenager --at least he hoped he wasn't-- and this was definitely not a
It wasn't, was it?
Deb looked startled. "Tonight?"
Oh, great. She already had previous engagement. "Well, it's okay if
"No, no!" her face gradually broke into a genuine smile, "I'll be glad
Since it's so obvious you haven't eaten anything for...how long?" She
at him expectantly for an answer.
"Uh, I don't seem to be able to recall." He did his best to look
"--so, eating it is. Where to?" She stood up slowly.
He suddenly realized he was incredibly hungry. Had he been starving
so he couldn't recognize which craving it was that he was feeling?
know what? I'm really, really hungry. Where can we go to get
They looked at each other for a second.
"MacDonald?" "Oh yeah."
They both nodded vigorously.
"Then let's go." He grinned.
It felt like he was back at the medical school years, when they were
young and ambitious, and didn't know a thing about the real hardship of
life. There was no pretense; just two friends sharing a meal. The
he had --what if he was just ruining what was left of their friendship
this? Was he sure this was what he wanted? Was he even ready? --
disappeared as he watched her bright smile.
Well, no worries, because he was perfectly content with simply being
For now, anyway.