Snowball Effect


AUTHOR: Kristen
EMAIL: kdarganin@hotmail.com
CATEGORY: JC/PB
RATING: PG
SPOILERS: Season Seven for "Benton Backwards"
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I have done this in a state of exhaustion without an editor.
SUMMARY: A what if scenario for the things that took place during the episode.



John stared at the woman on the gurney as he explained optimistically that she stood a decent shot of survival. To himself in those few seconds that he gave hope to a worried sister, John could feel the pride and satisfaction well up in his hear at the feeling of healing someone so close to death. As he spouted the words of encouragement that he helped forge and make true, the world transformed into a flourish of violence, shock, and fear.

One moment time was still and irrelevant as the flash of motion became a frenzied act of murder. The gun was aimed and shots were fired. He felt the wetness of blood splatter on his clean, crisp, lab coat. Each bullet fired was an explosion to his ears as he stood only inches away. He flinched as the shots rang out and in those precious seconds could not recall if he ducked away or remained on his feet. In the end it did not matter.

His body became numb and icy chills ran down his spine and paralyzed him with fear. The thought of death flashed in his head, the idea that this was his last breath. Once again the feeling that his life had gone unfulfilled mortified his senses. At any moment he expected the bullets to rip into his flesh and burst his organs. The blood dripping down his clothes was a reminder of how cheap life was to others.

Blam! Blam! Balm! Then it was over.

The woman left as quickly as she entered and John was left alone with the terror created from the consequences of violence. This singular brutal act was committed without hesitancy, and left him as a witness, unable to do a thing about it. His soul was swallowed by defeat and doubt as members of the staff came racing in mere moments after the hideous act of murder was committed.

Kerry and several others gathered around the dead woman in hopes of resurrecting her. The only thing he could do was stagger slowly out the door, as his shell-shocked body would allow.

He mumbled to the assembled doctors, "'You won't get it back - she blew her brains out," and he stumbled into the hallway. His stomach was doing flip-flops the sight of the woman's brains splattering all over him causing him to feel ill. His body rebelled against a reaction to his inner pain. He headed to the men's room without uttering a word to a soul.

He could not bring himself to throw up, as he trembled from the after effects of the shooting. He knew one thing; his body was still numb and he was unable to keep himself upright. Suddenly feeling too weak to stand, John grabbed a hold of the porcelain sink in front oh him. He felt the coolness of it under his fingers and held on for dear life. It was not a strong object of support and feeling woozy, John let himself slide down to his knees. After several fleeting seconds, he relinquished his shaky hold of the sink and sat on the unforgiving tiled floor, dejected and alone.

Xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Luka heard three gunshots in succession as he finished up on a patient. By the time he arrived in the trauma room it was obvious that another gave the woman who he helped piece back together a death sentence. He sought Kerry Weaver out who came up to him after giving Chuny instructions for the death kit. The Croatian walked over to her and spoke, breaking the eerie silence that had fallen over the room.

"What happened? Where's Dr. Carter?" He asked both questions in unrest noting the uneasiness in his boss's demeanor.

"I... I don't know. Someone came in and shot her right in front of Carter." Kerry looked up at Luka, worry etched in her face, the lines making her look far older. "Could you find him please and make sure he's all right?"

Luka noticed the urgency in her voice knowing the concern over such a trauma. Carter had only returned to work less then a few weeks and was in a fragile state of recovery from many wounds. Luka was aware the downward spiral his colleague had fallen and nodded his head in understanding. He would find the young doctor to see how he was dealing with the stress of being up front and personal to a shooting and feeling the fear of being so close to death again.

Luka wandered through the admitting area and motioned for Haleh to join him. He recalled how supportive she had been towards Carter during the difficult trauma and the expression of pride and encouragement she flashed towards her co-worker.

"Have you seen Carter?' He asked keeping his voice low.

Haleh pointed to the men's' room, "He looked positively gray, I was almost going to go in there myself," she told her superior.

"Thanks, Haleh," Luka said and went towards the door.

Luka entered the bathroom and his anxiety intensified when he saw his friend sitting on the floor his eyes in a daze. He quietly knelt down beside Carter to keep from startling the man, and placed his hand on the doctor's shoulder.

"Carter,...Carter, are you okay?"

John responded to the worried voice and looked up at his co-worker. His body was shaking from the cold and he wrapped his arms around his chest. "Yea, I just felt like sitting down for a moment, " he replied softly.

Luka scanned the restroom and peered at Carter, "In the middle of the men's room?" He asked in a tone that he hoped suggested the oddness of the answer with a tad bit of humor.

John squinted for a second and it dawned on him that he was in fact resting on the floor of a bathroom. Slightly embarrassed, he forced himself to stand to let his colleague know he had not gone off the deep end.

"Guess your right, there's got to be better places than this, " John replied forcing a small laugh that sounded hallow to his ears.

Slowly John began to stand up as the door to the men's room was shoved opened to reveal a concerned Peter Benton. The surgeon walked into the room his eyes surveying both doctors.

Feeling a bit awkward about his abruption he felt the need to explain, "My nephew was brought in for a minor injury and I heard there had been a shooting. You, all right, Carter?" Peter asked scanning his co-worker's pale appearance.

Feeling even more uncomfortable from all the unwanted attention, John scrambled to feet quickly and shrugged. "I will be. I'm fine."

Peter did not seem convinced by his friend's words. He noticed all the blood staining Carter's clothes. "Why don't you change and wash some of that off you." Peter suggested as he realized how horrible a feeling it must be to be covered in a stranger's blood.

John looked down at his appearance and could not agree more to the other doctor's suggestion. He pulled his lab coat off and threw it down in disgust to the floor. All he wanted to do was to stand in a hot shower for hours to wipe away the memories of the last few minutes that were a permanent part of his clothes.

Luka gathered up the soiled lab coat and placed it in a trash receptacle, he was gong to tell Carter to go home. There was no need for the man to work after undergoing such a stressful situation. John needed to take it easy and maybe even speak to someone. Luka knew he had to be seeing a local doctor; the Croatian wondered how he could suggest that he make an appointment to see him today.

Peter was going to leave to give his friend a little more breathing room. He had so many things to accomplish today, like seeing Carla, but he wanted to verify that Carter was indeed okay.

Peter wanted to give him some privacy and was about to say goodbye, when he noticed some blood dripping on the floor. He watched as Carter shed his dress shirt and saw the source of the bleeding.

xxxxxxxxxx

"Hey Carter, wait a minute, you're hurt." Peter gently grabbed his friend's right arm to keep him from moving it, as he saw what look like a bullet wound that was seeping blood over his shirtsleeve.

The surgeon's words caught Luka's attention and both men were now crowding the younger doctor. John did not understand what was happening since all he really felt was cold chill envelop him and he was having a hard time reconciling with the intense scrutiny he was under.

Peter carefully slipped the rest of Carter's dress shirt off of him as he noticed at how incoherent the other man was responding to his surroundings. Peter held Carter's arm still and twisted it gently probing it with his fingers. It appeared as if the bullet had entered through the muscle alongside the underbelly of the arm past his elbow and exited the other side of his arm that connected to his shoulder.

Luka took his own lab coat off and slipped off his shirt and handed it to the surgeon. Peter took it gratefully and wrapped it around both entrance and exit wounds. The surgeon applied gentle pressure and signaled Luka to help him.

John looked down at his arm dumbfounded, "I didn't notice that?" He asked his co-workers.

Luka shook his head, "You're in shock from the shooting. When you calm down I know you will definitely feel the effects of this," Luka said indicating the new holes in Carter's arm.

Both doctors led John to a trauma room where Haleh joined them after seeing them exit the men's room.

"Carter, what are we going to do with you?" She asked sadly.

John sat on the exam table while his undershirt was cut off. Peter unwrapped his make shift bandage. "If it hit the bone you would be screaming right now, but I guarantee you when your emotional shock wears off, this is really going to hurt," Peter said sympathetically.

"We should get some x-rays, I'll go and make sure that a room is available. We should make sure a major vein or artery was not nicked," Luka stated as he left.

The effects of the shooting were slowly wearing away and John felt the excoriating throbbing sensation rip through his arm. He groaned when Peter continued his examination.

"Do you hurt anywhere else, Carter? Were you hit anywhere else?" Peter asked anxiously as the idea that maybe more than one stray bullet or debris had hit the younger man.

Peter did not receive a reply and was starting to get irritated, "How many shots were fired,' he asked trying to determine the likelihood of any other injuries.

Kerry crutched into the room upon the last question as she kept herself calm and professional. "I just spoke to the police there were three shots. Two of them entered her head, one of them must have strayed away." Kerry suppressed a shudder at the horror of seeing such a thing first hand.

"How are you, Carter?" Kerry questioned.

The idea that he was almost put into another deadly situation whirled around him. Why did life continue to conspire against him when all he wanted to do was be a doctor? Every time he struggled and fought his battles, life had to make him take a step back.

John did not hear Kerry's question and Peter thought it was best if the younger man went flat on his back until he was ready for his tests. "Hey, man, just lay here for a few minutes."

Peter lowered the bewildered doctor by pushing him down firmly on his shoulder. It was important that he remain motionless, until it was determined that nothing hidden was injured.

Haleh wrapped a blood pressure cuff around her co-worker and attached a cardio lead. "Pulse is a little fast at 105 and B/P is 90/70," she told both doctors." Then she mentally corrected herself; there were three in the room.

"Okay, let's give him a unit of blood to replenish any loss and start an IV," Peter spouted off.

John did not care about the attention he was receiving he was lost in his own swirling misery. He fought so hard and to bring that woman back, tying off her heart valve, performing a trickery procedure. Did everything he accomplish have to be stained with doubt or complications?

John shivered on the gurney and let himself fall asleep. He did not want to deal with the chaos around him anymore and drifted off to sleep.

Xxxxxxxxx

v Peter was exhausted and yet he needed to go to the other side of town to visit Carla at the restaurant. He was not a County employee anymore and felt like a stranger walking around within the hospital walls. Peter had been on the phone to Philadelphia for the past hour and just hung up when he saw Luka Kovac wander over to where he was standing.

"Hey," Luka said as he approached.

"Hi,..ah I have to go, so I don't have time to talk." Peter was not trying to be rude, it was just the day had been one stressed filled moment after another and he still had a confrontation to face.

"No problem, just wanted to know that Carter went home, Abby gave him a lift." The doctor informed his ex-colleague.

Peter looked confused for a second then recalled he was not in charge of Carter's care and therefore had no authority over his post charge orders.

"I discharged him a little while ago and since Abby was getting off, she volunteered to drive him home." Luka stated, but kept the part that the attractive nurse was meeting him later for a date to himself.

"I see." Peter answered.

Sensing that the surgeon was not that eased by the news, Luka felt like lifting some of the stress off of him, "He's lucky, bullet went through the muscle missing anything vital."

Peter shook his head the thoughts entering his head he had to brush to the side. He was worried about Carter, but life with his son was the most important thing on his mind currently.

"I just hope he has someone to talk to about all this," Luka said off handily, hoping the other doctor took the hint.

Peter glanced at his watch and noted that the afternoon was winding down. "I'm sure he does," Peter gathered his things and went about his way to meet his ex-girlfriend at her restaurant.

Luka stood there in silence frustrated that he had no way to broach the topic on his mind. The kind of shock that Carter experienced would be daunting for any individual to overcome, but how was a guy who could not open up to anyone about his grief and guilt over Valentine's Day speak and seek help from others. Too overcome by the stress the intelligent man hide behind his work, the toll taxing him so much that he filled his emptiness with narcotics. Recovery was a slow process; Luka hoped that someone would be there to lend Carter a steady hand in case this latest tragedy exacted a horrible price on such a fragile man.

XXXXxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

John stared at the punching bag in front of him. It seemed to entice him, its unmoving form daring him to take his frustration out on it. Abby had tried to speak to him about the shooting, offering him her ear. He did not want to talk about what happened, even though a nagging little voice trained by session after therapy session screamed that it was important to speak to someone about it.

He just wanted to forget the sounds of the bullets or sight of the blood spurting onto him. `What kind of coldness that must have surrounded that young woman's heart', he thought. Did that kind of indifference to life start off when you emotionally shut yourself off to the world? Was he on his road to that kind of destruction by subjecting himself to the kind of daily torture of the ER; the place of his attack and consequence the end of his confidence?

No, he was a good doctor he had to atone for all his failures. His arm pulsated with a deep pain and ache. All he had was aspirin to dull the hurt, but over the counter medicine could not quell the pain created by torn and traumatized muscles. He continued to stare at the punching bag. Its singular purpose in life was to be hit and battered by another. He felt like that beaten up bag, his goal to stand there and take the abuse.

John stood up and flexed his bad arm, the pain shot through his hand and into his shoulder. He concentrated on that torment as he drove away the images of earlier today. If he had to live in pain without the relief of prescriptions, then he would drive it into submission.

He strapped on his gloves and the leather felt good around his hands. He was tired of being the object of failure and abuse and began to pummel the bag with his fists. He drove his fury into the stuffed fixture. Unmercifully he sent his fists into the unforgiving object, jab then left hook. Each contact with the instrument sent ricochets of pain through his arm, and he bit down on his lip driving his rage and energy right back to the object of his anger.

With each image of his failure, he hit the bag harder, slamming flesh against inanimate object. It was a pointless fight without a winner. So intent on his emotional battle he did not hear the frightened voice of his grandmother calling out to him to stop. That voice transformed into panic as it went unanswered.

John kept beating away until he felt a hand on his shoulder; startled he twirled around, his breath coming in short gasps.

"John honey, what is wrong with you?" His gamma asked her voice quivering.

The pain throbbed and his shoulders sank, "I don't know, Gamma?" He answered in a lost voice trying to calm his shattered nerves.

John stared at the only person in his entire life that truly ever stood by him, despite her reservations concerning his choices in life. There she was asking questions he did not feel like responding to. He tried placating her by asking her to join him for dinner or assuring her that he was fine. John told her he just left work early. The woman before him was very smart lady, astute to the emotions he wore on his sleeve.

She was distraught over his dodging of sensitive issues and topics. Deep down inside he knew that his grandmother would be horrified at what transpired at work, that he was again, in immediate danger of his life. She blamed the institute that he fought so hard to excel at and what he considered to be his life. While she pleaded with him to enter private practice, John could not keep from thinking that as a man who has just encountered his 30th birthday, he did not really have much of one.

He threw himself into college and immersed himself in medical school. He enjoyed his momentary summers, but what consisted the elements of his existence? He could not maintain steady relationships with women, he had no problem finding someone to date, but there was never anyone special. Maybe one and she turned his offer down to seek her life somewhere else. His absentee family could not fill the void that they created when it came to love and support. He substituted love with approval and he sought that need to be accepted from his work.

If he could help others by providing second chances at life or by healing their physical wounds then he gave others the options that he lacked. He gave people the ability to purse their dreams that fate tried to circumvent. If others needed him, then that was enough to fulfill him. It was not exactly what he wanted to endure for the rest of his life, but one day maybe he would fine what everyone else seemed to have and he would be happy.

Now his Gamma was accusing the very thing that gave his life meaning, was the very object that was destroying his spirit. `She was wrong', he thought. Now she was insinuating that the hospital made him turn to drugs?

"No, I did that myself," John responded.

His Gamma was still undaunted by his insistence that his work was good for him. She was a wreck of emotions, but one day maybe she would understand. She believed that he lead a sheltered life before encountering the horrors of the real world in a city hospital and in a way, perhaps she was right. However, the ability to effect the real world, not the one of paper and numbers, that was what living was about. John wanted to have an impact on other people.

He continued to stare at the punching bag and felt the unmerciful sensation of pain in his arm. John unwrapped his gloves and threw them onto the floor in frustration, was he participating in self- destruction? Was that what he was doing by beating the hell out a punching bag? It helped get the anger out, his doctor had told him to engage in physical activates to release bottled up emotions. Trying to brutalize his injured arm was not the answer his rational mind told him. There were others ways to unburden feelings that did not involve more violent actions. He really needed to stop turning to artificial means of facing things he did not want to.

John went back into the house and stared at himself in the mirror. He was sweaty from "working out" in a long sleeve shirt. He had been told to go home and take it easy. John looked in the mirror and knew that this was the action of defeat and inability to face his problems. Granted he had been shot, but there was a driving need to go back and finish what he started. In order for him to fully recover he needed to face the things that scared him head on. He would go back and finish his shift and maybe engage in more constructive ways of handling his problems and stress.

Xx


Peter Benton was at a loss of words, he had finally had succeeded in securing a position in another state only to find out that same opportunity for the sake of his son would make his mom take him away. On his ride back to County, Peter re-evaluated his decision at the time it was out of the love of Reece, but when Carla's husband needed to pursue his life's work he would not stand to be away from his boy. Why should, Carla? Cleo had been cold and unsupportive about his choice, but it seemed at the time the only way. He felt bad that he would be moving away, but it was not like they were engaged or anything.

What would he really be missing? Jackie was a wonderful sister and his best friend, but they would see each other. He had worked at other hospitals before County and would miss it, but it was part of the profession. He did not make many friends and did admire his co- workers, but in the end, his son was the object of his life.

His co-workers. How strange that he experienced a twinge of guilt about the idea that John Carter would have one less person to talk to. Peter snorted, the younger doctor had other friends, but after pondering it for a moment, it did seem that Carter really responded to him. Peter had fondness for his former student, a deep kind of respect for him. Hell he cared about his well being, friendship was such an alien concept for him. Shaking his head, Peter wondered how people got along with others if the complex relationship with Carter was any kind of example of what friendship was like.

Peter shook those thoughts away and needed to concentrate at the matter at hand. He had to crawl back to that bastard Romano and beg for his job back. He had to plead for any kind of position so that he could be with his son. Peter took a deep breath as he headed for that dreaded office that housed the toad.

Xx

John had assured Kerry Weaver that he was all right to return to work. He convinced her that it was good for his morale if he could come back and finish what he started today, that it was a form of therapy. Somehow she bought it and John was back in the midst of things, well he had returned to paperwork. Kerry was adamant that he not handle any traumas until his arm had healed and Carter knew she would probably have someone keep an eye on him. Yep, he was right, Haleh was watching him like a hawk, not as some kind spy, but as a concerned friend.

John scribbled in various charts, glad that the heavy burden of doubt and fear had abated somewhat. The ER was quite and he had only a little while on his shift left. A slight chill went down his spine every once in a while as the images of the shooting were still ingrained in his memory, but he kept those things at bay for the moment. Then again like some surreal dream a random act of violence impacted him in a way that he did not imagine possible and thirty minutes later he was helping pronounce the death of a mugger that Luka Kovac had killed in self-defense.

John was shaken up to say the least; the last thing he expected was to be hurried into a trauma to help save the life of someone who had intended harm on some friends. John was confronted with how tedious a hold there was to life and his grand mother's pleas for him to start a private practice weighted heavily on his mind. The visions of blood on his clothing appeared in his head again and the feeling of uneasiness was creeping into his heart.

He sat alone in the ambulance bay trying to shake the foreboding feelings and flex his sore arm. The effects of the aspirin had worn away a long time ago and John felt miserable. He was contemplating taking a taxi back home when a shadow passed over his face. He looked up to see Peter staring at him an expression of....well he wasn't sure.

"Hey, " He said softly.

Peter shook his head as if trying to bring himself out of some self- induced trance. "Ah..Hi."

Peter looked at his co-worker trying to understand his reason for being here after being involved in shooting only hours ago. "You look like hell, Carter."

"Thanks, I don't feel so well." John replied surprising himself for being so honest.

"Well going back to work after being shot is not the smartest thing to do. Aren't you in pain?" Peter asked slightly annoyed.

Carter scanned his throbbing arm, "Yea, I thought about humming, but realized it wouldn't work." His attempt at humor was lost on Benton, he mused.

Peter scowled, "Try resting," he growled.

John chuckled, "Over rated. Why are you here, Dr, Benton?' He asked switching topics.

Peter sighed, "I got a temporary position here as surgical liaison to the ER, what ever that means."

Carter stood up and looked at his co-worker, "I'm glad you're back working here."

Peter was taken back for a second and feeling uncomfortable acknowledged him with a nod, "Thanks, Carter."

"Why did you come back after the day you had?" Peter was amazed that he asked such a question and the shock was not lost on the man in front of him, but it seemed to wear off, as it appeared that some kind of relief washed over his friend's face.

John shuffled his feet and did not peer up at his mentor, but he spoke softly when his mind urged him to express some of his anxiety. "I was really afraid after the shooting. I mean....I thought I was dead. One moment I'm explaining to some woman that her sister might be all right, the next my patient's brains are all over me."

John rubbed his sore arm, wincing at the ache taking up his right side. "Life seems like it wants to take me down a peg whenever I think I'm ahead, ya know. I'm used to challenges, but sometimes Dr. Benton, I wished it wasn't so hard. I know I was a good doctor and that I need to prove to myself and to others that I am still that good physician."

John looked the surgeon in the eye, "My spirit is not broken, but damn it sometimes I'm tired of people trying to beat it out of me. I went home and decided to take that abuse and inflict it on a punching bag that would not fight back."

John's voice was cracking slightly and he tried very hard to keep it calm. "Dr. Benton, I'm just tired of having to fight and struggle to just to feel normal again. I don't want to be afraid anymore, I came back to face that fear, only to have any self confidence taken away again."

Peter swallowed hard as he tried to find a way to reach out to the fragile man in front of him. Luka's words rang in his ear, reminding him that Carter really needed to speak to someone. The surgeon just hoped that he could help, but expressing himself was no easy task and the pressure he felt was enormous.

"Carter, just talking about it means you can over come it. Hell, I don't know anyone who wouldn't be scared after experiencing what you saw earlier today, but that's normal, man. You have overcome so many obstacles, Carter, even before all the stuff from this year. Never let go to what is important to you."

Peter placed his hand on his friend's shoulder, "You have a gift to give to some many people, but that does not make you a whole person. Your heart does, Carter, and I know you have one of the biggest around. Listen to it and take care of it. You are not superman. You can't take on the world, but you can face it a day at a time."

John bowed his head and closed his eyes. His teacher was right, the scale he weighed himself against was a standard he set too high. He faced his fear today and that was the first step in a long journey. He shouldn't consider life a constant battle, but a daily set of circumstances to meet and deal with the best he could. He would take tomorrow off and spend time with his grandmother, the hospital would be there and he would get back in that saddle knowing that he could talk to others.

"Thanks, Dr. Benton, that meant a lot." John smiled slightly; he was going to have to recover from things a little at a time. "Sometimes when life begins to build like one of those little snowballs rolling down a tall mountain, I guess we should try to stop it before it gets to big."

Peter smiled, "Come on, I'll take you home Carter." Both doctors went into the garage and the surgeon started the engine wondering whether his former student collected fortune cookies somewhere. The older doctor chuckled to himself and wondered what the next day would bring.

The end

Okay, kind of disjointed, but hey creative juices are like that.




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