Starting Over

AUTHOR: Jacinda Noelle
SPOILERS: Season Six and Seven
DISCLAIMER: All characters belong to Warner Bros. No money is being made off this story.
SUMMARY: John returns to County General after leaving Atlanta.

He stood across the street watching people enter and exit the door beneath the sign that spelt out emergency in bold white letters that were splayed about a vivid red background. He could feel the anxiety rising in his stomach as he began to contemplate going inside where he used to feel comfortable, but now felt terrified of what he used to know. The counselors told him that there was no way to really prepare for this day . . . the day that he would return to his friends, which were his family, who might have preconceptions of what he would be like or how they would need to treat him. It would be like starting over, they told him. He did not want to start over . . . he wanted to go home and seek out the solace of his bed and his addictions.

He fretted over everything this morning. He could not remember the last time that he was this nervous. It was like being a freshman in high school all over again. This time he needed to do more than impress people . . . he needed to make sure that everyone believed in him again. He needed to make them forget the manic episodes, the depression, the drug seeking nature, and he needed to make sure that no one knew how much he wished that he was dead.

He could close his eyes and picture everything from the last few months. He could picture the vivid red of blood against white lab coats. He could feel the relaxation phentynal provided to a sore back and a guilty conscience. He could smell the thick, humid stench of Atlanta on a summer day. He could feel the unwelcome touch of nurses, psychiatrists, and addiction specialists. He could taste the kiss Deb gave him before she sent him to 'recuperate.' He could see his grandmother's tears as she sent him away against his will. He could feel the crumbling of a spirit that used to be whole and alive. The sensory overload often made him sick.

He could only imagine the rumors that were circulating around the ER. Peter and Kerry had promised him that they would tell the rest of the staff that he had taken a leave of absence to readjust to all the life changes that he was forced to face over the last few months. They concocted stories about intense physical therapy in an institution in the South . . . this was of course believable because his family had the money to foot the bill. It was all lies built upon a tower of lies. Lies made him sick. He had lived a lie since the day that his medical student had died. Everything was a lie. Every time he claimed that he was fine, he had lied to all those that he had loved and respected . . . he had destroyed all the respect that they had for him.

The sound of sirens interrupted his thoughts for a minute. He could remember the wailing of the sirens after the 'incident.' Carol had told him that all of the Chicago PD had been on site that night . . . they combed the city to make sure that they caught 'the man' that had done this. They wanted justice . . . he wanted death and all the therapy in the world could not change how he felt.

On his first day, Carol tried to commit suicide. On the day after he almost died, Carol told him about the joys of life that you do not see or appreciate until life is almost gone. Both had been thwarted by a cruel twist of fate that brought them back to a life that they wished to leave peacefully on their own terms. Back for seconds, he thought. Carol's life had been a mess . . . Tag left her at the altar, Doug left her pregnant, and depression left her unfulfilled. Why would his future be any different?

He was told that it took guts to start over, but he had resigned himself to believe that Dr. Benton had resected all his guts during emergency surgery. The hematoma on his lumbar plexus had damaged all the spine that he had left. His spirit in medical terms . . . was tainted and damaged from the carving that he had been the victim of. He did not have the will or the courage to rebuild a life and a career that once had been everything, but now terrified him.

It would take one hundred steps to enter those doors and find his way into the lounge. One hundred steps seemed much harder than the twelve steps that everyone else expected him to complete.

"Welcome back, Carter," he whispered to himself as he began to walk those one hundred steps that would challenge, scare, and sometimes make him cry. He needed to walk to find out who he was before everything had been turned upside down and twisted into a black abyss. He needed to find who he really was . . . be it a doctor, a drug addict, or someone he did not yet know, before he could rebuild a life worth living.

He needed to feel the sun on his skin, the sensation of lips pressed against his. He needed to hear the cries of those who had lost a loved one, the wailing of a newborn. He needed to experience all that the drugs had deprived him of. He needed to find his soul among the ruins . . . the dead bodies . . . the blood . . . and the trauma. Maybe then . . . his life would be worth living.

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