Sticks and Stones


AUTHOR: Julie Stacey
EMAIL: juliestace@hotmail.com
CATEGORY: JC/PB Angst
RATING: 15
SPOILERS: up to 'The Dance we do'
SUMMARY: Benton and Carter’s tenuous relationship takes a heavy blow.



************

‘Peter... Peter!!!!’

Benton marched through the ER ripping off the surgical gloves and flinging them into a nearby waste disposal unit. He sidestepped a young man forcing himself not to fling him to the side and out of his path as he channeled towards the exit. He heard Mark calling him... vaguely... but it didn’t even register for him to stop. He barged through the exit doors wishing for once they weren’t automatic so he could hit something, feel something concrete. He stepped outside abruptly, the air was freezing and he was wearing only his scrubs but his blood was pulsing through his body so fast he could barely feel the cold. Turning and looking for something Benton spotted a nearby trash can, flinging out his leg he gave it an almighty kick, the sound resonated out over the sirens and shouts of Chicago. He stood there stunned… now what… he forced himself to gain control of his breathing and felt himself lower down onto his haunches, then left himself drop to the curb sitting down on the cold concrete. He ran his hands over his head and bowed it between his knees. He’d seen cases like that before, all too many instances of gang violence; half the kids were dead before they even reached the ER the other half he treated and streeted as best he could. You got used to it, everyone did; he never usually questioned what the others felt when something like that was brought in. Benoton had realized a long time ago if he allowed himself to feel anger, bitterness, hate for every act of violence he saw he’d not retain his sanity for long. So he’d blocked it out, hell he’d become master of that feeling of fucking indifference. Today though… today had brought with it a situation that called all those emotions up in abundance and now just one image, one among all the countless would stay etched in his brain forever. The broken bleeding body of a young teen; the hollow stare of someone whose brain had gone from an amazing and complex organ to useless gray matter the moment the bullet had ricocheted off his temple. His nephew. Benton squeezed his eyes shut against the constricting pain in his chest. He could think only one thing, ‘selfish, selfish son of a bitch’.

**************

Carter drew in a long puff on his cigarette and shivered pulling his lab coat tighter around him. He exhaled shakily and closed his eyes… how in the hell had he managed to get through the shifts previously without the aid of cigarettes he’d no idea. They’d become a haven; a moment amidst the chaos when he could actually feel truly relaxed. Carter rested his head against the wall, he knew he was addicted but hell he’d take anything over injecting narcotics into his system to make himself feel better. Most of his colleagues had been climbing the walls today it had been so fucking tense, one of those weird non descript days when everyone was treading on eggshells and didn’t quite know why. No major cases, no pace they weren’t used to, but something had been in the air. At one point Kerry had screamed at him for no apparent reason, looked confused and a little sheepish almost immediately after and quickly apologized. Carter had had to force himself not to suggest that maybe if more of the staff took up smoking the ER would be a calmer place, for everyone. He’d refrained though, thankfully. Then of course right on queue as if this was the moment everyone had anticipated Benton’s nephew had been brought into the ER with a bullet wound to the head. It hadn’t looked good, in fact Carter knew it had been a lost cause the moment he’d seen the young boy on the stretcher. Benton had acted strangely calm and kept a cold expression on his face as he’d wheeled the young patient into trauma. Mark had accompanied him and told Carter to wait outside, there was no need to overcrowd the room they would do everything they could. Carter hadn’t had much time to object, he had wanted to help and he couldn’t shake the look on Benton’s face out of his mind but he’d obeyed Mark quietly. It wouldn’t be long before they called it anyway, unable to bring himself to wait inside he’d stepped out in the freezing cold and did what he was used to doing now when he needed to clear his mind, he lit up a cigarette. Carter flinched as he heard the loud bang of something being kicked and tuned cautiously towards the entrance in time to see Benton lower himself dejectedly to the ground. Carter swallowed awkwardly, Benton was not the most approachable person at the best of times and Carter was pretty sure at this moment he wanted to be left alone. However as he watched Benton’s body draw in visible deep breaths Carter realized leaving was not something he could bring himself to do, he wanted more than anything to help.

********

‘Dr Benton’

Benton grimaced as he heard the quiet familiar voice. He exhaled shakily and didn’t look up.

‘I’m fine Carter, go back inside’

Carter paused and continued nervously.

‘I uh… I was already out here’

Benton sighed heavily and focused on breathing in and out in attempt to still his rapidly beating heart. An awkward silence passed, Benton remained perfectly still and made no effort to make eye contact with Carter. After a while Carter cleared his throat awkwardly.

‘Dr Benton… I’m really sorry’

Benton chuckled softly to himself bitterly.

‘Yeah that’s great Carter… thanks’

Carter flinched slightly this was not going well at all. He stared wistfully at the man in front of him wanting him to say something, give him some indication of what he could say or do. Cautiously Carter made his way over to Benton and lowered himself down to sit besides him. Carter glanced quickly at Benton who made no reaction to his presence; Carter rested his arms on his knees and stared out ahead for the time being remaining silent. Benton raised his head and sighed he looked away from Carter and then straight back across the ambulance bay. Carter shot him another concerned glance and looked away timidly.

‘You smell like cigarettes’

Benton clenched his jaw after he spoke and continued to stare forwards. Carter smiled slightly.

‘Thanks’

Benton rubbed his hand over his tired eyes and rested his elbow on his knee letting his hand support his forehead. He looked over at Carter and shook his head slowly.

‘I don’t want anyone around me ok’

Carter smiled awkwardly and glanced at the floor.

‘I know… I just… I didn’t want to leave you sitting here’

Benton looked away from him again.

‘I’m fine Carter let me handle this alone ok’

Carter watched the back of Benton’s head.

‘You don’t want to…’

“No’

Carter sighed as Benton cut him off.

‘Fine’

He stood up awkwardly leaving the surgeon alone on the pavement. He hovered over him reluctant to leave.

‘Look Dr Benton… I… I know you don’t do this… at least not with me but…. well… if you ever wanted to um… you know… talk…. I would… I would be willing to listen’

Carter coughed gently resenting the fact that he could feel color start to flush in his cheeks. Benton chewed on his lip roughly and shook his head.

‘Yeah well if I was going to talk to anyone about this I wouldn’t talk to you ok’

Carter gulped and frowned Benton’s comment stinging him a little more than he cared to admit. He sighed and laughed softly.

‘Fine… I just wanted to help’

Benton gritted his teeth and stared at the floor.

‘Look Carter you don’t know anything about this situation or me or my family ok so stop trying to help me. If you’re trying to repay me for a few months ago or something it’s fine alright I don’t expect anything from you’

Benton frowned as the words left his mouth, they sounded a lot harsher than he had intended and he wasn’t sure exactly what he was trying to do, He glanced up apprehensively.

Carter took a full step back as Benton’s words hit him like a sledgehammer. He stared back at Benton, he felt like the man had just slapped him... and hard. He gulped furious with himself as he started to feel tears welling up in his eyes. Swallowing them back with difficulty he forced himself to lock eyes with Benton not caring that his expression showed slight guilt.

‘Screw you’

Carter spat out the words as forcefully as he could then turned abruptly and walked quickly back towards the ER.

‘Carter’

Benton jumped to his feet quickly and turned to watch as Carter hurried through the entrance. He cursed in exasperation placing his hands on his hips and staring at the floor. He’d just wanted to be left alone; he hadn’t meant it like that. Benton could feeling his breathing start to increase again as he felt anger, this time with himself. He couldn’t shake the look on Carter’s face as he’d spoken to him; he hadn’t meant to hurt him. Benton turned around fuming he spotted the trashcan and gave it another almighty kick.

‘Fuck!’

The trash can groaned under the weight and tipped to the side it’s contents spilling and littering the ground in front of him. Benton sighed in exasperation and stared at the mess in front of him. He’d clean it up, he’d force himself to, it was no more than he deserved.



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