Summer Rain and Roses

AUTHOR: Shirley
CATEGORY: JC Romance/Drama
SPOILERS: Season 6, in particular for "Be Still My Heart" and "All in the Family". The setting for this first chapter is four months after "the incident" that is the foremost plotline for the last mentioned episode.
ARCHIVE: You are welcome to download this story for your own reading, but please do not archive my fanfiction on any website without my permission.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own any of the characters from ER. They are the property of Warner Brothers, etc.
SUMMARY: This series features John Carter and some characters of my own creation. It begins approximately four months after the Valentine's Day "incident" from Season 6 and will span the course of one year. John becomes involved with a woman and her young son, and this relationship will change his life.

The rhythmic beating of the rain against the window was a soothing sound. John Carter found himself staring at the fat droplets as then ran down the glass in swirling rivulets. The rain had come furiously and suddenly, probably catching many people outside offguard. He imagined them running for shelter under a nearby doorway or struggling to open their umbrellas before becoming soaked. Perhaps this would help to cool things off. The heat had been particularly unbearable today since the air conditioner had decided to become temperamental. It would tease them by blowing wonderfully cold air for a few minutes, only to shut down again.

The rumble of thunder in the distance served to snap him out of his trance. He lowered his eyes back to the stack of papers in front of him and tried to recall where he'd left off. It was a slow day in the ER and that had its good and bad points. He'd been able to catch up on a lot of paperwork, so that was a plus. But for the most part, he preferred to be kept busy. Whenever the pace slowed down, he tended to become melancholy and reflective, his thoughts straying to the past. His mind unwillingly started to wander again but this time he forced himself back to the task at hand.

After several more minutes, he tossed the pen aside, massaging the base of his neck. He'd been slouched over the desk for far too long and now his lower back was complaining. Ever since his injury - the stabbing - he found it uncomfortable to sit still for long periods at a time. He frequently needed to get up and move around to stretch out his back muscles.

"Hey Carter, there you are," Dave Malucci called out, stepping halfway into the lounge. "Some of us are going over to Doc's for lunch. Wanna join us?"

"No thanks."

"Why not?"

"I'm not hungry."

"So? Come and hang out with us anyway."

"Some other time, Dave. You go on." John waited for the sound of the door to close but it never came. He turned his head to find Dave staring at him. "What?" he said, sounding irritated.

"Nothing." Dave started to retreat but then, apparently changing his mind, he let the door swing shut behind him as he came to stand beside John. "No, it's not nothing. What's wrong with you?"

Not liking where this conversation was headed, John avoided his gaze. "I don't know what you mean."

"Don't act dumb. It doesn't suit you. You know exactly what I mean. You mope around all day. You never socialize with us anymore. I haven't seen you go out on a date in I don't know how long. The only time you seem happy is when you have a nice, bloody trauma to work on. It's been four months, Carter. Get over it already."

Dave didn't mean to sound so harsh but he was honestly worried about the guy. Everyone was. They kept waiting for Carter to return to his old self but it just wasn't happening. If anything, he appeared to be acting more depressed and withdrawn as the months wore on. It was time someone confronted him about it. And since no one else seemed willing to do it, he decided to step up to the plate.

"I am not having this discussion with you." John got to his feet, partly because his back demanded it but also so he could use his slight advantage in height to stare Dave down.

But Dave wasn't ready to back off yet as he returned John's glare. "Well, someone has to talk to you. Lucy's dead. We're all sorry and we all miss her. But we have to move on, man. Just what do you think you're accomplishing by wallowing in guilt, or whatever it is that you're wallowing in?"

John clenched his teeth together as the dull throb in his back began to grow worse. The combination of the pain and Dave's words, which were cutting too close to home, made his temper flare. "Get out of my way. I'm not talking to you." He tried to step past him but Dave moved with him to block his exit. "Get the fuck out of my way, Malucci and leave me alone," John snarled, shoving Dave to the side with one hand and then slamming out of the lounge.

Dave absently rubbed his shoulder where Carter had pushed him, shaking his head with regret. That had not gone well. Not at all. They'd never exactly been the best of friends, so he supposed he wasn't the right person to get through to him. Hopefully someone else would have better luck.


After cooling off in the cafeteria with an iced tea, John made his way back to the ER. He quickly perused the board, noticing that there were a few more patients to see now.

"Carter, think you can handle a four-year old boy with a leg lac or should I page Dr. Finch?" Chuny Marquez joked.

It pleased her to see him smile at her comment.

"I guess I can manage," he replied, picking out the chart from the rack.

"His mother's name is Rose. She's really pretty. And she's not wearing a ring."

John tried not to roll his eyes at Chuny's rather obvious attempt to perk his interest. Lately, she'd been trying to set him up with this friend or that cousin. He hated blind dates. She'd done this before and it had never worked out. He was running out of inventive ways to politely say, 'forget it, I'm not interested'.

Scanning over the preliminary information on the chart as he walked, he pushed open the door to Exam Room 2.

Two pairs of eyes belonging to mother and son looked up at him anxiously. "Hello, I'm Dr. Carter. I understand your son took a fall?"

"Yes. We were at the park and he fell off the jungle gym. I...I don't think it's broken." The worry was plainly etched in Rose Philips' brow and she gripped her purse as if it were a lifeline. She stepped back from her son so the doctor could do his work.

"Well, let's have a look." John could see the fear in the boy's wide blue eyes so he approached him slowly, giving what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "Hi, Joshua. I need to look you over and make sure you're okay."

Joshua kept darting nervous glances between John and his mother, though he didn't say a word. Rose moved closer to him again, murmuring, "It's all right, Josh. Dr. Carter wants to help you."

As John gently reached out to inspect the boy's leg, Joshua flinched, crying out for the first time. "Mommy!" He tried to scramble backwards on the gurney he was seated on until Rose put her arms around him. Clutching at the front of her dress, he buried his face against it. He made no further sound but his small body shook with tremors.

Rose stroked his back, giving John an apolgetic look. "I'm sorry about this. He gets this way with strangers. He's just very shy."

"That's okay. Perhaps he'd be more at ease sitting on your lap," John suggested.

Nodding, Rose waited until Joshua had calmed down somewhat and climbed onto the gurney. She lifted him onto her lap and this time he didn't protest when John began to examine his leg. It wasn't broken and would only require a few stitches.

John worked quickly, explaining everything as he went along. Secure in his mother's arms, Joshua remained surprisingly still until John was finished.

"All done," he announced, snipping the thread. "You did great, kiddo. You're a brave boy."

"Hear that, Josh? I'm very proud of you." Rose kissed the top of her son's head. She then flashed a warm and grateful smile in John's direction. "Thank you, Dr. Carter. I know it's silly, but I was so worried about him."

"It's not silly at all." Getting to his feet, he moved the tray he'd been using aside. His gaze connected with hers and he found himself almost unconsciously returning her smile. He also realized, rather belatedly, that she was soaked through from the rain. She wasn't dripping, but her long dress clung to her curves and her hair curled from the dampness.

"I'm sorry, I should have offered you a towel. You must be cold."

"Actually, no. It's a bit of a relief from the heat. One of the nurses did give me a towel when I first got here. And luckily I had a change of clothes for Josh."

Rose set her son back on the gurney and hopped off, starting to gather their things together. John stripped off his gloves, glancing out the window. "Looks like the storm has blown over. The sun is out again."

"Pity. I rather enjoyed the rain." Slinging her bag over one shoulder, she hoisted Joshua against the other one. He immediately rested his head against her neck, worn out from the adventures of the day. "Thank you again for all your help."

"You're welcome. I'll see you out."

He held the door open for her and walked with her as far as the admit desk. He waved goodbye to Joshua but the boy was already starting to nod off as Rose headed out into the sunshine.

"Wow, who was that?"

Dave's familiar voice rang out loudly and John gave him an annoyed look. "Nobody," he replied shortly, quickly signing off Joshua Philips' chart.

"She was a total babe. Did you ask her out?"

"No, I didn't."

John had intended to apologize to Dave for blowing up at him earlier, but the man was grating on his nerves again.

"Oh, you just let her walk out?" Chuny asked, sounding disappointed.

"Don't you start too," John snapped. "Look, I know you both have good intentions but just stop. Stop trying to organize my social life." He directed his gaze towards Chuny. "I don't need you to set me up with your friends." Holding up the chart and pointing it towards Dave, he said, "And you. Just stay away from me for a while. That's all I ask."

Tossing the chart onto the desk, he strode quickly outside to get some much needed fresh air.

Having witnessed the scene from the sidelines, Kerry Weaver shook her head as she approached them. "What do you two think you're doing?"

Chuny regarded her with a guilty expression but Dave looked defensive as he waved his arms for emphasis. "He needs some serious help. I know you've told us to give him space but it's been four months. I don't see him getting any better, do you?"

"And you think setting him up on a date is going to help?" Kerry retorted, a sarcastic edge to her tone.

"Well it sure as hell can't hurt. We have to do something." He paused. "Why don't you talk to him? He might listen to you."

Kerry wished that were true. She'd already tried so many times to get through to him, without success. But she was willing to try again. "I'll talk to him. But in the meantime, I want you both to back off. Is that understood?"

They nodded in unison. Dave waited until Kerry was out of hearing range before he muttered," Maybe I should have asked her out."

Glowering at him, Chuny punched him high on the arm, and Dave rubbed at his sore shoulder for the second time that day.


Stepping out of the elevator, he could hear the muffled sound of blaring music and it grew increasingly louder as he got closer to the door. John glanced wearily at his watch. It was just after one a.m.. But it was a Saturday night, so he supposed he could hardly complain. Maybe he could convince them to turn down the volume a notch, though.

Not surprised to find the door to the suite unlocked, he turned the knob and walked in. He was expecting the apartment to be filled with people but he only counted about ten. Furniture had been pushed to the side to make room for a dance floor. Several people were dancing although flailing might be a better term - enthusiastically to the beat. One was passed out cold on the floor; another on the couch. He could see a few more out on the balcony, drinks in hand. The one person he didn't see was his cousin. Perhaps he was in his room or had gone out to replenish the always bottomless liquor stock.

John said hello to a couple of people he recognized, trying to make his way unnoticed to the bedroom. Of course, he didn't step ten feet before he found a soft, warm, feminine body suddenly pressed against his. He gazed down into a pair of attractive green eyes that were slightly bloodshot.

"My name's Angela but my friends call me Angel," she purred, her long fingers stroking his upper arm. She smiled broadly, showing even, white teeth. "What's your name, honey?"

Doing his best to suppress a laugh at her obvious come on, he bared his own teeth, gesturing with his free hand. "You've got lipstick on your teeth. Right here."

She instantly closed her mouth, her smile not quite meeting her eyes now. But she hadn't given up yet. "I don't live too far from here. Wanna come to my place for a drink?"

"The only place I'm going is to bed. Alone." He extricated himself from her clinging grip and turned away, grateful that she didn't pursue him. While she'd been physically attractive, he hadn't been drawn to her at all. In fact, he hadn't been drawn to anyone since Elaine. And how long ago had that been? Maybe Dave was right. Maybe there *was* something wrong with him.

With that disturbing thought, he entered his room, shutting the door behind him. The loudness of the music was only somewhat diminished but he could live with it. He was so tired anyway, he'd probably fall asleep the moment he flopped onto the bed.

The room was dimly lit by moonlight coming in through the large window. As his eyes adjusted to the darkness, he moved towards the bed. That's when he heard the sound. A sort of scuffling noise.

He stopped breathing, his heart starting to thud so rapidly he was afraid it would burst right out of his chest. He knew he wasn't alone. He could feel someone else's presence in the room and that knowledge made the nape of his neck crawl. He told himself to turn around and face whoever was there but he was frozen to the spot.

*It's just someone from the party* one part of his brain said reasonably. But the darkened room, the music outside, the slight noise behind him...His mind formed the irrational conviction that if he turned around, he'd feel the wickedly sharp blade of a knife sinking into his flesh. Tearing into the muscles in his back. Rendering him with such immense pain that he'd be reduced to writhing on the floor in agony, unable to help himself or anyone else.

His eyes darted to the outline of the lamp on his bedside table. It was only two steps away. All he had to do was walk over there and turn on the switch. Bathe the room in light and face his foe, whomever it might be.

How much time had passed since he'd heard the sound? Five seconds? Five minutes? He felt the sweat pop out on his forehead, his mind screaming at him to do something. When the noise came again, accompanied this time by what sounded like a human groan, he lunged for the lamp in one giant leap.

With a barely audible click, the room brightened with soft white light.

"Ow, my eyes. Turn that off," a distinctly female voice complained.

"Johnny, is that you?"

Realizing he was still holding his breath, John slowly exhaled. No longer afraid of the unknown, he walked around the foot of the bed, knowing exactly what he'd find on the other side.

"Hi Tammy," he greeted, hoping that his voice sounded normal and didn't betray the paralyzing fear he'd felt just moments ago. He quickly averted his gaze when his eyes fell upon her half-undressed form. He stared at his cousin instead, who was blinking up at him with a lazy smile.

"Sorry to crash in your room. But mine was being occupied, if you know what I mean," Kevin Carter said, lounging back on the makeshift bed of pillows they'd made on the floor. When John didn't respond, he added, "Hey, at least we didn't mess up your bed, right?"

"Kevin, make him turn the light off," Tammy wheedled, her hand snaking underneath his shirt and starting to forge below his stomach before he snatched it away.

"Can't do that. It's his room," he murmured, starting to sit up.

"I thought this was your apartment," she whined.

Kevin ignored her, getting to his feet a little unsteadily. He peered at John more closely. "Hey, you okay? You don't look too good."

John drew in a shaky breath. His heartrate was almost back to normal but with the rush of adrenaline leaving his system, his knees felt weak. He sat down on the edge of the bed, muttering, "I'm fine. You just surprised me, that's all."

"Yeah, I wasn't expecting you to be home 'till later. Thought we'd have this party wrapped up by one at the latest."

"It is after one."

"Oh, shit. Sorry, man. I'll get everyone cleared out of here. Tammy, time to go."

"You don't have to do that," John said tiredly. "She's right. It's your apartment."

"Yeah, why do I have to leave?" she piped up, looking entirely too comfortable where she was.

"Get moving, Tammy. I mean it," Kevin snapped, heading towards the door. "I'll get rid of the others."

The music was soon cut to an abrupt halt and John could hear Tammy muttering under her breath. She'd been going out with Kevin for almost two months now and as far as he could remember, she'd never had a pleasant thing to say. And she never held back her opinion either. "You know, I would think a doctor would be able to afford his own place," she said, starting to button her blouse. "How much longer are you going to freeload off Kevin?"

She had a valid point and it was a question John had started asking himself. He had only intended this arrangement to be temporary. When Kerry had told him to move out of her basement, he'd immediately started looking for an apartment but couldn't seem to find anything he liked. That's when Kevin had offered up his place. It was the penthouse suite in one of several buildings owned by his father. He was living there rent-free, of course.

John had planned on finding his own place within a month or so, but somehow one had stretched into five. Then, at the beginning of February, he'd contemplated resuming his apartment search again. But then came the stabbing. That had put his life on hold for a while. Now he was starting to run out of excuses, even though Kevin insisted that he didn't mind sharing the space. He joked that he could fit his whole department at work in here and there would still be plenty of room.

But Tammy was right. It was time that he stopped taking advantage of Kevin's generosity.

Not bothering to say goodbye, Tammy soon strode out of the room. Glad to be left alone at last, John flung out his arms and flopped backwards onto the bed. He closed his eyes, feeling his body finally start to relax by degrees.

Kevin softly knocked on the door, peeking his head in. "Everyone's leaving, except for a couple of people that are oblivious to the world. I'm going to let them sleep it off."

"That's fine," John nodded, giving way to a yawn.

Kevin came up to the bed, appraising John with dark eyes. "Are you sure you're okay? You were white as a sheet before."

John considered telling him about his momentary panic attack but then thought the better of it. He didn't want to unload his problems onto his younger cousin, especially since out of all his family members, Kevin had seemed to be the most affected by the stabbing.

Both his sister and parents had called him from Europe when they'd heard about the incident from his grandmother. They'd been concerned but then assumed he was fine after learning he pulled through the surgery without complications. His grandparents had dutifully visited him at the hospital. Gamma had even asked if he'd like to stay at the house during his recovery. But he'd declined, stating that he had everything he needed at Kevin's place.

Kevin had been a wreck upon hearing how closely John had come to dying. As cousins, they'd always been close but since losing his brother Chase, he'd looked up to John like another older brother. Whenever he'd come to visit him at County, John had spent most of his time reassuring Kevin that he was okay; that he wasn't going to have some sort of a relapse and die.

So now, as he looked up into Kevin's worried face, he lied easily. "I'm fine. I just wasn't expecting anyone in here."

"I'm sorry about that," Kevin apologized. "It won't happen again. Well, you look beat so I'll let you sleep. Goodnight."

"'Night, Kev."

The door closed and John turned off the lamp. The room was black once more but this time, he knew for certain that nothing was hidden in the shadows. Upset with himself for crumbling under the weight of his overactive imagination and fearful mind games, he punched his pillow in frustration. Sleep was a long time coming as he lay there in the dark, staring up at the moon.

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