Things Behind the Sun

AUTHOR: C. Midori
SPOILERS: For all of season eight except "Lockdown," and for the prequel Through the Door.
ARCHIVE: Do not archive without permission.
DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations owned by Not Me, etc. No money is being made and no copyright infringement is intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Things Behind the Sun is the sequel to Through the Door. As such, all new kids on the block should note that none of the relationships in this story will make sense unless you've read the prequel. Moving right along, a big shoutout to the returning veterans, all of whom are collectively responsible for Mandatory Fun Time in the ER fandom. Muah. Outtakes, teasers, and a running director's commentary can be found at; candy apples to everyone who reviews; and insert your own Last Time on ER here.
SUMMARY: Carter takes stock of his life and Abby finds herself missing from his count. Sequel to Through the Door."

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The Prison

We think of the key, each in his prison
Thinking of the key, each confirms a prison

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Abby awoke to darkness. Outside the rain was falling, falling--a cascade of needles shattering against the concrete of sidewalks and the glass of windows--but inside the room throbbed like a muffled heartbeat. Darkness and warmth pulsated behind the screen of quiet that shimmered just beyond the unmade bed, and geometric cuts of light fell through the cracks in long, uneven bars of white.

She stirred, and stifled a yawn, and turned to peer at the alarm clock on the nightstand. Its glowing red numbers glared at her, bright as a camera flash. Two-thirty.

Noiselessly, she slid out of bed. The soles of her feet recoiled almost immediately against the icy coldness of the hardwood floors and she had to bite down hard to suppress the cry that rose in her throat. Steeling her naked body against the chill, she groped the darkness surrounding the bed and gathered her things one by one before slipping into the bathroom. The door snicked shut behind her.

Overhead, the light flickered on. She squinted at the reflection in the cabinet mirror: eyes glassy with sleep, hair falling around her face, the creases and folds of bed sheets stamped upon the impressionable plane of her skin. Bleary-eyed, she balanced herself against the sink and searched this reflection, as if she expected to see a different person and was surprised to see the same face from yesterday staring back at her today.

Eventually she became aware again of the sink, cold beneath the palms of her hands, and she threw the mirror door open.

She used his toothbrush to scour her mouth, the taste of sex and sleep soon masked by mint, and used her fingers to rake a makeshift comb through her hair. Five more minutes and a turtleneck was tugged over her head, jeans buttoned around her waist, and a pair of worn running shoes secure in her hands as she crept back into the bedroom, the light flickering off behind her.

She stood without apology at the end of the bed, his bed, barefoot with her hair tumbling around her face. Swathed in shadows, his body stood out like an irregular silhouette printed against the whiteness of his bed sheets. In the near-lightless spill of the room he was alternately darkness and pallor, shadow and light--the charcoal-colored hair, the half-moons smudged under his eyes, the grains of stubble penciling the side of his jaw. His skin glowed white where the moon touched it, as if a lens had gathered the radiance of all the light in the room and concentrated it upon the slopes and valleys of his body, and this same skin disappeared into nothingness where there was an absence of this light.

Her eyes held the imprint of the moment in her mind, like a black and white photograph. As always, the narrow space between want and need was unfamiliar territory for her, all at once attractive and revolting. She felt an unbearable tension in her chest--as if all the air had suddenly vacated the room, taking her with it--but for the time being she resisted it's pull. She wanted to remember what she had done. She needed to remind herself never to do it again. Had he seen her face in this moment, surely he would have pulled her back to bed, peeled the layers of clothing from her body and buried himself in her to the hilt in protest, but she would have had none of it, anyway. It was not homecoming that tied them together, but imprisonment, in a cage with bars of light.

It hurt her eyes to stare so long. She did not let herself turn around again as she fled.

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Credits: "Things Behind the Sun" owes its name to a Nick Drake song. Opening quotation nabbed from "The Wasteland" by T. S. Eliot. Scene inspired by the teaser of "all things," the episode of The X-Files both written and directed by Gillian Anderson.

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