Waiting to Breathe


AUTHOR: Aldsygal
EMAIL: aldysgal@yahoo.com
CATEGORY: Carter/Abby Romance
RATING: PG 13
SPOILERS: Everything up till now
DISCLAIMER: The characters here in are not mine they are the sole property of NBC and the writers. I'm just playing with them and promise to return them in mint condition when I'm done with them. The song "Have a Little Faith in Me" isn't mine either but it fit well so I borrowed it as well. I received no payment for this work.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: This is my first attempt at writing a fanfic for ER but I just couldn't let this one go by with out putting it to paper. Feedback is like air to a writer and I would love to hear what you think. This is the scene I imagined to come next in the sequence of events. The song is "Have a little Faith in Me"
Timeline: After "The Advocate"( eppy 17 of season 9)
SUMMARY: What if everything, you never knew, you always wanted was slipping from your grasp? Will Carter and Abby have the strength to face their fears and find love?



The sky above twinkled with a million stars, as snowflakes rained down from the heavens dancing gracefully to the ground. The world seemed so still as the swishing of cars passing by on the street seemed to blend perfectly with the angry Chicago wind whipping viciously through the air. The constant pounding of feet on the sidewalk lost in the beating of Abby and Carter's hearts, as they stood entangled in each other's arms. It was as if the every molecule of nature was frozen in time, waiting.

Aware of nothing but Carter's arms enveloping her, Abby succumbed to the intoxicating scent of his cologne and the mesmerizing sound of his breathing beneath her ear. Closing her eyes, she fought the sting of unshed tears and the incessant screaming of her lungs as her fear denied them the oxygen they needed. She snuggled into him unable to breathe, unable to think, waiting. Waiting for the other shoe to drop. Waiting for him to realize that he never should have come after her. Waiting for him to realize that she wasn't good enough, that she wasn't worth everything she put him through. Waiting to breathe.

She wanted to tell him that she was sorry; sorry for everything she had put him through. Sorry for every moment she had wasted, for all the time she pushed him away when she had really wanted to hold him. She wanted to tell him that she loved him and that she didn't want to lose him, she needed him. Needed him to live, to breath, to survive. But she was silent, her voice stolen by the fear and vulnerability of opening herself to anyone. She knew this dance by heart; he was slipping away, little by little falling out of her grasp. It was the way it had always been, the way it would always be. If she loved them, she lost them and as much as she didn't want to… she loved him.

"You're shivering," Carter's soft voice whispered into the tendrils of her hair.

"It's freezing out here," she whispered back, swallowing the lump that was still looming in her throat.

His hands moved in soft sweeping motions around her back, in some vain effort to warm her. "Come on, let's get you out of the cold," he whispered allowing one arm to drop around her waist and leading her towards the jeep.

"Carter …" she began, her voice much quieter than she had expected.

"Yeah?" he said, stopping to look at her. His liquid brown eyes still glossy from the tears he hadn't allowed to fall.

"I … I …I should go. My AA sponsor is waiting," she said looking away from him, unable to bear the hurt in his eyes.

"I'll give you ride," he offered softly, pleading.

"It's okay. She's over at Doc Magoo's. I can walk."

"Sure. Call me later?"

Her voice once again robbed by the distant look in his eyes. She simply nodded in response, and then moved forward to embrace him one last time before she turned to go. For a moment she was lost, lost in the sweet comfort his arms always seemed to bring and she wanted to beg him to come with her. But she knew that this was one dragon that Carter couldn't slay for her, one demon she would have to fight on her own if she was ever going to beat it. Carter was right it had to be for her, no one else, or the battle meant nothing.

"You better go," he said solemnly, releasing his hold from her waist and allowing his arms to fall dejectedly to his sides.

A sudden gust of wind blasted between them, whipping her hair about her face. Shoving her suddenly free hands deeper into her pockets, she swallowed hard again as her eyes were transfixed on his. "Bye," she whispered faintly.

Nodding his head, Carter offered her a half smile and reached for the door of the jeep. "Bye," he whispered back, before slipping inside and closing the door behind him.

She stood watching him, as he drove away, consumed by the fear and panic that began to rage within her. It seemed like a lifetime had passed when he finally disappeared from her sight and some small voice inside her wondered if she should have gone with him, if she had lost him. The hypnotic need for a drink began to call to her and it took all the strength she had left to turn away from the neon signs that seemed to beckon her, as she made her way to Doc Magoo's and the woman she so desperately needed to talk too.



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



Carter opened the door to the mansion, unaware how he had even made it home. Moving away from the voices in the living room, he moved slowly up the stairs. Wanting to be alone, wanting to sleep away the pain that still burned so fresh in his belly. He had walked away, left her standing outside alone in the cold, and abandoned her when she needed him. He had broken the very promise he had made to her not months earlier. He could still hear the faint pleading in her voice when she had said, "Promise? Cuz I really need something to hold on to right now." He could still see the hurt and pain in her eyes as he walked away. The images burned in his mind stealing his breath and rendering him oblivious to anything but the pain that accompanied them.

"John? Is that you?" a loving voice called from the living room, pulling him from his thoughts.

"Yeah Gamma, it's me," he murmured, just loud enough for her to hear.

"Is everything all right?" the white haired woman asked, concern coating each word, as she appeared in the doorframe.

"Everything's fine," he lied, turning to continue his journey up the stairs.

"Well you don't look fine," Gamma commented, stepping fully into the front hall.

"I'm just tired. It's been a long day."

"Can I get you anything? Some coffee or something to eat maybe?"



"No thanks. I'm not hungry. I'm just going to grab a hot shower and turn in."

"John are you sure you're all right?" she asked again, the whole time scanning his face for any clue as to what was bothering him.

"I'm sure. Just need some sleep. Night Gamma. I love you." Carter offered as he continued upwards.

"Goodnight John. I love you too, and when you're ready to talk, you know where you can find me."

Carter nodded offering her a weak smile in return as he disappeared up the stairs out of sight.

Stepping into the hot spray of the shower, Carter couldn't help but think back to the day when he had pulled Abby into the shower to join him. It seemed like a lifetime ago and he longed now for those days. Those days when their love was blooming, when all they had to do was hold each other to make everything all right. When the only complication was knowing the days would fade to quickly.

He closed his eyes still fighting the tears that threatened. He wouldn't cry. He wouldn't give into the fear of losing her, not now, not yet. It wasn't over. He wouldn't let it be. He loved her too much for that. He loved her, his life, his world, his Abby. No, he wouldn't lose her. It was a truth that brought longing, that brought a need he had known only one other time in his life; when he had needed the drugs to ease his pain. He was still an addict only now his drug came in the soft brown eyes of the woman he so desperately wanted to spend the rest of his life with.

Suddenly his body was freezing as he became all too aware that the water had grown cold. Turning off the beating spray, he grabbed his towel and dried off. Grabbing a pair of sweats out of his dresser, he dressed and sat wearily down on the bed, burying his head in his hands. He hated feeling this helpless. He was a doctor, trained to fix things, to heal what needed to be healed, trained to make everything all right. But none of his expertise could fix this, not one of the many procedures he performed every day would make this better.

Falling back on the bed, he glanced at the clock. It had only been an hour and a half. Just ninety endless minutes since he had held her in his arms but it felt like an eternity. Moving his eyes heavenward, he starred blankly at the ceiling of his room, waiting. Waiting for the phone to ring. Waiting to hear her voice telling him it was going to be all right, that she loved him and didn't want to lose him. Waiting for the ache in his heart to subside. Waiting to breathe.



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



Abby stared blankly into her coffee cup, looking for the words to explain how she had gotten herself into the mess that was now known as her life. When had it started? This hopeless feeling that lurked in the deep recesses of her mind. When had she lost control? They were the questions she had no answers for, because answers would mean facing the pain truth always brought. The truth that her brother was missing plagued with a disease that she couldn't save him from. The truth that her mother was human, that she wasn't the monster Abby had made her to be. The truth that she was never going to be normal that she was never going to be able to just have a drink. But even more terrifying than that was the truth that she loved Carter and she was losing him.

"Abby?" a familiar voice called to her.

"Hey," Abby said, finally looking up to meet the concerned eyes of her sponsor.

"I hope you haven't been waiting long. Traffic is murder," the woman replied, sitting down across from her and motioning for the waiter to bring her a cup of coffee.

"No, not long at all," Abby replied, sipping at her own.

"It's been a long time."

"I know."

Abby's eyes searched the room nervously, as she was unable to look at the woman who she would inevitably disappoint.

"How are you?"

"I've been better," Abby offered, trying to smile but finding it hopeless to do so.

"I've always found that the best place to start is the beginning," the woman replied, reaching out and patting Abby's hand in that loving way a mother often does to console a lost child.

The next few hours went by in a blur as Abby began to explain the reason she had called and the realities in her life that had brought her to the diner on the cold Chicago night in March. Four cups of coffee and a few tears later, she was bidding her sponsor goodbye with the promise that she would call if she needed her and the pledge that she would find a meeting to start attending on a regular basis. Slipping into her coat, she was suddenly overpowered by the smell of Carter's cologne that seemed to be almost woven into its fabric. She inhaled deeply coating her wounded soul with that smell, closing her eyes and allowing it to wash over her.

Wrapping the scarf around her neck, she watched as her sponsor climbed into her car and drove away, before she began the long, cold walk towards the el. It was then that she realized she was looking frantically around the streets, hoping desperately to find Carter's jeep parked somewhere. Nothing. He was gone. It was a realization that brought forth another bout of tears. Wiping the salty wet streams away with her hands, she scolded herself, "Good going Abby. You've once again managed to sabotage the only good thing in your life."

The ride home came and went quickly and before she knew it Abby was making her way up the icy stairs to her apartment. Her head was throbbing mercilessly and her mouth was dry, as her last piece of hope disappeared with the empty parking space in front of her home. For a fleeting moment she had convinced herself that he had gone to her place that he would be waiting. But that hope was gone now, murdered by that empty space.

Unlocking her door, she made her way inside her dark apartment. It seemed colder than usual, emptier. Maneuvering around the couch, she slumped into the soft fabric resting her head against the back and closing her eyes. The hunger for a cigarette and a drink bubbled in the pit of her stomach and when she finally opened her eyes they fell immediately to the half drank bottle of Scotch from days earlier, which rested on the kitchen table. Pushing herself to her feet, she walked over and just stared at the sparkling amber liquid that seemed to call to her.

Running her fingers through her hair, she was suddenly bombarded by the look on Carter's face when he had found it, that subtle look of disappointment that she never wanted to see again. There and then she resolved to walk away leaving the cap in place. Instead she moved to the bathroom and turned on the hot water. She wanted to wash away the urge and the memory.



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

Carter tossed and turned finding sleep unreachable. Glancing over at the clock, he released a heavy sigh and pushed himself upright. The walls of his room seemed to be closing around him, suffocating him with their closeness. He needed to get out, to get away. Tossing off his sweats, he grabbed a pair of faded blue jeans and his favorite rugby shirt. Then proceeded to pad his way quietly down the stairs to the living room. Walking over he grabbed his keys off the entrance hall table and reached for the doorknob.

"I thought you were tired?" a voice called unexpectedly from behind him.

"Gamma! You scared the hell out of me," Carter gasped, clutching his chest. "It's late what are you doing up still?"

"I couldn't sleep so I came down for a glass of warm milk," she answered, gesturing to the glass in her hand. "Where are you off to at this hour?"

"I don't know. I couldn't sleep either so I thought I'd get some fresh air, maybe go for walk."

"So are you going to tell me what's on your mind or am I going to have to drag it out of you?" Gamma replied. "And don't give me that bull hockey that you're fine. Because I can clearly see that you're not."

Carter just stared at her knowing that if he spoke the tears he had been fighting all day would fall.

"Did something happen with that girl?"

"Her name is Abby," Carter uttered quietly.

"Fine. Did something happen with Abby?"

Before he could stop himself, Carter found the night's events tumbling off his tongue along with his feelings of hopelessness and fear. With each new word the tears that stung his eyes came closer and closer to falling. Until gasping and sniffing he finished and collapsed into the chair behind him to bury his glossy eyes in the palms of his hands. He wasn't going to cry, he promised himself as he tried to gain control of his emotions.

"Do you love her? I mean do you really truly love her John?' Gamma questioned, reaching out for his hands.

"With all that I am," he answered, looking up into her eyes. "With all that I am."

"Then you have to fight for her. You have to hang on as long and as hard as you can. I learned a long time ago that you only get one chance to be truly happy. If this girl, this Abby, is your chance, you can't let her get away." Gamma reassured him as she patted his hand.

Carter looked at her dumbfounded, his chocolate brown eyes not believing what he was hearing. His mind trying to process the lesson he was hearing for the second time that day.

"What?" she implored.

"Nothing. It's just that I thought you didn't really care for her. I thought you would be happy to hear that it was ending."

"I would never be happy to see you're miserable John. I know that I'm difficult. I know that I've spent your entire life trying to make you do what I thought was best, what I wanted for you. I'm just a foolish old woman and it took me some time to see that you didn't need me to tell you anything. You were perfectly capable of finding your own way. I meant what I said this morning. You need to be with whomever YOU choose to make you happy. I just want you to be happy."

Getting to his feet, Carter pulled her gently into his embrace. "Thank you Gamma."

"Well, are you going to stand around here all night with your grandmother, or are you going to go get that girl back?" Gamma said with a smile.

"I don't know what to say that I haven't already," he said sadly.

"Just tell her what's in your heart," Gamma offered. "And listen with yours. But remember John, unlike our minds the heart often whispers, and just because it is the quieter of the two doesn't mean it's the wrong one to hear."

With that Carter kissed her cheek and disappeared out the door.



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



Wandering from the bathroom to the bedroom, Abby was met with the realization that there were tiny reminders of Carter everywhere, from his tooth brush in the holder next to hers to his favorite running shoes lying in a heap next to the bed. Walking over to the dresser she spied a bottle of his aftershave and brought it gently to her nose inhaling deeply. She loved that smell; it was comforting in some strange way that she never had quite figured out. Then, her eyes fell to his favorite shirt, which hung neatly on the bedpost. He had worn it just days earlier, and every inch of the fabric brewed with the essence of Carter. She gripped it tightly to her chest and looked over at the phone.

Dropping to sit on the bed she still clung to his shirt allowing its comforting aroma to coat her exhausted soul. Her eyes fell back to the phone on the nightstand. She wanted to call, to hear his voice on the other line. Reaching out she placed a hand on the receiver, and then snatched it away quickly, scolding herself that he was better off as far away from her and her dysfunctional family as possible.

Her mind floated back to the half empty bottle of Scotch on the table in the next room. God she needed a drink, she needed to numb her raging emotions, to get away from all of it for just a little while. Suddenly she was aware again of the shirt still gripped to her chest, Carter's shirt. Carter. Her eyes floated back to the phone. She had promised she would call she began to reason with herself and lifted the receiver into her hand again.

Dialing the phone number, she had known by heart for years, she waited. With each unanswered ring her heart stopped and her lungs protested against the lack of oxygen she had been denying them all night. After four rings, she gave up placing the receiver back down in its cradle. Again her mind drifted to that tempting bottle, she hated that it had such profound power over her still. She looked down at his shirt, then slipped out of her robe and allowed her arms to glide into the soft fabric in her hands. His scent encompassed her like a warm hug. Pushing herself to her feet, she wrapped her arms around her waist and headed toward the living room.

Grabbing the bottle by its neck, she stood for a moment paralyzed just staring at the amber liquid inside. Carter's words from earlier floated back into her mind; "For real, for you. Or is this just something you're going to throw out the window the next time something bad happens?" They provided the final push she needed and she moved over to the sink. Unscrewing the lid, she lifted the bottle and watched the contents inside as it disappeared down the drain. Turning on the faucet, she watched as the last remnants were washed away before she tossed the empty bottle into the trashcan.

As she moved towards the couch, she stopped and turned on the radio, wanting to drown out the silence around her. The room was instantly filled with the soft sounds of some dedication show that Carter had forced her to listen to when he was feeling romantically sappy. She paused, wanting to change the station but found herself drawn into the deep soothing voice of the host. Crawling up onto the couch, she cradled a pillow to her chest and listened as the man on the radio talked about soul mates, lost moments, and regrets. She has experienced all of those that night. She had found a soul mate in Carter. As for lost moments and regrets, she wasn't even sure where she would begin that list, for there were far more than even she care admit to. The tears came again and this time she allowed them as she lost herself in the soothing echo of radio.

"This one goes out to all our listeners, for those of you that can't be in the arms of the ones you love tonight and all of you who are. Always remember that true love is based on faith, faith in yourself and in each other. God's speed…" The radio host's voice floated through the air, before the soft music began to swirl through the darkness…

When the road gets dark
And you can no longer see
just let my love throw a spark
And have a little faith in me


The jingle of keys outside caught her attention and she turned in her seat to face the large wooden door just as it was being pushed open. There before her, his face illuminated by moonlight cascading through the window, stood Carter. Her heart began to pound as she watched him close the door behind him, his eyes transfixed by hers as he moved slowly to stand in front of her.

And when the tears you cry
Are all you can believe
Just give these loving arms a try
And have a little faith in me
And


Reaching out to her, Carter took her face in his hands, brushing away her tears with his thumbs and searching her eyes. His own eyes conveying all the things he didn't have the courage to say. Leaning forward he brushed his lips softly, tenderly against hers, abandoning all his fears in their closeness. He opened his arms to her.

Have a little faith in me
Have a little faith in me
Have a little faith in me
Have a little faith in me


Abby closed her eyes allowing the simple touch of his hands and the tenderness of his lips to envelop her. Her heart racing, she opened her eyes losing herself in his stare. It was there, cradled beneath fear and vulnerability, she found what she was looking for. There hidden deep inside his liquid brown eyes, she could see a glimmer of hope brewing. Her past, present and a glimpse of her future were there embedded in the golden speckles of his glance.

When your secret heart
Cannot speak so easily
Come here darlin'
From a whisper start
To have a little faith in me


"Tell me we're gonna be okay," she murmured softly, still searching his eyes; remembering that he had made such a promise to her in the beginning.

"We're gonna be okay," he whispered softly in response, as he leaned in to capture her lips once more.

And when your back's against the wall
Just turn around and you will see
I will catch, I will catch your fall baby
Just have a little faith in me


Abby leaned forward deepening the kiss and melting into the sanctuary of his arms. Wrapping her own arms around his shoulders, she mimicked their embrace from early in the evening. Her face buried in the comfort of his chest, the pounding of her heart falling into the rhythm that beat beneath her ear, she could feel herself at last begin to breathe. Taking in the oxygen her lungs begged for, She could feel her body come alive, her soul begin to heal.

Carter snuggled his face into the damp locks of her hair, allowing the sweet scent of her perfume to encompass him fully. She felt so right in his arms, fitting perfectly like the missing piece to a jigsaw puzzle. And in that moment, he was sure that he had been created for this purpose alone, to love Abby Lockhart. A smile crept delicately across his lips as he gently placed his hand under her chin lifting her eyes to his. "We're gonna be okay," he thought, as he pulled her upward capturing her mouth once more.

Have a little faith in me
Have a little faith in me
Have a little faith in me
Have a little faith in me
Well, I've been loving you for such a long time girl

Expecting nothing in return
Just for you to have a little faith in me
You see time, time is our friend
'Cause for us there is no end
And all you gotta do is have a little faith in me
I said I will hold you up, I will hold you up
your love gives me strength enough
So have a little faith in me


The cold Chicago wind danced through the air twirling snowflakes about the star filled sky. Glowing through the darkness a small light illuminated from a frost-covered window, the soothing melody of music seeping through the icy glass. Cradled inside the cozy apartment lay two lovers still entangled in each other's arms, fast asleep.

The End.




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