Peaceful Endings, New Beginnings
By: Jamie Sommers
Rated: PG-13 for language
Synopsis: Set after Carter and Kem lose the baby. Kem has left Carter and Abby wants to help him get through it.
Disclaimer: ER and all of its characters are not owned by me for if it were I sure as hell wouldn’t be sitting here writing fanfic about Abby and Carter getting back together. They WOULD be back together. ;-) I do not in any way, shape or form admit to knowing any medical terms so if something isn’t correct… get over it. This is my first ER fanfic. After recently getting re-hooked on the show thanks to the wonderful world of syndication, my Dr. Carter/Abby fascination has piqued and the only way I know how to take care of my curious mind is by writing it down. I hope you enjoy it and thanks for reading.
Title: Peaceful Endings, New Beginnings
He looked at his watch, “,” he mumbled to himself. It was time to go. He stood up from the booth and picked up the check. While he was throwing a couple of bucks on the table to cover his coffee and roll, he noticed Abby entering the ER, through the window. “Great,” he mumbled to himself. It wasn’t that he didn’t like working with her, it was simply that she was a reminder. A reminder that he had failed. Taking a deep breath he walked out of the diner and headed for work.
As he entered he heard the usual good mornings, but hers always seemed to stand out, “Hey Carter.”
“Good morning everyone,” he replied in a chipper tone, and then proceeded to his locker.
The ER was quiet today. Several of the nurses were standing around Luka, listening to him tell them about his weekend. Susan was out on maternity leave and Kerry was working nights for the remainder of the week as well as Pratt. Deb was doing a double and was in with the only patient that seemed to be occupying the ER. Abby was standing to the side looking through some of the patient’s charts from the night before.
Carter flipped his stethoscope around his neck in his normal fashion and headed for the group just as they burst out laughing. “What’s going on over here? You’re not telling those Nun jokes again are you Luka?”
“No Carter,” said Chuny. “Luka was just telling us about his new girlfriend.” This comment seemed to solicit a round of laughter from the others.
“She’s not my girlfriend…” said Luka. “Yet,” he laughed.
Carter didn’t feel like hearing the entire tale so he walked aimlessly towards Abby. He picked up a clipboard and smacked it lightly against the palm of his hand, “Any idea what that’s all about?” He gestured to the congregation of nurses that surrounded Luka.
“Nope,” Abby said. “No idea.” She gave him a friendly smile then walked towards one of the exam rooms.
Carter looked at his peers and then looked at Abby’s back, which was now disappearing as she entered trauma one. He knew that he should be catching up on dictations, or that there were charts that needed to be updated, but they didn’t get quiet moments like this too often at County, so he decided to take advantage of it.
“Hey,” he picked up one of the charts that Abby was looking at and said, “What are you looking at? Anything interesting?”
“Nope,” she answered without looking at him.
He waited about ten seconds before continuing, “Okay… so… uh… what are you doing?”
“Just trying to help Deb out with some of her charts from last night. They got slammed.” Abby lifted up a chart and handed it to Carter saying, “Wanna help?”
He cleared his throat and replied, “Sure. There’s not much else to do.”
They stood quietly in the room for almost a half an hour before their first trauma patient came in and from that moment on it seemed to be a revolving door for disaster.
It was when Abby found Carter sitting in the cafeteria eating a tuna fish sandwich he had gotten out of the vending machine. “Hey,” she walked up to him. “What are you still doing here? I thought you left already.”
“I tried, but…” he sighed deeply.
“Carter?” Abby put her hand on his shoulder and asked, “Feel like talking?”
It wasn’t a secret that Kem had left him after they had lost the baby, but he never really talked about it to anyone that she knew of. He just kept his personal life to himself and came and went to work like he was punching a clock.
“Nah,” he answered. “Not really.”
“You know...” she pulled out the chair across from him and sat down. “I’m a pretty good listener.”
He looked up into her eyes and felt his heart ache a little before saying, “There’s nothing to talk about.”
“Oh really,” Abby said with a somewhat frustrated guffaw. “Nothing to talk about, huh? How about the woman you were in love with left or, you lost your baby or, you’re smoking again or, you’re using again…” His eyes pierced hers at her last statement, but she didn’t back down. She knew this man, better than most and she wasn’t about to see him fall back into habits that would hurt him.
“I’m not using,” he stated as he stood up and walked out of the cafeteria in a huff.
Quickly following him she grabbed his arm and turned him around. “Oh really?” In her head she knew that maybe he wasn’t yet, but if he didn’t pull himself out of this funk that would be the next step.
“Yes really! I AM NOT...” he took a deep breath then continued in a more subdued tone so as not to make a scene. “I’m not using Abby.”
“Sure you’re not. That’s what I used to say too.” She walked past him to the elevator and hit the down button.
He knew the smart thing to do would be to drop the subject, but he just couldn’t seem to. He stood behind her waiting for the elevator to come as he said under his breath, “What in the world would make you say something like that to me?”
“Hmmm…let’s see. You’re temperamental… fatigued… jittery…” she began to list some of the traits she had observed about him lately.
They noticed a small group of people in the elevator as the doors opened and dropped the subject until they exited and were alone once again.
“You’re imagining things Abby,” Carter said as he walked briskly to the doctor’s lounge.
“No,” she followed him. “No I’m not.” She walked past him and pushed the door to the lounge open causing it to slam against the wall.
This cat and mouse game seemed too familiar to Carter. They had gone through this twisted ritual in their relationship years before, where one of them would say something short and brusque then the other would follow up with a terse reply. Their elementary banter would go on for hours… days if they had let it and they both knew that. It was as though neither one of them could ever back down from a fight. Neither one of them could let the other win. Tonight would be no exception. John Carter refused to back down from this fight in particular and Abby Lockhart was determined to get him the help he needed.
By tactic agreement, neither one of them said a word to each other until they had left the ER and was on the sidewalk.
“John, do you think I’m an idiot?” Abby asked as she zipped up her jacket, protecting herself from the crisp fall wind.
“You know Abby normally I’d have to say no, but in this case…” he noticed her fumbling with her gloves, dropping one to the ground. Without hesitation he bent to pick it up and handed it to her. “Yeah, I’d have to say you’re a total idiot this time around.” The wind began to pick up and John wished for a moment, that he had grabbed himself something warmer to wear on the way out of the house that morning.
Abby noticed his visible chill and said, “Where’s your coat?”
“I didn’t wear one.”
They began walking rapidly towards the train station as Carter continued their discussion. “Seriously Abby, I haven’t used for years and you should know that.”
She turned to look him in the eyes, trying to gauge whether or not he was telling the truth. After a moment she realized that he wasn’t lying. “Then why have you been so closed off from me? Why have you been so…” she trailed off as they started to walk again.
“So?” Carter asked.
“I don’t know,” she shrugged. “It’s like you’d rather drain an abscessed rectum then spend any time talking to me.”
They walked up the stairs, just as the train made its approach. They felt the warm rush of air hit them as the doors opened. Both of them entered and took a seat in the corner of the car away from the draft of the doors opening and closing.
“What do you mean I don’t talk to you anymore?” Carter asked. “I talked to you this morning.”
“No. You helped me with some charts.”
“And? And what?” Abby asked. Carter shook his head slowly as if to say, isn’t that talking. “Do you think that’s having a conversation?”
“We talk Abby.” Carter rested his head back and stretched his legs out, crossing them at the ankles. “We talk.”
Abby mimicked his pose and said quietly, “no we don’t. We bullshit, but that’s about it.” She waited for a comment from him, something, but he didn’t reply for the remainder of the trip.
He hadn’t planned on going home with her on the train, especially since his car was sitting in a parking lot about a block away from the hospital, yet here he was, standing at her door with her, holding onto her oversized purse, as she fumbled to put the key in the lock.
Once the door was opened she turned to look at him and said, “You know what John?” The silence in the hallway was deafening.
“What?” he said in a barely audible whisper.
“I don’t get you sometimes.”
“What’s there to get Abby?”
“Nothing,” she sighed as she pushed her door open and asked, “Are you coming in?”
Looking down at his feet he said, “Nah. I should probably go home.”
She took a deep breath and let it rush out of her nostrils as she said, “Fine,” and made to close the door.
His hand lifted up to stop it as he said, “I swear I’m not using Abby but…” he toed the ground for a moment then summoned up his courage and said, “you were right about one thing. I am avoiding you.” He paused for a moment and added, “However, I’d choose you over draining an abscessed rectum any day.”
She could feel her heart break a little when he admitted that he was intentionally avoiding her. Deep down she knew that was the case and that he wasn’t shooting up again. “Well you were right about something too,” she said. “I am an idiot.”
They both chuckled a bit, easing the tension some.
“Come in John.” Abby held her apartment door open for him encouraging his entrance.
He swallowed as he said, “‘kay.”
Her apartment looked the same with the exception of the mess. In the past she wasn’t a fanatic about housekeeping, but she wasn’t a slob either. There were newspapers with their rubber bands still on them piled up on the coffee table. One dirty coffee cup was in the sink and he counted almost five empty pizza boxes next to her trash can. The dust on the television set was about an inch thick and the vacuum cleaner was sitting in the corner of the room as though it were punished. The place looked like a college dorm room with the exception of one thing…
He noticed, prominently displayed on the wall in an oak frame, was her medical degree pronouncing that she was a doctor. He smiled when he saw that it was the only thing in the room without a spec of dust on it. He picked up one of the newspapers and sat on the couch, “Geez Abby… clean much?”
“Yeah I know,” she laughed as she filled a pot with water to brew some coffee. “I just haven’t had a chance to do much housework since graduation.”
“You know I could ask one of our staff at home to come by once a week and…” he stopped mid sentence as Abby glared at him across the room. “Fine… live in squalor.”
“Hey,” she slapped the back of his head playfully and sat next to him. “I love my squalor. It kind of signifies that I’m doing well ya know?” Since becoming a doctor at County, she hadn’t had a free moment to herself for such mundane tasks like housework.
“Yeah,” he turned to look at her blushing cheeks. “I know.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes, each one waiting for the other to break the silence. Neither one of them wanted to be the first to admit that they had been acting like children earlier in the night.
It was Abby that finally caved and said, “I’m sorry John. I should’ve realized that you weren’t…” she couldn’t even say it, but she knew she had to. She looked him directly in the eyes as she said, “Deep down inside I guess I knew you were still clean. It’s just that it’s pretty hard to admit that the only reason you’ve been treating me like an acquaintance instead of a friend is because you simply don’t think of me as…”
“Don’t say it Abby,” he warned. He turned his body to face her, placing his bent knee across the sofa’s cushion and his arm around the back of the couch. “You are and always will be one of my best friends and I’d like to think you feel the same way about me.”
“Well,” she mirrored his position on the sofa and took a deep breath. “You know even after I got that damn letter from you…”
“Abby,” he interrupted.
“No,” she quickly shut him up before she lost the courage to say what she wanted to tell him. “That letter is another conversation all together Carter, but let me finish okay?”
He nodded his agreement and allowed her to continue her thought.
“Even when I got that letter telling me that we were through… I wanted to hate you John. I really did, but I just couldn’t.” She raised her hand to her forehead and brushed her hair away from her eyes. “And trust me… I was pretty pissed off, but for the life of me I just couldn’t find it in me to hate you.”
“Why not?” He asked with an inquisitive tone.
“Because, you were my best friend.”
“Were? As in past tense?” he countered.
Her eyes averted his, as she focused on the pot of coffee that had almost finished brewing in the kitchen. Avoiding the question she stood up and said, “Still take your coffee the same way?”
“Yeah,” he said after a moment, well aware that she was delaying her response.
Moments later she came back with two cups of steaming hot coffee. Without a word from her, Carter began to gather up the old newspapers from the table and walked them to the trash can.
She looked at him across the room and said, “You know what hurt the most about that letter John?”
“Nuh uh,” he shook his head as he walked back into her living room.
“Losing my other half. There’s a reason people call their loved ones, the better half.”
He could feel his eyes welling up with tears as he attempted to swallow the lump that was forming in his throat.
“God,” she threw her head back trying to prevent the pools of tears from forming in her eyes. “You made me a better person John and I was so afraid of what I would be without you.” Her tears began to roll down her cheeks. “That’s why I went back to medical school John. That’s why I was determined to finish this time. I needed to know that I could do it with or without you and you know what?” she was smiling now.
He shook his head without saying a word.
“I did it. I finished and I’m a doctor now.”
“And a damn good one at that,” he said through a smile.
She wiped her eyes and said, “You’re damn right I am.”
They both chuckled a bit then drank their coffee in silence.
When their cups were empty Carter said, “I’m sorry I ended it that way Abby. I never intended on hurting you.”
“Oh screw you Carter,” she said through a short burst of laughter. “I’m over it and I have no intension of going back in time, got me?”
“Yeah, I got ya.” His smile was full of relief knowing that she no longer harbored any ill feelings towards him for how he ended their relationship. He looked around her apartment once more and felt a feeling of dread rush through him. His smile was no longer apparent. “I should go.” He stood up quickly and headed for the door.
“Hey,” she called out. “Where are you running off to?”
“I just need to go Abby.” He grabbed the doorknob and pulled.
She pushed her hand against the door and threw her body in front of his, blocking his path. “What the hell is up with you? One minute we’re sitting here having a cup of coffee and talking like we used to and the next you’re running away from me like you can’t wait to get the hell out of here.”
“Look Abby it’s not you, okay? It’s me,” he put his hands on her upper arms and said, “Please move.”
“Yes,” he was getting fed up with her persistence.
“Talk to me Carter,” she demanded. “Tell me why you’re in such a rush to leave.”
“Abby get out of my way!!” He yelled.
“NO!!!” She stood with her fists against her hips. “I’m not going anywhere and neither are you. You’re going to stop acting like a total asshole and tell me what the hell is bothering you once and for all!!” She could feel her face getting flushed, but there was no way in hell she was letting him leave without finding out what was going on inside of his head.
“God damn it Abby…” he bent down and picked her up, throwing her over his shoulder. He had intended on dropping her on her ass, but opted for the floor instead.
“Put me down Carter!” she screamed and beat her fists against his back and buttocks. When it didn’t work she bit him like she had done years before when he had tried to pull the same stunt with her.
He screamed in pain as she prepared herself for the fall onto the hardwood floor.
“You son of a…” he trailed off and looked down at her. “Don’t you get it Abby?”
“No John, I don’t.” She stood up and brushed her ass off. “Tell me what’s bothering you. Tell me what it is that’s happening John. What am I supposed to get?” She grabbed his face in both of her hands and said throatily, “Talk to me.”
His hands covered hers as he let the tears flow. “You’re just another reminder that I failed Abby.”
“What?” she said quietly.
“I was so sure that you were the one with the problem. That you were afraid of committing to me, of not facing the future, but it was me all along. It’s always been me that there was something wrong with. Always,” he pulled her hands off of his face and dropped to the floor, sitting with his back against her front door. “Every time I love a woman I fuck it up.” He sniffled and ran his hands through his hair leaving it sticking up in little tufts. “Know what the thing is with me though Abby?”
She didn’t move a muscle and allowed him to talk.
“Instead of blaming myself I blame the woman. It’s never my fault, it’s always their fault.” He looked her straight in the eyes and said, “You want to know why I avoided you? It’s because seeing you… seeing what you’ve become… it’s just another reminder of how I screwed it up.”
“You didn’t screw it up John, we both did.”
He shook his head, “No. No it was me. I should’ve respected the choices that you made with your life. I shouldn’t have left you. I shouldn’t have done that to you. I shouldn’t have treated you that way.” He shook his head back and forth and continued to ramble on, “It’s like God was punishing me or something, but the baby… the baby didn’t deserve to…” His tears were streaming down his chin and neck. “Then she left me Abby. She just left me and…” His body trembled as he let months of pain and suffering escape in a flood of tears. Her arms encircled him as his body quaked.
“Shhhh,” she whispered against his ear. “Don’t do this to yourself John. It wasn’t your fault. It wasn’t your fault,” she kept repeating it like a mantra until his tears succumbed and he began to talk with a steady voice again.
~ ~ ~
He opened his eyes, trying to adjust them to his surroundings, as he rolled over on the hardwood floor. The VCR’s clock seemed to light up the room with a soft neon glow. He felt something tickle his nose. He kept brushing at it until he finally realized that it was hair. His first thought was that he needed to shave, but this hair was too silky to be his beard. Then it all flooded back to him. Abby.
the night he had sat on the floor of her apartment and gotten a lot of his
emotions out about the recent events in his life. Abby had held his hand through the whole
thing. He admitted that there were times
when he wanted to shoot up again, but something always seemed to stop him. He confessed his guilt about Kem to her. He told
her that he had loved Kem and that he didn’t mean to
start an affair with her. It just seemed
to happen. He told Abby about Kem’s concerns with coming back to the states and how he
played them off saying that he wanted their baby born in
he knew that Kem had been right all along. They never should have returned to
He told Abby that he was constantly playing the “what if” game lately. What if he’d never left County? What if Kem had never gotten pregnant? What if he had just asked Abby to marry him after all?
He had finally admitted to Abby that he had planned on proposing to her but at the last minute he backed out. Not because he didn’t love Abby, because he did love her. A part of him would always love her. When she asked him why he didn’t propose to her, he told her it was because he was afraid.
At first he tried to fool himself into believing that he was afraid of their life together. Afraid that they would consume one another with doubt and a lack of trust due to their former addictions, but last night he was finally able to admit that he was just scared of what would happen if he lost her. What if he and Abby turned out to be like his mother and father?
In the end he still lost Abby, but it was on his terms.
He knew that it would be too hard, he and Abby. They were always battling over something and after he lost his grandmother he just couldn’t fight anymore battles with her. He had to go. He had to get away from everyone and everything including the woman he loved. He didn’t have enough strength inside of himself to deal with the pain of losing his grandmother and Abby too. His relationship with her simply made him feel too much and he couldn’t do it anymore.
He knew that some of the things he confessed to Abby last night had hurt her, but it all just poured out of him and no matter what he did, he just couldn’t stop himself.
He was amazed at how strong Abby was when he confessed that he had visited a prostitute more than once since Kem’s departure. He was ashamed when Abby had said that if he had just wanted meaningless sex he should have found a different outlet and that it would be too easy to slip back into a life of drugs if he continued to enter that world.
She held him when he needed to be held, she yelled when he needed to be yelled at, but most of all she let him talk.
The clock now read and he knew he really should go home, but he didn’t want to. It was lonely there.
He could feel Abby’s breathing change as she rolled over to face him. “Hi,” she whispered.
“Hi,” he whispered back. He traced his finger across her forehead to brush away the strand of hair that was covering her eye. “Mind if I stay the night?” He asked.
“Sure,” she stood up from the cold floor and headed for the bathroom, not bothering to close the door as she tended to necessities. “You have some pajamas in the top drawer of my bureau.”
He could hear the water run as washed her hands and face. “That’s okay. I’ll just sleep in these.”
“Why? You’ve got some right in here,” she exited the bathroom wearing a pair of white underwear that resembled men’s boxer briefs and a plain white t-shirt with a coffee stain at the hem. She walked to the dresser drawer and pulled out a pair of his pajama pants that he had left there, and a shirt. “You may as well be comfortable. Besides… those are rank,” she crinkled up her nose as she pointed to the clothes that he had been wearing all day, and then crawled into bed. She set the alarm clock and pulled the covers up to her chin. “Let’s get a move on Carter. I’ve got to be up and out in a few hours.”
“Is my toothbrush still in the bathroom?”
“Oh…Uh… no,” she blushed. “I sort of used it.”
He looked at her with a raised eyebrow and said, “For what?”
“Look, I was mad at you after that damn letter, and I needed to clean my toilet bowl,” she laughed.
He couldn’t help but chuckle at her admittance. “Gee thanks, Ab.” He grabbed his clothes and took them into the bathroom.
Minutes later they were lying side by side in her bed surrounded by complete darkness.
“For what?” she asked as she rolled over with her back to him.
“Tonight. I really needed it. I guess I just didn’t realize how bad,” he admitted.
She looked at him over her shoulder and said, “That’s what friends are for Carter. Now shut up and let me get some sleep.”
“Sleep… I had forgotten what that was like.” He curled into one of her pillows and smelled her familiar scent on the case. “I don’t remember the last time I actually slept.”
She rolled over to face him as she asked. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t sleep much anymore. I usually doze off for a couple of hours and then spend the rest of my night tossing and turning.”
“Well that would explain the fatigue. It’s either that or all the street walking you’re doing looking for a piece of ass,” she giggled at her joke and said, “Laugh Carter. It was a joke.”
“Yeah, well…” he smirked as he rolled onto his side to face her. “It would explain the jitters too.”
“What would explain the jitters?” she sat up in bed and said, “The hookers?? You’re getting the jitters from the hookers???” She continued to poke fun at him.
“No,” he laughed “and it’s not like I go to them all the time you know. It’s just that sometimes…” he swallowed. “I hate being alone.”
“Oh,” she lied back down and got comfortable before mumbling, “Well I can understand that.” She faced him again and said with a wink, “You can come here anytime you know. I’m much cheaper than a hooker. A cup of coffee and a bagel in the morning and I’m yours.”
They both laughed as he said, “I’ll remember that.” It was a few seconds before he said, "I mostly go to Doc’s and have about five cups of coffee before going to work in the morning.”
“Ahhh… now that would explain the jitters. It’s a wonder you can’t sleep at night.”
“Yeah I know,” he said. “But… I think I’ll be able to sleep tonight.”
“Good.” She smiled at him and said softly, “Good night John.”
~ ~ ~
They had arrived at the ER together that morning, Abby looking fresh and new. Carter looking well rested for the first time in months. The day progressed slowly, with trauma after trauma and when it ended they were both grateful.
Abby had left for the day first, walking slowly towards the train station, subconsciously wanting Carter to catch up with her.
He walked out moments after her, heading in the opposite direction, towards the parking ramp. He called out to her, “have a good night Abby. See you tomorrow.”
“Yup,” she smiled feeling a bit of disappointment knowing that he wasn’t going to spend any time with her that evening. She talked herself through a range of emotions on the trip home. Telling herself that nothing had started between them, they simply discovered that they can still be friends. Never once had he made any kind of sexual advance towards her. Why she was suddenly feeling rejected, she had didn’t know. She told herself that he was going through a hard time and that it wasn’t healthy for him to jump back into a committed relationship. He needed to get over the loss of Kem and the baby before he could ever make room for her. She wouldn’t go through that kind of heartbreak again, but still… She knew if he asked she’d give him anything he wanted. She loved him. She tried not to, but some things just couldn’t be helped.
As she walked towards her apartment she had silently hoped that his car would be parked in front. Instead she saw a deserted road highlighted by the glow of the streetlamp. “Snap out of it Abby,” she said to herself as she turned the key to enter her empty apartment.
She didn’t know why she started cleaning, but she did. She picked up the remainder of the papers that lay scattered across the room. Tossed the empty pizza boxes in the incinerator, changed her sheets and continued to clean until her apartment resembled the peaceful, pleasant place it once did.
She ran herself a hot bubble bath and soaked in it while drinking a cup of chamomile tea, making a lame attempt at relaxing and trying her best to get John Carter out of her head.
When she crawled into bed she could feel the material caress her skin, smooth and cool. She closed her eyes willing herself to sleep, but her bed felt empty. “Oh this is ridiculous. He spent one night here Abby,” she scolded herself. “And he didn’t even try anything so get over it and go to sleep.” She drifted off a few hours later and awoke shortly after by the soft knock at her door.
Slipping her feet into a pair of house slippers, she answered it knowing who it was before she saw his familiar face through the peephole.
He stood in the doorway staring at her with a pleading look in his eyes, a cup of coffee in one hand and a bagel in the other.