'Past Dances and Future Tears:'

'Forgive and Forget?'

Rating: A big fat 'A:A' for Angst of the Abby kind.

Spoilers: Up through to present day season 7-ish.

Disclaimer: The only thing I lay claim to is my imagination. The rest is entirely an NBC thing.

Authors Notes: Okee...this is an Abby'n'Luka'n'Maggie'n'Carter thing. What, you mean you haven't read one of those before? Well, then sit back and get your favorite snack food out, 'cos here goes nuthin'...

Ok, I'll admit it, I have a problem: My name is Kitty and I live for feedback:

Aphrodite298@aol.com

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"Please watch out for each other and forgive everybody. It's a good life. Enjoy it."

- Jim Henson

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The sight of Luka pacing up and done in front of me in his boxers, with that pouty Croatian look on his face is usually something of a spectacle. An image that I wouldn't mind being greeted to every single morning of my life, and the next few lives I intend to have after this one, that's for sure.

But, right now, all I want is for him to pick up his trousers, find that goddamn belt of his, have his hair looking a little less abused and have him on the El Train, now. In fact I could have done with him in the seat next to me, frowning over the New York Times Crossword with all his clothes on half an hour ago, but any hopes I had of that are gone.

"Luka?" I hate winging. I hate whining. He knows this.

"Yes Abby? What is it, Abby?" He says without looking up from the sock drawer that he's emptying.

What is it Abby? The possibility of Weaver having you hung drawn and quartered in front of the rest of the world for being half an hour late doesn't appeal to you, Abby? Just which part of being fired don't you enjoy, Abby?

"Luka...it's half six." Good. Not as whiney.

He takes a second to glance up at me, "I know that Abby."

I sigh. For the hundredth time since I awoke to discover that he'd forgotten to set the alarm this morning. He can be such an... inconsiderate prick sometimes. I could kill him. In fact I'm obligated to kill him.

Bitter? Me?

I check my hair one more time in the hall mirror before glancing back at him. His shirts coming on, and now he's going to spend fifteen minutes hunting down his hair gel, which, whenever he's not looking I tend to accidentally shove deep down behind the bed. Hey, maybe he'll get the hint. But, seeing as he won't step outside without his head looking like a bad case of Jerry Garcia, I hand it to him, and watch as his hair goes from bad to critical. With the amount he uses on it I sometimes wonder if he isn't personally supporting the entire Bryl cream counter.

Well, it's not my hair, I think as I follow him out of the door and into the windiest morning Chicago's ever experienced. According to some half smiling weatherman on TV.

Could my life possibly get any better?

We make a run for the train platform, not having uttered one word to each other since we left home...well, so long as you're not counting grunting and the occasional obscene word aimed at the world in general.

"Abby?"

I open my eyes, my vision narrowed into a train map and Luka's head. Dammit, did he find that hair gel again?

"Abby, we're here." He says tugging gently at my hand.

I grunt and remove my head from his shoulder, tugging back on his hand.

As we make our way to County we discuss plans for tonight, some TV special and the many excuses we could use to save our sorry asses from the wrath of Weaver.

Abducted by aliens tops my list.

As we walk in hand in hand, we evaluate the mass of patients, and with as much conspicuousness as his reflective hair will allow, make a dive into the Locker room.

Forty-five minutes late.

I wince as I think of the gratuitous acts of cruelty that we have no doubt earned from Weaver. I can look forward to a long week of rectals on all those charming people who have forgotten to bathe sometime during this past decade.

Great. Greatgreatgreatgreat...

All this is forgotten as suddenly my lips are greeted to the warmth of his. I sigh letting them linger there for several seconds before smiling back up at him.

"Am I forgiven?" He asks, a smile on his lips.

I shrug with my own half-smile; as he leans in to make sure all his crimes of bad hair and bad timing are absolved by my lips.

Sighing he turns to leave, a white lab jacket being shrugged on one arm.

Before he departs back into the madness that is County and makes pretend that he's been here since he's supposed to have been, I pull his face into mine and leave him with the lingering taste of Colgate and black coffee to contend to, before he manages a hasty exit into the real world.

Sighing, I return my gaze to my locker, pick up my trusty stethoscope, and throw it around my neck as I turn to leave.

"Oh, hey Carter." I mutter at the motionless figure drowning his sorrows in a cup of the blackest coffee I've ever seen, by the lounge doorway. I must have missed him when I came in.

He looks up at me, a smile flickering across his thoughtful face. He shifts his gaze to the slam of Luka's door, and then quickly returns it to mine. "Weren't you guys supposed to be here...some time that's before now?"

I smile and nod, "He, uh, he forgot to set the alarm." He nods his head, as though it were a stupid question, and returns his gaze to his coffee. "Carter...you OK?"

He lifts his gaze to mine again, "Uh, sure Abby I'm fine. Just, y'know, thinking."

I nod, "Happy things?"

He smiles again, with a slow nod. "Always."

"Yeah?...anything in particular?" Damn my curiosity.

He starts, as if about to admit something, but quickly purses his lips with a sigh. "Uh, raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens?" I smile and turn to leave. "See you on rounds Abby."

I sigh as I open the door. "Always."

I cringe as I catch a sight of Jerry holding the phone out towards me, as though it were a poisonous snake. Guess who Abby.

"You're mom's on line three."

I force a smile at Jerry, as Randy quickly finds several precious nail filing moments to moodily shove me a stack of charts. Thanking her, I pick up the phone and take a deep breath.

"Abby?"

Oh god. Weaver.

I can hear my mom already talking, rambling on and on about something she needs me to do yesterday, and I force a friendly grin at Weaver.

"You believe in the existence of extra-terrestrials, Weaver...?"

* * * * *

My horoscope warned me this would happen.

That forgiveness was something that only I would have today, that the rabbit hole was about to get a lot deeper, that I would have to rely on those close to me to maintain that fragile grip on sanity that I have. My horoscope told me that things would hurt today and that the ones that I loved most would screw with me more than was necessary.

It told me this, and I screwed it into a ball and missed the trashcan.

Apparently I should put more trust in to the effects that bits of rock millions and billions of miles away from me will have on my life.

My mom's crying.

In front of me, in front of my colleagues, which wouldn't be so bad, if this were Oprah. But the patients are getting scared, even Romano's throwing me sympathy gazes and she won't stop.

I keep telling her that it's OK. That thus far in my medical career I haven't had one person whose smashed their hand through a window die on me, and that I'm pretty positive that she's not going to be the first.

But she doesn't stop.

"Maggie? Mom, it's OK. Everything's OK, it's just glass, just let me put some of this antiseptic lotion on...yes it does sting, but hold still OK? No Maggie, we don't give morphine for lacerations. Hold still mom."

She's drunk. And it doesn't look like she's been paying much attention to that prescription of hers either. Which is perfect. But since when has she ever considered anyone else's feelings over her own?

She keeps saying she's sorry. That she's sorry for being a bitch, she's sorry Abby, she's really sorry. And that she's sorry for being so stupid, she doesn't know why she did it, she doesn't, Abby. She's sorry for the way I am, for the way we are, she's so sorry Abby.

Abby, does Abby forgive her?

"Mom, just keep quiet it'll be over in a sec, OK?"

Does Abby forgive her? She needs Abby to forgive her.

Abby doesn't say anything.

I can't say anything. If I were to open my mouth it would only add to the screaming. I can't handle any more screaming.

Maggie pulls her half sutured hand away from me, the needle clinging on for dear life, glares at me, and continues to ask me, continues to need to know if I'm sorry. If Abby forgives her.

Abby still says nothing. I begin to open my mouth, and I can see Luka come up behind her. He talks soothingly to her, his voice thick with compassion, and a sense of velvet walls and clear skies. I wonder why I never get to hear that voice.

I watch them. My mother is still crying, her shrill sobs not leaving one corner of the hospital empty. I've once heard a dog that's been in pain cry like that. Endlessly, hopelessly, not caring what the neighbors threw at it to keep it quiet.

Does Abby forgive her? She needs Abby to forgive her. Please, Abby. Abby, tell me that, Abby, say you forgive me Abby, say you forgive me. Over and over again, until the words blur into one pitch. One word. ForgivemeAbbyforgivemeAbbyforgivemeAbbyforgivemeAbbyforgivemeAbby

God.

"You want me to forgive you, mom? Forgive you for everything you've done to me? Will that make you happy?"

She gets angry. Pushes Luka aside to stand directly in front of me. I freeze.

I will not cry. I will not cry. I will not cry.

"What the hell have I done to you Abby, huh?! What horrible crime have I committed? Tell me. I want to know! You're a nurse; you have a life, a home, huh? Not so bad for someone who had a witch for a mother, huh?! You have a great life and that has nothing to do with me."

Her anger fuels my anger, and everything that I've been holding back since she has arrived floods out in a stream of words, exclamation marks and tears.

"You think that this is great mom? You think that I want to be here stitching up my incoherent manic-depressive mom?! Do you think that I chose to be an alcoholic?! Is *that* a great thing to be?! Or how about when I was seven and had to cover my head with a pillow so that I couldn't hear you screaming to yourself, or-or hear you screwing the village idiot? You think that had nothing to do with you mom? Do you want me to forgive you for that? Well, I cant. I just can't do that, OK?!"

I'm breathing heavily, my arms flailing about ungracefully, my eyes heating up, the world both stopping and moving too fast around me.

Does Abby forgive me, does Abby forgive me? Abby?

I'm crying. And my mom's crying is getting even louder. I think she's possibly the only person in the ER who didn't hear that. I stumble backwards, I can't stay here any more, I can't watch this. Luka doesn't make any movements to follow me as I turn and leave, my feet slamming against the cold linoleum flooring and the sounds of concerned humans fading around me, until I'm alone.

The roof is cold, and I grab at the flimsy white cotton jacket in an unconscious attempt to keep from freezing to death. I realize that I'm still crying.

I brush the backs of my hands against my eyes, and lean against the brick wall that stands between me and three lanes of traffic.

I hate her. I hate her so much. I never knew that I could.

She's my mother and I hate her.

She's my mother and she hates me.

Oh god.

I remember being eight. I remember waiting outside school for two hours before she remembered that she was my mother and that that was what mother's did.

I remember crying and crying and crying when I was twelve because she didn't come home for four days and I thought that she was lying dead in a ditch off of New Mexico somewhere.

I remember vodka and cheap wine taking priority over groceries and laundry.

God.

A part of me tells me that it isn't her fault. She's a manic-depressive. It isn't her fault and it isn't my fault and it isn't the world's fault. It just is. Another part, tells me, that she knows that the medication helps, that she knows what she's doing, what she's saying. That she means it all.

God.

"Abby?"

I swallow hard, and try to get my voice to come out. "Uh, yeah Carter?"

He places a jacket over me. *His* jacketit has his smell on it. The familiar smell more than anything comforts me, and I smile weakly at him.

"She's gone Abby."

I can still feel my eyes heating up.

I will not cry. I will not cry. I will not cry.

"Yeah? Where'd she go?"

Carter shrugs slightly, and I can see that he's concerned, his forehead creasing lightly. "Home, she said. I think Luka volunteered to take her, make sure she gets there OK. Help her take her meds."

I nod, and bite my lip.

We're silent for several minutes, years, lifetimes.

"You know you aren't at all like your mother."

I drag my hands against my face, pull my hair back, and sigh. The tears are gone and I'm back to feeling anger. I want to scream, to throw something that'll land with a satisfying smash. I want to drown my life in a bottle of something with a French name. I don't do this. So maybe Carter's right. My mom would have broken something against something or someone else without hesitation. I could never do that.

He has his arm around my shoulder, and I lean back into him, into his warmth. I wonder why this is so much easier for me to do with Carter than it is with Luka.

And then there was his voice. "Abby..." He paused to turn to look at me, brushing a tear soaked strand of hair out of my eyes, "...this isn't your fault y'know. *She* isn't your fault."

My voice was rough, and wavering a notch more than I wanted it to. "Carter...I just have some issues with her...that I'm trying to deal with. It's pretty gory at the moment I know, and it doesn't help that she refuses to admit that she has actually got a problem... Geeze, maybe that's hereditary." I sigh again, and close my eyes, my world reduced to the feel of his fingers forming gentle abstract patterns on my forearm, and the sound of his breathing next to me.

"And you're fine huh?"

I nod against him, and I can feel my eyes heat up again. I bite down harder on my lip.

"If it's any consolation my family isn't exactly going to win any 'Susan Home Keeping' awards either."

I smile at this as I look up at him. "I don't doubt that for a second."

He laughs lightly, pulling me closer into his warmth. "Oh and why is that?"

"Carter you were weaned onto caviar. Your family has enough money to feed a small nation Cajun chicken well into the next century." He smiles with a knowing nod. "And Carter, nothing pulls at the heart strings more than a poor little rich kid." I tease gently.

He pouts playfully. "Well at least my mom can tie her own shoe laces."

I smile again. "But your mom probably pays someone to do that as well."

He laughs, "OK, OK, you win, your family sucks more than mine, happy?"

I nod, the anger and repressed tears returning to their caves in the darkest recesses of my soul. I smile. I like that he can do this to me. That around him I can feel comfortable with my life, as messy and ugly as it is.

He squeezes me against him gently with one arm, "We're gonna be OK, y'know."

I smile and look at him. "You think?"

He catches my eyes with his, and I am reminded of how intense those big brown swirls of light sensitive nerves can be. "With families like ours, it's only fair that we are."

And then, with his arm still around my shoulder, he leads me back down into County.

* * * * *

"Abby...it's three thirty in the morning, what are you doing?"

I shift my gaze back across to his. His eyes are tired slits, and his voice comes out with a thick Croatian accentin those insane minutes between awake and sleep he tends to repress back to his native tongue. He continues to watch me as I pull on my trainers.

"Abby...?"

I sigh. "I am going for a jog." I tell him decidedly.

He flops back against the bed, his battle to stay awake and question me being lost. "Why, Abby?"

I shrug on an old hooded top of his, pull my hair into a bun, and pick up his keys. "Because...it's what 'normal' people do when they can't sleep."

"Oh...OK," he says, and I watch him close his eyes, his body taking up the entire bed.

"Night Luka," I mutter, as I bend to plant a kiss on his lips.

I watch him momentarily. He's certainly not hard on the eyes. I hesitate. Something inside me wanting him to reach out and pull me back into bed, and sleep, or to hold me, his arms surrounding me, much the way Carter had done up on the roof. He doesn't do any of these things, and with mild disappointment, I leave.

I take satisfaction in the cold wind that Chicago offers me as I begin at a run on the street in front of his apartment. It feels like thousands of tiny daggers are each breaking into my skin, letting everything bleed away. The cold is comforting. Soothing. Numbing.

There arent many people around to watch and gawk at the crazy brunette whose roaming the three am streets, and those people that I do pass are too busy being drunk or too busy making out. The crazy brunette goes unnoticed.

My mother and that dance we do so well together is getting old. I know the routine from scene one right through to the closing sentences. It's always the same. Same screaming, same pieces of china getting smashed, same residual bitterness, and always the same ending.

Its like clock work.

Predictable.

And I hate it.

But what can you do, huh? Matricide is illegal, and this time I'm not running away. I have a life here. I have a boyfriend. I have friends. I have a job. A bank account. A favourite restaurant. I'm sober here. I like it here, and I'm not running this time.

So what can you do?

I glance down at my watch, five-to-four. I've run five blocks already, and my body is beginning to warm up, the cold daggers subsiding to just a light numbness.

My psychiatrist thinks that I should talk to someone. That this Carter person seems like someone that I should confide in, sounds like someone who will understand.

I wonder where he lives. What he'd think if I turned up on his doorstep at four am in the morning, to confess to inner demons and child hood traumas. It could be fun I think with a smile. We could do it over popcorn, whilst watching 'celebrities before they were famous' movies with tacky soundtracks. We could compare notes on what it was like to be completely unloved and unwanted by the only people that were obligated to do so.

Instead of finding out, I run faster down the sodium lit streets, until the only thought I have left is of the cold.

* * * *

"Maggie?"

The smell of rot and of open garbage cans and of lonely people filling all of the loneliness in and around them with taco bells and cigarettes and sex and early morning TV surrounds me.

It's a familiar smell.

I rub my hands together and rap my knuckles harder against the ply wood doorframe. I can hear movement, but it could come from anywhere, from any TV set.

Suddenly the door opens.

Why did I come here?

Maggie's eyes are dilated, her hair a mess around her head, and she looks more than a little disorientated. She tries to focus on me.

"Abby? Abby you're back!"

I push past her into my apartment, and I can hear her following behind me as I walk into my bedroom. She's telling me about the many (oh let me count them) ways in which she'll make it up to Abby, she promises, Abby will be proud of her soon enough, Abby's going to be OK.

I ignore all this, and ignore the pervading mess that she has brought about to my room. Clothes and fabrics and books and magazines lay recklessly along the floor, in some abstract tapestry of modern art. A Calvin Klein model smiles up at me from the pages of her bulimic exclusive.

My underwear is the first thing I think to get.

This wasn't why I came. I came with the high expectations of having a conversation with my mother, I came with really stupid idealistic images of my mom and I forgiving and forgetting and hugging and crying and living out the scripted versions of our lives.

She thinks that red is my colour, that that European will like red on me, she can make me something in red when she gets a job, it's going to be the first thing that she's going to do for me.

So, a few pairs of underwear-none of which is red, are grasped into my hands and stuffed into the rack sack which I find beneath my bed.

Maybe I'm stalling.

I'm waiting for her to say something, or for something to change, for the world to change its spin on its axis.

A few more vests and blouses are manhandled into my bag, and I'm still waiting.

I take in a deep breath, and decide to change it for us.

"Mom? Mom, will you be quiet for a second?"

I'm vaguely surprised when she takes the time to stop talking and to look at me.

"Mom," I shake my head. "Maggie. Maggie this has got to stop, you have got to stop this."

"Stop what Abby?"

Predictable.

I feel the resentment surface. I make a movement to display the mess around me. "Stop with this, stop with me having to come home and find you slumped against my bed without even a phone call telling me youre going to be here, I need for you to stop screwing my life up. I need for you to take your meds."

There's a silence. A long silence that is filled with a million unspoken tears and a million pieces of broken china and a million glasses of distilled liquor.

It's a familiar silence.

Abby, why are you saying these awful things, what have I done Abby? We forgave each other Abby, Abby, why much you continue to be such a bitch, Abby, why are you doing this to me Abby? Abby's my daughter, when is Abby going to start acting like my daughter?

And on and on and on, until the words blur into a million unspoken tears and a million pieces of broken china.

I will not cry. I will not cry. I will not cry.

My mission to obtain underwear has been aborted. My mission to bring about some form of resolution, some form of hunky dory to my life has been aborted.

I grab my bag, and sighing walk past my mother, into the hallway, and away from the empty taco bell filled lives.

She follows me.

Tells me what an ungrateful 'obscene noun' I am, what an awful unforgiving 'word for a female dog' of a daughter that I am. Abby's going to hell, does Abby know that?

"Save me a window seat, Maggie."

Predictable.

The cold bitter sting of Chicago greets me as I begin at a run in front of my apartment. It feels good. Comforting.

And then I run harder, faster, until the only thought I have left is of another life, another family, and of a million filled silences.

A million ways to forgive and forget.

* * * *