Rated: PG
Category: Drama
Spoilers: Midnight, Drive
Description: This place is a landmine.
Note: My first published ER fic.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Not mine.
Feedback: I fiend for it.
Carter hadn't cleaned up in weeks. It wasn't typical of him to live in this much clutter. He wasn't the tidiest person he knew, but he certainly wasn't the messiest. Most doctors liked a certain amount of order and cleanliness; it was an occupational by-product of being on a first-name basis with most deadly microbes. Still, living in something just short of filth was preferable to wading through the land mine of his apartment. Cleaning under the couch's pillows had uncovered this time bomb.

A junk-mail postcard.

"Dear Jason Carter or Current Resident," it read. Junk mail was rarely accurate. "Please join us May 15 for our special American Dads League class for expectant fathers. Free of charge and open to the public, it will feature lifestyle counseling, pre-natal lectures and a grab bag of goodies for the father-to-be. It will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the Chicago Medical Institute in the Smith Wellness Center. Be sure to attend. And... don't forget to bring, Mom."

Carter stared at the waste of rainforest foliage with a sickening dread. He hadn't gone; he'd had ample access to medical advice and pre-natal care, and hardly could be lured by free "Spit happens" bibs. Yet there it was, a relic from the not-so-distant past, a past filled with anxiety, frantic reading, sleepless nights, and a lot of love. Most of all, a past filled with hope.

Remnants from that elated period were everywhere. The whole house was a shrine to what could have been: cans of paint drying up with disuse, unopened packages of baby paraphernalia: nipples, pacifiers, onsies and rattles. Random cards of congratulations could be found here or there. And books.

Books on conception (curiously), pre-natal guides, workshop pamphlets, post-natal handbooks, books on couplehood and babyhood, books on child-rearing, and books on long-term financial planning. The books were the worst.

Kem entered the room. "I'm going for a walk, John." she announced. Then she left.

He watched the door shut behind and stood there staring for several seconds. He couldn't describe this feeling he was feeling, but it was familiar to him. He watched the feeling rise up in the goosebumps on his arms, tasted it in the salty bitterness in his mouth and felt it in the dull ache in his stomach. It reminded him of Eleanor. For the first time ever, she'd almost made sense to him. He could place her in a context that he could understand. He understood how it felt to cry so hard your teeth might shatter, spend hours consumed with only one thought or feel so tired that you had to work. He knew darkness that only got deeper by the light of day. He understood staring across the dinner table and only wanting to see someone to blame. And looking in the mirror and seeing the same thing.

He thought those feelings might make you cold. Might make you turn into Eleanor.

But he knew they shouldn't. He was determined they wouldn't.

He'd usually call his grandmother at times like this. Sometimes he wouldn't even call. He'd just show up on her step, three days worth of clothes in tow, and a taste for soup on his tongue. He didn't have to tell Gamma why he was there; she knew. She knew the details to the plot. She knew the characters by name. She knew the soundtrack to the story. No one else knew, no one else understood; not as well. He longed for her like a shot of Demerol to the arm, and probably more.

And he wouldn't get either.

Some days Carter wanted to walk out of the house and never come back. Ninety-percent of his stuff was in storage anyway. He could just walk out of the door, on to the streets and keep walking, walking, walking until he came across something, someplace, someone that didn't know, that had never known, that didn't constantly taunt him with memories of the worst day of his life. Someone who didn't go for walks alone, shudder at his touch, go for hours without speaking, or cry in the bathtub at night.

Some days he wanted to scream.

Most days he didn't want to clean the house.

And almost everyday he wanted to detonate one of these landmines and watch the whole place go up in spectacular flames and burn down to the ground.