Rated: PG
Category: Drama/Suspense
Spoilers: Skin
Description: Abby is channeling mind over matter, ten deep breaths, forward thinking, transcendent oaths and all that other crap that's supposed to help at times like this. It might be the only shot she gets.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Is it ever?
Feedback: If you would be so kind.
The night has been cold, and so the windows are all foggy - but, even through the cloudy white, Abby can see the flashing lights of a bank clock across the street, and so she knows that the night isn't nearly as late as it feels - it isn't even 2:00. She had dreaded coming in tonight, and had toyed with the idea of calling in sick. If she were a different person, a person more like Ray, she might be at home right now, enjoying her bed and all its warm, soothing majesty. At moments like this, especially in moments like this, she wishes that she weren't so bound by duty, by calling, by oath. Such reliable behavoir is probably a byproduct of a childhood cut short, and now she's thinking of her mother. And stops - because that hurts too much.

Her scrubs are doing little to brace her against the cold, and of course the heat is on, but the closing and opening of the doors have brought in a draft, and she is chilled to the bone.

And she's trembling. But not from the cold. She doesn't think so anyway. She has plenty to quake about - almost to the point of madness. She tries to seize control of her seizing thoughts. And somewhere she's read, or heard (or made up for all she can tell) that reciting things helps calm the mind.

Except that Abby has a bad memory, and never really went to church, so there's very little she's memorized that would help her right now. And then it comes to her...

I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.

A flash from the Hippocratic Oath. Something she can cling to, that can still her nerves and assure her that somewhere there is sanity and humanity and people without guns.

They hit a bump as they careen recklessly through the streets, and since she's lying on her side, Abby slides to the car's right, her head slamming against the car door. Anxiety is numbing, though, and she is more disturbed by the thumping in the back. That rolling, limp, unresisted thud that is constant proof of what she has long known: CJ is dead. It's not the first dead body she's ever seen, not even the thousandth, but it's back there, rolling around like broken pottery in the back of a U-Haul, sadly destroyed, but put off until it can be dealt with. It makes her skin crawl, and the tugging pain left in her arms lights up again.

I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon's knife or the chemist's drug.

And the abductor's gun, she adds as a footnote. But even she knows that in spite of herself, she shed a tear, many tears, she wept really, as she watched animation slip from CJ's eyes, and blood from his veins, and life from his body. Some days, that whole...the whole thing about dying - some days it doesn't bother her. But sometimes it's bloody, and heinous and senseless. And sometimes all you have is a seamstress's thread, a bottle of penicillin and rubbing alcohol.

And she will never forget that scene as long as she lives.

For a moment she wonders if that's why Carter doesn't talk about the Congo.

Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.

She could have escaped once, and only now does she regret it. The gun, it was right there, totally unprotected - and she saw it there, lying there, before they even did. But she was somewhere between breathing and reps, and they were all there, bent over his body, distressed and anxious, praying in their heathen way for a miracle as he slipped away, and God Almighty if that very moment didn't feel like every other trauma she's ever been in.

She regrets it now, regrets not threading that rod of steel between her fingers, because she doesn't want to die, not like this. There's more to do. Much more to do. Her house isn't clean, and she hasn't paid her rent. She hasn't figured out the ending to Lost. She still hasn't talked to the cute guy on the Blue Line. She's never seen Niagara Falls or the Grand Canyon. She hasn't quit smoking yet, and she's never had any children. There are people she loves, who she wants to see again and hear laugh again and hug again. There are her cousin Robin, her ex, Richard, her best friends from forever, Meredith, Traci, Stephen, and Alicia. There're Susan, and Sam and Luka. There is Carter. And, even though sometimes she has cold nights and lonely days, she's convinced there are people out there who love her too. People who she is meant to outlive. She can't leave her mother here alone, and her brother needs her.

She can't die.

She could have grabbed that gun - and God knows what she would have done with it - but nothing that she couldn't have gotten off for. Instead she pumped, and she breathed, and she cried.

She can hear Lil'C whispering up front, and she is taken with horror at what he is, what he will become. He can't be a day over eleven, and yet, here he is, on a school night, warring battles that aren't his own, saying things he doesn't know, making heads and tales of a deadly world that isn't even real. Finding heroes where he can, even among imperfect, broken people with feet of clay, who don't know their way in the world any more than he does, and who get it wrong - very wrong.

She thinks of her mother again, the imperfect hero who was so wrong sometimes, and how much Abby loved, and wanted, and ached for Maggie when she herself was eleven.

And she doesn't regret it anymore.

I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know.

And with that she knows what she wants more than anything. And it isn't justice.

"I won't tell anyone," she hears spilling from her mouth. "I really won't tell anyone," she emphasizes, because she knows that if she wakes to another day, that day will be justice enough. It will be a day for life - a day to live.

And Abby wants to live.

If she dares to dream, she thinks she can see the tops of buildings that look familiar, and the sounds of whistles that tell her that the bustle of trains, several trains, is nearby. Which means they are in downtown Chicago, and she doesn't dare think what that may mean. Because her heart might break if she were wrong.

And then they stop. The door opens and she gets out with a hesitance that may seem like she wants to stay. But she doesn't want to stay. She wants to pinch herself, because she can see it across the street - and it looks like home.

If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter.

"Thanks, anyway," Lil'C thanks her from the window, and makes a gun gesture that he flashes as if he were blowing a kiss. And then, they're gone.

She's alive.

She's really alive.

And she runs for County with all the might she has left in her body.

May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help.