TITLE: After (1/2)

AUTHOR: C. Midori

EMAIL: Carter/Abby

RATING: PG

SPOILERS: None

DISCLAIMER: I don't own ER. But if I did there sure as hell wouldn't be as many helicopters.

AUTHOR NOTES: These stories originally written for the Holiday Carby Secret Fix Exchanges in 2003 and 2004. I thought I'd post them for posterity. This one was for Pat in particular. Her three elements: (1) a spoon, (2) the color platinum, and (3) "what would Macgyver do?"

SUMMARY: A two-step in the dance they do. AU.

For Pat, whose hard work as a C&P mod does not go unnoticed even by the most infrequent of posters.

The Wedding

Carter: I want to marry you.
Abby: Oh, you're proposing?
Carter: Yeah.
Abby: You're crazy!
Carter: Well, then I'll fit right in.

-"A Boy Falling Out of the Sky"

It was a twilight wedding, drunk with the sweet-heavy smell of summer and roses, far from the nights he used to spend awake and wide-eyed, sleepless and dreamless, thinking of her. Cold nights. Nights blue-black with bruising, blue and thin like carbon paper. Nights that bred the longing right into his bones.

(And into hers. Nights that made her want funny things, like his voice on her answering machine or creases on her face from hours in his bed. She never wanted these things with others; too close for comfort, too close to home. But she wanted these things with him.)

Her arms and shoulders were bare, the edges of her hair curling in the damp night. She looked disheveled, darling, like a girl fallen out of the sky. He was so happy he could hardly see straight. So when it came time for him to kiss her, he missed.

(She didn't mind. He got it right on the second try. And if they were proof of anything, it was of second chances.)

Their families had nothing to say to each other. He knew she thought him born with a silver spoon in his mouth. (Platinum, actually.) It bothered him more than she would ever know. He hoped the mornings would convince her otherwise. Mornings, he drank coffee, did the dishes, loved her. The way normal people without a foundation to their name drank coffee, did the dishes, loved each other. He was no different, really.

(There had been no love letters tied with ribbons, or flowers that crumbled from being pressed so long between book pages; instead, coffee and pie, a bridesmaid dress, a ribbon of asphalt in Oklahoma, the river at night, the back alley of a bar, quarantine and a public health crisis. In other words, she thought him anything but ordinary.)

They danced under the light of a little narrow moon, a sky fretted with glass-bright stars. His bowtie dangled from his neck, undone; flowers fell from her hair. They danced until they were exhausted and laughing and realized they didn't know the steps anymore.

(And then they made them up.)

In the morning he woke with the predawn on his shoulders, and she asleep next to him. She had slept with her body curled to him, breathing deep and even. She smelled like eiderdown, and the last of the flowers. Gently, he pulled the blanket back over her shoulders.

(She woke to the smell of coffee grounds and padded into the kitchen wearing sleep on her face, one of his shirts with the buttons undone. She reached for the jam, and he unscrewed the lid for her before sliding the jar across the table.)

As he wipes the jam from the corner of her mouth and she gives him a slow sleepy smile, this is what they are thinking:

They will live a normal life.

They will live a normal life, full of compromise and shared drawer space.

They will fight, because he is self-righteous and she is stubborn and that's who they are and that's what they do and they've never cared to be anything but honest, anyone but themselves, with each other.

She will complain to Susan, who will answer, always and cryptically, what would MacGyver do?

He will complain to Susan, who will answer, always and matter-of-factly, tell her you're sorry.

So they will find apology. They will make do with what they have and who they are, and it will be enough. To withstand the death of his grandmother, to weather the madness that runs through her blood, to shoulder sickness and starved childhood and shared addiction, a miscarriage and a birth.

Because, he will like to say as he holds her in his arms and she plays with the ring around her finger, if they are proof of anything, it is of second chances.