The Strength To Carry On - Chapter I
By: Lori (SixteenOzs)

DISCLAIMER: "ER," the characters and situations depicted within are the property of Warner Bros. Television, Amblin Entertainment, Constant c Productions, NBC, etc. They are borrowed without permission, but without the intent of infringement. The story presented here is written solely for entertainment purposes, and the author is not making a profit.

Please do not post or redistribute without the disclaimer above, or without the consent of the author.

Feedback is welcome. Please send all questions, comments or criticisms to

SUMMARY: Mark and Elizabeth's son comes to realize the depth of his parents' love after reading a series of letters Elizabeth wrote to Mark.

RATING: PG-13 (characters die)

WARNING: I strongly recommend having a box of tissues nearby before reading this story.

BACKGROUND: This story begins in early May 2035, shortly after Elizabeth's death. The story is structured through a series of flashbacks as Mark and Elizabeth's son, David, reads letters his mother wrote to his father from May 2002 until her death. Due to the flashbacks, some parts of the prologue may not be completely clear on an initial reading, but I promise to do my best to clarify everything that as the series progresses.

The last episode that applies to this series is "The Visit." Mark and Elizabeth were married in April 2001, on the second anniversary of their first "date" at the Trauma Physician's Conference. However, Mark was never diagnosed with a brain tumor, Elizabeth never faced the Patterson malpractice suit and Elizabeth never got pregnant.

AUTHOR'S NOTE: The idea for this series began to develop in my mind after learning that Anthony Edwards' contract ended in 2002, at the end of Season 8, but that Alex Kingston's contract continued through the end of Season 9 in 2003. This scenario evolved as a way in which Mark and Elizabeth could be written out at the end of the actors' respective contracts.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ros, Cari and EpneBelle for their invaluable help in looking at scenes as I completed them and giving me such great feedback. Not to mention answering all of my annoying questions and soothing my insecurities! Thank you so much!!


Chicago, U.S.A.
Early May 2002

Without a word, Elizabeth climbed out of the car and started up the sidewalk towards the front door. Kerry followed a few steps behind her. Elizabeth's hand was shaking, and she dropped her keys as she tried to get the right one into the lock. "Damn it," she swore under her breath while bending down to pick them up.

Finally entering the foyer, she reached for the switch on the wall and the room was illuminated in soft light. Still standing at the door, she looked around for a long moment. Everything was exactly as they'd left it that morning, but she couldn't help thinking that nothing would ever be the same again.

She dropped her bag by the door and threw her coat on the rack.

"Elizabeth?" Kerry asked gently. "How are you?"

Elizabeth glanced over her shoulder, almost as if she'd forgotten the other woman was there. Her eyes brimming with tears, she admitted, "I think I'm still in shock. I can't believe it. I don't want to."

"I know," Kerry nodded quietly.

Elizabeth sighed heavily as she walked into the living room, sat down on the sofa and pulled her knees up to the chest. "He's gone. He's really gone," she said, trying to convince herself that it was true, yet praying that there was some way it wasn't. She closed her eyes and rested her cheek against her knees. Her jaw trembled as a few tears slipped down her face.

"You want a drink?" Kerry wondered.

A few moments passed before Elizabeth raised her head and opened her eyes. "I can't."

Kerry looked at her curiously. "What do you mean?"

Elizabeth stared at a spot on the table for a minute. She finally answered, "I'm pregnant."

Drawing in a deep breath, Kerry inquired, "How long have you known?"

"I'm about two weeks late, so I did a test here this morning. It was positive. I was going to call this afternoon to set up an appointment with my Dr. McLucas," she explained softly.

"Did Mark know?"

Sniffling, she wiped her face with the back of her hand and nodded hesitantly. "I told him as soon as I found out." She smiled through the tears as she remembered the expression on his face. "He was ecstatic. I thought about waiting until after I knew for sure. I can't tell you how glad I am that I didn't."

She sighed. "But now, he's never going to see our child. When we left here this morning, I thought it was going to be a fabulous day. I found out I was going to have his baby. Yet somehow, it turned out to be what is, without a doubt, the worst day of my life. I watched the man I love, the man I planned to have a family and grow old with, get torn apart by a bullet and die in a trauma room. Now, I somehow have to find the strength to go on without him, and raise our child, too." The tears were flowing freely down her face as she spoke. "I don't know if I can do it, Kerry. Right now, there's this overwhelming ache in my chest, and I don't know how, or even if, I can ever make it go away."

"I know," Kerry nodded softly as she moved to sit down next to Elizabeth. "But you will get through this. You have to. That's what he would want."

"But I don't want to do it alone," she persisted through the tears. "I want him here. I want him to wrap his arms around me, to hold me and tell me everything will be all right."

Kerry didn't say anything. She knew there was nothing she could say that would make things easier for Elizabeth at that moment. She just carefully reached out and placed her arm around the other woman's shoulders as she sobbed softly.

When the sobs finally subsided, Kerry carefully asked, "Feeling any better?"

"Not really," Elizabeth admitted.

"Is there anyone I can call for you? Your family? Or Mark's?" she offered.

Elizabeth considered this for a few moments. "I called Rachel, and Jennifer, from the hospital. His parents are both gone, and he was an only child, so I suppose that takes care of his family. I need to call my parents. Maybe I'll just call my mother and see if she wouldn't mind telling my father. I don't think I can do it twice," she admitted hesitantly. "I should also probably call Doug and Carol in Seattle. They'd want to know. I'm sure there are others, but that's all I can think of right now."

"I can call Doug and Carol, if you'd like," Kerry suggested.

"If you wouldn't mind," Elizabeth replied with a grateful look.

"Of course not," Kerry assured her. "Can I get you anything to eat? Something to drink?"

"Food is the last thing I want to think about right now," Elizabeth grimaced.

"You need to eat. For yourself, and for the baby," Kerry reminded her.

"I know," Elizabeth nodded. "It's just that I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be able to keep anything down. I'll just fix some tea."

"I can get it, if you like," Kerry said.

"That's okay. I know where everything is," Elizabeth said as she stood up. "But if you wouldn't mind calling Doug and Carol, I'd really appreciate that."

"Sure," Kerry nodded. "Do you have their number?"

Elizabeth walked over to the desk and flipped through a few papers before finally coming across what she was looking for. Jotting the number down on a sheet of notepaper, she handed it to Kerry.

While Kerry was making the call, Elizabeth walked into the kitchen, filled the teakettle with water, returned it to the stove and turned on the burner. She looked around the kitchen as she waited. Her eyes finally settled on the coffee cup next to the sink. His cup. Another flood of tears threatened to overwhelm her as she was forced to realize that he would never be coming back to use it again. She had to wonder how many of these reminders she would be discovering in the days to come. Each one causing her to remember all of the little things she loved about him, but also forcing her to face the fact that he was gone.

Carefully, she picked the cup up with both hands and gently ran her thumbs around its rim. She closed her eyes, but the tears continued to fall. "Where are you, Mark?" she asked silently. "Because I need you right now, more than I ever have before."

She leaned back against the counter, clutching his cup tightly. She remained like that until the shrill whistle of the kettle brought her attention back. Sighing heavily, she returned his cup to the spot next to the sink. After turning the burner off, she retrieved two clean mugs from the cabinet and herbal tea bags from the canister on the counter. She poured the boiling water into the mugs then carried them back to the living room.

Kerry was just hanging up the phone as Elizabeth sat the mugs on the coffee table and resumed her position on the sofa. "Did you talk to them?" she wondered.

"Yeah," Kerry nodded quietly. "I talked to Doug. He said Carol was giving the girls a bath, getting them ready for bed."

"What did he say?" Elizabeth asked quietly.

"He's in shock. Like the rest of us," she explained. "He wanted to know how you were doing, if there was anything he or Carol could do. He also wants us to let him know when the memorial will be, so they can fly in for it."

"Okay," she nodded absently. She picked up the mug and took a small sip of her tea before sitting it back on the table. "Last month, we celebrated our first anniversary. This morning, we found out we were going to have a baby. And now, I have to plan his funeral."

They were both quiet for several minutes. Finally, Elizabeth whispered, "I need him, Kerry. And I've never needed anyone."

"I know," she nodded.

Elizabeth glanced at the clock. It was almost seven o'clock, which meant it was close to one in London. "I suppose I should call my mother."

"Do you want some privacy?" Kerry offered.

"No, that's okay. You can stay here," Elizabeth assured her. She picked up the phone, then dialed her mother's number.

"Hello?" Isabelle Corday answered sleepily.

"Mother? It's me, Elizabeth."

"Elizabeth? It's nearly one in the morning. Is everything all right?"

"No, it's not," Elizabeth said quietly as she fought back tears.

"What's wrong?" Isabelle prompted, immediately becoming alert.

"It's… it's Mark," she choked out. "He, um, he was killed this afternoon."

"Oh my God," Isabelle whispered under her breath as the full force of the shock hit her. "What? How?"

"There was a shooting in the ER. He, um, he was trying to protect a patient, and was shot. The bullet hit his heart. There was nothing we could do," she said, her voice faltering.

"Elizabeth, I am so sorry," Isabelle said softly.

"So am I," Elizabeth echoed as she stopped trying to hold back the tears.

"Where are you? Is someone with you?" Isabelle asked, her maternal instincts rising to the surface, hating the fact that she was an ocean away from her daughter at that moment.

"I'm at home, and one of the other doctors from the ER is with me," Elizabeth replied.

"I'll be on the next plane to Chicago," Isabelle assured her. "Is there anything I can do?"

Elizabeth didn't even try to argue with her mother about coming to Chicago. In fact, for the first time in quite a while, she had to admit that she needed her mother there with her. Hesitantly, she asked, "Could you call Daddy for me? I really don't want to make this call again."

"Of course I'll call him," Isabelle replied. "Is there anything else?"

"I don't think so. Not right now," Elizabeth said, shaking her head. "I need to make the arrangements for the service, but I'm going to do that tomorrow."

"Call me if you need anything," Isabelle reminded her daughter. "I mean that, Elizabeth."

"I know, Mother. Thank you," Elizabeth whispered.

"I love you, Elizabeth." Isabelle said quietly before hanging up.

"I love you, too." Elizabeth sighed heavily as she sat the phone on the table. Then, she used the back of her hand to wipe her face. Looking to Kerry, she said, "I keep telling myself that I just have to focus on getting through each minute, then I'll make it through the hour, then the day. But I think what really scares me is the big picture. How am I going to get through the rest of my life?"

"You're going to do it just like you said," Kerry said softly. "One minute, one hour, one day at a time."

Elizabeth tried to force a weak smile. "It's not going to be easy, is it?"

"Probably not," Kerry admitted. "You look tired. Why don't you try to get some rest?"

"I don't think I could," Elizabeth said, shaking her head. "I don't want to go to sleep, because I know that when I wake up tomorrow, I'll have to face the first day of the rest of my life without him. I'm not ready for that."

"Maybe a warm bath or shower would help?" Kerry suggested.

"Maybe," Elizabeth nodded quietly as she carefully stood up.

"Would you like me to stay here tonight?" Kerry asked gently. "Just so you don't have to be alone?"

"Yeah, I'd like that. Thank you," Elizabeth replied softly. Smiling slightly, she admitted, "Besides, if my mother gets here tomorrow and finds out I spent the night alone, I'll never hear the end of it."

"You're welcome," Kerry smiled.

Fifteen minutes later, Elizabeth was sinking to a warm tub, overflowing with fragrantly scented bubbles. She pulled her knees to her chest as her body began to shake under the weight of her sobs.

They were supposed to have a future together, to have a family, to build a tree house and a swing set in the backyard, to work together doing what they both love, to grow old together. She wasn't ready to give that up, but none of it meant a damn thing without him.

She stayed in the tub until the water was cold. She'd never felt more alone in her life and she knew that feeling wasn't going to go away anytime soon. Stepping out of the tub, she wrapped herself in a thick, terrycloth towel. As she walked into the bedroom, she didn't even bother to look at her clothes. She went straight for his side of the dresser and pulled out a pair of sweatpants and a sweatshirt.

Kerry looked up as Elizabeth reentered the living room. "Feeling any better?" she wondered.

"Not really," she admitted. "Why don't you try to get some sleep? You can take the guest bedroom, and help yourself to anything of mine if you want to change."

"Are you sure you don't want me to stay up, to keep you company?" Kerry wondered.

"That's okay," Elizabeth said, shaking her head. "I don't feel like talking, and I can't go to sleep. I just want to be alone for a while. I hope you don't mind."

"No, that's fine," Kerry said with a slight smile. "I understand. Just please, let me know if you need anything."

"I will. Thank you, Kerry," Elizabeth replied softly.

Kerry stood and turned towards the stairs. Turning back to Elizabeth, she said, "I almost forgot. Your father called while you were taking a bath. He wanted you to call him if you felt up to it. Otherwise, he'll be coming in tomorrow with your mother."

"Okay, thanks," Elizabeth nodded.

Elizabeth picked up the phone, then curled up in the corner of the sofa. It took several minutes before she was able to dial her father's number.

"Hello?" Charles Corday answered.

"Daddy, it's me," she said softly.

"Elizabeth, how are you doing?" he asked, his voice filled with concern.

"I can't believe he's gone. I'm not ready to believe it," she said, another torrent of tears threatening to overwhelm her. "I want him here with me."

"I know, Darling. I am so sorry," Charles said sincerely.

"I'm so tired," she said quietly, "but I can't close my eyes. Every time I do, I see him in my arms, bleeding. And I couldn't stop it."

"Elizabeth, there was nothing you could do," Charles reminded her gently.

"Is that supposed to make me feel better?" she asked bitterly. "How long have I been a doctor, and I couldn't do a damn thing to save the one person who means more to me than anyone else?"

"This wasn't your fault, Elizabeth," he assured her.

"I know," she said weakly. "I just…"

Charles sighed. He couldn't help but remember once when Elizabeth was about eight years old. She'd fallen off her bicycle and had a pretty nasty cut on her knee. She was crying the entire time he cleaned and bandaged the wound. After he finished, he'd kissed her knee and taken her into the kitchen for her favorite oatmeal cookies. More than anything, he wished he could take her pain away that easily now. But he knew there was nothing he could do that would ease the loss she was currently feeling.

"Elizabeth," he said softly, "your mother and I will be arriving in Chicago tomorrow morning. We should be there by eleven, your time. Will you be okay until then? Are you staying alone?"

Elizabeth again wiped at her face with the back of her hand. Sniffling slightly, she said, "Yeah, I think I'll be all right. One of the ER docs is staying with me tonight."

"Promise you'll call me if you need me. I don't care when it is," Charles said seriously.

"I will, Daddy," she said quietly.

"I love you, Elizabeth," he reminded her.

"I love you, too," she whispered. "'Night."

She sighed heavily as she sat the telephone on the table. Slowly, she stood and made her way upstairs to their bedroom. She stopped at the door and drew in a deep breath. She stared at the bed, and the tears traced their way down her cheek as she realized she would never be sharing it with him again.

Pulling back the comforter, she slipped beneath the sheets. She closed her eyes and thought back to the night before, remembering the way his hands roamed over her body and the way she knew she'd never been as close to anyone as she was to him. Lying on her side facing the wall, she tried to convince herself that he was still there, or that he was just working a late shift, but would be there when she awoke the next morning. But deep in her heart, she knew the truth, and it hurt.

She turned over and reached for his pillow, pulling it to her chest. She tried to fight it, but then surrendered and allowed the sobs to escape as her body shook. An eternity seemed to pass before the tears stopped. She remained curled up in the center of the bed, too exhausted to move.

When she finally looked at the clock next to the bed, she was shocked to see that only an hour had passed. Turning to lay on her back, she stared at the ceiling and sighed heavily. How was she ever going to get through this night? Not to mention all of the lonely nights to come.

Sleep was useless, she knew that. And staying in bed, in their bed, just made his absence that much more painfully evident. Gathering what little strength she had, she got out of bed and made her way downstairs.

She aimlessly walked through the first floor of their house, just trying to convince herself that he was really gone, wondering what it would be like to never see him there again, wondering how she was going to survive alone, how she was going to raise their child by herself.

She finally went into the kitchen and poured herself a glass of orange juice before walking back to the living room. She sat at the desk and pulled the chain on the banker's lamp, casting a soft light across the desk. She needed to feel close to him again.

She stared at the Mont Blanc fountain pen that rested in its box on the desk's surface. He'd given that to her as a birthday gift the first year they were together. Opening the second drawer on the right-hand side of the desk, she withdrew several sheets of pale blue stationary. Drawing in a deep breath, she picked up the pen and began to write.

Dearest Mark,

It has been almost twelve hours since Carter called your time of death. I can still hear his voice echoing through my head. I can't stop thinking about what it was like in the trauma room after I told everyone to leave. It was so quiet. You were so still.

The minutes pass like hours, the hours like days. I'm not sure I can even begin to describe this ache inside my chest. I don't know how, or even if, I can ever make it go away. If it allows me to still feel close to you, then I'm not even sure that's what I would want. It hurts, Mark. It hurts like nothing I've ever known before.

There is a part of me that wants to be angry with you. I told you to be careful. But I'm not angry, not at you. You were saving a patient. That's what you've done as long as I've known you. That's so much of why I fell in love with you. But I'd be lying if I said there wasn't at least a part of me that is angry. I'm enraged at the gang members who don't see anything wrong with turning an emergency room, dedicated to saving lives, into a shooting gallery. I'm furious with the hospital administration for not listening when you told them the ER needed additional security measures. But I can't be angry with you.

To be perfectly honest, more than anything, I'm scared. I thought we were going to spend the next forty years together. I never imagined it would be cut short so soon. I keep thinking about the baby, your baby, that I'm carrying. How am I supposed to do this on my own? How am I supposed to make sure that he or she knows what a wonderful, kind, giving man you are? This child is the last piece of you that I have left. I will do anything to protect him or her. I promise you that. It's just that, at this moment, I don't know how I'm going to find the strength to carry on without you.

Kerry is upstairs asleep right now. She didn't think I should spend the night alone, and I didn't even feel like arguing. My parents are flying in tomorrow, as is Rachel, with Jennifer and Craig. I tried to sleep earlier, but it just wouldn't come. Curled up in bed, clutching your pillow, I could almost imagine you were there next to me. I just keep remembering how it felt, lying in your arms last night after we made love. It was wonderful. I want to feel that way again.

I miss you, Mark. I know I don't have a choice, but I don't want to go to sleep tonight because I don't want to wake up tomorrow and start the rest of my life without you. I suppose all I have left now are the memories, and the hope that you'll come to me in my dreams. I love you, Mark, and I always will. I'll make sure our child knows who you are and why I love you more than anything else in this world. You have my word.

All my love,


Chicago, U.S.A.
Early May 2035

As David finished reading the letter, he leaned back on the sofa and sighed heavily. After a few moments, he removed his glasses and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. Replacing his glasses, he remarked, "For as long as I can remember, she had this inner strength that I always found amazing. But reading this letter… she's so completely vulnerable."

"We once talked about that," Susan admitted. "About what it was like for her after Mark died. She said it was the hardest time of her life. She knew she never completely got over his death, and it took quite a while before she was able to begin putting it behind her. But she'd done that by the time you were old enough to remember. She always said you were a large part of what gave her the strength to carry on. As long as you were depending on her, there was no way she was giving up."

David contemplated Susan's words in silence for several minutes. Looking to his wife, he softly whispered. "I love you."

"I love you, too," Leslie whispered back.

He couldn't even begin to imagine what it would feel like to lose her, and it was something he didn't want to consider. He also never wanted her to be faced with raising their child alone. Unfortunately, there was so that was beyond his control.

In the end, he supposed all he really could do was to spend each day making sure Leslie knew how much she meant to him. That was probably one of the most valuable lessons his mother taught him.

Reaching out to gently caress her husband's cheek, Leslie said, "Come on, let's go home. You've had a long day. We can fix dinner, then get some rest. Your mom's letters will still be here tomorrow."

David exhaled slowly, then managed a faint smile. "That's probably a good idea."



I hope you enjoyed it, and that you'll continue reading. This is a very different type of story for me, so I'd really love any and all feedback you might have. Please send it to me at: LLP

All stories in this series, as well as my other Mark/Elizabeth and Mark/Susan stories can be found at my web page: SixteenOzs' ER FanFiction,

June 1, 2001