Cat's in the Cradle
Rating: PG-ish, I suppose.
Summary: Abby thinks about motherhood...and fatherhood.
Spoilers: Yes, for season 13. Spoilers for Bloodline and following. Speculative/unconfirmed spoilers for episode 8 specifically.
Notes: This fic is partially inspired (perhaps obviously) by Harry Chapin's song, Cat's in the Cradle (go give it a listen). The song is about a father and son, but change some pronouns around and it works for a father/daughter relationship as well. Also, Abby's father has never, as of yet, been named on the show. Since I've given him the name David Wyczenski in roleplaying games, that's his name here.
More notes: Yes, the ending is ambiguous for a reason. Yes, for now this is a one-shot. No, I will not be continuing it, unless I get inspired again and can figure out a way to continue/end it in a way that's satisfactory to me and true to the character.
Disclaimer: Nope, don't own them. Don't own ER. Don't sue. I don't have money, anyway. And finally, we can begin. Sheesh.
Try as Ike Ryan's might (or, Abby thinks, they most likely might not), they're not Doc Magoo's, so when she walks in she has to remind one of the ever-changing bartenders that she's ordered a Caesar salad and a root beer. Her usual, not that the guy would know that. It's a classier place, to be sure, and the food's more edible, but it leaves other things to be desired.
She perches on a barstool and fiddles with a small pile of stray peanut shells as she waits for her order and checks her voice mails. One from Maggie, "just checking in," a thinly veiled request for more pictures of the baby to be sure. Another from the nanny, the most sane of the bunch they'd interviewed, saying she'll have to be an hour late tomorrow. Shit. She's already in hot water with her residency advisor for missing so much work while Joe was in the NICU. Well, not much she can do about that now, and maybe Luka will be able to go in an hour late. The perks of being administration. She flips her phone shut and drops it back into her bag.
Looking down the bar, she's trying to figure out just how long it takes to make one Caesar salad and fill a to-go cup with root beer, when she sees him. She has to squint in the darkened room to make out his face, but it's him, the man who'd come in with one of her patients today. Something about him had nagged at her then, like she almost recognized him from somewhere, and she still hasn't figured it out. His head lifts and he sees her before she can look away; he smiles and motions her over. Strange. But maybe he just wants to thank her for helping his friend. A glance at the bartender and she knows her order isn't up yet, so she slips off her stool and walks to the end of the bar.
She'd smelled alcohol on him in the hospital earlier, so she's not surprised to find several empty beer bottles and a shot glass in front of him already. I know how you feel, she suddenly wants to say, recalling the times she'd longed for the oblivion of drink while her son's life hung in the balance. "Your friend's doing well, all things considered," is what she does say, and he gives her a small smile and a nod.
"You were good with him."
She shrugs, never one to take a compliment well. "Just doing my job."
He nods again, as if he'd expected her answer, and sets his bottle down to extend his hand to her. "David Wyczenski."
Well. This one didn't fuck around, did he? Abby is impressed with her self-control, her ability to mask the shock she immediately feels. Of course he'd looked familiar. She shakes his hand slowly, realizing that in the twenty-nine years she hasn't seen him he hasn't changed much. Older, surely, softer and tireder, but it's him. She clears her throat, playing it cool. Cool. Yeah, right. "Abby Lockhart." The use of her married name is deliberate. You have no claim to me.
"I know." Of course he knows, though how is a bit beyond her. "As soon as I saw you in the hospital, I said to myself, that's got to be Maggie's girl."
Oh. She disengages her hand and folds it with her other on the bar. That he makes no claim to her is not lost on her, and it almost hurts, and that makes her angry. "It's been a while, David." Cool. Lame. The understatement of the century.
If she's not mistaken, something – disappointment? regret? - flickers across his face when she uses his first name. But he, like she, hides things well, moves on quickly. "So you're a doctor."
"A resident, yeah." She won't give him anything too easily, not that she's ever done that, for anyone.
He nods. "Impressive. I'm impressed. I always wanted to do that, did you know that?"
Of course she didn't know that. She's not sure if she believes him either, but she humors him. Kind of. "No."
"Maggie must be proud." He plows on before she can either confirm or deny that. "How is she these days?"
She looks up and exchanges her credit card for her salad and drink with the bartender. Her ticket out of here, out of this conversation, out of the past. "Maggie's good." She's more than good, she's great, medicated and stable and supportive, if a bit smothering at times, and completely basking in her new role as doting grandmother. But he doesn't need details. Doesn't deserve them. "She's good," she repeats, reaching for the proffered pen and scribbling her signature across the bottom of the tab. She can leave now, she vaguely realizes as she slips her card back into her wallet, but something has her stuck, leaning against the bar, next to him. David. Her father.
"Good. That's good." He nods, as if satisfied by that bit of news. "And you? You're married? Kids?" She stares at him blankly until he explains. "Your name. You must be married."
Ah. She thinks about how she and her son don't share the same last name, and how maybe Luka wants to change that. "I was married." I could be again. She shakes herself ever so slightly, back to the present. Kids, he'd asked about kids. Why not? She's an adult. He's an adult. They're just two adults, and he's asked about her family. Sure. "I have a baby, a son. Joe." She realizes she can hurt him with this, and suddenly she wants to. "Named for his father's father." See what you missed?
He smiles tightly and she almost feels triumphant. "Congratulations, Princess. I always thought you'd be a great mother." The words seem flat.
"I was seven years old, David. You had no clue what I could be." There's venom in her voice. She hates the nickname Princess and at that moment she hates him.
Except that she's never really been able to hate him. All her life she's tried to hate him, but she's always come back to the fact that he was, for a few moments in time, her Daddy. And so she hates herself instead, for being so weak, for what she's about to tell him.
"Joe was...very premature. He was sick, for a long time." She draws in a breath; she still can't speak of that time without quaking inside and wonders if it shows on her face. "But he's healthy now, he pulled through." She pauses, and for the first time in twenty-nine years she looks her father directly in the eyes. "He's a pure fighter."
He remembers. She can tell he remembers. Pulling her onto his lap to watch Joe Frazier box. Ending each fight with his last swig of beer and a kiss on her cheek. You've just seen the only pure fighter, Princess. He remembers and he knows; she'd named her son just as much for his father's father as for her own.
He looks away and signals the bartender. "Let me buy you a drink."
She's already pushing herself away from the bar. She can't do this. She has her son to go home to. Her son and her son's father, who might just want to give her a different last name. She's picking up her box of food when he offers again. Please.
Her throat aches, an unquenchable thirst.