"I don't want to be your friend." That phrase. That single little phrase that normally would be saddening, was somehow even more than that to Abby. She didn't know what had gone wrong. With Carter, with Luka, with Maggie. With her whole life. Lately ever

Title: 12 Hour Hero's Trial

Author: Rachel aka NumberOneERFan

Rating: PG, no language, just whimsical romantic themes.

Description: Set the day after "Rampage"- Carter, Abby, Luka, and the entire staff of the County General ER find out that a lot can change in 12 hours.

Disclaimer: Even though I know the characters and their histories better than most of the writer do, I still haven't gotten a call from NBC (yet) so I technically don't own them. But that won't stop me from writing these nice, completely non-profit stories, will it? Nope.

I have a rudimentary knowledge of actual medical terminology and diagnostics, and I have tried hard to convey all medical situations as realistically and fully as possible. I am not yet in medical school, so I guess I'm pre-pre med. So just don't go around screaming, "I learned this from this crazy girl named Rachel, so it MUST be true!" Unless you like mental institutions.

Archive: Please do! You don't have to ask, but tell me sometime when you get around to it so that I know where my story is at.

Thanks: Michael Cricton for starting it all, Noah Wyle, Maura Tierney, and the rest of the cast. Mostly I'd like to thank God for the gift of writing he has given to me. You rock. Also, I would like to thank my friend (almost sister) Amy, to whom this story is dedicated, for being the best friend and also a great 'ER' watching buddy.       

Prologue:

                "I don't want to be your friend." That phrase. That single little phrase that normally would be saddening, was somehow even more than that to Abby. She didn't know what had gone wrong. With Carter, with Luka, with Maggie. With her whole life. Lately everything had just been falling apart. Over the past few months, things had been slowly deteriorating.

                Life had seemed to be going pretty well. And then Maggie showed up. "That's her, there's my daughter!" she had exclaimed. And Abby had tried to ignore her. Pretend like she doesn't exist, and maybe she'll just go away, she thought. But that wasn't going to happen. Her mother was bipolar. And her mother needed help. Those were things that Abby could not run from. She had never been able to, and she never would. Then to further screw things up, Maggie had holed herself up in Oklahoma. She had tried to commit suicide. She was committed. She was uncommitted. She had a job. She didn't have a job. It was a never-ending cycle. Sure, right now Maggie was living fairly normally and in control. But somehow Abby knew that it wouldn't last. It couldn't. That was just another grim part of the crazy world Abby was living in.

                As if the whole ordeal with her mother was not enough, in the midst of it Abby was dealing with a faltering relationship. Luka was a sincere man, a really nice guy. He had the best of intentions. And Abby respected that, really. But he just didn't understand. He didn't understand the broken family life Abby had come from. He didn't understand why she would want to be just a nurse and not a doctor. Their relationship was going nowhere very fast. Luka didn't understand her. Maybe he would learn to understand some things, but not others. Abby knew for sure that Luka would never understand the struggle Abby had with addiction. Not like someone who was themselves an addict. Not like Carter...

                Carter. Somehow she had once again ended up on that subject. That was another thing in her life which had been completely unfair lately. When Maggie had showed up, and then when she went back off the deep end, Carter was there to give Abby support. The two of them were already friends because of their AA meetings and Abby's sponsorship of Carter there. But oddly enough, it was all the bad times in Abby's life lately that had brought her and Carter even closer. Lately they'd been best friends. She could tell Carter anything. He might not always understand, but he did a darn good job of pretending he did. At least if he didn't he would listen. But now suddenly Carter was there telling her he didn't want to be her friend. What was that supposed to mean? Actually, she knew exactly what that meant. Carter didn't just want to be her friend. He wanted to be more. A little part of her knew that, and was trying to make the rest of her aware of that fact. But the rest of her- the part of Abby that always worked hard to keep everything stable, in control- overpowered the smaller, smarter Abby. It was easier that way.

                Now there was no chance to even talk to Carter about it, though. When he had walked away- how long ago had it been? She looked at her watch. Two hours ago. When he had said he didn't want to be her friend and walked off down the sidewalk, she hadn't followed. She had started to. Little Abby, smart Abby wanted her to follow. To go after Carter. But once again, big Abby, logical Abby had decided against it. So when he walked away, she had not gone after him. And now here she was, wondering what she was going to do. Who would she talk to now? Who would be there for her?

                What about Luka, the little part of her nagged. He's your boyfriend. Isn't that what boyfriends are supposed to be for? Abby knew that's what it was supposed to be like. She knew that was what was normal. But none of her relationships, romantic or otherwise, had ever been normal. When she had problems as a child, she couldn't tell her mother. She never knew if her mother would dry her tears or scream and throw things. In her relationship with Richard, if it could be called that, they had never really shared what they felt. And over the past 9 months or so, if she had a problem, she didn't have to trouble Luka with it. She could just talk to Carter about it.

                Just then, Abby realized how unfair that was to  Carter. Friendships were supposed to be give and take. That's just how it worked. That way it was fair and beneficial to both sides. But Carter had given most of the support in their friendship. It was usually Abby who went crying to him for help, not the other way around. And sometimes when Carter did want to talk, Abby had other things that were 'more important.' And Carter would just say OK and leave her alone. She griped to him about things that weren't his fault, she took out anger on him that he didn't deserve. But she never did those things for him. And Abby knew that Carter had problems of his own, most of them she probably didn't even know about because she never took the time to listen.

                Suddenly Abby felt really guilty. What had she ever really done for Carter? He had listened to all of Abby's complaints about her relationship with Luka. He had been understanding about her mother. He had even driven to Oklahoma and endured Maggie's wrath. And for all of it, he never complained one bit. That was just Carter. He was just that sort of person. Abby felt like such a jerk. She knew that Carter was too valuable a friend to lose. She had to make this right. Now, smart Abby said, fix it now. But it was getting late. And she was hungry and cold. And Carter was off work and she really didn't want to bother him at home. She would see him tomorrow at work. Yes, that way she'd have some time to think about what she was going to say. She'd talk to him tomorrow.

                So Abby gathered up her things, and headed for her apartment. So once again, big, logical Abby won. And smart Abby knew the other part of her was just afraid.

12 Hour Hero's Trial

********************************************

                There's a feeling deep inside  that I cannot hide, but I know it's there,  and it's turning me around.

********************************************

                Six forty-five a.m. For a doctor, that wasn't too early. But today Carter didn't want to be a doctor. He didn't want to save lives, he didn't want to help people, he didn't want to go to work. He just wanted to be human. But the alarm kept on buzzing, and outside he could hear the sound of the El Train going by. Beckoning to him to come get on. Beckoning to him to come be a hero. Again.

                Carter rolled out of bed and took a moment to steady himself before heading off to his shower. He dragged his feet across the floor, making an unconscious effort to delay the inevitable- he had to get ready, and he had to be at work. He was so tired. He had not slept well last night. He had been tossing and turning as he thought about how the day had gone from bad to worse. He had thought about the horrible killing spree that had been going on all day, and the countless victims that had blurred together as the day went on. But mostly, he was thinking about Abby. He had finally done it. He had finally gotten up the guts to tell her how he felt. And he had left before she had any time to react. Well, that wasn't entirely true. She hadn't gone after him. That in itself was saying something.

                Today was going to be worse. He could tell. He didn't know how he was going to face Abby. Or Luka for that matter. Sure, Luka didn't know, at least not yet, but Carter would still have a hard time looking him straight in the face. What was he going to say? Luka would ask for the intibation kit, and Carter would just smile and say, Sure Luka. Here you are Luka. By the way Luka, did you know I'm in love with your girlfriend? Carter didn't know what to do . They were all working today- Carter, Abby, and Luka. Carter was looking forward less and less to work today. He looked at himself in the bathroom mirror. There were dark circles starting to appear under his eyes, and his hair was a mess. If anyone were to see me now, you'd never be able to convince them I'm a doctor. That I save lives, he thought. He smiled a melancholy smile to himself. Sometimes it was hard being a hero.

**********************************************

I don't know where I am at. If I'm here or there, if I'm up or down. I need both feet on the ground.

**********************************************

                County General Hospital was still in the same place it had been every morning, night, weekend, or holiday for the last 7 years or so. As Carter walked in the ambulance bay, there were still ambulances arriving with critical patients, or sometimes just crazy people who wanted a ride to the hospital. The basketball goal was still sitting there, waiting for some doctors on break or after a tough case to come out and use it. All this was the same.

                Carter walked in through the bay doors, into the waiting room. There were some kids crying because they had stomach aches. There were businessmen complaining about the slow service and how late they were going to be for their meetings. There were drunks and drug addicts who everyone at County knew by name. And there was always some case where a doctor would have to make a tough decision. And there was always some case that would be completely new, and sometimes just plain weird. It was always a little different, everyday. It was the one thing Carter knew would always be the same. Thinking about it, he realized how ironic that was. The most diverse and chaotic thing in his life was about the only thing he could count on. He knew County General Hospital would always be in a pandemonium. At least that was consistent.

                Carter headed to the lounge. He put his things away in his locker, and donned his lab-coat and stethoscope. Just like always. Consistent.

                Randi was sitting at the CB listening to an incoming call when Carter exited the lounge. "Dr.Carter," she said, "we've got a multiple trauma victim coming in. ETA 3 minutes."

                "I got it," Carter called, immediately turning to head towards the ambulance bay.

                "Hey Carter," Dave said, while approaching. "How about taking a lady complaining that she can't eat because of the...uh... demon inside her head, and letting me work the trauma?"

                Carter laughed. "No way Dave."

                "Ah, c'mon. It sounds really exciting. I'm doing you a big favor here man," Dave persisted.

                "Hook her up with some IV fluids and call Psych."

                "What if she tears her IV out?

                "Stay with her and watch her."

                "But it could take forever for a consult to come down!" Dave complained.

                "Bring something to read," Carter said, exiting the doors and entering the ambulance bay.

                "Ah, man," Dave grumbled, heading back inside.

                The ambulance slowed and came to a stop as it pulled up. Carter walked around to the back, and waited as the doors opened and the paramedics lowered a gurney onto the ground. Carter walked alongside as they wheeled the patient inside. "Give me the bullet," he said.

                "24 year old female, crashed into a rock while water-skiing. Pretty nasty injury to the right hand, and a contusion to the belly. BP is elevated, and judging by the way she smells, she's drunk," Doris stated.

                "Thanks Doris," Carter said, as he wheeled the patient into Trauma 1.

                "See ya later," Doris called as she headed back out to the ambulance bay with her crew.

                Abby had been having a much better day so far than she thought she would. That was due to the fact that she had not seen, or had to work with, Luka or Carter so far. She didn't know how long that luck could last, though.

                "Abby," Weaver shouted, "help Carter in Trauma 1 please."

                So much for good luck. Abby headed down the hall.

                Carter was just starting to examine the patient, who was mumbling incoherently but still awake, when Abby walked in.

                "Um, Weaver said you would need some help." Abby said.

                Carter paused, just looking at her for a moment. "Yeah, sure. Could you get Chen in here too, to look at the hand?" He asked.

                "Sure," Abby said, heading out the door to find Jing-Mei.

                Carter's eyes trailed her until she went around the corner and out of sight. When he turned back, Haleh and Lydia were exchanging a glance, then they looked at Carter with eyebrows raised. "What?" Carter asked, a little too harshly. The nurses exchanged another glance.

                "Oh, nothing," Haleh said, smirking.

                Carter shook his head. He returned his focus to the patient on the table, and tried to ignore the whispers of Haleh and Lydia. Great, he thought. This is the worst place in the world for rumors, and I have to go and fan the flame. Idiot! He shook his head again, this time to clear his thoughts.

                Now he was in the mind set. Now all that mattered was the table in front of him and the victim it held. Now all he had to do was be a hero. "Lydia, order a CBC, Chem 7, Tox Screen, and a Blood Alcohol Level. And get an ultrasound in here, and an X-ray for the right hand." Lydia was all business too, as she hurried to the phone. Carter didn't even notice when Abby walked back in, with Chen following.

                "What do we got?" Jing-Mei asked.

                "Multiple trauma from a water skiing accident. Hit a rock, but she was wearing a life jacket which absorbed some of the impact. I'm waiting for a ultrasound to see if there's any blood in the belly. Could you check out her hand? There's a x-ray on its way." Carter said, avoiding looking at Abby.

               

                "Sure thing," Jing-Mei said, moving around to the woman's right side so that she could see the hand. It was bleeding some from a 4 cm laceration on the back, but what was most noticeable was the swelling and discoloring of the 4th and 5th metacarpals and proximal carpels. "Ma'am, what's your name?" she asked the patient.

                The woman blinked once before answering. "Jeena," she said, her speech slightly slurred.

                "Jeena, I want you to tell me where the pain is." Jing-Mei said.

                "My hand, and my stomach."

                "Anywhere else?"

                "No."

                "Does your head or neck hurt?"

                "I have a headache but my neck doesn't hurt."

                "Have you been drinking Jeena?" Jeena paused. "Jeena?" Jing-Mei asked, more persistently.

                "Maybe a little," Jeena said.

                "Ok," Jing-Mei said, turning her attention back to Carter, who was checking Jeena's vital signs. "She's just got a little intoxicated, but there's no apparent head or neck injury. She was never unconscious, was she?"

                "No," Carter answered. Jing-Mei nodded in reply, then switched her focus to the girl's hand.

                Carter had only heard half of what Jeena had been telling Jing-Mei. He was trying to focus on the woman's abdomen, but the fact that Abby was standing across from him and that whenever he looked up, she was staring at him, was very distracting. "Where's that ultrasound?" he called out.

                "Right here," Lily said, wheeling it in.

                Carter prepped the patient, flicked on the monitor, then stuck the ultrasound on her stomach. The monitor was showing a grayish cloud filling the abdomen. "Ok, she's got blood in the belly. Page Benton, she's gonna need to go up to OR now." he said. Lydia headed for the phone.

                The x-ray arrived then, and the nurses slipped the lead aprons over Jing-Mei and Carter.

                "Shooting," Jing-Mei called out as the machine flashed. As soon as it was done, she wheeled the x-ray to the side.

                Haleh handed Carter a sheet with the lab results. He scanned over them.

                Just then, Benton entered the room. "What do we got?" he asked.

                "24 year old female, hit a rock in a water skiing accident. Her blood alcohol level is just above the limit. Her BP is climbing, and the ultrasound shows blood in the belly," Carter said.

                "Sounds like she ruptured her spleen. Page the OR and tell them to have a room open for a spleenectemy," Benton said, and began wheeling the patient out of the room.

               

                "Hey, wait!" Jing-Mei shouted. Benton stopped and turned around. "She's also got a probable fracture to the 4th and 5th metacarpals, and the proximal carpels."

                "Ok, well hurry up and stabilize them. They'll have to be set after surgery," Benton said.

                "I'm having surgery?" Jeena asked, as Jing-Mei began to immobilize the right hand.

                "Your spleen has ruptured, and you're bleeding internally," Benton explained. "We need to take it out before it causes too much damage." he paused. "Chen, you done?"

                Jing-Mei put the last piece of tape on the splint. "Yeah, go."

                "All right. Come on people, let's move," Benton said, wheeling the gurney off down the hall toward the elevator.

                Carter watched him go, then turned around to head back to the admit desk and get another patient. He bumped into someone. "I'm sorry," he said began. Then he noticed that it was Abby. She looked up at him with eyes full of questions.

                "John, we need to talk," she began.

                She was serious. She only used his first name when she was serious. But he kept walking down the hall, right on past her. "Can't talk right now, got to get back to work," he said, not even looking at her as he marched off down the hall.

 

************************************************

Why do I feel like I'm drowning, when there is plenty of air?

************************************************

                It was now one-thirty p.m., and Abby had not been able to talk to Carter all day. Every time she tried, he would make some excuse and leave. And she really needed to talk to him. You should have done it when you had the chance. Smart Abby inside of her nagged. You should have done it yesterday. But, of course, logical Abby had talked her out of that. And now this whole ordeal was just getting worse.

                "Abby, can you check on the patient in curtain 2, she's supposed to be discharged," Mark called out to her as she walked by the desk.

                "Sure," she said, heading for the door to 2.

                There was a teenage girl sitting on the bed, tying her shoes and preparing to leave. She had blonde hair, and was wearing a shirt that said 'Viking Cheer Squad'. Her left ankle was splinted.

                "May I help you, miss..." Abby realized she didn't know the girl's name.

                "Sidney," the girl offered. "They said I could go, but my doctor was going to get me a prescription for some painkillers."

                "Ok, well tell me who your doctor was and I'll find them," Abby said.

                Sidney paused for a moment. "I can't remember his name. He's the really cute one."

                Abby chuckled. "I take it you didn't really pay attention to his name then."

                "Well just tell me which one you think is the cutest and I'll tell you if that's him," Sidney said.

                Abby grinned, "Dr.Greene, the bald one, right?"

                Sidney laughed. "Definitely not him. He was- oh, oh, that's him. Right there." she said, pointing out through the glass.

                Abby turned around to see Carter walking by. Her smile fell, and she turned back toward Sidney. Figures, she thought to herself.

                Sidney didn't seem to notice Abby's reaction, though. She was just smiling more. "Isn't he so cute? And he's nice too. I thought all the doctors here would be boring and mean, but he was really nice to me. What a great guy," she said, still grinning.

                "Yeah," Abby said, forcing a smile. "I'll go get him."

               

                She walked over to the door and pushed it open. "Carter," she called. He turned around. When he saw her, he immediately looked somewhere else. "Carter," she continued, "your patient Sidney says you were going to bring her a prescription for her ankle." Carter nodded, and followed Abby into the room.

                When Carter entered, he saw Sidney, smiling brightly at him. He smiled too, trying not to let Abby ruin the good mood he was previously in. "Here you go Sidney," he said, handing her a bottle, "these are some painkillers that you can take twice a day in case your ankle starts hurting."

                She took the bottle from him, and slid it into her pocket. "Thanks Dr.Carter," she said with a grin.

                Carter smiled back, "No problem Sidney." He lead her to the door, which he opened for her. "You be careful next time you do those twisting jump-kick things," he said to her. "Cheerleading can be extremely dangerous."

                "Thanks Dr.Carter," she said again. She waved to him as she went out the door.

               

                Carter could tell that Abby was about to say something to him again. He held up a hand, "Sorry Abby, I can't talk right now. I'm going to go take a break." He walked off toward the lounge without so much as a backwards glance at her.

****************************************

Why do I feel like frowning? Maybe this feeling is fear.

****************************************

               

                Carter took off his stethoscope and labcoat, and set them on the couch. It was way too hot in here to be wearing any sort of coat. Someone should call maintenance, he thought. The air conditioner in here is definitely broken. He opened the fridge to search it for something to eat. He hadn't eaten anything since morning, and he was starting to get very hungry. He was considering giving up his search and heading over to Doc's, when the lounge door opened. It was Abby.

               

                "John, we need to talk," She said firmly

                He looked down at the ground. "There's nothing to talk about," he said in a low voice. He tried to walk out the door but she stopped him.

                "Yes there is," she said.

                He nodded and stopped, but he still wouldn't look at her. She wasn't sure how she had expected him to act. Maybe she thought he would yell, or try to make her feel guilty, but he didn't. He actually looked embarrassed. That alone made her feel guilty.

                "I'm sorry," she said sincerely. "I didn't mean to put you in uncomfortable situations."

                "Well you did," he said, still looking at the ground.

                "I had no idea you felt that way about me," she said.

                Finally, he looked up at her. His eyes were filled with sorrow and pain. "Just forget I said anything, Ok?" he said pleadingly.

                Abby felt overwhelmingly ashamed of herself. How could she have caused Carter so much pain? He had been nothing but a friend to her. And here she was, and all she could do was break his heart.

                "But that's not going to change the way you feel, is it?" she asked him.

                He hesitated. His eyes lowered, and he shook his head.

                "Then I can't do that. I don't want to hurt you."

                He looked back up at her. "It's a little late for that. But nothing's going to change your mind. So can you please just let me go?"

                It was in that instant that Abby realized the truth. It was one of those rare moments when smart Abby broke through the logic and gave her a clue of what was really going on. And for the first time in a long time, she let her smart side take control.

                "My mind doesn't need to change," she said. She pulled him toward her and  kissed him.

                At first, Carter was shocked. This was definitely not the outcome he had predicted. Then, as he realized what was going on, he kissed her back. They were both too much lost in each other to notice that they were leaning against the door...

****************************************

                "Luka, could you grab me a coffee?" an exhausted Mark asked.

                Luka studied Mark's tired face, and decided to oblige his co-worker. "Sure," he said, heading toward the lounge.

                "Thanks," Mark said.

                Luka twisted the knob on the door to the lounge and opened it...

                Carter and Abby didn't know what happened at first. One minute, they were leaning against the door, kissing. Then the next thing they knew, someone had opened the door. They tumbled through, into the hallway. Abby tripped over Carter's foot and fell to the ground. He reached down and offered a hand to help her up.

               

                The whole hospital saw it happen. Luka opened the door to the lounge, and Carter and Abby came tumbling through, entangled in each other. Carter's tie was loosened and Abby's hair was somewhat messed up. Abby landed on the floor, and Carter helped her up. The nurses would have something to talk about for weeks. And it wasn't until then that either Carter or Abby saw Luka. Luka was fuming. He looked like he would explode at any moment. "Hey, Luka. Hey man, hold on a second. Luka-" Carter tried to reason with him, but the taller man kept approaching slowly, menacingly. Then Luka drew back his right arm, and delivered a powerful hook to Carter's left jaw. Everyone watching let out a gasp, as Carter reeled from the punch. But Luka wasn't done yet.

                Mark took off running down the hall toward him, trying to stop him before he really did some damage to Carter. Dave was right behind him.

                Carter didn't know where he was or what was going on for a moment. Luka's punch had nearly knocked him out. As he started to regain some of his balance, he saw that Luka was still moving towards him...

                Luka was furious. He had been so patient. He had sat by while Carter had flirted with his girlfriend over and over. He had allowed them to be best friends without much complaining at all. He had even allowed them to go to Oklahoma for the weekend. And now this had happened. He was so mad at Carter. He wasn't going to let him get off easy this time. Carter was still off balance, so Luka grabbed him by the collar, and dragged him over to the wall. He picked him up and slammed him against it. "Luka, I'm sorry. C'mon man, stop it," Carter pleaded.

                Abby watched in horror as Luka smashed Carter into the wall. She was afraid for Carter. She had seen how Luka's temper could get out of hand sometimes. "Luka, stop it! Stop!" she yelled, but to no avail. Mark and Dave entered the lounge and tried to pull Luka off Carter, too. But even that didn't work. Luka dragged Carter over to the lockers, and slammed him into them. Hard.

                Mark heard the loud crash as Luka pummeled Carter into the lockers. He couldn't see Carter, but he could hear the cry he let out. He suddenly went limp, and fell to the floor. Luka let him. Mark finally was able to grab one of Luka's arms as Dave grabbed the other. They pulled him back, and he shrugged them off. "I'm done, I'm done," Luka said, then he stormed out of the room.

                Mark kneeled down over Carter to inspect the damage. "Hey Carter, you ok? That was some beating you took." Carter didn't respond, and his breaths were coming in short gasps. Mark exchanged a worried glance with Dave.

                "Carter, what's wrong?" Dave asked.

                "My....back..." Carter managed to get out.

                Dave's eyes shot to Mark's, and they both knew that this had suddenly become more serious.

                "I'll get a gurney," Dave said, standing and running off down the hall. In a few minutes, he was back. Abby helped them lift Carter onto it, then they rolled him off down the hall to Trauma 1.

                Carter was vaguely conscious. He knew he was in one of the Trauma rooms, and he knew why. Mark asked him where the pain was. "My... back..." was all he could manage. He mumbled it over and over again.

                "We've gotta give him something for the pain," He could here Dave say.

                No, he thought. No, no, no. Please, no.

                He shook his head violently.

                Mark understood why Carter was so adamant about not having any drugs. "We can't give him any painkillers, Dave," Mark said.

                Dave had a puzzled look on his face, then realization struck. "Ah... right," he said. "So what are we going to do?"

                Mark sighed. "I dunno. He's probably re-developed a contusion around his old injuries. But he's not bleeding. We'll just have to let him ride it out." Mark said, leaving the room.

                Dave looked regretfully at Carter, "Hang in there buddy," he said, then he too left.

               

                Abby and Haleh were the only ones left with Carter. Abby had her hand over her mouth to keep herself from crying outloud. "Abby?" Carter mumbled. It was too much for her to take. Abby turned around and ran out of the room. "Abby..." Carter trailed off behind her. But she just ran.

                Abby ran outside, where she saw Luka. He was standing with his back to her. She walked up behind him and pushed him.

                "Abby," he began, turning to face her.

                "How could you?" she yelled.          

                "Abby, I was just worried about you," Luka said.

                "Did it ever occur to you that maybe I was the one who started it?" she asked.

                Luka was stunned, "What?"

                "I did it Luka. I kissed him first. It was my fault," Abby said. "Why did you have to take it out on him?"         

                "Abby... I was only-"

                "Now he's developed contusions around his old stab wounds. Do you know what that feels like? I don't either, but I'm sure it doesn't feel good at all. And they can't give him the painkillers, Luka. They can't help him at all."

                "Abby, I'm sorry-"

                "You know what," Abby said. "I'm sick of excuses. I'm through with this."

                Luka couldn't believe what she was saying. "Abby, what are you saying?" he asked.

                "I'm saying it's over. We're over."

                Luka was too shocked to say anything at first. Then he slowly nodded. Abby had calmed down a little. "You love him?" he asked softly.

                "What?"

                "Do you love Carter?" Luka asked.

                "This isn't about Carter, Luka," Abby said, "This is about you."

                Luka nodded again. "Weaver suspended me, so I'm going home. You can come by later and pick up some of your stuff." He paused, then gave her a quick kiss on the forehead. He turned and walked away. She watched him go. Logical Abby was having a fit, wondering how her life had been turned upside down in the last 15 minutes. But smart Abby was in control again. She turned around and headed back inside to see how Carter was.

**************************************

                Four hours later

**************************************

                Carter had been moved to curtain one a while ago. When Abby had gone back in to check on him four hours ago, he was asleep. Passed out from the pain and the exhaustion. Haleh said he had been waking up periodically and vomiting from the combination of the pain and the withdrawal. But Abby had not gotten a chance to talk to him and find out how he was really doing. She was off work now, and she thought now was as good of a time as ever to go talk to him.

                Abby entered the room, and Carter was awake. His bed was propped up, and he was sitting, but his eyes were closed. Haleh was changing his fluid IV. "Who is it, Haleh?" he asked in a scratchy voice.

                "It's, uh, Abby," Haleh said, trying not to smile.

                "Haleh, could you give us a minute?" Abby asked.

                Haleh grinned as she walked out of the room. "Sure thing," she said, closing the door behind her.   

               

                Abby sat down in the chair beside Carter's bed. He opened his eyes and looked at her. "Hey," she said. "How you doing?"

                "Fine, I guess," he said, as nonchalantly as possible.

                There was a pause.

                "Luka and I broke up," Abby said, finally.

                "I'm sorry," Carter said.

                Abby could not believe it. After all that she had done to him, and all Luka had done to him, he still had the decency and compassion to not want them to be hurt. "Don't be. I broke up with him," she said.

                Carter paused. "Because of me?"

                "No, not because of you," Abby was quick to say. "It's not your fault. It just wasn't meant to be."

               

                Carter thought for a moment. "So you're saying.... you don't care about me?"

                Abby shook her head, "No, I didn't mean it like that. What I meant was, with or without you in the picture, Luka and I wouldn't have lasted. I actually have you to thank for stopping it from being completely disastrous."

                Carter nodded. He noticed how she was carefully avoiding his actual question, though. Did she love him? Maybe she did and she was just scared, or maybe she didn't and she just didn't want to hurt him.

                Inside Abby's mind, an internal battle was raging between her two sides. Leave now, logical Abby screamed, don't set yourself up for another fall in the future. But smart Abby was screaming just as loud, Tell him how you feel! It was usually at this time in big decisions in her life when Abby gave in to her logical side. Should I marry Richard? My logical half says we're a good match, so ok. Should I help my mother out again? My logical half says it's my responsibility, so fine. Should I tell Carter how I really feel? Her logical half was saying no, you'll just get hurt in the end. But all the times Abby had listened to the logical half of her in big decisions, the results were disastrous. And she realized that it was no battle at all.

                "Carter-" she began, holding his hand in hers. "I love you," she said. A tear ran down her face. He reached up and wiped it away.

                "I love you, too," he said.

                Abby completely lost it. She leaned her head against his shoulder, and cried, like she had so many times in the past. But this time, they were not the tears of an alcoholic, or of a daughter escaping her manic depressive mother. They were the joyful cheers of someone who had found true love for the first time. And those were tears Abby didn't mind crying.

*********************************

                One hour later

*********************************

                Everyone in the hospital was talking nonstop about the day's events. The conversations were bustling. "Carter and Abby were making out in the lounge?" "Luka did WHAT to Carter?" "I can't believe Luka would do such a thing!" "Did you hear that Abby went into Carter's room and hour ago?" "I wonder what they are talking about?" "They've been in there for an hour..."

                Mark decided to go check on Carter and Abby and make sure they were ok. He went over to curtain area one, and knocked lightly on the door. There was no response. He slowly cracked open the door. "Carter? Abby?" he whispered. They didn't answer, so he opened the door and quietly walked in. They were both asleep. Carter was lying in his bed, and Abby was sitting in the chair next to him with her head on his shoulder. Mark smiled to himself.

                "Abby," he whispered. "Abby."

                Abby gently stirred, then blinked and looked at him.

                "Yeah?" she said groggily.

                "Sorry to bother you. I just wanted to see how you were," Mark said. "You know that you're on tomorrow at 5 a.m., right?"

                "Yeah. I know, I should probably go home and get some sleep. Thanks," she said.

                Mark nodded, then left.

                Abby gently shook Carter awake. He stretched, then looked at her. He smiled warmly.

                "Hey," she said.

                "Hi," he replied.

                "I'm on in another," she glanced at her watch, "10 hours or so. I'm gonna go home and get some sleep. I'll see you tomorrow, ok?"

                Carter nodded, "Ok."

                "I hope you are feeling better by then," she said.

                "I'm feeling better already," he said with a smile.

                She smiled back. "I love you," she said, and kissed him on the forehead. "See you tomorrow," she said, walking out the door of his room.     

                He waved as he watched her go.

                He sighed to himself in the quiet, dark room. He felt so happy. It was beyond just being happy, it was pure joy. It was better than any feeling he'd ever had before. He squinted at the clock. Six forty-five p.m. He grinned, thinking of how many things could change in 12 hours. 12 hours ago, he had felt miserable, and he didn't feel like working, or talking to anyone, or doing anything. And now... now he felt like he could do anything. Now, he wouldn't mind being a hero again.

                 

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All Lyrics are from the musical "The Wiz" and do not belong to me.

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