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Rating: I think PG13 will do (hey, did you even see a kid who read fan fic under supervision of his parents? I didn´t.)
Summary: This is a sequel to Crossroads. It happens around seventh season - right after the episode Benton Backwards. John encounter some old friends at Doc Magoo´s. Can they help him overcome the shock from being once again witness of a murder?.
Spoilers: For Diagnosis Murder - Retribution, Obsession and Resurrection. As for ER - I think everything up to the episode Benton Backwards, mainly All In the Family and MayDay.
Author´s notes: I know nothing about medical situations, so this will probably suck. I tried to make it as believable, as I could though.
Thanks for the reviews, folks. They´re really helpful:-)
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Crossroads II - Reunion xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Diagnosis Murder/ ER fan fiction crossover by Nicol Leoraine
Chicago, October 2000
Another twelve hour shift ended and John Carter wearily walked out of the ER, not sparing a look to the activity round him. He was already bone tired - the events of the last week were haunting him in nightmares, and he once again found himself waking up in the kitchen. It was only seven p.m, and he wanted nothing more than lie down and sleep, but his NA meeting was beginning at nine, and most of the time would cost him only the ride home then back to the city, so he rather walked into Doc Magoo´s and ordered a steak with fries. Not the healthier food, but he needed some proteins and honestly - he liked steak.
The food on the plate before him was half eaten, when the doors opened, and three people walked in, laughing. John looked up reflexively, thinking about times, when he was laughing like that - and his fork froze in mid-motion. John blinked, eyeing the three men, sitting down at the table straight before him. One of them was an elderly man with white mustache and a wide grin on his face. John knew him. The second was a tall guy, his hair a color of sand. The third one, animatedly flapping both hands was a short, young man, not older than John. The trio was ignoring the rest of the guests, giving John a chance to watch them.
Yes, it was him, thought John with a grin and remembered the time he spent in Los Angeles, so long ago. They helped him - that time. And now, after all the shit that happened to him this year, they were here again. Maybe he could finally talk with someone - no the talking he made with the psychiatrist in Atlanta, or with Dr. DeRaad, after the whole stabbing and rehabilitation. No, he thought about talking without a feeling, that your listener is ready to put a strait-jacket on you, or drug you to oblivion. He put down the fork and wanted to call at them, when another thought stopped him. What would they think about him? That he´s a narcoman? What could a doctor and a cop think about him?
No, it was enough that he was under the microscope in the hospital - seeing the disappointment on the faces of another person who meant something to him, was the last thing he needed. John shook his head and wanted to call at the waitress to pay for the steak - which was still sitting on his plate, almost untouched. John´s appetite vanished.
But the waitress stopped at the table before him, asking for orders and John cursed under his breath, when the woman cheving a bubble gum turned and walked away.
So, he would wait. They didn´t saw him, and anyway - it was almost twenty years. They couldn´t possibly recognize him after so much time. John watched the trio, trying hard to listen to the conversation, but in the music playing from the radio, the talk of the other customers and the blaring sirens of the ambulance coming to the County, it was almost impossible. He so intently watched the doctor and his son, that he didn´t notice the third man watching him. But the man noticed him and quietly spoke with the other two. Steve and Mark turned and it was John who was under observation. He quickly looked away, picking at his cold food with a fork. He didn´t dare to look at them, but someone put a hand on his table and he didn´t have a choice. Their eyes met and after a second of hesitation, an uncertain smile appeared on Steve´s face.
"John?" asked the cop still not sure. John wasn´t quick enough to respond, when the older man appeared next to him, grinning from ear to ear.
"Carter? Is that you?"
"Uhm... Dr. Sloan, Steve," It was futile to deny his identity anymore, so John smiled and let himself be hugged. "What are you doing in Chicago?"
"Attending a boring medical conference," said Steve smirking, while his eyes inspected the boy. Yeah, he grew up, but that haunted look didn´t vanish. Somehow it seemed to be permanently fixed in his eyes. While Steve watched John´s face, Mark noticed the pallor and the tiredness creeping from his body.
"I didn´t know you changed your profession, Steve," said John, suddenly glad that the Sloans spotted him.
"Nah, I´m just accompanying dad and Jesse. Oh," Steve turned and the young man with amused expression stepped forward, so they could shake hands.
"This is Dr. Jesse Travis. He´s working with dad in Community General. Jesse, this is John Carter. A friend of ours."
"Glad to meet you, Dr. Travis."
"Please, only Jesse."
"John. What´s your specialisation?"
"ER medicine. And yours?"
"Oh, John is not a doctor," answered Steve while John said:
"Emergency medicine, too. I´m a resident at Cook County."
"What?!" exclaimed Steve as both John and Jesse grinned at each other.
"Yeah, I´d some good influence in the past," he looked at Mark, who had a proud look in his eyes, and John was suddenly ashamedly watching his boots, knowing, that this proud look will change into disappointment, once Mark will find out what happened.
"That´s really great, John," all three of them noticed the sudden change of mood and Jesse threw a curious look at his friends, but they could only shrug.
"Yeah, it´s a great job," answered John recollecting himself. "How long are you staying?"
"We planned three days, after that dad must return to L.A."
"Ah, you´re still in the force?"
"At homicide now. Lieutenant Detective."
"Gratulations. Three days - that´s plenty of time. You want some tour guide through the city?"
"Sure, that will be fine. We can talk about old times - change news." Steve said enthusiastically.
"You have time?" asked Mark, pointing at his steak. John looked at his watch and realized, that it was almost eight.
"Half hour, than I have a meeting... sorry, can´t delay it."
"That´s okay. Would you mind a little company?"
"Nah, sit down."
"Cook County, that´s a pretty good hospital," began Jesse.
"Not the safest place on earth, but we have a good team," as if on cue, Abby Lockhart walked in, ordering some food. She spotted Carter and nodded at him. John sighed and waved at her to come, while she waited for the food. Abby eyed the three man, smiling slightly, even if her face had a tired look.
"Hey, Dr. Carter. I thought you´re home,"
"I have a meeting, you know. It was useless to ride home, then back."
"Yeah, well... you´re lucky to be out. We´re waiting for some GSW, Luka is nowhere to be found and Weaver is as charming as ever. You better not be in the bay when the ambulance comes, because you´ll never get away." She blurred it out in one stride and Steve watched her with a fascination. How can someone talk so quickly?
"Ah, I want to introduce you our angel in white, Abby Lockhart." Abby wasn´t so white, because her face went red at the compliment.
"Abby, this is Dr. Mark Sloan, head of the Community General in Los Angeles,"
"Only a chief of internal medicine," corrected him Mark.
"His son Steve Sloan, detective from homicide, L.A. And Dr. Jesse Travis, he´s working in the ER."
"Hi," answered Abby, when the waitress came, the food in her hands. The air was filled with a wailing siren of an ambulance, and Abby´s pager beeped.
"Oh, I should go. Glad to meet you. Good night, John."
"Well, that was short."
"It seems Chicago isn´t much behind L.A. in the deliquency rate," observed Jesse.
"No, it´s quite wild in there. Uh, look, I should go too, or I´ll be late. I assume that you´ll be attending the conference... what about you, Steve?"
"I´m free for the day."
"Great! I´m home for tomorrow, so I can make you company."
"What about a breakfast? I know about a good place. And when the doctors free themselves from the conference, you´re all invited to my house for a dinner."
"Sounds good to me," agreed Steve. They changed directions then John paid the waitress and rushed away, looking at his watch nervously. He almost stumbled about a table, quickly recovered and was gone.
"Now, can you tell me, what was that all about?" asked Jesse Travis, seeing the concerned expression on the faces of both Sloans.
"I don´t know, but I don´t like it. He looks just like the first time I saw him, but..."
"It can´t be the same thing, Steve," argued his father gently.
"Can anyone tell me, who was this guy? And how did you know him?" pushed Jesse. They ignored him.
"You´ll have a whole day to talk with him, Steve."
"Hello? Hey, Earth to Steve," shouted Jesse and waved a hand before Steve. The detective revived and smirked at his father.
"You´re right, dad. I made him talk when he was kid, I can do it again. What detective would I be otherwise?"
"Perhaps a deaf one," muttered Jessie as Mark laughed.
"Okay, Jesse. Did you heard about the ranch of Jenny Prescott?"
"No. Should I?"
While Mark replied, the waitress came with their food. When the trio get out from Doc Magoo´s, Jessie was well acquinted with the history of the case. The ambulance came to a halt not so far away and they could see Abby Lockhart assisting a red haired woman with crutch to download the patient. After the ambulance started away, the street quieted down and the trio headed for their hotel.
The meeting was as boring, as it could be. A boy, not even a man by now, was talking about how his friends in the club drugged him, then gave him another dose for free. For the third he had to pay, and it wasn´t a small price. But after the first symptoms of withdrawal, he took his discman and sold it. In the months following, he stole most of the stuff from his family, friends, while his parents thought it a work of his older brother, who was coming only for the weekend and had a label of a bounder. But then he was caught in the act, while stealing in the shop and the judge sent him here. John was listening only with half ear and after the meeting ended, he walked away on autopilot, deep in thoughts.
What will he tell him? His past was one big mistake. Everyone died or get away from him. He was alone and feeling more than a little depressed. How could he not? Only two days ago someone killed a woman right before his eyes. Shot her in the head like an animal. And he was trying so hard to save her. He couldn´t even imagine what must felt Luka, knowing the man he hit was dead. But then, he remembered the people who died under his care or his friends. Gant was the first who came to his mind, then Lucy...
"No, I can´t go back, not now!" he muttered to himself, crossing the street. He had his life back - maybe not perfect, but still there. He had his work and hope to make it all work again. No, he just must overcome the shock from that... murder.
For a second he thought if perhaps he should go to the hotel Steve mentioned they´re staying at, or after Dr. Benton. No, none of it was an option. Peter Benton had enough of his own problems - crawling before Romano was only one of them. Going after Steve was maybe inviting, but then there would be questions and he wasn´t prepared for the answers.
His grandmother was waiting for him, sitting in the living room, savouring the heat emanating from the fireplace. She looked up, her eyes observing his features, like every night he came back from work and meetings. She knew about his problems in work and wanted nothing more than pull him from the lair of snakes. Seeing only a job that is crushing him, she was prepared for fight, but John knew that his only chance was to stay in County. If he started some petty private practice, he would go nuts in a moment. Treating rich patients with insignificant problems wasn´t his idea of work. Setting up for another match, he took down his coat and kissed Millicent on her left cheek, not sitting down.
"John... how was your day?"
"Fine. Nothing thrilling, just the usual stuff."
"You was on the meeting?"
"Yes, Gamma. Why do you think I´m home so late?" John was becoming angrier by every moment and Millicent Carter put a placating hand on his arm, indicating for him to sit down. John obeyed.
"I´m sorry, John. I just want to make sure, you´re okay."
"Maybe you should take a little vacation..."
"No!" objected John abruptly. "I-I just need time, Gamma. I´ll be okay."
Millicent sighed and patted his grandson´s hand reassuringly. "I hope so, John."
They sat in silence for a moment.
"Ah, I forgot to ask you... I´d met some old friends. They´re here for the conference, but I... well, I invited them for a dinner. It wouldn´t be a problem?"
"No, of course not, John," Millicent smiled, excited. "Do I know them?" she asked curious.
"Maybe," smirked John. "They´re really old friends of mine."
The girl was stabilized. John let out a relieved sigh and was prepared to call for a nurse and clean himself from all the blood, when the woman came in. She was young and asked, how´s she doing. Carter, proud at his work, smiled.
"She´ll live." Then the time slowed down and he saw a gun appear in her hand. He looked at it in amazement, knowing what will happen. She´ll pull the trigger, and kill his patient. He heard two shots and turned to the woman lying in the bed, wanting to save her, to do something. John gasped. Those eyes...
"...help me, John," it was not his patient. The blond hairs spread over the pillow, stained red. The lips moved in silent plea, along with John´s.
He tried to save her. One of the bullets pierced her neck, and the red blood was streaking out. The second bullet was near her heart. He knew, that she would die. He saw the horror in her eyes, the warning as he turned. The gun was aiming at him, but it wasn´t the same hand holding it. John gasped for breath as all the fear, all the hate returned, along with the pain.
"Sobriki!" he hissed and saw only the wicked smile and the bullet, flying to him.
John bolted upright with a cry of No! on his lips, trembling and gasping for breath, choking down the sobs. Not again! The nightmares were back, with full force. The main reason for his addiction, the reason of all changes in his life. Yesterday, it was just the two women plaguing his dreams. Now it was Sobriki and Lucy. Back to square one, John muttered to himself and scrambled from the bed. It was impossible to fell asleep again - even the thought of sleep made him sick to his stomach. He needed a shower, quickly. Standing up a stab of pain shot up his back and his heart almost stopped. Not again! his mind shouted, then he saw a bruise and with a relief remembered how he was pushed to the regal by one of his patients. He massaged the spot, eyes stopping at the scars. They looked angry even almost eight months after the incident.
Angry and raw like his mind, reeled John as he stripped down and turned on the shower. Spraying his body with hot water helped. After Luka sent him home, he was in the shower for an hour, trying to wash down the blood, imagined and real alike. He was really thankful, that his grandmother was in the city and not home at the time he came in. It would be hard to stop her effort to change his mind.
When his body finally relaxed, John stopped the shower, dried himself with a towel and dressed. Looking at his watch he realised it was still too soon to get to work - then it struck him, that he wasn´t working today. He nevertheless walked down the steps, silently, so as not to wake up Millicent, and came to the kitchen. He turned on the radio lowering the volume then picked out a mug and started to make a hot chocolate, putting some cookies on the plate. He had all morning to think about what he would tell Steve.
"Man, this is the best hot-dog I ever had. Hm, you think I can have the recipe?" asked Steve, licking the sauce from his fingers. John only laughed.
"I doubt it. The man wasn´t even talking English."
They was in the Lincoln park, heading for the Zoo, as it seemed the best place for talk. The morning air was a little cold and Steve, not used to this climate, was glad for the warm leather jacket he wore, sipping at the hot coffee. The breakfast John promised, was a hot-dog stand, but Steve was glad he wouldn´t have to cruise the town alone. When John picked him up a hour ago, Steve spotted the dark circles around his eyes, but didn´t ask. Instead, he started to tell John what happened in L.A. after he returned to Chicago. John listened, excited to hear that Steve was promoted thanks to his case.
"Now, tell me, how´s it you became a doctor?" asked Steve after they paid the tickets at the zoo.
"Whew, I don´t really know myself. After I returned from L.A., I thought a lot about your dad and his work. And the truth was, I couldn´t hate the profession only because of my brother. They tried and I knew - well, now I know," he corrected himself with a smile, "that doctors aren´t gods, and they can´t save everyone. But I wanted to help, and doing a family business somehow wasn´t in my plans. It still isn´t. I took the medicine, and I like the job." Even if he was telling the truth, Steve recognized a hint of hesitation in his voice.
"But something is troubling you?"
John was taken aback by the question, and quickly shook his head.
"T´s nothing," he mumbled absently touching his back, then quickly recollecting. "So you´re still free? No wife, no kids?"
"No, I´m still free," chuckled Steve. "You know, I´ve the worst record of women in the history of L.A."
"I don´t believe it," laughed John. "Guy like you? The girls must stand in a line,"
"Yeah, it´s a shame they´re mostly killed or want to kill me," It was said smugly and John didn´t laugh anymore.
"Sorry. It must be hard to be a cop."
"Not harder then a doctor. You wouldn´t believe, but my father could get into more problems than I."
"Knowing Dr. Sloan, it can be right," chuckled John. "He´s still living in that beach house?"
"Yeah. Don´t laugh now - I´m living there too."
"You´re lucky, man. How´s it, anyway?"
"Well, my apartment was ruined in the earthquake, so I moved in, and I didn´t felt like moving out later."
"Man, it seem´s like our apartments are doomed to destruction. The one I lived in was consumed by fire. My neighbour, who was sick and had an oxygen bomb next to her bed, was also a tough smoker. I warned her, not to smoke near the oxygen, but she didn´t listen. It pretty much exploded and the fire ruined my apartment. But she survived."
"Where are you living now?"
"At gamma. I had an apartment in town, but after the accident-" John stopped himself. He didn´t want to go there.
"Nothing, Steve. No explosion, no-" killer, he wanted to say, but stopped, because it wasn´t true. There was a killer, there was a victim.
"Carter," just a name uttered in hushed voice. But there was concern and interest behind it, and more important, there was a friendship offered by one simple word.
"Her name was Lucy. She was my student. I-I was responsible for her, Steve," said John, his voice tight with pain and fear. Steve navigated him to the nearest bench and they sat down, watching the animals crossing in the cage.
"What happened?" asked Steve gently.
"We often argued. I don´t know why, well... I did know, but it´s not important now. She was my student and I should´ve helped her. But I was busy. It was Valentines Day and... there was a party running in the lounge. We had a patient... Paul S-Sobriki," John stuttered the name and shook. "He had a severe headache. Lucy was taking care of him - I was supervising. But I had things to do and... we did an LP-"
"Lumbal puncture. It´s not the most pleasant test and he was more than a little annoyed, but I still left Lucy. Later - she told me, that he´s probably psychotic. I only told her to call psych consult, and walked away." There was a misery in John´s face that held all the guilt and regrets he had. Steve thought about stop John from talking, if the events were so painful, but he changed his mind. Carter evidently needed to talk and Steve was a cop for too long - he couldn´t supress his curiousity.
"The party was running, there was even a cake. I was ready to take a break, but I needed something from Lucy, so I walked to curtain three. I thought it´s empty. I spotted a Valentine card on the floor - turned to pick it up." John stopped, gulped down the coffee and threw the empty cup to the trashcan.
"What happened?" asked Steve after a minute of silence.
"I felt pain in my back. It was... excruciating. I didn´t know what´s happening, only felt the knife being pulled out and stab again-"
"God!" Steve was shocked. How could someone hurt this kid? Why?
"I-I fell," continued John, insensible to the concern in Steve´s voice. "t-then... I saw... Lucy. She was on the ground, lying... lying in the pool of her own blood. He stabbed her several times. I tried to call for help... to move... but the pain was too strong."
"Someone found you?"
"Kerry Weaver, our chief. She needed to see some x-rays. It´s a blurr after that. I woke up in the trauma because of the pain... there was some cop asking me, if I saw the guy who did it... I didn´t. I-I was really scared. I don´t know what´s worse... to be a patient who don´t know a thing about medicine or a doctor, who knows, what is going on."
"I think both is a wrong feeling," said Steve with a smirk of his own.
"I saw Benton working on Lucy. I get a look at her - for a second. She was white as a sheet. They have to crack her chest, twice. It didn´t help. She died for pulmonary embolism. She was so young, Steve."
"I´m sorry for her, John, but I´m glad you´re alive. Are you okay, now?"
"Yeah, almost as new. It wasn´t so serious after all."
Something in his voice didn´t convince Steve, but it wasn´t the time to question him, not after this revelation.
"I see we had both some problems in the last few years."
"Don´t tell me you were stabbed, too,"
"Oh, stabbed? I don´t really remember that one... No, I was in the middle of the crossfire. Took two in the chest, one in the gut. Flat-lined twice only in the ambulance. I think I scared my dad to death," Steve was grinning, but John saw regret in his eyes and understood him.
"Yeah, Gamma too freaked out, when she get there. It had to be pretty serious with you..." Steve only shrugged.
"Don´t really remember it. I was in coma for few weeks. When I get to consciousness, I found out, that my dad is in the jail, accused by a murder of a man, who shot me."
"No kidding!" exclaimed John unbelieving. His problems seemed like nothing in the light of Steve´s experience.
"I don´t believe your dad killed someone!"
"He didn´t. It was a trap. My own partner arrested him, because of some false evidence. And the judge insisted on the extreme punishment."
"You don´t talk about-"
"Shit!" was all John could muster up. "How did he get out?"
"It was just a distraction. My shooting, dad in prison, even the mob war. The Trainors wanted to clear some bank accounts. After four months, dad was free."
"Four months? Whew, pretty rough." They were walking again.
"Did you have nightmares from it?" asked John warily.
"Few. I was afraid dad would be executed. The shooting I don´t really remember." After a thoughtful look at John, Steve asked:
"You have nightmares?"
John winced and nodding said "No."
"Why did you ask, then?"
"You know, you look a little tired, John."
"I said I´m okay, Steve. It was a rough week in the hospital." John was getting sick from the questions about his welfare. At least, Steve wasn´t a doctor. He asked as a friend. But what would he do, if he knew about the addiction? John´s mood darkened, then he thought about what Steve told him. His life wasn´t any easier and he wasn´t complaining or whinning like a spoiled brat. Yeah, that´s me. A spoiled brat with a talent to mess up everything.
"Hey, what if we talk about some good things? I´ll be there only three days, I want to make the best out of them."
"Sure. You can start," smiled John.
"Well, you know, I´m not only a detective. I´ve another job, too."
"Yeah? What´s it?"
"I own a little barbecue. Exactly, I and Jesse Travis."
"Dr. Travis?" John was surprised. "You´re pulling my leg, right?"
"No!" protested Steve. "I´m telling you the truth. We´re doing the best ribs on the West Coast. Or in L.A.," added Steve.
"Man, I´m heading for L.A. the next vacation,"
"You´re welcome. Just let us know to prepare a spare bedroom."
"Thanks, Steve. It helps to talk with someone who´s not trying to bully me with some psycho babble. I´d enough of it for my whole life."
"As I said, you´re welcome."
The silence was for once comfortable. Though it was John who broke it.
"So, tell me something about Dr. Travis. He seems like a good guy. A little young for doctor..."
"Hey, who´s talking? You´re not older than Jesse. I bet some of your patients in the first year was asking, if you didn´t get lost from the school group." John fixed him a stern look, then burst out laughing. It was a good feeling.
The day was slowly coming to end. Steve and John crossed the city in John´s Jeep making small shopping, Steve even pulled John up to the Sears tower, to look down at the city. They talked, mostly about work. Steve related some of his cases to John, as he told him about some of the more exciting patients they have on the ER.
"No kidding, he had what?"
"An axe in his head. He wasn´t in any pain, just came inside screaming to get the thing out of him," laughed John. "I remember him complaining that they had to shave his head. I think it was the most concerning matter for him at the time,"
"He survived okay?"
"Well, his hair-style wasn´t so "cool" anymore, but other than that, there was no actual harm, besides the fractured skull. Somehow the axe missed the brain - don´t ask how - maybe he didn´t have any."
They were slowly walking up the stairs to the University, where the conference ran. The doors opened and a group of people rushed out.
"Dad!" Steve called at his father, who was deep in discussion with a short, bald headed man. Jesse was looking simply bored and he quickly ran to them.
"Oh, shit," cursed John, seeing with whom is Mark talking.
"Romano," was a reply.
"You know that guy?" asked him Travis and John a little annoyed, nodded.
"Unfortunately. He´s working in the hospital, one of my chiefs."
"The guy is an..."
"...idiot? Pesky? Provoking?" Jesse was little taken aback, then smiled.
"Yeah, you can say that. Where did he study medicine? In Auschwitz?"
"He may be an annoying guy, but he´s one of the best chirurgs," John defended him despite his own dislike of the man.
"Why is Dr. Sloan talking to him?"
"Oh, they´re just discussing some matter of how to lead the hospital. Something about funds, and patient care..."
John let out an unhappy sigh, watching the two men. They didn´t seem to be arguing, but who can tell? Robert Romano smiled, and Mark Sloan nodded, but John couldn´t see his face. Then Romano spotted John, eyed him in the company of Travis and frowned.
"Oh hell," muttered John and looked if he could hide somewhere. Mark and Romano were approaching them and Romano looked as if he eat the canary.
"Ah, who I don´t see? Dr. Carter!" exclaimed Romano with a grin. Mark seemed a little surprised.
"Well, Dr. Sloan - you wanted an excursion - here´s your guide. Carter - you´re tomorrow on twelve hour shift, am I right?"
"Yes, Dr. Romano," answered Carter politely, even if it was hard.
"Great. You can show Dr. Sloan and Dr. Travis our ER. If it isn´t a problem,"
"Not at all," John actually smiled at Mark.
"Dr. Sloan... I think we will see each other tomorrow. I hope you´ll find our hospital functioning quite effectively. Carter - someone from the police investigating that murder wanted to talk with you. In the Lounge, at eight a.m., tomorrow. Don´t be late." With that Romano turned and walked away, while John was looking at his retreating back, fuming and hardly containing himself not to call after him and tell him, what he thinks. How could the bastard...! Why didn´t he told them about his addiction as well? John´s anger was quite visible, his hands clenched in fist.
"John? What murder?" asked Steve, always the cop.
John shook his head to clear it out.
"One patient was killed - three days ago. But I told them everything and they should´ve caught her. Maybe they want me to identify her, I don´t know."
"You saw the killer?"
"Yeah," admitted John hesitantly. "It was a young woman. I just saved her life, when the other woman came and asked, if she will live. I told her-" John abruptly stopped.
"It doesn´t matter, anyway. We should go to the car," John took few steps, when a hand stopped him. It was Steve. John turned to face him, while Mark coughed.
"Jesse - isn´t it Dr. Horwath? I wanted to ask him some questions about his lecture. You coming with me?"
But Jesse watched John, curious. Mark grabbed him and pulled away, giving him a glare. Carter sighed. They was alone.
"What?" he snorted, frustrated by the situation, angry at Romano.
"You say. What happened, John? I want the truth."
"Why? You don´t even know me, Steve! I´m not twelve anymore. It isn´t about my brother or parents. It´s nothing."
"No, if it was nothing, you would´ve told me. I see that you´re not sleeping, you asked me about nightmares and said you had a rough week. Now this guy is talking about murder."
"And what? Look Steve - I´m not who you think. I´m not an innocent boy who needs a big brother. I watched die more people than I ever wanted, most of them were my friends. You don´t know a shit about me, Sloan!"
"So tell me! You´re questioning yourself, John. Again! Why? Because you couldn´t save your friend? It was an accident. Even I could tell that,"
"No, you can´t! I should be there!"
"But you was, John! And you got nearly killed!"
"Yeah, so? What´s the difference? Everyone dies. Bobby, Gant, Lucy... Chase is brain damaged... you want more?"
"You´ve a life before you, John. You´re a good doctor, and good man. Don´t let your past ruin you."
John let out a bitter laugh, surprising Steve.
"Yeah, good doctor, and good man. Don´t let the past ruin you, huh? Well, let me tell you something, Steve. I ruined my life quite effectively - myself! I´m an addict, Steve! A fucked narcoman, that´s who I am!" he hissed, all the anger dissipating with those words.
"A narcoman. I can´t apply medications alone, just under supervision. I´m tested on weekly basis, and I have to attend NA mettings. I returned to work only last month - I was three months in Atlanta on detox! I have to repeat the whole year of residency, because of that. No, Steve... you don´t know me a bit."
That´s it, thought John and turned, not wanting to see a disappointment on Steve´s face. He couldn´t take it - not after he let down so many people. Dr. Benton, his gamma, even Mark Green and Kerry Weaver.
"Good bye, Steve," he mumbled and walked away. Steve was frozen in place. John - a narcoman? He still heard the words, and his brain was only slowly registering, that John is gone.
"Carter!" yelled Steve and started to run towards the Jeep. John was sitting inside, unmoving. He didn´t hear him, because the music was turned on full scale, but he didn´t care. Starting the engine, John stepped on the gas, then slamped at the brakes, as someone jumped before his car. The Jeep stopped and John get out, angry.
"What do you thing you´re doing, Sloan? Trying to get killed on my account?!" screamed John and wanted nothing more then hit someone.
Steve only stood, unharmed, with a concerned frown. Mark and Jesse were watching from far away, shocked by the display of an argument between the two.
"No, I´m trying to stop you, before you kill someone else, probably yourself," answered Steve in a controlled voice. "John, we need to talk."
Carter was staring at him, incredulous. He wanted to talk with him?
"Why?" he asked.
"Because I care. And I don´t want to let you ruin everything for someone, whom you didn´t even know."
"What are you talking about, Sloan?"
"I thought we´re past that Sloan thing. You´re not a kid anymore, so stop acting like one. Now, go to the car. Maybe you don´t care what people say about you, but I won´t discuss drugs before the whole college." John looked around and his face turned red. There were students, watching him and Steve curiously, along with few professors. Maybe they didn´t hear their conversation, but they sure as hell saw how Steve jumped in the way of the Jeep.
"Okay," said John , seated himself in his car and turned down the blaring radio. Steve sit next to him, closed the door and looked at him intently.
"I´m sorry," muttered John, watching his hands.
"You should be," was the answer and John abruptly looked up. He wasn´t used to the stern tone, he expected pity, disappointment or even anger. Not the stern, fatherly tone, that should be used by Mark or his parents. But Steve?
"You should be sorry like hell, John! For thinking, that I´ll just turn and walk away. For not telling me. For turning to drugs rather than your friends!" Steve was now clearly angry, and it was an emotion John could deal with.
"What friends?!" he replied with sarcasm. "It was a hard time, Steve. My parents didn´t even come to see me. It took them three weeks to buy a ticket and come from Tokyo. My friends? I didn´t feel like I have one, not then. Lucy was dead - and I loved her. Yeah, everyone was concerned. But how could I talk with them? They wasn´t there, they didn´t understood. I was lying on the ground and could only watch her dying. Hell, I didn´t even know what hit me, and if it´s not coming back to end it. Then Benton told me she´s dead, and everything changed. Perhaps I could´ve told someone, but I was afraid that they wouldn´t let me come back. That they will think I´m too weak to return.
Maybe I thought, that it will go away. Everyone said, that time will make it better, and I believed them. I was sent home, and physically, I was doing just fine. But I had to take pills, because of some hematome near my spine. I was in constant pain. After a while, it get better and I returned to work."
"You still took the medication?"
"Yeah, it was prescribed, though I took higher dosage. It was hard to work, not only because of the pain, but there was all the pity and reminder of the incident. I couldn´t go to Curtain 3 where it happened without being sick. But the days wasn´t so wrong as the nights."
"I was so exhausted after the work, that I practically dropped to my bed, asleep. Then came the nightmares, and I couldn´t stay in bed longer than two in the morning. When I got to work, I was exhausted and my back was killing me. So I took a pill, to keep going on. There was some difficult patient? I took a pill."
"How long did you hide it?"
"Almost three months. I didn´t have a prescribtion anymore. There was a patient - I was repairing his hip, and he kicked me. I hit the wall and man, I saw stars. When I stayed alone, I grabbed the Fentanyl that was left on the table and... took it. Abby walked in and saw me. She later told Green and Weaver, and they called a little "hearing board". I had a chance - go to Atlanta, or get fired. I took the second."
"They fired you? But..."
"I walked out," conceded John. "But Dr. Benton didn´t let me. He came after me and... well, he mentioned some things, that changed my mind."
"Just like that?" asked Steve dubiously, and John bitterly laughed.
"No, not just like that. He got me pretty angry and I- well, I hit him."
"You?" Now Steve was really surprised.
"Yeah, me. I hit the man that saved my life in the OR, then practically broke down. Hour later I was on the plane heading for Atlanta."
There was a thoughtful silence in the car while both men weighed their words.
"You´re clean now?"
"Yeah, and I want to stay clean, for the rest of my life. I learned to manage the pain without medication."
"Good," stated Steve, satisfied and patted Carter on the arm. "John, I´m not glad that you turned to drugs. But I´m not here to judge you, you´re pretty good at it yourself. I hope you wouldn´t do such a stupid thing again, though. And if you need a friend, you can call me at any moment. Or my dad. I think you can talk with your friends - try not to judge them also. Oh - and I think we should pick up my dad and Jesse, before they´ll assume, that we killed each other.
"Thanks, Steve," acknowledged him John in quiet voice.
"You´re welcome," answered Steve and waved at his father and Jesse. They hastily came to the car, eyeing the duo inside. When John smiled, Jesse let out a sigh and got in, while Mark questioningly gazed at his son. Steve only shook his head - it wasn´t on him to tell his father about John.
"It´s almost seven. Do you want to drop by the hotel or we´re going straight to me?"
"Uh, I´d rather change. It wouldn´t be a formal dinner, will it?" asked Travis, taking down the tie.
"Just me and my grandmother. I´m living at her house for a while."
"She knows we are coming?" asked Mark practically.
"Yeah, I told her."
"Hm. Did she remember who we are?"
"I didn´t say your name, Dr. Sloan," smirked John and turned to the right, parking by the hotel.
"I´ll be quick," said Jesse hopping out of the Jeep. Mark was frowning at his son, who was wearing jeans ad shirt under the jacket, but didn´t say anything. He too get out of the car.
"So, you at your grandmothers place?"
"Hm. If I remember correctly, the last time I saw you, you were a millionair."
"No, Steve, my family is rich, not me,"
"How big is the house?"
"Uhm, I´ve seen bigger."
"For example, the White House is much bigger," stated John with a smile. "You´ll see for yourself, Steve. Why are you asking?"
"Just want to know, if I should get a tie for that dinner of yours."
"Nah, if it would be necessary, I can lend you one."
"Thanks for the warning. I´m wondering what will Jesse do. He doesn´t know how rich your family is, he thinks that you´re living in a petty little house."
"Well, Dr. Travis will be little surprised."
After ten minutes of waiting, Jesse and Mark returned, both dressed differently. Jesse eyed Mark´s black suit. Though he was without a tie, he looked formal. Jesse on the other hand choose blue jeans and white shirt, and a jacket. John´s chuckle was lost in the roar of the engine.
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