Title: Like a Bad Habit
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (spyglass_) // email@example.com (starfishmedley)
Spoilers: through Season 11
"One of the oldest human needs is having someone to wonder where you are when you don't come home at night."
--Margaret Mead, anthropologist.
She was a girl abandoned by her father, forced to grow up too soon in order to care for an ill mother and a baby brother.
He was a boy pushed aside by grieving parents and left to mourn the loss of a brother all on his own.
But at Chicago's County General Hospital, Abby Lockhart and John Carter walked and talked like happy, accomplished professionals. Yet underneath, she was the Stone Girl and he was Loveless Boy. They were alone.
When they met, their lives were in turmoil: Drugs had stolen his dreams; divorce had stolen hers. Yet, they clung to each other as friends, each standing behind the other when trouble threatened. She coached him through rehabilitation; he aided in her mother's care.
We saw it before they did—a romance was blossoming. It sparkled with wit and burned with attraction. As they fell in love with each other, we fell in love with them. Soon, when they were on screen, it was a little harder to breathe and our stomachs ached as we kept our eyes glued and fingers crossed that we would get to see them kiss.
We watched ... and we hoped.
Finally, it happened. Amidst triangles and butterflies and other symbols meant for them, they kissed and were a couple. Our dreams were fulfilled. They shared laughter and aspirations and love—the deepest and most powerful kind. The kind that only springs from the warmth of friendship. Carter and Abby were desperately in love.
Only they forgot that underneath she was still the Stone Girl and he was Loveless Boy. So did we. It fell apart, and our hearts broke.
It's been two full seasons since they parted. Carter and Abby have each moved in and out of other relationships. So now we wait for two strangers to become friends again. We know the symbols. We know the signs. We know it will start all over.
Until then, we watch ... and we hope.
At first glance, it seemed simple. From the second these two best friends kissed, there was an abundance of squealing fangirls, more likely to hold down the exclamation point than to waste their pretty little [nonexistent] brain cells in search of the apostrophe key. It was enough to make any thinking person reach for the nearest sharp object in an attempt to put their eyes out of their misery.
Somewhere along the way, the decision was made to discard the fact that intelligent members of this fandom remained and did (really!) exist. But for some of us, Carter and Abby were the logical conclusion. We watched John Carter grow up before our eyes, from naïve young medical student to clumsy, well-intentioned intern and beyond. He looked for love in all the wrong places, and it continued to elude him until he met the one woman who is arguably the only other person in his life with a more skewed idea of "love" than he himself held.
The truth is rarely pure and never simple.
John Truman Carter, III is first introduced as a medical student on his surgical rotation. An aspiring young surgeon, Carter struggles early on in a back and forth battle of surgery versus emergency medicine. First a surgical intern, then requesting special permission to restart his residency in the ER when he realizes his talents as a physician make him suited more for emergency medicine - not surgery. A man who grew up with everything in theory, his childhood lacked warmth and stability as a rift formed between all members of his family following his brother's death from leukemia; the one stable, loving person in his life was his grandmother. His sexual initiation came much too early: at the age of eleven by the hands of a twenty-five year old maid. Though no more details of this are ever revealed, its marked impact on his false perceptions of love are obvious; his early love interests all blonde and very few show any real interest in his person. With each of these women, Carter's attraction is initially physical and, though he is a genuinely caring person, his feelings do not stretch any deeper. Thus in Abby, it is everything different and new and exciting - although it happens on a more subtle and intimate level. We see, for the first time, his attraction grow from something more substantial than what is merely physical. It builds for two seasons, in spite of her long term boyfriend and his short-lived relationships, and his character became inextricably a part of hers somewhere along the way.
One of the most significant things about Abby Lockhart is that she always exists as a character in her own right. First an OB nurse struggling to make ends meet to finish medical school, her interactions with Carter are first only in the teacher-student capacity. Though assigned to Dave Malucci for her ER rotation, she learns much more under the direction of the other ER physicians - most notably Carter. In her early episodes we do not learn much more than that Abby is going through a divorce and struggling financially. However, there is much more to her struggles than originally comes across. Five years sober but still grappling with her alcohol addiction, Abby takes the role as Carter's sponsor following his stint in rehab. Her childhood even more lacking than Carter's in that it might just as well not have existed. Forced to become the parent when her father abandoned the family, leaving seven year old Abby to care for her younger brother Eric and her bipolar mother Maggie. We don't know much of the time between when she was seven and her entrance on the show other than she had one failed marriage to Richard Lockhart, whom she put through medical school by working as a nurse. The plan was that he would then put her through medical school; however, he does not follow through on this during the divorce and she has to drop out of med school and resume work as a nurse - although she is transferred from OB to the ER. In spite of the fact that Abby spends most of the seventh season dating ER attending Luka Kovac, it is the unfolding of her relationships with Carter and with her mother that become the truly compelling ones.
Why We Love Them
"What makes the desert beautiful," said the little prince, "is that somewhere it hides a well..."
--Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince
starfishmedley The only word I could use to loosely describe Carter/Abby is paradoxical. Their minds are those of educated, world-weary adults; their hearts belong to two scared, homesick children who just want to find something -- or someone -- they can call home. They are as different as they are the same. Their romance is quiet and non-schmoopy, yet surrounded by a powerful intensity that neither one of them can stand nor do without. To each other, they are both drug and cold turkey; willingly codependent and stubbornly independent all at once. There's something fascinating about that, for me -- I was never fond of regular, garden-variety "boy meets girl, they fall in love" romances. I bore easily when faced with fictional couples; I need something to keep me on my toes, to keep me guessing. Carter and Abby certainly cater to that need. Just when you think you have it all worked out, there's another twist, another hidden depth that -- although sometimes surprising -- always seems to fit in some twisted way. Everything they do together, good or bad, always fits. It's not forced, fake, or unnatural; and if TPTB intended to write their dynamic that way (and I'm 99% certain they did), they wouldn't give it up for a dynamic that embodies its exact opposite.
spyglass_ I've fallen for many fictional pairings over time, from Ross and Rachel to Mulder and Scully and back again, but none continues to capture my attention like those of the two addicts from County General's Emergency Room. The dynamic between Carter and Abby is one that fascinates me in the way that no other option makes sense -- I can't think of a scenario where any other ending would be satisfactory for either character. These two storylines are so inextricably entwined that every move seems purposeful -- when they're apart, when they're together. Their love story is a complex one, beautiful in the intricate details of their past as it serves the impetus to their present reality. So much so that every look they share -- and every look they do not -- takes my breath away and keeps me coming back for more.
sandysheets_ The first thing to draw me into the world of C/A was the looks they'd share. They understood each other so well that no words were even needed. I love these two because even after breaking up and moving on, they still share the same looks that they did years ago. It draws you right back in.
azuree Carter and Abby are awesome simply for the overwhelming chemistry they have without touching, or kissing, or ... other conversions of the sexual nature. ;-) It's all in the looks, the banter, and the two characters just have this inexplicable connection with each other. They don't need sex to be alluring to the audience, and they didn’t need it to be drawn to each other, which Abby has lacked in her other various relationships with men. There was something that they had that was true, innocent, strong and whole. And ... just watch that scene from The Letter, it explains what I could never put into words.
Lanie: It's the kind of feeling you get watching your best friends fall in love with each other, an excitement only matched by finding your own true love. What draws me to the Carter and Abby relationship? It's simple. Who wouldn't want to watch one of the most realistic relationships ever portrayed on television? There are no flashy over-the-top gestures of affection, just the quiet, hesitant pauses of comfort that come when they let down their guards long enough to allow their souls to touch - if only for a moment. It is raw, real and well worth the wait.
Appearance: Why It Matters
"You got a perm?!" // "... Twice." // "TWICE?" // "What?! It was Junior High School! It was the style!"
Our heroes have undergone quite a few physical changes in their times: long hair, short hair, jesus-christ-use-a-brush hair, tufty hair, combed hair, i'm-a-good-little-amish-boy hair ... and so on, and so forth. Often, however, these changes are very much intentional on the part of the producers to provide subliminal visual clues.
In real life, decreased interest in one's physical appearance is a common symptom of depression. Similarly, on most television shows, an unusually physically haggard/attractive character can be indicative of how they're feeling inside. And ER is no exception.
In season seven, when she was in the middle of an unhealthy relationship with Luka, Abby was slovenly and in constant need of a hairbrush; her clothes were dull and often worn-looking; her appearance reflected her inner turmoil and lack of interest in her own personal life. She lacked the radiance she has today -- the only time we saw her dress up and take pride in herself was on her "non-date" with Carter in They Will Be Done. When her relationship with Luka ended, she visibly improved, though slightly; it was only when her relationship with Carter began that she made a conscious effort to improve her appearance: in Chaos Theory, only days after kissing Carter for the first time, she is seen dyeing her hair a bright blonde and painting her toenails; her dress sense also changed for the better. (... When she was wearing clothes. This is the same episode in which she "bared all" to Carter by stripping naked on the beach in front of him and diving into Lake Michigan. If that's not symbolic, I don't know what is.)
This train of thought can also be applied to Carter. Our first glimpse of his life in Africa post-Abby breakup occurs in Freefall, the eighth episode of season ten, and he is barely recognizable. He's eaten all the pies, he's grown a beard, he's got a face like a slapped arse, and he looks as though he hasn't showered in a month. Interestingly, this is also the first time we see Kem, who drags him back to bed and wraps herself around him (which he is largely indifferent to). While Carter was with Abby, though, he was the healthiest and cleanest we've ever seen him: gone was the skinny Carter of season eight and in his place was a lean, muscular man who obviously took care of himself. His hair was shorter and less unruly (though still attractively tousled on occasion); he seemed cleaner and brighter in complexion; I can't recall him ever wearing a serious frown during the first half of the season. Both he and Abby just gave off a general air of happiness when they were together (before the problems began, at least) – and, in Carter's case, a general air of the opposite now that they're not.
Parallels, Role-Reversals, and Jigsaw Puzzles, oh my!
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Your mother and I had it, we had roots that grew towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom had fallen from our branches we found that we were one tree and not two.
-- Captain Corelli's Mandolin
This quote reminds us of Carter and Abby – the love that once connected them may have faded, but their stories are intertwined and locked together like tree roots. These two are connected forever, whatever happens, and this section will explain why.
Carter has always had issues with his mother. After his brother died, an eleven year old Carter felt it was his duty to take care of his mother, to be the best son he could be to make up for the loss of his brother. But of course, Carter didn't understand that he couldn't help, that no one could – so when his mother rejected his efforts and stayed depressed, he began to resent her (and himself) and they've been estranged for a long time.
He's closer to his father than to his mother, but their relationship is also empty; they don't know each other. It's likely that his father never explained why his mother was so distant, too wrapped up in his own grief to notice his son's bewilderment. He and Carter's mother got divorced in season seven, their loss of communication ignored, by which time he had already found someone else – someone Carter neither knew nor approved of. Sound familiar?
As for Abby, she was also abandoned by her parents: her father left completely when she was seven, unable to deal with her mother's disease; her mother, thanks to said disease (Bipolar Disorder) was depressed for long periods of time and unable to provide stability for her family. Abby has never (to our knowledge) resented her father for leaving, instead probably believing he made a lucky escape and that he deserved better.
Yes, history repeats itself a lot on ER – it's not difficult to see that Carter and Abby's reactions to losing each other almost directly mirrors their reactions to "losing" their parents. Carter feels that Abby doesn't need him, so off he tootles, coming back only to treat her as little more than an acquaintance. Abby is crushed, but believes he is better off, and gets on with her life. (We personally think that it would be very interesting to introduce the audience to Abby's father and to have him be a lot like Carter in personality, but that's idle speculation and doesn't really have a place in this essay.)
So, Carter and Abby projected their abandonment issues on each other. All the more reason for them to break up forever, right? Well, yes – but we've got to remember that this is fiction we're talking about, and more specifically two fictional characters on the road to emotional completion (more on this in the following "A is for Addicts" section). In such scenarios, the protagonist(s) must eventually overcome their insecurities, not fall prey to them again and again, in order to achieve what we like to call Fictional Nirvana. At the end of the process, the character has worked through their issues, their insecurities, accepted them and moved on, finally truly ready to face the big wide world. Thus far, this has not happened to Carter nor Abby, despite the red herrings (Carter moving to Africa; Abby becoming a doctor). If the story ends before they can achieve this Fictional Nirvana, the story is left unfinished. And unfinished stories don't amount to much, do they?
'A' is for Addicts
The circumstances of Carter and Abby's initial bond were not exactly favorable. They were both addicts: Carter to narcotics, Abby to alcohol. The true beginning of their friendship was in "Sand and Water", in which Carter attended an AA meeting and found Abby there, too. Their eyes met across a crowded room and they both smiled wry little smiles that said, "fancy meeting you here," and "right back at ya." Ironically romantic, that's our Carter and Abby.
Later, they met by chance again: in Doc Magoo's, the diner outside the ambulance bay. Here, they shared their stories – and a hot fudge sundae. Mutual acceptance was immediately apparent; a friendship was forged; and that, as they say, was that. Their tendency to lean on each other during times of need was set in stone.
But apart from the obvious common ground their addictions gave them, we believe there was another reason why the writers chose this perhaps unorthodox method of initiating friendship between the characters. After all, everything on this show happens for better reasons than initial common ground and good ratings.
AA and NA meetings have a prayer, which goes something like this:
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Currently, both Carter and Abby have problems with this – not regarding their addictions, but their personal lives. Both have achieved the first two lines in some ways, but neither have truly achieved the third; they have accepted and changed the wrong things in almost exactly the same way. Carter accepted, very reluctantly, that Abby didn't love him; Abby accepted, also reluctantly, that Carter didn't love her. Neither believe that they can change these things. Abby went to medical school and became a doctor, achieving a personal goal she'd been fighting for years; Carter begged and pleaded like a bedraggled cat in the rain for Kem to take him back. While Abby's courageous choice was infinitely more constructive, it doesn't change the fact that she still lacks the "wisdom" to see the real reason why Carter left her.
This comes back to the "Fictional Nirvana" situation and also the chaos theory Carter and Abby talked about in the episode of the same name. If they don't really, truly take stock of their lives and ask themselves the questions that desperately need answering, they will never be healed – there can be no closure to their stories when they eventually come to an end. (I won't explain the chaos theory argument here, as it's long and a little hard to wrap your head around, but a thread on The ER Exchange documents it wonderfully.)
These characters need completion. They are not going to find it by running away or ignoring their hearts; they're not going to find it with strangers or dalliances. They're going to find it in themselves – and therefore each other.
Timing and Role-Reversals
"I think the problem with me and Carter is you. He denies it, but he's not very convincing. Why did you two never happen?" / "... Timing."
Part of the irony littering Carter and Abby's love story has to do with timing. They are never in the same place at the same time: from the beginning, their roles are opposites. First, Carter is the teacher as Abby's professional supervisor; then Abby takes her turn and teaches him when he comes back from rehab; then, when her mother goes off the rails, it is Carter to the rescue once again, and it remains this way (mostly) until it becomes clear that Carter needs some rescuing himself, in season ten. This time, Abby again takes the role of rescuer, though in a much subtler way: she quietly watches him from afar, keeping herself updated on how he's doing through any means she can, tentatively but determinedly asking how he is and whether he wants her help or company. Carter very obviously backs away from her as soon as Kem is gone, taking rainchecks on Abby's dinner offers and AA meeting offers and everything else – which wouldn't seem so strange if he hadn't been willingly and happily having coffee with her and paying her med school tuition only a few weeks before.
Every time one of them is in a good place to help or be helped by the other, timing comes along and ruins it. Carter needs help; Abby's busy. Abby needs help; Carter's busy. Carter wants to help Abby; Abby doesn't want it. Abby wants to help Carter ... and so on. All this bad timing can logically point to only one thing: one day, the timing will be right.
They Were Friends First
It seems to be that the best relationships - the ones that last - are frequently the ones that are rooted in friendship. One day you look at the person and you see something more than you did the night before. Like a switch has been flicked somewhere, and the person who was just a friend is suddenly the only person you can ever imagine yourself with.
--Dana Scully, The X-Files
It is, in a way, the most predictable story ever. Boy meets girl, boy and girl are friends, boy and girl fall in love, get married, and live happily ever after in the suburbs with their 2.5 kids and cocker spaniel. Well, maybe not so simple. When they first met, it was innocent enough. She was a student, he was a resident. He was, as he says later on, "drawn to [her]" - and he helped her as she watched her first elderly patient die with dignity. That night, however, everything changes. He nearly dies in the stabbing that takes the life of the med student he was supposed to be supervising, deepening battle scars that date back to his brother's fight with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. His recovery does not go as planned, as he struggles to use painkillers to heal the fears and emotional wounds that he does not yet recognize. In spite of this, he has a few moments with Abby where his continued abilities as a physician are highlighted. It is Abby who first notices his addiction and turns him in to their superiors to force him to seek help -- and only she can understand how desperately he needs help.
Carter returns from rehab and, though Drs. Greene and Weaver are generally supportive, they are more likened to strict parents -- always unwavering in their enforcement of the rules. Abby becomes both friend and confidant from the moment he discovers her secret. She, too, struggles with addiction, though she's been sober for five years at this point. Their addictions are, of course, recognition of their own insecurities and weaknesses. Both naturally guarded, the fact that their friendship is one so deeply based in trust is a solid base for any romantic relationship. Over the course of Season 7, Abby maintains an unhealthy relationship with ER attending Luka Kovac. Though dating Luka, Abby turns to Carter when she needs someone in whom to confide. With the return of her manic depressive mother, Abby reveals her father's abandonment to Carter alone, confiding the truth that she's been dealing with her mother's bipolar disorder alone while simultaneously raising her younger brother since age seven. So Abby became Carter's sponsor, but Carter unconsciously became hers as well.
It was only natural that this deep friendship and easy banter would develop into something more. Fans saw the potential from their very first interactions. He seeks her out after she loses that very first patient, letting her know that "[she] may have come up here to be alone -- but [she's] not". From the moment they lock eyes during the AA meeting, it's clear that there is a connection being forged between these two that is no accident. The parallels between them are uncanny, allowing them to forge a friendship where no one else will do. It's difficult to pinpoint the moment when these two realized their feelings for the other ran deeper than friendship, but it was a truly beautiful series of events as it unfolded. She accompanied him to a family charity function when his date bailed, she begins to call him "John" instead of "Carter" in their more intimate conversations, he helps her get to her mother who has turned up in a motel in Oklahoma -- instinctively understanding that Abby needs to deal with this the only way she knows how.
The attraction between these two is ever-present, always lurking just beneath the surface. It was then, and still remains, the most complex romance written in the eleven years of ER. Moreso, even, than ER's beloved Doug and Carol. We watched Carter and Abby from the very beginning, from the moment that their great friendship first unfolded.
It's Deeper than "Love Interest"
Success supposes endeavor.
--Jane Austen, Emma
Both Carter and Abby have always been a character in their own right -- always; the importance of this fact should be clear. Both grew up with skewed interpretations of love. Carter, who only knew that his brother died and his parents disappeared; love for him existed only from his grandmother, and from the maid who took his virginity at the young age of eleven. The fact that he is male makes this no less statutory rape, and it set him up for failure in romance early on. Abby, who probably did not know love in any form following her father's abandonment of their family; at seven years old, she was forced to grow up. She took care of both mother and younger brother, knowing true shame in having to beg food off of the neighbors when things were really bad. She married relatively young, but that marriage began to fall apart when she found herself pregnant. Paralyzed by fear, she had an abortion without even telling her husband Richard she was pregnant. Richard was, by all means, probably not the terrible man we originally want him to be. He was an unfaithful husband, but Abby herself admits that the downfall of their marriage can likely be pinpointed to the great secret she carried in her chest.
With that in mind, neither Carter nor Abby looked for love in the proper places. Carter consistently found himself in relationships with blondes -- very few of whom actually knew anything about him and all of which were guest stars. They were not set up to be his "lasting love", not in the slightest.
Abby, too, sought out romance with Luka because she noticed him. She found him extremely attractive, and he gave her a compliment (that was both true and exactly what she wanted to hear) at a time when she did not have much in the way of self confidence. And landing a relationship with a man like Luka made her feel more confident, in spite of the fact that the relationship was not a healthy one. She herself tells Susan that you "can't force chemistry. Believe me, I've tried", and then she casts a meaningful glance at Luka.
If it's one thing that has been constant on ER (other than the fact that Dr. Romano and helicopters do not mix), it's that relationships are carefully crafted, drawing two characters together only after the audience learns to love both. We've seen these outside romances fail time and time again - Carol and Tag, Benton and Carla, Mark and Cynthia, Doug and any of his girlfriends. They serve their purpose for a certain period of time, but they do not last. They simply are not designed to. When the two years leading up to the romance of Carter and Abby are compared to the twenty or so minutes we know Kem before she's pregnant with Carter's child and deliriously happy, one side comes off lacking. The audience knows very little of Kem Likasu, didn't get to watch as Carter slowly noticed her and fell for her. Instead, they were pregnant and happy and that was it. There were to be no more questions.
But if there were no more questions, then there certainly were old questions left unanswered.
So, Were They "Doomed From The Start"?
Imagine a ruin so strange it must never have happened.
--Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible
Well, yes ... and no. Almost all fictional relationships have difficulties at some point, and in most cases, these difficulties involve a breakup. Some of these breakups last a few episodes at most (see: Luke and Lorelai, Gilmore Girls); some of them last more than a season (see: Doug and Carol, ER); some of them are permanent. They're all doomed, in a way.
If Carter and Abby were indeed always doomed to be permanently separated, however, there's only one genre of doomed they could fit into: tragic, star-crossed lovers, forced to part only by circumstance and irony's cruel games. And it's true that they do fit into that mold quite well, in some aspects: their love story was turbulent, intense, and a lot of work for both of them. But there are a few fundamental differences that seem to negate the Romeo/Juliet stereotype, and the first and most important is closure to the misdirection.
Love stories are nothing without misdirection. Stories in general are nothing without misdirection. Be it for comedic or dramatic purposes, misdirection is a vital literary tool employed by characters and authors alike, both purposefully and accidentally. In Carter and Abby's case, the misdirection came in the form of their individual insecurities obscuring the view of their love for each other: Abby loved (loves, if you're so inclined) Carter, and because of her ten billion issues, thought that she was entirely to blame for this fact and that he shouldn't have to put up with it. He should run away, just like her father, right? For his own good. Similarly, Carter loved/loves Abby, and because of his ten billion issues, thought that her hesitancy to admit her love for him meant that she didn't love him at all and that he was a stupid arse for loving her in the first place. Carter then feels impossibly rejected and hurt, so he runs away. Just like Abby's father. Just like his own mother. Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, eh?
So, there's your misdirection. Now it needs resolving. All misdirection has to be resolved, even in Romeo and Juliet, because otherwise -- what? They all go home and have a nice cup of tea? Where's the payoff? Where's the 'oh, of course' moment? There isn't one. There isn't one, and that makes people angry, when they're reading books or watching TV shows, because it's too much like real life. Fiction must make sense. Always. If it doesn't make sense, it's not supposed to, so it ends up making sense anyway.
And thus far, the misdirection remains unresolved. Carter is still under the woefully misguided impression that Abby didn't love or need him; Abby is still under the woefully misguided impression that Carter is better off without her and probably never liked her very much anyway. Rather interestingly, this fact doesn't blatantly bother either of them -- for Abby, it seems to be a case of 'if you love someone, set them free,' while Carter is so lost and desperate to be loved that he can't see the forest for the trees. (I, personally, do believe that there is residual bitterness and/or wariness on Carter's part -- after Kem left, he was suspiciously reluctant to communicate with Abby on a personal level. That, though, is only my opinion which, although surely shared by others, is marginally more debatable than the rest of this essay.)
The question is: why? Why spend almost three years of precious writing time on a relationship between two characters -- why carefully construct backgrounds and parallels and subtexts -- why write a misdirection scenario -- only to scrap the entire thing before it's resolved? Why permanently bury a three-season arc without closure? What would compel a team of extremely talented writers -- some of the best in their field -- to suddenly "ignore" and "forget" a storyline that was obviously, not too long ago, their favorite thing to write?
There would have to be a very good reason for all of this. Maybe someone cornered John Wells and told him that if he didn't scrap the storyline they'd blow his brains out (and not in the good way). Maybe the real John Wells was kidnapped and the man writing and directing these episodes is an impostor. Maybe Jack Orman was the only thing holding Carter and Abby together and his leaving was all part of Wells' plan to take over the world with his brother Pinky.
The second difference is the nature of the conflict.
In tragic love stories, the end of the relationship is almost always brought about by external forces -- Romeo was banished and Juliet "killed herself"; Will and Lyra were from different worlds; Satine and Christian were seperated first by the evil Duke and then by Satine's death; Neela and Gallant were kept apart by war. Had it not been for these external forces, the relationships would presumably continue, theoretically making the whole thing even more heartbreaking.
In Carter and Abby's case, however, their own character flaws were responsible for the demise of their relationship. Specifically, their insecurities. As we outlined above, these insecurities have not been fully resolved; and in a work of fiction such as ER, when a writer leaves something unresolved -- a.k.a keeps it the same -- he or she risks a lack of character development and/or storyline progression. It's true that Abby has grown and changed since her and Carter's breakup, though it has never been shown or even implied that she believes Carter really loved and wanted her. Quite the opposite, in fact. In Carter's case, the lack of character development and storyline progression is easily found by those who look for it: he's still as lost and needy as he was when his grandmother died/when he broke up with Abby. His main storyline -- his relationship with Kem and the subsequent loss of his son -- has retained the same basic components: Carter can barely bear to be apart from her for fear of being abandoned, while Kem evidently likes him and finds him attractive but seemingly feels no deep unconditional love for him. It has been this way since the beginning, in season ten. Something must change, and we believe that something is Carter's fear of being alone.
I spend 23 hours a day wondering whether we're wrong for each other, wondering whether we've got the energy that we need to get through everything that we seem to get into, whether the baggage we both bring would sink a small ship ... But in the 24th hour, I realize I've been thinking about her for 23 hours, and I come back to: there's something about her that I can't stay away from. Something about her that makes me want to ... love her.
Carter and Abby's love story isn't an easy one to follow sometimes. If you're more inclined to enjoy happy, fluffy endings, you're probably in for a disappointment. But one thing is for sure: Carter and Abby's relationship is rich in pretty much everything. You want humor? You got it. You want heart-rending angst? It's yours. Cute so adorable you'll get a toothache? Help yourself. Irony, quirks, connections, contrasts, subtext, text, chemistry, subtlety, frustration, adoration beyond all reasonable doubt? You don't even have to ask – Carter and Abby achieve it all without even trying.
He had by this time grown accustomed to being in love: the passion now startled him less even when it tortured him more, and he felt himself adequate to the situation.
--Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd
There is a multitude of excellent fic written for Carter/Abby. Granted, for every wonderful story there are about fifty pieces of utter, complete crap, but all in all it's a fair trade off. Because of this, there's no way for us to even come close to listing all of our favorites right here. Your Carter/Abby Fanfic Education will not be complete until you give the following a read.
I. The Classics
Par Amour Pour Magdelena by Cat: "One day I married Luka Kovac. How did that happen? Simple, I got pregnant."
Through the Door / Things Behind the Sun by C. Midori: "When tragedy blurs the fast-disappearing line between friendship and what lies beyond, Abby must decide how far she is willing to push that line--and Carter, how far to let her."
Scarlet Nail Polish by fabala-fae: "And I've heard that you can't fight love, so I won't complain – why would I stop the fire that keeps me going on?"
The Long Way by KenzieGal: A Season Nine Post-Ep Series, from Carter's POV. Companion to Reflections
Reflections by Sunni: A Season Nine Post-Ep Series, from Abby's POV. Companion to The Long Way
Wind and Rain by jen and kitty: "There is a silence, an absolute silence and he realizes that it's because they're both holding their breaths."
Continental Drift by kyriana: "Love. War. Pain. Joy. It’s a Carby romance that begins with a heartbreaking time from their recent past and follows them as they learn lessons of love. A ‘cinematic’ epic—complete with Carby moments we always wanted to see."
II. The Authors
C. Midori -> [Magi]
Cat -> [Bets & Promises]
Ceri -> [In Spite of Me / Here with Me]
Em4 -> [The Dress]
fabala-fae -> [I Even Know Her Footsteps]
Jen6 -> [Bad Luck Day]
kitty1 -> [The Toothbrush Talk]
kyriana -> [When You Think You're Alone]
soulofanangel -> [dulce et decorum est]
Sunni -> [The Cold War]
TinyStar -> [Fathers and Children]
windswept butterfly -> [The More Things Change]
spyglass_ (inelastic) -> [World on Fire]
starfishmedley (fractalgeometry) -> [Her Favorite Flowers]
spyglass_ is taking care of this because starfishmedley is not aware of her own fanart prowess. The following artwork is all courtesy of starfishmedley and malikah22 -- you cannot get better artwork for Carter/Abby without either one of these two girls. I say that honestly and not because I love both, even though I absolutely do.
Little Bit Fruity
Sea and the Rhythm
Think About Me
Can't Let Go
Carter/Abby Wallscroll (the filename "carbyeffinghuge" is extremely appropriate).
Please Right Click > Save Target As (these videos are all uploaded to our own personal server, thanks).
Comfortable by Allie | She Will Be Loved by Jules | Clocks by Luna | Light That You Shine by Luna
Coffee & Pie
On the Roof (this is actually our site, although it hasn't really been updated in ages because we're in the process of a massive revamp).
"She really loves you." / "You think so?" / "Yeah! You're so comfortable together. You know, intimate ... without needing to show off."
We just wanted to personally thank a few people for helping us out. Most notably Kyriana, for the lovely opening piece she provided, and sandysheets_, azuree and Lanie for their additional testimony. And finally,