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Carter rummaged through the umpteenth rack of clothes, waiting for Abby to come out and model yet another dress. Several that she'd already tried had looked nice but she had something special in mind and hadn't found it yet. John was not used to having to go shopping in a mall with so many people. He was used to and had always gotten his clothes from the more elite shops where they brought the clothes to you. He wasn't sure if he liked buying off the rack but Abby seemed to be a pro at it. Of course, he found the prices to be more reasonable but money wasn't everything. In fact, money really hadn't played into his life much until he gave up his trust. This was good experience for him. Even after all these years, he was still trying to find ways to live within his means.



"How's this one?" He heard Abby emerge from the dressing room. He turned around and his breath was taken away. Abby looked stunning. No, better than stunning. She looked ravishing, sexy, alluring, all of those things at once.



"Uh, wow." He shook his head. "You look, well, man, Abby. I didn't know you could look like that." He smiled, his eyes telling her that she'd found the dress.



"You don't think it's too much? I mean, when will I ever wear it again?" She complained but she already knew this was the dress she was getting. She just liked to hear him say it.



"Oh, I don't know. Gamma is always holding these functions where I need a date. I bet we could find one or two things to take you to where you could wear it again." He smiled, having her turn all the way around.



"It's a bit more than I was intending on spending." She shrugged, looking at herself in the mirror.



"I'll pay for it." He said, still stunned.



"You can't pay for my dress." She complained passively.



"Abby, you have to get this dress." He stood back and smiled. "Yes, you have to." She took one last look in the mirror.



"Ok, fine, but you don't have to buy it. Split the cost and I'll get it." She suggested.



"Sure. Anything to get you to get this dress. Now, can we go?" He smiled, having been over this whole shopping experience at about the tenth dress.



"Nope. It's your turn next." She disappeared back into the dressing room to change.



"Abby, we're not going to find anything for me here. I'll just get Gamma's tailor to take up the tux. It'll be fine." He took the dress and re-hung it on the hanger as she tossed it out to him.



"Not a chance, Carter. First, we're going to the food court for lunch then we're getting you something sexy. You need to, after all, look as good as I will. I mean you're the one going up on the block after all."



"You don't need to remind me, Abby." He laughed.



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

"Abby, come on." John complained. She had him trapped in the dressing room, having taken his clothes to keep him there. So, here he stood in his boxers and socks, waiting for her to pick out his clothes.



"Try these pants with this shirt." She handed him the clothes through a crack in the door. Their friendship had reached such a comfort level that he wasn't embarrassed in front of her in just his boxers. They had, however traveled across the country together and since then, spent many a night falling asleep at each other's apartment when their 'support sessions' had run particularly late.



"Abby, I'm not sixteen. Try the big boy's section, ok? This is going to be humiliating enough. Find something with a bit of class?" He complained, instantly opening the door and shoving the clothes out to her. What he didn't realize was the saleslady was also standing there and got a full view. Abby started laughing.



"Ok, fine. Just stop whining." She said. Now she knew why he didn't like shopping. He was so damn picky! "Excuse me, Miss? Can you help me?"



"Sure. What can I do for you?" The saleslady had recovered from her wonderful shock and smiled to Abby.



"You got a look at him, right?"



"Um, yes. I did." She smiled a bit wider. Abby nodded.



"Good. He needs something really classy and hot. I need him to look like he just walked out of a fantasy magazine, if you know what I mean." She explained. The girl nodded, having just the look in mind.



"I can still hear you." Carter said.



"I have just the outfit in mind. Why don't you follow me?" The salesgirl said. Abby came back a few minutes later, very excited.



"John, here. Try this on. I think you're going to like it." She bubbled; sure they had found the right outfit.



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

A few minutes later, John stood in front of the full-length mirror while Abby and the salesgirl tucked, pinned, and pulled. He had to admit. This, he liked.



"If we take it up just a bit here, " The salesgirl pulled the material above his backside and John jumped.



"Hey!" He protested.



"It'll make it stand out. See?" She kept on, both women checking out his backside. Abby smiled in her approval.



"Oh, yeah. That's nice. Carter, try the jacket on." She handed him the jacket. Once on, the sight was just getting better and better. The salesgirl stopped.



"Oh, I have the finishing touch. Wait right here." She bounced off.



"I'm not going anywhere. What do you think, Abby?" He asked, turning around and watching the mirror.



"That is the hottest thing on any man I have ever seen, Carter. You look great." She smiled. The salesgirl returned, carrying a fedora.



"Add this." She smiled. John placed the hat on his head and cocked it forward. He turned around and looked at them with a seductive look from under the brim.



"How's this?" He asked. Both women swooned.



"Oh, yeah." They both whispered breathlessly.



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

Carter sat down in the middle of the trauma room floor and put his head between his legs. They just worked on the accident victim for three hours, cracking here, cutting there, blood gushing everywhere and it was for nothing. Nothing they did helped enough. This was not a day that he needed this. First, he was nearing his 39th straight hour, three hours over his shift and he was exhausted. Second, he hated losing a patient, no matter the reason. And third, in just a few hours, he was about to be sold. It was not a good day.



"You alright, Carter?" Mark asked, stripping off his bloody gown. They'd worked feverously together and Carter had never faltered, even with how tired Mark knew he was. Carter had held his own and Mark was impressed. He really was turning into a fine doctor.



"Just a bit nauseous." Carter mumbled, trying to keep his stomach at bay.



"Why don't you go home? You were supposed to be out of here hours ago. Kerry made me promise to let you go so you could get some rest for tonight. Everyone else in the auction got to go home early today and that should have included you. Thanks for staying to help." Mark said, kneeling down to check Carter's pulse. "Your heart is racing, Carter. You all right?" He asked, a bit concerned. Carter lifted his head and managed a smile.



"Write me a note, Dr. Green. I can't do this thing tonight. Write me a note to get out of this." He begged, only half serious. Mark helped him to his feet, realizing why Carter's heart was racing. He was scared to death about tonight.



"This isn't gym class, Carter. Go get cleaned up and get some sleep. We'll see you tonight." Mark patted the young doctor on his back and left the room. Carter took a deep breath and sighed.



"Shit." He said to himself. He stripped his gown off, tossed his gloves onto the floor, and dumped his goggles.



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

“So, how’s the dress look?” John said into the phone. He fastened his slacks. “Come on, Abby. It can’t be any worse than the dress you wore to the ball, now can it?” He laughed. “No, I’m just kidding. You are really wired up about this thing, aren’t you?” He listened while putting on his crisp white shirt.



“I’m getting dressed now. Yes, I’ll remember my suit. You got the tape? Good.” After tucking in his shirt, he sat on the edge of his bed to put on his socks.



“I hadn’t given it much thought. I guess it won’t be that different than having dinner with some of my relatives, will it? I mean, we’re strangers also.” He kidded.



“Uh, no, Abby. People don’t really expect sex during this sort of thing, do they?” He asked. “What if they do? I don’t know. I guess it depends.” He laughed. “First depends if they’re cute.” He quickly shot back. Having finished with his socks, he laid back on his bed while he spoke. “What about it?” He listened, shaking his head. “I’m not sure if I could do that. Maybe. What if the winner is a what? A guy?” He sat up; surprised she would even bring that up. The hospital wouldn’t let a guy ‘buy’ another guy, now would they? John laughed.



“Well, we’ll have to see. Depends if he’s cute.” He listened. “Uh, no, just

the one I told you about.” He smiled, remembering. “No." He laughed. "I never did. Had one hell of a crush. I used to have the wildest dreams, though." He smiled. "Since then? A few. No, I'm not going to tell you who. That's my secret." He giggled. "I’ve been tempted but I haven’t been in a situation yet when I felt I could cross those lines.” He nodded.



“What? Can’t you see me with a guy?” He nodded, listening to Abby. “Ok, fine. I can see you with a girl…” He burst out laughing. “That is not a fantasy for all guys! It is not!” He giggled.



“Well, I figure I’ll deal with it if it comes up. The thing I’m most concerned with is not bringing in any money and standing up there looking like a fool in that suit you made me buy.” He shook his head. “You did too. You made me buy it.” He heard a knock on the door. “Hang on a sec, Abby.” He placed his hands over the receiver. “Yes?” He called out.



“Dinner will be served in ten minutes, sir.” He heard Corrine announce.



“Thank you. Is Gamma home yet?” He asked.



“She won’t be going you for dinner. She has an engagement but she did state she would be around to pick you up at six thirty.” She said. John groaned.



“Ok, thanks. I’m back, Abby.” He listened. “Oh, that. I get to have yet another dinner alone. No, she’s out of town and Gamma is at the country club with a few friends. I know. That’s what I told her. She just needed to get out.” He laughed.



“Are you kidding? He’s not around because my mother is and she’s not around because she thinks he is when in actuality, I’m here in this huge house all by myself.” He shook his head. “That’s very sweet, Abby but I’m ok. No, really. To be truthful, I think Corrine likes having to cook. She’s always trying to fatten me up. Besides, it gives her and I a chance to talk. You know, sometimes I think she knows me better than any of my family put together.” He listened and thought.



“Since before I can remember. She’s the only person, other than you who knows anything about Jason. You I told but Corrine, she knew. He came home with me one vacation and she knew right away.” He laughed. “That she is.”



“Well, I’d better get going. She’ll come up here and pull me down to the dining room by my ear if I’m late for dinner. I’ll see you there.” He hung up the phone, checked himself out in the full-length mirror and smiled.



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

"Hi, Gamma." John said, getting into the limousine next to her after hanging his new clothes. She smiled.



"Good evening, John. I'm very happy to see what a good sport you've been about this whole thing." She said, noticing how tired he looked. They probably made him work all day and then expected him to be sold to the highest bidder at night. There were times that she truly disliked how they mistreated her grandson but he seemed to be able to handle it much better lately. She would never be as supportive of the hospital after what he'd been through but she assured him that her attendance at this 'meat market' as she called it was for his behalf only. She'd also informed him that she intended on placing her own bids, hoping to buy him a full night's rest.



"You're being a good sport, too, Gamma. I know you don't agree with this but it's just for fun." He smiled, trying to relax. He had actually gotten a few hours sleep and the pot of coffee he'd had before she arrived to pick him up was beginning to take affect.



"You had better bring in more money than that Romano fellow. I do have to say I'm not very fond of him. All he says is bull pucky." She exclaimed, which made John burst out laughing.



"Yes, Gamma. Romano is full of bull pucky." He giggled. Ok, so maybe this wouldn't be so bad. At least he'd have his grandma and his friends there to support him.



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

"Why, hello Millicent Carter, Doctor Carter. Looks like there's a good amount of money here tonight." Robert Romano greeted them as they came in the door. "Carter, if that's your monkey suit for the auction, take it in the back so you don't have to carry it with you all night. I'll show Millicent to the bar and you can find her later." He held out his arm for her to take. John smiled sympathetically to his grandmother then went towards the stage to find out where to deposit his suit bag.



"Why, John. You look stunning." Kerry said. He smiled widely, having seen that she also found this an occasion to get all doled up.



"You look fantastic, Dr. Weaver." He kissed and hugged her gently.



"A day at the spa will make anyone look good. How was the ER today?" She asked, feeling so out of place with all this walking elite.



"Slow." He lied. "So, who's working tonight if everyone is going to be here?"



"Each department has shuffled to cover. And they've called in several temps. Things should be fine for one night." She said, sipping her wine.



"So, where's our table?" He asked, looking around. He was surprised at how many of the wealthy Chicagoans were here that he'd also seen at many of his grandmother's functions.



"Right over here." Kerry pointed. Carter saw several of the nurses sitting around it. They smiled when they saw him.



"Oh, Carter." Abby came over to him. "Let me have your suit and I'll take it back for you. I just took Luka's back also." She said, trying to keep busy. She never liked these fancy functions either. John smiled.



"You look wonderful, Abby." He said, needing a moment to just stop and look at her.



"Yes, Abby. You do look wonderful." Dr, Weaver answered.



"Thanks. Let me take those back for you." She managed to escape before anyone else could tell her how nice she looked. She felt like a made-up, generic Barbie trying to fit in.



"Shall we mingle?" John asked, holding his arm out for Kerry. She smiled.



"I suppose we should." She wrapped her arm around his and they began to work the room.



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

There was an art exhibit, several pieces were also being sold for the good of the hospital, and it seemed as everyone in town had shown up for this event. John was amazed with how many people he personally knew and spent most of the evening whispering sordid details of their personal lives into Abby's ear. They were actually both having a very nice time until an announcement came over the loudspeaker for all those participating in the evening's auction, to please report to the dressing rooms to prepare. John never let go of Abby, forcing her to come with him to help him dress. The suit was, after all her idea and he just needed her moral support.



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

Carter paced the makeshift dressing room, running his hands through his hair one too many times making it stand on ends.



"I can't do this." He complained, realizing his heart was about to beat through his chest. Abby giggled.



"Yes, you can." She brushed his hair back into place with her fingers.



She knew he was terrified. She knew he felt like damaged goods because of his scars but she had reassured him they were well covered.



"What if I get up there and no one wants to bid, huh? Abby, what if no one wants me?" He asked, sounding like an insecure fourteen year old. Well, he was an insecure 31 year old. Not much difference.



"Get a grip, Carter. I hear even Romano brought in six thousand dollars. Now if Benton had been here, he'd would've brought a pretty penny but if Romano can bring in six, you're worth at least that." She teased, fixing his shirt.



As soon as he stepped out of the dressing room, Abby knew they'd made the right choice on a suit for him. It brought out his chocolate, puppy dog eyes and accented his thinner frame yet looked different than the dress clothes he wore every day. Abby wanted to hear women gasp at the sight of her best friend. It had taken an entire day and after surviving a day of shopping with John Carter, which was not an easy task in itself, they found the perfect outfit. Black, silk trousers tailored in just the right places, white button up shirt with a slightly open collar, of course black suspenders and the coolest length jacket, tailor made for his broad shoulders that swung with each step. They topped the outfit off with a sexy black fedora and if he tilted it forward just so and peeked out from underneath the brim, even Abby's heart melted. That was in the store, though, where he was smiling. Carter wasn't smiling now. Abby thought he actually looked like he was going to pass out.



"Look, Weaver set you up to do this and you have no choice. Even Weaver is getting up there so calm down and get yourself together. You look fantastic." She said, tenderly holding his upper arms. His whole body was shaking.



"I do?" He asked, looking into her safe eyes. Abby smiled.



"You do. I just wish I had enough money to compete with these donors. I might even place a bid myself." She winked, holding his jacket out for him.



"You get me anytime." He kidded, trying to put the jacket on.



"Yeah, well, I've seen you drop your towel accidentally trying to sneak from the living room to the bathroom after forgetting your cloths, too. Just think of this as fun. It's for the hospital and they say if tonight brings in enough money, we might actually get a raise this year." She smiled, brushing the jacket so it hung just right.



"Gamma's out there. She said she was going to bid. With my luck, she'll be the highest bidder and I'll have to take her out. That wouldn't be so bad, I guess." He looked at his face in the mirror. "It's just a short walk on the stage and then one evening with a total stranger who paid money for my company. No big deal, right?" He rambled.



"Just one innocent evening with a contributor to the hospital. You've done enough of these obligatory evenings with your family, right? This is just the same." She could see him calming down and the color was returning to his face. He did look good. He looked classic, like he just walked out of a 1940's musical. They could hear the crowd going crazy with applause just outside the door.



"What's going on?" Carter asked. Abby poked her head out the door to take a listen.



"Oh, man." She said, smiling.



"What?" John asked.



"Luka just got the highest bid of the night." She said, fanning the smoke away. The whole stage was immersed in a white cloud and Abby knew first hand how Luka probably looked incredible. "I heard some guy up in vascular had brought in twelve thousand before but Luka just got a bid for fifteen." She smiled.



"I just hope to bring in at least ten. Luka's got to be having a pretty good ego right now." John said, looking in the mirror. Abby laughed.



"Well, he doesn't need any help in that department."



"Oh, was that a little vindictive, Abby?" He joked. They both laughed.



"They'll get their money's worth." She smiled. Even though this was supposed to be innocent and all, Abby knew better. She knew some of the benefactors would request some sort of physical performance from their prizes but she just hoped that Carter would get someone who would make this a pleasant experience for him. He didn't need the undue pressure to perform. Abby handed him the hat.



"Showtime?" He asked, taking it a bit hesitantly.



"Just about. The announcer guy said you'd be last. I want to go out front and watch, ok? The nurses have a pool on which one of you will get the highest bid." She winked.



"Oh, yeah? Luka or me? Which one did you vote for?" He teased. He knew she still had feelings for Luka, a history as she had once said and he was ok with that. After all, they were friends; really good friends and no one could ever take that away from them.



"You." She kissed him quickly on the lips and disappeared. Carter put the hat on, tipped it forward, and looked in the mirror. He did look good.



"Damn straight!" He smiled. Now or never.
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