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John came down the stairs, figuring he'd get something to eat. Maybe that would help.

"What are you doing down here?" Veronica asked, getting her gardening hat on.

"I can't sleep." He smiled his impish grin. "Hazard of the profession."

"Well, my dear." She led him to the patio. "Why don't you lay here and talk to me while I do my gardening, ok?" She hoped the cool morning followed by the rising sun would relax him enough so that he'd fall asleep.

"It's cold out there." He protested weakly.

"So, I'll bring you a blanket. It will warm up in an hour, though. Should be a beautiful day today." She said, sitting him on one of the chase loungers. She wrapped a blanket around his body and went about her gardening.

It was only a matter of minutes before his sentences became unrecognizable for words. Veronica peered over her sunglasses at his sleeping figure curled up on the lounger and cuddled in the blanket. She smiled. Hopefully, he'd finally get some much-needed rest.


John woke abruptly when he rolled over and fell off the lounger, banging his throbbing head on the deck.

"Oh, shit." He groaned, holding his head. The rest of his body had landed on the blanket, which had been tossed from his sleeping frame sometime midmorning. He lay there, feeling the mild sunburn on his chest, the throbbing of his head and the sleep leaving his body. Sitting up, he realized that he felt rested and the throbbing was fading into a minor ache. He looked up at the sky, squinting from the sun, trying to figure out what time it was.

"I thought you'd sleep all day." Brandon said from the other lounger. He smiled widely, trying not to laugh. He closed the book he'd been reading.

"Oh, hi. Didn't see you there." John smiled, embarrassed to have fallen in front of Brandon.

"Your head ok?" Brandon asked, sipping his iced tea. John managed to sit back on his lounger.

"Yes, doctor. Where's Veronica?" John looked around, trying to spot the blonde.

"She went into town for a late lunch with some girlfriends and shopping. She'll be back for dinner. Are you hungry?" Brandon looked at John from under his glasses. John looked so much better with a bit of color to his face and chest, sort of like an eternal blush.

"I'm sorry for the way I acted this morning. I know you were just trying to help." John said. Brandon sat up, facing John. He placed his hands on John's knees.

"We were both pretty tired. You should see the way Veronica talks to me when she's tired!" He kidded. John just shrugged.

"So much for my special day, huh? Figures I'd blow it." John slumped back, lying on the lounger, turning away from Brandon.

"Hey there, don't go closing up on me again, baby. You don't have to be back until tomorrow. We have plenty of time, Johnny. We still have this afternoon, this evening, tonight, and tomorrow until you leave. How long do you want to stay?" Brandon was instantly at John's side, touching him, trying to get John to turn towards him.

"Did you just call me 'baby'?" John's eyes were glittering and he had a huge smile plastered across his face. Brandon thought for a second.

"I guess I did. Wow. That slipped." Brandon blushed. John took a hold of his face and leaned in for a kiss. He had been called 'baby' before but never with such ease, never had it rolled so casually off anyone's tongue and feel so, well, good, John thought.

"Yes." John said, suddenly feeling much better. Brandon looked at him, questioning.

"Yes what?" Brandon asked.

"Yes, I'm hungry." John smiled, releasing Brandon's face. Brandon stood, laughing to himself.

"What are you hungry for, John Carter?" He asked, walking towards the arcadia door. He turned back to John, who smiled mischievously at him. "Food, Carter. You need food!" He scolded, going inside. The young doctor was definitely insatiable.

"Meat." John said also coming inside. He leaned on the kitchen island, stretching his back. "I need something to chew on." He smiled. Brandon shook his head, the visual images too much.

"How about we barbeque some bratwurst? Would that satisfy your need?" He asked, knowing what he was implying. John nodded, smiling.

"It's a start." He played with a trivet, not looking at the man but they were both extremely aware of each other's presence. "So, hear from your son?" John asked, deciding to redirect the subject. He remembered the troubled relationship Brandon had with his son.

"He spent last Christmas here with his new wife." Brandon shrugged, handing John a tray of sausages. John followed him outside to the grill.

"A new one? How many does that make now?"

"This is number three. He's not even twenty five yet and he's been married three times." Brandon shook his head as he lit the grill.

"How long have you and Veronica been married?" John asked, not remembering.

"Twenty eight years this year." Brandon smiled fondly. John shook his head.

"What's the secret?" He asked, wishing he knew the secrets to happiness.

"Hm, I think it's a combination. We've had our troubled times but I think down deep, we're still as in love with each other as the first day. We've grown up with each other. We change with each other and we grow together. We have our separate lives, our careers, our interests differ. I think we try hard not to spend too much time together so that we don't get too tired of each other. The past couple days is a treat for us, too. We're both usually so busy with work that we see each other in passing. We stick it out together, though. We're there to support the other one when we need it. What about you, John? Are you going to get married someday?" He asked. John shrugged.

"I don't know. I mean, I like the idea but I'm not sure. Let's face it. You guys have lasted so long and then I see my parents, who have been married just a bit longer and they've smothered each other. I can't seem to get a woman to stay around longer than a few months." He sighed.

"John, I see you married. You're a married type of guy." Brandon said, placing the sausages on the grill. "Problem is you are attracted to the dating type of girl. I don't know if you even notice the marrying type of girl." Brandon observed. John thought for a few minutes.

"Maybe I'll end up with a guy?" John suggested. Until recently, he'd never seriously considered it but this had been an eye-opening trip. Brandon shook his head immediately.

"No, no, no. You're not gay." He smiled, sitting on the lounger. John sat across from him as their food cooked.

"Well, I never thought so until a few days ago. I can't deny that what you do to me doesn't make me consider it." John smiled, happy to find someone that he felt like he could talk openly to about anything. John hadn't had someone like that since, well, since Abby. And he couldn't tell her everything. The last guy he could be this honest with had been Chase.

"Do you think I'm gay?" Brandon asked.

"No." John laughed at the thought. Brandon smiled.

"You aren't the first guy I was with, John. Listen, a few years ago Veronica and I were going through a very rough time and we decided to try new things. We'd gotten so caught up in our daily existence that we were no longer growing as people. We tried all kinds of things. I joined a bowling league. She began writing and in our search for something new, we opened ourselves up to new sexual experiences. Veronica slept with a few women, a few men, just trying to find a newness to get the spark back. That was the first time I slept with men. We did so with each other in the room, under the pretense that it was experimental. We tried all sorts of wild things. I discovered that I liked having sex with men. I'm no gayer now than I was years ago but I am honest with what feels good. I'm also secure enough with who I am to admit that sometimes I need a bit more than a woman. Sometimes I need the strength and the feeling that I can only get from men." He paused, seeing John hanging on to every word, occasionally nodding in complete understanding. "What about you? How much experiencing in life have you done besides working, going to school and dating blondes?" He kidded. John smiled.

"Up until a few days ago, almost nothing." He admitted.

"What about this Abby?" Brandon asked. John looked surprised to hear her name brought up.

"What about her?"

"Have you had sex with her?" he asked. John shook his head adamantly.

"No, I don't think that would be a good idea. Nope, I don't think I've ever just had sex. I've been in love with every woman I've ever been with. I don't know how to have sex. When I share that, I've always considered it making love." He said.

"What about us? You're not in love with us, are you?" Brandon looked him directly in the eyes.

"No. You two are different. I don't love you that way. I mean, I care about you and respect you but I'm not in love with you." John said, thinking about each word.

"And Veronica?" Brandon asked. He knew he was getting honest answers.

"No. I mean she's great but I don't feel anything for her but friendship."

"So, didn't you tell me that Abby was your friend?" Brandon questioned.

"Yeah, but with Abby, well, several months ago I was in love with her. I was in love with her for over a year ever since I got, well, got stabbed. Abby was the one I could turn to. Even when she was the one who turned me in for using fentanyl, I still loved her. When I came back from Atlanta, we became very close. It was one night when we were out taking a walk after our shifts when I made a complete fool of myself. I professed my love for her, you could say. She ended up breaking up with her boyfriend thinking I wanted her to and when she told me that she did it for me, I freaked. I told her she was still emotionally with the guy she'd been with for a year and I ran. I ran straight into the arms of another doctor who had just moved back to Chicago that had worked at County when I started. I'd always had a crush on Susan and even tried to kiss her once but she was way out of my league. Well, I began dating her and we even had some fun times but I ran to her because I was scared of Abby. Over the past several months, Abby and I have gotten our friendship back and I think we've moved beyond. We're both single but we need our friendship right now. We're best friends." He smiled.

"So, if you are that close, then why don't you suggest the two of you have sex? Sex is different than making love, John. What we've done is sex. You can have sex with someone who you are emotionally bound to also. You just have to be able to see the lines and not cross them." Brandon explained. John thought for a few minutes.

"I'm afraid that would probably send me over the edge. I don't have to look at you every day so it's easier with the two of you. No, if I were going to have sex with someone, it would have to be someone outside of work." He decided.

"So, who do you know outside of work that you trust enough to reveal your most intimate self to?" Brandon asked. He could see John's mind working.

"Plane fare isn't too much between here and Chicago, right?" He cocked his head and grinned. Brandon ruffled his hair as he got up to check the grill.

"John, you are welcome here any time. Neither of us was kidding when we said we'd love to lock you in the bedroom as our own private sex slave." He said. John came up behind him and placed his hands around his waist. John lovingly cupped Brandon's cock. Brandon smiled. "We have plenty of time for that later, John. Right now you need food."

"I know it." John kissed the back of his shoulder. "I just needed the contact."

"You didn't get hugged much as a child, did you?" Brandon teased. "Go get me a plate. These are done."
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