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After drying off, John slipped a pair of sweat pants on and headed down to the kitchen. He'd had plenty of nights where he needed to stay alert working at the hospital so he would be able to do this. He fixed a pot of strong coffee and sat down to glance over the paper. He looked at his watch. It was only ten in Chicago. He wondered what Abby was doing right now, wanting to share with someone what he'd been through during the past several days. After his coffee was done, he poured a cup, went to the sitting area, curled up on the couch with a comforter, and dialed her number.

"Hello?" Abby said on the fourth ring.

"Hey. It's me, John." He said, his voice sounding very relaxed.

"You home yet?" She asked, lying in bed half asleep.

"Not yet. I'm on medical watch for another eighteen hours and then they'll let me get on a plane. At this point, I think the altitude would make it explode." He laughed.

"Word has it you're a hero." She said, a smile in her voice. John chuckled.

"I wouldn't use those words. My attempt at being a hero got me one hell of a headache." He groaned, touching the lump on his forehead. Abby snickered.

"Everyone at County is talking about you. Even Romano was speechless when we watched the story on the news." She informed.

"What? No snide comment, no sarcastic remark?" He asked.

"Not a one. I got it on tape when you get back. So, how's your trip going?" She asked, hearing how relaxed John sounded. John sighed.

"I'm sitting on the couch of a house that would put Gamma's house to shame." He sighed.

"So, it's not a former patient?" She asked, having wondered for days who John was with. John laughed.

"No. Actually, I'm with a friend from Atlanta and his wife. They are, well, treating me very well. Turns out he thinks I saved his life or something. Something about his realizing his own pain watching what I was going through or something like that." He said. Abby giggled.

"Healing people with just your presence again, are you Dr. Carter?" She snickered.

"What can I say? Just call me Saint John. I will say, though that they have helped me heal more than they know." He admitted.

"Should I assume that you've been doing some physical therapy?" Abby asked.

"Physical, mental, emotional, name it. I've probably done it in the past few days." He smiled. He could hear her hesitate on the other line.

"Did you.. well, you know?" She finally asked. John chuckled.

"If you ever say anything to anyone, I will kill you." He threatened, smiling. Abby laughed in surprise.

"So, is this on the DL?" She giggled. John joined her.

"Uh, well, no. And I'm not gay." He said, unable to admit this to anyone but Abby. He knew she would understand.

"Yosh will be so disappointed. I hear he's had a thing for you for a while." She teased. "So, John Carter found out there's more out there than blondes, huh?" She laughed, having known this about John for years yet happy that he finally found it about himself.

"Well, Veronica is a blonde, a true blonde. Abby, I have done things that I had only read about, you know? Things I didn't think were even physically possible yet I am here to tell you, exhausted and dehydrated that they are possible and actually a hell of a lot of fun." He smiled.

"Well, it's about time you got fucked silly!" They both laughed. Abby took more of a somber tone. "You doing ok emotionally?" She asked, knowing how fast and hard John could fall. He snickered.

"This whole experience has been purely physical and about trust. Brandon is someone who I got really close to while in Atlanta and we've been doing a lot of talking. You'll never believe what his wife does." He smiled.

"What?" She took the bait.

"Sexual therapist." He said. He could hear Abby laughing.

"Well, why hadn't we thought of that?" She laughed. "You have got to give me the details when you get back, though. So, how many times?" She asked, her curiosity getting the best of her.

"How many times what?" He asked, unsure of what she meant. As soon as he realized what she was asking, he blushed. "Oh, that. Abby, to tell you the truth, I lost count the first day. I am sitting here right now, drinking coffee and Gatorade, trying to replenish my body. You know, I never thought a threesome would be anything more than a twosome and an observer but they proved that wrong right away."

"Oh, now you're getting me turned on." Abby complained. "Sure, I call you and I put you out of your misery. You call me and now I'll spend the whole night lying awake. Thanks a lot." She teased.

"Well, maybe when they come to visit, we can make it a foursome." He teased. Abby laughed. "So, how's the rumor mill?"

"Usual. Everyone is sure you're having wild sex for the amount you brought in. They did redo the lounge, though. We actually have a decent couch, and a coffee pot that doesn't spill the grinds into every pot. Not quite worth a quarter of a million dollars but hey, at least they followed through." She said.

"New lockers?" he asked.

"Nope. Same old crappy ones. So, when are you really coming back?"

"I was supposed to come home tomorrow but since I have this knot on my head, Weaver gave me an extra day off. I'm on next at seven Friday night. I'll probably stay here until the last minute. The later I can leave this place, the better. I think Weaver has me on for a double." He said.

"I start back up on nights then, too. We'll have to get away sometime to talk. How bad is your head?" She asked.

"I hit the propeller when the boat exploded. I was sure I tore it open but I guess my head is pretty strong. I have one hell of a goose egg on my forehead and thirty-two stitches. I thought I would pass out it hurt so badly but everything turned out ok. The guy I had gone back in after made it." He explained.

"Concussion?" She asked, understanding why he was calling her. He was trying to stay awake.

"Yeah. Hurts when I move too quickly and the nausea when I stand is bad but I should be fine by tomorrow. I'd love to just take some . . ." He stopped, realizing what he was about to say. He was thinking about painkillers for the first time in a long time. He then realized that was one of the reasons he'd chosen Abby to call at this hour. He was in a house with medications. He knew it because he'd seen them the first time he'd been alone in the bathroom. Had his subconscious sprung into action without him even realizing it? Had he been tempted to take pills again and not realized it?

"They didn't give you any narcotics at the hospital, did they?" Abby asked, feeling out the silence she heard on the other end.

"No." John said, silently thinking.

"So, rumor has it that Dave may be coming back."

"Really? What are they saying?" He asked. Abby had needed to change the subject, to get his mind off the pills as quickly as she could and it looked like it worked.

Abby kept him on the phone for three hours, talking about everything and everyone until John told her that Brandon was awake again. She made some kind of rude sexual joke and asked Carter to put Brandon on the phone.

"Brandon? My friend Abby wants to talk to you." John said as Brandon brought his coffee into the sitting room with John.

"Why?" Brandon asked, taking the phone from John's outstretched hand. John shrugged, smiling sleepily. "Hello?' Brandon hesitated.

"Hi, Brandon. My name is Abby and I'm John's friend." She explained feeling better knowing someone was awake with John who would understand. She was past the point of exhaustion and had to keep catching herself from falling asleep on him.

"Yes, John told me who you were." Brandon said, watching John close his eyes.

"Good. I don't know if he also told you but I'm also his sponsor. We've been on the phone for a few hours now and he seems ok but he was talking about taking some painkillers for his head. He said it hurts pretty badly. You don't have any narcotics in the house, do you? I don't think he'll take anything but it's been a long time and I know it crossed his mind earlier. How's his back? He told me a little bit of what you guys have been doing without details and you need to know he still has trouble with it. Don't let him exert his back too much if the temptation is already there. He said he knew you from Atlanta so I hope you understand. I'm just worried about him." She rambled on, barely taking a breath between thoughts. Brandon laughed quietly, touched by the concern he could hear in her voice. Brandon had gotten up and walked out of the room, seeing that John seemed perfectly comfortable with his talking to Abby.

"Abby, he's fine. He's very tired but I'll figure out a way to keep him awake and diverted, all right?" He said quietly, hoping John didn’t hear him. He could hear Abby sigh with relief.

"Ok. Good. He sounds very happy." She said, feeling that John was safe. "He means a lot to a lot of people here in Chicago." She said. Brandon smiled.

"He's touched us, too. Good night, Abby. He's in good hands." Brandon hung up the phone and went back to John's side. He brushed John's hair gently.

"She's worried about me taking something, isn't she?" John smiled, looking up at Brandon with sleepy eyes. Brandon nodded.

"Yes." He said simply, sitting next to him.

"I'm ok. I won't deny it didn't pass through my mind but if Abby only know how often it went through my mind, she'd be a basket case." John admitted. Brandon pulled him into his lap, laying John's head down.

"Me, too, John. Me, too." He stroked John's forehead, figuring a short nap wouldn't hurt him.


Every half hour or so, Brandon would wake John up to check on his condition. After about the tenth time, John was beginning to become quite grouchy. Each time, just as he would begin to fall asleep, Brandon was shaking him or poking his side. He was used to being awake for long periods but not tortured mercilessly like this for hours upon hours. He would get up and pace the floor for a while, then wear out again and lay down but as always, Brandon was right there, shaking him again.

Brandon was also getting a bit testy, he himself being exhausted, and sleep deprived. They'd gone through two pots of coffee and were beginning to get on each other's nerves.

"John?" Brandon called from the couch. He hadn't realized how comfortable this couch had been this morning. It was soft and seemed to be just reaching out to him, pulling him into its billowy folds. He sat up, shaking the sleep from his head. John sat curled up in one of the chairs, head buried in his cradled knees.

"John!" He yelled, startling the young doctor.

"What!" John yelled back, groaning at yet another interruption.

"Come on, get up." Brandon urged, getting himself up and pulling on John's arm. John protested.

"No." He mumbled, trying to pull away. Brandon was stronger, though, even in his weakened state.

"Come on. We're going for a walk outside." Brandon pulled John to his feet and led him toward the patio door. The sun was just coming up and Brandon could see the dew on the lawn. He opened the door and pushed John through it.

"Oh, Jeezus it's cold!" John complained, his warm bare feet hitting the cold wood of the deck.

"It'll wake you up." Brandon reassured shocked at how cold it really felt out there. He wrapped his own arms over his chest and rubbed.

"Brandon, I'm fine. The vertigo is gone, my head throbs, and I'm tired. Just let me go back in there and get some sleep, please?" John pleaded, staying away from Brandon's body. They'd worn out the need for physical comfort a few hours ago.

"You know that you need to stay awake for a few more hours, doctor." Brandon stated, emphasizing the word 'doctor'.

"Screw that, Brandon. You know it's all bullshit. I'm fine. I need sleep but my head is fine!" John paced like an angry bull.

"Do you realize how hard you hit your head, John? They didn't even want to release you but they did so because I promised I'd watch you so you'll stay awake and I don't care if you like it or not! You think I'm enjoying this? I haven't had to pull this kind of shift since my med school days. You? You're used to it." Brandon yelled back.

"I am not used to being jerked awake every few minutes by someone who I thought was my friend!" John spat.

"Thought I was your friend? It's because I am your friend that I'm doing this!" Brandon snarled. Veronica appeared in the doorway.

"My goodness." She laughed. She looked well rested, wrapped in her satin robe, her hair cascading down her shoulders. She took one look at her men and had to hold in the laugh. They both looked awful. "You two sound like children." She mocked. They both looked at her, hoping she would protect them from the other. She walked over to John, held his face, and looked at his pupils.

"Please let me sleep." He begged, putting on his best puppydog face. She forced to keep a straight face. "Well, your eyes look fine. Why don't the two of you head upstairs and get some sleep."

"But, honey?" Brandon protested. She stroked her husband's tired face as John disappeared.

"It's all right, baby. It's been close to fifteen hours since he hit his head. He needs sleep and by the sounds of it, so do you. Why don't you join him upstairs and I'll wake you both for brunch." She gently kissed his nose.

"All right. But make sure you check on him once in a while." He reluctantly agreed.


John was already curled up under the covers by the time Brandon arrived. Brandon crawled under the covers on the opposite side of the bed, both too annoyed with each other to get very close. They pulled the blankets back and forth between them for a while until they finally found a happy medium.

Brandon was dozing his way to a well-needed rest when he felt John change position again. He snuggled back down even further into his pillow, letting its cushion envelope him. Again, just as he felt his body drifting, John sighed loudly and flipped over onto his other side. Brandon rolled over also, both with their backs facing. Darkness descended once again, only to be snatched away from him by his restless bed partner.

"What the hell is your problem?" Brandon sat upright. John lay with his arm draped over his eyes.

"I can't sleep." John said dejected.

"What?" Brandon questioned, incredulous. John sat up, his face wide-awake.

"I can't sleep. This happens to me all the time. I force myself to stay awake for so long that when I get to finally sleep, I can't." He shrugged.

"I thought doctors could sleep at the drop of a pin when they needed to." Brandon said, feeling sorry for the sad look in John's eyes. He could tell that John was now fully conscious.

"Sure, when I'm at the hospital. It's more from the adrenaline deprivation than anything else. You know. The highs are really high and the lows totally suck. Go on to sleep. I know you're tired." John got up and shuffled to the bathroom.

Brandon wanted to go after him, to help him get to sleep but he just didn't have the strength. He'd fully intended on telling John to crawl back into bed when he came out but he didn't get the chance. Within seconds, Dr. Montgomery was sound asleep.
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