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"Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes, Part 23"
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts

Both Dave and Luka watched as John left the room, and then they faced
each other with nothing left as a buffer between them. Two men with a
similar interest -- seeing John Carter happy, and each thinking that
they were the person who could *make* that happen.

They were silent for a while...but soon the lack of sound was
deafening. And Luka was the first to break the quiet.

"So...it was not intentional...you not calling. And all of this was a
misunderstanding. If...do...do you really love John? I mean...I
guess what I don't understand is why you didn't try to get in contact
with John as soon as you left the ship.."

If it had been Luka, he would have been on the first plane home, and
he would have immediately sought John out once he arrived back in
Chicago, but it was obvious that he and Dave were very different people.

Dave shook his head. "No. I didn't mean for *any* of this to happen.
All I wanted was to surprise John by bein' here, and instead…I was
the one surprised. Man, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for draggin' you into
this again...for gettin' you..."

"Dave, I didn't get involved with anything I didn't want a part in.
John was very up front about his feelings for you. I was just hoping
in time that I could take a bigger piece of his heart. But, Dave, the
man is *in love* with you...he always has been. I'll always be second
choice..." Luka lifted his eyes, and looked towards the bathroom door.
"...even if John doesn't want to admit that. I know. I know that
he'll always wonder what could have been with you if he chooses me.
While with you...with you, Dave...damn it...I hate it. I hate the
fact that he loves you more. But he does. He'll never wonder about
me, because he'll have *everything* if he has you."

More and more Luka was realizing what *he* was going to have to do,
but he still hoped that John would be able to be the one who came to
that decision on his own.

John finally dried his eyes, then got up and splashed cold water on
his face, not that it did much good. He still looked as if he had
been crying. Turning away from the mirror, he quickly stripped to his
underwear, and he briefly thought about going back into his room
naked, to seduce them both -- to keep them both.

But John went on and pulled on the Dockers he had grabbed, then
quickly buttoned up the shirt, not caring that they didn't go
together. It was more important to get back out there with them.

Still buttoning his sleeves, John stepped back into his room. Luka
and Dave weren't smiling at each other, but they weren't looking as
angry as they had before, either, so that was a good sign. John
leaned against the door frame. "So, any revelations while I was gone?"

Dave was still dumbfounded over how...easy Luka seemed to be giving
up. Almost as if Luka somehow *knew* that this day would come, and he
would have to say goodbye again. So when John walked back into the
room, Dave didn't say a word, and instead focused his eyes on Luka.
This was Luka's tale to tell now.

"John, sit down," Luka said, focusing his eyes up to the man he loved.
Luka was fully aware that this might be the last time he talked to
John in such an intimate setting. He waited until John was seated,
and then continued. "Because...because you've insisted that this
should be the three of us...I'm going to talk with Dave in the room.
Because you're right -- it is about the three of us. Dave and I have
something very special in common, and that's you. And we...we both
know how lucky we are to have had you in our lives...but.."

Luka looked at Dave and then back to John again. "But John, you have
to make a decision.. I think that Dave and I both agree on that...you
have to tell us...who do you want to be with...?" Luka wanted to give
John the chance first. And if John was still not able to make the
decision, Luka would make it for him.

John had sat down on the bed at Luka's urging, suddenly feeling as if
he didn't want to hear what Luka had to say. And as Luka spoke, John
knew he didn't want to hear those words. He should have walked out of
the bathroom naked, he thought. Seduced them both right there and
then and made it impossible for either one of them to even think about
leaving him.

John looked from Luka to Dave. "And you agree with this? You want me
to choose between the two of you?"

Dave nodded. "You have to choose, John. You *have* to. We both love
you, and I promise you that we won't hate you when you choose one of
us over the other. But *you* have to make a decision here."

"Why?" John blurted out as he got to his feet and began to pace the
room, not trusting himself to look at either one of them. If he did
then he might cry again, and he didn't want to show any weakness to
Luka and Dave. "Why do I have to be the bad guy here? I love both of
you and I don't really see why we can't find a way to make this work."

"You're not bein' the bad guy," Dave blurted out, looking up to John,
rather surprised at the outburst, his mind instantly remembering the
outbursts of emotion John had shown back on the ship -- and his
breakdown. "Neither Luka and I wanna share you! And it's really
selfish of you to ask us that! It *can't* work for the three of us,
because we both love you too much..."

What the Hell? John had gone from being someone who never cheated,
and who only was committed to one person, to wanting to have a three
person relationship?

Luka, as well, was not exactly happy with this, though he did not
emote it as passionately as Dave did. "No, John. Dave is right. It
can't be any other way."

"That's a bit hypocritical of you, isn't it, Luka?" John snapped.
"You didn't hesitate to sit back and watch while I fucked Randi, did
you? And, according to you, you loved me even then. If you'd let
someone I don't love fuck me while you watched, then why can't you let
me be with you *and* Dave? I'm not asking for some big three way orgy
here, I'd never ask either one of you to watch while I was with the
other one." Although, as John said that, he could see where sharing
the same bed with Luka and Dave would be the easiest solution. He
could sleep in the middle, with them on either side. But, before he
could even think of suggesting that solution to the two men, John had
to get them away from the idea that *he* had to chose between them.

"I loved you even then, but it was different. Damn it, John...you
simply don't understand. What you are doing is not fair to any of us.
How...how could you ask us to even entertain that kind of an idea?"

Luka was absolutely flabbergasted. And one look at Dave...Dave just
looked hurt. Hurt that John seemed to be having so much trouble
coming to the decision that Luka knew in his heart was the right one.
And uncomfortable. Luka wasn't sure Dave even knew about the
incident with Randi.

"I *can't* share you, John," Dave finally said, when he found his
voice once more. "If you want Luka so fucking badly...then have him.
But I'm *not* sharing you."

Dave stood from the couch, and looked as if he was about to storm out
of the room when Luka stopped him. "No, Dave. You stay. John...I'm
done. I'm done here. You can't make the decision...so I'm making it
for you. The two of us are finished because you will never love me in
the same way that you love Dave. That much is a fact. And I told you
once that I never wanted to be your second choice. But I know in my
heart that I am. I'm begging you, John, please...let me go..,so I can
begin to find some way to get over you..."

"Since when did either one of you become psychic? How can you stand
there and tell me what I'm feeling?" John looked from Luka to Dave
and then back again. "I guess that you love me the same way you loved
your wife, right? Because if you don't, then doesn't that mean that
I'd always be second in *your* heart? As for you," John glared over
at Dave. "You can't share me? As if I'm some piece of property that
you have control over? A toy that you've taken to school and now
won't let the other kids even look at, let alone touch? You guys want
a decision, fine. I'll give you a decision. Fuck you. Fuck both of
you. I choose neither one of you."

With that, John stormed out of his room, not quite sure where he was
going. All he knew was that he had to get away from Dave and Luka
before his resolve wavered. How dare they decide between themselves
what was going to make him happy? It was more than obvious that Luka
had planned to leave him in the first place, so why the bullshit about
making him choose? And, if Luka loved him as much as he had said,
then how, *how* was it that he could just walk away?

Dave stayed in his spot for only a moment before storming out of the
room after John, not caring whether Luka was following him or not.
Luckily, John hadn't gotten very far. Dave was angry. Very angry.
How *dare* John do this? How dare he...?

"What the fuck is your problem, John? You ask me how I say I don't
wanna share you? You think maybe it's because I fuckin' LOVE you?
And when you love someone this much...you don't wanna open your
bedroom to just anyone. Fuck. I thought that you loved me just as
much. But I was wrong. I was fuckin' WRONG if you were so afraid of
hurting *him* and so selfish that someone might reject *you* that I
get trampled on in the process. Damn it. I'm done. I'm done bein'
hurt by you. You don't want either of us? You wanna be alone?
Congratulations, John Carter. You're gonna get exactly what you asked

Tears sprung to his eyes, even though he didn't want them to. He knew
he was going to have to quit this place -- he didn't have a choice
now. No way could he live on the same property as John Carter. Not
when he was acting like this. And it didn't much matter where Dave
went this time. Only in one sense where he stood was quite clear --
Dave Malucci would never, ever again be hurt by John Carter. And Dave
Malucci would never, ever again love someone. He was done.

"I never once said I didn't want either one of you. Never." John
spat back. "It's the two of you who keep telling me that it's wrong
for me to love each of you. And I'm not afraid of hurting either one
of you. Being afraid of hurting someone and not wanting to hurt
someone are two different things, Dave, and you should know that. I
don't want to hurt you, either, but you don't seem to want to grasp
that fact." John didn't care if the entire household heard them
arguing, not any more. "And for your information, I don't want to be
alone. I've never wanted to be alone...all I ever wanted was to be
loved, truly loved, by someone who I loved. And now, when I get that,
you and Luka are telling me that I can't have it, that I *have* to
hurt one of you and make the other one happy." John shook his head.

"Well, I can't do that. I won't do that, and I refuse to allow you to
make me the bad guy in all of this. *I'm* not the one who sneaked
back to Chicago without a word to anyone, just because my pride was
hurt over being fired, was I?"

"I'm not *trying* to make you the bad guy, John...but damn it, for
someone who loves us so much...you're making it really hard for us to
believe. Okay. I can only speak for myself here, but God...the
thought of you being in the arms of another man...it makes me *sick*.
It makes me physically sick, and what upsets me more than anything
else is you can't see that. You can't see how that is killing
me...instead, you'd rather dig in and bring up how I sneaked back
here. Fine...have it your way...it's my fucking fault. It's all *my*
fault that I come back to surprise you and find you in the arms of
another man...it's all my fault...it's..."

Dave's stomach did a somersault, and Dave couldn't speak anymore. He
ran back into John's bedroom, flying past Luka into the bathroom,
barely managing to shut the door behind him before throwing up his
lunch into the toilet.

John followed Dave part of the way, stopping in the doorway of his
bedroom. As he heard the sounds of Dave being sick in the bathroom,
John looked at Luka. "And do you feel the same way? Do I make you
sick, too?" He coldly asked. Somehow, John had known it would all
come back to that -- to him having been with another man -- Luka --
while he and Dave were broken up. He had found comfort with someone
else while Dave had remained celibate and now Dave was punishing him
for it. Look at how easily Dave had found it to accuse him of jumping
into Luka's bed the second they left the ship.

Luka had been unable to keep from hearing the argument that was going
on in the hallway. And as John came back in and questioned him, Luka
couldn't believe that he had managed to fall for a man like this in
the first place - someone who was obviously so...ungrounded in reality.

"Did you listen to *anything* that Dave said? Because I did. You
didn't make him sick. Your words made him sick. He only wants to be
with you. I only want to be with you. And single-handedly, you're
managing to ruin what you had with both of us, because you can't
understand why we don't want to share you. No...No I'm not sick,
John. I'm saddened. Saddened that you are so worried about being
rejected, that you're not stopping to see what you are doing to the
people around you."

"So what you're saying is that I'm supposed to jump for joy and throw
myself down at his feet because he doesn't want to share me? Or do
the same to you? Be so overjoyed that you want me so much that you
feel you can decide between the two of you what will make me happy?
No one ever once thought about asking me how I felt. It was just an
automatic order for me to choose in a heartbeat. Well, I'm sorry that
I can't turn my emotions on and off so quickly as to be able to choose
one of you over the other in the blink of an eye, Luka. The two of
you mean too much to me for me to be able to do that, but that's not
something either one of you want to admit it, is it? You find it so
easy to put yourself down, telling me how I feel about you and
gallantly stepping aside. Meanwhile, Dave's alternating between
blaming himself for not calling me and blaming me for 'moving on' when
I did think he had dumped me."

John turned around to leave, but then stopped and looked back at Luka.
"Before either one of you were my lovers, you were my friends, and by
making me choose one of you over the other as a lover, you're also
making me choose one of you over the other as a friend. One of you is
going to walk out of my life forever, and neither one of you gives a
damn about how that makes me feel." John hurried on down the hallway
to the back stairs, needing more than ever to get away from the two of
them. God, he loved them so much that it hurt and yet they doubted
his feelings. One thing that he was realizing from all of this --
from having Luka's love and then being faced with losing it, was that
John saw he cared more about Luka than he had ever realized. And it
just wasn't fair that he had to lose either Dave or Luka, as a lover
or a friend.

Once outside, John just kept walking, knowing he needed to burn off
the anger, pain, hurt and disappointment.

After John left, Luka stood there, watching out of the open door for a
while as he tried to gather his thoughts. He supposed that John did
have a valid point...maybe it wasn't fair to put all the pressure on
him. Maybe it wasn't fair to make him choose so soon after learning
that he had to make a choice.

The retching sounds had long stopped from the bathroom, and Luka's
thoughts turned towards Dave. Had Dave heard what John said? And if
so, how much had he heard?

It had been a while, a good twenty minutes had passed since John had
disappeared, and now there were no sounds at all coming from inside
the bathroom. And Luka began to worry that maybe everything was not
okay with Dave. Luka might have been jealous of the man.. but he
didn't want Dave to come to any harm.

Hesitating for only a moment, he knocked on the door. "Dave?"

Dave was no longer sick, but was sitting against the wall of the
bathroom, tears streaming down his face as he tried to get himself
under control before going out to face the music, so to speak. He had
heard the final argument...most of it anyway. And since he didn't
hear John's voice anymore, he assumed that the man had finally stormed

So be it. It wasn't like Dave hadn't tried to lay it on the line for

Dave heard Luka's voice and jerked his head up towards the door. What
did *he* want? "What?"

"Are you okay, Dave? You've been in there for a while. I just want
to make sure..."

Luka? Caring? Dave wasn't sure he believed it. Luka only seemed to
care about John...but then again -- Luka hadn't exactly gone running
after John either. Maybe he was genuinely concerned...or maybe he
just wanted to get in and use the bathroom?

Well, whatever his agenda, Dave supposed he owed the guy an answer.
"It's open. Enter if you must."

Luka carefully opened the door. He stood in the doorway, looking down
on the broken man before him. Sighing, he entered the room. "John
took off...somewhere. I don't know where, and I don't think he wants
either of us to follow him. Maybe...maybe this was a mistake...maybe
we pushed him...?"

Dave shook his head. "It doesn't fucking matter anymore, okay?
You've won. You've won. If John wanted to be with me, he'd be with
me, he wouldn't be jerkin' me around like this."

Luka moved to sit on the floor, leaning his back against the tub so he
was sitting perpendicular to Dave. "I'm not sure that's the case. I
think...maybe he just...I don't know...I'm hurting here too, you know.
This isn't easy for any of us..."

None of it was easy. None of it at all. Somehow they had to try to
find a way to get through to John -- both Luka and Dave knew this.
Even if it meant that they had to try to get along to do so. For
John's sake.

Millicent Carter's mouth was set in a tight line as she sent her
electric wheelchair down the upstairs hallway. She had heard a good
portion of the argument that had gone on between John, Luka and Dr.
Malucci, although, under the circumstances, Millicent felt she could
most likely call him Dave. None of it was good, and her heart felt
heavy for all three of them, but it was breaking for her grandson.

She wheeled through the open door of his room, but no one was in
sight, which momentarily irritated her. How could she talk to them if
they weren't there? Then she heard a noise from the open door of the
bathroom, but modesty kept her from heading in that direction. Perhaps
the three of them had found a way to make up that involved the shower?
If so, then she didn't want to intrude, but she still wanted to talk
with the three of them.

"John? Luka? Dave? Are you in here?" she called out, thinking a
quick answer would mean that they were all fully clothed.

Dave heard the voice of his new employer, and pulled his knees to his
chest. He leaned his head down on top of them and shut his eyes.
Well...if he was going to quit his job it really didn't matter,
because when all was said and done, it was going to be a miracle that
Dave wasn't fired. Three times a charm. Three times in one year.
Dave was a three time loser.

Luka's eyes shifted from Dave to the open door of the bathroom.
"We're in here, Mrs. Carter," he finally said, sighing as he did so.
Obviously, the woman didn't know that John had run out on them. It
was only a matter of time, Luka thought, before she sent him packing.
He had promised that he would never hurt John. And now look at them.

"Are the three of you decent?" she asked as she tried to gauge the
tone of Luka's voice. Resignation after an argument was sometimes a
good sign, as it showed that the person was open to suggestions on how
to make things better.

Luka almost laughed, but didn't. Why wouldn't they be decent? "It's
only myself and Dave...but yes, we're decent," he said, as he looked
over to Dave. Luka actually found himself feeling sorry for the man.
Dave looked to be in a lot of pain.

Millicent frowned at hearing it was just the two men. Where had John
gone off to? She motored a little further into the room, then
stopped. "I'm afraid my wheelchair can't make it over to the
bathroom," she informed Luka. She wished she could see him, and Dave,
to see how upset they were. They had all sounded angry enough earlier.

"Okay, Mrs. Carter. We'll be right out..." Luka cast Dave another
glance, and then got up, standing before the younger man. "Come on.
Let me help you u..."

"Leave me alone."

"Dave...you need to talk to Mrs. Carter. She has to understand what
happened. It's not fair to *her* for you to sit in here and brood.
Dave, wouldn't it be better to try to work together while this is
going on?"

Dave was not a 'work together' kind of guy -- especially in matters
where his personal life were concerned. But maybe, just maybe, Luka
had a point. And casting his bloodshot eyes upwards, he nodded a very
small nod.

"What the Hell else do I have to lose at this point?" he muttered, as
he outstretched his hand towards Luka.

A few moments later, the two of them stumbled out to the bedroom.
Dave immediately headed over towards the couch, and slumped down on
it. His tie, which had been so carefully tied and neat round his
neck, was now haphazardly loosened. He had lost his suit jacket
somewhere along the way, and the top three buttons of his shirt were
undone. Dave's eyes were downcast as he sat, embarrassed to even try
to make eye contact with Mrs. Carter.

Luka was only barely better, but he was more skilled at keeping his
emotions at bay. He had done it for years -- shut off his emotions
while he let his practical side take over -- and it allowed him to be
able to function when all he really wanted to do was curl up in a ball
and cry.

Millicent carefully looked over the two men, seeing that the argument
had greatly reduced them. Well, she was sure that Dave would be
worried about his position, so she sought to alleviate that concern
first. "I called the agency and informed them that you will be
starting here tomorrow. I'm sure that Dr. Meyers will want to meet
with you soon to discuss my health issues, but I'm not sure when he'll
be contacting you. There is a telephone in the guest cottage, with
its own number, so you won't have to share a line with anyone here.
When you're ready, I can take you out there to have a look at the
house. It's small, but quite nice."

Dave finally brought his eyes up, genuinely surprised at Mrs. Carter's
words. "You...you mean...you still want me to be your doctor?"

He was sure that Mrs. Carter had heard at least part of their
arguments...Dave hadn't exactly kept his voice at bay. "I...I'd still
very much like to work here... "

Dave knew that he had said that he would have to quit, but he almost
felt like he had something to prove. He didn't want to be fired
again. He wanted to prove to everyone around him that he had the
ability to keep a job. And the fact that Mrs. Carter still wanted to
hire him meant a lot.

"Of course I still want you to be my doctor. Nothing has changed my
mind about that. And, Luka," she turned her gaze to the older man.
"You're certainly welcome to stay here as long as you like. Lord
knows that if people left this house every time they had an argument,
then this place would be completely empty," she said with a smile.

"Thank you, Mrs. Carter," Luka said sincerely, returning the woman's
gaze. "I really do appreciate this."

Luka wasn't quite sure if he was going to take her up on it yet -- a
lot depended on what happened when - if -- John came back.

"Mrs. Carter, I'm sorry about everything that's happened with John,"
Luka started, knowing that Dave was not going to be the one to start
this conversation. "I guess things...got out of hand, and John got
angry and left. Hopefully...hopefully he'll come back soon."

"He likes to take long walks when he's upset. Perhaps if he had been
able to do that back when he was recovering from being stabbed he
might have avoided becoming addicted, but that's neither here nor
there now, is it." She shrugged slightly. "John tends to feel things
deeply, and, as such, tends to react strongly when he's hurt. It will
pass. The question that the two of you need to address is what you'll
do when he returns to the house. Are you planning on forcing him to
make a life altering decision immediately, as you've already done, and
with no success, or are the two of you interested in finding another
way to solve this particular 'problem'?" she asked them, willing to
give them her opinion of things, should they wish to hear it.

"I can only speak for myself, Mrs. Carter," Luka said, casting a quick
glance over to Dave. "But I think that I will back away for now, give
John the space he is obviously looking for. I guess my jealousy got
the best of me..."

"Yeah, yeah...at this point...as long as John's no longer upset...I'll
do anything I can to try to make things right again," Dave commented.

Dave was in so much pain, it was almost blinding. And if Dave had
what *he* wanted, John would have kicked Luka to the curb, and stay
with Dave, as it should have been. But things were obviously more
complicated then that, and Dave had to accept that no matter how much
he didn't like it. Once more Dave found himself fighting the almost
overwhelming urge to flee. But he knew that he couldn't do that. Not
this time. He had something to prove. And he also had something to
fight for. Despite his words to John that he was 'done', he still
loved and wanted the man.

Millicent nodded as a small smile formed on her lips. "Are either one
of you familiar with horses in any way?"

Dave shook his head. "Not unless you mean the horses that pull the
carriages in Central Park. Saw them plenty of time."

Luka, at the same time was nodding. "Yes, I used to ride horses when I
was younger on my grandfather's farm in Croatia," Luka commented,
trying to figure out what the woman's point was.

"When I was younger, I had a horse bought for me as a birthday
present. He was a rather spectacular specimen, with a glossy coat and
intelligent eyes. He was also quite determined that no one would ever
ride him, nor put a saddle on him. My father was going to sell him
since he thought the horse was basically worthless and he didn't want
to pay money feeding an animal that only wanted to run free in the
pasture. At the time, we had an elderly man working for us, and he
said that he could get the horse to take a saddle, and me. My father
gave in, giving him three months in which to work this 'miracle', and
I tagged along, wanting to see how Johnson was going to manage this.
He told me that his first order of business was to get the stallion's
attention because whenever someone tried to approach the horse, he'd
run away. I was surprised when I saw Johnson walk into the corral
where Blueboy was, and sit down on the ground, on the far side, away
from the horse. Well, Johnson stayed there for hours, just sitting
and talking with me. Sometime he'd talk to Blueboy, but he never
looked at him. And when Johnson finally got to his feet, I saw that
Blueboy *had* come nearer to him. It took a lot of hours, but
eventually Blueboy came right up to Johnson, nuzzling him. And it went
on from there. Johnson would talk gently to the horse, and he never
forced him to do anything. He would always wait for Blueboy to come
to him, he never went after that horse, and when those three months
ended, I was riding him," Millicent said, her mind reflecting fondly
on that time and all she had learned from Johnson...and Blueboy.

The men sat and listened to Millicent. She had seemed to live such a
full life, and to hear her tell a story of her youth like this seemed
to be a rather special glance into it. Luka, right away, understood
the meaning. Dave understood it too, but on a different level. Not
enough to be able to say much about it because Dave was still trying
to process what the right thing to do regarding John was.

But Luka nodded. "So...I do understand what you're saying, Mrs.
Carter, that sometimes John can be as stubborn as a horse...and that
we have to give him the space he needs to figure out the decision on
his own...and not pressure him anymore."

"That's basically it. If you don't pressure him, then he will come
around. I was trying that myself, a few years ago. John and I, well,
all of us, had had a falling out over his cousin Chase. Has he
mentioned Chase to either one of you?"

Both men shook their head. Dave had remembered John talking about his
sister, but never a cousin. And Luka wasn't sure they ever really
discussed John's family at all.

"Chase is a year older than John, and when my husband was afraid that
John was going to stubbornly stick with medicine instead of joining
the family business, he pressured Chase into being groomed as his
heir, so to speak. Oh, J.C. never really intended to make Chase take
over, not at the beginning. He had hoped that John's competitiveness
would kick in and that he'd turn his back on being a doctor and go
into business as J.C. had always planned. But that didn't happen,
which vexed my husband to no end. For some reason, whenever J.C.
looked at John, he saw a business tycoon, and no amount of discussion
could convince him otherwise. He felt that John was merely dabbling
with medicine and using it as a way to get 'back' at him." Millicent
shook her head.

"Anyway, Chase liked his trust fund, and having money and living the
fine life, so he found it difficult to tell his grandfather no, even
though his heart wasn't in business any more than John's was. At the
time, though, even I refused to see that. It was my opinion that
family members owed the rest of the family something, and they didn't
shirk on their responsibilities." Millicent looked away from Luka and
Dave, her thoughts going back to the speech she had given John on that
very subject after Chase's overdose.

"Chase felt trapped in the business world. He was an artist and a
photographer. Those pictures over there," Millicent pointed to the
far wall, "were taken by him. Chase ended up turning to drugs for
some relief and John caught on to him. Chase begged him to keep quiet
about it, claiming it was just recreational use, and John believed
him. Later though, Chase came to him, admitting he was an addict and
asking for John's help to detox. John, of course, wanted Chase to go
to a clinic, and when Chase refused, John dropped the subject. In the
end, though, John ended up helping Chase get off of heroin. At least
he thought he had. Chase went back to his old ways and he overdosed
one evening."

Millicent closed her eyes briefly as she remembered how still Chase
had been when she had finally seen him after that time. "Chase was
brought to County General along with a few other heroin users.
Apparently they had all been trying some new strain of the drug
together. From what John told me, Chase hadn't been breathing for
quite some time by the time he was brought in. The doctor treating
Chase recognized him, and she called John into the room. John, of
course, had no intention of letting his cousin die, and eventually
they brought him back. Unfortunately, Chase's brain was damaged
because of the lack of oxygen. J.C. and I blamed John for the whole
affair, telling him that he had had no business keeping Chase's
addiction a secret from us. J.C. was particularly harsh with John
over it. Anyway, to shorten the story a bit, J.C. still wanted John
to work with him, but John kept refusing. I finally commented to him
that he seemed to have no problem spending the money earned by the
family, to which he replied that we could keep the money. And, I did.
I cut him off without notice, thinking he'd come running back,
desperate for the money. But, John never did that. I saw him once or
twice after that, mostly in connection with Chase's care at the Kenner
Institute, but that was it. Until he was stabbed, that is. I kicked
myself good and hard for that, let me tell you. It was a shame that
it took nearly losing John to make me realize that it had been wrong
of me to try to force him into doing what we wanted while completely
ignoring what it was he was born to do."

Luka and Dave had both sat silently, listening to the dynamic woman
speak about this part of John's life that neither of the men knew
about. Dave was especially interested -- he had no idea that John's
family had cut him off at one point. And for Mrs. Carter to be
sitting there admitting that she was wrong...and that she was key in
him being cut off in the first place...that was something else.

"Whoa...Mrs. Carter," Dave finally said, once the enormity of the
story had lifted off of his shoulders. "That's...something else. So
is Chase still alive now? Does John ever get to see him?"

Luka was wondering the same thing -- though John had been a couple
with Dave longer, Luka had spent more time with the man on his home
turf, and he could honestly not remember John ever mentioning this
cousin, even when they were in that class where everyone had full
disclosure a few months earlier. And if John had been visiting Chase,
it would have been news to Luka.

"Chase is alive, and doing much better. He's come a long way since
the overdose, and a good portion of his progress is due to John. At
first, John stayed with him all the time. They brought a bed into
Chase's room and John would sleep over there, and work with Chase.
Eventually though, his internship had to take priority, and he had to
cut back on those visits, but he never cut back on being Chase's
advocate, insisting that Chase stay at the Institute even when his
doctors felt they had done all they could for him. John quit going to
see him after the stabbing incident, although now he goes at least
once a week. I'm not sure what made John start going back, but I'm
glad for the both of them that he did," Millicent said.

Luka nodded slightly, thinking of all of this in his head. It was a
lot to absorb, but Luka was trying to. "It's good that he sees
Chase," the older man finally said. "Family is very very important."

Dave's head turned at this. Yes...family was important. Especially
if you didn't have that much family that cared to begin with. And it
seemed that as different as his and John's backgrounds were, in a lot
of ways they were a lot more alike than Dave originally thought they
were. Maybe money *wasn't* everything?

"Yeah...yeah," Dave said, after a moment's silence. "I'm glad that
John's seein' Chase now. Maybe one day, I'll get to..."

Dave's words trailed off. He was going to say that he had hoped that
he would get to meet someone who was obviously such an important part
of John's life, but at that point, it wasn't even a certainty that
Dave himself would even be in John's life anymore.

"Yes, family is very important. I'm glad that my husband learned that
before he died. He and John had been at odds for quite a long while
before the stabbing. Still, we did our best to try to get John to
leave that hospital, but he insisted on staying. As you've both seen,
he's very stubborn when he wants to be." Millicent informed them.
"And I'm sure you'll get to meet Chase. His therapist brings him out
here at least once a month. He hasn't been here though since I broke
my hip, but I'm sure the two of us could have wheelchair races." She
grinned at Dave. "John tells me that when it's slow at work, people
often play wheelchair hockey. One of you will have to teach me the game."

Dave's face broke into a grin at that. "Yeah, we used to get into
Wheelchair Hockey a lot," he commented, thinking back to his days at
County General. "John was pretty good at pushing himself around in
one of those chairs...but usually I was able to get the best of him.
Luka didn't really play, though. Heh. I remember trying to get him
to play on the softball team one time...he didn't realize that he had
hit a foul ball instead of a home run, but he ran around the bases
anyway.. slidin' into every plate. It was actually quite funny."
Dave grinned broadly over to the other doctor, who was sitting
red-faced on one of the chairs on the other side of the room.

"Hey, I didn't know any better," Luka admitted with a shrug. "How was
I supposed to know there was such a thing as a...what do you call it?
Foul line?" But Luka was grinning slightly as well. This was *much*
better than fighting.

Millicent laughed along with them. "Maybe one day you'll get a chance
to redeem yourself, Luka. Now, how about that tour of the guest cottage?"

Dave quickly nodded, and then looked over to Luka. "Uh...if you want,
I guess you can come along," Dave said, looking at the other man. At
least, he was no longer wanting to throw Luka through a wall or
anything, and by the looks of it, Luka was feeling sort of the same
about Dave, but still, Luka shook his head.

"I'm sure I'll be able to tour it some other time. Why don't you go
ahead, and I'll see you later," Luka said, getting up from his chair.
"I think I'd like to lay down for a little while."

"Shall we awaken you for dinner?" Millicent asked Luka, thinking it
would be good if he ate a decent meal, especially since he was tired.

Luka nodded. "Please," he said, as he moved towards the door. Luka
was worried about John, but he knew that Mrs. Carter was right -- to
push him into talking now would drive John even further away, maybe
even cause a repeat of his breakdown on the cruise. And with that
thought on his mind, Luka headed back to his own bedroom to try to
catch some sleep.

To be continued
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