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"Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes, Part 26"
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts

As John showered, his thoughts were jumbled and trying to run in a
thousand different directions. To begin with, he felt guilty.
Incredibly guilty. Guilty about cheating on Dave, even though it was
done unwittingly, guilty about cheating on Luka, although the promises
he made to Luka were based on erroneous information. He sighed,
stepping under the hot water to rinse. Why hadn't Dave shown up a day
earlier, or, more importantly, why hadn't John himself been able to
put off the needs and desires of his body another day or week? Hell,
he had gone for long periods of time without having sex, so why,
suddenly, had it become so important for him to be with Luka? Another
week or so of celibacy wouldn't have hurt him, or made Luka feel
unloved. The man had been patiently waiting.

And now, now John had the man upset, hurt and confused. He also had
Dave feeling those things. And, truth be told, John felt all of that
as well. Life would have been simpler if John had been the type of
person who could have sex with a person he didn't care about. Then he
could have bedded Susan back when they were dating, or he could have
gone to bed with Luka and not felt guilty about Dave knowing about it.
But, he wasn't that kind of a person. He only had sexual
relationships with people he cared about, and, looking back, even
before the cruise, John had cared for Luka as just a bit more than a
friend. It had been Luka who kept insisting they were just 'friends
who happened to have sex with each other', not John. John had cared
too much to consider what they did to be fooling around and unmeaningful.

As he dried himself off, John found his thoughts drifting to how he
was going to decide between Dave and Luka. He loved them both, but
was it equally? The sex was definitely different with each man, John
could easily admit that. And he didn't want to have to rate either
one of his lovers. So, that meant that sex couldn't be a criteria for
his decision. And, until he could figure out *if* he loved one more
than the other, love couldn't be a criteria, either. So, what would
it be then? And just how much time were they going to give him to
decide? John was hoping it would be a long time. A long time where he
could alternate his nights, one with Dave, another with Luka, learning
each man better. And if doing that meant that John was getting what
he had asked them for, well, he couldn't quite help that, could he?
He *did* have to have some basis for making his decision.

John wrapped a towel around his waist and padded into his bedroom,
this time selecting matching clothes so he'd look presentable when he
appeared in the dining room. He was in the process of removing his
towel when he heard a knock on the door and then Luka's voice, asking
if he was okay. John quickly dropped the towel and pulled on a pair
of plaid boxers.

"Yeah, I'm fine, Luka," he called back, wondering if he should try to
talk to Luka before dinner instead of after. John still felt the need
to reassure Luka that no decision had yet been made, even if he had
more or less seduced Dave back in the guest cottage. John had had the
need to know for sure that Dave still wanted and needed him, and Dave
had managed to reassure him on quite a few issues.

"We are running late for dinner," Luka said, his voice still soft.
"Do you want me to wait for you or go on down without you and let your
grandmother know that you will be a few more minutes?"

Luka couldn't help but realize that either way it would look like to
Dave that he and John had been together this whole time. And truth be
told, part of him wanted Dave to believe that. The petty, jealous
part of Luka didn't mind that at all.

Pants in hand, John answered the door. "If you don't mind waiting,
I'm almost dressed." Maybe if Luka came in, then John could at least
start to put his mind at ease. "You can wait in here if you like."

Out of habit, Luka's eyes swept over John's body as he stepped inside
the younger man's bedroom. "I don't want your Grandmother to be too
upset that we're late for dinner," he commented, as he took a seat on
the couch that Dave had occupied earlier. "Did...you have a good shower?"

Luka couldn't help but think about the earlier conversation, and once
again jealousy invaded his body as thoughts of John and Dave being
together in the cardinal sense crept into his mind. Luka didn't like
being this way -- not in the slightest. But he really couldn't help it.

John nodded as he closed the door. "The water was nice and hot and
just what my back needed. We never did make it into the Jacuzzi," he
commented as he pulled on the slacks he had selected. It was breaking
his heart to see Luka looking sad, and something else. Jealous? That
was certainly possible, John thought. "Luka, I'm sorry about all of
this happening. I know it's partially my fault. Well, mostly my
fault." John sat down in a chair and began to pull on his socks as he
spoke. "If I had waited another day or two before accepting your
offer then you wouldn't be suffering like this right now, and I'm sorry."

Luka looked over to him, truly surprised. "John...do you think that
my feelings of loving you popped up overnight? I've been in love with
you for a long time now, last night just cemented all of it. But I
think that even if we had waited, and Dave had shown up, I still would
be feeling the kind of hurt that I am now...only then...I think I
would have truly known that it was over. The...the last thing I want
to do is pressure you, you know that, but the only difference
is...before we made love again, you would have been able to let me go,
a clean cut as they say. But because of last night, you're not able
to do that. I know that you're realizing your own feelings for me,"
Luka continued before John could speak again. "So I know it's not a
matter of obligation, but I almost think it would have been...easier
if last night had never happened..."

Turning his head away, Luka focused his eyes on a picture on the
opposite side of the room, unable to even look at John to see his
reaction. It was all just too painful for him.

John sat down on the loveseat beside Luka. "It's not all that simple,
Luka. I don't have sex with people I don't care about. When we were
together before, it was always you saying that we were just friends
messing around. I talked myself into believing it because you seemed
to believe it so much. But, it just wasn't so, not for me, at least.
And, when I saw Dave on the ship, I found it easier to believe you
than to face the fact that I had cared about you more than a friend
would care about a friend. The first time you ever kissed me, I
shouldn't have kissed you back." John was glad that Luka was looking
elsewhere, as he wasn't too sure that he wanted eye-to-eye contact for
that admission.

John sighed. "I don't know what I should have done. Running wasn't a
choice because you were my friend, and I didn't want to lose you. I
still don't. It's like I said earlier, I really don't like the idea
of losing either you or Dave as a friend. If I just wanted someone to
fuck with, then I could easily find a body, but I don't want that. I
never did. If I choose Dave, then am I going to lose your friendship?
You said something earlier about moving on, so does that mean you'd
leave County? If I don't choose you, are you out of my life forever,
Luka?" John asked, needing to know the answer. He needed to know
that Luka wasn't going to desert him just because he decided to give
his loyalty and love to Dave.

When John admitted that he was sorry that he had ever kissed Luka, it
was once more like a knife was being driven right through his heart.
So it was a mistake...it was all a mistake. Luka wasn't sure how he
felt about that, but he did partially blame himself since he had known
when he had gotten involved with John that his heart belonged to
another...long before John ever admitted that to him.

And as John continued, Luka quickly shook his head. "I am not going
to leave County. And it's very important to me that you're a part of
my life, even if that is a role as a friend, and not a lover. When I
say moving on...I mean moving on past all of this mess. If you do
decide that you want to be with Dave, then there's really nothing I
can do about that. But, I want to make sure that you know that I am
not going to abandon you...that is not my plan at all."

Luka's words were sincere, even though inside he wanted to cry,
because it seemed to him that John had made his choice already.

John slowly nodded as a feeling of relief swept through him. "Thank
you. That's pretty much what Dave said, too." John got to his feet
and reached for the shirt he had left on the bed. "I don't know how
to do this, Luka. How to choose between the two of you, I mean. How
am I supposed to put what I feel for each of you into neat little
boxes for comparison? Love and all the rest is just too complicated
for something like that."

Luka felt a bit of relief at John's words -- so maybe he hadn't made
his decision. It was only a small sense of relief, because part of
him wished that if John was going to let him go, that he would do it
already, instead of continuing to drag his heart through the mud.

"I really don't know what to tell you, John, because for me it is very
simple. But I know that it is not so simple for you. You...I'm
guessing that your heart and your mind will eventually tell you what
is right."

And Luka could only hope that that realization would lead John right
back to him.

"I guess." John began to do up the buttons. "It's not an easy
decision to make. Definitely not one that can be made in a split
second. I guess that's why I was so upset earlier. I didn't feel as
if I could make a decision that important on the spur of the moment."
He looked over at Luka, hoping that Luka would volunteer to give him
all the time he needed in which to reach a decision. It would
definitely take some of the pressure away, John thought.

"No. I imagine it's not an easy decision," Luka said, after a
moment's consideration. "And I'm sure you'll be able to come to one
when you can. I'm sure that your intentions are not to keep either of
us on some sort of a leash, but to ultimately have some happiness..."

Standing up from the couch, Luka brought his gaze over to John once
more. "Are you about ready for dinner? I find that I'm famished..."

Luka didn't want to talk about this anymore, even though he realized
that dinner was *not* going to be an easy thing to get through.

"Just about." John replied as he began to tuck in his shirt. So much
for the assurance that he could have all the time he needed, he
thought. After slipping into his shoes, John turned to face Luka.
"I'm as ready as I'll ever be," he said, but inside his head John was
urging Luka to kiss him, or to reach out and take his hand -- anything
-- any kind of physical contact would be enough to reassure John that
Luka still cared, just as he claimed he did.

They were about to leave, when Luka turned to face John once more, a
half grin on his face. Reaching out his hand, he brushed a stray
piece of hair off of the younger man's forehead, and then smoothed
back his still slightly damp hair.

"That's better," he said, as he ran his fingers lightly down the side
of John's face. "Now you're...dressed to kill...that's the correct
term, right?" Luka then turned towards the door, and slowly opened
in, hoping that John's grandmother would understand why they were late.

John quickly smiled. "That's the correct phrase, yes," he replied.
Inside he was cheering. It wasn't as good of an affirmation as making
love to Dave had been, but it was a start. A good start.

"If Gamma's too upset with us, then we'll find out when we get there
because they'll already have started to eat," John commented as he led
the way downstairs.

But walking into the dining room, John saw that while his grandmother
and Dave had drinks, they weren't eating, and that was a good sign,
even though Millicent made a point of checking her watch as soon as
she saw John. "Sorry we're late. I had showered and Luka was kind
enough to wait for me before coming down."

"I understand...this time," Millicent replied. She found it difficult
to be angry with her grandson, especially under the current
circumstances. "Luka, I'd like for you to sit by me," she added,
indicating the chair to her left and opposite from where Dave was
seated. That left John having to sit at the other end of the table,
and separated from both men by a vacant chair on each side of him.

John took his seat, somewhat grateful for the distance that his
grandmother had managed to arrange to put between him and the other
men. Since he had no appetite, being seated away from them would make
it a bit less noticeable that he wasn't eating, John realized. And,
they would most likely be paying attention to Millicent, giving him a
chance to study each man in turn, as if that alone could give him the
answer he so desperately needed.

Luka obediently went towards his seat, looking at the man who would be
seated across from him has he sat down.

"Dave," he simply said, if only to be polite. Truth be told, if he
never heard the name Dave Malucci again, or saw his face, it would
make Luka's world. But Luka knew that it wasn't that simple. He had
to try to make peace with the hot-headed doctor if he wanted a
*chance* of staying in John's life, even if it made Luka's stomach
turn thinking about it.

Dave had already drunk down half of his glass of soda, and was
grateful to see Henry going to get the food to serve. With a grin, he
looked over to Luka, and then to John. "Glad you guys came down. I'm
so hungry, I was ready to eat the table cloth," he said with a smirk.
Then, he fully turned his gaze over to John, unable to resist
noticing how good the man looked all freshly showered like that.
"Didja have a good shower, John?"

If Dave were alone with Luka and John, he might have been tempted to
add something on about the state that John had been in when they had
arrived back at the house. But he didn't do that -- for John's
grandmother's sake. It wasn't her fault that the three of them were
caught up in a pretty fucked up love triangle.

John nodded as he placed his napkin in his lap. "The water was hot
enough to do me some good," he replied.

Millicent frowned. "You really should see a doctor about your back,
John. I know, I know, you keep telling me that there isn't anything
that can be done for it, but unless you've actually seen a specialist,
then how can you tell?"

"Gamma, there isn't much a doctor can do for me, trust me on that.
Acupuncture helped it before, and so did the yoga, I just haven't had
much of a chance to do either one lately. Besides, it doesn't hurt
all the time." He watched as Henry served Dave, and then proceeded to
move around the table by heading in Millicent's direction next. Good,
he thought. 'Everyone will be busy cutting their roast beef and won't
have the chance to pay attention to me.'

"Back injuries are tricky," Dave said, as he cut into his roast beef.
"You can see all the specialists in the world, and sometimes they
still won't be able to do anything for 'em other than prescribe pain
killers. And that's not an option here. So some of the alternative
meds are the way to go," he mused, as he bit into the meat.

Luka listened and nodded. "I agree, but it probably couldn't hurt for
him to get another doctors opinion. What's the worst that would
happen? He would be told what he already knows?" Biting into his
food, Luka's lips broke into a grin. "This is very good. My
compliments to the chef," he mused, as he looked over to Mrs. Carter.

John silently shook his head as Henry headed in his direction, and the
butler quietly disappeared into the kitchen. John couldn't help but
smile as he listened to Dave and Luka disagree about his back
problems. Their concern for him was obvious and touching. But it
didn't make his decision any easier.

Millicent smiled at Luka. "Corrine makes an excellent pot roast.
It's been a signature specialty of hers for years." She had noticed
that Henry had left the room without serving John and it only
confirmed to her that John was still upset, even though he acted as if
nothing at all was wrong. Harping on him about his back was
definitely not going to make John feel better, so Millicent decided to
change the subject. She had managed to read a little bit of Dave's
resume once she had returned to the house, so she picked a topic from

"I saw on your resume that you spent several years in Grenada," she
said to Dave. "How did you like living down in the islands?"

Dave nodded. "It was actually great. I learned a lot about medical
techniques that you just don't find out about in the States, and it
helped out on more than one occasion in the ER when faced with some
weird stuff that they had never seen before, but were commonplace in
Grenada. I'm also now fluent in Spanish as a result. Yeah, I think
that going to Grenada was one of the best decisions I could have made
for myself, career wise." Well, that and the fact that no Med School
in the US would take him because of how badly he had fucked up in
school. But that wasn't important at the moment.

Luka nodded in agreement. "I think you're right about out of country
experience being a help in the Emergency Room setting," he said,
unable to deny that the younger doctor had a point. "Sometimes you're
able to diagnose things that others don't see right away..." For as
cocky as Dave had been in the hospital, Luka couldn't help but admit
that the man was a good doctor who obviously cared about what he did.
Luka didn't feel that the man should have been fired for his actions
-- how many times had Luka himself lost a patient because of a
judgment call?

Millicent nodded. "I can see where that would be a benefit. I wonder
why you never tried to go out of the country for medical school?" she
asked John.

"It was tempting, but I was having too much fun tormenting grandfather
about my decision to become a doctor," he replied with a grin. There
wasn't much of a need to point out to her that most of the American
med school students who ended up in foreign countries were there
because they weren't able to get into a medical school within the
United States. Why that was always considered to be a bad thing, he
had no idea, as doctors in other countries were certainly as capable
as those in the States. Luka and Dave were both fine examples of
that. So, strike off another item on the comparison list, he thought.
So, sex, friendship, compassion and education were now categories
that he couldn't use.

Dave continued to eat his meal, noticing that all they were doing was
making small talk -- the whole lot of them. It all seemed almost
inane, the four of them having dinner together as if everything was
normal. As if there wasn't some sort of strange stuff going on
between the three men in the room. The desire for Dave to get drunk
had never really been greater, and once he packed up his room, he was
going to hit the bar, and try his best to forget the name John Carter.
At least for one night, he could be numb.

Luka, as well, reflected on his own thoughts. How could he, a man who
was so very much into commitment, honesty, love -- end up in a
situation where he was competing with another man for a third man's
attention? It was a situation that didn't sit very well with him, and
Luka wasn't sure it he would ever feel right about it. This just
wasn't in his nature.

"So...are you going to eat anything at all, John?" Luka finally said,
as he looked over to him. Luka set his own fork down on his plate,
quite finished with his meal. But he was concerned that John had not
eaten at all.

Dave, on the other hand, knew enough about John not to push him when
he wasn't hungry. This had been a bad day for him - for them all --
and John was obviously still upset about Dave's reappearance.

John shook his head as he smiled down the table at Luka. "I'm not
hungry right now," he said. "But don't let me keep you from enjoying
dessert. I'm sure that Corrine's made something wonderful."

The dinner plates were cleared away, and Dave leaned back in his
chair, quite full from his meal. Truth be told, he was anxious to
just get the Hell out of there, but he wouldn't do that, not yet. Not
while there was a chance that he might get to spend some more time
with John. Amazing that that's what his life had boiled down to.
Love made people do funny things.

Luka's eyes drifted towards the kitchen door. "I'm full, but I always
have room for whatever dessert that Corrine has cooked up," he said,
as he looked over towards Mrs. Carter.

Millicent smiled. "I believe that Corrine was making a Black Forest
cake today. It seems she overheard you mentioning that you liked it
and thought you'd enjoy having some." She turned her attention to
Dave. "You'll have to let Corrine know what your favorite foods are,
Dave. She'd be more than happy to prepare something special for you."

Dinner was finally getting the better of John, and he had suddenly
remembered that he had a pack of cigarettes in the glove compartment
of the Jeep. At least he hoped there was still a pack there. It had
been several months since he had quit smoking, but he was pretty sure
that he had placed a pack there. And it was definitely time to take
up smoking again, or else John knew he'd be too tempted by his
grandmother's liquor cabinet -- or worse.

"If you'll excuse me, I need to check on something," John said as he
got to his feet. He placed his napkin on the table and smiled at
everyone in the room. "I shouldn't be long, but please, feel free to
have dessert without me." And then he walked out of the room, but
John wasn't able to really breathe easily until he was in the garage.

Dave's face paled as he watched John jump up and leave. What the
Hell? How were they going to live with this, if they couldn't get
through a simple meal together? "If you'll excuse me, Mrs. C," Dave
said, as he stood. "I think I'd better to check on John. He didn't
seem to be doing so well."

At these words, Luka stood as well. "I can very easily check on him,
Dave," Luka said, returning the other man's stare. "There is no
reason for you to have to trouble yourself...for tonight at least, you
are a guest here..."

"Don't be silly, Luka," Dave said, with a bit of a smile. "Really.
It's not that big of a deal for me to take a walk..."

"Both of you should sit back down and remember that you're trying to
not pressure John," Millicent's voice was firm, but her expression was
sympathetic as she looked from Dave to Luka. "Going after John right
now would only crowd him. All in all, I think dinner went rather well
under the circumstances, wouldn't the two of you agree?" She smiled
as Henry placed a piece of cake in front of Dave. "Thank you, Henry.
We'll need two more slices."

"Yes, madam," he replied before going back into the kitchen for two
more slices of cake.

Resigned, both men sat back down. Luka cast his eyes downward while
Dave began to pick at his piece of Black Forest cake. He really
wasn't hungry anymore -- he was worried. Worried about John. Worried
that he had done something to set him off.

"I agree," Luka finally said after a moment's silence. "Dinner did go
very well."

"Yeah," Dave said, as his fork ran through the cake. "We didn't kill
each other...I guess that's a good sign."

Millicent chuckled. "A very good sign," she commented as a slice of
cake was placed in front of her and then Henry served Luka. "Thank
you," she told the man, but she didn't speak again until Henry was
once more out of the room, although she knew all too well that the
servants in a household were always the first ones who knew what was
going on.

"Seeing the two of you arguing with each other would only make John's
choice more difficult to make. I'm not in any way suggesting that the
two of you become best friends, but if you can find some common
ground, then I'm sure things will go a lot easier on all of you."

Luka nodded in agreement. "Mrs. Carter does have a point," he said,
as he eyed Dave from over the table. "I know we haven't gotten along
lately, but for John's sake...maybe we should try?

Dave was still playing with his piece of cake, more interested in
smashing it then eating it. And he was silent as he thought about
things. His first thought was that Luka was a brownnoser...but then
he realized that Luka actually did have a valid point. "Yeah, I
suppose you're right," he said, casting his eyes downward once more.
"I guess we can call a truce."

Bringing his eyes up, he extended his hand across the table, a slight
grin on his face. Luka, realizing there was no other choice, took it
in his own and shook it. "Yes, truce...we'll do what we can to be on
the best of terms...especially when John is around."

Millicent beamed as she watched the two men shake hands. If nothing
else, then perhaps this entire fiasco would end with the two of them
finding friendship.


After finding a half full pack of cigarettes in his Jeep, John had
retreated to the solitude of the pool. He stretched out flat on the
concrete to see if that would make his back feel any better, then lit
up and looked up to the heavens for a sudden answer to his problems.
There was a light breeze and as it made waves in the water, the lights
from the pool rippled outward, causing some very interesting shadows
on everything they touched.

John knew he should be trying to make his decision, but he found
himself mesmerized by the flickering shadows. If -- and that was a
big *if* -- he could get Luka to go along with the idea of him
spending one night with Dave and the next with Luka and so on, then
John could get what he wanted, and they wouldn't be the wiser. But,
that solution only worked if Luka and Dave were willing to let him
have as much time as he needed, and somehow John knew that neither man
was going to be willing to do that. Not that he could really blame
them. As much as he wanted to keep both men, he knew that they needed
closure, and the chance to move on.

Knowing that he'd still have their friendship was a big relief to
John. He had been so afraid that if he chose one over the other, then
he'd lose a friend, too. So, keeping hold of a friend now wasn't an
issue. What could be a deciding factor? That was going to have to be
the first thing that John thought up, he realized. Just what criteria
was he going to use in order to assess Dave against Luka? His mind
went back over the options he'd already considered. Remaining friends
was out -- they both had assured him that they wouldn't leave him.
Sex was probably out, as well, unless John wanted to get picky and
rate them according to what each one of them would and wouldn't do.
And if he was going to do *that*, then it would only be fair to make
sure they knew it, and John wasn't quite ready to confess to all of
his likes and dislikes.

Love? They both said they loved him, and he loved each of them.
True, it wasn't the same kind of love, but it was love. And not just
the kind of love that you feel for a good friend, either. John had
those kinds of feelings for Abby and Deb, and he knew that what he
felt for Luka and Dave went way beyond what he felt for the two women.

Two cigarettes later, John was still trying to think of how to judge
one lover against the other. Dinner certainly had to be over and he
knew he needed to get back to the house -- if for no other reason than
to say goodnight to Dave. And he still needed to fully talk with Luka
about things. Yet John was reluctant to leave the quiet of the pool,
and he decided that it wouldn't hurt to stay five minutes longer.

Dessert was long over at the main house. Luka had retired up to his
room -- his patience on trying to get along with Dave could only go so
far. So that left Dave and Millicent waiting patiently at the dining
room table for John to get back. He wasn't going to give him that
much more time -- as much as he wanted to see John before heading back
to his hotel, the desire to get drunk was almost overwhelming him.

Dave took another sip of his soda, and smiled over to Mrs. Carter, who
was waiting patiently with him. "You should go ahead, Mrs. C. I'll
wait for John."

That was, if John ever got his ass back to the house...

John checked his watch and saw that the time he had given himself as a
deadline for going back in had passed. Sighing, he put out his
cigarette, pocketed the rest of the pack and headed back to the house.
He went in through the kitchen, noticing that it was cleaned and
quiet, an indication that dinner was long over. While he wasn't
hungry enough to eat a meal, he had been hoping to snag a leftover or
two. Since that was now out of the question, John decided on getting
something to drink, and he opened the refrigerator and grabbed the
bottle of orange juice. Even though he knew that he should be using a
glass, it just felt like too much of a bother.

Looking around to make sure he was alone, John removed the lid and
took a couple of deep swallows, the cold juice feeling good against a
throat he hadn't realized was thirsty. John licked his lips clean and
replaced the orange juice, then continued on through the kitchen to
the rest of the house.

Feeling guilty and hoping he hadn't missed Dave, John stepped into the
dining room. Much to his relief, Dave was still at the table.
"You're still here?" he asked with a smile.

Dave had been sitting by himself at the dining room table for a good
twenty minutes after Mrs. Carter retired for the night. He wasn't
even sure why he was sticking around, other than hoping to get to see
John one more time before getting totally shitfaced. He was just
beginning to give up hope when he heard a familiar voice from the
dining room door.

Returning the smile, Dave lifted his head up. "Yeah, but I was
gettin' ready to bug out. You...you doin' all right? I...I was
worried about you. I wanted to come after you, but your Gamma advised
against it."

John nodded. "I'm okay. I just needed some fresh air, that's all.
I'm glad you stayed." John took a step further into the room, wanting
to kiss Dave goodnight, yet not sure if he should. Even though they
had made love earlier, John was all too aware that he still needed to
talk things over with Luka, and he wasn't sure that letting himself
get all worked up by necking with Dave would be the best prelude to
that talk.

"I...I almost left, but, I couldn't go without seeing you one more
time. I...I don't know...still tryin' to get used to all this, you
know? Luka and I have called a truce, we're gonna try to get along
for as long as possible...so that we don't put any added pressure on
you. Just...just know that I love you, okay? I..."

Dave stood from his chair, and made his way around the edge of the
table. Walking up to John, he tentatively reached out his hand, and
gave John's shoulder a gentle squeeze. Then Dave slowly moved his
fingers down John's arm, and found his hand and interlaced their
fingers together. "I just don't wanna be without you anymore, you know?"

Bringing his other hand to the side of John's face, Dave caressed his
cheek, his lips forming a soft smile. And as their eyes locked, Dave
leaned in, and he locked his lips with John's as well. John's clothes
smelled of smoke, and if Dave was in a state of mind other than
wanting to just be, he might have minded. But he didn't want to think
about it. All of Dave's energy was channeled into one thing. If Dave
had to leave, he was going to make sure he left with John thinking of
*him*, and not anyone else.

The kiss was everything John had hoped and feared it would be, and his
body instantly responded to it. As it ended though, he resisted the
urge to pull Dave close to him for another. "I've missed you. It
shouldn't be like this, Dave, it just shouldn't. I'm sorry I didn't
wait longer for you to call or show up or something. I'm sorry I ever
kissed Luka back in the first place, even though we weren't back
together then." John smiled sadly. "Not that I'm sorry for ever
being with Luka or loving him, but I'm sorry for the hurt that my, I
guess loneliness is as good a word as any, has caused."

Dave listened to John speak, and cast his eyes down, resisting the
temptation to tell John that it could be very simple -- that he should
tell the Croatian Love Machine to go scratch while Dave and John rode
off into the sunset together, but Dave was afraid that that would push
him away again. So instead, Dave decided to take the simple approach.

"I'm sorry too," Dave said, his voice sad. "I'm sorry for not trying
harder to keep you, and I'm sorry for lettin' you get away again. I
think I'd better go, or I'm gonna be tempted to seduce you...make you
come back with me, make you forget anything but me. But I don't wanna
do that to you...don't wanna make you more confused then you already are."

John reached out and lifted Dave's chin, looking him once more in the
eyes. "Thank you." He leaned in for a quick kiss, and then took a
step back from Dave. "I do love you. Nothing will ever change that,

Dave pulled away as well, taking back his hands so he could cross them
protectively over his chest. "I know," he simply said. Getting a
grip on his emotions again, he plastered a grin on his face. "Well.
I'd better get going. A night of packin' awaits me so I can move into
my new digs. What's your schedule tomorrow? Maybe we can hang out or
something for a bit when you're off of work?"

Dave was willing to do just about anything to spend time with John,
hoping that it would help John make his ultimate decision.

John nodded. "The same as today, six until noon, so if you need help
moving in, just wait until after noon and I'll be available," John
offered with a smile, meaning that in more than one way.

Dave's grin turned wider. "Okay. I might just do that," he said,
cocking his head to one side. "Of course, I might need help taking a
certain thing I own in and out of something else...you think you might
be up for that as well?"

Dave's eyes were sparkling with mischief, and already he was feeling a
bit better. Dave didn't think that was going to stop him from getting
plastered -- but he was feeling a bit better.

John's smile turned wicked. "Oh, yeah, I'm pretty sure I'll be up for

Dave nodded, and then took a step closer to John. "Well, I really
think I'd better get outta here or I'm *never* gonna leave.."
Reaching out, he pulled John into his embrace again, and then planted
his lips onto John's. After probing the man's mouth with his tongue,
Dave finally pulled away, and forced himself to move from John's embrace.

"Somethin' to remember me by," Dave said, his eyes twinkling once
more. And then, before he could change his mind, Dave was gone -- out
of the dining room and through the living room, out of the front door
and towards the car he had parked in the driveway earlier in the day.
Amazing how his life had changed once again in a matter of a few
hours. And as Dave drove back towards his hotel, he couldn't help but
hope that John would make the decision that would make *both* of them
happy -- which was for John to spend the rest of his life with Dave.
And right then, Dave swore to himself that if the fates allowed that
to happen, he would *never* let John go again.

To be continued
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