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All things considered, Dave thought, it was shaping up to be the best
Valentine's Day of his life. Despite having to work - and haggling
with Jing-Mei over a patient, he'd found the time to sneak a few
kisses with Carter. And now Dave was looking forward to their evening
together. Since their shifts were set to end at the same time, Dave
had done what he could before work to set the mood for the evening.
It was corny, but Dave hadn't been able to resist placing red and
white candles around the bedroom, and he had a jarful of rose petals
on the nightstand, ready to be thrown onto the sheets. Lube and a box
of condoms were also waiting on the nightstand, and the Valentine's
card that he'd bought for Carter was propped up against the lamp. Out
in the living room, sexy music was loaded in the CD changer, and the
fridge was stocked with fun finger foods, beer and a bottle of champagne.

Oh yeah, Dave thought, grinning, it was going to be one Hell of a
night. They'd both get to enjoy the party at work and then be able to
have their own private party at his place. Dave couldn't have planned
the timing any better if he'd tried. Since his stomach was feeling
quite empty at that moment, he was on his way to admit to see if the
pizza had arrived. Dave's path was detoured though, when he saw
Carter going into the lounge. Hopeful of getting another kiss, Dave
quickly followed, letting the door close quietly behind him as he
stepped inside and discovered that they were the only people in the

Carter was at his locker, his attention fully on the lock. Dave was
able to take advantage of that and he was directly behind Carter
without Carter realizing that someone was there.

"Be mine," Dave whispered as he placed a hand on Carter's shoulder,
and he grinned as Carter slightly jumped.

"Jesus, Dave!" Carter turned his head to glare and him and then he
went back to opening his locker. I think you just knocked ten years
off of my life."

"Nah, seven tops," Dave replied as he stepped to one side and leaned
back against the next locker. "Pizza get here yet?"

"I don't know," Carter said as he started to take off his lab coat.
"Between Abby, Lucy and a few flu patients, I haven't had time to check."

"Well, when it gets here, don't eat too much," Dave warned. "I've got
plenty of food at home."

Carter put his coat on its hook and reached for his overcoat. "I'm
sure that we can find a way to work off the pizza." He grinned at
Dave as he put on the coat. "So we're all set on the plans for later?
I leave first and wait for you at my Jeep?"

"That's the plan. Just make sure I know when you're leaving. I
wouldn't want you freezing that cute ass of yours off while I'm still
partying hard in here," Dave said with a grin. "Speaking of freezing,
where are you going?"

"Abby's patient died and she went up to the roof. I'm going to take
her some coffee to thaw her out and give her a little pep talk."

Dave nodded as followed Carter over to the coffee machine. "It's
always rough to lose a patient, but even more so on a holiday. Do you
know how Abby likes her coffee?"

"I haven't a clue, so I hope she likes it black." Carter smiled as he
filled to Styrofoam cups with the hot coffee.

"I'll get the lids while you get bundled up," Dave offered.

"Thanks." Carter began to button his coat. "Guess you really were
serious about me keeping my cute ass in one piece."

"Damn right," Dave replied as he put a lid on the first cup. "I'm
also partial to a few of your other body parts, and would like them
kept warm as well."

"I see." Carter looked toward the doors, then back at Dave. "My lips
are feeling pretty cold right now."

Dave snapped on the second lid. The fact that Carter wanted to risk
them kissing right then and there sent a thrill through him. He
grinned. "You're in luck, Hoss, cause I think Dr. Dave has just the
cure for cold lips."

Dave closed the space between their bodies and moved in for a kiss;
pleased as punch when Carter met him halfway. A noise from outside
the lounge brought the kiss to an end, but they were both smiling
happily despite the interruption.

"How's that?" Dave asked.

Carter nodded and reached for the cups. "That did the job. Of
course, they're going to get cold again when I go outside. Maybe I'll
ask for you when I get back."

"I'm counting on it. I better not catch you getting treatment from
someone else," Dave said. Much to his own surprise, he wasn't really
joking. He stayed there in the lounge after Carter had gone,
wondering just how it was that he'd become so possessive in such a
short time. He'd never been the jealous type, figuring that life was
too short to waste on something like jealousy. But the idea of Carter
kissing someone else, male or female, made Dave's blood run cold.

For Dave, the worst part of the evening was seeing Carter on the
floor, seeing the blood pooling around his body and feeling helpless
to do anything to help Carter.

No, the worst part was having to work on Lucy and not know what was
going on with Carter in the other trauma room.

Definitely, the hardest part was having to sit down with the cops to
answer their questions. Had he noticed anything off or strange with
Sobriki? When was the last time he'd seen Sobriki? When was the last
time he'd seen Carter or Lucy?

The ultimate worst part was sitting around and waiting while Carter
and Lucy were up in surgery. It was getting so badly to Dave that
when Jing-Mei asked if he wanted to walk over to Doc's with her, he'd
jumped at the opportunity to get out. His shift was over, but there
was no way Dave could go home while Carter was splayed open on an
operating table.

The most horrible part was laughing about the joke Carter had played
on Lucy and then finding out that Lucy was dead, but that Carter was
okay and in recovery. And then feeling grateful that Chuny hadn't
come over to tell them that Carter was dead.

The little gathering at Doc's had broken up shortly after that. Dave
was tired and he squinted at the dawn, knowing he'd need to be back to
work all too soon. But he couldn't just put on his coat and go home,
as most of the others had done. Dave knew that he'd never get any
sleep if he didn't see for himself that Carter had pulled through.
He'd waved goodbye to Luka and the others, then walked back into the
ER with Abby, the two of them quiet. Abby had gone off on her own,
probably to mope and cry, and Dave had headed for the elevators and
post-op. Now that he was alone, Dave found it difficult to keep the
tears at bay. He angrily wiped them away, reminding himself that he
needed to find a way to get in to see Carter without getting caught.
The nurses up there could be real hard-asses when it came to the
rules, and no visitors meant just that, no visitors. It wouldn't
matter to them that he was Carter's lover as well as his co-worker.
It wouldn't matter to them if he was Carter's family - at this point,
Carter wouldn't be allowed visitors period.

"Fuck that," Dave told the empty elevator as it came to a halt. It
didn't matter if Carter knew he was there or not - all that mattered
was that Dave saw him, saw that he was breathing - saw with his own
eyes that Carter was still alive.

The doors opened and Dave stepped out onto the surgical floor, heading
toward a corridor that would lead to a back hallway that would then
take him to post-op. As long as he looked as if he belonged there,
Dave knew that he wouldn't be stopped. He had his badge and was still
in scrubs, and despite the heavy coat, Dave knew he looked "official".
He'd act as though he were some poor surgical resident getting in
early for his shift. It had worked for him on other floors, and Dave
was pretty sure it would work for him right then.

It took about twenty minutes of careful maneuvering throughout the
hallways, but Dave did make it to Carter's bedside. There weren't a
whole lot of other patients in recovery, and Dave realized that he'd
be discovered if a nurse he knew came in, or one of the surgeons. But
he planned to be out before that could happen. Dave approached
Carter, thinking that he looked far too pale. Just how much blood had
he lost before they'd gotten it under control in surgery? Too much,
Dave thought as he reached out and brushed Carter's hair aside on his

"You're gonna be okay, Hoss," Dave softly said, and he gave Carter's
hand a gentle squeeze, then blinked in surprise as he felt a squeeze
back. Carter was waking up. Dave didn't know if this would be the
first time or the second time, and he wasn't sure if he needed to go
to get someone. Doing so would blow his "cover", but Dave knew it
would be necessary. The decision was taken from him as he heard
voices approaching the area - Benton and someone else.

"Later." Dave gave the hand another squeeze and then he hurried out
of a side door. He paused on the other side long enough to confirm
that Benton had entered recovery - he had, and Benton and the nurse
began to talk to Carter. Dave couldn't stop himself from staying
there until he'd heard Carter's voice - it was raspy and weak, but
good to hear. Secure with the knowledge that Carter was alive, Dave
made his way off of the surgical floor. It was time to go home and
get some sleep.

Dave awoke with a start, gasping for breath. It took a moment for it
to register in his brain that he was in his bed and not still in the
world of his dream. Shuddering, Dave sat up, looking around the room,
as if there might be some sign of the madman who had roamed County
last night. Instead of Paul Sobriki, Dave only saw the candles that
he'd put in place yesterday.

Dave fell back against his pillow, wondering if it really was just the
next day. So much had happened...Carter injured, Lucy dead. Could it
all have been less than 24 hours ago? Maybe he'd slept for longer?
But no, Weaver would have been on the phone, demanding to know if he
was coming in. Since there'd been no phone call, it only stood to
reason that it was really the next day. Dave still felt a bit
sluggish, but he knew that there wouldn't be any more sleep for him.
He was too reluctant to dream again, too scared to relive what had
happened the night before.

Dave stretched and then got out of bed, yawning broadly as he made his
way to his bathroom to shower. He'd shower, get something to eat and
then head in for work. If he got there early, then he'd go to see
Carter. If he got there on time, then he'd see Carter after his
shift. As Dave turned on the hot water, he once more felt guilty over
the fact that Carter was still there for him to visit. It was still
difficult to accept the fact that Lucy was dead. Was she even from
Chicago? Dave felt bad because he had no clue as to where Lucy was
from, or if she had brothers and sisters, or if she were an only child.

There'd be a funeral, or maybe a memorial service if it turned out
that Lucy was from somewhere else. Her family might show up at
County. How could he look at them knowing that he - as Weaver had
declared that night - had been partying while Lucy was dying? That
had been the gist of his nightmare as well. He and the others were
partying. Laughing and dancing and having a good time while Sobriki
stabbed Lucy and Carter over and over again. Dave's imagination
hadn't been content to stay with what he'd actually seen. No, it had
to create the scene for him, separating Carter and Lucy from the party
by a glass wall. No sound penetrated the wall, but as they all
danced, the wall became splattered with blood. Carter tried to get to
them, but the wall wouldn't move. Dave had been dancing with Randi as
he noticed the wall and what was behind it. And even then, he laughed
as he had watched Carter's hand leave a bloody smear on the glass.
Others had noticed, and they'd point and say something, but not a
single one of them moved to get past that wall. Then Weaver had
arrived and she walked right through the glass, shattering it into
millions of pieces. The sound carried over the song playing on the
radio, and the noise seemed to shake them all out of the party
mentality. They'd all rushed to Carter and Lucy, but Kerry kept
telling them that it was too late; Carter and Lucy had bled to death
while they'd partied.

Dave shook off the memory of the nightmare and stepped into the
shower. He hadn't been the only one who didn't hear anything, he told
himself. But that knowledge didn't make him feel any less responsible
for what had happened. If they'd heard something, then maybe Lucy
could have been saved? Maybe they could have stopped Sobriki before
he'd stabbed Carter? There were still so many questions left
unanswered - why was Lucy with Sobriki in the first place? A call had
been placed to psych - where the Hell were they? If they'd been doing
their job, then Lucy would still be alive, and Carter would be in the
shower with him, Dave thought. Dave scrubbed his skin roughly, never
noticing the tears that were mingling with the shower spray.

It was a subtle awareness, one reached slowly and with hesitation.
The slow pace was mostly due to the fading effect of painkillers. The
hesitation was due to the returning memories of what had caused the
pain. His eyes closed, John listened to the noises around him - some,
like the voices from the corridor, were familiar. John could hear
snippets of the medical jargon being easily spoken by doctors and
nurses. But, other noises weren't quite as familiar, at least not for
the length of time that he was hearing them - the beeping of a monitor
being one such noise.

John opened his eyes, noting dully that there was daylight outside of
his window. Had he slept all day and night or had he merely slept a
few hours since Benton had been there? John wasn't sure if it really
mattered, not when every time he awoke he had to once more face the
fact that Lucy was dead. Benton had told him that he was lucky, but
John didn't feel lucky. He didn't even feel relieved to be alive. He
just felt...John wasn't sure what he felt. Maybe it was too soon
after surgery to be feeling anything emotionally.

The sound of fabric against fabric to John's right caught his
attention and he turned his head to see that Dave was seated by the
bed. Seeing the concern in Dave's face, John finally felt an emotion
- guilt. They'd had plans for Valentine's, and John had ruined those

"Hey, Hoss," Dave said, and he smiled at John as he leaned forward,
resting his elbows on his knees. "How you doin'?"

"I'm okay," John said, but his voice was hoarse and his throat dry.
He motioned toward the water cup on the bedstand and Dave picked it up
and got to his feet, putting the straw to John's lips. John sipped
slowly, relishing the relief that the cool water brought to his mouth
and throat. When he'd had enough, he moved his head away and Dave put
the cup back.

"Thanks. I'm sorry that I ruined your plans," John said. He pulled
the covers up a bit higher on his chest, wishing he could just burrow
under them and hide.

"There's no need to apologize. We'll just reschedule things for when
they let you out of here," Dave gave John a big smile. "That should
be in a week or so, right?"

John nodded, although he wasn't exactly sure when he'd be released.
He vaguely remembered a nurse saying something about him having a high
temperature, which wouldn't be too surprising considering his
injuries. If he had an infection, then he might be in the hospital
for longer than a week, and that was something he really didn't want
to think about.

"You know about Lucy?" John asked, not that he really wanted to think
about her, either. But he did need to know how she died. Benton
didn't tell him the details earlier, and John had been too stunned by
the news to ask.

"Yeah. I guess Benton told you?" Dave sat back down, looking

"He said she'd died, but he didn't say how or why. I think I remember
seeing her in the trauma room, and she was alive then." John wasn't
sure now if that was a true memory or something his subconscious had

Dave nodded. "She made it through surgery fine, but then she threw a
PE. They...Romano and Corday, that is, were about to put in a
Greenfield filter, but she threw a clot just after they got her in an
angiography suite, and they couldn't get her back. She'd been talking
to them and everything." Dave's voice was soft as he spoke, and he
kept his eyes firmly on John.

For his part, John tried to look at Dave, but by the time Dave had
finished speaking, John was staring at the clock on the wall. He
found himself wishing that Lucy would have died back in curtain three.
She would have been spared so much more pain, he reasoned. He
couldn't imagine what it must have been like to wake up and know you
had a blood clot, and to know that you were dying because of it.

"Have the cops come by to talk to you?" Dave asked, and John felt a
bit of relief at the change in subject.

"Not that I know of," John replied. "I've been doing a lot of
sleeping. Benton wants me up and walking this evening, which means
this catheter will be gone by then." John managed a small smile.
"That'll be one less thing to worry about. Benton said that I'd keep
the colostomy for about a month; give the colon time to heal properly.
So it looks like I'll only be out of the hospital for a short while
before I'll be back for more surgery."

John shrugged. "Better than the alternative, I suppose, so I can't

Dave got to his feet and came to stand right by the bed. He reached
out and took John's hand within both of his, and John couldn't turn
away from Dave's intense gaze. "I'm glad that you're alive. When we
were waiting to hear the news about you and Lucy, I kept thinking that
I didn't know what I'd do if you...if you didn't make it. You got
lucky, Hoss, really lucky."

"I know." John carefully pulled his hand free. "Do you see the call
button? I think the pain meds are wearing off."

"Uh..." Dave looked around, and then grinned as he pressed a button
that was on the bed rail itself. "Right there." A nurse answered,
and Dave told her that John was in pain. She replied that she'd be
right there.

"I should head on down to work now," Dave said. He glanced at the
door, and the next thing John knew, Dave was kissing him fully on the
lips. "I'll come back by on my break, okay?"

John nodded, although he wasn't sure if he wanted Dave - or anyone
else, for that matter, to come by the room. He forced himself to
smile, playing the part of the cooperative patient. "I'll be right here."

"Smartass," Dave replied as he headed toward the door. "Good thing
for you that I like that." And with that parting comment, Dave left.

John slumped into his pillow and closed his eyes, looking for some
respite from the thoughts that were jumbled in his head. He was glad
to be alive, but felt guilty over being that way. John supposed that
that was a normal reaction to what he'd been through, but he wasn't
100% sure of that, and he didn't want to risk asking, just in case it
wasn't normal. The nurse arrived with his pain medication and he
swallowed the pills down, then sat through a vitals check. He did
have an elevated temperature, and the nurse mentioned that it looked
as if he did have an infection. He was assured that he was receiving
antibiotics in the IV and that he'd be feeling better soon.

John smiled at the nurse, assuring her that she was right. Once the
painkillers took effect, he'd be feeling a whole lot better, because
he'd be numb and nearly asleep. And really, John thought, he couldn't
ask for more than that, could he?

To be continued...
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