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The beat was relentless, driving into his brain and body with a force
that John simply couldn't fight. And his body responded to the tempo,
his heart beating in time with it, his blood spurting out with each
thump of sound.

It was too loud, John thought. He tried to call for help, but it was
too loud. And that damn beat everywhere around him, shaking his body
- no, his body was shaking from the shock and the pain. He needed to
get help, but his body wouldn't work, wouldn't do what he asked it to
do. The jarring sound of falling metal clashed against the beat as
John fell to the floor, the cold tiles burning against his palms.

And then he saw her, saw Lucy. Her eyes...wide and scared. John knew
then that he had to get help for her, if not for himself. But his
attempt to get up failed, and darkness took him. He fought back
against that darkness, against the total blackness that had enveloped
him, and as the thumping once more surrounded him, John tried once
more to get to his feet. He did succeed in moving a bit, to his side,
but the beat went on, drawing his life away...


John awoke from the dream with a start, the room around him dark and
evil. It was quiet, though, and that bit of knowledge helped to slow
the rapid beating of John's heart. There was no music blaring,
keeping him from calling out for help. Not that he needed help, he
reasoned. He wasn't in curtain 3. He was home, and in his own bed.

His mouth and throat were parched, and John used that as his excuse to
get out of bed, not wanting to admit to himself that he really wanted
to confirm that he could get up, that he could move, that he wasn't
being pressed against the mattress by a wall of sound and a body that
was quickly failing him.

Flinging the covers back, John sat up, wincing slightly as the
movement pulled on his recovering abdominal muscles. After resting a
moment, John got to his feet and started for the bathroom. It wasn't
until he found himself falling to the floor that he remembered the
walker and the fact that he needed it. His hand flailed out for it,
hoping to stop his body from falling, but the walker, like the mayo
stand in curtain 3, betrayed him as it fell over, and John found
himself and the walker falling to the floor in a maelstrom of noise -
metal and voice and a thump. Not a thump, he thought as pain shot out
from his back. Please God, not a thump...

In the living room, Dave reclined on the couch, reading one of
Carter's medical journals. It was his fourth night on the couch, and
even though he would have preferred to be sleeping in Carter's bed,
Dave couldn't deny that for a couch, it was pretty damn comfy. The
cushions were deep and lush, and wide, so he had plenty of room to
move around. Of course, the size of the couch had given birth to many
fantasies, all of which involved Dave, Carter and the couch, and he
grinned as yet another one drifted into his mind. A person really
shouldn't be having sexual fantasies while reading about abscesses,
Dave thought, but really, who could blame him? When faced with a
choice between imagining Carter naked and hard and abscesses, what
choice did Dave really have?

His grin disappeared when he heard the noises from the bedroom, and
Dave felt himself living the phrase "my heart was in my throat" as he
left the couch in one fluid motion and rushed to the door of Carter's
bedroom, fearing the worst. Dave flipped on the light switch, his
eyes quickly taking in the scene before him - Carter on the floor,
obviously in pain, the walker toppled over onto its side. This was
the very reason why Anspaugh hadn't wanted Carter home alone, and Dave
had obviously failed as a caregiver since his presence there hadn't
kept it from happening.

Dave went to Carter's side and knelt down by him. "Let's get you back
to bed, Hoss," he said, thinking he could assess Carter for any
injuries then. The smell of shit hit his nostrils even as his mind
registered the fact that Carter was trying to push him away.

"Get out of here, Dave. Go."

"No way, Hoss. You can't get up on your own. Let's get you up and
into the bathroom." Dave muscled his way past Carter's hands and
managed to get an arm around Carter's waist. "What happened?"

"I was a stupid idiot, that's what happened," Carter snapped as he
worked to get his feet under him. With Dave's help, Carter was on his
feet, but still a bit unsteady. "Get the walker up, okay? I can get
into the bathroom on my own."

Dave shook his head. "I'm not letting go of you. Besides, I think
that your colostomy bag must have come undone or something, and you're
going to need help."

"Fuck that," Carter angrily replied. "I can clean up my own mess,
Dave. Just get me the damn walker like I asked, okay?" Carter was so
angry that there were tears in his eyes, and Dave almost relented at
seeing that. But his common sense overcame his pity, and he shook his

"Sorry. I need to make sure that you didn't hurt yourself, and you're
going to need help getting into the shower. I'm your overnight nurse,
remember? You're kinda stuck with me." Dave started to walk toward
the bathroom, taking Carter with him, his mind already on what he'd
need. He knew that Carter kept the ostomy supplies in the bathroom,
so those would be there. And there were clean pajamas in Carter's
chest of drawers - Dave could get those while Carter was in the
shower, although Dave wasn't really sure that he wanted to leave
Carter alone in there. Yes, there was a seat in there for Carter to
use, but until he knew for certain that Carter was physically all
right, Dave just didn't feel comfortable leaving him alone in there.
He could get the pajamas when they came out of the bathroom and he put
Carter back to bed.

Of course, all of that depended on Dave having Carter's full
cooperation, and right now, Carter was still trying to get away from him.

"I'm not a baby, Dave. I can wash myself. Thanks for helping me get
up, but if you'd just get me the walker..." The angry tone had been
replaced by a pleading one, and Dave found that this nearly undid him.
He didn't like seeing Carter unhappy, or hurting. But, Dave knew he
had to be firm in his resolve. He was there to be of help to Carter,
and not just to keep the guy's couch warm.

"I'll get it later," Dave interrupted. "We're here now." They were
at the door of the bathroom, and Dave walked on inside, pausing only
to flip on the light switch. He then went over to the commode, and
lowered the lid so that Carter could sit down to undress. "Have a seat."

"No," Carter said, and he tried to twist away from Dave's guiding arm,
which resulted in Carter sitting down hard on the toilet lid. He
glowered up at Dave. "Get out of here. I'm perfectly capable of
doing this myself."

"Hoss..." Dave knelt in front of Carter, ignoring the odor emanating
from Carter's body. "I know that you can do this by yourself. The
point is that you don't have to, okay? You asked me to stay here so I
could help you, and that's what I'm doing."

"I asked you here because it was the only way I could get home,"
Carter snapped and he pushed at Dave's chest, nearly knocking Dave off

"I know that, Hoss. But the truth is that you do need me here, and we
both know it." Dave got to his feet, thinking that he'd perhaps been
overzealous in his efforts to take care of Carter. "Why don't you get
your shirt off while I get you a washcloth?" He turned on the water
in the sink, to let it get hot and then went out to the hallway to get
a washcloth. He supposed that Carter wouldn't allow himself to be
washed, but Dave could at least make the task a bit easier.

When Dave returned to the bathroom, he saw that Carter was just as
he'd left him, with the shirt still on. "Carter...you've got to take
the shirt off," Dave said as he stepped forward.

"And I will. Once you're out of here," Carter replied, his hands
going down to the hem of the T-shirt he was wearing. His posture let
Dave know that the movement hadn't been done in preparation for
removing the shirt, but to keep Dave from removing it.

"Okay." Dave held out the washcloth. "I'll be right outside the
door. You call me once you're done, and I'll help you get in the
shower. You can just ball the clothes together, or something, and
I'll take care of getting them washed."

Carter nodded as he accepted the washcloth from Dave, but he didn't
meet his eyes. "Okay."

"Okay," Dave agreed, also nodding. "Good." He stepped out into the
hallway and pulled the bathroom door closed behind him. Now that his
initial fear that Carter had injured himself was past, Dave was
beginning to see that Carter was most likely humiliated by what had
happened. He didn't need to feel that way, Dave thought. But, he
knew that if their places were reversed, he'd be feeling pretty bad
about having shit all over himself, and equally aghast over the idea
of having someone else trying to clean it up.

The problem was how to apologize to Carter for pressuring him without
making Carter feel even worse about the accident. Dave leaned against
the wall, his mind racing to find an answer. He wanted to help
Carter, not make the guy feel worse, so making things right was of the
utmost importance.


After Dave left the bathroom, John sat still on the toilet lid,
staring at the door. He was half afraid that he'd be undressing and
have Dave come barging back into the room, eager to help. The tears
of anger now turned to tears of despair as John wet the washcloth and
the simple act of stretching over to reach the sink made him hurt. He
was so damn tired of being in pain, of aching. He was tired of the
nightmares, and even more tired of the scenes that would assail him
during his waking hours. Physical therapy was painful, but worth it
as long as he was making progress, John noted. The problem was that
his progress wasn't happening as quickly as he'd like. If his stupid
leg was working properly, then he wouldn't be sitting on the toilet,
getting ready to clean shit off of his body. John swiped the
washcloth over his face, washing away the tears, and then he began to
remove the T-shirt that he'd worn to bed that night. The Hell with
cleaning it, he thought. Dave could just toss it all in the trash.

John grabbed one of the plastic garbage bags and shoved the T-shirt
inside, then after pushing the waist of his sweatpants down, he
removed the belt and ostomy bag, tossing them both in the bag. John
had another belt, and right then, the idea of reusing the other one
was repulsive to him. As he began to cleanse his skin, John found his
thoughts going back to Dave. He'd figured that the guy would have run
after the first night there, but he hadn't. Instead, he'd been there
each night, helpful and considerate, even though he was getting
anything, such as sex, in return.

Why? Why would Dave stick around? John was nothing more than a
stumbling shell of a man, smelly no matter how hard he scrubbed his
skin. He knew that his nightmares woke Dave up during the nights.
And yet, Dave stayed. Even when John lost his temper and threw things
across the room, Dave stayed. He'd be quiet until John had calmed,
and then he'd go and get the broom and dustpan and clean up whatever
it was John had broken, and not say a word about John's childish
behavior. It was as if Dave simply accepted that this was beyond
John's control, and put up with it until John could control it.

John used the edge of the sink and pulled himself to his feet so he
could remove the sweatpants, pushing them down to his knees before
sitting once more to finish the cleaning. When he was done, the
washcloth and the pants went into the trash bag, which John then
closed with a twist tie. He wished there was another way to close it,
to seal it off and hide the fact that he wasn't even capable of
shitting like a normal person. Yeah, he knew he was lucky - his
colostomy was temporary and would be reversed soon, and others weren't
so lucky. It still sucked, he thought, and then he smirked as he
wondered what his co-workers and family would think if they heard him
saying that. A Carter didn't use common language, that was a lesson
his grandmother had taught them all at young ages. Of course, his
family would have to actually BE there for them to hear him using
vulgar language. Not busy in Tokyo, or other places around the globe,
but right there in Chicago, Illinois, in the good old U.S. of A.

But they weren't, and he was, and John realized that he owed Dave an
apology for snapping at him when he was just trying to help. It
seemed that John was having to apologize a lot to Dave for things.
John looked down at his belly and shuddered as he regarded the
opening. He reached for a towel and draped it over his waist,
covering the offending sight - sights, if you counted the surgical
scars, and then called out that it was okay for Dave to come back inside.

The door opened, and Dave walked in slowly, as if he weren't sure of
what kind of reception he'd receive. Not that John blamed him for his
caution. A person didn't walk into a lion's den without some
apprehension and protection, and Dave definitely had no protection.

"You ready for that shower?" Dave asked, his eyes everywhere but on John.

"Yeah. And, uh...I'm sorry, about earlier. I shouldn't have snapped
at you." John watched as Dave went over to the tub and started the
water, wishing that things were normal and that Dave would once more
enjoy looking at him. But things weren't normal, and John knew that
Dave would never again want him. And rightfully so, he supposed.
After all, who wanted damaged goods? John had been lucky enough that
Dave had still wanted him even after finding out that John had been
turned on by some of the things those other guys had done to him.

"No need to apologize, Hoss," Dave said as he turned around to help
John to his feet. "You were upset, and rightly so. I was being too
pushy, and I apologize for that." As he held John upright, Dave bent
over and turned on the shower. "Ready to get in?"

John nodded and leaned heavily against Dave as he made his way over
the edge of the tub. As soon as he was in front of his little bench
seat, John sat, glad to be under the hot water. He didn't realize
that he was still holding that towel against his body until Dave
pointedly asked for it.

"Let me have that wet towel and I'll throw it in the wash with this
other stuff." Dave held out his hand for the towel.

John shook his head as he handed the towel to Dave and then covered
himself with his arms. "Just throw it all way. I can buy more towels."

"You sure? It won't take long to run it all through."

John nodded. "I'm sure. I don't ever want to wear those things
again. Thank you." John hoped that Dave would go then, because he
couldn't very well enjoy the shower if he couldn't move his hands away.

"Okay. I'll be right back." Dave pulled the shower curtain closed
and John relaxed, titling his head up toward the shower spray for a
few moments. Then he reached for the body soap, grateful it was in
liquid form, and began to wash himself more thoroughly. Maybe he
could find a way to repay Dave for his kindness, John thought. He was
sure that Dave would refuse money, but maybe John could manage to do
something without Dave knowing about it, such as paying off some of
his student loans. All John needed was the loan numbers. All the
banks cared about was getting their money back; they didn't care who
paid it. Or he could get Dave a car or something, so he wouldn't have
to ride his bike all of the time. He was currently loaning the Jeep
to Dave, and he was sure that once Dave was back at his own place,
he'd be missing the wheels. Or maybe he could do both, John thought.
One thing that Dave wouldn't know about, and one thing he would know
about. Of course, his preferred thing would have been to make crazy
and passionate love to Dave, but Dave's inability to even look at
John's body made that a stupid idea. So, it would have to be
something material, no matter how much John longed for it to be
something else.


Dave left the bathroom and shut the door, then leaned against it,
taking deep breaths. He'd known that Carter would be naked, but he
still had been taken a bit by surprise when junior down there
practically jumped to attention over it. Being so close to Carter and
not getting to touch him was starting to take a toll on him - and on
junior, Dave thought. Jerking off every night on Carter's couch
wasn't the way Dave had wanted to spend his nights. Of course, if he
hadn't have volunteered to stay with Carter, then he'd still be
jerking off, just at home. And Carter'd be trapped in the hospital.
All in all, this was the better solution.

Dave went on into the kitchen and put the trash bag into the kitchen
one, thinking that he'd take it all out to the dumpster later. He
didn't want to leave Carter alone for too long. The guy was too
stubborn for his own good, and Dave had no doubt at all that Carter
would try to get out of the tub alone once he was done with the shower.

Dave went back into the bathroom. The room was steamy from the hot
water, and it felt good against his skin. A shower really was a good
idea, he thought. Maybe he'd take one once he had Carter settled back
in bed? Junior jumped to life at that thought, and Dave mentally
reminded his cock that getting Carter settled in bed wasn't going to
include sex of any kind.

Dave's eyes drifted to the shower curtain. Would it hurt either one
of them if they showered together? While they wouldn't be able to do
anything, they'd at least be naked together, and able to touch one
another. Yeah, Dave thought, nodding. It couldn't hurt at all.
Grinning, he quickly stripped off the sweats he'd been wearing and
then he stepped into the shower behind Carter. Carter didn't seem to
notice his presence, which was okay by him. Dave didn't mind giving
the guy a pleasant surprise.

Dave reached out and began to knead the muscles of Carter's neck,
expecting a slight jump of surprise and then relaxation. The
half-scream that tore out of Carter's throat was definitely unnerving,
and Dave threw his arms around Carter's body to keep the guy from
lunging off of the bench.

"It's okay, Hoss. It's just me," Dave said. "I'm sorry. I should
have warned you that I was here."

"Get out!" Carter's voice trembled as he tried to twist out of Dave's
grip. Dave responded by tightening the hold he had on his lover.

"It's okay, John. It's just me." Dave hoped that if he kept
repeating that, then it would get through to Carter. He felt like
kicking himself for scaring the guy like that.


John felt a surge of panic as he realized that Dave was just as naked.
What was the guy doing? Tormenting him? "I know who it is. Now,
get out," John said. If Dave no longer wanted him, then why was he in
the shower?

John felt Dave pulling his body back a little, and he stiffened in
more than one place as he felt Dave's erection pressing into his back.
Dave DID want him. But, that made no sense. John was scarred and
had that damn colostomy to worry about. How could Dave possibly want him?

Those thoughts did nothing to abate John's own erection, and Dave's
didn't seem to be going anywhere, either. "Dave? What are you doing
in here?" John finally asked. If Dave really didn't want him, then it
was time for him to say something. And if he did want him, well, then
John had no clue as to what he'd do. He didn't want Dave seeing him
naked, not when the hot water was making the surgical scars look even
worse than they normally did. And he definitely didn't want Dave to
see the stoma. No how, no way.

Dave's hands began to massage John's neck, and he couldn't help but
push his body into them, craving the sensation of being touched. But
enjoyment of the touching didn't detract John from trying to find out
Dave's intentions, and he heard himself demanding over the roar of the
shower, "Dave? Answer me. Just what the Hell do you think you're doing?"

To be continued...
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