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It wasn't so much that Dave was ignoring Carter's questions as it was
that he, well, that he WAS doing just that. Dave couldn't answer
Carter because he himself had no idea why he was lingering there in
the shower, touching Carter. One part of him knew it was wrong to
push his own desires upon Carter while the guy was still healing, but
another part of him just wanted for them to be touching. Yeah, it
would be nice for them both to get off, but Dave would be satisfied
with the skin-to-skin contact. Dave also hadn't missed the fact that
Carter had leaned back against him, giving them even more skin-to-skin
contact. So, the guy obviously wasn't too upset over him being there
in the shower.

Dave removed his hands from Carter's shoulders long enough to grab the
shampoo and pour some into one hand. "I'm washing your hair," he said
as he put the bottle down and then began to massage the liquid into
Carter's dark locks. A simple answer, and one that Dave hoped Carter
would accept.

"Washing my hair?" Carter's head turned around and he looked up at
Dave, blinking the water out of his eyes. "I don't think it needs

"Well, too late to think of that now, isn't it?" Dave replied with a
grin as he continued to massage Carter's scalp. "Shampoo's already in
it. And if you keep looking up at me, then it'll get in your eyes,
and we don't want that." Using his hands, Dave gently moved Carter's
head until the guy was facing forward again.

There was a lull in the conversation then, one that lasted a few
moments, and then Carter spoke again. "Can you get me a towel?"

"Sure thing, Hoss," Dave said. There was a towel flipped up over the
shower curtain rod, and Dave pulled it down and handed it to Carter.
"Got soap in your eyes after all?"

"No," Carter said as he took the towel. "My eyes are okay."

"Good, cause it's time to rinse your hair now." Dave couldn't help
but see that Carter had done his best to place the towel over his
middle, and at first Dave thought that Carter was trying to hide the
fact that he was hard. And then it hit him - Carter was trying to
cover up the stoma. He either didn't want more water getting to it,
or...or he didn't want Dave to see it.

Dave felt like banging his head against the shower wall as he realized
how insensitive he'd been about that. Of course Carter didn't want
Dave seeing that. The entire time in the hospital, and then during
the days since he'd been released, Carter had been pretty adamant
about not having people around when the bag needed to be changed.
Okay, Davy, he told himself, you've discovered the problem, now find a
solution. His fingers continued to work over Carter's scalp as he
thought, only stopping when Carter called his attention to the fact
that he'd been ready to rinse the shampoo away.

"Right, we were going to do that, weren't we?" A plan started to form
then, and Dave took a step back from Carter. "Why don't you stand up
first? Then we can turn you around so you can put your head in the

"I don't think that's going to work," Carter replied, his arms
clenched against his body. "Just use a glass or something."

"It'll work. Trust me on this, Hoss. It'll work. Here." Dave
placed his hands on Carter's shoulders. "I won't let you fall."

Carter was still for a moment or two, and then he slowly got to his
feet. Dave made sure that he kept his hands on Carter's shoulders, to
keep him steady. "Good. Now you can go on and wrap that towel around
your waist and we'll be good to go."

Carter turned his head to look at Dave, but he didn't say anything.
Instead, Dave was treated to a small smile and then Carter secured the
now wet towel around his waist. "Ready whenever you are," Carter said
as he turned his face back to the front of the shower.

Getting Carter's hair rinsed wasn't as easy as Dave had first thought
it would be. For one thing, in his plans, he hadn't remembered that
he'd need to help support Carter's weight, and that made things take a
bit longer. Carter did as much as he could to keep upright, but by
the time the last of the shampoo suds went down the drain, Dave was
regretting that spur of the moment idea.

With one hand on Carter's shoulder and another on his hip, Dave guided
Carter back onto the seat. He then reached around and turned off the
water, and the sudden quiet of the bathroom seemed overwhelming.
"That wasn't so bad," Dave said, keeping his voice low so that he
wouldn't sound as if he were shouting.

"No, it wasn't," Carter agreed.

Dave pushed the shower curtain open and grabbed a towel from the towel
bar across from the toilet. He turned back to Carter and began to dry
Carter's hair.

"You know, I can do that myself," Carter said.

"I know," Dave replied, not stopping. "But I like doing it. One of
these days you're going to learn to just accept the fact that people
want to help you."

"I can accept that fact," Carter said, and he turned his head so that
he could look at Dave, his eyes intense. "I just don't like it."

Dave grinned back at Carter. "Then you need to learn to like it.
Just like you need to learn to tell me when I'm doing something that
makes you uncomfortable. I know that there are things that bother
you, like the ostomy. And I know that sometimes I don't think things
through, and I act before thinking, like when I got in the shower. I
didn't mean to make you uncomfortable, Hoss. I just wanted to be with
you." Dave's hands had quit moving as he spoke, and he moved the
towel from Carter's head to his shoulders, where he then began to
gently rub the skin dry.

"Dave..." Carter said, "I...I don't know what to say. I don't like
the ostomy, that much is true, but it doesn't make me uncomfortable."

"Having me seeing it does, though, doesn't it?" Dave moved the towel
down Carter's back, careful to avoid the scars from where the knife
had sliced into him. It took a lot of willpower for Dave to hold back
the shudder that threatened every time he thought about what Sobriki
had done to Carter.

"I...you...you shouldn't have to see it," Carter said, looking away
from Dave.

"Like I haven't seen worse?" Dave asked, only half-jokingly. "Look, I
know it bothers you, and I'm not trying to convince you that you're
wrong or something for feeling that way. I just want you to know that
if I'm being dense then you shouldn't hesitate to let me know. I'm
here to help you, remember? And having you feeling bad because I'm a
doofus isn't exactly helping you, is it?"

"You're not a doofus," Carter said, and then he shivered, which made
Dave realize that he most certainly was a doofus, because he was
standing there talking while Carter was sitting in a wet towel.

"We can argue about that later, when you're not about to catch
pneumonia. Get up and get that wet towel off and this dry one on."

"It was just a chill, Dave. I'm okay," Carter said as he continued to
sit there.

"If it was just a chill, then why do you have goosebumps all over?"
Dave chided. "On your feet. I'm not willing to have the Chief and
Benton all over me because I let you get sick."

Carter slowly got to his feet, holding onto the small bar over the
soap holder to keep steady. "I doubt if they'd be all over you," he
said as he let the wet towel lose. It dropped heavily, and Dave
wasted no time in wrapping the mostly dry towel around Carter's waist.

"That's easy for you to say, Hoss," Dave replied. "You're not the one
getting the third degree every morning at work. Wait here while I get
another towel for you."

Dave stepped out of the tub, only slightly aware that Carter was
watching him. "They ask you about me?" Carter asked, wonder in his voice.

"Every morning. It's like clockwork. I get there, log in, and before
I can reach my locker, the Chief's there, asking how you're doing.
So, I tell her, then start to get ready for the day. By the time I
open the door to leave the lounge, Benton's there, asking me how
you're doing. Most everyone else keeps their questions to every other
day." Dave opened the bathroom door and stepped out into the hallway
long enough to grab a towel from the linen closet, and then he was
back in the bathroom and making his way back to Carter.

"Why?" Carter asked as Dave began to pat his chest dry.

"Why what?" Dave asked, ignoring his own rising goosebumps as he
concentrated on getting Carter dry.

"Why are they asking?"

Dave paused long enough to look into Carter's eyes, and he saw genuine
confusion there. "Because they care about you, Hoss. Why else? Now
hold still while I get your legs done."

Under normal conditions, John would have protested the way that Dave
was babying him. But these weren't normal conditions, and John felt
tired and worn out. All he really wanted was to crawl back into bed
and be able to fall into a deep and dreamless sleep. Or at least a
sleep free from nightmares and memories, the kind of sleep that had
been eluding him ever since he was stabbed.

John looked down as Dave started to kneel so he could dry his legs,
and that's when John noticed that Dave was shivering. "This is
stupid," John said, shaking his head over what he was putting Dave
through. "You're freezing, Dave. I can dry myself while you're
getting dry," John undid the towel that was around his waist, sat back
down on the bath seat, and began to dry his own thighs, his eyes
trying to avoid the sight of the ostomy.

"I'm not cold," Dave replied, not even looking at John.

"You've got goosebumps all over you, so that means that you're cold.
Weaver'll have my hide if I let you catch pneumonia or something,"
John joked. He reached over and placed his hand on Dave's upper arm,
tugging lightly. "Come on, Dave. Get dried off."

Dave looked at him then, with a smile on his face. "You don't gotta
twist my arm," he joked as he got to his feet and began to rub the
towel briskly over his own body. "Want me to set out the bag and
stuff for you?"

John thought that over as he moved the towel over his skin. He was
used to putting on his own bag, but he was tired, and he knew that if
he didn't get everything right, then the seal wouldn't take and the
bag would leak. After the embarrassment of the 'accident', John
definitely didn't want a repeat performance.

"Actually," he said, glancing over at Dave as he spoke, "I was
thinking that maybe you could do it for me? I can tell you what to do."

"I know what to do," Dave replied as he started to rub the towel over
his hair. "I can do it for you." Dave peeked out from under the
towel and smiled at John. "Let me go get the walker for you, and then
you can take your time finishing up in here while I get things ready,

John nodded. "Sounds like a plan to me."

Dave wrapped the towel around his waist and left the bathroom,
returning shortly with the walker. He lingered long enough to help
John step over the side of the tub, and then Dave left John alone in
the room. John ran a hand over his weary eyes, then wrapped the towel
around his waist and started the long trip back to his bedroom.

When he got there, John saw that Dave had everything laid out on the
bed, including a fresh pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt for John to
wear to bed. Dave had even taken the time to pull on a pair of
sweats. "Looks like you've got things under control," John commented
as he made his way to the side of the bed.

"I try my best," Dave replied with a grin. "Go on and get the T-shirt
on and that damp towel off. I WAS serious when I said that I didn't
want you getting sick or anything."

Despite having been naked in front of Dave not so long ago and was
about to let Dave tend to a very personal need, John hesitated when it
came to removing the towel. He wished that there was a way to get the
bag on while wearing the towel, but his short experience with the
colostomy and its care had shown John that there was no other way.
John loosened the towel and let it fall to the floor, and then he sat
down on the side of the bed and reached for the T-shirt.

Dave took care of things without a lot of comments, which suited John
just fine, especially since he was feeling more tired by the moment.
When he was finally dressed for bed and under the covers, it was John
himself who broke the silence.

"Could I ask you something else?"

Dave paused as he picked up the debris from attaching the ostomy bag
and nodded. "Anything, Hoss."

"Why did you come into the shower with me?" John needed to know if
Dave still found him desirable, if Dave still cared in that way for him.

"I did it because I've missed you," Dave said. He came closer and sat
down on the edge of the bed. "I know that you're not ready for sex
and all, but I've missed seeing you and touching you. I should have
waited until you were ready, though, and I'm sorry that I just barged
in without warning."

"It's okay," John replied, a small smile on his lips. So Dave DID
still want him! That made the scare worth it, John thought. "I've
missed you, too. I thought...well, it doesn't matter what I thought,
except that I missed you."

"It matters," Dave replied. "I always care about what you're
thinking, John."

John looked away from the intense look that Dave was giving him. His
fingers began to play with the edge of the blanket as he spoke, "I
thought that maybe you'd changed your mind about wanting me."

"Never!" John felt Dave's hand on his chin and he let Dave turn his
head so that they were facing each other once more. "I...I love you,
John Carter. And nothing, not surgery or scars, is going to change that."

John's heart felt as if it would burst as he heard Dave's words, and
he realized that he, too, felt that way about Dave. He grinned. "I
love you, too."

They continued to look at each other, both men grinning broadly, and
then John pushed his body up from the bed. "I think that when two
people declare their love, that they're supposed to seal it with a
kiss or something."

"Are they now?" Dave asked as he leaned forward.

John nodded. "That's what I've heard."

"Then I guess we'd better do some sealing then, haven't we?"

Their lips met in a warm kiss that grew quickly into a kiss of
passion. John was left a bit breathless and eager to do more than
kiss. But he knew that making love in the way he wanted was out of
the question right then. But there were other things besides sex,
John thought. He just wasn't sure if those other things would be
enough for Dave.

"You know, I don't think that you really need to be keeping that couch
warm every night," John said. Dave's response to that would let John
know whether or not mere physical contact would be good enough for Dave.

Dave grinned. "You don't? And what do you suggest I do then? You've
only got the one bedroom, Hoss."

John patted the mattress beside him. "I think that this needs to be

"I think you're right. Let me go get the lights and we'll see if the
mattress agrees with you," Dave said. He leaned forward and gave John
a quick kiss and then he left the bedroom.

John curled up under the covers, a smile on his face as he anticipated
how nice it would be to have Dave in the bed with him. Dave soon
returned to the bedroom, and he turned out that light, then crawled
into the bed and wasted no time in spooning his body around John's.

Dave kissed the back of John's neck. "Night..."

"Goodnight," John replied as he snuggled even closer to Dave. He
closed his eyes and quickly fell asleep, as much lulled by the sound
of Dave's breathing as by the safety of Dave's arms.

When John awoke the next morning, it was early. This wasn't so
unusual for him, as his nightmares often awoke him in the wee hours of
the morning and then this brain kept replaying that night over and
over again until sunrise. What was unusual was that on this
particular morning, John was waking up early because he was well
rested. He smiled as he burrowed in closer to Dave's body, savoring
the warmth of the other man. For weeks now, John had felt that
something vital was missing, and now he knew what it had been - Dave.

It was funny, John thought, not hah-hah funny, but strange-funny, that
even though he and Dave had just shared a few nights together, those
nights had come to mean so much. They were simply the best nights
John had ever had. He had felt safe and loved in Dave's arms, and had
missed that after the stabbing. Why he hadn't insisted on having Dave
sleep with him once he was home was beyond him. Well, it wasn't
really beyond him. John had been afraid to ask, afraid that Dave
would turn him down.

But that was no longer a worry. Dave hadn't turned him down last
night, and here he still was, sleeping soundly behind John. John
moved his arms so that he could rest a hand on Dave's arm. This was
the way love was supposed to feel, he thought, all warm and cozy.
John's eyes fluttered shut and his mind, centered on Dave and how
great it felt to be with Dave, slowly closed down, letting John fall
back into an easy and nightmare free sleep.

To be continued...
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