Chicago, December 1999
Elaine Nichols and Dave Malucci came back into John's life at roughly
the same time; although, when it happened, John didn't really notice
Dave. To be more precise, while he knew that the new resident's name
was Dave Malucci, at that point, John didn't recognize him from ten
years earlier. Elaine had taken up a lot of John's attention, both
with the incredible sex and then her battle with breast cancer.
It wasn't until Elaine left Chicago and was no longer distracting
John, that he began to pay attention to Dave. At first it was just a
nagging feeling that he knew Dave, but just couldn't place where he
knew him from. Dave claimed to be from New York, and while John had
visited there often enough, he was pretty certain that he didn't know
Dave from there. As far as knowing Dave from school was concerned,
Dave had finally confessed on Thanksgiving that he went to medical
school in Grenada because he'd been unable to get into a medical
school in the US. Dave claimed that he'd partied too much and had a
lousy score on his MCATs. Watching Dave, John could believe the
partying bit, but not the lousy score excuse. Dave was intelligent,
and even though John realized that some people just weren't good at
taking tests, he didn't think that Dave was one of them.
What made it all click into place for John was hearing Dave call
someone "Hoss". God, that had chilled him to the bone, and John had
had to retreat to an empty exam room as his mind flashed back to the
time he'd been kidnapped. Was it a coincidence? It had to be a
coincidence. If it were true, then how could Dave have been working
there for weeks and not give away the fact that he'd once been John's
kidnapper? Surely other people used the term "Hoss"?
But the more that John listened to Dave talk, the more certain he
became that Dave was one of his tormentors. The head guy, in fact.
John burned with shame, knowing that Dave had seen him naked and hard
at the hands of Dave and the other guys. The shame morphed into
anger. Anger that Dave was running around County as if nothing had
ever happened. As if he'd never cut off John's clothing and
humiliated him so brutally. John's soul cried out for revenge, and he
put on an outward face of casualness toward Dave, not wanting the
bastard to know that he had recognized him.
Christmas was quickly approaching, and Dave let everyone know that he
was going home for it, and leaving on December 23rd, to be back on the
28th. Since John now had his own place, he could easily have a
'guest', someone that nobody else would know about. With a smile on
his face and anger in his heart, John continued to be friendly toward
Dave, all the while planning his revenge. Oh, yeah, revenge was going
to be very sweet indeed.
Even though Dave had never forgotten that John Carter was from
Chicago, he had never imagined that Carter would be working there, and
in an inner-city hospital, no less. That entire first day at work,
Dave had been on pins and needles, trying to impress Dr. Weaver while
at the same time trying to tell if Carter recognized him.
Apparently, he hadn't, and that made Dave breathe a little bit easier,
especially after the day they went together to save a construction
worker who'd been in a job-site accident. If close proximity hadn't
triggered a memory, then Dave was pretty sure he was safe from being
fingered as a kidnapper - and worse. Still, Dave never quite relaxed
until a shared shift was over and he was home, away from the hospital
and John Carter.
As the months passed, Dave began to worry that maybe the whole thing
had been so traumatic that Carter had blanked it out. If that were
the case, then would his mere presence at County be Carter's downfall?
Dave worried about that for around two weeks, until persistent
questioning of a resident on the psych floor had left him convinced
that if it hadn't happened yet, it wouldn't happen.
And that's when home became more of a cell and not so much a haven as
it had been before. Once alone, Dave's mind would play over the
events that had happened, beginning with the three of them; him, Ron
and Harry, breaking into Carter's room and then ending with the three
of them quite literally dumping Carter's sheet-wrapped body onto his
bed and then running out of the room and the dorm, to escape to New
Jersey - to drop off Harry, and New York City - to drop off Dave and
then for Ron to go home as well.
Then there would be the agony of the memory of the return to school,
of confronting Steve with what they'd discovered and getting out from
under his thumb. Steve quit school, as did Gary. Harry also dropped
out, leaving Ron and Dave to wander the campus, fearful of running
into John Carter and being recognized. Drinking helped damp that
fear, Dave discovered. And so did pot, and the second semester passed
in a high that Dave knew was self-destructive. When the semester
ended, Ron announced that he was transferring to another school, and
Dave, well Dave slinked back to New York and kept partying all summer
long. When it came time to go back to Penn, Dave dragged his heels,
and he never went. Instead he enrolled in a local school, which meant
putting up with his old man, but hey, that was a mild punishment
considering his crimes, right?
By the time Dave emerged out of the guilt, it was too late to save his
academic career. He went from being a straight A student in high
school and his first semester of college to barely passing. But, he
graduated, which was all that mattered, and he went to sit for his
MCATs thinking that he'd be able to salvage medical school. That
thought had sustained him well until he received his grades and saw
how low they were. No medical school in the states would accept him,
and Dave almost gave up then, but something within him made him seek
out a school that would accept him, and he found himself in Grenada, a
year later than he'd anticipated with regard to starting medical
school, but there nonetheless. As Dave worked hard to prove that he
was as good as the students stateside, he would wonder what Carter was
doing, and the guilt would dig in, threatening to pull Dave down again.
The one thing that had helped Dave during that time was something, or
someone, that came about from an accident. Lisa, one of the other
students there in Grenada, was always flirting with him. Dave would
flirt back, but that's as far as it went. And then she got lucky
enough to catch him during one of his guilt-trip times, and he gave
in, letting the pleasure of her body keep the guilt at bay.
Everything had been fine after that, until she missed her period and
then discovered she was pregnant. Lisa had the baby, a fact that Dave
was happy about, and he'd had the pleasure of being a daddy. For a
short while, anyway. Lisa had been a year ahead of him in med school,
and she left for her residency, ending up in Detroit, of all places.
Up to that point, Dave had been a constant presence in his son's life.
After that point, he had to settle for seeing Dylan on holidays and
during the summer, when Dave would go to Detroit. His summer stays
gave Lisa a break from having to pay childcare, but Dave would also
work part-time, so he could keep on giving money to Lisa for Dylan.
When it came time for Dave's residency, the closest he could get to
Dylan was Chicago, and Dave had made the best of things. He still saw
Dylan as often as he could, sometimes taking three-day weekends in
order to spend time with his son. But, any sacrifice was worth it as
long as Dave was rewarded with a smile from Dylan when he stepped
through the door.
Having Dylan in his life had helped Dave fight off the guilt, and not
let it eat away at him as it had before. Sure, Dave still had his
brewskis, nothing would stop that, but he drank in moderation, and he
steered well clear of pot. So, when it now looked as if guilt was
going to attack again, Dave knew he could keep it at bay -- just as
long as he didn't have to look at, or talk to John Carter. It would
have been easier if not for his damn eyes, Dave thought. They were
always so expressive, so...so penetrating. And at times, they were
downright sad, and Dave feared that the sadness was due to him and
what he'd done all those years ago.
Still, Dave didn't go out of his way to avoid Carter. In fact, he
found himself gravitating to the man, yearning to see his smile each
day, and wanting so much to chase away the sadness that appeared in
those gorgeous eyes of his. And so, each day Dave fought an internal
battle between his attraction to John Carter and his need to stay
distant from the man so that his secret crime would remain secret.
Dave stopped walking as he heard Carter calling his name. He turned
around, a grin on his face and determined to not let himself get
dragged back into the ER. "Sorry, my friend, but as of five minutes
ago, I am on vacation. I am not going back in there. My train leaves
at eight in the morning, and I've still got some presents to wrap
before I get on board." Dave didn't mention that his train was first
stopping in Detroit, where he'd pick up his son, and that the two of
them would then continue on to New York, to spend Christmas with the
rest of Dave's family. Nobody at County ever asked about his personal
life, so Dave chose not to volunteer anything, especially anything
John shook his head as he caught up to Dave. He, too, was off from
his shift, and if he was going to exact his payback, it was then or
never. "I'm off, too," he reassured the other man. "I just
thought...well, I wanted to see if you wanted to stop by my place?
You know, for a beer or something? You're not going to be here over
Christmas, so this is the only chance I have to wish you a merry one."
"Yeah?" Carter wanted him to come over? How could he turn down an
invitation to Carter's place? "Hey, you still living with the Chief?"
John shook his head. "Got my own place now." He cocked his head to
one side. "How about it? One beer and then you can go home and wrap
Dave nodded, his grin still in place. "Sounds good, my friend. Did
you drive, or...?"
"I drove," John replied. "The Jeep's in the parking garage. Do we
need to get your bike or have you finally decided that it's too cold
to be riding it to work?"
Dave laughed as he stepped closer to Carter. "I took the el in today.
It is getting colder, but it's not too cold yet. It's mostly the ice
that I worry about, more so than the cold."
"Good thing for you that there isn't any ice in Grenada," John
commented as they headed to the parking garage. Now that he had Dave
agreeing to come over, John had to figure out just how he was going to
keep Dave there. He supposed he could hit him over the head and knock
him out, but that risked giving him a fractured skull. John wanted
Dave to suffer the way he had suffered, but he thought a fractured
skull might be a little too much. He did have some Benadryl left over
from an earlier attack of hay fever. The only problem with that idea
was that mixing an antihistamine and beer wasn't the best idea. But
what if he got Dave to drink something else first, like a soda or a
milkshake laced with the pills? Yeah, that just might work. John
smiled at Dave as he nodded. Yeah, that would work out best, he thought.
Dave smiled back at Carter, glad to see him in a good mood - and happy
to see that smile in place. God, but Carter's smile..."Uh, yeah, it
was. And I did have a bike there, and was able to use it a lot. Kept
the leg muscles in shape."
"I can tell," John replied, and he then had to force himself to keep
from frowning as he wondered just why in the Hell he'd said that. And
why he'd ever noticed Dave Malucci's legs in the first place.
"Thanks," Dave replied, happy to know that all of his efforts at
having a buff body were paying off. Especially since it was John
Carter doing the noticing.
John stopped at his Jeep and unlocked the passenger door, then went
around to the driver's side, not making any further comment. Dave
slipped into the passenger seat, putting his bookbag on the floor and
then putting on his seatbelt. He was tickled to have been invited to
Carter's place, even if it was going to be a minefield once they were
there. Dave couldn't deny that he was attracted to Carter, but at the
same time, that fear was there. A fear that he'd mess up and reveal
to Carter that he'd been one of his kidnappers years ago, or that
Carter would reveal to him that he'd already figured it out.
As he pulled out of the garage, John started to make small talk,
because he hated silence in a car, and wasn't sure that they could
agree on a radio station. "You're going to New York for Christmas,
Dave nodded. "Yep. That's where most of the family still lives.
I've got a few relatives scattered around the country, and an uncle
here, too, in Chicago. But, most everyone gathers in New York for
Christmas. What about you?" Dave couldn't remember if anyone at
County had said that Carter was from Chicago, so he felt it was safest
to pretend to not know.
"I'm from here. Sometimes the family's all here, and sometimes
they're not. There were a couple of years when everyone seemed to be
here, but lately we've all gone our own ways. The family tries to get
together over the summer, though. But, I've missed that lately, too.
It's difficult to get the time off for everything." John didn't want
to remember the way his grandfather and father had shown up in
Philadelphia the day after his kidnappers released him, concerned for
his safety since he'd not been in his room to answer the phone when
his grandfather had called. Or the way they carried on about it all,
even though John had assured them that he'd merely been out and that
whoever had called Chicago about him must have been pulling a prank.
For years after that, everyone was home for Christmas, including John.
It wasn't until he was out of college and in medical school that the
family relaxed on that issue.
"That's true," Dave replied with a sigh. "I'm lucky that Kovac
offered to cover for me, or else I wouldn't be heading home." Dave's
stomach chose that moment to rumble, and he wrinkled his nose,
thinking that his belly had some lousy timing, because he really
didn't have enough money on him to be able to offer to buy Carter
dinner or something.
"Are you hungry?" John asked. He hadn't had anything to eat since
shortly before noon, and was starving. "It's probably not a good idea
for us to drink on empty stomachs. I could swing by a burger place or
Dave had enough money to get a cheeseburger and a drink and fries for
himself, so he nodded. "I could go for a cheeseburger. I'm not
partial to any one place, so you can just pull into the first
drive-thru you find."
"Okay," John replied. It didn't take long before he spotted a
McDonald's and then they were on their way. They decided to wait
until they were at John's place before eating, and the aroma of the
freshly made fries was making both of their stomachs rumble fiercely.
"Here we are," John said as he pulled up in front of his building and
parked. "And not a second too soon, either. I was about to pull over
and pig-out, it smells so good." He looked over at Dave and grinned,
and his stomach felt warm and fluttery when Dave grinned back. John
shook off that feeling, though. If he was going to get Dave back for
what he did, then John couldn't afford to feel any affection at all
for the man.
"I wouldn't have argued with you about that," Dave said as he got out
of the Jeep, the bag of food and his milkshake in hand.
John grabbed his shake and his bag and led the way into the building.
They were both quiet as they made their way to John's apartment, but
once inside, Dave looked around and nodded approvingly.
"Nice place you've got here."
"Thanks. I haven't been here long, and when I was apartment hunting,
I was in a hurry, so I think I got pretty lucky in finding a place
like this." John set his drink on the dining table, then put his bag
on the floor against the wall. "It's not very big, just one bedroom,
but it seems well made, and the neighbors are nice."
"That's always a plus," Dave said as he followed Carter's lead and put
the food and his drink on the table and his bookbag against the wall
by Carter's bag. "It's also a plus to not have to deal with roaches."
John shuddered as he remembered the way that Anna Del Amico used to
deal with roaches in her apartment. "A definite plus," John said as
he went into the kitchen and returned with a bottle of Heinz ketchup.
"One thing that surprised me back in college was the lack of bugs in
the dorms. What about you? What was your college like?" John kept
his eyes on his Big Mac box as he opened it, wondering if Dave would
be honest and admit where he went to school or if he'd lie about it.
Dave had been reaching for the ketchup when Carter had asked about
college and he was proud of himself for not dropping the bottle. Did
Carter know? Was he just playing games with him? Dave glanced over
at Carter, but Carter was opening the box that held his burger. The
question meant nothing, Dave thought, or else Carter would be watching
him, looking for a sign that he was right or something.
"There weren't many roaches in Grenada," Dave managed to breezily
reply as he squeezed the ketchup out onto some fries.
"I guess not," John replied, a little saddened that Dave hadn't
admitted that he'd gone to Penn. Well, it really didn't matter. John
knew where Dave had gone, and more importantly, what Dave had done
while there, and that was all that mattered. The Benadryl was in the
kitchen, and if John was going to slip it to Dave, then he needed to
do it then, while he had the opportunity.
Reaching for the ketchup bottle, John's arm bumped into Dave's
milkshake, knocking it to the floor. The lid popped off and the
chocolate mixture spread over the hardwood flooring as John rose to
"Oh, man, Dave...I'm so sorry. Here..." John shoved the napkins at
Dave. "See if you can mop that up while I get a towel or something."
John hurried into the kitchen, out of Dave's sight. He opened
drawers until he found the Benadryl, and he pulled out four capsules,
thinking. Each capsule held 50mg of antihistamine, and a person would
be harmed if he took 300mg of it. So, if John gave Dave three and a
half of the capsules, or rather, the contents of the capsules, then
that should be enough to knock him out. Or get him close to it.
John put the capsules on the counter, then grabbed the dishcloth and
ran it under the water to dampen it. He then grabbed a dish towel and
returned to the dining area.
When Carter had given Dave the napkins, Dave had immediately started
to clean up the mess. Working quickly, he was able to push some of
the milkshake back into the cup, but there was still a mess on the
floor. Carter returned, handing Dave a wet cloth and a towel, and
Dave smiled his thanks.
"I'm not normally that clumsy," John said. "Tell you what, you can
have my milkshake."
Dave shook his head. "I can't take your drink, man. That just
wouldn't be right. I'll just have a beer or something." He said as
he wiped up the remaining mess.
"No. It's my fault that your shake is gone. How about if we split
mine? Then we'll each get some, okay?" John grabbed his cup and
headed back to the kitchen.
"Uh, sure. Okay," Dave called out after him. He grinned as he dried
the floor and then got to his feet. He'd heard some stories about how
Carter was less than graceful when a med student, but he'd never
really believed them. Now, however, Dave could easily imagine Carter
being a bit clumsy. Dave shoved the wet napkins into the cup, then
gathered up the dishcloth and towel and headed into the kitchen.
Carter was pouring some of the milkshake into a glass, and when it was
half full, Carter handed it to Dave.
"Thanks," Dave said as he put the dishcloth and towel into the sink
and then took the glass. "I guess it's a good thing we both ordered
chocolate, isn't it?"
Carter smiled at him, and Dave couldn't help but think that it was the
most beautiful smile he'd ever seen. In fact, Carter's smile seemed
to hit him hard, in more ways than one, and Dave had to turn away from
Carter. "Where's the trash can?"
"Over there by the stove," John replied. Come on and drink up, he
silently urged. He needed Dave to drink it all down, and quickly,
before they got to the beer. John didn't want to put Dave in the
hospital over mixing too much of the drug with beer - he just wanted
him helpless. Just as helpless as he himself had been ten years ago.
John shoved his hands in his pockets, and the fingers of his right
hand came in contact with the Benadryl packaging. John felt lucky
that he'd thought to put the Benadryl in the glass before pouring in
the milkshake, or else Dave would have caught him in the act of lacing
John smiled when Dave turned back toward him, and then he pulled his
hands out of his pockets and picked up his McDonald's cup. "I think
our food's getting cold."
Dave nodded at Carter's observation, and he followed him back to the
table. The fries and burgers were still warm, and Dave eagerly dug
in, his desire for Carter stoking his physical hunger. It was a good
thing that he had the shake to wash the food down with, since he was
eating everything so quickly. It wasn't until Dave had finished the
shake and burger that he realized that Carter was staring at him. And
that he had been staring at him the whole time that he'd been eating.
"That was good," Dave said, but inside he hoped that Carter didn't
think he was a slob or something. Carter nodded, still smiling and
staring. Damn, those eyes, Dave thought as he stared back.
"You like hockey, don't you?" John asked. "I think there's a game on
tonight. Why don't you see if you can find it while I finish eating?"
The Benadryl wouldn't act immediately, and John couldn't think of
anything else that would distract Dave until he became drowsy.
"Yeah," Dave replied as he gathered up his trash. "There is a game on
tonight. Let me toss this into the trash and I'll see if I can find
it. I think it's on ESPN." He grinned at Carter. "I didn't know
that you were a hockey fan."
John shrugged. "I'm not a big fan, but I like watching it," he said,
reaching for the last of his French fries. "I'm more of a basketball
fan, mainly because it's a game I can play."
Dave nodded then went to throw out his trash. As he came back out of
the kitchen, he smiled at Carter. "I know what you mean. I play on a
hockey team, although I liked hockey long before I started playing it.
I guess I like it better than basketball because they move faster,
being on ice and all." Dave went over to the TV, feeling a bit
envious because of the size of the screen.
"I've played it, but mostly for fun, with my family. Bobby, my
brother, was a much better player than I was," John admitted as he
began to gather up his meal debris.
"You've got a brother?" Dave looked over at Carter questioningly.
"Younger or older?"
"He was older by a few years, but he died when I was ten. I've got an
older sister, too, Barbara. What about you? Any brothers or
sisters?" John didn't like to talk about Bobby to just anyone, and he
really didn't want to talk about Bobby with Dave Malucci, so he felt
it best to change the subject to Dave's family.
"Two brothers, one older, one younger, and an older sister," Dave
said. Carter nodded and then went into the kitchen and Dave returned
his attention back to the television until Carter came into the living
room. "My sister thinks she's the boss of me, what about yours?" It
was pretty obvious to Dave that Carter didn't want to talk about his
dead brother, and even though Dave was curious as to how Bobby died,
he wasn't going to push the issue. Not right then, anyway.
John grinned as he sat down on the other end of the couch. "Barbara
used to be bossy, but as she's gotten older, that's changed. She's
much more into hiding so that she won't be noticed by the rest of the
family. She lives in Europe. She came here when I graduated from
medical school, and stayed a week, and that's the last time I saw her.
We talk on the phone a lot, but she doesn't like coming home."
Dave nodded as if he could understand a person feeling that way, but
he didn't. When he had the money, he was always going back and forth
from Grenada to the states, mostly to see Dylan, but sometimes to
visit his parents. It just seemed odd to him that someone would stay
away from home for years. His thoughts on that were diverted though,
when one of the teams on the screen scored a goal, and from then on,
he was paying more attention to the game. He'd gotten past all of the
potential minefields that were in Carter's questions, and it was
pretty clear that Carter had no idea that they'd gone to the same
college, let alone that Carter knew what Dave had done.
Relaxed, Dave leaned back in his seat and enjoyed the game, and before
too long found himself fighting off an attack of the yawns, which
wasn't too surprising since he'd had an early shift that day. Still,
the game and company were good, and he didn't want to leave, even if
he did still have presents to get wrapped. He could always catch a
short nap on the train in the morning.
To be continued