Everything Old Is New Again by The She Devil
Summary: College came and went, and so did Dave. Takes place during
season six.

Author's Notes: So.. you all remember that story? "The Boy Behind the
Counter"? Well, this is the sequel to that. I didn't expect one
either, but once I got this idea in my head, I couldn't get it out.
The story's not nearly finished, but I have a couple chapters and I
couldn't wait to post. Enjoy.
Categories: Regular Characters: Dave Malucci, John Carter
Genres: General
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 13 Completed: No Word count: 11502 Read: 295891 Published: August 28, 2004 Updated: October 03, 2004

1. Prologue by The She Devil

2. Chapter One by The She Devil

3. Chapter Two by The She Devil

4. Chapter Three by The She Devil

5. Chapter Four by The She Devil

6. Chapter Five by The She Devil

7. Chapter Six by The She Devil

8. Chapter Seven by The She Devil

9. Chapter Eight by The She Devil

10. Chapter Nine by The She Devil

11. Chapter Ten by The She Devil

12. Chapter Eleven by The She Devil

13. Chapter Twelve by The She Devil

Prologue by The She Devil
-------------------------------
Prologue
-------------------------------

It had been nearly five years since he'd last spoken to Dave. John
still thought about him, more often than he'd like to admit. He
considered that it was normal, to think about his old friend that
much; after all, they had been lovers. He had been John's first and
only male lover. John's first and only lots-of-everythings.

He'd also been the first and only person John had ever loved..

It had been warm when they'd said goodbye, he could remember. They'd
gone to the lake at Gamma's mansion before Dave's flight, fooling
around in the water like always, ending up making love on the grass
nearby. It was the last time they'd ever make love.

He wondered if they could've made it work. He knew they'd both tried,
but it had just been too hard to stay together living thousands of
miles apart. But maybe they should've tried harder. Maybe John
should've tried harder.. but hadn't he? Hadn't it been Dave who'd
initiated it??

"This isn't working, is it?" Dave had asked, during one of their long
stretches of awkward pauses. They'd been having them more and more
often during their phone conversations. "I mean, you know.. us."

Not working? John hadn't even wanted Dave to go to Grenada in the
first place. But Dave insisted on it, the only school he'd gotten into
after applying to several. Why would he want to go there? It was a
party school, it was a last-resort school. It was miles and miles
away. Why there?? Why there when John could easily get him into any
school he wanted by pulling a few strings? Because he wanted to do
something on his own, for once, Dave had replied. He couldn't rely on
John all the time.

Why not, is what John had wanted to know. Maybe then, they wouldn't be
in this mess.

"What do you mean?" John had asked in response, his heart pounding in
his chest. Was Dave really saying that? "It's only been a couple of
months.. "

"John.. "

"We could try for a little longer," he offered, hearing the
desperation in his own voice.

"How much longer? A few more months?" he asked. "We're just going to
be saying the same things over and over again.. "

There was another long silence. John could hear something, but he
didn't recognize it right away. Then he did. Dave was crying.

"John, I love you but this is too hard," he said, his voice hitching.
"I miss you too much."

"I love you too, Dave. I miss you too. Isn't that enough?"

"I'm going to be here at least another three years," he replied. "I
can't do this for three more years."

"What is wrong with you??" he nearly snapped, scared and confused, and
most of all hurt. "Have you met someone else?"

"No!" Dave exclaimed, and then paused. "Don't you get it?? Every time
I talk to you, it fucking kills me, John. I can't take it, not for
three more years. Can't we just.. "

"Not talk to each other for three fucking years??"

There was another pause. "Yeah."

It was like a slap in the face. It was worse. It was like a mortal
wound. He wanted to die. "Fuck you, Dave. Take three years. Take all
the time you want."

It had taken John nearly that long to be able to function like a
normal human being again, let alone get over him. But he had, slowly
but surely.. right? Yes, he was sure there was always going to be a
part of him that loved Dave, but he couldn't possibly still be in love
with him, like the way he had been.

Right?

Right.

-------------------------------

To be continued..
Chapter One by The She Devil
A/Ns: I don't actually have anything to say here except to enjoy. ;P

-------------------------------
Chapter One
-------------------------------

"Randi, have you seen my films on Mr. Eisner in Three?" he asked,
rummaging through the box where x-rays were supposed to end up. He
glanced up at the desk clerk, watching as she, herself, looked through
papers on her desk. "I don't know if they'd be over there."

She looked up at him, annoyed. "I'm not looking for your stupid films.
I lost a file and I can't find it."

"Help me and I'll help you," he said, smiling sweetly. Sometimes, you
just had to know how to handle her.

"Fine," she replied curtly. Obviously, her day wasn't going very well.
"But you'd better help me find it. Weaver's been all over my ass about
it this morning. Here's your film, right here, just open your eyes.
God, doctors. You guys are so lucky I'm here to run the place."

John smiled, half amazed and half amused. "Thanks, Rand. Now what are
you looking for?"

"A file," she replied, shoving some papers aside. "It's in a manila
envelope. There were three new employee files and that one got lost."
She picked two files up, reading them off. "I have Dr. Luka Kovac, Dr.
Cleo Finch, and I can't find this Dr. Muh-Something-Or-Other. I *know*
they were right here. Somebody had to have touched them. I can't
believe this."

"Relax, Randi, they have to be here somewhere," John stated, glancing
on the floors and under the desks just in case it might've fallen. "Do
you think you accidentally threw it away?"

"Why would I throw away something I needed??" she asked.

"You wouldn't," John replied. "That's why it's an accident. Is this it?"

She snatched the file from him before he could even look at it. "Yes!
It is. Dr. Dave Malucci. Thank you. I knew I didn't throw it -- "

"What?" he asked, and he felt like he was frozen. He couldn't move. He
couldn't think. He couldn't even breathe. He couldn't do anything but
focus on that name. That name he used to know. "What did you say the
name was??"

She eyed him suspiciously. "Dr. Dave Malucci. Why? You know him?
Jeeze, Carter, you look like your puppy just got hit by a truck or
something. Are you okay?"

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine," he replied hastily, brushing off her concern.
He began to walk away from her, glancing over his shoulder, regarding
her carefully. "And, um, yeah, I know him. I used to, I mean. We
haven't spoken in.. years."

"Well, he's coming in tomorrow, so you'll have your chance then," she
replied, and he swore he could've died.

Tomorrow?? he thought, rushing into the Lounge. He headed for the
couch; he needed to sit down. Dave was coming tomorrow, to Cook County
General, to work there?? Why there? Was it because of him? It couldn't
be coincidence. Not like that. It just.. but why? Why there??

"Carter?" he heard, glancing up with a startled gasp, and cleared his
throat quickly. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah, Dr. Greene," he replied, nodding. He stood up, brushing the
sweat from his brow with the back of his hand. "Just taking a
breather. It's busy as hell out there, man, just.. crazy."

"Sure is," his boss replied, making himself some coffee.

John nodded. It sure was.

-------------------------------

To be continued..
Chapter Two by The She Devil
-------------------------------
Chapter Two
-------------------------------

He wanted to call in sick. He'd almost done it. Several times, in
fact. He'd picked up the phone. Dialed. Hung up. Picked it up again.
Dialed again. Hung up again. Once he even got a vicious Randi, telling
whoever it was on the other end to stop pranking or she swore she was
going to *69 his ass and then kick it.

He didn't call again. Instead, he went into work, looking over his
shoulder at every possible moment. He was distracted, and it showed.
Twice Dr. Greene asked him if everything was all right. Once Dr.
Weaver yelled at him. Several times had Lucy Knight bugged the Hell
out of him, psycho-analyzing him as she tried to figure out what was
wrong.

"Nothing!" he finally snapped, in the middle of the hall. "Nothing is
wrong. So leave me alone, okay?"

"Jeeze," she said, rolling her eyes. "Excuse me for caring. I have a
patient somewhere. Someone who actually *wants* my help."

He took his chart and gently hit himself in the forhead with it. Could
everyone just leave him alone? Please?? He really didn't need this.
Not today.

"This is Admin," he heard Dr. Weaver saying, saw her firey red hair
out of the corner of his eye. "That's Randi."

"Hi, Randi."

His eyes widened and he lowered his chart, peeking over it. He
couldn't see him. There were too many people! He couldn't see him! He
kept his chart over his face but inched his way closer to the front
desk, straining to get a glimpse..

"Hey," the desk clerk replied. "Don't fuck with my desk."

He heard that musical laughter, felt his heart speed up. Oh, man, did
he remember that laugh. "You got it."

"Don't worry about her, Dr. Dave, she doesn't bite -- most of the
time," Dr. Weaver said, and then continued with her tour. "X-rays end
up here, labs end up here. Charts here: in, out. Do not pick through
the charts, like some of the over-eager residents are prone to do.
They are in order, you will take them that way."

"Okay."

He could see Randi now, hunched over the desk, balancing a phone in
one ear and an angry patient at the other.

"Use your social security number to log into the computer," Weaver
continued, and he saw her standing behind it. "Your birthday is your
password. Don't tell anyone your social or password."

"I guess nobody celebrates birthdays around here."

There! Right there. Right.. right in front of him. John ducked behind
the teller window of Admin, peeking around to see.. Dave. He was
older. Obviously, but he was.. different, he was grown up.
Broad-shouldered and muscled in a scrub top, his hair short and dark.
His skin was dark too, that same golden color John remembered from
their summers together. Oh, God. Had it really been this long?

"Let me show you where you treat the patients," Dr. Weaver now said,
interrupting John's thoughts. "There's the exam rooms, the curtain
areas, and the trauma rooms. It's not hard to tell the difference."

"Let me guess," Dave said, flashing a grin, and now John really had
it. His heart just broke, all over again, seeing that beautiful smile.
"The curtain areas have.. curtains? And the trauma rooms have all the
fancy stuff."

"Good," Weaver said, smiling wryly. "I was a starting to worry since
you were from Grenada that meant you were stupid."

Dave's grin broadened. He was smiling too much. The Dave John had
known was quiet, and shy. Reserved. Mysterious and gentle. This Dave..
was this his Dave? It had been so long. He couldn't tell. Maybe his
Dave didn't exist anymore.

"But do we only do exams in the exam rooms? And do I have to study for
them?"

"Forget what I just said," Weaver retorted, equally as playfully. "I'm
still worried."

"Carter!" He snapped out of his reverie and glanced at Randi,
thoroughly startled. "I don't know what you're doing there, and I
don't care. But you need to move. You're starting to creep out the
patients."

"Right," he said, grabbing his chart. "Sorry, I was just.. um.. leaving."

"Carter!" Again, but this time from Weaver. He didn't turn around. He
kept walking. He couldn't face Dave. Not yet. What was he saying?? Not
yet? Not ever. Not after what happened. "Carter! I -- residents..
You'd swear they were all deaf, blind and dumb."

He glanced back over his shoulder. Dr. Weaver was walking away, but
Dave was still standing there, watching him. He met those eyes, those
deep brown eyes, so dark they were almost black. They were still quiet
and shy, reserved. Still mysterious and gentle. So familiar despite
the five years that separated now and the last time John had seen them.

And that's when he knew.

This was still his Dave.

And he still loved him.

-------------------------------

To be continued..
Chapter Three by The She Devil
-------------------------------
Chapter Three
-------------------------------

It had been three days since Dave Malucci started working at County.
And for three days, John had managed to avoid him. He saw him every
once in a while, in passing, but it was easy to avoid someone if you
pretended he wasn't there.

At least, pretended to pretend he wasn't there, if that made any
sense. Because every minute of every single shift (and even
afterwards), John was hyperaware of the fact that Dave was there.
Right fucking there, after being gone for five years without a single
word. Not a single fucking word.

Angry? Oh, yeah. John was pissed. He was pissed beyond words. Dave
broke up with him, asked for three years but never called afterwards,
never wrote, nothing. And now, five years later, he just.. shows up??
Just waltz's right back into John's life like this?? What was he
expecting, exactly?

Yeah. John saw the look in his eyes, when he would dare to meet them.
Hurt. Dave had the audacity to look *hurt*, because John was ignoring
him. Well, what did he expect? For John to just take him in his arms
and tell him everything was going to be all right?

And the fact that he wanted to do that was beside the point, really.

But, like he'd been saying, for three days, John had managed to avoid
Dave. On the fourth day, however, things changed. It was all Dr.
Weaver's fault. She thought she was so authoritative, asking John to
take a trauma with Dave to show him the ropes.

"Come on, Dr. Weaver," he said, eyeing an unsuspecting Dave from
across the room, who was frowning and cursing softly at the computer
for whatever reason. "I don't want to babysit. Can't I just take this
trauma alone?"

"No, you're going to not only pair up with Dr. Malucci, but you are
going to assist him as well," she said, and he was going to object
when she glanced at Dave. "Dave! Get over here."

He looked up quickly, glancing at John just as fast before coming
around the front desk and to her side. "Yes, Chief?"

Chief. How cute. He was on her good side already, and everybody knew
it. He doted on her and she mothered him. Drilled into him but cut him
slack when he needed it, and not only that, but let things slide that
she wouldn't ordinarily. It was the kind of relationship her favorites
had taken years to develop, and here Dave had done it in less than
four days. The same kind of charm that had hooked John in so many
years ago, just in a different way.

"Dr. Carter here is going to assist you on a trauma," she stated,
looking between the two men. "You've met Dr. Carter, haven't you?"

Dave cleared his throat. "Yeah, I have."

"Great. Don't have too much fun." And then she was gone.

"So.. " Dave began, his eyes everywhere but John. He cleared his
throat again. "Um.. trauma."

He looked up and John looked away, jaw clenched and eyes narrowed.
"You wait outside. I'll meet you in Trauma One."

-------------------------------

It wasn't going well. John wouldn't listen to what Dave said, he just
did what he wanted, pushing Dave aside until he was running the trauma
himself. The young man stood by the end of the gurney, arms crossed
over his chest. He wasn't angry. He looked.. defeated.

"If you don't want me here, I'll go," Dave said, and they both knew he
wasn't just talking about the trauma room. "Just say the word, John,
and I'll leave."

He didn't look up from the chest tube he was placing. He didn't care.
At least, he didn't want to. But when he saw Dave nodding out of the
corner of his eye, saw him turning, saw him walking away, right out of
his life for the second time..

"Grab an eight-oh ET tube and intubate," he suddenly said. "She's
going to need it once her pulse ox gets under ninety, and that's going
to be any second."

He glanced up just in time to see Dave's smile. "You got it."

He sure did, he thought. He had it bad.

-------------------------------

To be continued..
Chapter Four by The She Devil
-------------------------------
Chapter Four
-------------------------------

Another three days went by. He wasn't avoiding Dave anymore; he'd
found that, as much as he'd managed to so far, it got harder and
harder as the days went by. And not only because he hated every minute
of it, but also because it was nearly impossible to ignore someone you
worked with, no matter how big the ER might be.

Their patients would be in the same room. They would be forced
together during a trauma. Maybe they would both be waiting for a
consult in Radiology. And of course, there was the Admin Desk; you ran
into everyone and their mother there, getting a chart or putting one
away, grabbing films and test results.

But he could deal with that. He just spoke to Dave when he needed to,
and even then he was harsh. He didn't want to encourage conversation.
Snap at him, yell at him, push him out of the way; anything to get his
point across: Leave him alone. He didn't know what Dave was doing
here, and he didn't care, so just leave him alone.

There was, of course, the whole ache in his chest thing, but that was
ignored just as.. 'easily'.. as Dave.

-------------------------------

"Lucy, I asked you to get some Lidocane in here," he said,
exasperated. "How am I supposed to suture Mrs. Cook if I don't have
Lidocane."

"Dr. Carter, if you haven't noticed, I've been busy," she replied.
"I'm juggling seven patients out there, you aren't the only one. You
want your stupid Lidocane, get it yourself."

"Is there a problem?" he asked, not so much exasperated anymore as he
was curious. "Are you mad at me?"

"No," she replied, walking away from him, chart in hand. "But you've
been mad at everybody else for the past week, and frankly I'm sick of
your attitude."

"Well, excuse me," he said to her retreated form, offended. And maybe
a part of him knew she was right. He must be acting like an asshole.
Not like it was his fault, he thought, heading towards the drug
lockup. It was Dave's fault, for coming here, throwing his entire
world out of whack just like he'd done the first time around.

He rubbed his eyes tiredly, and when he brought his hand back down to
his side and looked up, he saw not only the drug lockup that he'd
walked into, but also Dave. He didn't notice John right away; maybe he
wouldn't have if John ducked out and quietly left. But he felt like
he'd just developed some sort of rare disorder that stops you from
functioning at all, every single body part. It's so rapid and
paralyzing you're forced to be doing whatever it was you were doing
last, forever.

Dave looked up from the small vial he was holding to the cabinets
before him. That must've been when he saw John out of the corner of
his eye. He looked at him, gripping the vial tighter.

"John," he said, but he didn't say anything else.

It was the first time he'd ever really gotten to look at Dave. Most of
the time, he was too busy looking away, no matter how close they were.
But there he was, right there, and John could see how much he'd
changed. But mostly, he could see how much of him was the same.

Dave took a step closer, breaking him out of his thoughts. John
cleared his throat, reaching forward for the cabinet, stopping Dave in
his tracks. "I just came in here for some Lidocane."

"It's right over here," Dave said, picking up a vial near him and
holding it out to John.

He wanted to take it, but he was afraid he might touch Dave. He didn't
want to touch him. He was afraid he would feel exactly the way he
remembered.. most of all, he was afraid he would feel that familiar
spark of electricity, fire that could melt him in an instant.

So instead, he shook his head, holding up his hands. "Forget it. I
don't need it anymore."

He turned, heading out of the room. He needed to get out of there,
before either of them said something that --

"Why do you hate me?"

John turned, angry at Dave for stopping him, even though he knew he
could've kept walking. "I don't hate you."

"Yes, you do," Dave said, stepping closer to him. "You hate me. Before
I thought.. I thought you were just angry. But you really hate me,
don't you?"

He was looking at John, into his eyes. None of that romantic sappy
stuff, he was just meeting his gaze with those dark brown eyes. You
could see everything in those eyes; it'd been the only way for John to
know what Dave was thinking or feeling. And now he knew what Dave was
thinking, what he was feeling. It nearly undid him, but he found
himself and remained defiant.

"I.. " he began, but then he realized it. He'd already come undone,
the first instant he'd seen Dave; it was too late now. He sighed,
looking away. "I don't hate you, Dave."

He saw Dave take a step closer to him out of the corner of his eye. He
didn't stop him this time. Another step, and now Dave was just one
pace away. Would he take the final step? He didn't. He stood there,
maybe waiting for John to take the last step. But John didn't either.
He was glued to the floor again, that damn fucking disease.

"Can we talk?" Dave asked.

John shook his head. "I don't think that's a good idea."

"Come on," Dave urged quietly. "I'm hungry, and I don't know where the
cafeteria is. Randi said it was on four, I wanted a sandwich and I
ended up delivering a baby." John rolled his eyes and Dave grinned
broadly. "Come on, that's funny. They got a kick out of it in Pedes."

John shook his head again. "It's on six."

Dave's smile slowly vanished, and he nodded silently, his eyes
drifting to the cabinets around them. "Okay. Thanks."

John started towards the door. Started, but didn't finish. He
lingered, his steps slowing until he stopped. He glanced up at the
Heavens, wondering what the hell he was getting himself into. Sighing,
he turned back to Dave, who was studying the shelves again. "I'll meet
you there at twelve."

Dave looked at him, surprised for an instant. Then he smiled again,
and he even laughed, that musical laughter that had been echoing in
John's head for a week. "Okay," he said, still grinning. "Twelve.
Okay. See you at twelve."

"Okay," John replied, and now his disease was taking a turn for the
worst; instead of paralyzed, he couldn't stop moving. He rushed past
the exam rooms, Trauma Two and One, down the hall to Chairs and out
the door. He didn't stop at the ambulance bay; he kept going, across
the street and inside Doc's, into the bathroom, into a stall, closing
and locking the door behind him. He sat down on the closed toliet,
partially out of breath and totally out of his fucking mind.

-------------------------------

To be continued..
Chapter Five by The She Devil
-------------------------------
Chapter Five
-------------------------------

He said twelve but he'd meant sometime after twelve, like when John
actually worked up the courage to actually go upstairs and into the
cafeteria. It was around twelve-thirty when he began to rush upstairs,
fearing he'd hesitated for too long and now Dave had left. What if he
not only left the cafeteria, but left County as well? Left Chicago?
Went back to wherever it was he'd come from?

And while John might've wanted that as early as this morning, he
certainly didn't now.

It had taken him a minute or two to spot Dave. He was sitting by the
windows, buried in a book. John stood there for a moment, just
watching him eat and read. He could remember when they were younger,
when Dave had begun college. They would study together in the library
at the mansion, John sitting on the floor, the coffee table his desk.
Dave would be in an overstuffed chair, one leg hanging over the arm of
the chair, the book close to his face.

He looked the same as he had so many years ago. His brow was furrowed
and his face was so close to the book John swore Dave was going to go
blind one of these days. He glanced away from his book and looked at
his watch, leaning back in his seat and rubbing his eyes. Dave had
been here since twelve o'clock last night, not that he was keeping
tabs on him or anything. Dave yawned. He must've been tired, John
thought, and then realized that Dave was off at twelve if he was on a
half-shift.

One minute went by. Two. Three. Five. How long would Dave sit there,
reading, waiting for him? All day if he had to? When would he give up?
When would he move? When would John move? Sudden onset of that
disorder again, he thought, but suddenly he found the willpower to
move. Slowly, he crossed the cafeteria to where Dave was sitting,
taking a seat across from him.

"What're you reading?" he asked, because he didn't know what else to say.

Dave glanced up, startled. "Oh," he said, and John could tell he was
either surprised to see him actually there, or surprised that he'd
snuck up on him. It was probably a mix of both. He indicated the book.
"Uh, Dr. Weaver gave this to me. It's protocols for the ER. She said I
was going to be tested on it?"

John smiled, incredulous. He'd fallen for that one too. "You're not.
Don't worry about it."

"Oh, thank God," he said, putting the book down. "There's a lot of
shit in there. Man, she's so serious! I thought she was serious."

"Everyone falls for it."

Dave was smiling at him, and John was smiling back. He felt like Dave
was going to say something, but before that could happen, he
remembered himself, and cleared his throat, looking away. The moment
was gone, and he was surprised to know he wasn't entirely glad for it.

"So," John said, studying the tabletop. "What did you want to talk about?"

Dave pursed his lips several times. "I don't know, I mean.. maybe
about how I feel about all this," he said slowly, fidgeting. "I mean,
since it's obvious how you feel."

John scoffed. "You don't know anything about how I feel."

"Then how do you feel?"

"I don't feel anything."

Dave rolled his eyes. "Fine."

"What did you expect?" John snapped, annoyed. "That you could just
show up and we'd pick up where we left off??"

"Of course not," Dave replied.

John went on as if he hadn't even heard him. "You don't even know me
anymore."

"And you don't know me," he retorted. John looked at him, surprised by
the response. "So why don't we just.. get to know each other? Look.. I
know we can't be.. what we were. So can't we just.. I don't know.. be
friends?"

There was a pattern on the table that kind of looked like Abe Lincoln.
John could see it. The nose, the tall hat, the mole.. Honest Abe,
right there at his lunch table. Was he really that honest? John
wondered. People had written records of stuff like that. He'd like to
see those things..

He knew Dave was watching him, waiting for an answer. He didn't know
his answer. Or maybe he did, but he just didn't want to admit it.

"Friends?" he asked, his eyes lifting to Dave's.

"Yeah," Dave replied softly, nodding. "You know. Just.. friends."

"And what exactly do friends do?" John asked, and maybe he was
alluding to something.

Dave began to smile, just the corners of his mouths turning up. He
shrugged. "Go out for something to eat?"

"And where do they usually go?"

"I don't know," he replied. "I just got here two weeks ago. I only
know where the grocery store is near my apartment and this place."

"So you don't know where The Game Room is?" he asked. Dave shook his
head. "If you find it, that's where I'll be at eight o'clock tomorrow
night."

Dave fully grinned now. "I see. I have to work for this friendship, huh?"

"You sure do," John replied, pushing his seat out and standing. "I
guess I'll see you then."

"Definitely," he replied, watching John go. And John could swear he
felt those eyes on him all the way back down to the ER.

-------------------------------

To be continued..
Chapter Six by The She Devil
-------------------------------
Chapter Six
-------------------------------

He'd said eight, but, just like yesterday, he walked into the bar a
half an hour later, when he'd finally gotten the courge to go inside.
He stood near the entrance, his eyes scanning over the crowd. And he
hoped, just like yesterday, Dave hadn't thought he'd been stood up.

Apparently, he hadn't. At least, he was still there. He was sitting at
a booth, eating a burger and fries and drinking what looked like soda.
He was watching the televisions near the bar, which one John didn't
know. There was a hockey game on one, news on another, and the last
had the latest episode of "Friends."

John came up to him, and this time Dave spotted him before he reached
the table. He smiled, kept doing so even as John sat down, and it
must've been a some kind of infectious disease because John found
himself smiling as well.

"I found the place," he stated, still grinning.

"I can see that," John replied.

"You want a drink or something to eat, or something?" he asked,
indicating his own food. "It'll be on me."

"Yeah, sure," John said, and Dave called the waitress over. "I'll just
have what he's having."

"You want a soda too?" she asked.

"Uh.. no, get me a beer," he replied. "Corona." She left, and they
were alone again in the booth, in their private corner of the world.
John's eyes drifted to the television for a moment, but he could only
see the hockey game from here. That had never interested him much, so
he turned back to Dave, trying to think of something to say. "You,
uh.. you don't want a beer or something?

Dave shook his head. "No. I don't drink." John must've looked
surprised, remembering Dave and him partying alone at the mansion,
because he continued awkwardly. "I, uh.. " He pursed his lips for a
moment, and then rolled his eyes, presumably at himself. Finally, he
said, "I got addicted to drugs."

"Drugs?" John asked, startled.

"Yeah," he replied, almost sheepishly. "You know.. coke, mostly. I
dropped some acid once in a while, but that was.. " He shook his head;
he obviously hadn't liked it. He glanced up at John with a small
smile. "I got pretty fucked up after.. you know.. "

"Sorry," John said, mostly because he couldn't think of anything else
to say.

"No, no, it's cool," he stated, brushing off John's apology. "It was
my fault. I just.. got too much into the scene, I guess."

"But you got off them," John said.

"Yeah, I'm clean now," Dave assured him. "For like.. four years."

"I'm glad they have programs like that in Grenada."

"They don't," Dave replied, and suddenly he began to fidget. "I, uh..
I mean, I just.. I.. I -- "

"Bacon cheeseburger?" It was the waitress, interrupting their moment.
She seemed to recognize it and quickly ducked out. "Here's the check,
boys, you just give it to me when you're ready."

"Thanks," John said, smiling politely. He looked back to Dave. "What
were you going to -- "

"I have a son."

It felt like a physical blow. The breath had been stolen from him, and
now all John could do was sit there, frozen, eyes wide. He blinked
once, twice. But it still took him a few moments to find his voice.
"What?"

"His name is Matthew," Dave continued quietly. "He lives with his
mother in Grenada. I stopped.. for him."

"A son?" John repeated, still fazed. Dave nodded. "How.. how old is he?"

His supposed friend looked away. "Four."

"Three months??" John nearly yelled, drawing the attention from nearly
everyone around them. He lowered his voice, hissing with anger.
"That's how long it was, give or take, right?? Three months, Dave? It
took you three months to get over me??"

"I was fucked up!" Dave protested, leaning foward and holding out his
hands pleadingly. "John, when his mother told me she was pregnant with
my kid, I didn't believe her. You know why? Because I'd never seen her
before."

"Go plead your case to someone else, Dave," he spat, sliding out of
his seat.

"John!" he called, but he didn't stop, he headed for the door and out
of it. Dave followed him, because he could never do what he was
fucking supposed to. "John, please, wait!"

"Shut up, Dave," he called back over his shoulder.

Dave grabbed his arm, John's own forward momentum swinging him around.
"John, I'm sorry!"

"Sorry isn't good enough!!" John yelled, and then stepped back,
calming.. defeated. "Three years, Dave. Three fucking years. That's
how long it took me to get over you. And here you can just start
having a great time fucking around three *months* after the fact??"

"John, I said I was sorry," he said, his voice laced with desperation.
"I made a mistake! I was fucked up, what do you want me to do?? I
can't take it back now!"

"That's right," John spat. "You're going to have to live with it."

And so was he.

-------------------------------

To be continued..
Chapter Seven by The She Devil
-------------------------------
Chapter Seven
-------------------------------

A son. Dave had a son. A four year old son named Matthew, that had to
have been conceived around three months after Dave had called it quits
with John. Three months. Three fucking months!

It was making John go out of his mind. It had taken him *years* to get
over Dave. Not months, years. Years!! He'd moped around for the
longest time, locking himself into his room for hours on end,
sometimes days. Hell, it'd nearly taken him three months to get rid of
all the crap that he'd accumulated while in a relationship with Dave:
pictures, prizes won at the boardwalk, souveniers from trips.. the
bedsheets.. even clothes that he'd worn, like that sweater Dave loved
on him.. all of that had gone into the trash. Well, eventually into
the trash; he'd broken a lot of the items in anger first.

Three months, John thought, his eyes stinging as he stood in the same
supply closet he'd been standing in for an hour. He rubbed his mouth,
fighting back the tears. Jesus Christ. Even now Dave had the power to
make him feel this way. Again. This was the second time he'd had his
heart broken by the same man.

He was "fucked up." He was "too into the scene." Oh, whatever, John
seethed. Had he been fucked up when he'd decided to get into the scene
in the first place?? Or maybe he'd just missed John so much he'd
decided to party the pain away. Yeah, whatever.

Or maybe he'd just missed John so much he'd decided to not feel any
pain at all. That's what drugs did, right? Make you numb. Or, at
least, make you feel something else. Maybe he really hadn't been
himself when he'd fucked that girl. But, Jesus Christ, a son??

He rubbed his eyes tiredly. This was too much to handle.

For who? his alter-ego asked him, the part of him that wasn't
completely self-absorbed. Imagine how Dave feels.

He didn't want to. Because that would mean he'd have to feel something
other than bitter anger towards him.

It might also mean that maybe Dave had been hurting too, his alter-ego
insisted.

He told that annoying voice to take a hike. He didn't need this shit.

-------------------------------

"John?"

He rolled his eyes. He didn't need this shit!

"What do you want?" he snapped, reaching forward to rummage through
the shelves for something he didn't need. He just wanted to look busy,
to not look like he'd been hiding in here crying.

"I don't know," Dave replied, almost urgently, and then he calmed. "I
don't know. But I.. " He paused, pursing his lips, trying to find the
words. "I can't take back what happened. I made a mistake. And you're
right, I am going to live with it. I do live with it. But I just.. I
just wanted you to know that it didn't take me three months to get
over you. I'm here, aren't I?"

John looked at him, surprised. He *was* here, wasn't he? John hadn't
gone to Grenada, Dave had come to Chicago.

John looked away. "Is that it?"

They both knew he wasn't just asking if Dave was finished speaking. He
wanted to know.. was that it? Was that the simple answer to all of
this? Because even if it had taken John three years to get over him,
Dave had never gotten over him at all. And there only had to be one
reason why: Dave still loved him, even after all these years.

"Yeah," Dave replied. "That's it."

"Okay," he said, but he was far from okay. He was exact opposite of
okay, in fact. "Um, excuse me. I have to go."

He slipped past Dave, but the doorway wasn't wide enough. He brushed
past him, his chest touching Dave's, Dave touching his heart. He kept
moving, trying not to be fazed by how warm Dave was, how that warmth
shot straight through him, but it was hard to ignore leaving a part of
yourself behind, the other half of you.

"John," Dave called.

He turned, shaking his head desperately. "Please, don't."

He didn't. He just nodded. But John knew. Dave loved him, and he loved
Dave, and there was nothing anybody could do about it. He knew. He'd
known all along.

-------------------------------

To be continued..
Chapter Eight by The She Devil
He spotted him as he was walking down the hall in the middle of the
night. He passed the room at first, glancing inside, and then stepped
back, curious. Dave was laying down on an exam bed in the dark, but
even so he had a pillow over his face, his arms crossed over the
pillow. John stood there for a moment, just watching him, and then
turned to leave. He rolled his eyes, turning back.

"That's not the most effective way to commit suicide," he said, from
the doorway.

Dave didn't even move. "I have a headache."

John stepped further into the room. "Did you take anything?"

"Aspirin." The way he said it, that New York way, it sounded like
"eah-sprin." John smiled, amused.

"How long ago?"

"A half hour. I'm on my dinner break. Maybe it'll start working by the
time it's over." That would be a half hour later, and John doubted it,
especially if it hadn't started working by now. "Or my head will just
fucking explode. Either way works for me."

John glanced at his watch. "I'm off at midnight. Do you want me to
take you home?"

"I'm on until seven. Seven to seven."

"It's okay," John replied. "It's a slow night. I'll talk to the
Attending. If they need you, they'll call you."

Dave peeked out from under the pillow, his tired eyes narrowed.
"You're not.. buttering me up because you're going to kill me later..
are you?"

John frowned. "Do you want a ride or not?"

"Yeah, sure," Dave quickly replied. "I'll just.. wait here. Is that okay?"

John nodded. And, no, he really *didn't* have a clue what he was
doing, but you already knew that.

-------------------------------

Twenty minutes later, John was signing his last patient's discharge
papers and handing them to Randi.

"Hey, you're taking that Dave guy home, right?" she asked, removing
the paperwork she needed.

"Yes.. " he replied hesitantly, eyeing her suspiciously.

"He's really cute," she said with a smile. "Is he seeing anyone?"

John began to stammer, surprised by her question but, most of all,
surprised by the fact that she was interested in him. It had never
really occured to him that perhaps other people might find Dave
attractive, and want to date him. And that they might persue him. And
that Dave might accept.

"Shit," she suddenly hissed. She shook her head, almost pissed. "I
knew he had to be taken. A guy like that?"

"Sorry," John responded, quickly heading for the exam room he'd last
left Dave in. He wanted to make sure no one had snuck in and hit on
Dave while he was gone. But lo and behold, he was still there with his
head under the pillow, quiet and unmoving. He almost looked like he
was dead. "Dave? It's twelve o'clock.. Dave?"

Suddenly, his heart was ramming in his chest. He reached forward and
pulled the pillow aside, his hand on the side of Dave's face, shaking
his head. "Dave!"

"What??" Dave exclaimed, his eyes opening. He looked up at John,
startled. "What? What's wrong?? What is it?"

John stepped back, remembering to breathe. "Don't do that!"

Dave sat up, rubbing at his eyes. "I promise to never fall asleep again."

"I thought you were dead," John blurted out, still fazed. Then, he was
embarassed. "You shouldn't sleep with a pillow over your head."

Dave looked at him. "Sure thing, Mom."

"I'm serious!"

"Okay!" Dave replied, his expression showing his puzzlement. "Um.. are
you still taking me home, or.. ?"

John knew he was acting strange. He was just out of his depth, and
maybe out of his mind. Excuse him, if that made him a little off the wall.

He glanced at Dave. "Are you ready?"

"My bookbag's in the Lounge," he replied hesitantly. "Can I go get it?"

"Sure," John replied, trying to calm. He was feeling.. nervous.
Anxious. Did that mean the same thing? He couldn't remember. "I'll
bring the car around and meet you in the ambulance bay."

"Am I being timed?" he asked, flashing a grin. "I won't have to jump
in as you're driving by, will I?"

John pulled a face. "Ten minutes."

Dave laughed. "I'll be done in five."

"You're on."

-------------------------------

They got his bicycle in the back and hopped in, and started towards
Dave's apartment. John knew the street that it was located on, so he
drove without instructions, and Dave was quiet. The car was quiet. Too
quiet. Dave must've sensed it too because he reached for the radio
without even asking, flipping through the stations like he used to
when they were younger. Aerosmith was on, and Dave quickly let go of
the dial, cursing softly with surprise; it had always been his
favorite band, and John guessed it probably always would be.

John glanced at him, then back to the road. "Do you see him?"

Dave looked at John, and then out the front windshield. "Where?"

John shook his head. "No, I mean.. your son. Do you see him?"

"Oh," Dave said, leaning back in his seat. "Yeah, I'm not one of those
dad's who's all 'oops,' and then that's it. Or even just like.. pays
child support and never sees him. I love my son, I see him all the
time. Or used to, anyway."

"What are you going to do now?"

"His mother's moving to the States with him," he said, visibly
excited. "I talked to her about coming here and bringing Matty, you
know? Grenada's too small. There's just.. more here."

"So.. that's why you came here? For him?"

He could see Dave look at him from the corner of his eye. "Yeah, I
guess." Dave smiled broadly, he could see that too. "Plus, I missed
the snow. And maybe a few other things, too."

John looked at him, and Dave kept smiling as John turned back to the
road. "Right," John said, mostly because he couldn't think of anything
else to say. His mind was too busy running around in circles over the
fact that Dave was relocating his entire family to the United States
for.. for what? For him?

Oh, man.. the things you did for love.

-------------------------------

To be continued..
Chapter Nine by The She Devil
He was sitting on Dave's couch, inside Dave's apartment, drinking a
Coke. It was a little late for soda, but Dave didn't have anything
else except water from the tap, and John didn't particularly feel like
getting a water-borne disease along with a heart attack from just
being here, so soda suited him just fine.

The place itself was kind of small. But John guessed if he had to
finance medical school by himself, along with a son, and a move, on
top of groceries and whatever else, then he'd be tight on money too.
He glanced at Dave, coming into the living room from having used the
bathroom.

"Well, thanks for the soda," John said, placing it down on the coffee
table and standing up, rubbing his hands on his pants. "I guess I'd
better get going."

"You don't have to leave," Dave said, standing in the doorway of the
hallway that presumably led to the bedroom. He looked at his hands,
playing with the silver ring on his right hand. John wondered where
he'd gotten it from, because John hadn't given it to him. "I mean, you
know.. it's kind of late. It's a long way to the mansion, right? If
you're still living there, that is."

"I am," John stated, not that it would've mattered. "I don't have
anything to sleep in."

"I could lend you some stuff.. you need a shirt or something?
Sweatpants? I got shorts from the gym."

"I don't have anywhere to sleep."

Dave looked at him, a small smile on his lips. "I'm sure we could find
someplace for you."

He swallowed. "Really? Where?"

Dave shrugged, his smile growing, that coy, sexy smile John
remembered. He didn't answer, he just turned, walking into the door at
the end of the hall. It was dark in the room for a few moments, but
then a muted light was on, and John could see a bed, right fucking
there at the end of the hall.

Oh, God, his heart was galloping.

He wanted to go. He willed himself with all of his might. But he
couldn't move, he couldn't think.. he could barely breathe. He needed
air. Just a little. Maybe if he went outside.. he wouldn't leave, he
would just go outside and just breathe a little, that's all. He went
around the couch and to the door, his hand right there on the knob
when he heard Dave calling out to him.

"If you're still there.. I promise I won't jump you," he said from the
bedroom. He'd been giving John a way out, John knew it then. It'd
almost worked. "You don't have to stay. I want you to, but what I want
doesn't matter anymore."

John looked at the hall, then back to the door. He let go, using his
hand to rub tiredly at his eyes, letting out a deep breath. He
realized he could breathe again. Suddenly, the room wasn't feeling so
stuffy anymore.

-------------------------------

He stood in the doorway of the bedroom. Dave was sitting on the left
side of the bed, his back against the headboard. He was wearing shorts
and an undershirt. He smiled, but in a way that he used to; with his
eyes, that secret little thrill that only John could see. It made
John's stomach fill up with butterflies that were feeling awfully
restless tonight.

"I got shorts and a sweatshirt for you," he said, indicating the small
pile of clothes on the dresser beside the door. "If you want it."

John shook his head. "I'll just stay in my underwear."

"Okay."

John took off his clothes. He put them on the dresser, and climbed
into bed. He sat like Dave, on his side of the bed, his hands in his
lap. He wasn't sure what to do with himself. Was he supposed to do
something now? Maybe he should just say something. He decided on that.
So, of course his mind went back to what it kept going back to all night.

"What's your son like?"

Dave smiled, his new kind of smile; that broad grin, white chain of
teeth. He stared at nothing but John could tell what he was seeing.
"He's such a bright kid. Jesus Christ, he's smart. He must get it from
his mother, because.. " He trailed off, still grinning. "He's funny
too. He's so funny. He'll do something he knows he's not supposed to,
and then he'll look at you with that big, innocent smile, and those
bright eyes, and you just.. you can't stay mad at him."

"I know the feeling," John blurted out, and then looked at Dave,
surprised. Had he really just said that?

Dave just looked at him, with that big, innocent smile, and those
bright eyes. John had to look away.

"He's beautiful too," Dave went on, looking again at nothing.
Suddenly, he was quiet. "It's like.. you see a pretty girl on the
street.. and you think.. God, she's gorgeous. She's beautiful. And you
take that.. and you multiply by, like.. a million. And that's how
beautiful my son is."

John would've asked Dave if he missed his son, but it was obvious.
Instead, he asked, "Do you have a picture?"

Dave brightened. "Yeah. Right next to you." He indicated the
nightstand beside John. "That's him and his mother, Rita. They took
that before I left."

John picked up the picture and examined it. The boy was scrawny and
tan, his eyes were as bright as his smile. It was Dave's smile, and
Dave's eyes, but his hair was black and kinked with curls, his
mother's hair. She was pretty. It bothered John.

"Are you.. close with her?"

"Yeah, we're friends," Dave replied, rather casually. "She's great. We
used to live together before I came here. She's going to get her own
place here though, with Matty, maybe a house or something. Me and her
boyfriend are working on that."

"She.. has a boyfriend?" John wasn't sure why that made him happy.
Okay, he did know, but he wouldn't admit it. "He didn't mind you two
living together?"

Dave smiled, shrugging. "I know it doesn't make sense. I mean, it
wasn't logical.. everything was just.. so fucked up. But it worked for
us. I think this'll work too. At least, I hope so." Dave looked at
him. "I missed you." He rolled his eyes, looking away. "Sorry. That
was.. cheesy."

"It's okay," John said. At least, he hoped he said it; his heart was
pounding in his ears and he couldn't hear anything.

"I'm sorry I didn't call," he said quietly. "It's just.. the way we
left things.. and then Matthew, I couldn't.. I just needed to get my
shit together. So I did. And now I'm here. And I -- "

"Dave, please."

"Why??"

"Because once you say it, you can't take it back."

"I love you."

Dave was looking at him again, but he wasn't smiling now. He was just
looking at him, gazing into his eyes, and this time it was that
romantic sappy kind of stare, the one that just laid everything out
there, bared your entire soul, faults and emotions and everything.

He'd changed so much. They both had. But they were still so much the
same. Dave was still so much the same. Still so.. beautiful. He was
beautiful. John tried to explain how beautiful Dave was. It was like
seeing some pretty girl on the street and thinking how gorgeous she
was, and then multiplying that by a million. And that's how beautiful
Dave was.

"Do you love me, John?"

"I.. "

"John, please?"

"Why??"

"Because once you say it.. you can't take it back."

He didn't know if he could do this.

He knew. Of course he did.

"I love you, Dave," he said.

And he didn't want to take it back.

-------------------------------

To be continued..
Chapter Ten by The She Devil
He woke up before Dave. The curtains had been left open, the sun shone
in from high in the sky. It had to have been at least noon, if not
later, but he wasn't surprised they'd slept that long. It had been
late when they'd gone to bed, nearly four o'clock in the morning. They
couldn't seem to be able to keep their hands off of one another,
kissing and touching and kissing and more kissing. But they hadn't
gone *there*, John wouldn't let Dave take off either of their
undershirts and boxers. He just.. wasn't ready for that.

And maybe he was scared, too. He never liked change or chance; it'd
been the reason why, when he was younger, he'd nearly thrown up every
time an obstacle had been thrown his way. He'd gotten over that now,
but still his stomach knotted up when he was even slightly nervous.

Dave stirred. He was curled up behind John, his arm draped over John's
hip. It was like a huge, warm, comfy pillow behind him, but more than
that, because this pillow was alive and breathing and loved him.

Dave snuggled up to him, and was quiet again. It was a long time until
he moved again. John would've gotten up, gotten up and probably left,
but he was afraid he'd wake Dave, ruin his getaway.

There were lips on his neck. A hardness at his backside. He turned
onto his back, uncomfortable, turning to look at Dave. Almost
immediately his anxiety faded, just melted away, as he saw those
sleepy eyes looking at him, those sleepy eyes and that lazy smile. He
was smiling back before he even realized it.

Dave rolled onto his back, then his stomach, on the other side of the
bed now. He buried his face in the pillow and groaned loudly before
peeking up at John. "Morning."

"Morning," John responded.

"You sleep okay?" Dave asked, shifting closer to John, still on his
stomach. "I know this isn't exactly the bed of golden feathers you're
used to sleeping on back in the mansion."

"I managed."

"Good," Dave said, getting closer still, and then he was in John's
personal space again, one hand running down John's chest, lower and
lower. Dave flashed a mischevous grin that shot right to John's heart.
"I'd kiss you if I didn't have dog breath."

Those fingers were suddenly brushing over John's groin, lightly at
first but then Dave began to stroke him through the thin fabric of his
underwear, and John pulled back. "Dave."

Dave took his hand away, surprised. "Sorry. I thought.. I don't know.
Sorry."

"No, it's just.. " he began, but he didn't know what to say after
that. He let out a deep breath, frustrated, and lifted himself up
until he was sitting back against the headboard. "You said.. we didn't
have to rush this. That we could be friends first? I just.. don't want
to move too fast, you know?"

Dave got up and sat back, his expression guarded for a moment, but
then he nodded. "Sure. Yeah, okay. Uh.. I don't have any friends that
I make out with for hours, but if that's the way you want to do this,
then fine." He wasn't saying it with any type of edge or harshness,
but John could see the hurt in his eyes.

"Dave, please?" John asked. "I'm just.. I just want to be careful. I
don't want to ruin this."

Dave seemed to accept that. He nodded, and then cracked a small grin.
"Okay. Hands off, I got it. I'll wait for you, don't worry." He ran a
hand through his messy hair. "I'm going to take a shower. I'll try not
to use up all the hot water."

John nodded, watching Dave get up and leave the bedroom. He listened
for the sound of running water.. there was his cue. He got out of bed,
scrambling for his clothes. Shirt, pants, shoes.. he couldn't find his
socks. What the hell had happened to them?? He'd taken them off right
there, they couldn't have gone far. Fuck it, he didn't need them, he
just needed to get out of --

He stood up, turning quickly to get to the door but he only came face
to face with Dave. Oh, fuck. He looked so.. hurt. So hurt he was
broken. Fuck!

"Dave -- "

"No, no, it's.. " he interrupted, holding up his hands. He wouldn't
meet John's eye. "If you want to leave, that's fine, but you didn't
have to.. " Oh, shit, he was going to cry. His voice was thick, his
eyes were reddening, and John had never been more ashamed of himself
in his entire life. Dave looked up; those eyes, telling him
everything. "What was this? Were you getting back at me, or.. ? I said
I was sorry, I told you what happened, if you're still mad, you
should've just said it. You didn't have to -- " His voice broke and he
stopped. He took a deep breath. "That's fine. It's okay. I guess I
might deserve it. I just.. I needed a towel, that's all. Excuse me."

"Dave," John managed to choke out. "I'm sorry, I just -- "

"No, it's okay," Dave said, pulling open a drawer, grabbing a towel and
then slamming it closed. John flinched as Dave looked at him. "Just
go. Okay? Please? Just get out. I don't.. "

"I'm sorry," he repeated.

"I don't want your sorries!!" Dave shouted, his voice cracking in a
falsetto alto. "Just get out, please, John."

"Okay," John replied quietly.

It was the hardest thing he'd ever done to get dressed and leave. But
nobody ever said life was easy.

-------------------------------

To be continued..
Chapter Eleven by The She Devil
It had been three days since he'd seen Dave, at Dave's apartment or
otherwise. John wasn't avoiding him, it was the opposite now; Dave was
avoiding John. And John hated it, he hated it so much he wondered how
Dave had managed to get through nearly a week of it.

The first day went by. John thought that either Dave wasn't working,
or just good at eluding him. The second day went by.. and John began
to worry. It was only on the third day that he began to become
frightened. But he was *too* frightened, too scared to even ask where
he was, what had happened to him. Had he taken a vacation? This soon
after beginning at County, John doubted it. So was he calling in sick?
Three days in a row, John doubted it.

So what could've happened to him?

"Randi," he asked quietly, so quietly she didn't even hear him. He
needed to know, he couldn't keep it in any longer. Louder, he asked,
"Randi?"

She jumped, spinning around to face him. "Jesus, you scared the shit
out of me. What is wrong with you lately, are you mentally ill?? We
have doctors for that."

He shook his head. "I just have a question."

She waited. "Okay.. "

"Do you know what happened to Dr. Malucci?" he asked. "I was trying to
get some help in an exam room, but nobody seems to know where he is."

"Oh, he quit."

"Quit?!" John nearly yelled, startling the desk clerk once again. "He
what??"

"Quit," she repeated slowly.

"Did he say why?"

"I don't know," she replied, looking at him distastefully. "I'm not
the one he has to answer to."

"How can he just quit?" John asked. "Doesn't he have to give two weeks
notice?"

"I don't think even Weaver can force someone to leave their home and
come in," she retorted. "Can you please leave me alone now? Some of us
actually have work to do around here."

He left her, fazed. This was his fault. His entire fault. He'd done
this, he'd pushed Dave away all because he was afraid. God, he was so
stupid. How could he be this stupid?? He was an asshole, that's why. A
completely self-absorbed asshole, making Dave cry like that. What was
wrong with him??

Whatever it was, he had to fix it. He had to fix *this*, what he'd
done. He had to make it right, no matter what it took. Everything Dave
had sacrificed, everything he'd done.. John would do the same for him.
He'd go to the ends of the universe if he had to. He just had to make
this right again. And he had to hurry, if he wasn't already too late.

-------------------------------

To be concluded..
Chapter Twelve by The She Devil
He was *almost* too late. Almost, because Dave was still there, but
all of his things were in boxes. The door was open, there was a man
there, walking out with a big black garbage bag. He looked at John but
didn't say anything, just kept walking down the hall and down the
stairs. He wondered if it was a friend Dave had kept here in Chicago,
someone helping him move.

"Oh, Mike, wait, this needs to be thrown out too," he heard Dave
calling, and the young man came out of the bedroom and into the living
room holding a small box. He stopped short as he saw John standing
there, his expression guarded. "What are you doing here?"

"I came to apologize," he immediately said, but then he couldn't
figure out what to do after that. He looked around at all of the
things. "You're leaving?"

"Yeah," Dave said, and began to walk past John. "I can take a hint."

"Dave, I'm sorry," John pleaded, reaching out and grabbing his arm,
and the box slipped from Dave's hands and to the floor. Some of it's
contents spilled out, novelty shirts and stuffed animals and
souveniers and pictures and.. John recognized it all. He looked up at
Dave. "You kept all that stuff?"

"Why would I throw it away?" Dave asked quietly, leaving it all there
on the floor, staring at it. "Look, I don't need your apologies, okay?
If you don't want to be with me, that's fine. I knew I was taking a
chance coming up here, and it just.. didn't work out. That's fine,
it's -- "

John reached out and slipped his hands on either side of Dave's face,
pulling him into a kiss. He didn't know what else to do, how else to
stop this from happening. Dave had left him once, he wouldn't let him
do it again.

"Dave, there was -- " It was that man, Mike. John pulled away as
Dave's friend spun around and out the door again. "I forgot something
downstairs. Sorry."

He looked at Dave again, who was standing there, his expression
startled. Then, he seemed.. afraid. "John.. " he began hesitantly. "I
don't know what that means. That night we kissed, and I thought that
meant something too, but it didn't. I don't know what you want."

"I want you," he blurted out, and rolled his eyes, realizing how lame
that sounded. Dave needed something better than that; he deserved it.
"Dave, I was just scared. I was scared that you were going to leave
again, or that I wasn't ready for this, or.. something. I don't know,
but I don't care. Because when I found out that you quit and that
you'd left, I just.. I knew, Dave. I love you, I really love you, and
I want to be with you, and I'm so glad you came back."

Dave looked around at all the boxes, quiet for a few moments. "I'm
going to have to unpack all this stuff again, you jerk."

John smiled. "I'll help."

"You'd better. I also need a new job."

"I'll get your other one back."

"You'd better," he repeated.

"I'm sorry, Dave," he said, stepping over their things so he could
stand flush to him. He put his hands on him, and Dave did the same.
His heart was pounding, but not because he was afraid; he was excited,
in more ways than one. This was the beginning of the rest of his life,
he should be. "I didn't mean to hurt you."

Dave looked up at him. "I didn't mean to hurt you either. And I love
you too."

John smiled, before leaning down and kissing him again, this time
slowly. There wasn't a rush, not when they had forever.

"Jeeze, you guys still aren't done?" Mike asked, from the door. "Do
you need me anymore, or can I go back to watching the game downstairs?"

Dave eased out of the kiss and glanced at his friend. "I think we can
take it from here. But thanks."

"So.. " John said, once Mike was gone. "You want me to help you unpack
now?"

Dave scoffed "Yeah, right. And we can start in the bedroom."

John grinned broadly. "Race you there."

"You're on," he replied, and then teased, "Unless you don't want to
'rush' things."

"Oh, I'm the jerk?" John said, before breaking into a run.

"You're a cheater too!" Dave called, before following him into the
bedroom. John jumped on the bed, and Dave joined him, getting on top
of him. He smiled down at him, that same smile he'd had when they were
younger, eyes lighting up and lighting a fire in John's heart. "You're
so lucky I love you."

"I am," John replied, nodding, reaching up and running his fingers
through Dave's hair.

His lover pouted. "You don't love me too?"

"Of course I do."

"Then prove it."

"I think I will."

-------------------------------

The End.
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