Change In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes by MonaCK, Cathy Roberts
Summary: It's a slashy A/U story about how Season 8 might have been and contains no spoilers for the current season. By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts
Categories: Regular Characters: Dave Malucci, John Carter, Luka Kovac, Other-Female, Other-Male
Genres: General
Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 31 Completed: No Word count: 177069 Read: 446005 Published: August 30, 2004 Updated: September 10, 2007
Prologue, Part 2 by MonaCK
Dave woke at 5am on the dot -- a full fifteen minutes before the alarm clock was set to go off. He supposed that was a habit that he was never going to get out of -- waking up as soon as sunlight began to stream in whatever room he was in. He laid there for a moment, trying to get a bearing on where he was...and why his bed wasn't empty. Then...then he remembered. John. John was here. With him. They had spent the night making love...as if they had never been apart. And if Dave had anything to say about it, they were never going to be apart again.

Dave uplifted his body so that he was resting on his elbow, and smiled softly as he watched his lover sleeping - his eyes closed as he peacefully slumbered on. Dave didn't want to wake him, but it was almost irresistible, watching him resting. A hand reached out, and he trace a line on the side of John's face before bringing his mouth to John's lips, hoping to kiss the man awake. While his mouth set to work, Dave's hand began to explore John's body, ending its trail when it landed on John's rock hard dick. There was something to be said for morning wood, after all.

Ever since they had fought, John had endured many erotic dreams that featured Dave. They all ended with him waking up frustrated, though, because in reality, it wasn't Dave really there kissing and stroking him.

But John knew that what he was feeling wasn't from a dream. He really was in Dave's bed, and it really was Dave stroking him, making him even harder than he had been when Dave's feather light fingers had traced a line along his face.

He sighed into the kiss that Dave was giving him, then wrapped his arms around Dave's neck, determined to hold the man in place forever and a day if necessary, to keep him right where he belonged -- with John and no other.

Once John began to respond to him, Dave knew he was awake. And pulling back from the kiss slightly, while keeping a firm grip around his dick, a smile spread across his lips. "Good mornin'," he said, his voice full of husk. "I thought a little breakfast was in order...." With that, he brought his lips down towards John's salty skin once more, and began to paint a trail of kisses...one that Dave knew was going to end in the ultimate treasure, getting to taste the juices of the person he loved more than anything in the world.

John sighed once again and his eyes rolled back in his head as his body responded completely to Dave's kisses. "Breakfast in bed, I take it? I could get spoiled by this." He reached down and began to run his fingers through Dave's hair. He had missed the way that Dave's hair had felt as it passed through his fingers -- missed the softness of it against his skin when Dave would go down on him, missed the smell of Dave's shampoo even. Spreading his legs so that Dave could have more room, John smiled up at the ceiling. Nothing could be better than this, he thought. Nothing.

"I intend on spoilin' you, John," Dave said, lifting his lips up off of the other man only long enough to speak. And then, he hungrily resumed his path, kissing every inch of skin between John's lips and his groin, enjoying the way that the man's musk tasted on his tongue. Soon he was at the pleasure point, kissing the soft hairs that surrounded John's cock before finally kissing it at the base. Soft kisses painted another trail, and then with hands planted on either side of the man for support, Dave took him fully into his mouth, feeling the smooth skin of his hard dick between his lips. It had been far too long. Far, far too long since he had tasted his lover. He was intending on fixing that this morning.

"Jesus, Lord have mercy," John breathed as he felt Dave's lips wrap around him. It felt as if it had been years and not just weeks since he had last felt Dave's mouth on his penis. "I can live with being spoiled."

Liking the encouragement, Dave continued to suck, keeping his mouth in a small "o" shape as he pulled his lips up John's shaft. In Dave's opinion, nothing had ever tasted so good. All of his senses were on overload. While still keeping his balance on his knees, and on one hand, he brought a free hand to cup John's balls, remembering that the man liked them squeezed hard. So Dave alternated between gentle and rough squeezes as he continued to take all of John's cock in his mouth.

John wanted to buck his hips upward, to get more of himself into Dave's tight mouth, but he knew from experience that having a penis unexpectedly in one's throat wasn't so great and he used a lot of will power to keep his pelvis still. But, God, it felt so good, what Dave was doing. The man knew just the right things to bring John to the brink and he quickly found himself racing toward release. Breathing hard, John's hands tightened in Dave's hair. "God...yes...I'm almost there...Dave..." the last part, the most important part, Dave's name, was nearly a scream as John's testicles tried their best to recede into his body in preparation for orgasm.

Dave knew that John was close without even having to hear his words. And his own cock throbbed in anticipation of having similar treatment as Dave continued to suck and squeeze. He knew instinctively that John was only moments away, and all it would take was one more squeeze...and then finally, he felt John release, filling Dave's mouth with his wonderful sweet spray as Dave swallowed eagerly, not wanting to waste one drop. When he milked John for all that he had, Dave gently licked the area, dropping the man's now flaccid cock from his mouth. It was the best breakfast treat that Dave could think of, but he wanted more. Pulling himself up the other man's body, Dave collapsed near his side, and quickly pulled his arms around John's body, pulling him close before planting his lips onto John's for a mind-blowing kiss.

As soon as Dave's lips touched his, John stirred from his post orgasmic lassitude and his tongue thrust deeply into Dave's mouth, tasting the unique mixture of Dave's mouth and John's own come. As John's tongue sought out every crevice of Dave's mouth, his hands were busy skimming over Dave's body, leaving goose bumps behind and hopefully creating a hard cock in need of a similar release.

John wanted desperately to please Dave, to make him want to always stay with him. And he could think of no better way than to treat Dave to a blow-job that would surpass all others known to man. But first, first it was time for kissing.

Dave's body involuntarily shivered as he felt his lover's hands on his skin. And as the kiss finally ended, his eyes were wild with desire. He needed to come - he was rock hard, and it almost hurt he wanted John so badly. But Dave knew that the ball was now in John's court, and it was now up to John to come with a creative way to get Dave off. Or not too creative. Dave wasn't feeling particularly picky at that moment.

"God...you make me *so* hard," Dave managed to say, as his lips sought John's once more. He needed to kiss the man. He needed to feel John's skin on his. He needed to be consumed by John.

When he came up for air, John grinned at Dave. "Good. I love a hard man," John said in response to what Dave had said an eternity before the kiss had began. Copying Dave's earlier actions, John began to kiss his way from Dave's jaw line and down his throat, intending to make a path to Dave's erection -- not necessarily a straight path, John thought with a smile. It would drive Dave to even more heights of passion if John took the long way around, especially if he lingered in places along the way. There were so many parts of Dave's body that John had missed -- the hollow of his neck, his collar bone, his nipples, his ribs, the flat and hard belly, each hip bone, his thighs and knees and the tops of his feet...the list was almost endless, but John was determined to visit each place as his journey progressed.

Dave laid back on his pillow, his hands at his side as John began his trip down his body. It was really almost like they had never been together before - because it seemed as if every touch that John made was a new touch that Dave had never experienced. It had been a month. A month too long. How could Dave have even *tried* to forget John with someone else? It simply didn't work. Dave belonged to John, heart, mind and soul.

"God, yes," Dave moaned as John's lips brushed over a particularly sensitive spot. And once again, Dave's cock grew harder in anticipation of the fun that was yet to come.

"Ooh, I had forgotten how sensitive you get. Is this the place I touched?" John asked as he lightly flicked his tongue exactly over the spot that had made Dave cry out.

"Ah... yes, God... you know just what to do... you know... oh... Wow... God, John..." Dave thought his eyes were going to roll into the back of his head from the pure pleasure that was coursing through his body.

John grinned. "Are you SURE that was the spot? It might have been over here..." John touched his tongue over the skin just millimeters away from where it had been. Dave was so damned responsive to everything John did and it definitely inspired John to do all he could to pleasure Dave.

Dave gasped, calling out John's name once more as he eyes remained shut. Dave was just *so* sensitive, that all John had to do was brush his fingers over Dave's body, and it might have been enough to send him over the edge. As it was, once John got down to business, it wasn't going to take long for Dave to reach the ultimate pleasure point.

John took note of Dave's quivering body and he made sure that he bypassed Dave's penis, going directly from Dave's belly to his lower thigh, nowhere near that magnificent penis. Even though John was dying to take that turgid organ in his mouth, he put off his own pleasure so he could concentrate on Dave's. "What about your knees? Are they sensitive? It's been so long, I really don't remember." John said as he teasingly ran his fingers lightly over Dave's kneecaps.

Another gasp escaped from Dave's mouth, his eyes remaining closed as he continued to just *be*. "God...yes...you know it does...everything...God...all you haveta...do is touch me John...you touch me... and I wanna...I wanna scream...God...John...Yes..." Dave knew he was being teased. He knew that John could easily just take him and suck Dave off until he came in pure pleasure. But Dave was glad that he hadn't. Dave was *so* enjoying this. Each and every inch of pleasure moved him closer to the brink of ecstasy.

"It's been so long, Dave, and my memory isn't what it used to be," John joked as he trailed a finger along Dave's shinbone, then planted a lingering kiss on the top of Dave's foot. "You have such nice legs. So muscular and strong." John moved around on the bed so that he could start his way back up Dave's body. A kiss was bestowed on the top of the other foot, and then John started to kiss and caress his way up Dave's leg, taking care to not go near that quivering penis. Every now and then, though, John would glance over at it. At those times he could have sworn that Dave's penis really did have an 'eye', because it would bob up and down, flexing for him, letting him know that his mouth was most definitely needed to lick up the pre-come that was coursing from the tip and down the shaft. Soon, John mentally promised it, soon.

"Oh...God, John..." As John continued to tease him, Dave continued to lean his head back on the pillow, knowing that if he looked at what the other man was doing, he was sunk. Dave wanted to reach down, stroke his own cock as John teased him, but Dave knew that wasn't part of the plan. And in a way, Dave really liked the teasing. It was almost intoxicating the way that Dave could feel every single movement that John was making. But Dave was being pushed close to the edge. "God...I need you...I need you to suck me, John...I need to feel your mouth on me...sucking my cock until I scream...please, John...God...please..."

It was just as well that Dave had begun to beg him, because John's resolve was slowly weakening. "As you wish," he said and then he grasped Dave's erection at the base of the shaft and lowered his mouth over it, letting the organ enter his mouth without touching any part of it. Then, without any warning, John firmly closed his lips around Dave's hardness, simply holding it inside his mouth.

Ever so slowly John began to move his mouth, sliding his lips down toward the base of Dave's penis before heading upward to taste the pre-come at the head. He could tell from the way Dave's body writhed in front of him that the man was going to come soon, but John continued to move slowly, keeping his lips tight and wet as they covered and then uncovered Dave's shaft.

Dave could feel John's breath on him when the man first began to lower his mouth...and that set off synapses of pleasure all it's own in anticipation of what was to come. And then, as the other man's mouth finally closed on him, Dave thought all of his emotions were going to go through the roof. "Oh...GOD, John...yes...that's it...you know how I like...oh, GOD, yes..." It wasn't going to be long, but Dave did his best to control his body. No. No more stupid fights. And Dave didn't want to hurt John by coming too forcefully. Yes. This was going to be much...much better than the last time John had completely sucked him off.

Dave's cries of pleasure almost made John quicken his movements, but he knew it would bring a greater pleasure to Dave if he kept the going slow. The penis was twitching within John's mouth and he began to play with Dave's testicles, wanting to see if he could keep them from escaping up and into Dave's body.

He didn't have long to wait. An agonized scream cut through the air of the bedroom as Dave's penis erupted inside of John's mouth. John swallowed as quickly as he could, trying to savor each and every drop, but Dave just kept coming, as if he hadn't just come the night before. John did his best to keep up with the output, slurping down Dave's juices until the large penis was finally limp.

Sitting back on his haunches between Dave's legs, John looked up the length of Dave's body and grinned. "All mine. Each inch of you, each ounce of you. You're all mine and no one else's," he declared. Stretching his back, John began to regret not reminding Dave about the massage the night before, but the morning was still young and there was time for some hands-on medical care before John had to be to work.

"That's right," Dave said, once he finally was able to catch his breath. "You're mine. Mine, mine, mine...and I love you so damned much, John...*so* damned much..." Dave finally opened his eyes, looking with love over towards the man who had just given him such pleasure. "C'mere," he said, his voice in almost a whisper. "I need t'kiss ya..." Now, with the moments of pleasure behind him, Dave's thoughts began to drift back towards his decisions of the day before. California suddenly loomed over his head, and he found himself wondering just how John was going to react to being asked to move out there...it would be a good fresh start for both of them. Hell. Dave might even be tempted to come out to his brother if he knew that John was going to be his side.

It always thrilled John that Dave liked to taste himself and he eagerly pursued the kiss, and then stretched out alongside Dave. "Think I can get that back massage now? There's still time before I have to report for work, and it's really acting up ever since..." John bit off his sentence, not wanting to remind Dave of the night that the teen with Marfan's Syndrome had died. "It's just sore."

Dave nodded. "Yeah...I can massage your back for ya...I didn't realize it was botherin' you so much...or I wouldn't have made ya be on your back as much as I was," he said, as he moved onto his side. Dave regarded John's features carefully, wondering just how much pain the man was in. "I...whoa...it's not still hurtin' from the time when you slipped last week...is it?" Dave had been partially responsible for that, his mistaken diagnosis resulting in a patient crashing on him and Jing-Mei, which had ultimately, along with some other factors, ended in his being fired from County. "Shit man...I'm sorry..."

"Partially that," John admitted. "And partially from helping Abby haul around a huge fish tank, then letting her climb over my back so she could climb up the fire escape to break into Luka's apartment." John did chuckle at that memory. "While you were being fired, Abby and I were being arrested for breaking and entering, but Luka declined to press charges, so we were let go. But not before sitting in the back seat -- the smelly back seat, no less, of a stuffy police cruiser." John rolled over onto his stomach and rested his head on his folded arms so he could still look at Dave. "I'll recover."

Dave shook his head and laughed. "Was that the first time ya ever were in a police cruiser?" Dave was happy to keep the conversation light, and he knew that John was trying to keep his focus off of how much pain he was *probably* in because of his back. And Dave couldn't help but wonder how much he was really responsible for the agony that John probably was in? True that part of it might have had to do with a fish tank, but Dave suspected that it was more than that. Regardless, Dave wasn't going to dwell on it. The last time they had fought it was because of Dave questioning John's honesty about the amount of pain he was in. And Dave didn't want to go through that again. "Lemme go find those oils," he said, as he planted a soft kiss on the man's neck.

He roused himself from next to John on the bed, and made his way to the closet, where the oils were from the last time Dave had used them. Taking out the strawberry, he headed back over to the bed. Straddling a leg on either side of John, Dave sat back on his haunches before warming some oil between his fingers that he had poured in his hands. And then, he found his fingers resting on John's back, intending on giving John a backrub that he would never forget.

As John felt the oil being rubbed over his skin, he sighed. "No, it wasn't the first time I'd ever been in a police cruiser. At least this time I managed to avoid having getting my picture taken, being fingerprinted and forced to spend time alone in a holding cell with some huge guy with his name tattooed on his body." John chuckled. "Being bailed out was definitely the high point of that year, let me tell you."

John could already feel his muscles beginning to relax under Dave's fingers. If only he could have Dave with him at work every day, ready to jump in with a healing massage as needed, then John knew he could handle anything. "Hey, maybe I can hire you on as my personal masseuse? You could follow me all around the hospital, your fingers always ready to take away my aches and pains," John suggested.

"How much ya payin'?" Dave was joking, but he knew that he was going to have to talk to John, and soon, about his potential plans to move. Well...while the man was relaxed was as good a time as hey, Dave supposed. "So... I've been doin' a lot of thinkin'...I mean...regardin' where I'm goin'...what my future is gonna be...and....I'm thinkin'...up until yesterday, I had nothin' keepin' me in Chicago...but now...now there's you again...and you've managed to change everythin' in one fell swoop, John..." Dave took a deep breath as he continued to massage tight knots out of John's shoulders. "I...was wonderin' what you thought of California..."

John couldn't keep from smiling as he listened to Dave relate how his life had changed overnight. It felt good to know he had done that for Dave. But then Dave said 'California' and a small warning bell began to sound in John's mind. Dave wasn't thinking about moving away, was he? Not after they had gotten back together, he just couldn't be. So John's mind decided that the alarm was wrong. "California's nice, but you're not there. You're here, and I'm here, and both of our lives are changed now for the better." John twisted his neck around so he could look back at Dave. "We can make a future together here, Dave. You'll find a new position, it'll just take some time, that's all." John wanted to tell Dave that he had been offered the spot of Chief Resident, but under the circumstances, it almost seemed to be bragging, so John kept quiet about it. Besides, he hadn't told Kerry 'yes', yet.

Dave thought for a moment, and a small smile flashed across his lips. "I...well...here's the thing. I was thinkin' that maybe...maybe we could both move out to California. I mean...it's a big state...we could have a fresh start. Odds are pretty good you're not gonna get an attending position here, John, and after what Jing-Mei told me about the way that they just pulled the Chief position out from under her...do ya really think there's anythin' left for either of us here? I mean...I'm never gonna be able to find anythin' in Chicago...Weaver will have the bad word spread about me faster than I can say 'The Chief'. In fact, it's already started. Just a few phone calls I made...I've got nothin' goin' career wise...but together...Hell...we can start a whole new life together out there, John..."

John quickly turned his face back around, not wanting Dave to see the panic in his eyes. The man was serious. He wanted to leave Chicago. John rolled over and scrambled into a seated position, looking intently at Dave. "You're right, I'm not going to get the attending position. Weaver offered me Chief Resident. And Gamma's all alone. I can't just up and leave her Dave. I have family here, obligations. I know that it's frustrating to keep looking for a job and having the doors shut in your face, but if you're patient, then something will happen." John reached out and grasped Dave's hand within his own.

"I know that you'll find a job, a good job. It might not be soon, but that's okay, because I know that it will happen. Sure, you made a mistake and someone died, but you weren't the only one at fault that night. In time, people will forget it ever happened. You have to hold onto that thought, Dave." John hoped that Dave could feel just how much John believed in him and his ability to get past that setback. Dave WAS a good doctor, and he'd eventually find a good position. It just took time.

Dave shook his head. "Don't ya see? Takin' time doesn't pay the bills...this...this is a big apartment that I've got here...and even if you moved in here and paid half the rent, I don't have enough to pay the other half of the rent. I barely made my bill as it is...and there's no way I'm gonna be able to make it now. My...my brother Steve has offered me a place to stay...I...I can find a job out there...in fact, there are a couple that I've lined up interviews for already... I...I want ya to come with me, John... I don't wanna live without you again..." This was not as easy as Dave had anticipated. It wasn't supposed to be like this. John was supposed to just agree and come with him.

"You don't have to live without me again, Dave. I can cover the whole rent until you find a job, it's not a problem for me," John earnestly said. He placed both of his hands on Dave's cheeks, holding him still as John tenderly kissed those argumentative lips. "We'll make it, Dave. Together, you and me. We'll turn the city of Chicago upside down to find you a suitable position, but I promise you that we WILL find you one."

Dave shook his head. "I couldn't ask ya that...I couldn't ask ya to pay for my rent...I can't do that. No. I'd live on the street before that happens..." There was no way he was going to become reliant on *anyone* else. His brother Steve was one thing...but not John. He wouldn't do that to John. He didn't want to be kept by anyone...even though he knew that John meant well. "I...I haveta do this on my own...I fucked up...I have t'fix the fuckup somehow...my career in Chicago is *done*..." This couldn't be happening. Dave didn't just reconcile with John to have it all end because of locations... "Please...please think about comin' with me, John? I don't wanna do this without you..."

John let his hands fall away from Dave's cheeks. "You know, when you're out of work is not the time to be prideful. I can easily afford this place. Hell, I can afford a place twice this size, Dave. What difference does it matter who pays the rent as long as we're together? I don't want to be without you, either, but, damn it, I want to be Chief Resident. I worked hard to prove myself...to prove TO myself, that I could do the job. I've worked damn hard to regain the trust and respect of my co-workers. I just can't throw that away and go running off to California. What are they going to say when they see my CV? That I turned and ran when faced with taking on responsibility? That maybe I relapsed and they just let me off easy? I don't have a past there, Dave. While not having people know how you screwed up is a good thing for you, it's not a good thing for me." John shook his head. "Chicago is my home, and it's where I want to stay."

"Not havin' people know how I screwed up? What the Hell is *that* supposed to mean, John?" Dave's eyes were wild as he backed away from John, but he still sat on the bed, looking over towards John incredulously. "So I guess that's all I am to you. A big fuck up. Yeah. I fucked up. But you know? I need your support here... not ta have ya throw it in my face. And yeah...so you can afford a place twice this size. I guess that's my fault too...right? Not everyone in life has had their life on a silver platter, John. I've had to work really friggen hard to get where I am...and I *know* that I don't have a chance to recover that here. Why can't you understand that?" Dave then stood, looking around to find some clothing to put on...suddenly feeling a bit self-conscious. "Chicago is your home, huh? I thought your home was wherever I was. But I guess I was wrong about that..."

Dave was stricken. He was hurt. And suddenly he found himself wishing he had never reconciled with John. It would have been a Hell of a lot easier for him to just leave without a new world of hurt surrounding his heart.

John simply stared at Dave as the man began his rant, but then when Dave left the bed and putting down their relationship, John became angry. "I never said you were a fuck up, Dave, and you know it. You're just twisting my words around because you're upset over not getting your way here. But the truth is that you got cocky and you did make a stupid mistake and someone died because you made that mistake. You were in such a hurry to show everyone how great you were at spotting drug abusers that you never even considered any other reasons for why that kid was unconscious, and it was that desire to show off that killed that boy. But you know what? You're not the first doctor to kill a patient by showing off and you won't be the last, so get over it." John got to his feet so he could be on the same level as Dave and not have to look up to him while talking.

"I thought that when people were in love, they helped each other. They even have that in marriage vows, don't they? For better or for worse? I guess you only want to stick around when things are better, Dave. I thought you loved me, and love means staying together and working together to make a future." He shook his head. "Why aren't you trying to appeal your firing?" John suddenly asked. "I'd bet that the hospital would overrule Kerry's actions and they'd put you in another department. You CAN work here in Chicago."

"Give me a break, John. They've been lookin' for an excuse to get rid of me since my suspension last year," he said, finally bringing his eyes to meet John's. "I told ya. I've called around. I've got a reputation that precedes me. I *don't* have a chance of havin' a career here. And hearin' ya talk about my fuck up shows me how little faith you really have in my ability to be a doctor anyway. Why would you wanna bother to help me out in findin' something?" Dave shook his head as well, and then turned his head away. "I do love you. I love you more than you'll ever know. But I *can't* stay here. And it's frustratin' the Hell outta me that you can't see why."

"You said you'd made a few calls, not that you called every hospital around the Chicago area. There's no way you could have called all of them since you were fired. And you're wrong. I DO have faith in you, that's how I know that you WILL get another job here, Dave. You're the one who doesn't have any faith in yourself. And, you still haven't answered my question. Why haven't you appealed the firing? You're entitled to a hearing in front of the board, why aren't you pursuing it, making County take you back? If you really wanted to stay here, you could," John said. Inside though, he was beginning to wonder if Dave really did want to stay in Chicago. Maybe he was using being fired as an excuse to run away and avoid having to rebuild his reputation so that he could be the kind of doctor John knew he truly was.

"Because you said it yourself! I'm a fuck up," Dave said, his voice becoming more exasperated. "Damn it! I don't have *anything* here but *you*! You would be the only reason that I'm stayin'...and the bottom line is, that doesn't pay the bills. You brought up marriage vows? I don't see us gettin' married any time soon, John. God damn it...I wanna spend the rest of my life with you...but I don't wanna do that in your debt! Malucci's don't do that...Malucci's don't take handouts, even from the people we love..." John wasn't understanding. He didn't know how he was going to get John to understand why he *had* to do this.

"I'm not talking about giving you a handout or putting you in my debt, Dave. I'm talking about the two of us sharing things. You know, it's beginning to look to me as if you'd rather use this as an excuse to run away. It's a lot harder to stay here and fight to rebuild your reputation than it is to run away. God knows I thought of doing just that about every other minute when I was in Atlanta. But I finally realized that I had to make it in Chicago again before I could ever go anywhere else and be able to look myself in the eyes every morning." John took a step toward Dave, wanting to hold the man tightly and keep him right where he was, but he didn't think Dave wanted that.

"I love you, and I know you'll succeed. You'll get past this. We'll get past this, together. I've got a chance here to show Romano and all the other self-righteous pricks at the hospital that I can handle being Chief Resident without falling apart. A chance to prove to Kerry that I AM strong. If I run off to California, or anywhere else for that matter, and turn aside that offer, then I might as well kiss all that hard work goodbye. Sure, Kerry's offering me this job because there's no one else to do it, but I know I'll be a much better Chief Resident than Deb ever was and I deserve the chance to prove that to everyone at County who's been doubting me since I woke up in the recovery room on February 15th. I've worked hard to regain my reputation, Dave, and I know you can do it, too."

Dave still couldn't look John in the eye when he spoke, even though he knew that John was partially speaking the truth. But it was a truth that Dave didn't want to face yet. "I...I'm not like you, John. Believe it or not...you're the golden child of the ER. They gave you all those chance cause you deserved them. Man....you did have your share of problems...but at least they were for a reason. Not me. No. I'm just a fuck up. I can't get past what I've done here. You...you weren't there when I left. You weren't there...when I said those *awful* things to Weaver. I called her a DYKE...me, of all people...me...who is so deeply in love with another man, that I can't see straight. How can I go in and face them...face *her*...after doin' that? You...you're a lot stronger than I am, John. I...I haveta get outta here...I *can't* stay here..." Now Dave could feel the tears coming, but he refused to let them fall. This was difficult enough.

Something else that John said was ringing in his ears as well. "You...you haven't even accepted the Chief Resident position yet...have you? What makes ya think that they aren't gonna pull it from *you* at first chance as well? How can you *trust* anything that they do there after what they did to Jing-Mei?"

It was breaking John's heart to see Dave so upset and he was about to throw caution to the wind, walk over and envelope the man in his arms when Dave started to put down Kerry. Staying where he was, John replied, "I know that Kerry won't do that to me. Granted, I didn't think she'd turn on Deb, but I know that Kerry wouldn't yank this out from under me. It wasn't easy for her to come to me and admit she had made a mistake by not even letting me apply for Chief Resident, and Kerry's not going to do anything to hurt me." He looked around the room, then back at Dave. "Okay, so you said some things you shouldn't have. People will forget them, especially once you apologize. Making atonement toward those you harmed is one of the twelve steps, but it's an important step, and one we all should do from time to time. I'm not saying that it's going to be easy to stay here, Dave. It won't be. But nothing worthwhile is ever easy."

"Apologize? I'm not gonna apologize! What the hell am I gonna say? 'I'm sorry...I didn't mean to kill that patient'? 'I'm sorry, I didn't *mean* to have sex in that ambulance'? I maintain that no matter what, I woulda gotten fired eventually. As for the rest of it...Carter...Weaver *threw* you out of her house! What makes you think that she won't get rid of you it it's convenient? She just did it to me...and she just did it to Jing-Mei. Weaver was just as much at fault as the rest of us, and she never bothered to answer her page, despite bein' the attendin' on duty that night. Instead of takin' the blame, she blamed us. I'm supposed to apologize for *that*? Fat chance, my friend. Fat chance..." Dave chose to ignore the reference to the twelve-step program. As ugly as this fight was getting, the last thing Dave wanted to do was throw John's drug use into his face.

"Kerry didn't fire Deb, she quit. She decided that she wouldn't accept the punishment that the hospital decided upon, so she quit. I can only sympathize with her up to a point. Yes, Kerry should have been in the ER that night, but if you and Deb had been thinking, she wouldn't have been needed at all!" John retorted. "Deb was Chief Resident, she should have known better than to okay that course of treatment just on your word alone. You knew and she knew it."

It amazed John that Dave could still be so belligerent about what had happened. The man HAD made a mistake and had a chance to learn from it and wasn't taking it. And now he was acting as if the world owed him something despite it. "Yes, Dave. I expect you to make some of those apologies. You can't bring that boy back, but you CAN learn from your mistakes and make damn sure they never happen again. And maybe you would have been fired eventually...if you didn't change your ways. From what I heard, the day you were fired was just like any other day for you in the ER with you going around and doing all you could to grandstand. There's more to medicine than spectacular traumas, but those are all you've ever shown any interest in. If you would have come back to work after the Marfans case with a new attitude, then Kerry wouldn't have had a leg to stand on and you know it. But you didn't. Just as you're partially responsible for that boy dying, you're also partially responsible for being fired."

"Maybe I don't wanna go back there," Dave finally said, looking up towards John. "I don't wanna be there anymore...with everyone lookin' down at me...I've *never* been appreciated there...never. I'm not *sayin* it wasn't my fault...I know it was partially my fault.. I *fucked up* as you keep remindin' me," he said, his eyes filling with tears. "And that's why I haveta get outta here...and before anyone in California finds out what happens. I *have* to make a fresh start. I wanted to make a fresh start with you, but you're tellin' me over and over why you don't wanna do that...God...this was the best few hours of my life...and it was all for nothin' if I'm not with you at the end of it...but I *can't* stay here...I *can't*..." Dave shook his head. This was insane. He couldn't believe that John was acting like this much of an ass over this. It simply wasn't fair.

John shook his head. There were so many things he had wanted, so many things he had needed, and, as usual, they had all been too much. He had loved Dave, which was bad enough. It made it worse that he had told Dave he loved him. That always ruined things, John reasoned. Once they knew he loved them, people tended to turn on him. Just as Dave was now doing. Harper had claimed to love him, but she walked away. So had Abby Keaton. Now Dave was leaving him -- running away when he didn't need to run.

"Fine. If that's the way you want things, Dave, then that's just fine." John snapped, angry with himself for having let Dave get under his skin. "I'll see myself out." He stalked out of the bedroom and to the living room, where he found his clothes in a pile, intermingled with Dave's garments. John's eyes were watery as he separated the pile, and then began to dress. It just wasn't fair that he could never manage to hold on to anyone. Just wasn't fair at all.

Dave stood there for a moment, realizing that this was it...if he didn't say anything, John was going to walk out of his life forever. John didn't understand and that boggled Dave's mind. However -- he had to make one last effort. "John...John wait...please..."

Dropping the clothes he was holding in his hand, he quickly followed John out to the living room, tears springing into his eyes as he watched the other man dress. "Please...come with me...please...at least give a try...I...I don't wanna be without you...please..."

John looked up from where he was buttoning his shirt. Dave looked damned magnificent, even on the verge of tears. God, it was killing him to lose Dave. John felt a sudden burst of empathy for Carol Hathaway. At the time he had heard about Doug's ultimatum to her, he had at first felt that she had been crazy to not leave with Doug for Seattle. But as more time passed, John had come to believe that it had been Doug in the wrong to leave. He could have stayed and regained his reputation, but instead he had run away, leaving Carol behind. Not even knowing she was carrying his babies had made him move back. In the end, it had been Carol running to him. The last John had heard, Carol was living happily as an at-home mother, so she obviously hadn't minded leaving her nursing career behind.

"I don't want to be without you, either, Dave. But I'm not the one running away here, you are. I just don't understand why you find it so easy to run away from your problems. I don't understand why you find it so easy to run away from me." John shook his head. "If you loved me even half as much as you claim you do, then you'd do just what you're asking me to do, you'd stay and give it, give US, a try. Since you won't even consider doing that, then I'm left with only one conclusion and that's that you never loved me at all. I was probably nothing more than sex to you, wasn't it?" John tried to not sound bitter, but he had a feeling he was losing the attempt.

Dave's eyes widened. "Do...do you think that I take those words lightly? Do you think that I just throw that around? I've *never* loved anyone before, John. *Ever*. And I would never just say somethin' like that if I didn't feel it. And the fact that you would even question that...that speaks volumes, John. I never doubted your love for me. You've obviously never believed that I bein' honest with ya. I'm just glad I found that out now..." Dave felt like he had been stabbed directly into the heart. It was even worse than the last time they had broken up, because this time Dave thought that they would be able to work through anything. He was wrong.

"How can I believe that you love me when you'd talking about leaving? You won't even consider staying here with me, you just want me to throw my career away and follow you to California where you want to start over. Where's the love in that, Dave? You know, all the women at work warned each other about what a smooth talker you were, but I really never thought it was something I had to worry about. I guess I was wrong." John picked up his socks, then sat down on the couch to put them on. He couldn't comprehend how Dave could love him, and yet find it so easy to leave him behind, or just have no consideration at all for how hard John had worked to rebuild his reputation. Dave wanted John to leave the position of Chief Resident, in an environment where he had proved himself, aside, as if it was nothing of importance. As usual, Dave wanted the easy out, and that meant running away.

"If I didn't love you, do you think I'd even be talkin' to you about this? No. I would have just *left* because up until now, that's what I did. Maybe I shoulda just left. It woulda been better then goin' through this again. Goin' through losin' you...and watchin' you leave. Why...why can't you understand that this is what I *need* to do to get my life back on track? Damn it...you're the *only* good thing in my life right now...and Hell...it's not like you've accepted the Chief Resident position yet. Hell. They'll probably screw you too. They screwed Jing-Mei...what makes you think they wont do the same to you? Yer just gettin' it by default!" Hurt was turning towards anger once again, and things were going to start coming out of his mouth that he didn't really mean. "If your reputation is as good as you say at the hospital, then you should be able to get any kind of recommendations you would want to move with me. I...I think you're afraid of the risk, John. You're afraid that you might be leavin' somethin' comfortable for somethin' absolutely wonderful." How Dave wished things could be different. But they just couldn't. "I don't have a career here, John. And I'm jus' sorry you don't see that..."

John shoved his feet into his shoes, then stood and faced Dave. "I should have used your reasoning when I was released from rehab. At that point, I didn't have a career either. I had to rebuild it, getting people to trust me over and over again. You probably wish I had run off to somewhere else to make a new start where people didn't know I was a junkie, don't you? Then you wouldn't have had to go through all of this."

John ran his hand through his hair. "Why can't you see that I'm not just talking here? I've been where you are now, Dave. I've been to the bottom and I know that it's possible to climb up out of it. Do you really think it was 'comfortable' for me to walk into Curtain 3 day after day, seeing Lucy's face as she lay on the floor, bleeding to death? Do you think it was comfortable for me to face people I respected and admired as they told me to either go to Atlanta or be fired? Do you think it was comfortable for me to stand up in a room full of strangers, my guts in a knot of withdrawal, my hands shaky and me tired, and have to tell them that I was caught shooting up and then shipped off? Do you really think it was comfortable for me to come back to work once I was done with Atlanta, to listen to Romano make snide comments about me, to have to put up with Mark Greene watching me give urine samples, to know that even though it was never mentioned, everyone I worked with knew I was a junkie? Do you really think I found that comfortable? Because if you do then that shows you never really knew me at all." John headed for the door. "I can see that I never really knew you, either, because I would have sworn that the Dave Malucci I knew and loved wouldn't give up and take the easy way out. He'd fight to get a good reputation and not settle just for getting the bad reputation back. The Dave Malucci I thought I knew was a stronger man than that. I guess he was just an illusion."

Dave stood there, dumbfounded that John would try to compare the two...try to get Dave to feel guilty because he was frustrated over his situation. John was pulling tricks that Dave didn't have a comeback for. "Do me a favor, John. Just...just leave. Because I really can't deal with this anymore. I can't deal with *you* anymore. I'm not even' tryin' to compare my situation to yours, but you did it. You brought it all back to your fuckin' addiction. Just...jus' leave. Go have a nice life with someone who obviously loves you more than I am capable of. Cause...I guess handin' you my heart on a fuckin' platter isn't enough for you. You need the guts to go with it." Blinded by tears, Dave turned back towards his room, and entered it. Slamming the door behind him, Dave stood for a moment, allowing the tears to fall down his face as he fumbled for a suitcase. He had to leave. And he had to leave soon. There was just no other way to get over the pain.

John had kept his eyes glued to the apartment door as Dave spoke because it was too tempting to lash out at the man. The slamming of the bedroom door made John jump, and he quickly left the apartment. With tears in his eyes, he made his way to the Jeep and then to work. By the time he had logged into the computer, John was a lot calmer and he decided that he'd give Dave a day or so to cool down and then try one more time to see if the man would stay. Could what Dave had said be nothing more than words? Had he really meant it when he claimed to love him? John wasn't sure, but he knew he just couldn't let Dave walk out of his life without trying one more time to keep him in it.

*******************

By the time John had gone to work, Dave was already off the phone with his landlord. It was entirely too easy to arrange -- his landlord was more than happy to have all of Dave's possessions, including his big screen TV, in exchange for the last few months of his lease. So, Dave quickly packed, taking only essential items -- clothes, toiletries, and a few memoirs that he had kept in a box. Pictures of his son, pictures of his brother and, yes, one picture of John, so that Dave could remember what might have been.

John had made it abundantly clear how he felt -- that Dave was a loser for not wanting to stick around...that Dave wasn't willing to work hard enough to keep what meant most to him.

Maybe in a way John was right. But still -- Dave knew without a doubt that Chicago held nothing but empty memories for him. Dave had been on the phone with his brother after talking with his landlord, and after that, he called a travel agent. A one-way last minute ticket to Los Angeles was arranged, and a few hours later, Dave found himself at the airport.

As he boarded the plane, Dave felt tears fill his eyes, and he angrily wiped them away. Another part of his life was over. His life with John...was over. And Dave realized that he was going to have to learn to live with it. No matter how much of his heart belonged to one John Carter.


John sat in his Jeep, numb. Dave was gone. No forwarding address, no forwarding phone number, no note of goodbye. He was just gone. Off to California, most likely, just as he had said he was going to do. But John had never once imagined that Dave would have left so quickly. It had only been two days since Dave mentioned leaving. Two miserable days that John had spent thinking that Dave didn't love him alternating with thinking that Dave DID love him and would stay.

John had gone to see Dave, hoping they could have a calm discussion. He had been hoping to make Dave see that he needed to stay in Chicago. When John knocked on the door, he was surprised to see an older man answer it. The landlord, who, after a bit of assurance from John's part that he was a co-worker and friend of Dave's, informed him that Dave had exchanged all his furniture in return for being let out of his lease early. He had told the landlord that once he was settled in California, he'd send his new address and phone number so mail could be forwarded. Then Dave had taken a cab to the airport and that was the last of him.

And, up until the moment that the landlord had said Dave was gone, the idea that Dave really did love him had been winning. So much for love and putting your feelings on the table. John had heard himself thanking the landlord for the information, then stumbled his way down to the street. He had been sitting in his Jeep for well over an hour, numb. Desperate to find something, anything, to ease that numbness, John pulled out his cell phone and dialed the number for his AA sponsor. As he listened to the ringing of the phone on the other end of the connection, he found himself wondering just why it was that no one could ever seem to truly love him. He found himself wondering why Dave had found it so easy to leave, and he vowed to himself that he wouldn't pull a Carol. There would be no spur of the minute trips to California to be with Dave. If the man couldn't stay, then John wasn't going to chase him down.

But it didn't make his heartache lessen, and that determination didn't take away the numb feeling that permeated John's soul. Only Dave suddenly appearing in front of him could do that. And that was something that obviously was never going to happen.
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