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: 452150 Published: August 30, 2004 Updated: September 10, 2007

1. Prologue, Part 1 by MonaCK

2. Prologue, Part 2 by MonaCK

3. Chapter One by MonaCK

4. Chapter Two by MonaCK

5. Chapter Three by MonaCK

6. Chapter Four by MonaCK

7. Chapter Five by MonaCK

8. Chapter Six by MonaCK

9. Chapter Seven by MonaCK

10. Chapter Eight by MonaCK

11. Chapter Nine by MonaCK

12. Chapter Ten by MonaCK

13. Chapter Eleven by MonaCK

14. Chapter Twlelve by MonaCK

15. Chapter Thirteen by MonaCK

16. Chapter Fourteen by MonaCK

17. Chapter Fifteen by MonaCK

18. Chapter Sixteen by MonaCK

19. Chapter Seventeen by MonaCK

20. Chapter Eighteen by MonaCK

21. Chapter Nineteen by MonaCK

22. Chapter Twenty by MonaCK

23. Chapter Twenty-One by MonaCK

24. Chapter Twenty-Two by MonaCK

25. Chapter Twenty-Three by MonaCK

26. Chapter Twenty-Four by MonaCK

27. Chapter Twenty-Five by MonaCK

28. Chapter Twenty-Six by MonaCK

29. Chapter Twenty-Seven by MonaCK

30. Chapter Twenty-Eight by MonaCK

31. Chapter Twenty-Nine by MonaCK

Prologue, Part 1 by MonaCK
How do you pack up two years worth of memories into one little box? Dave wasn't completely sure, but he was doing an awfully good job of it. Two years. Two years for what? To be laughed at right out the door.

As he continued to throw things into the box, Dave's mind wandered, thinking about everything that had happened to him in the previous few months. His relationship with Carter had gone straight into the shitter. His job had followed suit after he had slept with someone that he completely didn't have feelings for in a complete rebound situation. And yes -- he had fucked up with the whole Marfans thing...but by far the wasn't worst thing that ever occurred in this ER. Dave had heard stories about the infamous Doug Ross...and even he hadn't been fired. Doug had quit. Even Dr. Green, from the rumors he had heard, had had his share of troubles. But, no. Somehow, Dave was worthless. Dave wasn't worth fighting for...by anyone. Least of all Carter.

With all of these thoughts running through his head, Dave's head whipped around when he heard the lounge door open, and the hairs on his back bristled when he realized who was walking through the door. Weaver. The woman who Dave wanted to see least of all.

He caught her glancing at him, and Dave returned the look with a glare. A glare that could kill. A glare that told everything to Weaver without Dave having to say so much as a word. And with the anger towards this woman still coursing through his body, Dave slammed his locker shut, and then never looked back. He was done. Completely and totally done. He wasn't even going to bother to appeal -- why did he want to be somewhere where *everyone* seemed to want him gone? What was the point? Fuck it all. Fuck *all* of them.

He pushed his way out of the lounge, ignoring the stares of his former co-workers. He was about to head out the doors of the hospital when he thought better of it. Why the Hell not? One of the few redeeming qualities of the hospital had been the view of Chicago from up on the roof. How many times had Dave gone up there just to think...especially when things had gotten bad with Carter? Dave had to say goodbye...and it would give him one more opportunity to just think...

He headed to the elevator, and his eyes opened in surprise as he almost bumped directly into Jing-Mei, who was coming out of it. She looked...really upset. Like she had been crying. "Jing-Mei?"

Her eyes uplifted, reddened from emotion as she looked towards Dave sadly. "I...I quit," she said, her voice very soft. "I...after the way they treated...they treated you...they...they wanted to demote me...I...I told them I'd rather not work here at all...I...it's done, Dave. You...you should be glad to get out of here..."

Shaking her head, Jing-Mei walked away, and Dave's eyes followed her, curiosity and new resolve replacing what had been anger only moments earlier.

So Jing-Mei was gone too, huh? It gave Dave a certain satisfaction that Weaver was going to be scrambling for coverage. Without thinking about the full consequences of that decision, Dave headed up to the roof. As the elevator moved up towards the top floor, his thoughts wandered once more as he thought about the other reason he was leaving Chicago. John Carter.

How that man had torn Dave's heart in two. Never before had Dave been as open...as honest with *anyone*, and they broke up over something *so* stupid. Trust. Of course Dave trusted Carter. He had always trusted him. But now...now he wasn't so sure. Was it wrong of Dave to give his heart over? He didn't know anymore. But as unsure as he was about all of that, one thing was crystal clear. John Carter was *it* for him. The chick he had screwed in the ambulance held absolutely no emotion for him.

The doors opened to the roof, and Dave was still steeped in thoughts of John when he walked out in the cool night air, leather jacket on his body, and box of possessions tucked under one arm. And as his eyes swept the roof, he stopped dead in his tracks. For standing right in front of him, was the very person he had been thinking about. Carter. Dave's heart did a flip-flop, like it always did when he saw the older man. And Dave had to remind himself that Carter was no longer *his*, so he couldn't walk up and try to seek comfort in the man's arms.

So instead, Dave stood silently and just stared, wondering if Carter was going to notice that he was standing there.


John leaned his elbows on the wall and looked out over the city. It was hard to believe that Deb had quit. It made it all so much more obvious that there had been more behind Kerry firing Dave than the sex in the ambulance. Just thinking about Dave having sex with some bombshell cut through John like needles. It never should have happened.

It wouldn't have happened if John had kept his temper that night not so long before his grandfather died. He and Dave had been seeing each other for about a month or so, and things had been going great, or so John thought. Dave had asked John to move in, and John had accepted the offer.

The only problem, the main problem, really, was that John had never believed that they'd last as a couple. He could see that so clearly now that they were apart. It had been his own insecurities that doomed them.

It had been a stupid argument, really, that ended things between them. John had been giving Dave a blow-job to awaken him that morning and as Dave came, he shoved his penis deeply down John's throat. It had taken John by surprise and he had said something about it. Dave had been afraid that he had hurt John in some way and kept asking if John was okay, over and over again. No matter how many times John had assured Dave that he was fine. It had reached a breaking point when Dave told John that he trusted him and believed him. To John, if Dave felt that, then he would have never kept asking him the same question. They had argued a bit over that, and then Dave had stormed out to go to work. John had lingered in the apartment, hoping for Dave to blow off work and return, but he didn't. John had ended up cleaning the apartment for Dave, wanting to leave him with one good memory of a sort. Once at work, though, John had pretended that nothing had happened between them. Ever. And so had Dave, even though John had seen the hurt in the man's eyes.

But it was so hard to work with Dave every day and pretend to not love him. Especially when his grandfather had died. It had been sweet for Abby to come to the house after the funeral, but John couldn't help but wish it had been Dave.

And when Dave and Chen and Kerry had made a mess with the Marfans case, John had wished he could have comforted Dave, told him that everything would be all right. But he never did. He had picked up the phone several times, but never dialed. Never took Dave aside. Maybe it was his fault that Dave had gone after the paramedic? Maybe it had been some sort of revenge or reaction to being ignored? John would never know now that Dave was gone.

Or would he? Dave was only gone from County. He still lived in Chicago and John knew the way to Dave's place by heart. He checked his watch, seeing he was officially off from work. He could go to Dave and tell him he was sorry about everything. Ask for another chance. Even if Dave turned him down, John could at least rest easy knowing that he tried.

John took a deep breath, squared his shoulders and turned away from the railing, set on his course of action. He would find Dave and do his best to make things right between them.

He was halfway to the elevator when his mind fully registered the form of the person who had stepped out of it -- Dave. John felt his heart give a jump over being face to face with the person whose kisses took his breath away. John didn't have to go to Dave's place, the man was right in front of him.

John took a few steps closer to Dave, and then shyly smiled. "I didn't expect to see you here tonight."

A half smile twitched on Dave's lips, but he still wasn't quite sure what to make of that kind of reaction. Kindness. It was the nicest that Carter had been to him since the breakup. And since this was likely the last time that Dave would see Carter, it was all okay. Another conclusion that Dave had drawn while riding up in the elevator was that since he had nothing left for him in Chicago, he was going to move. Move far away. Move to California on an offer that his brother Steve had made to him when Dave had told Steve that he had been canned. So, Dave felt that he couldn't be outright rude. After all, that just wouldn't be right. Not to mention, Dave was still head over heels in love with Carter.

"Yeah," Dave finally said, after a moment's silence. "I hadda go get my stuff outta my locker. Ya know...since I'm no longer workin' here and all..." It had been too long. Far too long since they had spoken to each other. And yet, Carter still managed to take his breath away. "So...uh...yeah...how ya been?" Well, it was a start.

"My back's seen better days, but other than that, I'm okay," John said. It wasn't what he really wanted to say. He wanted to tell Dave how miserable he'd been without him, but he just couldn't seem to find the words.

Dammitt though, wasn't that what he had been intending to say to Dave once he reached his apartment? John shook his head. "I take that back. I'm not okay. I haven't been okay since that morning when we fought. I've been miserable without you, Dave, and I...I'm sorry about what happened. I think we both said and did things we wish we hadn't done. I know I did." John took a few more steps closer to Dave. They were close enough that John could pick up Dave's scent and it made his blood run hot -- as always.

"I'd like for us to see if we can make up and get past what happened." God, please let Dave want the same thing, John prayed.

Dave's eyes opened wide, and his arms relaxed. As a result, the box that he was holding fell to the ground, luckily with nothing falling out of it. Dave... was shocked. Even after...even after everything, John wanted *him*? How was that possible?

"I...is it that simple, John? I mean...we...there's been so much that has happened...but...God...I've been pretty damned miserable without you too, John... that... that chick in the ambulance...only enhanced how much I missed you...'cause I felt *nothin'* for her...it...it was all because of how angry I was that we broke up...it...was impulsive...it...was stupid...I..."

Dave took a step closer to John. "I've been resistin' the urge to kiss you since I spotted you on this roof...I'm so sorry, John...for everythin'..."

"I've been resisting the urge to kiss you every day. I've missed you so damn much." John moved until their bodies were touching and then he held Dave's head steady as he lowered his lips to Dave's -- it was as if no time at all had passed, the kiss was that urgent, that real, and the rest of John's body responded immediately, his penis hardening just because it was Dave that John was kissing.

This...was exactly what Dave had been craving for weeks...and now, it was right in front of him. John. His John. Back into his arms. Dave's tongue parted John's lips, and he moaned into the kiss, Dave's arms reflexively wrapping further around John's body. And as the kiss finally ended, Dave was left completely breathless. "Whoa...why...why were we too stupid to do this a month ago?"

John shook his head. "I don't know. Too damn prideful, maybe? Too stubborn because we both thought we were right." He rested his forehead against Dave's. "I'm sorry I wasn't there when you were fired, I wanted to check on you, but kept chickening out. Think you can ever forgive me for that?"

Dave shut his eyes, thinking things over in his head while his mind formed an answer. His hand came to rest on John's cheek. It seemed that his whole body had missed John's touch...John's embrace...John *caring*. "I...yeah...God...I missed ya so much, John...I...I still love you...you know that, right? I never really stopped...it was a stupid...stupid fight we got into...and I shoulda tried to make ya talk to me..."

John grinned. "I know I look like I'm dressed for work, but my shift is over. How about if I go and ditch this lab coat and then we can go to your place and make it up to each other properly? I know I have a lot to atone for, so I might just keep you up all night doing so."

His body was aching for Dave and John knew that the only thing that would ease that ache was doing all he could to pleasure Dave.

Dave lifted a brow upwards, and a slow grin spread across his lips. "Hell, yes," he said, as he kept his gaze locked on John. "I don't know if you can feel it, but man...my cock is *hard* for you already. I want you so bad, John...I've wanted you for so *friggen* long that I can't *wait* get alone with you." Dave pulled the other man closer to him still. "I want to make love to you all night long...wake up in the morning...and then make love to you again before you haveta go to work...do ya think you can handle that?"

John grinned as he ground his pelvis against Dave's. "I can handle that and then some. Did you ride your bike here or ride the El? I've got my Jeep so we can take that back to your place." The sooner they were in Dave's apartment, the sooner they could start making up for lost time

"I took the El. It's a little hard to fit all of your worldly possessions on the front of a bike," Dave said, as he looked down towards the box. "I think a ride home would be *great*...especially since my taxi driver will be bringin' me upstairs..." Dave finally pulled away, long enough to bend down and pick up the box that had fallen to the floor. "Let's go...I can't wait to get you home...and neither can my cock..." It was going to be just like old times...only different, since they wouldn't take for granted that the other would always be there.

John reached into his pocket for his keys and he handed them out toward Dave. "I'm parked in the garage, third level, two spots from the end on the row by the outside wall. I'll meet you there." He couldn't help but lean in toward Dave for one more kiss -- it was awkward since the box was between them, but John just reminded himself that in a very short time there would be absolutely nothing between them.

Dave listened intently to John's instructions, and then with keys in hand, and a smile as big as Illinois on his lips, he headed toward the elevators so he could get to the parking garage. There was still a *lot* to talk about...but it could all wait. It could wait until after their reunion. And what a reunion it was going to be.

Dave found John's jeep pretty easily, and after unlocking the door, he put the box on the back seat and slipped into the passenger's side, to wait for the man he loved.

While Dave was taking the elevator, John was throwing caution to the wind and he took the stairs down to the ER, signing out and then going into the lounge to get ready to leave. He was pleased to note that it took him about five minutes to make the trip from the roof to walking out the door and heading in the direction of the parking garage.

He still had to give Kerry his answer about taking the position of Chief Resident. She had been right in that it should have been his in the first place. If he had been Chief Resident that night then both Dave and Deb would still be working at County because he wouldn't have made the same mistake that Deb had made. John knew deep down that he'd take the position, even though it seemed he was getting it by default.

As he approached his Jeep, he could see that Dave was already inside and waiting for him. A grin spread itself over John's face as he opened the door and climbed up behind the wheel. "I was wondering if you still had that massage oil? The one with the strawberry scent? Because my back is killing me and I'm pretty sure that your hands can work some magic on it."

Dave nodded as he handed John back the keys to the Jeep. "Yeah... I've got that...and some other stuff that'll help with your back...in fact... I think a back rub might be just the thing to keep the mood goin'...dontcha think? With...ya know... makin' love bein' the result of some nice...hands on...massagin'?" Dave couldn't wait. Now that he knew it was going to happen, he was rock hard and ready to be inside of John. And it hurt since it was pressing up against the fly of his jeans. "Man...I can't wait to get you alone," he said again as he waited for John to pull out of the parking garage, because if he hesitated much longer, Dave was going to seduce him right there and then.

Yes. Dave knew there was still a lot to work out...like his decision to move to California...but...hey...maybe that would be something that John would be up for doing as well. After all, John didn't know where his career was going...Dave knew that he hadn't been given an attending position...maybe getting away would be good for both of them?

John laughed. "You and me, both." He wanted to speed to Dave's place, but the fear of having to sit there, rock hard, while being given a speeding ticket, stopped him from exceeding the speed limit. As it was, there were a few lights where he just barely made it through on the yellow caution.

He reached a hand over and rested it on Dave's crotch, feeling the hardness under the denim. "God, you are so hard. I'm wondering if we might have to put off the massage until after we take care of you. That just has to hurt." John glanced sideways at Dave, a wicked smile on his face as he imagined the two of them never getting any further into Dave's apartment than the entry way.

"Oh...don't worry," Dave said, as he cast John a sly glance. "Once we let the monster out of it's cage, it'll have plenty of room so it won't hurt anymore...but...God...does it feel good to have ya touchin' me there again, John." Dave placed his own hand over John's, and lifted it away from his cock. "But...if ya don't stop doin' that...there isn't gonna be anythin' hard for you to play with at the apartment..."

"We wouldn't want that to happen, would we?" John asked as he dutifully put his hand on the steering wheel. "I know this might be a touchy subject, but...the EMT. Did you use a condom?" John and Dave had been very religious about using condoms at first, but after getting carried away one night, they had opted to not use them again. Both of them had made sure they were tested weekly, and they had been monogamous, so it hadn't been a worry. But Dave had been with someone since they had fought and broken up, and now John was afraid that the extra closeness they had shared was now lost to him for quite a long time. He could still enjoy making love with Dave with condoms, but it just wouldn't be the same.

Dave looked out the window as he spoke, the familiar scenery around him as they drove. "Yeah," he said, as he continued to look out at the buildings. "Yeah...I used a condom. Last thing I need is another Malucci runnin' around," Dave quipped, as he turned back towards John. John was one of the few people that knew about his son -- the son he hardly kept in touch with, yet whose mother Dave still managed to give most of his paycheck over to. Paycheck. Well, it wasn't like he had one of those anymore. So, it seemed that Dave was going to be writing out one less check...

"That's good to hear, because I was afraid I'd never get the chance to taste you again," John commented. And that was enough about THAT subject. He didn't want to think about Dave with someone else, even if it was a woman. John made note of a side street as he passed it and he grinned once more. "Almost there."

The grin on Dave's face spread wider as he realized where they were. Almost there indeed. There were only about a minute from Dave's apartment. A minute to get there...thirty seconds to get out of the car. Another 3 1/2 minutes to get up the stairs...so...in approximately five minutes, Dave was going to be alone with John, and well on his way to getting naked. His desire grew as John finally pulled into a parking spot, and as Dave darted out of the car, he decided to leave his box right where it was -- he didn't want to take the extra time to grab it before being along with John. "C'mon...I absolutely can't wait," he said, as he reached for John's hand. And practically pulling him, Dave led him towards the elevators that led to his apartment.

John couldn't help but laugh as Dave pulled him along, and he was still laughing as the elevator doors closed behind them. "We're all alone in here, you know," John said as he squeezed Dave's hand. "Remember that time we were stranded in the elevator at work and you took advantage of me?" The truth was more that John had taken advantage of Dave. That had been in the very earliest days of their relationship, when they were both too scared to admit that they were falling in love.

"Boy do I remember...I think at first you were pissed at bein' with me in there...or at least ya acted like it. I think we were both more than a little confused at what was goin' on...but man...I was head over heels for ya even then, though I was the last one to admit it..." Taking advantage of them being alone, Dave reached out his hand, and brushed it against John's cheek before kissing him gently. "But man...I'm not afraid of admittin' it now...I love you...and I *want* you..."

John sighed into the kiss as he let his free hand rest on Dave's hip. "I love you so much it hurts. There have been a few times since we broke up that I've desperately needed you, but was too stupid to reach out to you. God, we've missed so damn much, haven't we?"

"It doesn't haveta be that way anymore," Dave said, as the elevator doors opened. Grabbing John's hand once more, he led him to the doors of his apartment. After fumbling with the keys for a moment, he finally opened the door. And as the two of them entered, Dave barely had the door shut behind him before he found himself in John's arms, kissing him intently as his hands began to roam the other man's body. God. It was just *right*. This was *where* Dave belonged...in the arms of his lover and true companion.

John couldn't restrain himself as the door was closing. He just had to touch Dave, feel his skin under his hands, and feel Dave's bare skin against his own. And Dave's intense kiss seemed to indicate that Dave shared the same sentiments. Not content with simple caressing, John's hands raced to undo Dave's clothes, first pushing that jacket off of his shoulders and then working on the belt and zipper of Dave's jeans.

"God, I need you in me now, Dave. I don't want to wait," John said, nearly breathless as he kissed his way from Dave's lips to an ear.

"That...can definitely be arranged," Dave found himself saying, as his own hands mimicked John's actions. Dave's hands went to John's shirt, first loosening and pulling off his tie before unbuttoning the buttons. Shrugging the shirt off of his shoulders, Dave let it fall before moving his hands down towards the top of John's pants. "I haveta find the lube...but God...I can feel it in you already...pressin' into you...feelin' your muscles around me...God...I missed it all so much...I missed *you* so much..."

"I can feel you in me, filling me...possessing me," John said as his hands worked frantically to strip Dave.

It was like they were addicted to each other, and once John was without any clothing at all, Dave's hands roamed his body, relearning those crevices that had been like a familiar road map to Dave once before. "I...God..." Swept away with emotion, Dave lifted John into his arms, and carried him off towards the bedroom, the entire time Dave's eyes never leaving John's.

John managed to slip his hand between their bodies, and it found Dave's penis as the man headed toward the bedroom, grasping it firmly. "If you drop me on that bed, you're coming with me," John said with a smile, determined to not let go of that penis no matter what happened once they were in the bedroom.

When John's hand found Dave's dick, he nearly dropped John out of his arms, but then quickly recovered. "Whoa...you're *bad*," he said, as his grin grew wider. "But I'm *not* complainin'...It's for you...it's all for you...I'm hard for *you*..."

Slowly he walked, taking care not to lose his balance as his mind was split in two places -- his cock and his steps. And as Dave finally entered the bedroom, he finally stopped walking. "Well...I think if I can't just dump ya on the bed...I'd better get on there with ya." He said, as he began to walk forward again. All he knew was that he was *really* close to exploding, but he didn't want that to happen yet. No. It had been far too long for it to end so soon...

"Oh, this is going to be interesting," John said, his grin broader. "I should warn you right now that I have no intention of letting you go, so if I were you, I'd move extra carefully. Hey, do you still have those handcuffs?"

"I do have those handcuffs," Dave said, as he took another step closer to the bed. "But I don't wanna use them on you yet. Why don't we save them for a special treat a little bit later...I...I wanna have all of you on all of me when we make love right now, John...I wanna feel your hands...I wanna be able to touch all of you...do...do ya think you can do that for me...?" Dave carefully deposited John onto the bed, and true to his word, Dave's own body followed. He had no choice, really. John literally had him by the balls...

"On you, huh?" John considered that, then shook his head. "I'm not sure that's going to work, not with my back acting up right now. I think it'll work best with me on my back." John and Dave had been so new to gay sex that when they were first together, they had no idea how many different positions there were for making love. Finding out just what could be done had been done by surfing the Internet and viewing many web sites with helpful pictures. That fact-finding mission should have resulted in a many nights of experimentation, but their fight had happened the next morning, so the only other position they had tried had been with John on his back and holding his legs up in the air.

He gently squeezed his hand around Dave's penis, marveling once again at how that simple organ was able to give him so much pleasure and fit so perfectly within him.

Dave moaned involuntarily as John's hand compressed around him. And bringing his lips down to John's neck, he began to nuzzle him as his own hands found a path to John's cock. Capturing the length in his hand, he began to run his fingers up and down the shaft, enjoying the feeling of John's skin under his fingertips. This was what Dave had been having dreams of since they had broken up. It had been far...far too long.

John moaned. As good as it felt to have Dave touching him, John wanted more. "God, Dave, I'm going to die here. You've got to take me now," he gasped out. It was so hard to concentrate when Dave was licking his neck that way.

"Ya gotta let me go then, Hoss," Dave said, a grin growing on his lips as he pulled back slightly. "Cause I can't get the lube with you havin' a death grip on my cock..." Dave was absolutely aching to be inside John...possess him...mark him as his own once again. The way it was supposed to be.

"Damn, but that's a difficult choice," John replied with a grin of his own. He gave Dave's penis one last squeeze, then ran his thumb over the tip, thrilled to find a puddling of pre-come there, evidence of how turned on Dave had become. John spread the liquid over the head of Dave's erection, then released him. "Hurry up and find that lube, I'm more than ready for you."

As if to prove his point, John moved his hand down to his groin, stroking it over Dave's hand and then to his own testicles, cupping them as he spread his legs for Dave. "If you don't get a move on here, I'm going to have to do myself, and while I know how much you like watching me do that, I think that right now your penis would prefer to be in on the action, don't you?" John teased as he ran his finger, still slick with Dave's pre-come, around his perineum.

Dave's eyes widened, and as if on fire, he left John's embrace, not wanting the guy to get ahead of him. "Hell...yeah...I definitely wanna be the one who makes that happen," he said as he scrambled for the lube which was in it's place in the night table. He quickly opened the drawer, grabbing the tube before making his way back towards the bed. Dave was already applying it by the time he approached John, and then he offered the man another grin. Positioning himself, Dave pushed John's legs upwards, so that he could find John's opening easily. He was going to just push himself inside, when he thought better of it. "I think I'd better stretch ya first...it's been a while, don't ya think...?"

John felt as if he could handle Dave just as he was, but it had been a stupid argument about Dave hurting him or not that had kept them apart all that time and John didn't want another one to start. Not when he was so close to be claimed by Dave. John reached down and grabbed Dave's hand. "I like your fingers in me almost as much as I like having your penis inside, so go for it," he said with a wide grin.

Taking the tube of lubricant, Dave put a liberal amount on his finger. And then he brought it to the puckered hole, gently inserting it inside, keeping his eyes locked on John's as he did so. Then he inserted a second...and then a third. Finally satisfied that the man was stretched enough to accommodate his bulging cock, Dave pulled out his fingers, and then lined his dick up once more. First, he inserted just his tip. And then the rest soon followed as he slowly began to possess the man that he loved all over again. "Oh...yeah...that's it...that's good...yeah..."

God, Dave was filling him completely. John had thought that Dave's fingers had felt wonderful after having gone such a long time without having any anal stimulation, but Dave's penis was truly exquisite and John knew he would never get enough of it.

"You feel so good, Dave..." John said, his eyes locked on Dave's as he enjoyed the myriad of emotions that passed through them. "Make me yours once again."

"That's right," Dave said, as he continued to press himself inside. "You're mine...all mine...no one else but me...I *own* you, John...I...Oh...God...I...God...own...you...yeah..." Dave's eyes shut, as he balanced himself by holding onto John's legs while his cock stroked the inside of John's ass. Damn. The way that John's muscles gripped around Dave's cock...man...no woman could match this. No *one* could match this. Instinctively Dave knew that John would be the only person he would be with for the rest of his life.

John closed his eyes as waves of pleasure spread outward from his bottom. How could he have stayed away from Dave for so long? Let things get so wrong between them? He had been so stupid to deny himself the pleasure that Dave gave him, and the chance to give that pleasure back ten times over. Knowing how much Dave liked it, John contracted his sphincter muscles once again, making that Dave would have to work harder to move in and out. Making it feel even better for the both of them.

Since Dave was holding his legs, John was able to let his hand stray to his own erection, and he began to stroke it in sync with Dave. Matching Dave's every movement so they could come together. "Faster..." John urged, but that would make it end too soon. "No, slower," he amended as he opened his eyes and looked up at Dave again. "Do me slow and long and hard."

Dave was going to do his best to accommodate John, but he honestly wasn't sure how long he was going to last...especially while watching John play with himself along with the movements that Dave was doing inside John's ass...he did slow down, his eyes moving from John's, down the length of the other man's body, and then settling on John's cock. "God...do you even know...how erotic that is? Watchin' you like that? Damn..."

Dave continued to keep his movements slow and deliberate...hoping to avoid the inevitable for both of them for as long as humanly possible.

John slowly smiled. "I'm sure it's no where near as erotic as watching you thrusting into me. God, I wish we had discovered this position first thing. The only thing missing is maybe mirrors on all the walls, so I could see you from every angle imaginable." It really did turn him on to see Dave that way, to be able to watch his penis appearing and disappearing. It was hell on his thighs to be in that position, but definitely worth every muscle twinge.

"Well. Maybe we'll haveta get some mirrors," Dave muttered, momentarily forgetting his plan to move to California. Dave's entire universe was focused on the man in front of him...driving him to ultimate pleasure so that Dave could follow suit. God. He felt so damned good. Dave had almost forgotten...but then again, maybe he hadn't. John had been haunting Dave's dreams almost nightly, in almost a torturous manner because Dave had thought that this could never be again. Obviously, Dave had been very wrong.

Dave continued to thrust inside of John, his rhythm steady as he continued to try to push both of them towards the edge without actually falling over. "God...you drive me friggen wild...so good...and mine...you're all mine... "

"Forever," John gasped out as he let go of his own penis. Any more stimulation on it and he was going to come and that just couldn't happen until Dave was ready. It just couldn't happen, period. John wanted Dave to last all night long and then some. His body had other ideas, however, and John could feel his orgasm building.

"God, Dave...oh, God..." John cried out as his body was thrust into another universe, one where the only thing in existence was a pleasure that burned fiercely, branding Dave's name deep into his soul.

There were colors flashing before Dave's eyes, and he honestly wasn't sure how much longer he was going to be able to last without causing himself some serious damage. Ever so slightly his movements increased, his eyes shutting as the feelings took over his body. "God...yes...John...yeah...I'm...I can't...oh God...yes!" Unable to control himself any longer, he finally let himself fall over the edge, coming in spectacular fashion as he continued to press his cock against John's prostrate. He could only hope it was enough to send John into pure ecstasy as well.

Dave's last frantic thrust was enough to send John's body and soul hurtling through that other universe as his penis erupted. John could feel his belly and chest being covered by his hot come and he imagined how Dave's come was filling him inside. "God...Dave," John said, panting.

He looked up into Dave's face, loving the look of ecstasy he saw still there. Moving his hand up to cup Dave's cheek, John smiled. "God, I've missed you...missed this. You'll never know just how much I've missed you. I never want us to be that stupid again."

"I know exactly how much you missed me...cause I felt the same. God...John...I...I never thought we'd be together again...I...I love you...I never wanna be without you..." Pulling out of John, he collapsed next to the other man's side. And with a sigh, he gathered John into his arms. Dave felt so satiated...more than he had been in a very long time. He felt like an idiot that he had let it go so long with them not talking.

John smiled as he agreed with everything Dave was saying. All of his doubts from before, about their relationship being doomed from the start, were gone. "I love you so much it hurts, but..." John pushed back from Dave. "I don't think you want us stuck together quite this way. Let me run into the bathroom and clean up a bit," he said, indicating his come covered belly and lower chest. "I promise I won't take long.

"You'd better not," Dave said as he planted a light kiss on the other man's lips. "Cause if ya take too long, I'm gonna haveta come in there after ya...and then, I won't be able to be held responsible for my actions." Another slow smile spread across his lips as he eyed John up and down. So nice. John was a fine looking man...and Dave was sure he would have to pinch himself to believe that John was actually in his bed once more. But here he was. Both of them had admitted how stupid they were...and now they could begin to grow from there.

John paused as he was getting off of the bed. "And just what kind of actions would you have to take?" he asked with a wry smile. "Going to pull another 'he-man' stunt and carry me back to your bed?" John found himself wishing that Dave had done just that before. That after their fight, when John had arrived at work, that Dave would have walked right up to him, scooped him up into his arms and taken him to an empty room to screw some sense into him. As stupid as that fantasy sounded, their stupidity of letting things go on was even worse.

"Absolutely," Dave said, his grin growing wider still. "Cause...ya know...I gotta take care of my property." His voice was teasing as he looked over towards John once more. "Ya got any complaints about that?"

John reached out and tenderly caressed Dave's leg. "Not a single one." Then he headed on out of the bedroom and to the bathroom. He first cut on the hot water, letting it reach a decent temperature while he relieved his bladder. Testing the water, John found it warm enough and he grabbed a washcloth and quickly cleaned himself. He rinsed the cloth out as thoroughly as he could, then hurried to get it back to their bed so he could wash Dave's penis before the material cooled.

While John was out of the room, Dave let his eyes drift shut, and decided to think about nothing...nothing except how good John had made him feel. Inevitably, his thoughts drifted towards California once more. Should Dave go? Should he assume that John would be willing to go with him? From where Dave was sitting, neither of them had very much to work towards in Chicago. Maybe they could both get jobs in a hospital in LA. Dave didn't know. But he was also determined not to worry about it until he had to. He just wanted to enjoy the night.

Dave's eyes opened again as he saw a familiar figure enter the room, and he smiled once more as he watched him approach the bed. "It's about time," Dave teased, a half grin forming on his lips. "I was gonna send out search and rescue..."

"I can always turn around and go back," John joked even as he sat down on the bed beside Dave. "I have a warm wash cloth here, just for you, so spread 'em so I can get you clean. You never know, I might end up sucking you off during the night or something."

"I'll try my best not to choke you if you do," Dave replied, as he obediently did as he was told. Dave was sure that the cloth was going to feel good on his cock. Dave was completely spent, his dick lying flaccid against his skin. And he did have to use the bathroom, but that could wait until after John was finished doing whatever it was that he was going to do. "Have your way with me," he teased, as his eyes sparkled in anticipation of the sponge bath he was about to receive.

"Don't I always?" John replied with a smirk. He lowered the cloth to Dave's body, first running it down the length of Dave's shaft before grasping the penis with his free hand. He lifted it up and ran the cloth all the way around it, paying special attention to the tender head and making sure that while he was thorough, he was also gentle.

Once satisfied that Dave was clean, John leaned over and planted a kiss on the cockhead. "There, all done. Let me go get rid of this washcloth."

Dave grinned. He had thoroughly enjoyed the bath, but his bladder was telling him that perhaps it was *not* a good idea for John to have handled his cock that much when something *else* was wanting to have relief. He took the washcloth from John's hand. "Thank you for a great job," he said, as he quickly sat up. "But I'll take care of puttin' the washcloth away. I gotta take a piss..." Dave retreated from the room hastily after casting a quick glance back over towards John.

John chuckled as he stood and watched Dave hurry out. He then fluffed up their pillows and turned down the covers, thinking that for once they wouldn't have to worry about a wet spot since they had been in too much of a hurry to ever pull the covers away.

John crawled into the bed, thinking about how a day saddened by Deb's leaving County had turned out to be so good in the end. He now had the chance to be Chief Resident, and, more importantly, he had Dave back in his life. It just couldn't be any better than that, he thought with a grin.

After taking care of what he needed to take care of, Dave quickly returned to his lover's side, climbing under the cool sheets as his arms instinctively went around the man that he loved more than anything in the world. He planted a soft kiss on John's ear and sighed. "What time ya haveta be at work in the morning?" he found himself asking. Dave was curious just how much time he had to seduce John once more when they awakened to start their day.

"Seven," John said with a sigh as he snuggled closer to Dave. As great as the sex had always been with Dave, it was the snuggling afterward that John had missed the most. His back was still sore, and it looked as though Dave had forgotten about the massage, but John was too content right where he was to mention it. A massage would mean losing contact with Dave's body, and John didn't want that at all.

Dave nodded. "Why don't I set the alarm for a little after five then...so we can spend a little time together before you haveta go back there," he said, as he planted a soft kiss on top of John's head. Dave had a feeling that he was going to sleep better than he had...well...in about a month or so. "I gotta catch some Z's man," Dave said, right before he yawned sleepily. "I'm sorry...as much as I wanna spend the whole night makin' love to you...I think ya wore me out..."

"That's okay," John said, also yawning. "I'm pretty tired myself. Yes, go ahead and set the alarm for five." He smiled, even though he knew Dave couldn't see it. "I think we can find something to do before I have to return to the ER."

"Yeah...maybe we can...I dunno...fold laundry or somethin'," Dave teased, as he reached an arm over to set his alarm. Once that was done, he wrapped his arms fully around John once more, feelin' his eyes drift shut. "Mmm...sleep well...I hope ya have lotsa good dreams," Dave quipped, right before drifting off to a peaceful sleep.

"I'm sure I will," John said. At least he hoped that his sleep wouldn't be plagued by nightmares. He was back with Dave, his demons had no reason to be hanging around. Resting his head against Dave's chest, John let the rhythm of Dave's heart and the sounds of the man's breathing lull him to sleep.
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.
Chapter One by MonaCK
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A Few Months After The Events In The Prologue
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Steve Malucci stretched to his full height, then opened the refrigerator to grab a cold beer. After a long day on the construction site, he was tired and looking forward to relaxing, as well as spending a quiet night with his baby brother. Steve's smile faltered though as he thought about how sad Dave had been ever since he arrived from Chicago months ago. Dave was a doctor, and, from what Steve could tell, a damn good one. But he had made a mistake that killed a patient -- or not -- Steve still wasn't clear on just what happened, or what would have happened if the patient had been treated differently. The end result was that Dave lost some of his confidence, and then he tried to make up for it by fucking some babe in an ambulance. He was caught, of course, Dave always seemed to get caught when the stakes were the highest, and this time it resulted with him losing his job.

What Steve didn't understand, and what Dave had never mentioned, was why Dave hadn't stayed in Chicago. He had friends there, and some family. So, why come all the way to Los Angeles? Not that Steve minded having Dave living with him. He loved his brother and would do anything for him, but Steve was concerned that something more had happened in Illinois -- something that made Dave not want to stay there.

The more Steve thought about it, the more he was afraid that what had happened in Illinois had to do with Dave's love life -- or lack thereof. He'd watch as Dave flirted with the waitresses when they were out, but in all the months that Dave had been living there, Steve had never seen him go out with a woman, or call to say he was staying overnight at a woman's house. It just wasn't right -- it wasn't Dave. At least, not the Dave Malucci Steve knew.

Steve went to the living room and sat down in the recliner, his thoughts on how to ask his brother -- who was known for blowing off questions that indicated someone cared -- just what was wrong. He turned on the TV, but never really saw what was on the screen as his mind stayed focused on Dave.


Dave climbed the stairs to the apartment -- the one he had technically shared with his brother for the past few months since leaving Chicago. He had had the week off -- his first full week on shore since moving out west -- and he had spent a lot of time with Stevie. Man. It had been a *long* time since the Malucci brothers had been together...hanging out...scoping out...uh...women. Yeah. Scoping out women. As if that really meant anything.

Carter. It was still about Carter. Months later, it was still all about Carter. Sure, Dave flirted with women...sure, he found them attractive. Sure, he could check them out with Steve like he used to...but he had *no* desire to date them. What was the point? It wouldn't be the same.

Dave turned the key in the lock, and opened the door, struggling with bags of groceries as he did so. He always brought provisions with him on the cruise ship. The food was decent, but he was always afraid of running out of toiletries or something in a foreign country. And he didn't want to take that risk -- even though this next cruise was just going to be taking him to Hawaii and back.

As he walked through the door, he grinned at his brother sitting in the recliner as he watched...the cooking channel? Man...was he feeling okay?

"Hey, bro, you look like you've got the weight of the world on your mind, bad day at work?"

Setting his bags down on the couch, he flopped down next to the packages and turned towards his brother.

Steve smiled at Dave. "Nah, the day was pretty good. We're almost done with the McKenzie building, and we already have a new job lined up. You all ready for your cruise?" Steve indicated the bags. "You've never been out for 14 days at a time before, think you might need some Dramamine this time around?" He teased as he carefully looked at his brother. Yep, Dave was still looking a bit down, and Steve was now determined to find out why.

"Hey, that's good, Stevie...that's good...yeah...yeah...fourteen day cruise...I'm the Doc. I'm not gonna get sea sickness," he said, a smile growing over his lips. Dave couldn't understand why Steve was looking at him so intently? How was it that Steve seemed to be able to see *right* through whatever facade and wall Dave tried to put up? But no way was he going to volunteer any information.

"So any plans for while I'm gone? Ya gonna have a party or something? Celebrate that your kid brother is finally out of your hair?" Keep the focus off of himself. That was Dave's plan.

Steve laughed. "How'd you find out?" He put the recliner in the upright position, then turned off the TV. "Dave, sit down for a minute or two, okay?"

"Uhh...sure..." Dave was already sitting, but settled back further in the couch seat, his expression turning more serious as he faced his big brother. What was wrong? Was Steve kicking him out? Telling him it was time for him to find a place of his own, even though he could count on two hands the number of nights he had actually slept in the apartment? Steve's pad was more of a 'home base' for him than anything else.

"What's on your mind?"

"You are." Steve looked down at the floor, then back up at his baby brother, remembering all the times when they were in their teens and he'd have to find a way to get Dave to talk about the latest thing bugging him. A difficult task, given that nothing had ever seemed to be *right* for them back then. But with their parents being far less than the dictionary entry for the word, Steve had felt the need to fill that void with Dave -- he tried to guide him, steer him in the right direction, listen to him without judging him -- Hell, loving him unconditionally, because that's what brothers did. And now he suddenly found it difficult to ask Dave why he had left Chicago.

"You've been here now, what, almost six months, right? And in all the time you've been here, you've never said anything about *why* you left Chicago. Don't get me wrong, Dave. I love having you here, but I just wonder what happened back there. You were always talking about your friends, and we even have family there. You're a good doctor and I know you could have found another job there. So, why'd you leave?"

A simple question, really. Why did he leave Chicago. But it was one that had a *really* complicated answer. Dave's face showed no sign of faltering as he went over possible responses in his mind. His face still had the same serious expression, but he downcast his eyes towards his hands.

"Uh...yeah...let's just say," he started, as he clearly saw the face of the one he had left behind before his eyes, "...there were way too many memories for me to deal with living there anymore...I had to make a fresh start...come to a new coast...spend some time with my big bro..."

Dave continued to try to keep the focus away from him, because he wasn't sure if he was ready to deal with all of this. First of all...how the hell would Stevie react if he found out that his lil' bro had been in love...and second of all...if he found out that the object of his affection had been another *guy*?

No...he simply could *not* tell Steve about that. He wasn't sure if he could deal with the disappointment in his brother's eyes as he looked down on his brother Dave, the queer.

Steve sighed. He had been afraid that Dave had had his heart broken, and now Dave was confirming that. "Ah, man, I'm sorry. I've never known you to obsess over a chick, so she must have really gotten under your skin, huh?"

Okay...well, at least Steve didn't suspect that it was a *guy* that had stolen Dave's heart...but yes...he had pretty much hit Dave's problem right on the noggin. .He didn't stop to correct Steve talking about a chick. It was probably best to let him continue to believe that.

"Uh...yeah...this one was really special," Dave managed to say. "Good friend of mine...sorta came out of nowhere...and I still haven't stopped thinking...I haven't been able to get this person out of my mind."

Man...it was gonna take a lot of effort not to slip up here, and call him Carter...but he had to. Dave couldn't let Steve know that his baby brother had been fucking men...

Steve reached for his beer and took a long sip. It killed him to see his brother looking so forlorn. "I hate her already for breaking your heart. What happened? You said she was a friend, how did it go from friendship to love?" Okay, Dave hadn't said the 'L' word, but it was written all over his face.

Dave looked up to Stevie, surprised once more at his insight. Okay. So he didn't have *total* insight...but yes, he had fallen 'hook, line and sinker' for Carter.

So Dave began to talk. Talk about how he and Carter had hooked up...how an innocent night of bar hopping had turned into something much, much more...how they had become lovers in the blink of an eye...like it was the most natural thing in the world. Dave was careful though. Careful not to reveal too much about who this lover was. Dave knew his brother -- knew that his brother would not be very forgiving if he found out that his baby brother was bisexual. There was no doubt anymore in Dave's mind that he was. While Dave had not dated anyone since leaving Chicago, it didn't mean that he wasn't still attracted to chicks. He was. But there was definitely another side of him. A life that Dave could never tell his family about.

By the time he finished speaking, Dave was lost completely in memories. He hadn't told his brother how it ended, preferring to dwell on the happier and hotter times. As a result, Dave's cock was hard as nails. He shifted in his seat as he turned to face Steve once more.

"Uh...yeah...so that was it...that was what happened...and uh...now you know -- your baby bro is capable of fallin' in love.."

Dave shrugged slightly, feeling more horny then anything else at that moment, and really, what he wanted to do was head off to his room and think about Carter some more...while he took care of getting rid of that hard on.

That was something Dave definitely missed -- having someone take care of that kind of stuff *for* him.

Steve wanted to ask Dave about how it had all ended, but the effect that talking about how it had began was noticeable, and Steve did have some pity for his brother. "Tell you what, how about if I put some steaks on for us while you take care of your packing for tomorrow?"

Dave's eyes lit up, and he nodded, both at the thought of a good steak dinner, and being able to be...uh...alone with his thoughts for a little while. "Yeah, that sounds like a plan, bro," he said, getting up from the couch. He turned to grab his bag and then faced Steve once more. "Thanks for the ear...you know...you're the first person I've ever talked to about this."

Not wanting to go into more details, he turned to walk back towards his bedroom. "I'll be out in a little while, Stevie. Keep those steaks warm for me."

And with a grin and a wink of an eye, he was off to his bedroom.

Steve watched his brother's retreating back, then got to his feet and headed into the kitchen. He was glad he had decided to take the opportunity to talk with Dave, since Dave really did need to share that with someone.

And he was also glad that it was a woman on Dave's mind. For a while there, Steve had been worried about Dave's lack of interest in the opposite sex. He mentally kicked himself for ever thinking that Dave was, well, gay, or something, and that's why he didn't seem to dig chicks any longer. Not his little brother. Nope, Dave was just hung up on the woman he had fallen in love with, and Steve hoped that maybe Dave would find the courage to go back to Chicago to be with her once more and make things work.

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

John Carter eased himself into the airplane seat and immediately fastened his seatbelt before he relaxed against the side of the plane. He had worked all night and into the morning and was exhausted, a condition he hated being in, because it was when he was exhausted that he found his thoughts dwelling on Dave Malucci.

The cabin of the plane was a jumble of conversations as passengers excitedly talked about what to expect on the cruise they would all be undertaking the next day -- fourteen day round trip from Los Angeles to Hawaii. Fourteen days spent entirely -- except for the few days on Oahu -- with people of similar sexual orientation. How many times had he yearned for he and Dave to be able to go to a gay bar just so they could dance together or hold hands at a table and not have to worry about being singled out for being different or immoral? But, that had been months ago, back in the summer, and there would never be any dates like that for him and Dave.

John rested his head against the window and smiled at Maggie Doyle as she settled into a seat across the aisle. John had been pleasantly surprised to walk into the travel agency to book the cruise and find Maggie there, also with the intent of booking the same cruise. They had talked a bit, and he had learned that she was dating someone from County -- Randi Fronczak, to be exact. That had taken John by surprise, but the more he thought about it, the more it just seemed feasible that Randi would go both ways. He had been planning to book a large suite anyway, so there would be private bedrooms for him and his travel companion, but the ship's luxury cabins went from three rooms down to one, there weren't any with just two rooms. So, faced with having an extra bedroom, John offered it to Maggie and Randi. Maggie hadn't batted an eye at the offer and John had directed the agent to add Maggie and Randi's names to the list of people occupying the suite. John was definitely looking forward to catching up on old times with Maggie and he didn't regret his impulsive invitation.

He waved at Randi as she settled into the seat beside Maggie and then he felt a pang of something -- jealousy, perhaps, when he watched the two of them kiss each other in greeting. As he watched them, his own lips began to tingle from the memory of Dave's kisses and he sighed and closed his eyes, even though he didn't want to sleep on the flight. There was too much of a chance of him having a nightmare and John didn't want to have to deal with everyone's pity if something like that happened.

"John."

John's eyes flew open as his seatmate sat down. Luka looked particularly good and rested. Which he should since he didn't have to work before leaving for the West Coast. It was a little difficult to believe that it wasn't all that long ago when he and Luka weren't on the friendliest of terms. But the sexual harassment class he, Luka, Susan, Abby and Michael Gallant had been forced to attend had changed things for the two men. They had locked horns once or twice during the class -- or, more accurately, while they were waiting for the class to begin -- but once the class was over, John found himself seated in a diner, having dinner with Luka. They talked, and when they left the diner, they were on much better terms, and even had made plans to go to a basketball game. At that diner a friendship had been born, and it grew stronger over the days at work before the game -- and after the game, it became more intimate. John wasn't quite sure how it happened, but he ended up back at Luka's apartment with the two of them naked and enjoying each other's bodies quite a bit. The sex never went further than them using their hands and mouths on each other, but it had been enough for John to know that with Luka he was actually having *sex*, while all he had done with Dave had been *making love*. John and Luka had fooled around a time or two since that night, but nothing serious ever happened. Luka had jokingly referred to the two of them as 'fuck buddies', a term someone else he knew had told him. As long as messing around didn't get in the way of them being friends, John didn't particularly care what Luka called it.

It had been Luka who had heard about the cruise, and he had been very enthusiastic about going. John's arm hadn't been difficult to twist -- he needed a break from Chicago and thought it would be relaxing to just sit on a ship for two weeks, doing nothing.

"Hey, Luka," he said with a smile. "All packed and ready to enjoy a relaxing cruise?"

To say that he needed this vacation would have been an understatement. Luka was very much looking forward to spending time with friends, relaxing, and having a bit of fun. He was very pleased with the way that his friendship with John had grown, to the point where they were now very, very good friends, who occasionally shared something more.

Luka couldn't help but hope that there would be moments where John would end up spending the night in his bed while away on this vacation together. But in the meantime, he was looking forward to taking benefit of all the luxuries that the cruise had to offer -- eating good food...relaxing by the pool. Maybe a little bit of dancing.

When John had told him that Randi and her lady friend were going to be joining them on the cruise, at first, he was not sure how he felt about it. First of all, he was sure that everyone in the hospital was not aware of his sexual orientation, so he didn't know how he felt about a co-worker knowing that he was going on a gay cruise...but then he realized, if Randi was going on the cruise with a lady friend, she didn't necessarily want that spread around either.

So after initial uncertainty, by the time they got on the plane, he realized that John had made the correct decision.

"I am *very* ready," he said, as he turned towards his friend. "My bags are packed, and I am ready to go -- that's how the song lyric goes, right?" Yes. This was going to be exactly what both of them needed. Regeneration. Reconnection. Friendship. And maybe...hopefully...a little bit more.

John grinned. "Something like that." He looked up as one of the flight attendants, a woman, walked by, checking on the overhead bins and making sure people were putting on their seatbelts. "Don't you think it's odd that all the flight attendants are wearing boots and long coats? I know it's cold outside, but they don't need coats on in here. Even the guy taking the tickets had on a long coat." John was trying to remember if the man had pants showing below the coat. For some reason, all he could remember were black boots.

Luka hadn't really paid much attention to what the flight staff was wearing, but now that John had mentioned something, he lifted his gaze upwards, as he tried to take notice of those around him.

"Yes, that is odd," Luka finally agreed, turning back towards John with a slight smile. "Do you suppose they are wearing anything under those coats?" He lifted his brow slightly, his grin growing wider as he looked over towards John. He had heard about things like this regarding the alternate lifestyles trips, but he hadn't realized that they might actually be true.

It looked like their vacation was going to be getting off to a rather interesting start.

John's mouth slightly opened in surprise as Luka's question sunk in. Were they naked under the coats? They couldn't be. They wouldn't be. He shook his head. "They're supposed to be in uniforms, right? All the airlines have uniforms." He really didn't think he wanted to have to watch the attendants prancing around the cabin in the all-together, not when his mind had been so much on Dave lately, and one of the men just happened to have dark hair and eyes, *and* was probably muscular, too.

"You don't think they're really naked, do you?" John asked, his voice just above a whisper so he wouldn't be overheard.

But he was. Randi smirked at him. "Carter, I for one am certainly hoping they are."

Luka couldn't help but laugh at Randi's comments, and he was actually more than just a little amused at John's reaction to the thought of the flight attendants not wearing any clothes. He had to admit, he was pretty intrigued with the idea as well. Even Randi's lady friend, Maggie, was holding her girlfriend's hand excitedly at the thought of seeing some of the more attractive women without their clothes on.

"John, there's really nothing to worry about," Luka said, turning his grin back towards his companion. "If you're worried about seeing the flight attendants without their clothes on, you can always shut your eyes once the plane takes off," he teased lightly.

"It's not that I'm worried, Luka. It's just that...people aren't supposed to walk around naked, exposing their bodies and stuff." Dave had kidded John more than once about the fact he had been raised to believe that. Whenever John had tried to put on pajamas to sleep in, Dave had complained, and, eventually, wore him down until he was used to sleeping naked with Dave.

John settled back in his seat as the captain announced they were about to depart, and then the plane began to move. As the senior flight attendant went over the emergency instructions, he found his mind wandering. He had slept all night in Dave's bed the first time they were ever together, but he had never slept in Luka's bed. Never stayed overnight at his place at all. Hadn't done that with Susan, either, but then, they had never had a sexual relationship. Not that he had particularly wanted one. Being with Susan kept him from dwelling too much on Dave and what he had lost. It also kept him from thinking too much about Abby and what never had a chance to be. Susan had broken up with him because she thought he was madly in love with Abby. She was only partly correct. He did love Abby, but it was Dave that he was still *in love* with, and sometimes the memories were enough to drive him mad.

Maybe it was Luka's European culture that made him think so much differently about things like this, but he had always been taught to have respect for his body, and to never be shy about it.

From the time he was a young boy Luka had spent time on nude beaches, vacationing with his parents to resorts and the like where clothing was not only optional, but discouraged. And it gave him a tremendous respect for the human body, and also made it so when he became a teenager, he wasn't as obsessed with trying to get into bed with members of the opposite sex like American teens seemed to be.

It wasn't a curiosity, it was a way of life.

"I think that this is one thing that you and I don't agree on, John," Luka simply said.

The announcement came over the loudspeaker that the plane was next in line for takeoff, and Luka's thoughts switched again. Smiling over to John, he reached over and squeezed his hand lightly.

"Try not to worry so much. We are going to have a *very* good time..."

John nodded and gave Luka's hand a squeeze back, then became aware that Maggie and Randi were not only staring at the two of them, but grinning as well. He didn't want them to get the wrong idea about him and Luka. They were friends who every now and then got each other off, that was all. There was nothing like what he had experienced with Dave. No man could ever come close to doing what Dave had done to, and for him, which is why John had no intention of trying to meet men on the cruise. He just planned to relax and rest and regroup, if possible.

He let go of Luka's hand and looked out the window at the landscape rushing by. But he wasn't seeing the tarmac or the airport -- his mind was reliving his first night with Dave.
Chapter Two by MonaCK
The plane took off without a hitch, and within a few moments the captain came over the loudspeaker stating that it was safe to lower the lap trays and turn on any approved portable devices.

Luka glanced over to John, who seemed to be in a completely different world, staring out the window as if he was remembering times gone by. It was recognizable to him because it was the same kind of look that he experienced when he thought of his wife. His Danijela. A smile crossed his lips as he thought of her...and how beautiful she had looked on their wedding day.

Since Danijela, there had been others...men and women alike for he had known for a very long time that he was attracted to members of both genders. But there had been none who could compare to his wife.

Abby had come close -- even he had to admit that -- but at the same time, Abby had demons of her own to fight -- not least of which was trying to sort out her feelings for the man who was, ironically enough, sitting by Luka's side, not hers.

Luka glanced over to the women sitting across the aisle from him. Randi's lady friend had fallen asleep already, head leaning back onto a pillow in her seat, but Randi was awake, and looking back over to Luka. He was about to say something to her, when out of the corner of his eye he noticed a *very* attractive man wearing nothing but a G-string with a name badge on it walking up the aisle holding a tray with drinks on it.

Luka's soft smile turned into a full-fledged grin. If the men on the ship were anything like the men on this plane, both he and John were in for a *very* fun time. A female voice broke his train of thought.

"Wow. What a *hottie*," Randi exclaimed, barely able to control her own excitement.

With that Luka couldn't disagree. Neither could his body as he realized he was becoming quite turned on by the vision of a very attractive man in very little clothing.

"John...you have to take a look at this," Luka finally said, as the man passed, and was quickly followed by a woman clad in a similar getup.

John's penis was hard just from remembering what had happened with Dave, but it was Luka's voice and not Dave's that he heard saying his name, and when he looked over at Luka, it was with a bit of guilt for letting his thoughts wander the way they had. He shifted slightly, hoping that the seat belt was concealing the fact he was aroused. "What? What is it?"

"They aren't naked...but look..."

By the time he had caught John's attention, the first flight attendant was making his way back down the aisle, offering snacks to everyone in his path. It was kind of funny to Luka that the snack food that he was bringing this time around was packaged nuts.

"What do you think? Nice looking, right?"

John's mouth gaped open once again as he saw what the male flight attendant was wearing. Or, more precisely, what he *wasn't* wearing, and he could feel his cheeks growing warm as he watched the man approach their seats. It *would* have to be the guy who had reminded him slightly of Dave...and nearly naked, John could see that the man had the same muscular build. But the bulge behind that G-string wasn't anywhere as impressive as Dave.

Trying to sound nonchalant, John shrugged. "I've had better. I mean...I've *seen* better." He quickly turned his face back to the window to hide his embarrassment.

Luka raised an eyebrow. The mistake had not gone past him. He knew that John had had some sort of experience -- he seemed to know just what to do in the times that they were together for him *not* to have...but they hadn't really talked about their pasts. "Oh? So you've *had* better, huh," he teased, a playful smile on his lips.

He quickly glanced over to Randi, who seemed to be rather shamelessly flirting with the female flight attendant that Luka had seen earlier. At least she seemed to be otherwise focused. "He seemed to have a very nice...how do you say it...package on him?" Luka grinned once more. "You mean to tell me you've been with someone...nicer then that?"

John nodded as he looked out over the clouds hovering below the plane. "Yeah. Plenty of times," he said to the window. He had never claimed to be a virgin with Luka, and Luka had never asked him about his experience, so John had never seen the point in volunteering that information, especially since it involved Dave. Not that it would matter now, since Dave was long gone from County General and his life.

"You're one of them," John turned to Luka with a small smile on his face, hoping that the true compliment would keep Luka from questioning him further.

Luka's grin turned softer, and he turned his own eyes away, suddenly embarrassed by the praise. There had never been any of that when the two of them had been together. It was a beneficial relationship to both of them...they used each other when they both needed relief, and it was something they both agreed upon. Nobody was hurt by it.

"Thank you," Luka finally managed to say.

The cute male flight attendant made his way over to them, and Luka could read his name-tag as it hung off of his G-string. Bradley.

"Would you folks like anything to drink," he asked, his voice very gruff. "Coffee? Soda? Something stronger?"

"Just some water for me," Luka said. "John?"

"Water's fine, thank you," John said, smiling up at the guy's face. He didn't dare look anywhere else. The only time he had seen men dressed that revealingly, not counting being with Dave and Luka, had been in a gay bar once, and he had been drunk then. He wasn't drunk now, and he didn't want the guy *or* Luka to think that the hard on he was experiencing was due to the attendant.

The rest of the flight was uneventful. Carter and Luka talked quietly about nothing in particular. Randi flirted with everything that moved, and Maggie slept for the entire flight. They landed, and got their luggage relatively quickly. Carter had arranged for a limousine to take them to the hotel where they would be spending the night before the cruise.

Maggie and Randi decided to go out to a hot place for dinner that Randi knew about from her last trip to LA. Since they were only there for the night, Maggie was not going to argue with her. And besides, Maggie had slept for so long, that she was sure that she was ready for just about anything Randi had planned. So, that left Luka and John to fend for themselves.

They checked into the room, and as Luka opened the door, his tired eyes surveyed the surroundings. Well. It certainly was big, definitely large enough for the four of them. Luka had already volunteered to sleep on the pull out sofa since John had been generous enough to pay for the room. And as Luka dropped his bags near the front door, he turned towards his travel companion.

"So what would you like to do for dinner? Do you want to go out somewhere, or do you want to just order in some room service?" He was fine either way, but truth be told, Luka was a little bit tired. He hadn't been able to rest much on the plane at all...he was looking forward to having some room service, and maybe going to bed early in anticipation of the cruise the next day.

"I'm too tired to go out anywhere, so room service is fine." John replied as he closed the door. "There should be a menu over on the desk with the telephone. Just order me whatever it is you're having because my brain is too exhausted to make any kind of a decision right now."

John sat on the couch, wondering when the hotel maid would be by to set it up. It bothered him that Luka felt obligated to sleep on the sofa bed just because John was paying for the room, and he was determined that one way or another, Luka *would* sleep in the bedroom.

"No caffeine, though," John said over to Luka. "I just want to eat and then crawl into bed and sleep until the alarm goes off in the morning. Milk would be okay, or water, I don't care either way." He was having to fight the urge to close his eyes right there and then, but he knew if he did, then he'd be asleep in minutes, and he didn't want that. So, he kept his eyes on Luka, watching as the man looked at the room service menu.

"Okay. No caffeine. I agree. You need your beauty sleep," Luka teased as he perused his menu.

A few moments later, Luka hung up the phone after ordering the both of them a light meal of sandwiches. He ordered bottled water for them, along with some milk for John since he seemed to want some. Within twenty minutes, there was a knock on the door with their food selections, and after wheeling in the tray, the person from room service was gone in a blink of an eye.

"I hope you like the sandwiches," Luka said, as he pulled the cart closer to the table in the room. "I figured they would be light enough for us to be able to sleep soon afterwards..."

John got to his feet and slowly stretched as his back was aching slightly from where he had been stuck in the airplane seat for so long. "That sounds great. Thanks for ordering."

He was just about to sit when there was another knock on the door, and this time it was the maid to turn down the beds. As she headed into the first bedroom, John returned to the table and began to eat. "Do you remember when we're supposed to board the ship?" he asked.

Luka had just picked up the sandwich, and was about to take a bite when Carter spoke. He nodded.

"Yes. We are supposed to be at the pier to check in at noon, and they start to let you onto the ship at one."

Remembering back to when they were on the plane, Carter had been awfully reflective for a lot of the time during the flight. And it made him remember a conversation they had had a few months ago...after they had all been locked up in that classroom together during the snowstorm. They had been talking about their previous experiences and Carter had admitted that he had lost his virginity at age eleven.

Luka was sure that it seemed out of the blue, but he had to ask... "So. We were talking a little about previous experiences on the flight...and it had me thinking about that time we all talked about our first times...what...how did it happen that you had your first experience when you were so young?"

John carefully wiped his mouth as he considered how to answer Luka. The last time he had been asked that question, it had been Dave wanting to know, and they had argued. In John's mind, now that he had had months to replay that entire day in his head, it was that question that ultimately led to him and Dave breaking up for the first time.

He didn't want to let the same question ruin his friendship with Luka -- at least not yet. The friendship was still so new and full of promise, and John was finding that he genuinely liked Luka's company. And -- when they were in the mood -- the sex, such as it was, was pretty good, too.

John finally shrugged. "The normal way, I guess. You know, part A is inserted into part B..." he joked.

Luka eyed him, his brow rising as a smirk crossed his lips. "Oh, that's very funny, John. Okay. I guess you're not comfortable talking about this -- it was really just a curiosity question. I just...find it very interesting that we are both so different in terms of being comfortable without clothing on. Maybe it was because our first sexual experiences were very, very different..."

Luka finally took a bite from his sandwich, considering where to take the conversation next. He certainly didn't want to talk to John about anything that he found uncomfortable, but he really wondered quite often about what the circumstances had been around what happened with the maid.

"I thought it was very touching that you and Danijela waited for your wedding night. Look at how much grief could be avoided if more people did that," John commented.

Luka placed his sandwich down on his plate, and took a quick sip of water as John talked, considering his words very carefully in response. After a moment, he brought his eyes up to meet John's.

"It...was the way that things were done at home. Danijela and I were in love...and we married very young. We dated for a while before we finally married, and well...I really thought that she and I would be together forever...I guess that's what happens when you're young and full of ideas..."

Luka cast his eyes downwards once more, and picked up his sandwich. He wasn't very good at talking about his past...especially when his thoughts drifted to his wife and children. Marko would be 11 now...the same age that Carter was when he had sex for the first time. It was difficult for Luka to grasp his mind around that.

"No one expects life to end early," John commented, feeling slightly bad about making Luka sad. He also couldn't help but remember how young Lucy had been when she died, and, before that, Dennis, and before him, his brother Bobby.

John also couldn't help but feel guilty over thinking that if Danijela had lived, then Luka would still be in Croatia, probably the father of a few more children by now, and very happy with his family. He wouldn't be fooling around getting and giving blow and hand jobs to other men. And God only knew what else Luka had done. Their experiences with other men wasn't something they had talked about before.

But, since Luka was talking about 'first' times, then maybe men would be a better topic.

"So," John asked as he finished off his sandwich. "Since you asked me a question about sex, it's now my turn. What did you do the first time you were with another man?"

Luka recognized the subtle shift of subject, but he wasn't going to argue with the man. It was obviously not a very comfortable topic for John to talk about. He could understand that. But, before he could reply, the maid left the second bedroom and started on the sofa bed, and it wasn't until she had left the suite that Luka was able to speak freely. "My first time with another man, huh? What makes you think that you are not the first man I ever was with," Luka teased, knowing full well that John did not believe that for even a moment.

Luka sat back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest as his mind went back in time to his first experience.

"I guess I've always known that I am attracted to both men and women...but I guess the first time I ever acted on it.. I guess it was before I met Danijela...no...we never really did anything that could be classified as completely sexual. We never made love...we never did more than kiss and play with each other a little bit. I was, I think, fourteen years old..."

Luka smiled over to his friend. "How about you, John? What did you do the first time you were with another man?"

John smiled when Luka mentioned kissing, because kissing Dave had been a favorite pastime, and, when it came to kissing, Luka wasn't too bad, either.

He did feel his cheeks growing warm though as he thought about what he and Dave had done that first time. "Well, it started off with the two of us planning to jerk each other off, but I ended up giving Dave a blow job and he jerked me off," John said.

Luka straightened up, genuinely surprised. Dave? The only Dave that Luka knew was Dave Malucci...and it couldn't possibly be *that* Dave that John was talking about...as far as Luka knew, Dave had been a rather cocky, smart-mouthed lady's man.

"Dave? Your first time was with...Dave?"

Luka knew that John would know *just* which Dave he was referring to. What was more interesting is if it was Dave Malucci that John had been involved with, then John had only just begun to experience this part of his sexuality.

John frowned at the tone of Luka's voice, as if there was something *wrong* about him having been with Dave. "Yes, my first time for a lot of things was with Dave. Not that it matters now. Me being his first as well wasn't enough to keep him in Chicago, was it?" And Dave telling him he loved him and would never leave him hadn't kept Dave from doing just that, either.

Luka slowly nodded, but kept his gaze locked on John. "I'm...just surprised. Was...this recent?"

His mind was reeling with this new piece of information. John had been Dave's first as well...and it *must* have been recent, or he wouldn't have referred to Dave leaving...the way that John was acting, it was almost as if he...

Did John *love* Dave Malucci? This was very interesting indeed...

And now, it was more important to Luka than ever before to make sure John had a good time on this cruise.

"I...it's just that...John...you seem much more experienced then someone who only recently was with a man. I'm really just surprised that this happened not a very long time ago..."

"It didn't last long and the first time, it ended not that long before Dave was fired." John couldn't help but smile as he remembered all the times the two of them had been together, "But it was quite something when it lasted. Being with Dave made me realize that the reason my relationships with women didn't last had more to do with me probably being gay or something than from anything else, although when I was with him, I didn't find other men attractive. That's why I'm not looking to meet men on this cruise. Finding you has been more than enough, Luka." And even then, Luka didn't come close to making him feel the way Dave had.

Luka again nodded as John finished speaking, turning this piece of information over and over in his mind. "I'm glad that I have found you too, John," Luka said honestly, as he brought his eyes up to meet his friend. "A friendship like this is not quite like one I've experienced before. Most were either full-blown relationships, or one night stands. I've never done *this* before, have a friendship with someone with other certain...benefits," he added onto the end as a soft smile crossed his lips.

"Was this what your relationship with Dave was like?" Luka was pretty sure of what the answer was...but he wanted to let John talk about that, and not assume anything.

"Honestly?" John asked as he looked across the table at Luka, not sure if being honest about his feelings would destroy their friendship or not.

Luka looked back at John intently. "Yes. Honestly." Because for him to ask for anything less wouldn't be fair to either of them.

John smiled slightly. "I loved him." Then he shook his head. "I still love him. I knew that he'd leave me, I just wasn't expecting it to happen so soon...it's a bit complicated, because we broke up, then seemed to get back together, then broke up again, although I sure as Hell didn't expect him to just leave Chicago when he was fired. I guess I didn't mean as much to him as he had said I did, but, at the time..." John smiled sadly, "...at the time he said those words to me, I believed them. Not the words that he wouldn't leave me, I knew better than that. But when he said he loved me, I believed that."

Luka wasn't used to this much candor between them, but he didn't want to stop the conversation. Luka never once fooled himself into thinking that he was in love with John...or that the reverse was true...but it was interesting to learn that while John was in bed with him, he was likely thinking of another man from his past.

It was okay. In a way, they were both using each other. Both trying to find a way to find solace for a love that neither would have again. Luka's soul mate was dead. And it seemed that John's was permanently out of town.

"How did it end," Luka finally asked. "You said that you knew that he would eventually leave you. How did it happen? Either time?"

"The first time, it was stupid. He wouldn't take 'yes' for an answer," John replied with a shrug. "I don't know what happened. Not really. We were fine and then he was asking about Jenny and what happened when I was eleven, and then we were...busy...I was busy, I should say. I wasn't expecting it when he came, when he pushed his penis down my throat a bit, and I said that. He asked if I was okay and I told him yes, but then he kept on asking and I finally started to feel that he didn't believe me, especially when he finally said, in a tone of voice that didn't sound very sincere, that he believed me and trusted me." John twisted the napkin in his hands. "Maybe I was trying to pick a fight, I don't know. All I know is that if I could turn back time, I never would have said anything. Life is much better when I don't complain, too much."

Luka listened patiently to the whole story, and then nodded once more. "It does sound like you were looking to start a fight with him...because that seems like a very silly thing to break up a relationship over.. I noticed that you were not on very friendly terms before he was fired.. I guess that might be why he didn't try to stay..."

It sounded like a shame to Luka. After all, if he could still be with his soul mate, the person he was meant to be with, he would in a heartbeat, even if it meant traveling half way around the world. And it sounded to him like John and Dave had given up before they had a chance to know just how wonderful being in love could be.

"Now is not the time to dwell on this," Luka finally said, a smile crossing his lips once more. "We are going on a *cruise* tomorrow, and are going to have a very good time. I hope that even though you are not so interested in meeting someone new, that you'll at least try to dance once or twice with your suite-mate, huh?"

Now it was time to get John out of his doldrums. It had probably been a mistake to bring all of this up, but Luka was so happy to have some insight into John's life...

John looked up at Luka and smiled, but he couldn't help but remember how he and Dave had never had the chance to dance together. "Dancing would be good. As a matter of fact..." John got up and went over to the radio on the table by the sofa bed. He turned it on, found a station playing easy listening music, and then he turned and held out his arms to Luka. "I think we should practice," he said with a smile.

Luka brought his eyes up to look at John as he walked across the room, and with a nod, he stood up out of his chair. A smile twitched on his lips once more, as he moved into the arms of his friend and sometimes lover. He had to admit, it was very nice to be in his embrace.

"You're a very good dancer," Luka admitted, as he pulled back slightly. And unable to resist the grin on his face, Luka brought his lips down onto John's, brushing over them ever so lightly.

John's lips tingled slightly from the light kiss. It wasn't the electric charge that came with every single one of Dave's kisses, but it was good. John moved his body closer to Luka's. "So are you. And, as luck would have it, there are a few other things I'm good at."

Luka's smile grew broader. "Oh, yes? Maybe before we go to sleep, you can show me one or two of those things that you are good at...how does that sound?"

Luka's hands moved down John's back, and he rested them comfortably near the middle, crossing his wrists as he pulled John closer still. "I mean...I'm suddenly feeling a lot more awake...and we'll need to do *something* to get rid of this excess energy before even attempting to sleep..."

Oh...Luka was *not* going to complain if the two of them ended up fooling around a little bit. John was *very* good at what he did. Luka once again brought his mouth down to cover John's, this time brushing his tongue against his lips, begging entry.

John parted his lips, then slowly sucked Luka's tongue into his mouth, claiming it even as his hands began to work to undo Luka's belt.

Luka kissed John fully and passionately, lust taking over where simple friendship had been moments before. He craved to have his skin against John's skin. Yearned to have parts of John's body in his mouth. He had managed to pull John's shirt out of his pants before breaking away from the kiss breathlessly. "This is making for a very...very interesting evening...and a good way to begin our vacation together, don't you think?"

John slowly grinned at Luka. "I think so. And, I'm not so tired any longer, either. I think you're right that we both need to burn off some energy." John began to unbutton his shirt. "First one undressed gets to pick what he wants -- to suck or to be sucked."

Luka couldn't help but continue to grin as he watched John get undressed. Then realizing he was falling behind, he began to unbutton his own shirt. He seemed to be matching John article of clothing to article of clothing...but he was not fast enough for John.

What a magnificent body that man had. No -- it wasn't the most toned...but still...he was quite impressive to look at, and Luka found his own body responding to John as he moved to pull off his own underwear.

"It seems that you have won," Luka said, shifting his eyes over his lover's body. "What is your choice?" Because either would be a win for Luka...though he was kind of hoping to be able to have some release by John's hands that night as well.

John took a step toward Luka, grabbed him by the hand and walked the few steps over to the sofa bed, and then pushed Luka down on top of it. "My choice is to eat you alive, Luka. Dave was always amazed by what I could think to do with my tongue, and I think you will, too." He then grinned. "At least, I hope you will."

John dropped to his knees, pulling on Luka's thighs until the man's buttocks were poised on the edge of the bed and his legs were widely spread to either side of him. John leaned forward and carefully took Luka's scrotum into his mouth, sucking gently on the testicles within.

Before Luka could protest...say a word...anything, he was laying flat on the bed, and all at once, John's mouth was all over him. Licking...teasing...he...he really was very, very good at this.

Luka felt himself grow harder at every single one of John's touches. "Yes...John...that feels...very, very good..."

He wanted John to touch his penis, but he was not going to push the issue...no...John had won...so this was his choice...and he had no complaints over the treatment so far.

Luka's words spurred John on, and he soon found himself moving his mouth from the base of Luka's penis, and he worked his way up the shaft, to where the tip of Luka's penis glistened from the partially retracted foreskin. Yet another difference between Luka and Dave, John thought as he pulled the foreskin back even further so he could swirl his tongue over the head.

Luka whimpered slightly, but the whimper turned into a moan as he felt John's mouth on the head of his penis..

His hands moved down to the top of John's head, and ran his hands through his hair.

"Yes...John...that's good... "

John grinned around the head as he felt Luka's fingers in his hair. It was nice to have something he was good at, and, like he had told Dave, sex was something he excelled at. And, apparently, not just with women and Dave, judging by Luka's reactions.

"Do you want me to suck you dry, Luka? Or should I just give you a hand job?" He moved his hand up and down Luka's erection, moving the foreskin up and over the head, then back again. It was a fascinating thing to watch, and John found himself wondering if it also felt good for Luka. It had to, he reasoned, since any movement over his own sensitive head felt good to him.

"Mmm... John...I want to...I want to put my mouth on you too...do you think...maybe...we can...suck each other...at the same time?"

It wasn't something Luka had done very often, but he did enjoy it...and this way, they could both enjoy similar sensations in concert with each other. It was very appealing to Luka.

John nodded. "That sounds good. I've only done it that way once, so I might not be too good at it." John crawled over Luka's body to get to the bed, and as he stretched out, he patted the mattress beside him. "C'mon, Doc Euro, get your rear end over here so I can make you scream," John said with a grin.

"Yeah...well...maybe I'm interested in making you scream, too," Luka said, unable to keep a grin from forming on his lips.

Since John was already lying on his back, and besides, he had a feeling that him being on top might be too hard for his back, Luka decided that they would do this facing each other. But first...

Leaning over, he brought his mouth onto John's once more, wanting to taste himself as much as he wanted to taste John's lips on his. Lying down on his side, he took his lover in his arms, fully interlocking with him before pulling away with a smile. "Are you ready?"

John nodded, then he turned around and scooted down to rest on his side before taking Luka fully into his mouth.

Luka only hesitated for a moment before turning his body on his side, and bringing his mouth onto John's waiting penis. Engulfing it into his mouth, Luka barely suppressed a moan as he felt John's lips performing similar actions on his shaft.

The more he thought about it...the happier he was that Dave had left John. After all...otherwise...he wouldn't be enjoying this kind of mind-blowing sex...

John moaned around Luka's penis as he felt his own being engulfed in a warm and wet mouth. Of course, making Luka scream would mean that Luka would have to remove that mouth at some point, but sacrifices sometimes had to be made, John thought as he sucked energetically while using his hand to massage Luka's testicles.

That felt absolutely divine to Luka -- the feeling of John's hands mixed with his mouth on his most intimate areas. While Luka had experienced this before, it was the first time that he and John had ventured down this path. It was a treat. And like any treat, Luka felt that it was something that he could very well end up craving more and more...

His own movements matched John's, continuing to hungrily suck as he brought his fingers up to John's testicles to massage them, his strokes matching the movements of his mouth.

Oh...it had been a while since he had last had pleasures...and Luka knew it was not going to be long before the feelings that John was invoking in him were going to be too much for him to handle.

John could tell that Luka was rapidly reaching the point of no return, and he momentarily thought about tormenting the man by easing off, but that idea was quickly discarded as John found himself eagerly anticipating when Luka would come. Aside from just liking it, John enjoyed the rush that hit him as he saw what he had done -- it was a rush of power, and as much of a turn on as pleasing Luka was.

Luka's own mouth continued to move down onto Carter's throbbing shaft. And his hands continued to massage him, the movements becoming more urgent as he felt his body being pushed closer and closer to that ultimate pleasure.

And when it hit, it did hit hard...his mouth continuing to suck, trying to draw it out of Carter as rapidly as it was being drawn out of him. Normally his preference was to pull back, but with a guttural moan, he finally found his release and his own orgasm was too intense to do that...so he spit instead. Feeling as if he was coming forever Luka hoped that John was able to handle the lot of it one way or the other. He also hoped that it wasn't too aggressive for him, remembering their conversation from earlier.

After what seemed to be an eternity of swallowing and ejaculating, John rolled to his back, suddenly spent, but feeling sated. And then he heard a soft snicker that quickly grew to a laugh. And not just one voice, either. But two.

He was facing away from the door of the suite, but he didn't need to be facing in that direction to know that Maggie and Randi were back. John knew his face was on fire, but he also knew he had to say *something* -- anything.

"Well, you two are back early. Did you have a good time?" John asked, happy to hear that his voice didn't squeak on any of the syllables.
Chapter Three by MonaCK
"We did have a good time, Carter," Randi said, chuckling slightly. "But I don't think that we had as good a time as you two did while we were gone. You guys have a very interesting way of relaxing.."

When Maggie and Randi returned to the room, and opened the door, they had both stopped in surprise as they looked at the figures on the bed before them. Maggie was amused. Randi? Turned on. But both had similarly devious thoughts. It was one of the reasons they got along so well.

Taking the Polaroid camera that she had used for sight-seeing off from around her neck, Maggie snapped several shots of the unsuspecting lovers, and then handed the prints to Randi for safe keeping. They were -both- sure that there was something they could use those shots for to embarrass the two of men later.

Luka was so intent on what he was doing that he hadn't heard the door open. And his eyes were closed, so he hadn't seen anything before him. But now he heard the voices, and he slowly opened his eyes, looking over towards the door with a slight sigh. He wondered how long they had been standing there for, and decided that silence was the best route of action for the moment. He quickly shifted his eyes away, hoping that the ladies would leave, even for a few moments, so that he and John could get cleaned up.

John slowly smiled and stretched lazily on the bed, not feeling self-conscious in front of the women -- after all, they weren't into guys, so what difference did it make if they got a good look? Not that he was much to look at, but still...he twisted around on the bed so he could look at them. "It's a very effective way to relax. You should try it sometime."

"Actually," Randi said, eyeing her girlfriend with a bit of lust in her eyes. "You and Luka have given me some *very* interesting ideas on how to spend the rest of our evening...so if you'll excuse us..."

And without even stopping to gauge their reaction, Randi pulled Maggie by the hand into their bedroom of the suite, both giggling as they anticipated looking at the pictures they just took, and scheming exactly what they were going to do with them.

As the ladies left, Luka looked over to John, brushing a hand over John's thigh as he spoke. "Maybe we should clean up, and then go to sleep?" Not that he was sure how they would go about cleaning up this big of a mess...

"Not much to clean up," John said as he sat up. Then he saw that Luka had made quite a mess. "Here." John grabbed a bit of the sheet and wiped Luka's chin, then he smiled down into Luka's eyes.

"The bedroom has a king-sized bed, and I think there's plenty of room for the both of us in it. No sense in you sleeping under a wet sheet."

Luka smiled softly, and then nodded.

"I think that sounds like a very good idea. I'll bet that your king-sized bed is more comfortable than this pull out sofa as well."

With a bit of reflection, he realized that this was going to be the first time that he was going to be spending an entire night with John. And that was very interesting indeed. He sat up from the bed, and smiled over towards John.

"I'm going to go brush my teeth. I'll see you in the bedroom in a few moments."

John couldn't help but feel a slight disappointment as Luka hurried away. He had wanted to kiss Luka, taste himself in Luka's mouth and on his lips while Luka had the pleasure of tasting himself, too. But, either Luka had never liked that in the first place, or else he had never gotten that far, it was clear that it wasn't something he wanted to do. With a sigh, he reminded himself once again that Luka wasn't Dave, and the things he and Dave had enjoyed weren't necessarily things that Luka would enjoy.

After Luka disappeared into the bathroom, John unpacked his pajamas and pulled them on, suddenly feeling ashamed of his body. Strange how he hadn't felt that way when Randi and Maggie were getting their eyeful, he mused.

The door to the bathroom opened and John grabbed his toothbrush, ready to head in there so he could also get ready for bed.

Luka had quickly cleaned himself up, taking care of brushing his teeth and relieving his bladder while he was in the bathroom, and within a few moments, he was ready for bed, wearing a pair of boxer shorts and a t-shirt. Not that he wasn't ashamed of being naked...but he was going to be sharing the bed with someone else -- someone he had never slept with before -- regardless of the fact that he had just had sex with John.

With a smile, he reentered the bedroom, toothbrush in hand. "It's all yours. I'll keep the bed warm for you," Luka teased, as he placed his toothbrush on top of the nightstand.

As John left the room, Luka pulled back the blanket, and carefully slid between the sheets. Ah, it felt good to lie down again, and he knew that it wouldn't be long until he was off to dreamland, physically satisfied, and emotionally spent.

After brushing his teeth and washing his face, John returned to the bedroom. Luka seemed to be asleep, so John didn't even bother talking to him as he turned off the lights and crawled into bed.

As his back slowly relaxed, John could feel his eyes tearing up over the stupid fact that he wasn't able to cuddle with Luka the way he had with Dave. He needed to quit comparing Luka with Dave. It wasn't fair to him, it wasn't fair to Luka and it wasn't fair to Dave.

John wiped the back of his hand against his eyes, then closed them, hoping he was exhausted enough to sleep all the way through the night. If not, then there was a television in the other room, and he could watch it without disturbing everyone else.

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

Being exhausted was enough to put John to sleep, but not enough to keep the nightmares at bay. It was the usual dream, the one John could never remember, but in the dream state he cried out for help, then sprang up in bed as his body responded to the terror.

Luka felt movement on the bed before he even heard the cries for help, and in a panic sat up to try to figure out where he was. In his half-dream state, Luka was in Croatia...buildings were falling around him as he desperately tried to get to the source of the screaming. But, as his body began to fully awaken, he realized that he was in a hotel room with John...and John was obviously suffering from some sort of nightmare.

"John...John...it's okay..." Luka put a hand on John's shoulder, and tried to calm him down. This was disconcerting, and it worried Luka to see John caught up in a nightmare after all of the good things that had happened earlier that night.

John jerked his body away from the hand that touched him as he looked wildly around the room, not recognizing it at all. A small whimper escaped his lips as his mind only knew that he was trapped.

"John...It's me...It's Luka...you're safe...please, John..." Luka wasn't sure what to do for John...but his children had endured their own nightmares, especially once Vukovar was under siege, and he had known what to do for them. What John needed was to be comforted as he was brought out of the grips of the terror that held him.

"John...please..." Luka reached for him again, this time trying to pull him into his embrace. "You're safe, and it's okay."

As arms wrapped around his body, John's mind raced back to the last time someone had held him after a nightmare -- that had been Dave, and John's body slumped into Luka's arms, craving the familiar comfort.

There was a knock on the door and then it opened as Maggie stepped into the room. "Is everything okay? I heard screaming," she said as the light from the outer room revealed Luka holding John in the bed.

Luka's eyes drifted towards the door as he held the trembling man to his chest. "John had a nightmare. He's going to be fine..." At least, Luka hoped he was...but there was no reason to wake the girls or have them be worried, too. "You should go back to sleep."

Even from where she stood, Maggie could see that John was shaking like a leaf. Randi had told her all about the stabbing and how John had seemed to recover from it with no ill effects, but Maggie was sure that John had merely been doing all he could to make people believe he had been doing fine. And when Randi had told her that John had gone on a sudden personal leave months after returning to work, she had suspected the worst. Not that she had ever asked Randi, nor had Randi ever offered up any information on where John had gone or what he had done, but she didn't need to.

"How about if I get him some water?" she offered, thinking that doing something normal like drinking water would help to settle John down.

Luka thought for a moment, and then nodded, still holding the trembling man in his arms. "That would probably be good."

He watched as Maggie left the room, and then focused his attention back on the other man. "Do you want to talk about it, John?"

John could feel his heart rate slowly returning to normal as he listened to Maggie and Luka talk, so when Luka finally spoke to him, he was in a lot better shape than he had been when he had awoken.

"Nothing to talk about it since I can't remember it. It's an old one, though. Now you know why I had wanted to sleep on the pull out bed even though you volunteered to take it. It isn't fair to subject you to this," John said, but inside he was glad to have Luka there -- glad to have strong arms holding him tightly, protecting him from his fears, no matter what they were.

"It might not be the most ideal situation, but John...you're my friend, and I care about you...of course I want to make sure you're okay. I'm just glad that I was here for you..." How often had John been having nightmares? Was this an every night occurrence? It certainly seemed that way from the way that he was talking, Luka thought.

A few moment's later, Maggie arrived, a glass of water in her hand, with a sleepy Randi shuffling her feet behind her. Luka couldn't help but chuckle at the disheveled state that his co-worker was in upon first waking up.

"Is everything okay," Randi asked, as she unsuccessfully tried to stifle a yawn.

Maggie rolled her eyes as she handed the glass of water to John. "She sleeps through you screaming loud enough to wake the dead but wakes up when I turn on the faucet in our bathroom," she commented.

"I hear people screaming in my building at all hours of the night and day so it's not such an unusual thing," Randi commented as she sat on the bed beside John. "Hearing you fumbling with the glass in the bathroom was an unusual noise."

Randi put her hand on John's back and began to move it in a slow circle. "You okay, Dr. Carter?" she asked.

John nodded. "Getting there, and Randi, it's John, remember?"

She laughed. "Yeah, don't mind me. I'm still half asleep. That relaxation method you recommended put me out like a light." Her hand moved lower on his back. "We could see if it would help you relax again," she commented as her hand slipped under the waistband of his pajamas and lightly brushed the top of his buttocks.

John felt an immediate reaction to her touch, but he wasn't sure if it was from Randi herself or from the fact he was in Luka's arms and resting against the man's sturdy chest. He was gay, right? Nothing Randi did should make him feel that way.

Luka looked at Randi curiously, moving slightly as Randi sat down next to John on the bed, and then looking up towards Maggie as Randi began to do this 'relaxation technique'. Maggie looked amused more than anything else. Whatever it was that Randi was doing seemed to be okay with her.

Luka felt John shift in his arms, and he moved his arms slightly to accommodate for the shift in position. "What exactly are you doing, Randi," Luka asked, as he watched the young woman's hands.

"We're all friends here, right?" Randi asked as she moved so that her hands could reach around to the front of John's pajama top. She could feel the heat from Luka's body against her arms since Luka was holding John rather close, but she was still able to work the buttons loose. "I'm just trying to help him relax so he can go back to sleep, that's all. There are no ulterior motives behind this, except that I've thought you were hot for a long time," Randi said against John's ear as she spoke to both Luka and John.

"You and Maggie can help or you can watch, doesn't matter much to me, although if you help, then I'm sure we can get John relaxed that much faster."

His top was now half unbuttoned and Randi was able to run one hand inside the material to caress John's skin. Her fingers came in contact with a small nipple that was as hard as her own were and she smiled as she heard John gasp out loud with pleasure.

Luka thought for only a moment, watching as Randi began a gentle assault on John's body before bringing his own lips to Carter's earlobe. Help him relax -- that he could help him do. But he'd be damned if he was the going to just *watch* someone else pleasure John...

"I think I'll sit this one out guys," Maggie said, grabbing a chair on the other side of the room. "But I hope you don't mind if I just sit back and enjoy the show..."

It occurred to John that he should perhaps ask if anyone cared about what he wanted, but between what Luka was doing with his ear, and having Randi's hands all over his body, the words just didn't manage to leave his lips. It was just easier to give in to what they wanted than to talk.

Randi's hands returned to undoing his top, and it was soon removed from his body before her hands went down the front of his pants, fondling his growing erection. "Lie him down on the bed," John heard her tell Luka and the next thing he knew he was being gently lowered to the mattress, his eyes fluttered closed as he simply enjoyed their touches.

Randi looked over at Luka. "You can do whatever you want to most of his body, but his cock is mine," she commented as she began to pull off John's pajama bottoms.

The pants flew through the air, landing near Maggie, who reached down and picked them up. This was going to be even better than watching John and Luka had been, she thought as she watched Randi lick her lips before taking John's cock into her mouth. Maggie's gaze then went to Luka, and in the dim lighting she tried to tell if he looked amused or jealous over what Randi was doing. Maybe if he was turned on, they'd be treated to the sight of him screwing John. One could hope, she thought, certain as she could be that John was the type who preferred to be screwed as opposed to doing the screwing. Luka though -- she wasn't so sure about. Maybe he liked both?

At first, Luka wasn't quite sure how he felt about everything that was going on. Randi seemed to be taking over. A quick glance to Maggie showed that she was more curious than upset over the situation...and he...himself? Well...his intentions were to make sure that John was going to relax on this vacation...and the look on John's face told Luka that he was definitely doing that. John was well on his way to full relaxation.

Luka smiled, and then continued on, bringing his lips down to the side of John's neck, and working his way back up to his ear. Yes. John was going to relax...both he and Randi were going to make sure of that.

John moaned deeply at the double assault upon his body. It seemed that a deep warmth was coming from both ends and meeting in his belly before shooting directly to his brain. "Yes," he whispered hoarsely, "God, yes...don't stop." But he wasn't sure if he meant Luka or Randi or both.

Luka was encouraged by John's actions...his words...the way that he seemed to reacting to both his and Randi's actions...it was almost intoxicating. His own body was responding...and though he would eventually have to take care of that need, at that moment it was all about John...

Randi had been eyeing Carter's cock hungrily, and no sooner had her mouth covered him, then she was letting his smooth skin run in and out of her mouth. This wasn't quite the relaxation technique that Randi had in mind when she first came in, but it was working. His eyes were closed, but it was apparent from his words and body language that Carter was enjoying her attentions.

"The fun is only beginning," Luka muttered, as he released his teeth from John's ear. "We are going to make sure you have a very...very relaxing vacation..."

John was more than relaxed -- except for his penis -- it wasn't relaxed at all, but stiff as a board, and he was enjoying Randi's mouth very much. She was about equal to Luka when it came to oral sex -- but neither one of them held a candle to Dave and his technique. Damn it, he thought, once more mentally kicking himself for allowing thoughts of Dave Malucci to jump into his mind. Dave was his past and this...this was his present, and Dave had no place in it.

His back suddenly arched as he felt Randi's fingertip lightly brush over his opening, but then her hand was somewhere else while her mouth worked him over, and he began to relax once again.

Randi smiled around John's cock when the mere touch of her finger against his ass excited him. She was tempted to do more, but she had long fingernails and didn't want to risk hurting him. Still, maybe she could coax Luka into fucking John while she and Maggie were there. It was a sight she'd definitely enjoy.

"You liked that, didn't you, John?" she asked, her own voice betraying her arousal. She'd never heard Carter say anything remotely dirty, but just about every guy she'd ever known had ended being turned on by a little bit of 'gutter' talk, and she was sure that Carter wouldn't be any different. "I'll bet you'd really like it if Luka's cock was down here, about to enter you, wouldn't you?"

John's answer was another whimper and Randi grinned once more as she took that as a 'yes'.

Luka lifted his eyes to look at Randi, and to look down at John to see that his arousal and excitement was evident. He once again brought his lips down to John's ear. "Would you like that, John? Would you like me to fuck you?"

They hadn't done that yet...but Luka had to admit that it held a certain appeal. While he had been with other men in that way before, he'd never done it in this particular way since Randi seemed to be interested in having sex with John as well. If John's answer was 'yes', then Luka knew it was going to be a very interesting experience.

John's eyes flew open at Luka's question. Dave had been the only person to enter him, and John wasn't sure he wanted another man to ruin that memory. But then Randi's finger fluttered over his opening again, and he found the desires of his body overruling the desires of his heart.

"Yes," he said, his voice rough and his breath a bit hard to catch. "I need you to be in me, Luka. Please?"

Luka thought for only a moment, and then brought his mouth down to John's ear, capturing the lobe and sucking on it for a moment before pulling away. "I'll be right back," he whispered, and then looked down to Randi. She was enjoying herself, obviously liking the reactions that John was having to both of them.

While Luka stumbled to his suitcase to grab some condoms and lube, Randi had lifted her mouth off of Carter long enough to replace it with her hand. She couldn't even begin to hide the fact that she was turned on, and touching herself with her free hand, she felt just how wet she was.

Maggie walked up behind Randi, unable to resist kissing the back of her neck while Randi continued to intently stroke Carter.

Luka applied the lube to his own penis, and then rolled the condom over the top of his shaft, eager to give this a try...they hadn't done this...but he knew from previous experience what the feelings would be like. He applied a liberal amount of lube on the outside of the condom, and then climbed back onto the bed.

"I've never done it with a third person before," Luka admitted, as he looked towards the women. "What do you think is the best way to do this..."

"Four," Maggie huskily said as she began to undress Randi. "Make that four people."

John's eyes flew open at hearing that, and he began to wonder just how this was going to work.

"I've got an idea," Randi said as her robe dropped to the floor, revealing her naked and lithe body. "Luka, you enter John while he's on hands and knees. Then I'll get on my back so I can suck him off, and Maggie can work her magic on me."

Maggie laughed. "Good idea, but what if I wasn't intending to do that? Maybe I was thinking that Luka could fuck John while he's on his back, then you could ride John's cock while I straddle his face? Maybe I'd like to find out if the rumors about his oral sex techniques are true?"

"I think the objective here is to relax John," Randi replied as she began to disrobe Maggie, kissing her neck between every word. "If he's working, then he won't be relaxing."

"It hardly seems fair for Maggie not to be getting any attention though, Randi," Luka stated, looking at both the women intently. "But perhaps you can show her a good time later...or show her a good time for a little while now...and suck off John when he's close to finishing..."

It had been a while since he had last possessed a man...but he had to admit that he was looking forward to doing this with John. Moving onto his knees, he placed a hand on the younger man. "I'm ready for you, John...

John raised his head and looked down his body at Luka, the women seemed to blend into the dimness of the room as his awareness narrowed to just he and Luka. "It's been a long time," he said. "I'll be tight." He hoped that would be all the hint Luka would need to know that he really needed to stretch him and make him ready to take Luka's penis. "Maybe too tight?"

"This is something I can handle," Maggie said as she grabbed the lubricant. "Let me." She spread a good amount over her fingers, and then began to work it around John's ass, lightly massaging the area before slowly inserting her finger. "God, he's right. He's tighter than a shy virgin," Maggie said, and then she gave a little yelp as she felt Randi's fingers begin to stroke her to more wetness.

John sighed with pleasure and let his head drop back to the mattress, more than willing to ignore the 'shy virgin' comment as long as his friends were making him feel that good. Maggie would make sure he was relaxed enough to take all of Luka, and he was now finding himself eager to see what it would feel like to have Luka inside of him. He and Dave weren't the same size, and John had no idea if that would be noticeable once things got going.

Maggie worked her magic on John, making sure that by the time she was finished, her finger easily slid in and out of him. Luka, by that point, wanted nothing more than to be inside of John...and he had kept himself occupied by stroking his own penis while he watched Maggie play with John...and Randi play with Maggie...it was like something out of a fantasy.

Maggie moved aside as Randi took her fully into her arms, and Luka waited while John positioned himself on his hands and knees. He moved behind him, lining up his penis so that he could easily slide himself in...and then he did...moving slowly because John was still rather tight. It felt...pretty extraordinary...John was by far the tightest that he had ever been with -- likely because others that Luka had fucked were rather experienced.

"Y..yes," Luka said, his voice barely audible.

John thrust his hips back toward Luka, doing his best to take in as much of him as he could. "Jesus, Luka...that feels so..." and then Luka's penis brushed against his prostate and all coherent thought went out of John's mind. He made a whimpering sound, and then tried to scoot his body back a bit so he could impale himself further upon Luka.

Luka shut his eyes, not really particularly caring what the women were doing at this point, he was so enjoying the sensation of being inside of John. And as John pushed himself further onto his penis, it was all that Luka could do to keep from crying out.

Randi had pulled away from Maggie, but kept her hand on Maggie's wetness, enjoying the effect she was having on the other woman. "I think...it's time to put plan B into action," she said, even though she was quite aware that the men were in a completely different world. "Or maybe that should be plan BJ," she added with a wink.

The guys were positioned towards the middle of the bed, so Randi was able to pretty easily lie down and slide her body so her mouth was positioned directly under John's hard cock. Her legs were hanging over the edge of the bed, and Maggie was able to easily position herself between them so she could have easy access to Randi's wet opening. And while Randi eagerly took John in her mouth once more, Maggie set to work to satisfy her lover.

John moaned once again as he felt a mouth on his penis, and he wanted to thrust it into the mouth below him -- but he also wanted to push back on the penis inside of him. He finally had to just stay still and just enjoy the feeling of Luka thrusting in and out while Randi's mouth moved up and down.

It was too much. Far too much, and he wasn't sure he could delay his orgasm, although he did his best to try. But his best wasn't quite good enough, and he screamed out his pleasure as his orgasm hit, rocking his entire being.

As John screamed out, Randi began to swallow and suck greedily, even as her hand reached up to fondle someone's balls -- she wasn't sure whose she had, but since they weren't tight against a body, she suspected they were Luka's and not John's. The thrill of having made John come was enough to send Randi over the edge as well, but she wasn't able to cry out as she came.

That left Luka yet to climax.

As John orgasmed, the way that his body reacted to it was almost enough to bring Luka over the edge with him. He began to press himself further inside...and when Randi fondled his testicles, that was all that it took to make him come.

Crying out in pure pleasure, he thrust himself further into John, feeling tears of pure joy spring to his eyes as the pleasures rushed over his body. And finally, the shuddering stopped, and he tried desperately to catch his breath after an amazingly intense orgasm.

"Wow," he finally managed to say, the only sound that his lips seemed capable of making.

John's eyes were closed and he was panting as he waited for Randi to move so he could collapse on the bed. He was spent and sated and more than ready to fall into a peaceful slumber.

The next thing he knew, he was being bundled toward the middle of the bed, and a pair of lips was upon his. As he drifted into the kiss, he could taste himself, and he knew he was kissing Randi and not Luka or Maggie.

"Thank you," John loudly whispered as the kiss ended. "All of you." He felt Randi move again, and then her body settled in behind him. Another movement on the mattress told him that someone -- Maggie -- was on the other side of Randi. The only body missing from the bed was Luka's, and John opened his eyes to look for him in the dim room, suddenly wanting to cuddle against his chest as he fell asleep.

While the girls settled themselves next to John in the bed, Luka had carefully retracting himself from inside his lover, and then he took care of disposing the condom and cleaning himself up. He was *completely* satiated. It was pretty amazing, Luka thought, that they had only fooled around a handful of times, and now the first time that he had fucked John, it had been with two women in the room.

After he was thoroughly cleaned he walked back to the edge of the bed to find John looking up to him, and a slight smile twitched on Luka's lips. Yes, that was the look of one satisfied man.

Luka crawled into bed beside John, taking the other man into his arms as he settled down. And as he rested his head on the pillow, Luka planted a soft kiss on top of John's head.

"Sleep well," he muttered, as his eyes finally drifted shut.

"I will. Thank you," John whispered as he closed his eyes, the vestiges from his nightmare long gone as he nestled against Luka, this time welcoming sleep instead of dreading it.


To be continued
Chapter Four by MonaCK
It was an incessant buzzing that made John open his eyes again, and when he did he saw that it was morning. The room was full of sunlight and it was his pager, which he had set for seven, going off.

Cruise day, he thought with a smile as he snuggled further against a warm body -- Luka's, he was delighted to see, although another naked body was still pressed up against his own. He couldn't quite believe that he had let Randi and Luka have their way with his body, but he couldn't say that he regretted it any.

The pager finally fell silent, but movement from behind him told John that Randi was awake. "Time to shower and get dressed. We still need to have breakfast before heading for the pier," John said, although his preference would be to stay in bed until the last possible moment. It was just too warm and comfortable where he was for him to even want to think about moving.

"Well, if we each double up in the shower, then we'll be to breakfast quicker, unless you plan to order room service," Randi replied.

"Room service sounds good to me. Then we can just eat in bed...oh, wait, we did *that* last night," came Maggie's voice.

Luka couldn't help but chuckle softly. "Yes, we all did have a rather good meal in bed last night..."

Luka as well was in a bit of a state of disbelief over what had occurred the evening before between the four of them in this very bed, and he knew that they were indeed in for a very good time on the cruise. Any doubts about inviting Randi and Maggie were completely gone from his mind as he stretched an arm over his head. John was still snuggled quite close to him, and Luka had to admit that he was enjoying the feeling.

"I think we should double up on the shower...and then go out to grab something to eat before heading to the piers. There will likely be food for us on board as well," Luka mentioned as his eyes drifted over the motley crew in bed with him. The previous night was really a fantasy come true...for all of them.

"Maybe we should vote on it?" John said. Like Maggie, the idea of just staying in bed as long as possible appealed to him. But then, he wasn't a morning person anyway, and didn't quite function well until he had had his first cup of coffee.

Maggie laughed. "I think it would be a tie, John. Although I guess we could send Randi and Luka in to shower together while we order room service. Then they can go out to eat while we're snug and content here in bed, making a crumb mess as we enjoy our breakfast in bed."

"Huh! No offense to Luka over there, but if I'm going to share my shower with someone, it's going to be you," Randi said. "So, get your lazy ass out of bed, Margaret, and let's get back to our room so we can get ready."

"Don't mind her," Maggie told John and Luka as she got out of bed and stretched, not caring she was naked in front of them. "Randi's a bitch when she hasn't had her morning caffeine rush."

"I know the feeling," John said as he watched Randi get out of bed, but it was more the feeling of Luka's hand softly caressing his body that was making him hard and not the sight of the two naked women in the bedroom.

Maggie and Randi picked up their robes and left, closing the door behind them. John moved until he could look into Luka's eyes. "I hadn't realized just how much I've missed being...taken until last night, so, what are the odds I could talk you into doing that again while we're in the shower?" he asked as he began to fondle Luka's penis.

"Mmm...well...I think that something similar can be arranged," Luka said, as he turned his attention back to the man in bed with him. Though he was still quite attracted to women, his mind was focused on John. Though he would have liked to have gotten some action with Randi as well, she was with Maggie, and he realized that the previous night had been an anomaly of sorts, and it was likely that it would not occur again.

"You think that just me fucking you will be enough?" Luka teased him, as he planted a kiss on top of John's head. "I mean, after all, you've now had two people on you at once...do you think you can go back to just plain, ordinary things?"

Luka had thoroughly enjoyed the treatment the night before. And he knew that John had as well. And he could only imagine what fun was in store for the two of them on the cruise. Somehow a line had been crossed, and though they were still friends...they now seemed to be more than friends. They were going to be having sex for the second time in just a few hours after only having done nothing more than fooling around a handful of times before.

"If I had known that your appetite was insatiable," Luka commented as he looked over to John, "I would have asked you to stay over once or twice while we were at home..."

"And risk having Abby come home early from work?" John shook his head at that scenario. He wasn't quite sure just what he felt for Abby, but he knew he didn't want her walking in while he was with Luka. He wouldn't have cared if she had walked in on him and Dave.

Luka considered this for a moment, and then nodded. "You're right," he mentioned as he mulled things over in his mind. "That would not be good at all. You know, there is some sort of irony to the fact that she couldn't decide between the two of us, and now the two of us are here together like this. And I don't think that Abby is the type to want to join in, huh?" He smiled softly, as he continued to hold John in his arms. And he found himself strangely comfortable. This was his first time really cuddling with John.

"Probably not, although it would have made things a lot more interesting if she had, wouldn't it?" John asked as he began to lick a circle around the nearest nipple on Luka's chest. "I do have to say, that as much as I enjoyed last night, I'm not so sure I'd want to share you on a regular basis." As soon as the words left his lips, John regretted saying them. He and Luka were supposed to be friends. Friends who fooled around, and now friends who had sex, but, friends, nonetheless. And friends didn't mind sharing, right?

Well now. This certainly made the game a little bit more interesting. Luka really wasn't John's to share, and this sent off a series of feelings inside of Luka that he was trying desperately to sort out. He cared about John, a lot. At least enough to make sure that he had a good time while they were away...and to make sure the man was completely satisfied, even if Luka wasn't satisfied himself.

But sharing? If they were only friends, then it should not matter if it was just the two of them or of a friend or two joined in. He had to admit, though, when Randi first began to pleasure John, Luka had felt a twinge of jealousy that he had quickly pushed aside.

"Well...I think that it might be fun to do every once in a while," he finally said, his eyes fluttering closed as he felt John's tongue on his skin. "But...let's just say that...uh...you possess certain...skills...that I don't mind having...completely focused on me."

John grinned, then took the small, but now hard, nipple into his mouth. That was the kind of reaction he always wanted to bring out in his lovers -- pleasing them so much that they never wanted him to go away.

But Dave had gone away.

John suddenly felt an overwhelming urge to have Luka chase away all memories of Dave. He didn't want to be thinking about Dave and remembering how good it had felt when Dave's penis filled him. And the best way to get rid of those memories was to create new ones -- ones where it was Luka bringing him pleasure.

John's hand tightened around Luka's penis as he raised his head. "I really need to have you in me again, Luka." God, that sounded pathetic, he thought. Okay, another tactic. He smiled. "If I can't get my morning coffee first thing, then I need to have *something* to wake me up and get me in a good mood."

A smile twitched on Luka's lips. "The girls are still in the shower," he said, as he brought his own hand down to John's penis. "But there is no reason we can't ... wake each other up and then get clean in the shower, eh? I'm finding that keeping my hands on you is rather addicting."

He brought his lips down to cover John's, probing his tongue inside his lover's mouth without even waiting for an invitation to do so. He was finding both John's touch and kisses intoxicating.

John let Luka plunder his mouth, and he was breathless when the kiss finally ended. "I hate to break this to you, Doc Euro, but there *are* two bathrooms in the suite. Randi and Maggie have a bathroom connected to their bedroom and we get to use the one that opens up off of the sitting room. So, we don't *have* to use them as our excuse, but I do like your idea. Did you bring the condoms in here with you?" John hadn't packed any since he hadn't intended to have *that* kind of sex while on the cruise. Now it looked as if he'd have to find a store between the hotel and the pier to buy some. The ship probably sold them, but he doubted if there would be any left in stock within ten minutes of them boarding the ship.

Luka nodded, a grin forming over his lips. "I have plenty of condoms. I did use one last night while we were together," he said, his voice laced with teasing. "But maybe we should buy some more...it seems that it's going to be a rather active vacation for us if we've already gotten off to this kind of start.."

Luka raised a brow. "If you prefer to do this in the shower, we can...but I kind of like the idea of getting cleaned up afterwards.." He brought his hand to John's penis once again, feeling his smooth skin under his fingers. He was becoming familiar with John's body, and that was an interesting experience. He had never been in an experience like this before, but he liked the direction that things seemed to be taking.

"Luka, if we're in the shower, then we can still get cleaned up, and we won't have to wait." John raised up on one elbow and smiled. "You've never done it in a shower with another guy, have you? Never experienced the feeling of the water beating down on your body while someone is in front of you energetically sucking on your penis, never washed another guy using just your hands and the soap...never made lo...had sex" John quickly corrected, "and never noticed when the hot water ran out...You have been so deprived, Luka. So, very, very deprived." John leaned over and began to nuzzle Luka's neck.

"Hmm...maybe...maybe you're right, John...would you care to...ah...show me the error of my ways?"

Luka's eyes fluttered closed as he felt John's hands and mouth on him. He bit his lip, the sensations overtaking him. "What do you say...we go...to that shower now?"

John stopped his licking. "I say we go." He tossed the covers back, then crawled over Luka's body, taking his time and making sure that their skin touched as much as possible. He grabbed clean underwear from his suitcase, and then opened the door. "I'll go and get the water ready while you get another condom." And then he was on his way to the main bathroom.

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

After an early breakfast, Dave left Steve with a pat on the arm before taking off for the cruise. He had to admit, talking with Steve about everything that had gone on with Carter, even without mentioning that it had been a guy that he had fallen for, was rather liberating.

Carter. It was always about Carter. Even this damned cruise coming up had him thinking about Carter, probably due to the theme more than anything else. A gay cruise. Huh. He couldn't help but remember the one and only time he had ever been in a gay bar of any kind. Was the cruise gonna be like that? Guys fucking each other in the hallways?

He hoped not. It would only remind him too much of the time he had been with Carter. They had gotten into some sort of a fight earlier in the week, and Carter had called him from a gay bar...drunk off his ass. Dave had gone down there and the two of them had managed to reconcile. But the one taste of the 'gay lifestyle' had been more than enough for Dave -- he preferred to be a little less open -- at least as far as his relationship with Carter had been concerned.

Had been. That was in the past. He and Carter were no more. It was just taking his heart a little longer than he wanted to realize that. Quite a few months longer.

Shaking his head, he forced himself back to the present. It was 9am, and time for him to board the ship, and get ready for this cruise. No matter what the two weeks brought, he knew that nothing would compare to what he had with Carter...

He was just hoping that everything and everyone that he ran into didn't remind him of the guy, or he would likely go insane.

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

It was close to noon when the rented limousine pulled up at the pier. The four got out of the vehicle, and then went to find the check-in point before getting their luggage from the car. They had spent longer than necessary at the place they had stopped at for condoms -- when Carter had told the driver to stop at a drug store so they could pick up something, the driver had overheard Luka mention condoms and the next thing they knew, the car was pulling to a stop outside of a sex shop instead of a drug store.

The women had gone crazy shopping, and John had felt himself blushing more than once as he looked at things geared toward men. By the time they had all returned to the car, with Randi and Maggie's four full shopping bags, and John's one bag with condoms and a video, and Luka's bag -- which John had no idea what Luka had purchased since he had gone to a different cashier -- they were all horny as hell.

So the driver had ended up taking the long way to the pier so they could have time to *settle down* as Maggie called it, but her definition for that phrase was a lot of oral action. It worked though, and when they arrived at the pier they were all sated and not in any danger of reacting the second they boarded the ship. Well, at least the men weren't.

Chalk up sex in a moving vehicle up on the list of things that Luka had never done before meeting John. And there was something *very* intoxicating about having the women look on, and know that at least one of them was turned on by the show that he and John were doing. Regardless, he was quite happy when the car came to a stop, and they were ready to check in for their cruise.

First they waited in line to get the keys to their cabin. There was a rather motley crew of people in line with them -- couples of all genres, shapes, and sizes. There seemed to be a couple of heterosexual couples in line as well, and Luka couldn't help but wonder if their travel agent had forgotten to warn them exactly what kind of cruise they were scheduled to be on.

The line moved rather quickly, and soon they were in line to board the ship. The agent who had checked them in had given them a schedule of activities for on board ship, as well as a list of services that the ship had to offer.

"Look. There's shuffleboard at 2pm...and a pool tournament at 3. And it looks like there are a bunch of other games as well," Luka quipped, as he looked over the pamphlet.

Maggie snickered. "Shuffleboard, indeed. With a bunch of gay men on board, it'll probably quickly become a game of naked shuffleboard."

"You don't really think that the men will do stuff like that, do you?" John asked as his mind called up the memories from his one and only visit to a gay bar and how some of the men there hadn't cared that others were watching as they messed around with each other. "You're joking, right?"

Luka chuckled. "I would hope that they would have a little more tact than to be walking around naked all the time, John. I think there are straight people on this cruise too, and I'm sure they would not want to offend anybody. I think that Maggie is joking." He then lifted his eyes to look at Maggie, who merely smiled a coy smile, and looked away.

Soon enough, they were on board the ship. The staff, upon seeing that it was someone checking into their most expensive cabin, had someone personally escort the party up to their suite of rooms. The purser unlocked the door in front of them, letting the cabin door swing open to reveal a rather majestic setting around them.

"It looks like this is our home for the next two weeks," Luka commented, looking around approvingly. "I think it's rather comfortable..."

"Damn well better be, " Randi said as she headed for the sliding glass doors of their private balcony. "This is going to be some view when we're out in the ocean."

"There are three bedrooms to choose from, each with their own baths, and I've always been raised to let the ladies have first choice," John said as he closed the door.

"As if we're ladies," Randi joked. "I don't know. I'll need to have a look at each of them. C'mon, Mags." The women went from bedroom to bedroom before returning to announce they were taking the middle room.

"Just to keep the two of you honest," Maggie said with a wink in John's direction. Personally, she was hoping that one of the bedrooms would go unused after what had happened the night before and then in the car -- she thought John and Luka made a cute couple.

"Oh, I don't know...after last night, can we trust the two of you to be staying between us?" Luka teased, as he looked over the top of Maggie's head to John. He was thinking that perhaps they would be spending more nights together than alone, but he did not want to presume anything. After all, they hadn't really talked about anything, and Luka didn't want to be the one to press the issue. The man very obviously still had feelings for Dave, and it would take more than just one time spending the night sleeping together to make those feelings go away. So the ball, as they said, was still very much in John's court.

"So which bedroom do you want, John," Luka asked, smiling over to his friend.

"They're identical rooms, right?" he asked, and Randi nodded. "I guess I'll take the one on the right and you get stuck with the one on the left." He checked his watch. "So when will they bring our luggage to the cabin? Before or after we leave the pier?"

"Why?" Maggie asked with a grin as she took a seat on the couch. "Is there something important you need from your suitcase? Condoms? Lube? Handcuffs?" She teased.

John knew she was just talking, and didn't know anything, but he couldn't keep from blushing when she mentioned the handcuffs, causing images of him secured to Dave's bed to rise up in his mind. "I think I'm going to check out my room now," he said as he quickly left the sitting room.

Luka was momentarily disappointed, but he nodded as John left the room. Smiling back towards the girls, he focused his eyes towards Maggie. "Now, now...you don't want to tease him too much...or he'll be too shy to play any more games," Luka said, chuckling slightly. After the previous evening, it was not like he had much to hide from these two women before him. Besides, maybe if he was lucky enough, Randi would give Luka the same treatment that she had given John the night before. And that was something that he wouldn't complain about in the slightest.

"I do think, though, it's very important that we try to make sure that John has a good time on this vacation. I want to try to get him to meet people...he needs to meet people..." What Luka was really thinking, though, was that John needed to become more acquainted with the inside of Luka's room...but again, he did not want to push the man. His eyes drifted off towards John's room once more, and he sighed.


"I'm going to go to the main deck and wave to everyone as we leave. Anybody want to come with me?" Randi asked as she headed toward the door of their cabin. Her key was in her pocket, and since the luggage wasn't yet there, she didn't have anything to unpack. The only thing each of them had with them were the bags from the adult 'toy' store, and, while she thought Luka would get a kick out of watching a lesbian porn film, she wasn't so sure she was yet in the mood for one.

"I'll come." Maggie got to her feet and slipped her shoes back on, and then she grinned at Luka. "Don't do anything we wouldn't do...well," her grin broadened, "maybe I should be encouraging you to do things? After all, John's good time *should* start now."

Luka just shook his head. "Behave, Maggie," he said, chuckling softly. But his cheeks did redden a bit, which elicited a full-fledged smile from the other woman.

The girls safely gone, Luka hesitated for only a moment before knocking on John's door. "Can I come in?"

After he had escaped to the privacy of his room, John had used the toilet and inaugurated the clean towels. They weren't yet able to take showers or baths -- something to do with the lines connecting the ship to the pier needing to be released and the ship wanting to save water until after that point -- so whiling away the time doing that was out of the question.

He finally ended up sitting on the bed, reading over the list of 'guest services' offered for their suite level. They could eat in the ship's dining rooms or have food brought to their own private dining room. They had CDs to choose from, videos, games -- just about everything. Everything except Dave Malucci, he thought.

John looked up when he heard a knock on the door, not certain that he was up to any more of Maggie's sharp wit. It was with relief when he heard Luka's voice and John didn't hesitate to give him permission to enter. Permission to enter his room, his mouth, his...John quickly chased those thoughts away. It just wasn't right for him to assume that Luka would want to spend all of his time on the cruise with him.

Luka couldn't help but smile as he walked into the room, looking at John reading over the literature that had come with the cabin. "So did you find out anything interesting?" he asked, as he sat on the edge of the bed. "The girls are off to watch the ship take off from port, and hopefully subject their humor to someone else for a little while. I'm kind of glad that it's just the two of us, actually," Luka said, bringing his gaze up to John's eyes.

"I...umm...just want to make sure that you're okay with everything that happened yesterday," Luka started carefully, leaning back slightly on the bed. "It was...a very new thing for me...having other people in the room..."

"Really?" John asked. He couldn't keep from smiling over that admission. "I'd have thought that you...well, you're more experienced and all, and less inhibited, so I thought it would have been something you'd done before."

Luka nodded. "I'm generally...a pretty private person, John, when it comes to matters of intimacy," Luka said, furthering his thoughts. "But even I have to admit that last night was a lot of fun. So,..I guess you can say that you are the first person that I participated in...I guess you call it a...three-way? Is that the term?"

John shrugged. "I think the 'proper' term is 'ménage a trios', but three-way or threesome works for me." He then realized that didn't sound quite right, and his cheeks were immediately heating up. "I mean, that's the right term, or something like that. I've never done anything like that before, either, and it was...interesting." John walked over to the window and gazed out. Their cabin was on the side of the ship facing away from the pier, but the view was more of the port and not yet one of the ocean itself. Still, it was a pretty vista.

"One of the things I was surprised to realize with Dave was just how much I enjoyed being...well, certain things. He used to joke that I was insatiable, and maybe I am, because to tell you the truth, Luka, I *do* like it, and I'd like to do it again with you. But, I know you wanted to come on this cruise to meet other men and enjoy yourself, so I don't want you to feel obligated to stay in the cabin. Go out and have fun. If you reach the point where you desire me again, then I'll be here, okay?"

John kept his gaze firmly planted on a red sailboat the entire time he was talking because he wasn't sure how Luka would react. He didn't want Luka's pity and he didn't want Luka to think he was some kind of a slut or something of that nature. And while he very much wanted to have sex with Luka again and again and again, he didn't want Luka to feel as if he somehow *needed* him. John didn't want to scare Luka away by making the man think he was needy and clingy, even if he was feeling every bit like that at the moment.

Luka stood for a moment, absorbing John's words. And as John finished speaking, he slowly made his way towards the window and wrapped his arms around him, so that he was hugging him from behind. His mouth was positioned against John's ear, so he was able to speak softly.

"Why are you so sure that I don't desire you, John," he asked, as he planted a soft kiss on his ear lobe. "I wanted us *both* to have fun on this cruise...and I would love it if you were to meet other people as well...but...at the same time...I guess you can say that I am drawn to you, John...what do you say we try to have some fun together on this cruise, huh? I'm not going to push you into having a relationship...I think that you are still too much in love with Dave for us to be able to have that...and I wouldn't want to be second to him...but maybe I can convince you that spending some extra time with me isn't all bad?"

He squeezed him a bit tighter, and then rather abruptly let him go. "What do you say we both go and find something to eat before this ship gets under sail? I understand that they are serving a buffet on the Veranda deck...we can go have a little lunch? Maybe our luggage will be here by the time we get back?"

John quickly nodded before turning around to smile at Luka. "Lunch sounds great. Lead the way and I'll follow." As they headed out of the cabin, John found himself feeling a bit sad that he wasn't able to put Luka first. It wasn't fair to him or to Luka for the feelings he once had for Dave to still be so strong. Maybe the cruise would be the turning point for those feelings, John thought. Maybe they'd return to Chicago with those feelings dead and gone, and new ones -- ones for Luka -- in their place. John liked Luka quite a bit, and he hoped that it wouldn't take all that much to turn that like into love.


To be continued
Chapter Five by MonaCK
Sunlight streamed into the opened curtains of the cabin, and Luka woke with a smile on his face. There were various reasons for this -- first of all he had slept better than he had in ages, no doubt due to the gentle rocking that the ship had offered them. But there was another reason as well. It had been ages since he had been so satiated before falling into a deep sleep. And last night had offered that to Luka.

Looking down at the figure by his side, he noticed that his lover was still fast asleep. Luka did not want to wake him, but John looked so peaceful, he could not resist placing a soft kiss on top of his head.

Still John didn't stir, so Luka made his way out of the bed, intent on taking a shower before waking John to go to breakfast.

Fifteen minutes later, Luka was completely cleaned and freshly shaven. With a soft smile on his face he made his way back into the bedroom, only a towel draped around his waist.

"Come on, John...it's time to wake up," Luka quipped, his voice a little above a whisper. "I promise...there's coffee waiting for you if you do..."

One of the features of the suite was that the maids came into the sitting room in the early morning hours to start enough coffee for all of its occupants, and Luka could already smell the fragrance from beneath John's bedroom door.

Yes. This was a *very* nice way to start their vacation...

John had awakened slowly, mostly due to the sound of water falling somewhere. Sleepy, he had reached out, hoping to touch Dave, but his hand found a cold sheet instead, and that made him wake up enough to remember he was on a cruise ship and *had* been in bed with Luka, not Dave.

Never again with Dave.

The sounds of water ended -- Luka's shower, John had figured out, and John found himself somewhat saddened that he hadn't been invited to join Luka with that. Still, opening his eyes to the site of Luka Kovac clad only in a towel -- and promising coffee, wasn't something to sneeze at.

John slowly smiled. "Are you going to bring it to me here in bed or do I actually have to move in order to get it?"

"Oh...I might be convinced to bring you a cup," Luka said, unable to resist even for a moment the cute look that John was giving him. Luka made his way out to the sitting room, and quickly fixed two cups of coffee to bring back in. Years of working with John in the ER had helped him learn what kind of coffee John liked...and he figured that they were both in for a treat with the gourmet coffee they had on board ship.

Luka handed John a cup and then sat on the edge of the bed to talk about their plans for the day.

"I figure that as soon as you were ready, we could go find the breakfast buffet...and then maybe explore the ship a little bit? I understand that there is a lot to see...and if this is going to be our home for two weeks, then I want to know where we are going," Luka commented as he held the hot beverage in his hand.

The previous night had been wonderful...but part of him was still wondering if perhaps they were moving things a little too fast. At least, for himself. Dave was not in the picture anymore as a reality...but as someone inside of John's mind...he was not too sure of that...

"That's a good idea. I noticed they have a gym and spa on board, and a massage would be great." John took a long sip of the hot coffee, savoring its richness. It was like what he had at home and, thankfully, nothing like what they had to put up with at work.

"Yes. A massage would be wonderful..." Luka had noticed that they offered special massages for two, but he was hesitant to suggest anything like that. Again, Luka did not want to push John into anything he wasn't ready for.

"What do you say that you finish up your coffee, so you can take a shower and we can go get something to eat?" Though, Luka had to admit, the sight before him was one he could very easily get used to seeing regularly as well.

"You underestimate me, Luka," John said as he crawled out from under the covers. "I perfected the art of drinking coffee while showering a long time ago. Give me fifteen minutes and we can go." John went into the bathroom and started the water, taking several large gulps of the coffee as he waited for the water to become hot. When it was, he put the cup on the counter and then stepped under the hot spray, sighing as the heat seeped into his aching back. A massage was definitely going to be on his schedule for the day.

Luka smiled after John as he slipped into the shower. He took a moment to finish his coffee, and then got up, intent on going back to his bedroom to gather his clothing for the day. He still had to unpack. But there was plenty of time for that later.

Still with a smile on his face, Luka opened up the door and spotted Randi on the couch, with a rather mischievous grin on her face. At first Luka was embarrassed, but then he realized - this woman had seen him with a *lot* less than a towel on. "Good Morning, Randi. I hope you had a good night's sleep..."

She grinned back at him, running her eyes up and down his body. "I had a great night. Can't say I slept all that much, though. And you?"

"As if you have to ask," Maggie said as she walked out of their bedroom. "God, Luka, if you keep on making John scream like that then you're going to have security here before too long. As it was, I was surprised they didn't come knocking on the door last night." She poured herself a cup of coffee as she spoke, grinning the entire time. "Maybe Randi and I need to take, shall we say, appropriate steps, to ensure that we get a good rest every night?"

Randi snickered. "Actually, Maggie, I had my eyes on some of the boutiques. I promised souvenirs of the cruise to quite a few people and it would be nice to not to have to pay for them all myself."

Luka blushed as the ladies spoke -- he hadn't really realized that they were being that loud...but then again...John had a way of being rather...verbal when in the heat of the moment. As for security, Luka was quite sure they were used to those kinds of sounds coming from the rooms of this ship, especially during this week -- but he was not going to argue with them.

As Maggie and Randi continued, however, his embarrassment went away, and his look turned quickly to one of curiosity. "What do you mean...appropriate steps...and what are you talking about...having to pay for souvenirs...did you not bring enough extra money with you on the cruise? Do you need to borrow some cash?"

Maggie and Randi looked at each other and laughed, but it was Maggie who spoke. "Oh, we brought plenty of cash, but I can think of things I'd much rather spend it on besides souvenirs."

"Who's getting souvenirs?" John asked as he stepped out of the bedroom dressed in casual pants and shirt, with sandals in hand.

"Well, you and Luka are going to be buying them, but our friends and family will be the ones receiving them," Randi said as Maggie disappeared into their bedroom.

Luka, who was still dressed in only a towel, looked from Randi, then to John, and back to Randi again. He was feeling quite underdressed to be having a silly conversation like this. "What are you talking about? Why would we have to buy you anything, Randi?" Luka was completely confused.

"Well, we might get you a lei once we dock in Hawaii," John said with a smirk, "but other than that, I agree with Luka. Why would we have to buy you anything?"

"Because Randi has computer skills, her own website *and* a scanner," Maggie said as she came back into the room, something in her hand. She waved her hand in the air. "What I have here, *gentlemen* is the photographic evidence of just how well you each perform when giving a blow job." She looked at the top picture. "I must say, you two are extremely photogenic, maybe we should just go ahead and put these on Randi's site anyway."

"W...what?" Luka felt his face go pale, and he moved his hands from where it was holding his towel up, not caring if the thing fell, in an attempt to try to get these supposed pictures back from Maggie. "When...when did you..."

Luka's mind went back to when they were first alone in the hotel suite in California, and the two of them had not known that Maggie and Randi were watching them. That must have been...Luka cast a panicked glance back to John. He knew that neither of them were exactly out at the hospital, and this would be a *very* bad thing to have happen...

"Blackmail *is* illegal, Maggie. Are you really sure that you two want to risk having Randi go back to jail by violating her parole?" John asked. Although he would do whatever it took to keep those photos off of the Internet, he was more interested in getting his hands on the pictures, thankful they were Polaroid's with no negatives.

"I'm free and clear now," Randi said. "No parole, no probation." But she really didn't plan to push the guys any about the money. She was willing to settle for a luau in Hawaii as payment. It was something she and Maggie had discussed last night when John and Luka were keeping them awake. Already sated, they didn't have anything better to do, and they both agreed that an authentic luau was just what they all needed. Randi looked over at Maggie, ready to let her lover continue the negotiations.

John's face fell when he heard that Randi wasn't in any danger of going back to prison. Not that he would have wanted her to go, but it *had* been something that he could have used against her. Sighing, he looked over at Luka, then followed Randi's gaze to Maggie. "Fine. Name your terms," he said.

Maggie thought about this for a moment, and realized that they had indeed won. Holding the pictures just out of reach of John, she began to rattle off the first things that had come into her head. "First of all, we want carte blanche with your credit cards. We both feel that we need to have something very nice to remember this trip by, and you're going to buy that for us...and the second thing...is for all of us. We want to have a luau when we get to Hawaii."

Maggie smiled over to Randi, waggling her eyebrows. She figured she'd open up with the world, and hope to get the luau in return.

"My credit cards, huh?" John said as he sat down on the couch beside Randi. He bent over and began to put on his sandals, pretending to think over Maggie's demands. When he finally straightened up, he leaned back against the cushions and shook his head. "I don't think so. I'm afraid you're going to have to go ahead and put those pictures on Randi's web site."

John saw Luka's scowl, but he couldn't even risk winking at him to let him know he had things under control. He just hoped that Luka would stay quiet until he was done with all he had to say.

"I do hope that when your father was working as a police officer that he met a lot of lawyers, Maggie, because you and Randi will definitely need one when Luka and I sue the two of you after those pictures are posted."

Maggie considered this for a moment, and then turned towards Randi. "Excuse me while I consult with my partner," she said, as she pulled Randi aside.

While the girls were talking, Luka made his way over towards John. "What are you doing? Are you really going to let them put those pictures of us on the Internet? I'm not sure I feel very comfortable with this... I really like to try to keep my private life private, John..."

"Luka, they're not going to put those photos on the Internet, trust me on this, okay?" John said. "Why don't you go on and get dressed and I'm sure that when you come back out here, everything will be settled." John wanted to hug Luka and give him a quick kiss of assurance, but he didn't think Luka would be too appreciative of the affection at that moment. "Go on, I've got this covered. If it's one thing the Carter family knows how to deal with, it's blackmail, and I mean the serious kind, not this play acting stuff the girls are pulling."

Luka thought for a moment, and then nodded. He had no choice but to trust John, so without saying a word to anyone in the room, he headed into his bedroom, intent on getting ready for the day.

The girls, meanwhile, had finished their meeting, and watched as Luka left the room.

"We've had a discussion," Maggie said, looking over to John. "And we're willing to negotiate..."

John looked her directly in the eyes, but didn't dare smile. "Go on. I'm listening."

Maggie felt a bristle run through her, but didn't back down. Damn. Neither she nor Randi had estimated that Carter was going to be this much of a hard ass about this.

"How about we just have something where we all win. We give you back these photos...and you buy us all a luau on the big island once we get there..." Maggie rose a brow. That seemed fair enough...

"Let me see if I have this straight. You give me *all* of the Polaroids now, and, in return, you will have faith that once we reach Hawaii, I'll treat all of us to a luau. Do I have that right?" He evenly asked. On one hand he was enjoying the little 'game', but on the other hand, John felt a bit hurt that Maggie and Randi thought they'd have to twist his arm in order to get him to treat them, to treat *all* of them, to something.

"Yup. You've got it right, Carter. It's pretty simple. A little give and take. You give us what we want; we give you what you want. Consider it a little revenge for being a *bit* too loud while you were in the sack last night," Maggie teased, as she waved the pictures in front of his face.

John's eyebrows rose and he slowly smiled. "I can see where you might be a bit perturbed over having your *sleep* disturbed last night. How about this? Give me twenty minutes of your time right now, and if I make you scream, then you hand over those photos without another word or demand. If I don't make you scream, then you get your luau *and* I'll ask Luka to take the two of you shopping for souvenirs, but he'll keep my credit card, and there will be a spending limit of, oh, say five hundred dollars each.

Maggie looked over to Randi...and then back to Carter. Hell. Either way, she won. And odds were pretty damned good that they would be getting their luau after all since Carter did *not* make her dress blow up. Without another word to Randi, *Hell* she had given the guy a blow job the night before, Maggie smiled. "You're on, Carter."

"Your room or mine?" he asked, hardly believing she had said yes. He had always found Maggie attractive, even once he knew she was a lesbian, and he was looking forward to having the chance to show her that his oral skills were just as good when he was with a woman as when he was with a man.

"Yours. After all, it seems to be where all of the loud action is," Maggie replied, grinning over towards Randi.

"Oh. No *way* are you going to have this done without me watching," Randi quipped. Just then, the door to Luka's room opened, and he stepped out wearing a short-sleeved polo shirt and a pair of shorts. He had overheard the part about Randi watching, and he eyed John to find out exactly what was going on.

"Luka, why don't you and Randi head on to the breakfast buffet while Maggie and I bring the negotiations to an end?" John asked. While he really didn't care if Randi watched or not, he really wanted to be alone while he tried to make Maggie scream with pleasure -- both to save his pride if he failed, and, also to test her trustworthiness if he didn't.

Randi looked disappointed, but by the same token, being alone with the Croatian hunk had its appeal too. She was sure the he was still attracted to women...and well...if Carter wanted to try to make moves on her lesbian girlfriend...who was she to argue?

Luka felt a slight twinge of jealousy, but it soon passed as Randi slipped an arm through his. And with a final look towards John, he led Randi out of the room towards the elevators.

Maggie turned back towards Carter with a grin. "Well. I've heard that your tongue is magical. I guess I'm about to find out if it's true or not. I figure, either way, I'll end up satisfied out of this."

"Most definitely," John agreed with a grin. He got to his feet and walked over to Maggie, then scooped her up into his arms. "I think that when the twenty minutes are over, we're both going to be wishing we had more time."

He reached up and plucked the photographs out of her hand, then tossed them onto the table as he walked by it on the way to her bedroom. "You don't need those any more."

She didn't argue with the guy -- but she marveled at the fact that he had managed to get the pictures away from her, without her actually *getting* anything out of it yet. "I hope this doesn't mean that you won't carry out your end of the bargain," she quipped as she let him carry her into the bedroom. "After all, I just lost my ammunition..."

John simply smiled as he lowered Maggie to the bed. Then he began to undress her, starting with her shirt, and nuzzling her skin as it was revealed to him. She smelled of a minty shower gel and she wasn't wearing a bra under her shirt. Which made it all the easier for him to suckle at her breasts.

Maggie furrowed her brow as John laid her down onto the bed. This was *not* how she expected the morning to turn out...and she had to admit that this was pretty intriguing. Well, John *did* seem to know what he was doing...but still...this was a guy...she couldn't remember the last time she had been with a guy...and she had *never* enjoyed it when she had been.

So she simply lay back, and decided to let Carter do *all* of the work.

John had never been with a reluctant woman before, let alone a lesbian, so he found Maggie's stillness more of a challenge than an insult. He'd show her that the sex of the person giving you pleasure didn't matter -- what mattered was the gift itself.

He finally had her shirt removed and he kissed his way over her belly and then skipped her shorts to go to the skin of her lower thighs, delaying the moment when he would touch his tongue to most intimate part. It was a joy to let his tongue caress her legs -- she was freshly shaved and the skin was smooth and even.

It was just as much a joy to notice the way her legs would move, and he wondered if it was reflex or if he was starting to get to Maggie.

Her eyes fluttered closed -- she had no choice in the matter -- Carter was *very* good at this, much as she didn't want to admit it. However, there was something that Maggie was good at that she was going to use to her advantage. Years of having sex in odd places had made it so Maggie was a very quiet lover. And therefore, she *knew* that she was at an advantage. If Carter was able to make her scream, despite all of her efforts not to -- then he truly would have won fair and square.

Meanwhile, with only a bit of her guard up, she intended on fully enjoying all of this. It was almost like a warm bath over her body, and she was instantly glad that she had shaved and waxed in preparation for the cruise. She was hairless everywhere because that was how Randi liked it.

John was tempted to look at his watch, to see how much time he had left, but he resisted that urge. As much as he was enjoying Maggie's legs, it was now time to move to a part of her body that he knew he would enjoy even more. He easily undid her belt and slid the zipper down. His lips lightly caressed her belly as he bared it when he pulled her shorts down, and he was pleasantly surprised to find more and more smooth skin. Granted, all four of them had been in various states of undress the evening before, but John's attention hadn't been on Maggie, but rather on Luka and Randi. Even in the car on the way to the pier, his attention was firmly on Luka and not on Maggie and Randi. All in all, getting to see her this way now was a nice surprise.

When he finally had Maggie completely undressed, he sat back on his haunches and ran his hand over her naked -- in every sense of the word -- skin. As he reveled in the silkiness, he found himself wondering if his own skin would feel as good hairless as Maggie's felt.

"How?" he asked her, hoping she'd know what he meant. If she waxed or something, then there was no way he'd do that, but if it was some other method...although John wasn't quite sure he'd trust a razor near his pride and joy, either.

She was biting her lip, refusing to give into the feelings that Carter was invoking in her...because like it or not...he *was* invoking them, and she opened her eyes, surprised, when he stopped kissing her and he spoke.

"Shaving...and some waxing around the edges," she said, raising a brow. "Why...are you interested in being completely shaved, Carter? You know, I can do that for you..." She grinned broadly, not believing for a moment that Carter would take her up on it.

"You're probably about the only person I'd trust to do that, too, you know. Okay. We can be a little late for breakfast." He quickly lowered his head and began his oral assault, half afraid that if he kept looking at Maggie he'd back out of what he had just agreed to have her do. He remembered seeing pictures of gay men who were smooth. It had been one time, after he had first let Dave do him, when they had gone onto the Internet to find out the 'correct' way to do things, and they had stumbled across an endless number of photos that depicted what they had in mind and then some.

Maggie was genuinely surprised. Carter was going to let her shave him? Now that was something. Now, if she could just focus on the way that razors moved over smooth skin instead of that glorious thing that Carter was doing with his tongue. Whoa...now that was nice...it had been a long time since anyone had found...whoa...bite her lip...she had to bite her lip to keep from...

"God, Carter! Jesus!" Ah...shit...yes...she had screamed out...but man...this was something *quite* spectacular...

John's penis was throbbing in time to the muscular contractions of Maggie's orgasm, but he didn't make any move to give himself any relief. Instead, he kept his attention on her, kissing his way back up her body until his lips hovered over her mouth. "Will you slap me if I kiss you or do I need to brush my teeth first?" he asked, not sure if she'd one, want to kiss a man, and two, taste herself.

Without being able to verbalize an answer, Maggie grabbed the back of his head, and kissed him thoroughly. It also gave her time to distract from the fact that a *man* had made him feel that way.

And as the kiss ended, she still held his head close to hers.

"Two things, Carter. One. You tell *anyone* that you were able to get me off, save our little group, and I'll kill you. Two. Where the Hell did you learn to do that with your tongue?" Based on that experience, it was a damned shame that Carter seemed to be leaning towards being with guys...because wow...while the night before she had been musing what it would be like for Carter to lick her dry, she now understood first hand what kept the women coming back. Or maybe that was first tongue.

"Now...about me shaving you..." Maggie began.

John chuckled. "Well, your first answer, is that my lips are...well, sealed. Your second answer is that practice makes perfect and I've had plenty of practice. As for the third thing, my bathroom or yours? I've only got an electric razor with me, will that do?" He knew he'd probably stay hard the entire time that Maggie shaved him, but there was no getting around it. If he took the time to jerk off, then they'd be extremely late for breakfast, and he didn't want Luka or Randi walking in on them -- they'd see the results soon enough.

Maggie raised a brow. "No...an electric shaver is okay but if you want a really close shave, you need to use a regular razor. Why don't you join me in my bathroom?"

She grinned broadly, lifting herself off of the bed. She took a moment to put on her clothing, and then moved her head towards the bathroom door to indicate that Carter should follow her. She had to admit that this was a bit of a challenge for her -- she had shaved her partners, but never before had she shaved a guy.

She had had sex with guys...but she knew from an early age that it was not something that particularly excited her. However, what Carter had done with his tongue...that was something special.

As they entered her bathroom, Maggie went to her toiletry case, and pulled out a fresh razor. She then raised an eyebrow, and waited for Carter to strip down.

"Everything or just my pants," he asked, not sure if he wanted to risk getting shaving cream on his shirt. He sat down on the toilet lid and pulled off his sandals, then began to remove his pants as he spoke.

"Whatever you feel comfortable with, Carter," she said, as she took out her can of shaving cream. Normally, when she did this, she dry-shaved. But that was when she was doing this for herself, and not to someone else. And since she had never shaved a guy before...she needed to be extra careful.

John stood and dropped his pants and boxers, then kicked them aside while he began to unbutton his shirt. "Where do you want me?" he asked, knowing it was a waste of time for him to hope that Maggie wasn't going to comment on his erection. This was Maggie Doyle, after all. She wouldn't even think of turning down the opportunity to make some wisecrack about it.

Maggie turned to face him, grinning as she took in his whole body. "So...I guess Luka didn't *completely* drain you last night, if giving me a little tongue action does that to you. Well, at least that'll make it easier for me to shave," she commented, as she motioned for him to sit back down on the commode.

She raised a brow. If she was into that sort of thing, she might even think that was an impressive hard on. But as it was it was odd enough that she was about to shave a man who had managed to give her a mind-blowing orgasm.

John grinned. "Anything to make life easier for you, Maggie." He sat down and spread his legs, moving his body until his bottom was right at the edge of the lid and, hopefully, giving Maggie all the room she needed. He closed his eyes, not wanting to see it if she accidentally drew blood -- God knew he'd feel it quick enough.

Maggie returned the grin, and sprayed a liberal amount of shaving cream into her hand. Building up the lather, she covered the area, and then, slowly, she brought down the razor and began to shave...


To be continued
Chapter Six by MonaCK
Randi picked up a muffin and slathered butter on it, then looked over as Luka checked his watch yet again. They had taken their time walking to the Veranda Deck, and then waited patiently in line to get their food. For her part, Randi was almost done eating. But not Luka. "Luka, they'll be here soon. Whenever Maggie says twenty minutes, she generally means an hour, so relax and eat your cold eggs."

Jeez, she thought, Luka and John weren't even *together* and the man was acting jealous towards John. She was glad she had a lot more faith in Maggie. Randi's main complaint was that she was missing out on participating or watching whatever it was John and Maggie were doing. Which couldn't be much, since Maggie was a firm lesbian and had no bisexual tendencies at all -- at least as far as Randi had ever seen.

Luka picked up his fork, and ran the implement through his eggs. His appetite was lost -- all he could think about was John being in the arms of someone else, and he knew that it was irrational. First of all, the person who John was fooling around with was someone who generally wasn't even attracted to his gender...and second of all.. they weren't even a couple. He had no * reason* to be jealous. John was nowhere near ready for a relationship.

"I know they'll be here soon...I'm just not very hungry anymore, Randi. I don't understand what's keeping them...it's been forty-five minutes since we left the cabin..." He shook his head, and reached for his coffee. He might not have been hungry, but he did need his caffeine in order to function.

"They're just as hungry as we are, so they'll be here soon. Maggie never turns down a buffet, okay?" Randi said. She eyed the line, wondering if she should wait for Maggie before going up for seconds. It wasn't as if the ship was going to run out of food - once the breakfast buffet was shut down, another one would be opening, so the timing of her return visit to the line didn't matter. What mattered was the idea that Luka might ditch her and head back to the cabin if she walked away from the table, even for just a few minutes.

She was still thinking the matter over when she saw the couple in question coming their way. Randi smiled. "Here they are, so you can stop worrying." She got to her feet and gave Maggie a quick kiss. "The line starts over here, come on."

John watched as Randi and Maggie walked hand in hand to the buffet line, then he sat down at the table. "Anything good on the buffet?" he asked before noticing that Luka had barely touched the food on his plate.

Luka nodded. "I'm sure there is...I find that I'm not very hungry...but if you want I'll go up with you so you can get some warm food," Luka said, placing his fork back down on the side of his plate. He knew that he was being irrational in his thoughts -- he had no claim on the man sitting next to him. So he found it best to try to just put the issue out of his mind.

Forcing a smile to his lips, Luka looked over to John once more. "Are the negotiations settled? Do we have the pictures in our possession?"

John grinned, then frowned. "Yes and no. Negotiations are settled, but I left the pictures on the dining room table. We can grab them after breakfast, but they won't even joke about doing anything with them now." He stood and waited for Luka to get to his feet. It wasn't good that Luka had no appetite, but John wasn't going to try to force Luka to eat -- the ship had a buffet line operating somewhere nearly 24 hours a day, so Luka wouldn't go hungry. John just hoped that Luka wasn't coming down with a stomach virus or anything like that. He wanted Luka to have a good time on the cruise, and being ill would definitely keep that from happening.

Luka nodded, and stood to join John, still unsure of how to resolve his feelings of pure jealousy. He needed to try to get his mind off of things. "So are we going to be paying for a shopping spree for the ladies? How about the luau? I have to admit that a luau sounds like a lot of fun," Luka admitted, as he looked back over towards John.

"We're not paying for anything, although you're right, a luau *does* sound like fun. I'll have to look into what we need to do to make reservations for one. I can check with the concierge this afternoon."

Once again, a smile played on Luka's lips as they made their way to the buffet line. The line was pretty short now as they were getting ready to close down the breakfast line. "You are going to need to get your food quickly, or we'll have to order some room service back to the room...though I don't think I would complain if I had to be alone with you again for a few hours while you ate breakfast," Luka teased.

John picked up a plate and grinned back at Luka. "Maybe we can have an early lunch from room service? After going for massages. I read something about a *special* couples type massage, but I didn't notice the details. Do you remember reading about that?" he asked as he started down the line, filling his plate with as much as he could. As much as he wanted to find out what Luka thought about his new *look*, he also was a little shy about having Luka see him that way. Once Maggie had declared him totally bare, he had looked at himself in the mirror, hardly believing he had allowed her to do that. But when he ran his hands over his skin -- well, the sensation was well worth it.

"Hmm...I might be hungry enough for an early lunch," Luka said, smiling over to John. In fact, having John talk about 'couple type' things was making him feel better about this whole situation. Maybe a nice couples massage would be nice.

"I don't remember reading about the massage, but we can stop by the spa when we're finished here and see what they have to offer. I'm sure that they will have something that will make us happy." The thought of being alone with Carter again -- in any setting -- was enough to make Luka's cheeks redden.

"I'm sure they will. Not that it takes much to make me happy. A small back rub, a bit of acupuncture, and I'm good to go." John decided he had enough on his plate. "Would you mind grabbing me some juice and a coffee while I take this to the table? I still have to pick up something to eat with and I don't think I can carry everything."

"Sure. I can do that," Luka said with a slight smile. He moved out from behind John, and walked over to the drink station. He poured a cup of coffee for John, and he would have poured one for himself except that then he would have no hands left to get any juice.

Soon he had both drinks ready, and he made his way over to the table where he saw that Maggie and Randi were already settled. He placed the drinks down, and smiled over to the ladies before turning his head to see where John had gone off to.

When John had reached for a fork and knife, he had found the bin empty. The buffet attendant apologized and said she'd be right back with a full set for him, so he had to wait, nibbling on a muffin until she returned with the cutlery and a napkin. He thanked her, then turned to head back to the table and saw Luka standing there looking at him. It was nice to have someone in his life who seemed to care, he thought. Even if it was just as a friend.

With a smile on his face, John returned to the table and sat down. "Thanks, Luka."

"You're welcome," Luka said, as he took his place by John's side. "So, Randi, Maggie, what are your plans for today?"

Maggie sat back in her chair, her arm loosely around Randi's shoulder. She was finished eating -- and even though she had been * quite * satisfied by her negotiation session earlier, she found herself eager for more.

"Oh...I don't know. What do you think, Randi? Maybe a workout...and then a bath to clean up?" She wiggled her eyebrows, and then looked over towards Carter. "I'm sure that you and Carter will be playing a little show and tell later, Luka..."

John had known it was too much to even imagine that Maggie would be able to keep her mouth shut about what had happened. So, thinking the best defense was a good offense, he decided to see just how honest Maggie was feeling. "So, Randi, did Maggie break the news to you about your shopping spree and luau?" He asked as he scooped up some scrambled eggs on his fork.

"Oh...yeah. That's okay. We'll do our own shopping. Mags over here tells me that it was worth it, and more. So what do you think -- do you have a repeat performance in you to show me some of that tongue magic that Maggie can't seem to get over? It must be something to have her batting for the other side."

Maggie nodded and smiled broadly, and the fact that Luka had blanched at this admission had not gone past her. Wow. Luka was *really* stuck on Carter.

John laughed. "Hmm. My tongue has quite a lot of stamina. The real question though is whether or not you'll have any left by the time Maggie's done with you," he joked.

Randi arched a brow. "Oh, you don't have to worry about that," she quipped. "Stamina has never been a problem with me. I'm like the energizer comer..."

Maggie laughed and brought her arm fully around her girlfriend's shoulders. "Carter, you have no idea..."

Luka was vaguely amused by all of this talking, but by the same token, he had enough of being social for one morning, especially with people who had been enjoying Carter as much as Randi and Maggie had. "So what do you say we take a walk over to the spa," he said, looking over towards John.

John glanced down at his plate -- he was almost done and could easily finish off the rest of the food, but the tone of Luka's voice made it sound as if he were in a hurry. "Okay. We can do that." He got to his feet and smiled over at Randi and Maggie. "We'll catch you two later. Enjoy your work out."

Maggie chuckled. "I don't think there was ever any danger of us *not* enjoying it." She looked over at Luka. "Don't be too much of a critic, Luka."

John cleared his throat, not yet ready to have to explain to Luka was Maggie was talking about. "Ready?" he asked him.

Luka's eyes swept over the face of the two women as he tried to assess what Maggie had been saying. But he decided to let it go for now -- some things were not for discussing in public company.

He nodded, and then smiled over to Maggie and Randi. "Enjoy the morning, ladies. We will see you later..."

Turning away, he led John out of the dining room. "I think the spa is on the Lido Deck. Lets go see what they offer for massages, eh?"

The ship was beautiful -- vastly arranged, and there was a courtyard of shops in the middle of it that you had to walk through to get from one side of the ship to the other. Luka was sure that was by design, to try to get the various people to shop in them.

Soon they were standing in front of the reception desk of the spa, with a menu of choices before them.

"We can just go for a basic couple's massage," he said, as he showed John the brochure. "But that sounds a little boring. There's also one where you take a mud bath...that sounds interesting...and then there's this one where the partners are left alone in a room with some special massage oils..." Luka raised a brow. "Which one is of interest to you?"

John slowly smiled as he thought about how good it would feel to have Luka's hands all over his body -- and of how nice it would be to run his hands all over Luka's body. "On that last one, are we left totally alone? And do they provide anything besides the special massage oils?" He didn't want to have to go back to the cabin for condoms, but if they *had* to, then they had no choice but to head back there. Provided of course, that they could even get into the spa right then.

Luka looked over the menu, having a pretty good idea of what John had in mind. "Yes. I think they do. It says down here that all is provided -- so I am sure they provide everything that we're going to need for this. And yes -- according to the description, someone comes in to show us the different oils...but we're left to our...own devices to put them on."

Luka smiled a half smile. "I think this one is the one that is most interesting to me too."

"Okay," John said, "which one of us is going to be brave enough to approach the desk clerk to see if we can get that massage now?"

Luka chuckled softly. "Allow me," he said, shaking his head at how the man could be so aggressive with him in the bedroom, yet be afraid to ask about a couples massage on a gay cruise.

He walked up to the front desk, with the menu in hand. After talking to the clerk for a few moments, he walked back over to John with a smile on his face. "Normally there is at least a day's wait for this, but they happen to have a cancellation for right now for this massage if we want to do it. So what do you say? Are you in the mood for it?"

John laughed. "I'm always in the mood for a massage...and other things," he said. "Let's go for it."

Luka made his way back up to the desk, and told the receptionist that they would be interested in the time slot. Very soon they were lead back to a room where they were given robes and bags to put their belongings into. Once changed, they were to take their things with them to the massage room.

Luka began to undress, smiling over to John hoping that he would do the same. "Do you want me to undress you?" he teased as he lifted off his own shirt.

John had started to reach up to unbutton his shirt, but he stopped when Luka spoke. "Why? Did you *want* to undress me?" he asked. Now that they were alone and getting undressed, John felt a bit of apprehension over how Luka would react when he saw that he was shaved. Was he going to laugh? Would he be angry about it? Indifferent? As much as John wanted to see Luka's reaction, he also didn't want to know if it was going to be a bad one.

Luka threw his shirt down on the floor, momentarily surprised at John's reaction. "Do you even have to ask that question, John," he said, as he started towards him. "Of course I *want* to undress you...you see, I happen to think that you have a very nice body that is too often hidden in a bulky wrapper," Luka quipped as he reached John's side.

He reached for John's shirt, and quickly his fingers found the first button. Soon he had the shirt open, and he pushed the garment off of John's shoulders.

"That's...much better," Luka said, his voice laced with traces of husk.

John had to force himself to stay in the moment and not let himself get lost in Luka's touch and eyes. "I'll have you know that none of my suits are bulky in the slightest. Now, my sweats, on the other hand, can be very bulky, and I have a few sweaters that are on the bulky side, but most of my clothes..." John suddenly found himself unable to talk, mainly because there was another mouth on top of his as Luka kissed him.

As Luka kissed John, the only thought that was running through his mind was that sometimes John talked too much. His tongue begged entrance to John's mouth, and his hands roamed down the sides of John's body towards the top of his pants. He was suddenly eager to have the man naked before him...craving contact with him in any way possible.

Luka's own penis was responding to all of this -- as if he had not been satisfied thoroughly the evening before. Feelings were newly awakened in him and desire took over any coherent thought in his body.

John greedily sucked Luka's tongue into his mouth as he looked forward to having another part of Luka there soon. All of his self-consciousness disappeared as he felt Luka's hands roaming over his skin, but they quickly returned when Luka stopped at his pants.

John gently pulled away from Luka, his face feeling hot. "I should warn you that there's a reason why it took Maggie and I such a long time to get to the Veranda Deck. But you have to promise that whatever you do, you *won't* laugh."

Luka smiled a half smile. "Oh? What did Maggie do to you, huh? I'm sure that she didn't chop it off or anything, or you'd be much more upset then you are," he said, looking down into his lover's eyes. He then brought his hand down to the front of John's pants, and brushed his fingers over John's hardening penis. "No...no...I don't think she cut anything off...so whatever it is, I'm sure I won't be too upset over it."

"You'd better not be. It was a spur of the moment thing." John said. And then, he grinned. "But there was a time or two when I was afraid she was going to cut something off." An idea suddenly popped into his head. "How about I undress you and you can go on to the room, then I'll undress and get into my robe and once I'm in the room you can 'unwrap' me properly. Because if we keep on taking our time getting undressed like this, then we'll use up all our time right here in the changing room." He said as he ran his hands over Luka's bare back.

"Hmmm...I think you come up with some very good ideas, John," he said, as he pulled back slightly from him. He was anticipating this massage eagerly -- looking forward to this alone time when he knew there would be no interruptions, and no worries about anyone listening in.

"Thank you. You come up with some pretty good ideas, yourself, Luka." John reached down and began to undo Luka's pants, and soon had them off, although he wasn't quite able to keep his hands and mouth off of Luka as he undressed him.

Finally though, Luka was totally naked, and John forced himself up from his knees to get the bathrobe for Luka. "Here. You'd better get to our room while you can," he said with a grin.

"Mmm...you do a very thorough job of undressing," Luka commented, as he looked over to John. He pulled his robe around him, covering the desire that was now more than evident to both of them.

"I hope you hurry up...I don't want to have to start without you," he teased. And after walking over to plant a kiss on John's lips, he headed over to their private massage room to wait for his lover to join him.

John quickly stripped, then folded his and Luka's clothes and put them into the bags provided by the spa. He pulled on the robe left for him and tied it securely closed, not wanting to flash anyone as he made his way to the massage room. After a quick scan of the room showed him he had packed up everything, John grabbed the bags and went to join Luka.

Once inside the massage room, John closed the door, then put the bags to the side and locked the door so they'd have complete privacy. "Well?" he asked Luka as he walked over to him. "Did they give us condoms along with the massage oils?" He had hoped to walk in and find a naked Luka waiting for him, but he supposed that since Luka would have to unwrap him, then it was only fair that he had to unwrap Luka, too.

Luka smiled, and held up a box that he had found on the table next to them. "I think that the dozen or so that they left will be enough," he said, his smile broadening.

Tilting his head to the side, he made his way over to John, quickening his steps as he approached. "And I think...I think it's time for me to see exactly what Maggie has done to you," he said, his voice a mix of curiosity and desire.

His hand reached for the robe, and before John could protest, he pulled the garment off of John's shoulder, letting it fall to the floor behind him. Luka's eyes swept down John's body, and they widened in surprise as he saw his private areas.

Smooth.

Smooth, likely, as the day he was born.

A half smile formed on Luka's lips.

"Well...that is very interesting indeed...you know...that probably makes it comfortable for many...many activities. Don't you agree?" He brought his hand to John's chest, and then slowly brushed his fingers over his skin, finally ending up where pubic hairs would normally be. "This is very nice..."

John blinked in surprise. "You like it? Because it'll grow back if you don't, but Maggie's smooth and when I saw that I just...well, it was a spur of the moment thing. Not her shaving me, but me asking her to, I mean..." he finally stopped talking as he felt Luka's fingers more intimately than he had ever felt them before. Even if Luka didn't like it, John knew he liked the way it felt to be touched without any hair in the way and he smiled. "So, just what kind of activities do you have in mind that this would be comfortable for?"

"Oh...I don't know," Luka said, sliding down to his knees. "I think that there is something here that is begging to be licked -- just like a lollipop. And without any hairs in the way..."

He brought his mouth to John's penis, and took it into his mouth. Sliding his mouth easily up and down John's shaft, he then brought his lips teasingly away and shifted his eyes up towards John's once more. "Simply delicious..."

John sighed when he felt Luka's mouth on his penis and he was about to reach out to run his fingers through Luka's thick hair when Luka stopped what he was doing. John looked down at him and smiled at his comment. "I wonder if any of that massage oil is flavored? I can imagine that a massage where the oil is applied by hand and removed by tongue would be quite beneficial, don't you?"

"Hmm...yes. I do think I saw some flavored oils here," Luka said, carefully getting up so he was standing more even with John. "Let's see just what flavors we have..."

He walked over to the tables where the condoms were, and picked up a box with various oils in it. "Let's see...Passionflower...orchid..strawberry..."

He held out the box to John. "Any of these sound good to you?"

"Can't say I've ever eaten a passionflower. A Croatian, yes, but never a passionflower," John said as he stepped over to take the box from Luka. "What else do we have in here?" He moved the bottles around. "Peach and cherry. Your choice," he said, looking up at Luka with a grin on his face. "Since you're the one who's going to be tasting a good bit of it, which shall it be? Cherry? Been a long time since I was a virgin. Peach, maybe? The state of Georgia is known for its peaches, and I did spend quite a bit of time there. Strawberry? Hmm...I can't think of anything to associate with strawberries, can you?"

Luka couldn't help but feel happy in response to John's enthusiasm. "Let's see...what can I associate with strawberries...I think...a summer's day is kind of like a strawberry...and I really like strawberry shortcake...does that count? Hmm...I think taste wise, I am most partial to strawberries, so that is what I'll choose..."

He grinned broadly at John, and took the oil out of the box. "Shall we begin?"



To be continued
Chapter Seven by MonaCK
After a great workout in the ship's gym, Randi and Maggie headed back to the cabin. The remains from that morning's coffee had been cleared away and the quiet throughout the three-bedroom suite assured the women they were quite alone.

"I don't know about you, but my muscles could really use a long soak in a hot tub of water," Randi said to Maggie as she started to strip in their bedroom.

Maggie nodded. "Oh yeah," she said, shutting their bedroom door behind them. "And would you let *me* get those clothes off of ya? Huh? After my session with Carter this morning, I am *more* than ready to show you some of the same in the tub..."

Walking up behind Randi, Maggie nuzzled her neck playfully while her hands found the bottom of Randi's shirt. "Let's get you into some of that hot water..."

"I'm feeling a little jealous here, Maggie," Randi commented as her shirt fell to the floor. "Not jealous *over* you, but that you got Carter. So, I knew you said we lost, but is he *really* that good? Because if he is, then I want my turn with him." It was hard to keep her mind on the subject at hand when Maggie's hands were busy exploring while trying to find the button and zipper for Randi's pants.

"Let me put it to you this way, Rand," she said, as she finally was able to get Randi's pants off of her. "My tongue has -nothing- on his...c'mon...when have you ever known a *guy* to get me to the point where I'm *screaming*? Oh...and I'm *sure* you'll be able to have him at some point of this cruise...provided you can get Luka away from him long enough. Man. Luka looks like a love sick puppy, doesn't he?"

After successfully pulling Randi's pants, and then her panties to the floor, Maggie practically licked her lips in anticipation. "Mmmm...Carter might have a magical tongue...but man...he's got *nothing* on you in the looks department..."

Maggie dropped her hands so she could begin to work off her own clothing, but not before leaning her lips down to Randi's so she could kiss her fully and passionately.

When the kiss finally ended, Randi walked into the bathroom to start running the water with Maggie close behind her. "Carter could use someone like Luka right about now. He needs someone to, well, fuck him senseless and keep him happy. He's been sad for far too long. At one time I thought he and this other doc at work were a hot item, but..." Randi shrugged. "I guess it didn't work out and then the guy got fired and that was the last any of us saw or heard of him. But man, Maggie, did those sparks fly when they looked at each other," Randi grinned as she remembered how hot it had been to watch Carter and Dave Malucci simply looking at each other.

Randi stepped into the tub, happy to see that it was wide enough so they both could fit without too many contortions of the body -- well, as long as they were just sitting there, that was. If they *did* anything, and Randi was planning to do plenty -- then there would be quite a few bodily contortions.

"So, get your cute little ass in here and give me a blow by blow," Randi grinned again, "or should that be 'lick by lick', description of this morning."

Maggie raised a brow as a grin spread over her lips, and she lowered her body into the tub, taking care to try to displace as little water as possible. "Well...let's see..."

She brought her hands down to Randi's crotch, feeling the wetness from the water of the tub mix with Randi's natural secretions. And as she carefully began to thrust a few of her fingers in and out of her, she brought her lips down to the side of Randi's neck, talking with a mix of husk and lust in her voice as she described, to the best of her remembrance, exactly what Carter had done to her.

As Randi had predicted, things quickly got physical in the tub. Water was sloshing over the sides and body parts were flailing in every which direction. Still, even when she thought about it, she never could say exactly how it was that she suddenly found herself trapped in the tub because the big toe of her right foot was stuck in the water spigot.

"Maggie, I've got a problem," Randi said as she gently pushed Maggie away. "I'm stuck."

Maggie had been just getting into it, feeling her hands move over her lover's smooth skin...her mouth on any part of Randi's body she could get when Randi pushed her away.

"W...what?" She looked up confused, her eyes sweeping down her girlfriend's body...to the vision of Randi's toe stuck in the faucet of the tub. "Oh...shit, Rand...one sec..."

Maggie quickly got out of the tub, hoping that the water on the floor near the tub wouldn't be too slippery. She was sort of hoping that the movement would dislodge Randi's foot, but no such luck.

"Uhh...maybe some soap?" Maggie raised an eyebrow, a lost expression on her face. Well. This had been a vacation of firsts. She had never been with someone who had gotten * stuck* in the tub before...

"Soap, or see if the guys have any lubricant with them," Randi suggested as she tried once again to pull her toe free. It seemed to her that the harder she tried to tug it out, the tighter it seemed to be stuck.

"Uh...right...lube...sure...uh...yeah..." Maggie quickly tried to retreat from the side of the tub, but her foot lost its grip, and she completely lost her balance in the puddle of water that had pooled near the side of the tub. Maggie ended up landing almost sideways on her foot as she fell to the floor with a yell of pain and surprise.

"Maggie," Randi shouted out as she watched Maggie hit the ground, feeling helpless since she was trapped in the tub. "Are you okay?

"Fuck. Okay...yeah...I'm alright...I'll be right back..." A little bit more gingerly this time, Maggie got up again, grimacing in pain as she hobbled out of the bathroom, and made her way into Luka's bedroom. Luckily, there was lube sitting out on the nightstand from the evening before, and she grabbed it, taking a moment to try to regain her balance before trying to make it back to the bathroom.

Maggie made her way back in, and stood in the doorjamb between their bedroom and bathroom, looking at Randi as tears of pain sprung to her eyes. "Man...I think if we do getcha out of this...we're gonna have to go down to the medical center. I did a hell of a job on my ankle..."

"You didn't sprain it, did you?" Randi asked, worried that Maggie had seriously injured herself and starting to feel angry that she couldn't get out of the tub to help her get to the bed or a chair. "Toss me the lube and go sit down and take the weight off that foot."

"Well...I'm pretty sure that I didn't break it. I mean I can move it and all...but man...it really fucking hurts..." Maggie did toss her the tube, but she continued to stand in the doorway as she watched Randi try to loosen her toe. "Rand...I think I'm going to call downstairs...this is insane...maybe someone can get you out of there..." Wasn't this just the friggin luck?.

Randi frowned at the idea of having to be rescued like some helpless chick, but then she grinned when she considered that it would most likely be guys sent to the cabin to help -- guys who wouldn't know what to do when a supposedly lesbian chick started flirting with them. The fun would almost make up for Maggie being injured -- almost. A lot depended on just how badly Maggie *was* hurt. "Why don't you see if they can send the ship's doctor up here, too? Let him check you out. Or her, as the case may be." Randi added some more lube, but her toe still didn't budge.

Maggie nodded, and then turned away from the door, hobbling over to the bed so she could sit while she made the phone call. She spoke to someone for a couple of minutes, and then called into the bathroom.

"Well, there are advantages to bein' in this suite...they're gonna send someone right up...uh...I'm going to throw on a robe. Do you wanna try to cover up or anything, or do you not really care?" She supposed she could drain the tub for Randi, and then help her get into her robe, or at least cover her with a towel if Randi wanted to...

"Well," Randi called back, "Since we didn't use bubble bath, then I guess a towel would be good. I can reach the plug at least."

"'Kay..." Maggie got up, feeling a wave of pain rush through her body as she accidentally put pressure on her foot. Her robe was haphazardly lying across the bed from where she had left it earlier in the day, so Maggie easily slipped it on, leaving it open while she limped back into the bathroom. Grabbing a towel, she brought it over to Randi.

"Here you go. Now we'll be leaving *something* to their imagination when they come up," she teased, as she sat down on the commode in the bathroom.

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

As he and Luka walked into the suite, John strained to hear if Maggie and Randi were back. He could faintly hear voices coming from their bathroom and he figured that they had simply forgotten to close their bedroom door. He turned to Luka with a grin. "Well, looks like we made it back safe and sound. I don't know about you, but I was worried that my robe would come open while we were walking. Still, it was nice of them to let us wear the robes back here instead of asking us to get dressed while wearing massage oil."

Luka couldn't help but smile. "I think that we will need to take a shower to take off all of what's left of the oils, huh? But yes...it was a lot of fun and worth it." As the smile spread further on his lips, Luka pulled John towards his bedroom. "What do you say...I know that it hasn't been long enough to...uh...get it up again...but maybe I can convince you to take a quick shower with me before we go and explore the ship some more?"

"Sounds good to me. Maybe by then the ladies will be finished with whatever it is that has them 'occupied' in their room and they can join us?" John said as he closed Luka's door behind them and continued to follow Luka into the bathroom after tossing the bags with their clothes in them on the bed.

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

Dave had been completing some charts from earlier in the day when he got a page about some help being needed in the grand suite of the ship. He had heard that someone *really* wealthy had bought it out, but he hadn't really cared who it was.

In fact, Dave had so far spent most of the cruise trying to stay as *far* away from the festivities as possible. Because...well...to be perfectly honest, every time he saw a man dancing with another man, all it did was remind him of Carter.

Man. It was so weird. He could have sworn that morning that he had seen him standing in the buffet line for breakfast, but he knew that was impossible, so he didn't even consider stopping to say hello.

He closed the chart on the guy who he had seen that was complaining of burns...well...Hell yeah he had burns...apparently his 'partner' had gotten a little too overzealous with the whips the night before...

Shaking his head, he got up from the chair, intending on meeting the maintenance people outside the elevators on the deck where the suite was. Apparently, some chick had gotten her toe stuck in a water spigot, and her girlfriend had messed up her ankle trying to get it loose.

***

A few moments later, Dave and company were outside the door. They knocked at first, but when they didn't get an answer, maintenance used their key to open the front door to the suite. The crew made their way inside.

"Yo...Doc's here," Dave said, a slight grin on his face. "Where's the patient?"

Randi grinned as she heard someone calling. "The middle room," she called out, hoping Maggie wouldn't even try to get up from where she was seated on the toilet lid. The oddest part about hearing someone calling out was that Randi would have sworn it sounded like Dave Malucci. Probably because he had been on her mind earlier.

Dave furrowed his brow. Whoa...if he didn't know better, he would swear that that was the voice of Randi. Nodding towards the guys in his company, the three of them -- two guys from maintenance and himself -- made their way into the bathroom of the middle bedroom.

And as Dave entered the bathroom, the grin on his face turned into one of surprise. "Whoa...Randi?" He thought for a moment, and then the grin returned. "I always knew I'd see you naked some day..."

Randi laughed as she looked up at 'Doctor Dave'. "Well, I do have on a towel, but that can be easily lost if you think it'll get my toe free any faster."

She then realized that Maggie, who was sitting quietly in pain, had no idea who this guy was. "Maggie, meet Doctor Dave. Malucci, meet Maggie. She used to work at County, too."

Dave turned towards the woman sitting on the commode, in a bit of obvious pain. "Hi. Nice to meetcha. Man...Randi...I didn't know you swung this way. It only makes you *that* much hotter..."

Maggie smirked. "Hey, Doctor Strangelove...if you fix my ankle, I might even be convinced to give Randi a wet hot lingering kiss...right in front of ya...is that enough incentive?"

Dave raised a brow. "Hell yeah...tell ya what...why don't I take you out to the living room of the suite so I can take a better look at your ankle, while my friends here get Randi outta the tub. Man...Randi...it's great to see you," he said sincerely. What were the odds of someone from County being on *his* cruise, especially during gay weeks?

Dave held a hand out to Maggie, and carefully helped her back out to the living room, taking care to settle her on the couch so that she could elevate her leg. "So what were you at County...doctor...nurse...clerk?"

"Doctor, thank you very much," she said. "Still am. Trauma Doc at Mercy..."

She nearly jumped off of the couch when Dave touched her ankle. "Whoa...not exactly known for your bedside manner there, huh, Doctor Dave?"

Dave smirked. "Funny..." He took an instant liking to Maggie. She had a lot of spunk. He liked that.

***

John had a towel wrapped around his waist as he headed toward the door of Luka's suite. While his clothes were probably still clean, he just couldn't bring himself to put them back on, another leftover from his childhood training. As he opened the door, he looked back at Luka, admiring the man's body as he bent over to open the drawers of his dresser since Luka had no intention of putting the same clothes back on either.

"Give me a few minutes to dress and dry my hair and then we can check out the rest of the ship."

Dave was chatting amicably with Maggie, and Maggie was telling the story about how she and Randi decided to be more than friends when Dave heard a voice.

A very...very familiar voice. He immediately froze. "Uh...Maggie...who...uh...who else is sharing the suite with ya if ya don't mind me asking? I mean...anyone else from County?"

John stepped into the main area of the cabin and froze as he heard a voice that he now only heard in his dreams, but once had heard nearly every day. Maggie was on the couch that faced him, and, kneeling on the floor in front of her was a man. It had to be Dave; it just had to be, John thought as he took a hesitant step forward. What if this was just another dream? What if he called out to the man only to find that it *wasn't* Dave holding on to Maggie's ankle.

But what if it was?

John swallowed hard, then found his voice. "Dave? Is it really you?"

Dave's back straightened. Maggie didn't even have to answer for him to know for *sure* that it was Carter in the room with him. Leaving a confused Maggie on the couch, Dave turned around, and felt his mouth turn dry at the first glance of the man who had been haunting his dreams for month...exactly how he had pictured him...perfect looking...scars and all...Oh man...it was him.

His insides turned to jelly. Dave felt weak in the knees as he looked at Carter before him. Oh man...he still loved Carter. He still absolutely loved him... Whoa...yeah...there was no denying it. And the shock of seeing him right here... "Yeah...yeah...yeah it's me...uh...wow...I'm...wow...I can't believe you're here..."

For months John had rehearsed over and over in his head just what he'd say to Dave if and when he ever saw him again. The lines had run the gamut from begging for forgiveness over their argument and promising to never doubt him again to just kissing him senseless without a single word.

Even as John's eyes took in the uniform that Dave wore, his mind was registering just how good the man looked. He had no right to look that good *or* sound that surprised and somewhat pleased at seeing John there.

John's mouth was set in a tight line as he took in the fact that Dave was wearing the uniform for the cruise line. "You can't believe I'm here? I guess that makes two of us, because I can't quite believe *you're* here, either. I take it that you're the ship's doctor?" John's voice was tightly controlled, just as the building anger and hurt inside of him were tightly controlled -- for right then.

Dave supposed that he deserved the indifference. But part of him inside died all over again. Obviously, Carter was *not* as happy to see him as Dave was to see Carter. Great.

"Uh...yeah. I'm the ship's doctor. Maggie twisted her ankle. I guess I'd better get back to my patient...Carter." Back to the way it was. He couldn't ever be with Carter again. He had fucked up that chance when he had taken off from Chicago. But Carter had made it quite clear that he didn't want to be with Dave. And when Dave lost the job at the hospital, and Carter had rejected Dave's offer to move, there wasn't much of a point in him sticking around...

"Yeah, I guess treating patients at sea is a lot easier than treating them in a busy ER, isn't it?" John snapped. Dave running off to play doctor on a cruise ship just played into the misconceptions people had of him as being nothing more than a partier out for an easy life. Even as he said it, John knew it wasn't true, but he wanted to get some kind of reaction from Dave, even if it was an angry one. Anything would be better than his lack of enthusiasm over seeing that John was on the ship.

Dave straightened up once again, and turned to face Carter. "What the fuck is *that* supposed to mean, John? Do you think that I *wanted* to no longer be in an ER? Do you think it was *easy* for me to find a job after everything that happened? But no. Not you. You had everything handed to you, right?"

"Hello? I'm in pain here," came Maggie's frustrated voice from the couch.

Dave ignored her, his full focus on the man in front of him. Man. How could someone he cared about *so* much...even after all this time...want to drive him to jump overboard? "Do you think that I had any *choice* but to leave?"

"Yes, I do," John hotly replied. "There are always choices, Dave. You could have fought back for your job, but you chose not to. You chose to leave, and you'll never know how much that hurt..." John clamped his mouth shut as he realized he was about to reveal his feelings to Dave. Why bother? By leaving Chicago without even a 'goodbye', Dave had shown John just how little he really cared.

Dave looked up, his face no longer showing signs of emotion. "Funny," Dave said, eyeing him evenly. "I thought you were too wrapped up in Abby to even *register* that I was no longer there, let alone be hurt by it."

His voice was calm, though inside he felt like his insides were being twisted with a knife. Yeah. This was *just* what he needed. He had walked on eggshells so far on this cruise thinking that everything was gonna remind him of Carter.

Yet here he was in the flesh.

John's voice and expression softened slightly. "I never lost track of the fact you were there, Dave. Never," he replied.

Dave downcast his eyes. There really wasn't anything to say to that...because his actions spoke much louder then his words did -- especially back then. If Carter had thought anything about him, he woulda tried to contact him during those days between him getting fired and when they ran into each other on the roof...tell him he was sorry Dave had lost his job...anything...but no...Carter wasn't exactly opening up the floodgates of communication.

"Yo, guys? Patient in pain over here, remember?" Maggie said.

John looked over at her, the pain on her face registering in his brain. "You need to see to your patient, Dr. Malucci." Then John turned around and walked back into Luka's bedroom, slamming the door behind him as he fought back tears of hurt, anger and frustration.

Dave's mouth was agape as he watched Carter storm off...and calmly, he turned around to Maggie once more. "Sorry about that. I'll wrap that ankle now...."

And with a downcast head he tended to his work. Because...when all was said and done...once again work was all he friggin had.

Luka was in the bathroom, brushing his teeth, when he had heard the sounds of upturned voices, and he jumped in surprise when he heard the bedroom door slam.

"John? Is everything o..."

As Luka walked into the bedroom, his expression turned from curiosity to one of pure concern as he saw that John was obviously upset. "What...what happened?" He walked over to his lover, and reached to draw him into his arms.

The second that John felt Luka's arms, damp and warm from the shower, touch his bare skin, he began to cry. The worst part was that John didn't really know why he was crying -- was he hurt by seeing Dave? Was he hurt because Dave had left him behind without a thought? Was he hurt because the arms around *should* have been Dave's and not Luka's?

"N...nothing happened," John managed to say. "Nothing at all happened. He looked right through me, Luka. Damn him. Then had the nerve to act surprised to see me here and then accused me of not caring about him. Fuck him. Fuck him. Fuck him." John sobbed.

Luka pulled him close, truly bewildered as to who was here...and to who was affecting...oh...shit..."Dave? Is Malucci here, John?"

Dave. Quite possibly the *only* person who Luka truly felt threatened by. Dave. The person who John still *loved*. Luka's eyes fluttered shut as he tried to get a grip on all of the emotions that were welling up inside of him. Jealousy. Fear. But also a certain knowledge. As long as Dave was still in the picture...there was no way that John would ever return the feelings that were building inside of Luka.

John nodded against Luka's shoulder as he tried to wipe the tears away from his eyes. "He's the ship's doctor and Maggie hurt her ankle or something and he's *out there*, Luka. Right now. And he said...he said he loved me, so how could he look right through me? Oh, God, I've got to get off this ship now. We need to make them turn around or something. I can't be here with him, I just can't."

Luka bit his bottom lip, his eyes focusing on the door in front of them; the door leading out to the living room where the man the John loved was standing. "No...no we can't leave...and we can't turn around...I...John...I think you need to talk to him...he's going to be here with us for two weeks...and it's not that big of a ship..."

The words that were coming out of his mouth were not what his heart was feeling. Luka's heart was telling him to go and beat the shit out of the person who was making John feel this way..

But Luka had to take the higher road. They were only going to be on this cruise for two weeks, and he had a vested interest in John having a good time. Maybe Dave had moved on too, and the two of them could come to some sort of peace.

John shook his head. He didn't want to talk to Dave again. He couldn't stand having Dave look through him again, or accuse him of forgetting he existed. John also knew he wouldn't be able to be alone in a room with Dave without wanting to touch him and kiss him and beg him over and over again to forgive him and make love to him -- and Dave clearly didn't want that. He had first made that clear when they broke up the first time, and Dave's leaving Chicago had only made it clearer.

"I'll stay here...in our cabin. I didn't really plan to go all over the ship...I can read and relax. Watch videos...tan out on the balcony. I don't even have to leave to eat, they'll serve food here, that's why we have a dining room." John nodded and stepped back from Luka; satisfied he had found a way to deal with Dave's presence. "That'll work. He can stay in his office or whatever it is he has and I'll stay here." John looked into Luka's eyes and tried to judge what it was he was seeing there, but he couldn't. Luka's gaze was unreadable. Any other time, that wouldn't have bothered John, but right then it just hit him the wrong way. Maybe Luka didn't want him any longer now that he knew Dave was on board?

John headed for the bed and the bag with his clothes in it. His plans to go to his room for fresh clothes were now canceled, so the ones he had worn to breakfast would have to do.

Luka shook his head sadly. He cursed Dave Malucci -- not only for being the man who Carter was so obviously still in love with...but because he had once again managed to encase a shell around Carter...a shell that Luka was just beginning to break through.

Luka began to walk towards his drawers, and as he pulled out clothing for himself, he began to speak once more.

"I am not going to push you to do anything that you're not ready for," Luka said, his voice quiet. "But I think you are making a mistake..."

And picking up his articles of clothing, he walked into the bathroom. He shut the door behind him, intent on getting dressed while he figured out what the Hell he was supposed to do.
Chapter Eight by MonaCK
Randi frowned at the door of John's room, then looked over at Luka. "I promise I won't hound him, Luka. I just want to ask him if he's changed his mind about walking around the ship with us, that's all."

Once she had been freed from the bath spigot, Randi had been delighted to hear that Dave had seen John and vice versa, even if Doctor Dave didn't seem too happy about it. After the crew members had left, Maggie had shot her all kinds of dirty looks as Randi tried to question Dave about what he was doing on the ship, how long he had worked for the cruise line, and what John had said to him. Dave hadn't answered that last question. Instead he had chosen then to leave, telling Maggie that her ankle wasn't sprained and that she could walk on it but to take it easy and sit down to rest a lot if she decided to go for a stroll on the deck.

Once Dave had left the cabin, Maggie had told Randi what she had overheard, including her opinion that it didn't seem to her as if Dave was still in love with Carter. Then the door to Luka's cabin had opened and John had come out, but only to silently cross the suite to disappear into his cabin. Minutes later, Luka had come out as well, asking them if they'd like to explore the ship with him and John. Maggie had readily agreed, saying she thought her ankle could handle it, and Randi had also told Luka she'd go.

Luka then told them of John's plan to hide in the suite until the cruise was over so he wouldn't risk seeing Dave again.

Randi thought that was stupid. If Dave Malucci was on the ship then he was the first person John needed to see each and every day. They belonged together, even if they didn't want to admit it to themselves. She had seen their looks, felt the sexual tension between them. Randi had seen the love in their eyes even after it appeared that they weren't together any longer.

"I promise," she repeated. "I won't hassle him."

Luka wearily ran his hands over his eyes. "I...think we should just leave him alone for now, Randi," he finally said after a moment's silence. "Obviously seeing Dave again has had an effect on him...and he's going to need to try to work through it." Though Luka wasn't sure if he could deal with this kind of tension for the entire cruise. "Maybe...maybe just the two of you should go exploring...and I'll stay here with John..."

"No way, Luka," Maggie finally said as Randi helped her into a standing position. "If John wants to stay here and be upset, that's his choice. You shouldn't let that ruin your good time. I'm sure you'll be able to find a way to convince him later that there's no reason to think of that uncaring jerk. Man. I thought he was all right at first...but he really treated Carter like crap..."

The look that Randi shot Maggie was enough to make her stop talking.

"I'm sure it was tense since it's been a while since they last saw each other. It's to be expected, Maggie. And you don't know Dave at all." Randi pulled her purse strap up on her shoulder. "I think Luka's right that John needs to work through this on his own." And maybe with a little bit of a whisper or two in Dave's ear, she thought. "Let's go."

Maggie wasn't sure that she believed Randi, but she was a believer in picking and choosing their fights. They -would- talk about this later...but right at that moment Maggie just wanted to get out of the cabin for a little while.

A few moments later, Luka was walking with the girls on the Promenade deck, exploring some of the shops on board ship...but his mind was elsewhere, specifically, back with John in the cabin...and trying to figure out how to sort all of this out. Luka was becoming more aware of his feelings for John by the minute...and he was also painfully aware of that like a light switch that had suddenly been switched off, he had lost him.

They had stopped at a jewelry store. Maggie and Randi were looking at some of the more expensive items - plainly they were just looking as it was all stuff that was far out of any of their price ranges.

Luka made the decision that he had to try to get out of this funk - at least for now. There was time to deal with his feelings for John later. "So do you ladies see anything that you like?"

Randi laughed. "I see plenty I like, but nothing I can afford." She grinned up at Luka. "Why? Were you planning on treating us to a few baubles?"

Luka chuckled softly. "I would love to, but I am afraid that everything here is a bit out of my price range. If you want to go over the sundry store over there, I might be able to swing a t-shirt if you would like," he joked, smiling over to Randi.

"A t-shirt, huh? Is that the best you can do? Too bad I didn't hold out for more with the blackmail," Maggie teased in return.

"Come on. Let's see what other things they have here..." Luka led them out of the store, and soon they had explored most of the shops on the Promenade deck. Luka was a bit of a sucker, and he had bought the ladies not only t-shirts, but hats and earrings as well. The group decided that they wanted to get a little bit of sun on deck before the day was completely done, so they went up to the pool deck.

"It really is a nice day out. A very nice change from the rainy Chicago weather, huh?" Luka commented, as he surveyed his surroundings.

Out of the corner of his eye, he thought he saw Dave, leaning over a railing, looking introspective. If Luka didn't know better, he would almost think Dave looked...upset.

"Ain't it though?" Randi agreed as she looked out over the sunny Pacific. "It's as if we're a million miles away from Chicago, isn't it?" She turned to say something to Maggie about Hawaii and saw Dave standing at the railing, looking forlorn. And hot. Men in uniform were always a big turn on for Randi, and Dave's white uniform clung to his muscles in delicious ways.

"I'll be right back," Randi said as she headed over to Dave.

Maggie was about to say something to Randi, when she noticed that Randi had a distracted look in her eyes. What the...

Slowly turning around, she saw Dr. Love over there leaning over the balcony. What the fuck? The next thing she knew, Randi was walking towards him. Well. It wasn't like Maggie had any say over who Randi talked to.

Turning back towards Luka, Maggie playfully slipped a hand through his arm. "Come on, Luka. Let's take a walk..."

*******

Carter. All Dave could think about was Carter. He was on his mind again. Fuck. Like he had ever really left Dave's mind. And seeing him...man...it had taken every ounce of willpower not to pull the guy into his arms and thank God Carter had walked into his life again. But that wasn't possible. They were no longer together.

Carter didn't love him anymore. And, Carter's being on the cruise told Dave that he was looking to move on. Move away from Dave.

He glanced over to his left, and saw a familiar face. Randi. What the fuck...was she looking to rub it in some more how much of a fool Dave had acted like in the suite just now? Well, he guessed that Randi had probably figured out he now wasn't walking the straight and narrow.

Randi smiled as she approached Dave, and she leaned back against the railing, resting her elbows on it. "It's really good to see you again, Doctor Dave. The ER just wasn't the same once you left and a lot's changed since then. Chen quit, then came back, threatening the hospital with a lawsuit if they didn't hire her as an attending. Carter was appointed Chief Resident when she quit, that Sobricki bastard showed up to get stitches, Mark Greene had a brain tumor and died, and now Weaver's giving serious thought to making Carter an attending. But, it still ain't the same without you there."

Dave had moved his eyes away from the water to focus on Randi, not intending on saying much of anything at all, but he couldn't help but feel like his head was gonna spin off with all the information she was feeding him. He had known about Jing-Mei quitting, and Carter getting to be Chief Resident, but the rest was news to him.

"So...whoa...okay...let me get this straight...first of all, Dr. Greene *died*? His brain tumor came back? Man...that's a shame...and, uh...Sobriki came back? Man...that musta really messed Carter up..."

Carter...that's what this was all about. His eyes clouded over as he spoke the name of the person who had held possession of his heart for so friggin long. He was silent again...once more stuck in his own thoughts.

"I...I'm surprised to see Carter here," he simply said.

Randi shrugged. "I guess he needed to get away from his memories. Lord knows he could use a good shot of happiness right about now. So, if I'm not being too forward, what happened to end things between the two of you?"

"What makes you think there was anything between us," Dave shot back, bringing his eyes up to look at Randi intently. "We were buddies. Nothing more."

Right. Sure. Dave just needed to keep telling himself that...the words sounded false to his own ears, so as he looked to Randi, and as the wave of disbelief washed over her face, he knew he was sunk.

"A stupid fight," he said, his tone even. "A really stupid fight...and both of us were so fucking stubborn...we just let it go and I didn't see the point of stayin' where I wasn't wanted..."

"I can see where you might have thought you weren't wanted in the ER, but you must have been blind to not see that you were definitely wanted in Chicago. I used to watch the two of you. Carter's eyes would track your movements just as often as yours watched his. And the two of you practically oozed sex whenever you were within ten feet of each other." She cocked her head to one side and regarded Dave carefully before she spoke again.

"Fights are stupid, and so is being stubborn. Right now, Carter's being stubborn by refusing to leave the suite until the cruise is over. It hurts him too much to see you because he seems to think that *you* don't want him. So, here we are, enjoying our long walk around the ship and he's up in that cabin all alone and working himself into a deep depression. Seems to me that what he needs is a house call from the ship's doctor."

She flashed Dave a smile, then pushed off from the railing. "I'll catchya later, Doctor Dave. I've got a ton of places yet to see on this boat."

Dave stood by the railing for a moment, watching Randi as she walked away. Once he would have been looking at her ass, wondering if he could get a piece of it. But no, not now. There was only one person on his mind. And that person was apparently feeling just as confused about things as Dave.

Carter thought that Dave didn't want him? That was *so* far from the truth....

And suddenly, a look of determination crossed his face, and Dave turned from the railing. He walked towards the bank of elevators. Yeah. He and Carter needed to talk. They had to get this out in the open...and they had to get *some* sort of closure to all of this.

A few moments later, he was outside the main door of the suite. And, after taking a deep breath, he knocked.

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

After Luka, Maggie and Randi had left to explore the ship, John had wandered into the sitting area, but he couldn't seem to find anything to occupy his time or mind. Dave was the only thing he could think about.

Always Dave.

John finally pulled out a Disney video from the collection in the suite and he popped it into the VCR. He was about halfway through "Beauty and The Beast" when he heard a knock on the door. At first he froze, half afraid it would be Dave -- and half hoping that it *was* him. But then his common sense took over. Dave no longer cared about him, so therefore he'd have no reason to come knocking on the door.

John made sure he was smiling as he opened the door, even if he didn't feel happy. And then the smile was frozen on his face as he found himself looking at Dave.

It seemed to Dave like it was taking Carter forever to get to the door...and when he finally did...and the door swung open...another little piece of him broke down. Carter just had a way of making Dave completely weak in the knees.

"Hi...I was...uh...hoping I could come in..."

God, was there no place on the ship where he could go to get away from those eyes, John thought. He knew he should just shut the door in Dave's face -- let him feel the pain of rejection as he had when Dave had left Chicago without a backward glance.

But instead of doing that, John found himself not only nodding, but moving aside so Dave could walk into the room.

"Did you forget something earlier?" John finally asked, thinking that Dave wouldn't be there without a reason.

Dave walked into the room, and stood there awkwardly for a moment until Carter finally spoke. "Yeah...yeah...I sorta did, John...I...uh...man...I..." He was at a loss for words. That's what he was.

He had been focusing his eyes down...his attention away from the object of his affection, but Dave finally forced himself to look up. Turning to face Carter, he spoke once again. "I...I...I'm sorry..."

Two simple words...nearly impossible to say...and Dave just hoped it wasn't too late to try to resolve *something*...because he couldn't stand Carter hating him. He could stand just about anything...but not that.

John frowned as he heard Dave apologize. "I don't understand. You're sorry you left something behind?"

"I'm sorry I left you behind," Dave said before he could stop himself. "I...I should have listened to you...I...I never wanted to hurt you...I never realized...I thought you hated me...I thought..."

Dave turned away, and began to walk towards the window of the suite. This was opening up a world of hurt all over again...but then again, it was a pain that had *never* really gone away...just lay dormant for a little while.

John slowly shut the door as Dave's words sunk into his brain. He walked toward Dave, stopping near the dining room table because he was too afraid to get closer to the man. It wasn't that he was afraid of Dave, but rather that he was afraid of what he'd do if he were too close to Dave.

"I never moved on, Dave, neither time. I tried. I admit that." John shook his head as he thought of the months he spent dating Susan Lewis, with nothing more than kisses between them because he felt nothing for her. "But I didn't. I understood you not wanting to talk to me about things at work, I mean, when we were both working there. I knew you didn't want people to ever know we had been together, so I understood that. You'll never know how many times I had to stop myself from grabbing you in a hallway or the lounge and begging you to forgive me for arguing with you," John said, the pain of his loss in his voice.

"I...I...damn it...John...I was an ass...I wish you could have pounded into me how much of an ass I was...I...never moved on either...and I never even tried. I haven't gone on a date since I was fired...not since that chick in the ambulance...how dumb was that? What the hell was I trying to prove? Man...John...I..."

Dave turned to face Carter, emotion filling his eyes...and he could see that Carter was just as confused and full of emotion as he was. "I never stopped thinking about you...not once...and I..."

He swallowed hard, and dared to take a step closer to Carter. "I never stopped loving you..."

John couldn't keep from taking a step back -- away from Dave. Dave had told him before that he loved him, but that hadn't meant much at the time. "Then why'd you leave me? Why did you stay away?" John's eyes searched Dave's face, looking for any sign of deceit on Dave's part and praying he found none there.

"Because...because I thought you didn't wanna be with me anymore...you were spending a lot of time with Abby...Hell...when your grandfather died I didn't find out until after the funeral...and...during that mess...the Marfans case...you...you were so disappointed in me...I could see it in your eyes...and then after the fight..."

He stayed fast in his spot, and turned his head away.

"I didn't think I had anything left in Chicago...no one who cared about me..."

That was the truth. He'd never forget just how alone he had following that fight, causing him to go out the door to California a few days after.

John shook his head. "You're wrong, Dave. I wasn't disappointed in you. I was disappointed in Deb for not doing her job. You made a mistake, but it wasn't a fatal one, like hers. As for my grandfather, I didn't tell anyone at work about it except for Kerry, and that was just because I needed the time off for his funeral. But, then, I didn't think I needed to tell anyone since his obituary was in all the papers. It ran for two days." John shook his head and looked down at his bare feet, then back up at Dave. "And I wanted to call you, but that morning you had made it pretty clear that you didn't want me in your life. In your personal life, I mean. I lost count of how many times I started to call you and then stopped because I was afraid you'd hang up on me or something. I can only stand but so much rejection in my life, Dave. You were the only person I wanted and you turned me away."

Dave shook his head. They were *both* stubborn asses. So much time lost...a move to another state...all over fucking stubbornness. The time for that was over...Dave needed...craved...resolution...so he could go on with his life one way or another. "I'm ...so sorry I didn't fight harder. I've been...a fucking mess..."

John shook his head, tears in his eyes for the second time that day. "I don't hate you, Dave. I love you too much to ever hate you. I've never felt about anyone the way I feel about you."

Any last bit of will power that Dave had to stay away was completely gone when Carter spoke. Carter still loved him. That was *all* Dave needed to hear. He crossed the space that was between them, and drew the man into his arms, shutting his eyes as he found what he had been craving for months.

As they clung to each other, Dave's eyes slowly opened again. And his eyes passed over a pile of pictures on top of the table they were standing next to. Heh. If he didn't know better, he would have sworn that was a picture of...Luka? With...with...John?

Loosening himself from Carter's embrace, Dave grabbed the pictures in his hand before Carter could do anything to stop him. "What...the fuck?" This was the way Carter pined for him?

John wasn't quite sure what had happened. One second he was in Dave's arms and feeling as if he'd never left, and the next second Dave was waving something in front of his face. "What?" he asked as he tried to make out what it was Dave was holding, and then he remembered the pictures Maggie and Randi had taken. "Oh, those," he said, easily dismissing the photos. "That's Maggie and Randi's idea of a joke that didn't work out quite the way they expected."

John stepped closer to Dave, hoping he'd put the pictures down so they could get back to being in each other's arms -- and hopefully start kissing.

But though Dave was aware that Carter was close to him, he still couldn't help but look at the pictures. Well...at least there were none of them fucking...Dave wasn't sure he could have handled seeing that. "John...are...uh...are you and Luka seeing each other?" Because if they were, there was no way Dave could act on his feelings. Much as he wanted to...

John shook his head. "No. We just have...well, Luka calls it being 'fuck buddies'. You know, friends who do that. Only we didn't." Only they had. "Well, until now, on the way out to LA. But we're just friends, Dave. I don't love him, and he doesn't love me." John explained, suddenly glad that his feelings for Luka hadn't grown into something more than deep friendship. He hoped that Dave understood his explanation, and John felt as if he were on pins and needles as he waited for Dave's response.

Dave raised a brow, unable to keep a small smile from forming on his lips. Okay...he didn't like the idea of Carter being with anyone else...but by the same token, they hadn't been together for a really long time. And well...he believed Carter when he said that they were only sleeping together. Carter wasn't the type to lie about something like that.

He dropped the pictures down on the table, and turned to face Carter once more. Before he could change his mind...before Carter could protest...before Dave could stop and question what he was doing, his arms were back around Carter, and Dave's lips were covering his.

And it was like all time melted away...

John pressed his body against Dave's, pulling him as close as possible as he parted his lips, inviting Dave inside. Oh, God, he had missed kissing Dave, missing touching him and feeling him and smelling him and tasting him and hearing him and loving him.

Dave's hands moved onto Carter's back...his tongue easily entered Carter's mouth...and it was as if they had never been apart. This was where he belonged...in this man's arms. What an *ass* he had been for waiting this long. What a jerk. He should have tried to let Carter know where he was. But it really didn't seem to matter anymore.

They were together now.
Chapter Nine by MonaCK
"Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes, Part 9"
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts


Finally pulling back from the kiss, Dave's eyes were wild with desire as he met Carter's. The feelings that were stirring inside him he thought were long dead...but they weren't. They were more alive than ever...If anything, his feelings for Carter were stronger than before.

John's heart soared as he saw the look in Dave's eyes. "God, Dave...I've missed you. I've missed the way you make me feel. I wish you weren't working right now because I want nothing more than to drag you into my bedroom so I can rip off this uniform," John ran his hands over the material, "Even if you do look damn good in it. I want to kiss you all over, suck you into my mouth, feel you filling me completely. God..." John's hands pulled Dave back against his chest and he kissed him passionately.

"I'm not on duty right now," Dave stated matter of factly as they broke from the kiss. "I'm on call. I'm always on call, but I don't have regular office hours...so...uh...you might say...you can do whatever you want with me...that is...if you really want me..."

This was what Dave had been wanting to hear for *so* long. The fact that staff wasn't supposed to be with guests in this way had completely gone out of Dave's head. No. It was worth risking his job to be with him.

"I love you," Dave said, pulling himself as close to Carter as he possibly could. "And I'm sorry for letting you go..." He was speaking from his heart...pure emotion... all cards were laid out on the table.

"There's condoms and lube in my room," John said with a slow smile. Dave really did love him after all and all those months he had doubted that love seemed to melt away as he looked into Dave's eyes. "I'm afraid I don't have any handcuffs with me, though, but the beds here aren't really made for things like that, either."

"I think we'd better get to your room then," Dave said, smiling broadly as he began to walk towards the room he had seen Carter coming out of earlier. "Because I really don't think I can wait any longer before ripping your clothes off your body...it's been too long...way too...fucking long..."

His cock was hard...hard for Carter. It was like it just *knew* that Carter was there...and he was going to make Dave scream out in pleasure over and over...a pretty mediocre day was turning into a really great one...

"Hasn't it though? But if you want my room then we need to go over there," John pointed to his door. "That's Luka's room." John's penis was hard, as if he hadn't come in years instead of hours. The morning spent with Luka seemed far away and paled in comparison to what Dave promised.

So Carter had come out of -Luka-'s room earlier? Dave wasn't sure how he felt about that. But he was so turned on by Carter that he didn't want to think about it. All he wanted was Carter. Carter in any way possible. Tied to the bed...not tied to the bed...just...on his back...on his stomach...in his arms...It didn't really matter much. Just as long as it was just the two of them.

He pulled Carter's hand and soon they were both in Carter's room. Dave shut the door behind him and then wasted no time pulling Carter back into his arms, his lips crashing over Carter's in a motion of pure lust. Dave was wearing ship whites, not jeans, and it was *quite* obvious exactly what was on his mind as he pressed his body close to Carter's. Yeah. This was *just* what he wanted.

John slipped his hand down between their bodies, pressing it hard against Dave's erection as they kissed. It was as if no time had passed at all since they had last been together, and his other hand soon joined it down there, undoing Dave's pants so he could free Dave's penis and greet it with a proper kiss.

Dave moaned as he felt Carter's hand against him. Man...oh man...it had been ages since he was last this turned on. And like this, it was all because of this man. This man who haunted his dreams. This man who was the person he thought about most for months. Carter had gotten under his skin like no one had ever been before.

Dave broke away breathlessly. His eyes were wild with desire and his hands quickly moved down Carter's body until they found the bottom of his shirt. Pulling it over Carter's head, Dave tossed it to the side, not caring even for a moment where the garment lay. By this point, Dave's pants were completely unhitched, and soon they were pooled around his ankles. And Dave's hand eagerly moved towards the button of Carter's pants so that he would soon be in the same state.

"I want you...so fucking bad, Carter," Dave moaned. "God...I've wanted this for so long..."

"Me, too. I've missed you...missed this," John said as he ran his hand over the silky skin of Dave's penis. So different from Luka's -- John tried to kneel, but Dave had a firm grip on the waistband of his shorts. "Dave...please? I need to..."

Dave swallowed and then nodded slightly, finally letting Carter go so that he could kneel. How many times had Carter's mouth slid over his cock in his dreams? His dreams had haunted him...teased him...and now they were a wonderful reality once again.

John greedily lapped at the tip of Dave's penis, taking in everything at once -- the taste of Dave's skin, his musk, the pre-come already there. It was almost too much to handle at one time because there were just too many things that John wanted. He needed to kiss Dave, needed to have Dave kiss him, caress him, fuck him. He needed to suck on Dave until he came -- he needed to be sucked off by Dave.

Dave wouldn't spit him out. Dave wouldn't hesitate to kiss him afterward.

God, he'd missed all that. He hadn't really realized just how much he had missed it until he found himself faced with having it all again. Luka had been right -- it had been stupid of him to hide in the cabin, he should have gone directly after Dave to talk with him. If he had then they'd be thirty minutes or more further along than they currently were.

He opened his mouth and completely engulfed Dave's penis, slowly sucking it into his mouth while his hands roamed over Dave's skin.

Dave instantly felt weak in the knees when Carter's mouth covered him. And he rested his hands on Carter's shoulders...for leverage more than anything else...and because he needed to feel *some* part of Carter under his fingertips. Man, he wanted to feel everything...every part of him...he wanted Carter's body to cover his...Dave wanted to possess him like he had in the past..."Oh, God John...yes...yes..."

Fuck...Dave knew he was close...it had just been *so* long since he had gotten his rocks off by someone else's hand...or in this case mouth...and he tried to focus his mind on anything...anything he could to prolong the way he was feeling at that moment.

John forced himself to stop what he was doing as the tone of Dave's voice let him know that Dave's orgasm was way too close. "I want you to come in me, Dave, and not in my mouth," John said as he got to his feet and began to unbutton Dave's shirt. "You don't have any arguments against doing that, do you?" he asked with a grin.

"No...no arguments...never...never any arguments with you...ever again. I'll never argue with you again, John." Dave moaned again as he tried to get his body under control. So close...so close but he knew that he didn't want to come yet. He wanted to *be* inside Carter...pressed inside his ass so far that Carter completely surrounded him.

And more than that...he wanted to make *Carter* scream.

Dave's hands found the top of Carter's pants again, and within moments had them pulled down his thighs towards the floor. And then his finger went towards the object that had been in his thoughts...

Dave lightly stroked Carter's cock as their eyes locked. "I think we...should go...lie down."

But before either of them could move, Dave's free hand instinctively went to the small of Carter's back as he pulled Carter in for a deep kiss.

John sucked Dave's tongue into his mouth just as eagerly as he had sucked his penis into there moments before. As they kissed, he stepped out of his pants and boxers, not wanting any further delays once they finally headed to the bed.

Dave as well set his clothes aside, kicking his pants and underwear away from him as he leaned into the kiss. Man...that sucking thing...how he had missed the feelings that Carter doin' that stirred up inside of him.

As the kiss broke, Dave slowly began to move towards the bed. His cock was *rock* hard, and he was ready. Ready for Carter. Ready to suck him...ready to fuck him until he *screamed* out Dave's name in pleasure. Because here with Carter was where he belonged.

When the kiss ended, John crawled onto the bed, and then stretched out on his back. Waiting breathlessly for Dave, he spread his legs, offering himself to the man he loved.

Dave hesitated only for a moment before moving between Carter's legs. His eyes were locked on Carter's the entire time, and only when he was leaning on his knees, ready to play with Carter's cock did he look down in front of him.

"Whoa... John..." A smile spread over his lips. John was shaved? Now *that* was something new. His hand moved over Carter's cock, and then around the area at the base of his dick. It was nice and smooth... "You've gotten kinkier," Dave teased as his smile grew wider. "And I *like* it..."

And without hesitating for even a moment longer, Dave brought his mouth down on top of Carter's cock and began to suck while his hand massaged and felt the silky smooth skin under his fingertips.

John was about to protest that he wasn't kinky when Dave's mouth drove all coherent thoughts from his mind. His hands automatically went down to Dave's head, twining themselves in his hair. "God...Dave..." he said as his hips rose in an attempt to meet Dave's mouth halfway.

Carter's words encouraged him. And as Dave continued to suck on Carter's cock, he marveled that it was almost like riding a bike -- you never really did forget how to give good head. At least it seemed that he was giving good head based on Carter's reactions to him.

His hand found Carter's balls, and he began to squeeze them lightly -- just like he used to. And Dave hoped that he would get the same response from Carter as he always had when Dave did that to him.

Lord, but Dave knew just where to touch him...*how* to touch him...except he had apparently forgot a few of the finer details. "Harder," John ordered, not really knowing if he meant the sucking or the squeezing or both. "Please?" John begged when he didn't get an immediate reaction from Dave.

Dave squeezed his hands tighter around Carter's balls, liking the way the weight of them felt in his hand. And his mouth formed a tighter "o" around Carter's cock as he continued to hungrily suck on him.

He wanted to taste Carter. He wanted to taste *all* of Carter until there was nothing left...and then he wanted to make love to him until they were both so exhausted there was nothin' else to do but pass out in each other's arms.

The fact that he was supposed to be working barely entered into Dave's head. The fact that he'd likely get fired if anyone found out...well...it would be worth it to be fired. Carter was worth it.

Carter's fingers clenched and unclenched in Dave's hair. "Yes," he panted in-between moans of pleasure and whimpers of desire. "Yes, don't stop. Please don't stop..."

Dave's mouth and hands were sending waves of fire through John's body, and he soon found himself unable to hold back any longer. "Dave!" he screamed out as his orgasm crashed into and over his body, and Dave continued to squeeze and suck, driving John just a little further over the edge.

Dave had swallowed all that he could...and the rest was like an after dinner treat that he couldn't wait to eat. Finally, he had licked Carter completely dry, and looked up to him with a seductive grin. Crawling on his hands and knees towards him, Dave put his hand behind Carter's back and pulled him close, covering Carter's mouth with his.

John quickly pushed his tongue into Dave's mouth. It had been so long, so very long, since he had kissed a man like that. It had been nice enough when Randi had kissed him after she had sucked him dry, but Luka never did. Luka didn't kiss him when *he* had sucked Luka dry, either. For all his claims that he was more 'progressive' in matters of sex and the naked body, Luka was sometimes more inhibited than John.

The kiss broke off as John's other desire to be claimed overrode his enjoyment. He also didn't want to be thinking about Randi and Luka when he needed to have Dave inside of him. He smiled up at Dave. "I hope you remember how to do it with us facing each other, because I want to see your face when you come, Dave."

Dave smiled broadly. "Yeah...I think I remember how to put slot A into tab B," he teased, as he looked down at Carter. Carter. The man he loved more than *anything*. He knew that for sure now. There was never anyone he felt these feelings for before Carter...and definitely no one since.

"So...uh...where ya keep your condoms...and lube?" Dave asked with a lifted brow.

John tried to remember where he had put the bag from the adult shop. "I think they're in the top drawer of the dresser. I hadn't packed any because I didn't sign up for the cruise to have sex...I just wanted to get away from Chicago for a while. So, we had to stop on the way to the ship yesterday morning," he explained, not wanting Dave to get the wrong ideas about what had happened in his life while they were apart.

Dave nodded, really not sure why he was so full of explanations. "So...uh...why'd ya stop if you weren't gonna have sex on the ship?" Dave asked innocently, as he pulled away from John. He crawled to the edge of the bed and climbed down, stumbling to the drawers to find the bag. "Ah...uh...what else did you buy?"

There was a mischievous glint in Dave's eyes as he looked over towards Carter. Truth be told, at that moment he didn't give a shit as to *why* Carter had bought the stuff...but he was mighty glad that he did.

"Just that, and a video," John admitted. "A porn video," he shyly added as he watched Dave's body move. God, but the man looked magnificent.

"My plans changed once we reached LA," he said. "I told you that before, about Luka and me." John didn't want there to be any secrets between the two of them. Now that they were back together, there would be no one else for John; not Luka, not Randi, not Maggie. And he still wouldn't go anywhere near Abby. "And with Randi and Maggie...well, they're full of surprises, too."

Dave remembered that. Yeah. Carter had mentioned something about being with Luka...and there was a twinge of jealousy over that. He knew that was something he'd have to deal with later...

He was beginning to walk towards the bed with the condoms and lube when Carter spoke about bein' with Randi and Maggie. "Whoa...you mean...Randi and her tough girlfriend there? Wow...you *are* full of surprises today," Dave teased as he climbed back down into bed.

"I don't wanna talk about them. I don't wanna talk about any of them. I want you...all of you...every part of you, but at this moment I specifically mean your ass. I want to make love to you..." Dave handed Carter the box of condoms and lube with a grin. "And I want you to get me ready...you think you can do that?"

John sat up and grinned back at Dave as he accepted the box and the bottle from him. "I can definitely do that. Am I supposed to get myself ready for you, too? Or are you going to take care of that? Lu..." Dave didn't want to hear about him, John remembered. "I'm not used to you anymore, remember?"

"No...no...I'll take care of gettin' you ready," Dave said, his eyes full of lust as he looked over Carter from head to toe. The only thing missing was the hard-on that he had been sporting earlier...but Dave had no real complaints about that since he had been the one to suck Carter off.

"You...just..I wanna feel your hands on me, John...please..." Dave leaned back in the bed, intent on enjoying the moment before giving in to ultimate satisfaction.

"Good," John replied as he poured out a bit of lubricant into his palm, "because I just want to put my hands all over you." He leaned over and began to massage Dave's penis with his slickened hand while his tongue started to flick over a taut nub of a nipple.

"Yes...God John...yes..." The words came out in almost a moan as Dave felt the feeling of Carter's touch on his body...from his cock up to his chest, Carter just seemed to be everywhere. And he knew what to do to turn him on...keep him turned on...keep him wanting more and more and...

Dave felt like he was an *ass* for letting Carter get away from him in the first place. He did not intend on making that same mistake again.

John raised his mouth from Dave's nipple, not to talk, but merely to move it to the other one, giving it equal treatment. He loved the way Dave responded to his touch, the way his penis flexed under his hand, as if it needed the contact as much as John did.

He nipped lightly at the nipple, and then looked up at Dave. "Are you ready for me to put the condom on you?"

"Yeah...yeah I'm ready." Dave leaned his head back fully on the pillow, one of his hands finding it's way up to Carter's chest so that he could massage some part of his skin while John was taking care of him.

Dave knew that he needed to take care of stretching Carter a bit...but he also knew that since Carter had...uh...recently been with someone else, it wouldn't be too bad. At least, he hoped not. It wasn't like Dave had vast amounts of experience in this department...

John ripped open the foil packet, then carefully rolled the condom down and over Dave's penis, making Dave safe. Then he smiled at Dave, gave him a quick kiss and stretched out once more on the bed beside him.

"I'm all yours, Doctor Dave. Feel free to have your way with me," he said.

"Yeah...yeah...I guess you are all mine...and right now...I'm going to possess you, John."

Dave moved between John legs, grabbing the tube of lube as he crawled. Once he was there, he rested on his knees as he squeezed a liberal amount in his hands.

Putting some onto his fingers, Dave moved his hand down until he found the opening he was looking for, and slowly eased his fingers inside.

He pushed his fingers inside John, lubricating, preparing, remembering how good it had felt when his dick was inside John...and with every press it seemed that his cock grew harder...if that was at all possible.

He wasn't sure how long he was going to last once he entered Carter...but he was going to try to make it as long as possible.

Dave thought for a moment, trying to remember how they had done it in the past, and finally, he slide down the edge of the bed, recalling that was how they had gotten the best leverage. "Push your knees up," he commanded, and soon, it was right there...right there for Dave to take...to make his...

"Mine," he repeated, as the tip of his dick found the opening to John's ass. "You're *mine*..." Dave pressed himself inside, gasping as Carter's body enveloped him -- welcoming him home.

John had been softly moaning while Dave was stretching him, making him ready to be taken and reclaimed. And his moans turned to whimpers as Dave's penis began to enter him. God, it had been so long, so damn, damn long, and John had missed the way that Dave stretched and filled him.

He flexed his muscles around Dave, knowing his lover could feel that movement. With tears in his eyes -- tears of joy and not tears of sorrow or loss -- John looked down his own body to where they became joined as one. "Yes!" he exclaimed and then he looked up into Dave's face, his breath taken away by the look of bliss he saw there.

"Take me, Dave. Make me yours forever."

He pushed himself fully inside Carter, his cock seeming to eagerly go where it wanted to be so badly. And man...did it feel...Dave couldn't even grip words around his feelings because he was so full of emotion...

He continued to press...moving against Carter's pleasure centers with rough strokes, his hands gripped around Carter's thighs to keep from falling over as Dave's eyes sought his. "Y...yes...God...God I love you...God...yes...Yes..."

Dave knew he was close, so he slowed his motions slightly. He wanted this to last as long as possible. He wanted this to last forever.

John reached down and placed his hands over Dave's, holding them in place. Every movement, every stroke, sent sparks to his brain and he bucked his hips upward, doing his best to match Dave's rhythm. He wanted Dave to last all day, but knew that was impossible, still, knowing it couldn't be done and wishing it could happen were two different things.

"I love you, too. Please?" John said, although he wasn't quite sure what he was asking for -- probably for Dave to never stop what he was doing.

"What...what do...you want me to do...John...I'll...I'll do...anything for you...you know that...right? Anything...any...oh...God...John...you make me feel...so...fucking good..." Dave shut his eyes tightly, and slowed his movements ever so slightly once more, trying his best to keep from flying right over that edge...he was riding the line, and that felt pretty damned good too.

"Don't stop. Don't ever stop," John said, his eyes fixed on Dave's face. "Don't ever stop." Loving me or fucking me, John thought.

"I won't...I promise...I...won't...Oh...God...John...I...I can't...I can't...I'm gonna..." And then, Dave's world went hazy as he came full force into John, filling the condom with his come as he screamed out the other's name in pure pleasure.

Dave felt like he came in buckets -- and in reality, it had been months since he had come by the ass...of another. Somehow, his own hand just wasn't the same. Dave's knees were weak, and he leaned heavily against Carter as his eyelids drooped to half shut. "I love you so damned much...and I'm...so...sorry..." Sorry it had taken him *this* long to realize that all along Carter was all he needed.

John strained to get into a halfway seated position on the bed, wrapping his arms and legs around Dave's body and holding him in place. "I know. I'm sorry, too. I love you, Dave Malucci. I never stopped loving you." He said right before planting kisses on Dave's eyelids and then his mouth.

It had been a very long time since Dave had felt this wanted...and the tender kisses that Carter planted on his eyelids only served to reinforce that feeling.

As they kissed, this one was much more tender and loving than the previous desperate embraces had been. And Dave couldn't help but smile as the kiss ended. "I'd...better clean up a bit...and uh...then I wanna lie with ya...for a little while before I have to get back downstairs...does that sound like something we can do?"

Dave's smile went straight to John's heart and he quickly nodded. "I'd like that a lot, thank you. Maybe you can come back later? I know you probably have things you have to do, but they do let you sleep at night, right?" It would be perfect if Dave were able to stay the night with him. Or rather, it would be even more perfect, since they had already reached perfection moments earlier.

Dave knew that there was a chance that he'd get fired for it, but it would be worth it. "Yeah...yeah I can do that. In fact...I think that's a very good idea...waking up in your arms will certainly make it worth going to work in the morning..."

He carefully pulled out of Carter, and then planted a soft kiss on John's lips.

"I'm gonna get cleaned up...I'll be back very, very soon..." And with a grin, Dave padded off to the bathroom.

John was all smiles as he got out of bed long enough to pull back the covers and then he looked up at the bathroom door, eager to see Dave again. John wanted nothing more than to sit and stare at Dave, to reassure himself that Dave wasn't going anywhere, that he was really and truly there. Although, John thought with a grin, the empty feeling in his bottom told him in no uncertain terms that Dave had most definitely really been *there*.

When the door opened, John rose up on one elbow and pulled back the covers. "Climb on in, I've been warming the sheets up for you."

While in the bathroom, Dave had carefully cleaned himself up, and took the time to *really* think about what had happened. He still couldn't believe that this was real...that Carter was *here*...that they had just fooled around...Hell...MORE Than fooled around...Actually made love...and now he was gonna spend more time with him.

Carter loved him. Carter had said several times that he loved him. Man...he was *so* sorry that he didn't pursue things...that he ran... just like he always did...

And as Dave opened the door, he had a smile on his face as he made his way back to the bed. He fell inside, pulling the covers up over them as he did so. And instinctively, as if they had never been apart, Dave's body conformed to Carter's.

"Yeah, you sure have been keepin' them warm. I...wow...that was pretty fucking amazing, John...really amazing...and...whoa, I haveta admit I was surprised to see you so clean shaven. Is that something that Luka's into?" Dave asked, as he settled back into bed.

"Maggie," John replied as he snuggled tightly against Dave's body. "She and Randi were trying to blackmail us with those pictures you saw, so I told Maggie that if I made her scream within twenty minutes then she had to hand them over to me. She's, ah, um, shaved, and when I saw that I found myself asking her if she'd shave me and she did."

"Maggie? Maggie shaved you? I guess she's bi like Randi, huh? Sounds like I've missed some real kinky times," Dave teased, as he planted a light kiss on his ear.

John shook his head. "Not Maggie. She's a card-carrying lesbian. That's what made it such a challenge." John grinned. "Anyway, since the pictures are here, I think you know who won that bet."

Dave nodded, but said nothing. He just smiled broadly. If there was one thing that Dave knew, it was how awesome Carter's mouth was. And obviously, Maggie had gotten a treat of her own.

John started to draw circles on Dave's belly. "So, were you by yourself all this time? Any girlfriends?"

Dave quickly shook his head. "No one. I mean...no one. I didn't get laid...I didn't even try to look. Not since that chick in the ambulance that got me fired...maybe parta me wanted to get fired...I didn't wanna be at County if I couldn't be with you...couldn't stand comin' to work every day and seeing you and not bein' able to touch you...but you know that story..."

Dave's eyes met John's, and he smiled sadly. "I...I guess I don't blame you for movin' on...I mean, I was an ass...there's no denying that. "

Dave just somehow didn't expect the younger man to move on with someone Dave actually *knew*. And yeah...he couldn't help it. He was *really* jealous that Luka had been with Carter when Dave hadn't been able to.

"I tried to move on, but I didn't quite make it. There was this one woman, Susan, she used to work at County and she came back. Well, we were dating, but I never did anything more than try to kiss her. No one could take your place, Dave."

Dave took this in, and then nodded. "And...what about you and Luka? You sure there's nothin' going on there except for the two of you havin' fun every once in a while?" Dave just wanted to make sure.

"That's a long story. You know we never really got along, right? Well, there was this...incident at work. This woman, a dominatrix, came in with a client and she left her bag of toys behind in the trauma room. Abby and Susan decided to see what was in it and the rest of us; Luka, Gallant, who is one of the med students, and me, well, we were too stupid to leave. Weaver caught us and she put a letter of reprimand in each of our files and sent us to a sexual harassment seminar. Anyway, the instructor was late and we all got to talking and I realized that Luka wasn't such a bad guy. We had dinner together that night, and then later went to a basketball game. It was after that when we started messing around with each other. I just suddenly found him kissing me and the next thing I knew...but it was just sex between friends and we never did anything more than sucking or jerking each other off." John said.

"Until we reached LA," John continued. "And even then I don't think anything would have happened except Randi or Maggie, I can't remember which, now, suggested it."

Dave nodded slowly, still trying to justify the feelings of jealousy that were welling up inside of him. He had *no* right to be jealous.

"Thanks for telling me," Dave finally said, as he continued to hold Carter close to him. "I...John...I can't handle sharing you...I really don't think I can...the thought of you...the mere *thought* of it...drives me to the point of wanting to hurt the other person...I just can't help it..."

He sighed deeply as he planted a kiss on top of Carter's head.

"I...I guess it's all part and parcel with this love stuff. I guess I hadn't expected you to stay alone when I left you...and actually, I'm glad to hear that you didn't. But that doesn't mean I'm not jealous of it," Dave finished as he grinned sheepishly.

John didn't want Dave to be jealous or sad, and he sat up in the bed, looking down into Dave's eyes. "I had that nightmare...the one I never can remember. Luka was supposed to sleep on the pull-out bed but couldn't because we had messed it up since he, well, never mind why...but I said he could sleep with me. Anyway, he was trying to comfort me, and I had also made Maggie wake up. She went to get me some water and that woke Randi up and she decided that sex would be a good way to calm me enough so I could go back to sleep and...it wasn't love, Dave. I don't think I would have let Luka do that any other time, but...I do like him and I care about him. He's my friend now, and I need all the friends I can get. But, understand this, David Malucci. I don't cheat. We're back together and I'm all yours now. There won't be anything else with Maggie or Randi or Luka, and I know they'll understand. Hell, Luka was telling me that I needed to talk with you; he knows I love you, I told him so. "

John leaned over and gave Dave a quick kiss on the mouth. "You have no reason to be jealous because I only want you."

Were they really back together, though? Dave couldn't help but hope so. They had screwed around...they had kissed...they had told each other that they loved each other...but there seemed to be so much more to work out before just jumpin' back into a relationship.

"You know I only want you too, but...uh...John...I don't know how quickly I'm gonna be able to come back to Chicago...I've signed up for a six month cruise, and I'm only two months into it. I don't know how easily I'm gonna be able to get out of my contract on here, but...God...John...you don't know how much I wanna go down there right now and tell them that I don't wanna work for them anymore...that I wanna go back home... "

He brought a hand up to Carter's cheek, and caressed it gently. "I just don't wanna hurt you again..."

John turned his head and kissed the palm of Dave's hand. "You won't. And I promise to do my best to not hurt you, too. As for your contract...well, I can fly here when you're off and it's just for a few months. It's not that big a deal, Dave, and we can work around it. I'll miss you when we're apart, but it will make those times when we're together just that much better."

John knew things would work out for them, despite Dave's job. He had no intention of letting Dave go this time.

Dave looked at Carter intently, a smile twitching on his lips. "We'll...we'll figure a way to work it out. I'm not gonna let you go again..."

He put his arms fully around Carter, and pulled him close. His eyes fluttering shut, he sat there for a moment, content to just *be* for a little while...forgetting about anything that he was supposed to be doing, and fully concentrating on what he wanted to be doing.

That was, until Dave's pager went off.

Both doctors instinctively sat up, but Dave sighed, knowing that it could only be his that was blaring, like an intruding noise into an otherwise peaceful existence. "I haveta get back down there, but...I *will* see you later...that is if you'll have me...besides...I think you've got some stuff you need to take care of yourself."

With a twinge of regret, Dave slid off the side of the bed, heading to where his clothing had pooled on the floor. Picking up his underwear, he began to slide them on, smiling as he did so. He was in a *good* mood.

And Dave tried not to think about what would happen if the powers that be ever caught on to the fact that he had slept with a passenger...even if that passenger was the person he loved more than anything...

"Of course I'll have you later," John replied with a smile that promised all kinds of delights. John watched as Dave dressed, both admiring Dave's naked body and the parts that were quickly becoming clothed. The man looked good either way. John just wasn't sure what it was he needed to take care of, unless Dave meant him telling the others that they were back together. His smile broadened as he thought those words -- 'back together', and, even though he knew that a long distance relationship would be difficult, he also knew he and Dave could handle it for the four months left on his contract.

He got out of bed and intercepted Dave as he opened the bedroom door. "Just one kiss before you go?"


To be continued
Chapter Ten by MonaCK
"Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes, Part 10"
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts

The door to the cabin opened, and Luka, Maggie, and Randi stumbled in. They had spent a little while walking the deck, and then they went back downstairs to buy a pocketbook that Randi saw that she absolutely had to have. Somehow, Luka had been roped into buying it for her, but he really didn't mind much.

It was something for him to do...something to get Luka's mind off the fact that Dave was on the ship with them...and John's reaction...John's reaction scared the Hell out of him.

The girls were chatting, and Luka stood quietly behind them, his eyes shifting over the room. Everything seemed to be in order. John's bedroom door was closed, but that wasn't surprising, especially if the man was still upset over the earlier day's activities.

Maggie was about to say that she needed to go lie down and get some pressure off of her ankle when the door to John's bedroom opened.

"Just one kiss before you go?" came John's voice.

"Uh...yeah...John...I think I can handle that," came the voice of Dave. And Luka watched in horror as the clothed and naked man embraced, obviously quite familiar with each other.

Well. Luka supposed that they had made up...maybe John would be in a much better mood...that was good. But Luka couldn't help but wonder why it felt like the bottom of his stomach had been pulled from his body...and his heart had been ripped from his chest.

Randi grinned broadly as she watched the two men embracing and kissing, and then she began to clap. "Good show, guys, but it looks as if we got back ten minutes too late," she loudly said.

John could feel his face growing warm as he pulled out of Dave's embrace and saw his friends in the sitting area. But not even his slight embarrassment over being naked and caught kissing Dave could distract from the happiness he was feeling. "Thank you," he said. "It looks as if we've made up from our fight and are now back together. Luka," John looked over at his close friend. "You were right, all it took was a bit of talking and things were fine."

Dave was smiling as well...happier then he remembered feeling in a *really* long time. And as his eyes looked around the room, he took stock in the reactions of Carter's roommates.

Randi looked genuinely happy. Well, that didn't surprise him too much, considering it was really her that convinced Dave to come up to Carter's room. That was something that he'd *always* be grateful for.

Maggie looked on with a bit of surprise, and if he didn't know better, he'd think there was a bit of distaste there, too. Well, that was odd, considering Maggie didn't really know him from a hole in the wall.

And Luka...Luka's face was almost unreadable.

"I'm glad that you've worked things out, John," Luka said, his expression continuing to be stoic. "Now...if you'll excuse me, I think I've had too much sun. I need to go and lie down for a little while."

It was as if his worst nightmare had come to fruition. Somehow, this was much worse then when Carol had admitted she still loved Doug...and when Abby and he had broken up over the fact that Luka thought that she was in love with John.

It was much worse because Luka was just beginning to realize his feelings for John. And now, they were being stifled before they had a change to really develop. And, without another word towards anyone in the party, Luka made his way to his bedroom and quietly shut the door.

Dave had a feeling that there was*more* than just concerned friendship going on there, but he decided not to dwell on it. "I'm sorry guys...I gotta go...but I promise...you'll see me later. And with another quick kiss for John, and a wink towards Randi, Dave headed out of the suite to go and answer his page.

John's eyes were glued to Dave until the man had left the cabin. Then he smiled shyly at Maggie and Randi. "I guess I'd better get dressed, excuse me."

Randi laughed. "No need to hurry on our account. Maggie doesn't care about your body and I'm not complaining at all about the view, especially since I'm getting the chance to view Maggie's handiwork first hand. Good job, Mags, but I'd like to volunteer to do the shaving tomorrow morning, or whenever you need it."

John knew he was blushing as he closed the door, shutting out Randi's leering look and Maggie's stern one. The only person who was going to be touching him was Dave, not Randi or Maggie, or even Luka. Grinning once more, John began to dress, wondering just how many hours it would be until he saw Dave again. If Luka had gotten too much sun then maybe they'd need to take him down to the medical center, or else call Dave up to the cabin to check him out. Not for real, of course. John intended to go and check Luka out just as soon as he was dressed -- he didn't want his friends coming down with anything while on the cruise.

The girls retired to their bedroom. Maggie's ankle was bothering her, and Randi wanted to spend some time 'nursing' her back to health. And Luka, after having shut his bedroom door, sat down on the edge of his bed.

Sweeping his hand over the sheets, he sighed softly. The previous day, Luka had been well on his way to being very happy. But now...

Now there were only memories. Fresh memories at that. Dave was back. Dave was back to claim what he thought was his...and John had willingly and eagerly gone back into his arms. As if Luka had never been in the picture at all.

And truth be told, it was very much bothering him.

There would be no more kisses...no more bed sharing...no more of that at all. And Luka wasn't quite sure how to get a grip on handling it.


Dressed, John crossed the now empty sitting area to Luka's door and knocked softly on it. If Luka were asleep, then he didn't want to awaken him. "Luka?" he called out, his voice low. "May I come in?" There was so much John wanted to share with Luka -- with the world, actually, but mostly Luka since he had been the one to listen to him when he had talked about Dave the past couple of days. Still, if Luka was truly feeling bad, then John didn't want to drive him to distraction with how wonderful it was to be back with Dave.

And, if Luka was badly sunburned, or suffering from heat exhaustion, then he *would* need medical help.

And if that meant that John got to see Dave one more time before that night arrived, then that was just a pleasant benefit, right?

Luka looked up at the door. John was just on the other side of it. "Come in," he finally said, after considering for a moment. Better to talk about this now than to let this be a problem between them for the entire cruise.

John slowly opened the door then stepped inside, closing the door behind him. Luka was just sitting on the bed, yet from where John was standing, the man didn't looked sunburned or overheated, although he didn't look as well as he had that morning. "You said you thought you had gotten too much sun, are you feeling okay? Is there anything I can get you? Water, a damp wash cloth?" A doctor, he mentally added

"I'm feeling fine, John," Luka said, sighing as he spoke. "I need for you to sit down here so we can talk for a while. Is that okay?"

John nodded, his smile returning now that he knew Luka was okay. And it was good that Luka wanted to talk.

John sat on the bed beside Luka. "I'm glad you're in the mood to talk, Luka. There's so much I want to tell you that I don't know where to start," John said, the words bubbling out of him. It was so good to have a friend, a male friend; that he could share all of that with.

Luka brought his eyes up to meet John's. Was John really so absorbed in his own happiness that he failed to see just how all of this was effecting Luka? It certainly seemed so. "You know you can share anything with me, John," Luka found himself saying.

Because, really, what else could he possibly say?

John was beaming as he looked back at Luka. "I know, and you'll never know just how much that means to me, Luka." He reached over and grasped Luka's hand. "I'm so glad that we've become friends and I could kick myself for all the time we spent nearly at each other's throats. It was such a waste."

Luka had to smile at that. "I am very glad that we became friends too. And...I only want you to be happy. Are you...happy that Dave is back?"

"I don't think there are words that can describe just how happy I am right now, Luka. It's as if a piece of me that's been missing has suddenly been returned," John replied, unable to contain his joy, especially since Luka was genuinely happy for him, too.

Luka had already told John that he felt that John was not over Dave. Luka had told John that he didn't want to push things...that he wanted John to be with Luka by his own accord, and not as second fiddle to his feelings for Dave. And what all of this had just proved was that John being with Luka was more illusive than ever.

But still, Luka had to say something, something to try to convince him. "I don't want you to be hurt by him again. He already hurt you once..."

John shook his head. "We've talked about that. I hurt him, too, you know, and we're both going to do everything possible to never hurt each other again. He's got a contract to work for the cruise line for four more months, so we'll have to be content with just seeing each other every now and then, probably when I'm able to fly out to Los Angeles. I think he was afraid I wouldn't be willing to do that, but I'd do just about anything to be with him, Luka. I was so stupid to have ever let him go in the first place. It's all my fault that we've both been hurting for over six months, and I've promised myself that I won't make that same mistake again." John felt touched by the fact that Luka cared about his feelings, but he wasn't just talking when he said that he was the one responsible for all the hurt -- he had been. But never again.

Luka listened, and then slowly shook his head. "I don't think it was only your fault, John. It takes two people to stay out of touch. You...you should be with someone who lets you say what you're feeling without having to fear that they are going to leave you because of it...you...you should be with someone who listens what you have to say, and understands you...not...not someone who is going to leave you if you say one thing against what he's feeling...that...that doesn't sound very healthy to me..."

He didn't want to burst John's bubble, but Luka felt that there were some things that needed to be said. And if he and John were as close as Luka hoped they were, then their friendship should be able to handle Luka speaking what he believed. "How...wouldn't you want Dave to tell you if you were doing something to upset him?"

"Of course I would. How can I make him happy if he doesn't tell me what I'm doing wrong?" John asked. It was obvious to him that Luka just didn't understand exactly about how things had gone wrong, and John hadn't been talking about them not staying touch, but rather about the fight that broke them apart the first time.

"What about him making you happy? If he is doing something that you don't like, then you should be safe in telling him that something is bothering you without being scared that he is going to leave you. If he loves you like you say he does, then he wouldn't leave...he might get angry...but he wouldn't leave..." Just like Luka would never leave him if John had told him something that he didn't want to hear. Much like John was doing to him right at that moment.

John frowned. Luka really didn't understand how those kinds of things worked, poor guy. "Making him happy *does* make me happy, Luka. And, I'm not afraid that he'll leave me if I say or do something like that. It's just that before, when we first broke up, I said things that made it sound as if I doubted his word, and I didn't. At least I don't think I did. I spoke without thinking, and then ended up saying something that goaded him into an argument. You already told me I was stupid to have done that."

Luka nodded and turned away. "Just be careful. That's all that I'm saying, John. I know you still love him. And I believe you when you say that he loves you too. But...he stayed away for so long...I would go to the ends..."

Luka quickly shut his mouth, not wanting to reveal more about his feelings than he intended. "I also told you that if it were me, I would go to the end of the earth to be with the person I loved..."

And Luka left it at that -- not wanting to say any more -- because he honestly wasn't sure if he was talking about Danjiella...or John.

John leaned over and gave Luka a hug. "Thank you. I will be careful, Luka, I promise." It was almost the way John often imagined things to have turned out if Bobby had lived, although Luka was a bit older than Bobby. Still, it was rather like having a big brother to confide in and to give you advice.

John pulled away, then got to his feet because he wasn't sure how Luka would react to the other things he had to say. "I know that we had a lot of fun recently." He couldn't help but smile at just how much fun they had enjoyed together. "But, nothing like that will happen again." John came to a stop and he looked over at Luka. "I don't cheat. I reminded Dave about that because he said he was a bit jealous, but I told him that we were good friends who happened to enjoy having sex with each other, and nothing more. I couldn't not tell him the truth about us, and Randi and Maggie. And Susan. I had to tell him everything and he understands how things were between us, and that I intend to remain your friend."

And with those words, Luka understood very clearly exactly where he stood...and exactly how John had viewed their relationship from the very beginning. Even though it had been mutually decided that it was only meant to be a little fun...that was...before. Before they had fucked. Before it seemed that things had taken another step.

And now...everything that had seemed crystal clear seemed to be muddied with confusion.

"I'm glad that you were honest with him," Luka finally said after a moment's thought. "And if you're happy...then I'm very happy for you...just remember that I'm here if you need...if you need a friend..."

John smiled again. "Thank you. You know I'm always here for you, too?"

"Yes...yes I do...thank you...and...I think I am going to take a nap now.. I'm not sun burnt or anything, but being outdoors made me a little more tired then I want to admit...so I think I want to take a nap before we go to dinner tonight..."

He turned away, confused and upset by the welling of feelings inside of him. The kicker of it was, if John had run into Dave only days before, Luka would have been genuinely happy for him.

But everything had changed.

John nodded, realizing just then that he had missed having lunch, and he thought that maybe he'd go out on deck and wander around, looking for food. And the ship's doctor. But first he wanted to see if Luka needed anything else. "Do you want to be up at a certain time? I can be your human alarm clock if you wish."

Luka quickly shook his head. "No. You don't have to do that. I won't sleep very long. I'll see you later," he said.

He stayed where he was at the edge of his bed, feeling awkward to do anything other then just stay put. The previous day he would have likely gone up and hugged John. And he most certainly would have convinced him to come to rest in bed with him. But that option was not open to him any longer.

"Don't forget that it's formal for dinner tonight," he said. "We'll both have to wear our tuxes."

John nodded. "I had forgotten that. We're sitting at the Captain's table." Then he grinned. "Which means Dave might be there, too. Luka, this is going to be the best vacation I've ever had. Now, let me get out of here so you can nap. We need to have you looking your best tonight, not that you'll need any help in turning people's heads once you're in that suit. The guys will be drooling over you, just as you had planned when you packed it."

Luka couldn't help but smile. Maybe John was right -- maybe he would turn a head or two while in the tux. If he couldn't be with John for this trip, Luka certainly wasn't going to mope around the cabin the whole time. Luka just wasn't sure how he was going to handle having an entire dinner with Dave at the table. But he couldn't worry about that.

"Go enjoy the ship. I'll see you later."

As John left the room, Luka put his hand over his eyes and sighed. He had to try to figure a way to get past this. Somehow.


Since Randi and Maggie were behind closed doors, and Luka needed a nap, John figured that lunch and a walk around the ship would be a good way to spend his afternoon. He found his sandals and put them on, then headed out. He lucked out and found a buffet still doing on, ate his fill and then started his sight-seeing tour. Not surprisingly, his feet eventually steered him toward the medical center.

A middle-aged woman greeted him with a smile as he entered the suite of rooms. It was a much nicer set-up than the ER at County General.

He smiled back at her, "I was looking for Dr. Malucci. Is he around?"

She nodded. "He's in with a patient right now, but if you'll have a seat, he'll be right with you. Although I might be able to help you out if it's a medical problem. I'm Nurse Davis."

"It is a medical problem, but I'd really feel more comfortable with him helping me out with it," John said, since he didn't want to tell her that his problem was a set of lonely lips.

She smiled knowingly. Quite a few of the gay men on the cruise had been insisting on having Dr. Malucci treat them, and without her present. Most seemed to be because they were too embarrassed about what needed treating. Others seemed to just want to stare at the doctor.

"It'll just be a few minutes, then." She assured him.

"Not a problem. I'll just have a seat over there." John went to the far side of the room and sat down. The place even had the latest issues of many popular magazines and obviously didn't have to rely on their staff bringing in their old copies.

Inside the exam room, Dave was applying the last of some burn solution on the legs of his young patient. "So...you gotta be more careful," he said to the boy, who couldn't be more than eight. "If you put the treadmill on that high, and then jump on, you're gonna get hurt."

After washing his hands, he walked back over to his patient, and ruffled his hand through his hair. "Now be good, and try not to be too much more trouble for you dad, here."

The man nodded. "Thank you, doctor. I'm sorry, my partner and I had just turned our head for a moment when we entered the gym, and I certainly hadn't expected him to do*this*."

"Quite alright. It's what I'm here for," he said.

As the man and his son left, Nurse Davis poked her head in.

"There's a young man here to see you...insisting on seeing you for a 'medical problem' that he didn't feel comfortable telling me about..."

Dave grinned. Yeah...this had been the story of his life so far on this particular cruise.

"Okay. Thanks. Send him right in."

Nurse Davis smiled at John. "You can go on in now."

"Thank you." John had seen the little boy and his father leave and it made him feel proud that Dave was the kind of doctor who could make a child patient leave with a smile.


When his last patient had left, Dave turned to his counter to write up his notes on who he had just seen. Yeah...part of him still missed the hustle and bustle of an emergency room...and the way the energy coursed through his veins when he worked on a trauma...making life or death decisions...but at least he was still practicing medicine...and making a pretty penny at it besides.

John had stepped into the other room and quietly shut the door behind him. Dave had his back turned -- his broad and strong back -- and had no idea who had just walked into the room. "I've got this terrible ache, Doctor Malucci. Do you think there's anything you can do to help me get rid of it?"

Dave heard the door open. He was still writing, and about to tell the person he would be right with him when the person spoke first. The voice sounded familiar...but just in case...

"What seems to be the..."

Dave turned fully around, the small smile that had been toying on his lips turning into a full-fledged grin. "An ache, huh? Does it have something to do with someone fucking someone else's brains out?"

Dropping his pen, he began to cross the room, closing the distance between his work and his love. And then, his smile faltered. What if he was really hurt?

"Is everything okay? You're not in any kind of pain, are you?"

John smiled at Dave. "I've got this pain in my heart whenever you're not around, but other than that, I'm fine. Except for my lips," he then pouted. "They're not fine."

Okay. Carter was playing with him. He could deal with that. "Yeah? Hmm...you know...I might have to make a really close examination of those lips. You never know...there's been some stuff going around...I wouldn't want you to catch it. I think that requires an oral examination. You're a doctor too, what do you think?"

John nodded as he watched Dave take another step closer to him. Damn, but the man looked good. "I agree. A thorough oral examination is definitely in order."

Dave couldn't do this. If anyone walked in on them, it would be his job. And he couldn't lose his job. Not again. He would disappoint Carter if he lost his job, and Carter would finally see what a loser he actually was...and he had *just* gotten Carter back.

No. Losing his job was not an option.

This couldn't happen. It couldn't...

Dave found himself wrapping his arms around Carter, pulling him into his tight embrace before sweeping his mouth down over Carter's. Fuck the job. Carter was here. And Carter loved him. No way was Dave gonna push him away again.

John pushed his tongue against Dave's lips, thrilled when Dave parted those lips for him. Lord, but the man tasted just as good as he looked. But, as good as the kiss was, John knew that work wasn't the proper place for the feelings Dave's kisses elicited from him and he slowly pulled away.

"I think that did the trick, Doctor, thank you. They'll be fine until tonight," John said with a grin. "Tell me, are you sitting at the Captain's table tonight? I was just wondering because that's where we're sitting at dinner and if you were going to be there then I wanted you to be prepared for when I start drooling at the sight of you in your formal cruise uniform."

"Hey, anything to help my patients feel better. Though, I do have to admit that is a more thorough examination that I usually give. I think I'll have to charge ya extra for it," Dave teased, as he leaned against the examination bed. "I'm gonna have to collect that payment a little bit later. You think you'll be up for it?"

As Carter continued, Dave furrowed his brow. "I wasn't supposed to be...but I think I can pull a string or two to get myself there," Dave said, thinking about the favor he would have to turn in. Yeah...one night working as a waiter in exchange for giving his buddy the night off would be worth it to be able to sit with Carter for an evening.

John nodded in response to what Dave was saying, and then he grinned. "Oh, I think I'll be up for delivering payment to you, no doubt about it. And I think that by then I might be suffering from something that can only be cured by having my brains fucked out."

Dave returned the grin, and crossed his arms across his chest. This whole situation...and those words...were things that he *never* thought that he'd hear again.

"Yeah? I think that can be arranged. Sounds like your gonna need another thorough examination though. I'll be sure to bring my medical bag," he said. Yeah...his medical bag. At least then he could make it a pretense that he was going there for a medical visit. Man. Dave really wasn't sure how he was gonna balance it...how he was gonna keep the fact that he was spending his nights in the main suite from getting back to the powers that be.

But he didn't have a choice. Dave needed the job. Dave needed Carter. There was no option.

"Oooh, your medical bag...that sounds promising. You don't by any chance keep handcuffs in there, do you?" John was willing to let Dave restrain him since he couldn't actually tie him down to the bed. Although, as John looked around the exam room, he thought it was a shame they couldn't do something in there. The possibilities were endless and the exam beds were perfect for playing.

Dave laughed and shook his head. "No. No handcuffs," he teased. "But, I'm pretty sure that there's a shop upstairs where you can buy some. *I* can't buy them...but you can. I'd betcha they have ones that are silk lined and everything."

"What's the name of this shop?" John asked. He had skipped the shopping area on his way to find Dave, but now he was curious to see what was in there. Would it be anything like the adult toy store where they had shopped on the way to the ship?

"Uh...I think it's called 'The Pink Pussycat'. It's only open for this cruise -- because of the majority of the clientele this week. But...when I went in there before we set sail, they had a lotta neat stuff. I'm sure you'll be able to find something...fun." Dave grinned broadly as he spoke. Yeah...fun stuff all right. Part of him was hopin' that Carter was gonna pick up some of the edible paints, too.

Dave took a step towards Carter once again, his grin growing wide. "You are insatiable, you know that? And if you don't get the Hell out of here right now, I'm not gonna be responsible for my actions...not that I want you to leave...but yeah...I don't wanna be interrupted when I'm with you..."

"Me, either. I'll see you later." He gave Dave a quick kiss on the lips, and then hurried out, giving Nurse Davis a quick 'thank you' and a wave as he left to go shopping.

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

"Tell me, again, why I *paid* to be uncomfortable all night?"

Maggie was standing in front of her closet wearing a bra and underwear, frowning over her dress selection in the closet of her and Randi's room. She hated dressing up. Absolutely hated it. She had tried to convince Randi that it would be all right if she wore a pants suit for any formal nights, but Randi wouldn't hear of it. And how dumb was it to mandate having to get dressed up for dinner?

Get dressed up. Just to sit down all night. It didn't make much sense to her.

And dinner that night was not going to be a treat. Carter had come back to the room somewhere on cloud 417 and told them that Dave was going to be joining them for dinner as well. So far, from what she had seen of Dave, the man was an arrogant ass. And man...she couldn't imagine what was going through Luka's mind at that moment.

Shaking the thoughts from her mind, she reluctantly pulled a dress out of the closet. "What do you think of this one?"

Randi looked at it and nodded. "Not too bad if you're going for the 'nun on vacation' look. This one is much better." Randi reached around her and pulled out a different dress from the far end of the closet, one she had designed and made just for Maggie to wear on the cruise, not that Maggie knew that yet. It was a red color that would complement Maggie's Irish complexion, with a halter top and open back down to Maggie's waist. The full skirt had several slits in it, some of which only came up to Maggie's knees, and others that went nearly to crotch level, but the sheer volume of the material in the skirt kept people from seeing anything they shouldn't.

"Wear this and you'll have all the lesbians creaming their pants and all the bi guys about ready to burst their zippers."

Maggie looked at the dress, and then looked at Randi, a half smile on her lips. "I don't think I've ever worn anything like that in my *life* Rand," Maggie stated, looking from the dress back to Randi. "I think that it's more suited for *you* than it is for me."

She eyed it warily again. "Ah...Hell. I'll wear it. Maybe it'll give Doctor Love something to look at at dinner tonight instead of Carter," she quipped as she took the garment from her girlfriend.

"Doctor Love? Who's that?" Randi asked as she helped Maggie get the dress on. As planned, it looked perfect on her, and Randi smiled as she regarded her girlfriend. "It's just perfect, don't you think?" she asked as she turned Maggie around toward the mirror so she could get a good look at herself.

"Doctor Love...you know...the doctor that you used to work with that took care of my ankle. That had his tongue shoved down Carter's throat when we got back here..."

As Randi turned her, Maggie stopped to look at herself in the mirror. "Yeah...you're right...it's a pretty hot dress. I'd do me," she teased as she looked back towards Randi.

"You'd do just about anyone," Randi joked. "I'm glad you like the dress since it's yours." She then reached into the closet for the dress she had created for herself.

Maggie looked over to Randi, surprised. "For me? You made this dress for me? Wow...Rand..."

It wasn't often that Maggie was rendered nearly speechless, but in this particular case, she was. "Thank you," she finally managed to say.

"You're welcome," Randi said with a smile. "It's not often that I get to design a dress with someone other than myself in mind to wear it. It was fun to create that for you."

"Dave's a great guy," Randi continued to say as she slipped off her robe so she could put on the dress. "A little overconfident and cocky, but once you get past all of that, he's pretty good. It's all mostly for show anyway. I told you before how the looks between them were hot enough to set the ER on fire, didn't I? I'm telling you, Mags, they're made for each other."

Maggie shrugged. "I dunno. There's something about Dave that bugs me. If he really cared about Carter that much, he wouldn't have picked up and moved cross-country to get away from him. It seems to me that he found a willing piece of ass, and that he's playing on Carter's feelings for him. I mean...Luka. Look at Luka. That boy is so far bitten by the love bug that he doesn't know what to do with himself."

Maggie looked towards the mirror, frowning at what she saw. "Do you think I should have different earrings on or something? These suddenly don't seem fancy enough..."

"I think you need something silver and red, or just silver. Silver would go nicely with that red. And what do you mean that Luka's in love? They're fuck buddies, Maggie, nothing more."

"Silver. Yeah. I have some silver earrings," Maggie said, as she walked over to the top drawer of her dresser. "I mean just what I said," she continued as she switched from her gold posts to some drop down silver earrings. "Luka is head over heels for Carter. You'd have to be blind not to see it. You saw how Luka reacted when we walked in and Dave was here...like a man who wanted to throw something in a jealous rage, but instead handled it like a mature adult and walked away. Luka wouldn't hurt a fly. At least, he wouldn't hurt someone he really cared about. I'm not so sure about Dave."

Maggie turned around, the ensemble now complete.

"How do I look?"

"Totally edible," Randi replied as she slipped her dress on. "You're a bit wrong about Luka Kovac, though. The first time he and Abby Lockhart went out, some guy tried to mug them and Luka just about bashed his brains out on the sidewalk. Then this year, this scuzbag neighbor of Abby's beat her up and Luka worked him over pretty good, or so I heard. It was one of the reasons the prosecutors let the scuz get off easy, although I'm not so sure that Luka knows that."

Randi then frowned. "Then again, he does care about Abby, and if what you say is true about him being head over heels for Carter, then he just might beat Dave to a pulp." The frown was quickly replaced by a grin. "Dinner is starting to look better and better isn't it? I wonder if there's some way we can manage it so that Carter's seated in between Luka and Dave? What a show that would be."

Maggie stepped up, and helped Randi zip her dress up. She was unable to keep from grinning and shaking her head as her lover spoke. "You are *horrible*," Maggie teased. "I *love* it."

She still wasn't so sure of Dave...but Hell...what did she know? And yeah...there certainly would be enough fireworks at dinner that night to start a full-fledged fire.

Maggie was just hoping that Carter wasn't the one who was gonna get burned.


To be continued
Chapter Eleven by MonaCK
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts

John stepped into the huge main dining room of the ship and looked around. Everyone was dressed formally and it reminded him of all the charity fund raisers he had attended during his life, especially the one held annually at the Children's Museum. The year before, Abby had been his date, this past year, Susan had gone with him. John smiled as he thought about Dave being his date for the next one. As his eyes swept over the room, they found the Captain's table. There were already a few other passengers and crew members seated at the table, but John didn't see Dave there. He also didn't see the Captain, but that didn't keep him from worrying.

"I don't see Dave, do you?" he asked the person who stepped up next to him, and he turned his head and saw it was Luka. The man looked incredible in his black tuxedo and John was more than aware that several men in the dining room were staring openly at Luka. And rightly so. John wondered though, what it would be like to be stared at that way and know that all of those staring wanted him. Not that he'd ever get the chance to find out, even if Luka wasn't standing by him no one would give him a second look.

Luka flinched, but didn't say a word. His eyes swept the room, and almost involuntarily a smile crossed his lips. There were some *very* nice looking men and women on board ship. Maybe it wasn't the end of the world if he and John were no longer an item...before they even had the chance to become one. But still...he was not looking forward to having to spend the evening with the enemy as it were.

"I don't see him yet...but the Captain's table is usually towards the back of the room," he said, his eyes looking around once more.

"Maybe he isn't gonna show," Maggie quipped as she stood near Randi's side. Social events like this made her a bit uncomfortable, and now that all eyes were on the four of them towards the center of the room, Maggie felt a bit self conscious. So, it wasn't doing much to improve her outlook on having dinner with Dave.

"It's over there" John gestured in the direction of the table. "And if Dave said he'd be here, then he'll be here." John started to walk away and toward the Captain's table, hoping to see Dave as he made his way there.

"You can never fault a man with confidence or argue with a man who walks away," Randi quipped as she followed John toward their table.

Dave stood nervously next to the captain of the ship. He had literally sold his soul to be here -- and still the only reason that his friend had agreed to switch places with him was because Dave explained that it was because he would be be seeing an old friend who he hadn't seen in almost a year. But still -- it was worth having to work some extra hours while in port -- he had told his friend that he would work the dining room while the guy gallivanted in Hawaii.

Dave looked around the room, worried a bit as to what was gonna happen...but more than anything he just wanted to see Carter...man...he was sure that he was gonna look fine in his tux...and as the man came into view, Dave was not disappointed.

Dave was in his dress whites, and there was almost nothing stopping his desire for the guy from being in full view. In fact, Dave had to move his hands down in the hopes that it would be covered. Just bein' in the same *room* as Carter..

"Good evening John, Luka, Randi, Maggie," Dave said formally. He was sitting at the same table as the captain. It wasn't like he could even begin to hit on Carter.

Before John could say anything to Dave, the Captain stepped forward to greet them all. "Ah, our medical contingent. Dr. Malucci was telling me that he worked with most of you in Chicago. It's nice that the four of you can have this chance to catch up on old times. In case you haven't heard by now, I'm Captain Reynolds, and you must be the lovely Dr. Doyle?" He reached out to shake Maggie's hand.

Maggie held out her hand. "Yes. I'm Dr. Doyle -- but please -- call me Maggie. I hate formality," she said with a grin. "This is Randi Froznack, and our friend Dr. Luka Kovac."

Luka smiled shyly and stepped up to shake the captain's hand. "It's very nice to meet you, Captain Reynolds," he said sincerely. However, his eyes were not on the captain. They were on John and Dave.

"It's nice to meet all of you," Captain Reynolds said sincerely. He then looked over to the additional man in the group. It did not go past the captain that this man couldn't seem to keep his eyes off of his young doctor. It wasn't surprising, especially this particular week. *Most* of the men on the ship had been unable to keep their eyes off of Dr. Malucci.

As the Captain spoke, John's eyes were riveted on Dave. Just as he had thought, the man looked even better in his formal uniform than he had in his working one, and it was doing the most sinful things to John's penis -- such as making it get hard when he had to meet the Captain. Oh, well, the worst that could happen was that the man would think John was reacting to him and be flattered about it.

Dave couldn't help but return the stare. Man. The feelings that he felt for this guy just seemed to grow every time he saw Carter. And now was no exception. And as Dave's eyes swept Carter's body, he couldn't help but focus on the...oh man...*raging* hard-on that Carter was sporting. Man. He sure hoped that the captain didn't notice that...

"This is Dr. John Carter," Randi took over the introductions, discreetly nudging John in the side as the Captain smiled in his direction.

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Dr. Carter," the Captain said.

John blinked several times as his focus on Dave was suddenly broken. But he then realized the Captain was speaking to him and he smiled and grasped the man's hand firmly as he shook it. "It's a pleasure to meet you, too, sir. You've got a beautiful ship here."

"Thank you. I've been lucky enough to be her captain for the past three years. Please everyone, take a seat. We're expecting a few more passengers and then we can start dinner." He gestured at the table behind him.

Dave sort of wanted to sit next to Carter. Okay. He more than sort of wanted to. He really wanted to. But he wasn't sure if that was proper protocol, and certainly he couldn't sit before everyone else at the table did.

Luka sat at a seat towards the middle of the table. And he hoped that John would sit next to him, but he wasn't going to hold his breath. Surely, John would want to sit next to his boyfriend, and not next to him.

Randi and Maggie found seats across the table from where Luka had settled himself. And they too, eyed both Dave and Carter, wondering where the two of them were going to sit.

Maggie knew one thing for sure. Dinner was going to be *far* from boring.

John was holding back, waiting for Dave to sit down first so he could sit by him, but Dave wasn't moving. Maybe he wasn't allowed to sit down before the Captain did? John needed a valid reason to delay things, and was just about to excuse himself to the men's room when the Captain addressed him once again. "I'd be honored if you'd take the seat to my right, Dr. Carter." That was the seat usually reserved for the passenger throwing around the most amount of money on a cruise by booking that particular cabin suite. Captain Reynolds didn't really care if the four of them were splitting the cost of the cabin or if Dr. Carter was paying for it on his own, the cabin had been reserved under his name, and he was the one that would be catered to the most.

The Captain then turned to Dave. "Dr. Malucci, if you wouldn't mind, I'd like for you to sit at the end of the table to act as my co-host for the evening."

Before Dave could answer, John spoke up in an effort to find another seat. "I'd be more than delighted to sit next to you, Captain, but I'm sure that you have passengers more deserving of that honor. As a matter of fact, I think that you'd have much better dinner conversation if you had Dr. Doyle to your left and Ms. Fronczak to your right. Dr. Doyle's family has long been in the law enforcement sector and they're quite well known back in Chicago. Ms. Fronczak is a well known and highly regarded fashion designer, although she doesn't like for people to make too much of a fuss over that. That's why it was agreed for me to be the one to make all the cruise arrangements."

The Captain's smile faltered slightly as he considered what John was saying, then it returned fully. "Thank you for setting me straight on that. I certainly wouldn't want to slight the ladies in any way. Excuse me." He walked over to where they were seated and John took a step toward Dave.

"That was close. If you'll excuse me, I'm going to the men's room, but I'd appreciate it if you could save a seat for me if the other guests arrive before I get back." John said.

Dave nodded. "Yeah.. yeah I can do that. Go. I'll have you sit next to me on the other end of the table," Dave said, as he smiled back towards Carter. He resisted the urge to out and out kiss the guy, and settled for just watching him walk out of the dining room towards the bathroom. Then he turned back towards the table, and ultimately towards the end of the table that the captain had indicated. Acting as the co-host was actually a pretty big deal. Dave was praying that he didn't screw this up.

Luka watched as, after quiet conversation, Randi and Maggie got up to change their seats, Maggie sitting to the captain's left, and Randi to his right. They were both flirting with the man in their own way -- Maggie just to see if she could, and Randi because.. well...she was attracted to men in power.

Luka's eyes then shifted towards Dave who was now sitting at his end of the table, waiting for John to come back, Luka surmised. There was one seat separating Luka from where Dave was sitting, and Luka was going to make sure that that was where John would sit.

Another small group arrived to the table, and the Captain excused himself to say hello. And soon, they were all seated after having been introduced. They were the group that was staying in the next smallest suite down the hall from where Luka, John, Maggie and Randi were staying.


John lingered for a bit in the men's room, wishing he had a cigarette to pass the time, but he had given up smoking -- again. After ten minutes had passed, and he had been spoken to by numerous men, some of whom seemed to be having bladder control problems as they kept returning, John decided it was time to get back to the table. He washed his hands, then headed back to the dining room.

The Captain's table was nearly full, with only one seat remaining -- the one next to Dave. With a smile, John sat down, then realized that he was also sitting next to Luka. Everyone had something to drink in front of them, so John figured he hadn't missed much.

"Thank you," he said to Dave as he pulled his chair closer to the table. "I hope the only thing I missed was the drink ordering?"

"That's right," Dave said, actually happy to be sitting on the opposite side of the table from the captain. It kept him out of the guy's watchful eye. "And I figured on you ordering a Coke, so I did that for you. They should be back with it soon."

Luka smiled over to John, unable to deny that he was still attracted to the man, even though John only had eyes for someone else. But Luka also couldn't help but notice how attractive the man sitting across from him was. Luka's eyes, while still mostly on John, also kept drifting towards the man. He was the only male in the group of four that had sat down. And Luka wondered exactly what his situation was. Were they just four friends who had come on the cruise to have some fun? Or was he part of a couple?

"Hi. I'm Mike. And this is my sister Susan," the man finally said, as he gestured towards the woman sitting beside him. The fact that Luka had been staring had not gone unnoticed, and Mike had to admit that Luka was one attractive man.

"I'm Dr. Luka Kovac," Luka said, his voice soft and his accent prominent. "And these are my friends, Dr. John Carter. and Dr. Dave Malucci, who is also the ship's doctor.."

"Nice to meetcha," Dave said, smiling broadly.

"You're staying in the suite down the hall from ours, aren't you?" John asked as he smiled across at Mike and his sister.

Mike nodded. "Yup. Myself, my sister, and my sister's two friends," Mike said, gesturing towards the other women. "I sorta got dragged on here. Sis says I need to get out more. Ah well. Here I am. I'm making the most of it...having some fun.."

A smile flickered on Luka's lips, and he kept alternating his gaze between John and Mike. Hmm. He was not usually one to play one off the other...but if John was now committed to Dave, the least that Luka could do was try to have some fun.

Dave honestly didn't give a shit about this other guy, and where he was staying. His mind, eyes...everything...were focused on the object of his affections.

And he was already trying to count down to how long it would be before he could excuse himself to sneak up to Carter's cabin.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," the captain finally said, drawing all of their attention. "Dr. Malucci and myself would like to welcome you to the Captain's table. Your server will be around shortly to take your orders, and all of your drinks are on me tonight as a token of my gratitude for your patronage on my fine ship. I hope you enjoy dinner, and please, do not hesitate to ask if you have any questions about the ship itself or the activities on board here."

John had noticed the way Luka kept looking across the table at Mike, so he decided to try to do what he could to find out if Mike was 'agreeable' to the kind of fun Luka had to offer. "So, tell me, our suite has three bedrooms, the dining area and a sitting area. Is your suite laid out the same way?" he asked, hoping to find out just where Mike was sleeping.

Mike nodded. "Yup. Though I think we don't have a dining area -- just a sitting area. And the third bedroom, which is the one that I'm in, just has a double bed. I guess that's my punishment for being the only guy in the group," he said with a grin.

This pleased Luka. It meant that Mike was not 'with' any of his sister's friends. And if he was on this cruise...

"I see. Ours all have king sized beds, which is good for Randi and Maggie down there, since they're the ones having to share a bedroom," John said, hoping that it would give Mike a clue that Luka was also unattached on the cruise.

John smiled up at the steward as his cola was delivered. "Thank you." He picked up the glass with his left hand while his right hand went under the table -- and onto Dave's lower thigh. Feeling thankful for the fact that the table was a bit on the narrow side, John's smile brightened.

"So, Susan, are you having a good time so far?" John asked the sister, hoping to give Luka and Mike a chance to talk with each other. Since he felt as if he were keeping Dave cut out of the conversation a bit, John gently squeezed Dave's thigh, letting him know that he was all too aware of his presence.

Dave's eyebrow went up as John squeezed his thigh, but he didn't say a word. The hard-on he was sporting was assuring him that he wasn't gonna get up and go anywhere any time soon...so he sat back and acted as if he was just observing the table, even though his mind was racing a mile a minute.

Susan nodded. "I am," she said honestly. The ship is just beautiful...and there are *so* many activities! I mean, I can't believe all the stuff there is to do. Isn't there just so much to do, Mikey? I mean...shuffleboard, ping pong...even a wine tasting! I was going to go to the wine tasting, but then Sharon," she gestured at one of the other women, "over here told me that I'd better just save my appetite for dinner, so I've saved it for dinner. Isn't that..."

Mike finally interrupted her. "Susan. Take a breath..."

"Sorry," she said, grinning sheepishly over to John. "I get excited when I'm nervous."

Luka couldn't help but grin, and he cleared his throat. "I...umm...I don't suppose that you would be interested in checking out the night club they have on board ship," he said, as his eyes focused up towards Mike. "I understand that they play some good music..."

Mike thought for a moment, and then grinned. "Yeah...it'll be good to get out of the cabin for a little while. That sounds like fun."

John's smile widened as he listened to Mike and Luka make their 'date' for later, and he began to relax now that he knew Luka wasn't going to be sitting around the cabin doing nothing. Hmm -- maybe he needed to make sure that Randi and Maggie stayed out late as well? He had bought those silk lined handcuffs Dave had mentioned, and a few other things as well, and John wasn't sure he wanted his roommates around to overhear their use.

"I think Randi and Maggie would enjoy that, too, don't you, Luka?" John turned to look at him as he asked, hoping Luka would get the hint that he wanted the cabin mostly to himself later. Or, more accurately, wanted it for him and Dave later.

"Uh.. sure," Luka said, his smile never faltering though he wanted to scream inside. "I can ask them for you. I think they would like it, actually."

Dave's smile grew larger. Yeah. It looked like he *was* gonna have Carter all to himself that night. All to himself to make up for lotsa lost time. Yeah, he could handle that. He could always feign that he was with patients if anyone asked where he was. Even if he pretended that he was following up. And in a way he sorta was. Since Carter had come down to his office earlier, he was technically a patient. And, therefore, needed some follow up.

"That would be nice, thank you," John replied, glad he didn't have to get out of his seat since a part of his body was already 'up'. Dave's body was far too close to his own for him to *not* respond to his presence.

"What do you two do for a living?" John asked the siblings as he saw a waiter approach the other end of the table, apparently telling everyone down there what their dinner choices were.

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

Dinner was very nice. Susan talked almost non-stop which made it difficult for Luka to learn anything more about Mike, his apparent date for the evening, but Luka figured that there was plenty of time for that to happen. Besides, it seemed that unless he wanted to be up half the night to be listening to John having sex with Dave in his room, then Luka was going to have to make himself scarce for quite a while.

Luka had chatted with Randi and Maggie, who agreed to go to the nightclub with Luka and his friend. Randi was just happy that Carter and Dave seemed to be getting along so well. Maggie wanted to keep an eye on Luka and make sure he was okay.

Dave was getting more and more antsy as the meal went on. He didn't want to be there any more than it seemed that Carter did. Carter kept glancing over to him while the meal was going on...and then, thankfully, the meal was over. They had to stay through dessert, just to not be rude, but soon the party began to disband.

"Uh...I gotta get downstairs...finish up some charts," Dave said, smiling broadly as he winked towards Carter. He certainly couldn't say that he was running up to Carter's cabin. As he gave Carter a hug, he whispered in his ear that he'd be up at his cabin in fifteen minutes.

And after making his goodbyes, he swiftly headed out of the room.

As dinner ended, John found his arm being claimed by Susan. "Are you coming?" she asked him, her eyes looking hopeful.

What John wanted to say was that he wasn't, but soon would be, but he didn't think that would sink into her brain. Dinner had shown him that Susan wasn't as bright upstairs as her brother. "I was up early this morning and I think I'm just going to turn in early. The rest of you go ahead and have a great time dancing."

He immediately felt bad as Susan began to pout as she turned to her brother, John's arm still in her grasp.

Luka looked over to Mike and shook his head. As much as he would have wanted to try to force John to be by his side, Luka knew that was wrong, and it would only lead to John being miserable because he wasn't with Dave.

"SusieQ, let him go," Mike said, taking the signal from Luka. "I'm sure that John will come out to play with us another night," he said.

Susan reluctantly loosened her grasp. "Okay. Only if you promise to come out to the club one night this week."

John smiled at her. "I promise. Now go on and have fun." He looked over at Luka, and, as soon as Susan's back was to him, he mouthed "Thank you." Then he headed for the other exit and hurried to the cabin. He wanted to get the stuff he bought out before Dave arrived.

Luka watched after John as he left, and then quickly focused his eyes back on his date for the evening, and then to the rest of the group. "Are you all ready to go?"

Mike smiled and nodded. "Yes. Lead the way," he quipped. And soon the group of seven were en-route to the club located on the top deck of the ship.

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

Dave had done a bit of paperwork, looking at the clock every five minutes to see if enough time had passed before heading up to Carter's cabin. Placing a sign on the door with his pager number, Dave locked up and headed upstairs, intent on heading up to the now familiar suite as quickly as possible. He didn't bother bringing a change of clothes -- he figured he'd sneak down to his own cabin before his morning office hours to change into a fresh outfit.

With a smile on his face he knocked on the door of the suite. Yeah. He was looking forward to this. He was back with Carter. His life was now back on track.. and everything seemed to be more in focus.

And he felt better then he had in a long time.

John had been nervously pacing the floor of the suite, checking his watch every few seconds and fighting back the urge to open the door and stare down the hallway as he waited for Dave to arrive. Still, when the expected knock came on the door, John jumped, suddenly feeling nervous.

He wondered if Dave had changed clothes, or if he was still in his formal uniform? The only thing John had done was remove his jacket and tie, although he had wanted to be naked when he answered the door for Dave. That idea was stopped when he wondered what he'd do if someone else was in the hallway walking by, or if the others returned right then. So, clothes stayed on.

John opened the door with a huge grin on his face. "Hey," he simply said, and then he stood aside so Dave could get out of the hallway and into the room where he could be properly greeted.

"Hey yourself," Dave said as he entered the room. "So did you manage to do some shopping after you left my office this afternoon," he asked as John shut the door behind him.

Dave hoped so. He certainly wasn't gonna complain if they spent the evening doing some of the stuff that they used to do together. "I gotta tell you...you're friggen irresistible, Carter. It took all my willpower not to jump you on the Captain's table," he teased.

John smiled, "I would have let you, too. Hold on." John made sure the door was locked, and then he turned back around and gathered Dave into his arms, kissing him deeply, his own lips slightly parted.

Dave was gonna say something about getting fired if he had let that happen, but his thoughts were cut off by the feeling of Carter's arms and lips on him. His tongue instinctively went into Carter's mouth, exploring as he swept around. Man...the feelings that Carter woke in him...simply amazing.

He was rock hard still -- carried over from their contact earlier in Dave's office...and the touchy feely under the table in the dining room. Man. Dave wanted this...wanted him.. wanted everything...

As the kiss ended, he was nearly breathless.

"Let's...take this...into your bedroom..."

"That's a very good idea. That's where the things I bought this afternoon are, waiting for you." John smiled shyly as he took Dave's hand and started to walk toward his bedroom door. "I know I can get pretty demanding sometimes, but tonight I want you to be the one totally in charge. You don't mind doing that, do you?"

"You think you can give up the rein's of power?" Dave asked, chuckling as they walked into the bedroom. "I mean...yeah...you *can* be pretty demanding. You think you can handle me ordering you around?"

"Definitely," John replied. "In fact, I *insist* that you order me around." He grinned as he began to unbutton Dave's jacket. "You must be hot having to wear a jacket and a shirt. I know I was hot in my jacket."

"Oh, it's definitely hot in here," Dave quipped, as he shrugged the garment off of his shoulders. He knew he was gonna have to spend the bucks to have this uniform pressed, but it was worth it. "So where's this bag of stuff you got to play with?" Dave turned to Carter once more. "We have all night...and I intend on taking advantage of it."

"It's already out of the bag." John went over to his dresser and picked up the items as he named them. "I bought the handcuffs like you suggested. Two sets, just in case. I bought this cream that's supposed to make a guy last longer. And this is neat, body paints. You paint whatever you want on a person's skin and then you can either lick it off or wash it off. There's six different colors to play with and the clerk said that they all taste good. I bought this for the girls." John held up a fake penis. It was a decent sized one, but nowhere near Dave's size. "I thought they'd get a kick out of it, especially Randi." He put it back down and looked back at Dave. "I'm all yours for the night, Dave. Just tell me what you want me to do and I'll do it."

Dave*had* to laugh at the dildo that Carter held up. "You did a good job picking it out. I'm sure Randi will appreciate it," he said, still laughing slightly. Body paints...handcuffs. "Did you read my mind?" Dave asked, reaching over for a tub of body paint. "I was thinking that these might be fun...not that I'm any kind of an artist...but I think you likely won't mind if I don't paint very straight lines, huh?"

Dave put the container back down on the dresser, and turned to face Carter once more. "You're gonna watch me strip...and then I"m gonna watch you strip...I wanna see you take every article of clothing off."

Dave reached for his shirt, and slowly, painstakingly, unbuttoned each button and shrugged it off of his body. Letting it fall down beside him, he soon did the same with his shoes...his pants...his socks...his underwear...

He was completely naked before Carter, and sporting a hard on that looked almost painfully large. Dave was *so* full of desire, it almost overwhelmed him.


To be continued
Chapter Twlelve by MonaCK
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts


It was torture watching Dave and not being able to touch him, and John's penis grew harder as he saw more and more of Dave's body. There had been several times when John had been tempted to disobey Dave, but he didn't. Since John couldn't touch Dave with his hands, he settled for using just his eyes, and he kept those on Dave the entire time.

Dave stood for a moment, and then reached for Carter, pulling him close and kissing him roughly before releasing him. "Now...strip for me, John...I used to love it when you stripped for me."

And, pulling away, Dave moved towards the edge of the bed, eagerly anticipating the show.

"Do you want it fast or slow?" John asked as he started to remove his cuff links.

"Slow," Dave answered, his eyes roaming Carter's body.

"I can do slow," John said. He tossed his cuff links over to the top of the dresser, and then began to strip, making sure he did it as slowly as possible. When he finally pulled off his last sock, John straightened and looked expectantly at Dave. "Was that slow enough for you?" he asked with a slow smile.

Dave's mouth went dry as he watched Carter strip. Man. That still *really* turned him on...watchin' his body unwrap like a really sexy present. As Carter became naked before him, Dave grasped at the sheets on the bed, trying to find something to clench so he didn't start to jerk off. He didn't wanna jerk off tonight...he wanted Carter to somehow cause him to come.

"Yeah. Yeah you did good, Carter...really good..."

Finally finding his legs again, Dave stood, and walked over towards his lover, and pulled John into his arms. "And now...now we're gonna have some fun..."

Wrapping his arms fully around him so their bodies were touching, so close you couldn't even put a credit card between 'em to separate 'em, Dave kissed Carter fully and passionately. And man...his dick was so hard, Dave was sure he coulda hammered nails with it.

Once again, John's mouth automatically opened for Dave, letting the man's tongue go where it belonged. He sucked on it hungrily, knowing he could never get enough of Dave. As they kissed, John's hands ran up and down Dave's body, caressing him everywhere.

Dave pulled away, his eyes wild with desire as he looked towards the man that he loved. "I think...I think it's time to put these handcuffs to use...what do you think?"

He led John towards the bed. True, there was nothing that he could really tie him back with, but...

"What if we hooked these to the edge of the table? I think the legs of the nightstand might just be high enough to bind you without you gettin' hurt...what do you think?"

Dave's eyes surveyed the countertop, and he smiled as his gaze settled on the "prolonging" cream that Carter had procured. "Maybe we should give this a try too, huh?"

John pulled the covers all the way back, then climbed onto the bed as Dave spoke. "I think you're right about both things," he said as he stretched out on his back. "Which one of us is going to get to test the cream? You or me?"

"I think," Dave said, as he held the container in his hands, "That you should go first. I wonder if this stuff is edible," he mused as he looked at the label. "Hmm...it does say it's safe to ingest, so I think we'll be alright if I put some of this on you...maybe I'll cover it with paint too," he said, a teasing smile on his lips. "But first..."

Dave put the container down, a look of determination on his face. "Lay back," he commanded, his voice taking on a more dominant tone. "It's time to chain you up..."

He waited for Carter to position himself, and then Dave grabbed the first set of handcuffs, making sure the keys were well within reach. He then proceeded to lock Carter's left hand into the silk end of the cuff, and then carefully attached it to the leg of the table.

"Is that alright? I'm not stretching ya too far, am I?"

After getting the okay, Dave moved across John to the other side, and quickly bound his other hand. Then, he pulled back, smiling slightly.

"Can't tie down your legs...gonna have ta trust that you won't move them much," he said, his eyes sparkling.

"I'll try my best not to, if that's what you want," John jauntily replied. He pulled once more at the handcuffs, liking the silk lined ones much better than the ones Dave had used on him before. His own penis was as hard as Dave's looked to be, and John was aching to touch or be touched.

"Are you going to put that on my penis now?" he asked, hopeful that the answer was going to be a yes.

Dave grinned, and shook his head. "I'm not putting it on until I hear you say that you want me to rub this stuff all over your cock and your balls. I wanna hear you talk *dirty* Carter. I wanna hear you tell me everything you want me to do to you...*dirty*."

Dave got up from the bed and went back over to the dresser, picking up the paints and the tub of cream in his hands and bringing them back to the bed. Straddling Carter's legs, Dave sat on the tops of Carter's thighs so he could have easy access to everything as he place the containers beside them.

Talk dirty? Dave wanted him to say those words -- sure, he'd said the 'f' word once or twice, but now Dave wanted to hear all the other ones, too? Hell, he wasn't even sure that he knew the kinds of words that Dave wanted to hear. John watched Dave move around, then he sighed as he felt Dave's body settle upon his legs. "Okay, I'll try. I want you to rub that all over me."

Dave shook his head as he picked up the jar of cream in his hand. As he twisted open the top, he cast Carter another glance. "Not good enough. You have to be specific. I mean...I"m sure you don't want your thighs to be hard...or your arms...what part of you do you want me to rub this on, John...tell me."

Dave knew it was gonna drive him crazy to talk like that...and the thought of John being driven crazy was only serving to excite Dave that much more.

"My peni...my cock, Dave. I want you to rub that on my cock. Make it even harder than it is now." Okay, it wasn't so hard to use the slang words, John thought, and he continued, "Rub it in slow and easy, taking your time as you run your hand up and down my cock, teasing me as you squeeze the tip of it." No, wait, that sounded demanding. John raised his head and looked pleadingly into Dave's eyes. "Please?"

A grin flickered across Dave's lips, and he nodded as he put some cream in his hands, warming it slightly before placing it on Carter's cock. "Good, Carter. Very good. I'm gonna do it like you like it...slow and easy. I'm gonna tease the Hell out of you...rubbing your cock up...and down..."

First Dave said it, and then he did it. His hands ran over John, feeling his cock between his fingers as he squeezed the tip, feeling the pre-come on his fingers.

One the cream was fully rubbed in, Dave replaced his hand with his mouth, touching and tasting the sweet nectar of Carter's juices. Yes. He had *longed* for this. Absolutely longed for this. He wanted this. Now he was getting it for the second time in the same day.

"Yes," John breathed heavily as Dave's mouth took over where his hands had left off. "That feels so good, Dave. I love it when you suck on my pen...cock. Don't stop, please don't stop," John begged for real that time.

Carter's words encouraged him. And his mouth continued to suck on Carter's dick. His hands grabbed Carter's balls, and he began to squeeze them...hard...just like Carter liked it.

His own cock absolutely throbbed in anticipation. He couldn't wait to come...or more accurately...he couldn't wait for Carter to make him come...just like it should be...the two of them...

Man...he never wanted this to end. Ever. And Dave tried not to think about the fact that when the cruise drew to a close, it was just gonna be him alone on this ship again. He wasn't sure if he could go back to being without Carter...even though they had only been together again for a few hours now.

"Oh, God yes, Dave...just like that. Squeeze my balls harder, please? Yes!" John threw his head back against the mattress as surges of desire raced through his body. His penis...no, it was his *cock*, was warmer than it had ever felt before, but he didn't know if it was from the cream or Dave's mouth or both, but his balls were starting to feel warm as well, and John was pretty sure that there had still been some of the cream on Dave's hands when he started to play with them.

"Jesus, Dave," John wanted so badly to come, but he wasn't sure if that was allowed. "Please? Let me come for you Dave. I've gotta come now, please?"

At these words, Dave drew his mouth off of John's cock, keeping a hand very lightly on it while he brought his eyes up to meet Carter's. "You wanna come, huh? How badly do you wanna come...you need to beg some more before I let that happen," he said, quietly enjoying the torture that he was putting Carter through. But he also knew that it was a sweet kind of torture. To be right on edge was nothing short of exquisite.

"Really badly, Dave. I need it so badly. Please? I'll do whatever you want tonight if you let me come now...I'll suck on you all night long...I'll let you fuck me all night long...I'll let you do anything. Please? I'm so hard it hurts, please, Dave?" John raised his head again as he begged Dave. "Anything you want. Anything." John was more than willing to promise all of that and more if Dave just let him come that one time.

Dave looked down at Carter's cock. Yeah.. it did look like it was almost painful, being as hard as all that. And with a grin, he brought his mouth back down on top of his shaft, licking, sucking, anything to try to draw it out of him., because Dave wanted to taste it as badly as Carter wanted to spill it.

Dave's hands found Carter's balls once more and he squeezed them...a little harder this time as he felt them contract against his hand. And he readied himself, knowing it wouldn't be long before he made Carter scream.

Dave was going to let him come! Even as John's mind registered that fact, his body reacted to it, and a million suns exploded inside of his being as he screamed out Dave's name.

Dave was prepared for it...but even so the sheer force and volume of come that fell into his mouth surprised him, and he found himself eagerly and quickly swallowing all that he could to try to not waste a precious drop. Whoa. It still was a pleasant thing to think about - that he had this kind of effect on another human being.

As Dave finally lifted his mouth off of Carter, he smiled. And didn't hesitate in crawling up the side of the bed to kiss Carter fully on the lips.

John's mouth was wild as he kissed Dave back, sucking and licking and kissing and trying hard to breathe while his heart was racing a mile a minute -- and all because of the man kissing him. His hands wanted to touch Dave and they moved, but couldn't reach him -- the handcuffs -- he was restrained and that made his kiss even wilder as he realized he was still at Dave's mercy. And he could feel the hardness of Dave's pen...cock against his hip.

So hard, so very, very hard.

And all his.

Dave broke away, breathless as he looked at his lover. Man. Man...he wanted him *so* bad...any way he could have 'im. *Any* way. "I'm gonna unchain you now, John...I want you to touch me.. I want you to make me scream...scream like I just made you scream...I want you to make me come any way you can think of to make me come..."

He didn't care how...he just wanted to have *some* part of him inside of Carter's body...whether it be his mouth or his ass.

He quickly took Carter out of his restraints, after getting up to gather the keys from on top of the dresser. And as quickly as Dave unhooked him, Dave was back in bed, waiting for Carter to make the next move.

The second that Dave was on his back, John straddled his hips, feeling Dave's balls and cock pressing against his anu...his ass. "You're as hard as I was, aren't you, Dave? It's not going to take much to make you come, is it? You were hard all through dinner, I could tell. I was hard, too. My cock ached from having you so close to me, but untouchable." John began to rock back and forth on top of Dave's groin, not sure if it would do anything for him or not, but he personally needed to feel something hard against his ass.

"How should I make you come? Do you want me to put my mouth on your balls and suck on them until you can't stand it any longer and you start to beg me for release the way I begged you? Or should I just suck at the tip of your cock until you explode in my mouth? Maybe you want me to lick around your ass, Dave? There's a word for that, did you know that? It's called rimming. Where I lick small circles around your tight asshole and then fuck you with my tongue. You don't want my cock up your ass but you loved having my tongue there, didn't you?" John was getting turned on by what he was saying and his rocking intensified.

"Maybe you want to watch me play with myself? Would that make you come, Dave? I can grab that fake cock and slide it in and out of my ass while you watch and wish that it was your cock moving in and out of me? Would you like that?" John's hand moved to his chest and he began to toy with a nipple while his other hand moved to Dave's groin to play with the only part of Dave's cock that was visible under John's body. "Yeah, maybe I'll do that. Handcuff you to the bed and make you watch me fuck myself."

Oh man...Dave was on sensory overload as Carter spoke...and maybe he was beginning to realize that he liked to be dominated more than he wanted to admit to himself. "Yeah...yeah...Carter...tie me up...do it all to me...I wanna watch you...I want you to make me scream. And I wanna watch you play with yourself..."

Man, it was making him harder just thinking about it...if that was at all possible...

John leaned forward, letting his body cover Dave's as he reached for the first handcuff and snapped it closed around Dave's wrist. "That's not too tight, is it? I don't want you to be hurt, Dave. I never want you to be hurt." John asked, looking intently into Dave's wild eyes.

Dave shook his head as the second handcuff was snapped shut. "No. It's perfect...just...just perfect. You...couldn't hurt me...."

Not anymore, not ever again...

"Okay, Dave, imagine that this is your cock I'm putting the lubricant on. Hell, forget that. I'm going to put the cream on you, to make you last longer so you can fuck me all night long and into the morning." As John spoke he opened the jar and began to smooth the cream up and down Dave's cock, pausing every now and then to lean his head over to lap up the pre-come that was almost pouring out. Then he put the cream on the fake cock and smiled at Dave.

"Are you ready to watch me, Dave?" John asked as he pinched his own nipple, making himself moan by the action.

Dave moaned as Carter rubbed his dick up and down...man...he was *so* hard...and *so* horny...and as Carter spoke again, he nodded. "Yeah...yeah...I wanna watch you..."

Man, this was gonna be *such* torture...and so good...so good to watch Carter...

Dave tested the limits of his handcuffs, and sure enough they were secure around his wrist. Not being able to touch anything was odd in its own right. Dave kept his eyes glued to Carter, wondering what he was gonna do next.

His legs spread, John leaned back until he could easily put the head of the fake cock at his opening -- and then he slowly began to push it inside, knowing he didn't need to be stretched -- not after already having had Luka and Dave that day. He bit his lip as it first burned a little bit, but a guttural moan echoed in the room as the tip scraped against his prostate and he pushed his body downward onto the toy.

Then he remembered that he was supposed to be tormenting Dave with his words, too, talking dirty to him as instructed. "God, it feels so good, Dave. Not as good as your cock. No cock is as good as yours, but this one is nice. When I move it like this," John twisted it around and gasped from the pleasure it sent through his body, "Oh, man, you know that's so good and you can't do that to me." John's eyes were at half-mast as he rode the fake organ, forgetting once again about talking dirty. His cock was too spent to get hard again, but his body was definitely responding to the actions and his nipples ached because they were such hard little nubs.

Dave lifted his head slightly, needing to look as Carter pleasured himself...man...he *really* seemed to be enjoying it...and Dave was able to appreciate the motions in a way that he was unable to when Dave's own dick was in Carter's body. "Yes...God...yes..."

Dave's cock ached -- ached to be touched...something. And Dave briefly thought whether or not it would be possible for him to come without even being touched. Because...man...he had *never* felt this turned on all at once before...

Dave bit his lip, unable to do anything else except continue to stretch his legs out as he felt sensations of pure want and need fill his body.

"God, John..,please...touch me..I need you to touch me...oh...God...I can't take it anymore..."

Somehow he had gone from being dominator to dominated, but he didn't care...

John was so caught up with pleasuring himself that he didn't hear Dave at first, but when those words finally registered in his brain, he didn't hesitate. The fake cock was quickly removed and John was just as quickly holding Dave's upright and steady as he lowered himself upon it.

"Yes, Dave. This is what I need...your cock inside of me, stretching me...God..." John reached his hands down on Dave's chest to balance himself as he moved slowly up and down Dave's hard cock, their moans combining in the night air.

"Mmm...oh...yes...yes...." Dave's body arched up to match Carter's as he moved his legs, trying to get as much leverage as he could to pump in and out of Carter's ass. It was odd not being able to use his hands, but he quickly adapted. Yes. Yes, this was what he was crying for. He continued to press himself inside of Carter, moving as rapidly as the other man's motions would allow.

"Yes...yes...I...I can't hold off...I have to come...God...please...I have to come..."

And losing absolutely any control he had left in his body, Dave's world went into a haze as his cock emptied in a sea of colors, filling Carter with his come as his eyes shut. There were pleasure waves throughout Dave's body, and he would have been a fool to say that he felt anything other than pure bliss.

The only thing John could feel was a slight throbbing on the outer rim of his ass -- a throbbing that was probably Dave's cock contracting as it came. When it stopped, he lurched forward onto Dave's chest, his hands holding Dave's face in place as his mouth landed upon Dave's lips, kissing him passionately, and wanting Dave's tongue just as deeply inside of him as Dave's cock had been

Dave returned the kiss, a bit frustrated because his hands were still useless. Dave was so full of emotion -- he had come with such full force, that he felt like all of his feelings were on the edge of his body. Dave felt ultra-sensitive, as if the slightest movement would make him climb through the roof.

His tongue strokes matched Carter's as Dave's legs moved up, trying to capture anything that he could of Carter's body. And as the kiss finally ended, Dave's eyes were full of all the emotion he'd been feeling.

"Do you have any idea how much I love you? That was fucking *amazing* John. I swear...more amazing then when we've done it in the past...man...I don't think I could live without that again if I tried.."

"Really?" John asked. "Did you enjoy it that much? Because that's how I feel every time with you, Dave." He looked into Dave's brown eyes, looking for a sign that Dave really meant what he said and wasn't just talking.

"I'd never lie to you," Dave said quickly, his gaze matching Carter's. "I swear, I really enjoyed it...and I've never felt quite this way...it's..,it's different this time.. yeah...I've never stopped loving you...but maybe...maybe being apart for so long sealed it for me...I can't live without you...I don't wanna live without you..."

He was speaking from his heart. Completely from his heart.

John slowly smiled. "Good, because I don't want to live without you, either." He gently kissed Dave's lips, and then sat back up, a shocked look on his face.

"Shit, Dave, we did it again. I forgot all about a condom." This time though, he didn't feel as panicked as he had that other time. "Maybe this is a sign that we're meant to be only with each other?" He asked as he squeezed his ass around the base of Dave's cock, wondering if Dave could even feel that slight movement.

"Mmm...yes," Dave said, feeling the effects of Carter squeezing his muscles around him throughout his body. "I think...no...I know that we're meant only for each other. I've known that since before I left Chicago. My heart's been with ya all this time. I hope you took good care of it," Dave joked, as he smiled up to Carter. "Not to mention that this way...if we don't' use a condom...I don't gotta pull outta you right away. I like bein' inside you, you know..."

Again he tried to move his hands, and was frustrated that he was still locked up. And trying his best to muster up a puppy dog look, he brought his eyes up to John's.

"I don't suppose you can let me outta these shackles..."

John slowly smiled. "I might be able to do that, but if I move, you might slip out of me, and I want you to stay in me just as much as you want to stay there. I think it might be best to just keep you right where you are until the cruise ends. Hell, I'll just book all the cruises between now and when your contract ends and keep you here the whole time...just like this. You can ask the patients questions and me and Nurse Davis can do that rest, although I'll only be able to do but so much since I'll have your cock up my ass all the time."

Dave couldn't help but laugh at that thought. "Yeah...but I'd imagine that it would become mighty uncomfortable for me after a while. A man's gotta piss some time. And no offense, John, but I ain't doin' that inside of you. Not to mention, that I think my legs would start to cramp after a while. So while it's a *really* good idea, and one I wouldn't mind doin', I don't think it would work very well in application," Dave teased.

"You're probably right. I guess I'll just have to keep my fake buddy around for those times you can't be there, huh?" John slowly pulled up and off of Dave, sighing as an empty ache raced through him at the loss. He reached for a key and started to free Dave. "I told you about that dominatrix, right? You should have seen the fake one she had in her bag. It was huge, Dave. Maybe twice your size. And she had it secured in a strap or something, I guess so she could fuck her clients." Dave's right hand was freed and John moved to unlock the cuff around Dave's left wrist.

"It ended up in Weaver's locker," he said, chuckling. "You should have seen us at that class, trying to get each other to admit to being the one who put it there."

As soon as Dave's hands were freed, he immediately brought them down to touch Carter's skin, smiling as the guy talked to him about the dominatrix. "Yeah? You had fun talking about that I'd bet...so who was it? Who finally admitted that they put the dildo in Weaver's locker? Man, I wish you had taken a picture of that, I can just imagine that a dick was about the *last* thing that woman wanted to see," he said, as he moved his hand over Carter's soft skin.

"No one ever did admit to that, but I think everyone was thinking that Gallant did it. He's a new med student. Very studious and mannerly. He's in the army or something like that, and it really wasn't right that Weaver wrote him up and made him go. He's just a med student, damn it." John's voice was hard as he reached the end of the sentence -- it had been bad enough that Weaver had punished him and Luka, but Gallant -- he was just a student and all of them could see the way her verbal tongue lashing had hurt him. Shamed him. "It just wasn't right and I couldn't let her get away with doing that to him."

Something about the last bit of Carter's rant about the way Weaver has treated this med student caught Dave's ear, and a smile spread over his face. "It was you, wasn't it," Dave said, continuing to caress Carter's skin. "You did it. You put the dildo in Weaver's locker..."

Dave's grin broadened. "I *knew* there was a devilish side to you. I'm glad that I'm not the only one it comes out for these days. The quiet ones, I tell ya," Dave teased.

John grinned. "No one could figure out just how it got in there. Weaver even made maintenance come down to inspect it, to make sure no one had forced it open. Fuck, it used to be *my* locker before the bitch exiled me to Atlanta, you'd think she'd remember that, right?" John asked angrily as he flinched away from Dave's touch. "I know I fucked up with the drugs, and I deserved to be treated like a pariah when I came back, but it fucking hurt to walk into the lounge and find my stuff in a box, Dave. A fucking cardboard box, because they took my locker away while I was gone. They fucking took it away, like I didn't matter any more."

Whoa...instant change. "Hey...hey...it's okay...you're one of the most respected doctors in the hospital now, John. No, you didn't deserve that...but it took a while for you to earn everyone's trust again...you've got it now...I can tell ya that for sure..."

Dave lifted his body so that he was leaning down on the mattress with his arm, and sighed. "I know it hurt, man. Trust me. I know how it hurt. It hurt a lot when Weaver fired me, too...but I think I've moved on pretty well from that. And yeah...you've moved on from it, too."

"You stood up to her, though, didn't you? No one else does that. Hell, Dave, if I had been there when she fired you, I wouldn't have said anything. Just like I sat by while she reamed out Gallant. We all did." John got up from the bed and began to pace the room. "Sure, we said a few things, weak protests, really, but we didn't say anything. The only one with enough guts to talk back to Weaver these days is Deb, and that's because she basically blackmailed Kerry into giving her a job as an attending. *I* wanted to apply to be Chief Resident. Hell, I *did* apply, but Weaver pulled it. She was 'concerned' that the pressures from the job would jeopardize my recovery. Well, guess who she appointed as Chief Resident when Deb quit? Me, that's who. And she didn't give a fuck about my recovery then. I could have gone over to North Western and been an attending, but no, I stayed there at County. She wouldn't hire me as an attending, no way. She wanted someone with more experience and then she ended up with Deb, who fucking killed that kid because she was too incompetent enough to look at his films."

John was getting more and more agitated as he paced. "Weaver didn't want me in her basement, she didn't want me as Chief Resident, she didn't want me as an attending. Abby didn't want me, you acted like you didn't want me, then you left and then Susan didn't want me. No one ever fucking wants me except for fucking!"

Dave sat up, completely dumbfounded that such a nice evening took such a drastic turn. "Whoa...John...do you really think that that's what this is all about? That all I'm interested in is fucking you? Do you really think that that's why I'm here? Because I wanna get laid? Damn it...if I all I wanted was to get laid, I coulda had that hundreds of times over already. But, no. No. I didn't. Because it didn't fucking mean anything. It didn't mean anything unless it was you."

Dave sat up, and then got to his feet, daring to try to walk over to him to stop him from pacing. "Damn it, John. Would you listen to me? I'm *not* gonna leave this time. I'm not gonna do that. And you could tell me that you never wanted me to fuck you again, and I would do it if it meant I could stay with you. Do you have *any* idea how fucking special you are?"

Dave finally put his hands on his shoulders, forcing Carter to look at him. "I'm sorry I acted like an ass back then. If I could take it all back, I would. You have to know that. I loved you then. And I love you now..."

John shook his head. "I know you love me. I didn't mean you...never you. But I'm not special, Dave, you've got to believe that. I'm a coward who won't even stand up for someone, instead I sneak around and do something childish to strike back at Weaver. But not you, never you." John said, his anger suddenly gone as he looked into Dave's eyes. "Never you."

"Hey...there's nothing wrong with a good prank...and it gave all of you something to talk about while you were in that class, right? I'll bet it was funny as hell. Hey -- we all have our ways of coping with things and striking back. And trust me...it's not that great to be the type to shoot off your mouth. It often comes back to bite ya in the ass. I called Weaver a Nazi Dyke. A -dyke-! I said that...do you have any idea how much I regret those words now? Man...I was so insecure about my own sexuality...and my own feelings. And I'm sorry...but you are *very* special. *Very* special. And I don't want you to ever forget that...I won't *let* you forget that..."

He pulled Carter firmly into his arms, losing himself in the other man's embrace.

"But I'm not," John muttered as he wrapped his arms around Dave. "I'm not. You're the one who's special, Dave. I've never had anyone before tell me that they'd want me even without the sex. Never. God, I'd do anything for you, anything to make you as happy as you make me."

"You don't haveta do anything more than what you've already been doing," Dave said, as he continued to hold Carter close to him. "Just being here makes me happy...just knowing that you still love me...man...that makes me happier than I can even begin to tell you. That you love me even though I was an ass...I don't know how I got so lucky...but I'm not gonna question it."

Pulling back slightly, he brushed a hand down the side of Carter's face. "What do you say we go nap for a little while...it's been way, way too long since I last slept with you...and I intend on fixing that right now..."

John smiled weakly. "I've missed that so much. I know we weren't together for long, but I got used to you rather quickly." John grabbed Dave by the hand and led him back to the bed. He had shocked himself by his angry outburst, but Luka had been right when he had said that someone who loved you wouldn't leave you for revealing what you were feeling. Dave was still there with him.

John straightened the covers and then slipped under them, waiting for Dave to get into the bed so they could nestle up against each other.

"I missed it, too. It was hard to get used to sleeping alone again," Dave commented as they walked over towards the bed. He easily slipped under the covers, and gathered the taller man in his arms, almost immediately going back to the position that they had both been most comfortable in when they were last together. And as Carter leaned his head against his chest, Dave smiled as he planted a kiss on top of Carter's ear.

"Yeah...yeah...this is what I missed...more than the sex...I missed...just bein' with you..."

And he sighed as he leaned back against the pillow. All was *really* right with the world.


To be continued
Chapter Thirteen by MonaCK
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts


The following days passed slowly for Dave and John, but the nights seemed to pass far too quickly. Dave fell into the habit of arriving at the suite around midnight and then staying until shortly before six to return to his own cabin to get ready for work. Each man was happier than they had been in a long time, and it was noticed by those around them.

Randi and Maggie decided to not discuss the merits of Luka versus Dave with regard to John. Instead they shopped, swam, sunned out on the private balcony and enjoyed each other's company.

Luka fell into a shipboard romance with Mike after letting the other man know that he wasn't looking for any kind of a committed relationship. Since Mike's sister and her friends had the run of their suite, Mike ended up staying in Luka's room most of the time, often arriving at the same time as Dave every evening. Luka still had thoughts about John, and his concern that Dave was going to hurt him again didn't disappear, although John's obvious happiness was doing quite a bit to allay those concerns.

When the ship arrived in Hawaii, Dave went with them for the first afternoon of sight-seeing. They visited the memorial at the USS Arizona, paying their respects to all who had died during the bombing of Pearl Harbor. After that, they roamed the island, not returning to the ship until nearly midnight. The next day, Dave had to pay up on his deal to be available for that dinner at the Captain's Table. Stuck serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, Dave insisted that John go off with the others and enjoy an authentic luau, as already arranged. John's reluctance to leave Dave behind on the ship was only deepened when he discovered that Mike's sister Susan was also included in their little group.

John had thought the woman would have had a clue that the majority of the men on the cruise were gay or bi, but she certainly didn't behave that way as she clung to him the entire morning and into the afternoon, talking his ear off about anything and everything that popped into her head. Escape for John came when he, Susan, Mike and Luka met up with Randi and Maggie for a late lunch in Chinatown, and he volunteered to walk around with Randi and Maggie. Suzie was about to invite herself along, but a leering gaze and ribald comment from Maggie made her change her mind. Her friends were lesbians she knew, Maggie wasn't, and Suzie wasn't interested in being picked up by another woman.

After thanking Maggie and Randi profusely for the rescue, John treated them to a few souvenirs and then they spent some time on the beach before the luau was to begin. Mike and Luka met them there, after having returned to the ship for a 'nap', and leaving Susan behind since she had a headache. The luau was everything it had been promoted to be and then some, and they all had a great time.

It was slightly after midnight when the group returned to the ship, their stomachs full, their feet tired, but their libidos high. Luka and Mike disappeared first, then Maggie and Randi, leaving John alone in the sitting room as he wondered when Dave would arrive. To John, it seemed as if days had passed since he had last seen Dave rather than the hours that had elapsed.

Dave, meanwhile, had spent a 'wonderful' day serving up grub in the dining room. He was beginning to wonder if it had all been worth it -- he couldn't remember when he was last this tired. It did give him a new found respect for the wait staff -- not since he worked in his uncles restaurant in NY had Dave last waited tables...and though he quickly got back in the swing of things, Dave quickly remembered why he had gone to medical school in the first place.

Finally, at 11pm, the tables were cleared from dinner, and Dave was given the okay to take off for the night. He went down to his cabin long enough to peel out of his clothing. He got changed into a pair of jeans and a t-shirt, and then pretty quickly made his way upstairs. He was *craving* Carter at that point...not so much for the sex...but because he was hungry for his companionship.

A few minutes later, he found himself outside of Carter's door. Very softly he knocked, hoping that he wasn't' disturbing anyone. Not that he cared. He needed to see Carter, but it was always better to not have the others pissed off with him.

After the girls had gone to bed, John decided to shower away the sun block, sand and other reminders of the day. Leaving his clothes in a pile on the floor, he was just about to head into the bathroom when he heard a soft knocking through the open bedroom door.

Dave. It *had* to be Dave.

John grabbed his bathrobe from the foot of the bed and put it on as he hurried through the sitting area to the main door of the suite. Holding the bathrobe closed in case it wasn't Dave, John answered the door.

"You're earlier than I expected," John said, grinning as he took in Dave's 'civilian' attire. "No uniform tonight? I'm getting quite used to seeing you in your uniform, you know. You look so damn good in it."

Dave walked inside, letting the door shut before taking his lover in his arms and planting a soft kiss on his lips. "Yeah, well...if you want, I can go back to my room and get my uniform on...but trust me...you didn't want to see me in my stinky food serving clothes. Man, I have to tell you...you passengers are a demanding bunch," he teased, as he placed a delicate kiss on Carter's neck. "The only thing I didn't get a chance to do is shower..."

Feeling the terrycloth robe under his fingers, Dave smiled.

"Hmm...were you gettin' ready to go to bed or something? You're all changed..."

Not that Dave was complaining one *bit* about Carter bein' in nothing but a robe...

John smiled. "I was about to jump into the shower. I didn't think you'd appreciate me half as much with the smell of sun block on my skin and sand plastered to me."

He ran his hands up under the back of Dave's shirt. "I think we should shower together, I hear it saves water or something like that, and it's been a long time since I had one of your 'lessons' in how to get clean without using a washcloth." His robe had come open and John could feel Dave's hands against his bare skin, searching for something, and finally finding his hard cock. John ginned as he thought about how easily that word came to him -- days, or rather, nights, of 'talking dirty' to Dave had ingrained those words into John's brain and they now permeated his thoughts. Although not usually in relation to his own body. It was mostly that John thought about Dave's cock and Dave's balls and all that he wanted to do with Dave and not so much about what he wanted Dave to do with him.

As Dave's hands stroked Carter's dick, he brought his eyes up to meet Carter's. "Yeah, I think showering together...a lesson or two in cleanliness...that might be just what the ship's doctor ordered. Ya know, proper hygiene is very important..,I haveta make sure that my favorite patient is doin' all of that up to proper standards," he said, as he continued to stroke Carter.

"And I think...we'd better take this to the bathroom sooner rather than later...or you're gonna have a hard time gettin' me to move away from your body at all."

Amazing what a little dose of Carter did to Dave's libido...and exhaustion. While he had barely been able to keep his eyes open, he now was wide awake...*all* of him was wide awake. His cock pressed against the front of his jeans -- a feeling that Dave hadn't felt in a *long* time since he spent most of his waking hours in the slightly looser uniform trousers. It begged to be freed.

"You know where my bathroom is," John said with a grin. "Lead the way and I'll follow, even though I don't come with a leash," he joked.

Dave had to laugh at that. And with a grin, he looked down at Carter's cock.

"Oh...I think if I pulled a *certain* something, you'd definitely follow me, but I'll settle for grabbing your hand," he teased, as Dave stopped stroking Carter and laced their fingers together instead.

Pulling him into Carter's bedroom, Dave shut the door behind him, and then turned to face Carter once more. He dropped Carter's hand and drew his hands up the side of Carter's body, just under the fabric of the robe. Reaching his shoulders, Dave drew the garment down, letting it fall onto the floor as his hands completed the journey by running down the length of Carter's arms before he reached for his lover's hands once more.

"That's better. I love ya clothed...and I loved ya naked...but hmm...right now...naked is the way I want ya."

John could only grin as he looked at Dave. Their reunion on the ship had been beyond words, and John felt as if he were the king of the world whenever Dave looked at him or touched him. He had said that to Dave, too. Said many things to him over the past days, and now he couldn't seem to find anything at all to say.

So instinct took over for intellect, and John gently pulled his hands away from Dave's, then began to undo Dave's jeans, slowly lowering himself to the floor as he pulled them down Dave's thick and muscular legs, taking the boxers with the denim and revealing Dave's rigid cock.

"This," John finally said as he ran his fingers lightly over Dave's erection, "is the way I want you."

"Anytime...anytime you want me...I'm yours...don't ever forget that...don't ever...God..." Dave was beyond any thought as emotions and feelings completely took over his body. All Carter had to do was touch him...or even look at him a certain way...and all resolve of any kind went out the window. While on the way up he had said he would have been happy to just -be- with Carter...now he wanted so much more.

"I think we have to get in that shower now...or all we're gonna do is get dirty right here on the floor," Dave said, grinning from ear to ear.

Yeah...Dave was pretty sure this was heaven on earth.

John nodded, then looked down at the floor, where Dave's pants were puddled around his ankles. "Lift up your foot," John said as he grabbed the double layer of material, wanting nothing more right then than to get Dave completely naked. They were once more in their own world, the world that existed only in John's bedroom -- a place where no one dared intrude, no matter how loud or wild they became. A sanctuary of sorts for them both, and a place where being dirty on the floor just wasn't done.

Unless Dave wanted it. After he tossed Dave's pants aside, John looked up the length of Dave's body, his eyes lingering for but a moment to watch Dave's cock bob up and down in the air. "Do *you* want to get dirty right here on the floor?" John asked.

Dave looked down at Carter, a smile still playing on his lips. "I wanna get dirty...oh Hell...it doesn't matter *where*. I just wanna get *dirty* with you...so we can get clean..."

Dave collapsed on his knees as well, and wrapped his arms around Carter's neck, drawing the taller man as close to Dave as possible. "I want *you*...every way, anyway..."

And within a moment, Dave covered Carter's mouth with his, tongue probing...hands reaching...touching...

Never before had Dave been as compatible with someone.

John slowly sucked on the tip of Dave's tongue while his hand slid up and down Dave's cock. Dave's moans were obvious, despite the fact that their mouths were attached to one another. It felt good -- it all felt good, almost too good. Each time they were together seemed to be better, hotter, steamier than the previous one, and in the back of his mind John wondered if they would ever reach a time when that wouldn't happen. Would it then go in reverse?

Dave's cock seemed to swell inside of John's fist and he pushed his questions away so he could concentrate on pleasing Dave. His entire reason for being seemed to narrow down to the man in front of him, John realized as their kiss ended, leaving them breathless as always.

"I need your cock in me, Dave. I don't care where, as long as it's there." John said, his voice demanding, although he was ready to make it sound pleading if Dave wanted him to beg. As long as the end result was what he wanted, John didn't much care what he had to say or do to reach that point.

"And I wanna be inside you...and I wanna suck on you...suck on your cock until you come...screaming my name...the question is...do you wanna do it out here...on the bed where we'll be comfortable...or in the shower where we can get clean afterwards...man...John...I just want *you*..."

Dave's hands roamed Carter's body once again...his hands feeling this skin under his fingers...his mouth touching the base of his lover's neck, enjoying the way Carter seemed to squirm...a finger touched Carter's pulsating cock, and once more Dave had to moan.

"You'd better...make a decision...soon...or I'm...gonna...make love to you...right...here," Dave finally eeked out as his mouth made it's way to Carter's ear.

As if John could think when Dave was hitting all of his most vulnerable spots. "Mmmm," he moaned, bending his head to the opposite side just in case Dave wanted to lick on his neck or bite him or...anything.

It seemed that Carter was *completely* incapable of making the decision, so Dave made it for him. Lifting himself up, he pulled Carter up along with him. And grabbing his hand, he pulled him towards the bathroom with a mischievous glint in his eye. "I wanna do this in the shower...I want there to be hot water falling down on us when we do this...and I wanna make love to you...right in the shower...me...pumping my hard cock inside you..."

Dave released his hand from Carter's...long enough to go over and begin to run the water. He was bent over slightly, and he knew that his ass was in full view of Carter.

Oh, God...John closed his eyes, trying to block out the sight that was threatening to make him come right there and then, without Dave even touching him. John loved to play with Dave's body, even his ass, although the thought of actually fucking Dave hadn't really been foremost in John's mind. Sure, he'd thought about it a time or two, but only when Dave was away from him and never when they were together. No, when they were together, John had different plans for his cock, and putting it into Dave's ass wasn't one of them. Letting Dave suck him dry definitely *was* though, John thought as he opened his eyes and saw that Dave had turned around and was looking at him, his expression lustful, as usual.

John wondered if he had the same look on his face and if his eyes held the same wild passion as Dave's did?

As Dave finished adjusting the water, he turned around with a grin on his face, intent on pulling Carter into the shower by his cock if he had to. But his grin became softer as he looked towards the man he loved. Man. That...that emotion...that...whoa...his face...even without his eyes open, he was so expressive in how he felt.

And those feelings only intensified as Carter's eyes fluttered open, sure that Dave's own expression matched Carter's. And taking a step closer to Carter, Dave wrapped his arms around the man once more.

"I could get used to this...Hell...I already am used to this."

After planting another soft kiss on Carter's lips, Dave reluctantly released him -- but only because he was aching to be in the shower with the guy. "C'mon John, let's go get clean..."

He turned to walk towards the shower and stepped in, confident that Carter would be right behind him.

John's lips were still on fire from the kiss as he watched Dave step into the shower. The man did such incredible things to him, and John grinned as he imagined their future. Sure, it would be rough for the next four months or so, with Dave stuck in his contract with the cruise line, but John knew that their times together during that wait would be all the sweeter because of them not being able to be together all of the time.

His feet walked across the cool tile floor, following where Dave led, because there was no other choice but to follow. As the slightly hot water stung his skin, John wrapped his arms around Dave, hugging him from behind and savoring the warmth of Dave's body.

"I love you," John said loud enough to be heard over the relentless stream of water that cascaded over them both. "I'll always love you."

As soon as Carter wrapped his arms around him, Dave sighed, and placed his own hands over Carter's, feeling the skin under his fingertips as Dave leaned against him. "I love you too...God...more than I thought I could ever..."

Yeah...he was in big...big trouble. Dave wasn't quite sure how he was gonna get through the rest of his contract without being with Carter. The months that they were apart seemed to melt away during this past week...and it was hard to believe that there was only a week left of their reunion. How the Hell were they gonna get through it? It wasn't like Carter could even visit him during the few days off a month he had...as it was, he only had one more full week off before the end of his contract. And man...if Steve ever caught wind of exactly *who* Dave was in love with.

Man...he couldn't be without his brother. His brother was the only family he had left.

Slowly Dave turned around, trying to force all horrible thoughts out of his head. Carter was still here...Dave couldn't dwell on the negative, or it was gonna ruin their fun time.

"So what was that you were sayin' about me having my cock somewhere inside ya?"

John slowly smiled as his hand reached out to stroke Dave once again. "I was saying that I needed to have your wonderful and magnificent specimen of a cock in me. Anywhere. I don't care where, I need it that bad, Doctor Dave. Maybe I could have it in more than one place?" he asked, the idea of sucking on Dave's cock and stopping to let Dave fuck him hitting him out of the blue. But he'd have to make sure he didn't suck too long or hard, or Dave wouldn't last long when they reached the second part of the plan. And that wouldn't do at all.

"I think...I think that sounds like a very good plan...a mighty good plan...what do you say about...me making you come...while I'm fucking you...I wanna feel what it's like for you to come with me inside you..."

He moaned once more as he felt Carter's hands on him. For Dave, it was like a treat that never ended. Carter was like an endless sea of pleasure for him. And all thoughts about what would happen when they reaches the shores of California again completely left Dave's mind as Carter's strokes became more insistent. Dave's hand's found Carter's cock, and he began to mimic his lover's motions -- wanting Carter to feel as good as he was making Dave feel.

"Hmm, I like that idea, too." John said, but he didn't move. What was the sense in moving when Dave's hand was touching him? Dave's cock chose that moment to twitch within his grasp and it reminded John that he had a mission to complete.

"As good as your hand feels, I'm going to have to leave it for a bit," John said as he slowly lowered himself to the now warmed porcelain floor of the tub to take Dave's erection into his mouth. As he slowly sucked his way down to the base, taking all of Dave in, John's thoughts went back to that morning when they had last showered together, and Dave had shaved him bare. John had no idea how many days could pass before he'd need to shave his groin area because Dave had decided that it was something that needed to be done every morning. Not that John had any complaints about that new habit, especially since he always ended up coming when it was done because Dave's nearness and touches kept him on the verge of orgasm the entire time.

Maybe one day Dave would be the one being shaved, John mused as his nose was tickled by water droplets that beaded down Dave's pubic hair. It would definitely be nice to see how it felt to lick Dave's skin and not feel any hair there at all, the way Dave did to him.

"Mmmm...yes...that's it John...that's it...suck me...suck me John." Dave's voice was hoarse with emotion and desire as he lowered his hands to the other man's shoulders. He was doing it both to have something to use for leverage, and also because he had an intense desire to feel some part of Carter under his hands. And Carter's shoulders would have to do for now.

Dave thrust his groin upwards slightly, wanting to feel Carter's mouth around as much of him as possible. Man. Carter never failed to leave him wanting more, even when he was given the world already.

Dave's words of encouragement pushed John onward, and his oral assault moved from Dave's entire cock to just the head, the most sensitive part. John's tongue flicked over it quickly, then he licked his way to Dave's balls, sucking on the skin for a bit, teasing Dave with the idea that he was going to draw each one into his mouth to suckle on.

"Mmmm, yes...that's it...yes." It seemed like his entire world was focused on one person...the man kneeling down in front of him who seemed to know Dave's body better than Dave knew it himself. Every touch...every motion...seemed to be on a different level than the last. Each one increased desire.

His eyes fluttered closed as desire mounted. Man...Carter was gonna have to stop soon...or he wasn't gonna be able to keep it under control. Much as Dave was enjoying the sensations...

Hearing Dave's permission for him to go further, John tenderly sucked a testicle into his mouth, carefully positioning it before sucking. He wanted to once more stroke Dave's cock, but John that doing so would push Dave past his endurance, and John couldn't and wouldn't allow that to happen. As it was, the sounds coming from Dave's throat and the way his body squirmed under his touch were telling John that Dave was getting close.

The desire to have Dave inside of him drove John to his feet and he kissed Dave briefly on the lips before turning around. He bent over slightly and braced his hands against the wall of the tub. "Now, Dave. I need you in me now." God, but his own cock was pulsating with the urgent need for release and John had to fight back the urge to stroke himself to completion.

He moved himself in position. Dave's hand found Carter's opening, and he inserted it, knowing that Carter wasn't gonna need much stretching due to all the activities the two of them had participated in all week long. Man. It was like he was ready to burst, and he hadn't even entered Carter yet. Finally, Dave pressed the tip against his opening, and he pushed himself fully inside the man, groaning as he felt Carter's muscles envelope him.

One hand was steadied on Carter's hip, for leverage, more than anything else. And Dave's other hand moved towards the front of Carter's body, finding Carter's hard cock with his fingers.

"God, yes..." John sighed as he pushed his hips backward, taking Dave all the way in with that quick motion -- he never felt as...complete, as he did when Dave was buried to the hilt inside of his body. "Yes," John sighed again as Dave's hand began to stroke him -- fast and hard, because he knew they both needed to come so very badly.

"Yes."

Pure instinct took over as Dave continued to press himself in and out of the man he loved. He was beyond any coherent thought at that moment -- knowing that very soon he was going to be the utmost of satisfied.

Yeah...yeah...this felt *great* to Dave. And yeah...it wasn't gonna be...

Dave pressed himself against Carter's most sensitive spots...knowing that he had hit Carter's prostrate when he felt Carter's dick twitch in his hand...and he wondered if they would be able to come together. Because Dave already knew that when Carter came, he wasn't gonna be able to hold off.

"Faster," John urged, meaning both Dave's cock and hand. "Faster, Dave...oh, God...yes...Yes!!!!" he finally screamed as he crested the peak of desire and exploded into Dave's hand. Head bowed, John watched through half-lidded eyes as Dave's hand milked his cock and the creamy liquid splashed against the wall, lingering there because two bodies blocked the water from the shower.

And then there was nothing more left to come out of John's body, but he felt the weight of Dave's body against his back and instinct told him that Dave had also come. Had it been at the same time? Had Dave felt those ripples as John had come -- had they sent Dave over the edge?

John put all his weight against his left hand so his right hand could hold Dave's hand in place around his now limp cock. "Did we do it?" John asked, his voice slightly hoarse from his scream of delight. "Did we come together?" They had to have, he thought. Dave wanted it so much, so it just had to have happened.

At about the same time that Carter's world exploded in his hand, Dave's cock exploded in Carter's ass, filling him with his love as quickly as he was pumping it out of his lover's body. Yeah...yeah...that was pretty fucking awesome. The way that Carter's muscles had gripped around him when Carter came hadn't given Dave much of a choice.

Not that he wanted it to be any other way.

"Yeah...yeah," Dave finally said. "yeah, we came together...God...do you have.. any idea...how...fucking amazing...you are?"

He didn't want to withdraw from him, but the desire to kiss Carter overwhelmed him, and Dave found that in one motion, he was out of Carter's ass, and his arms were pulling Carter up so he could hold him close.

Pulling his lips down onto Carter's, Dave kissed him, moaning as their mouths met once more.

Dave's praise for his sexual prowess sent a thrill down John's spine. If he could keep Dave pleasured, then he could keep Dave, it was that simple, really. And he was determined to do all he had to do to keep Dave pleasured and sated and wanting him.

When the kiss ended, John smiled into Dave's eyes. "I love you," he said again, wanting Dave to get used to hearing it often, so that he wouldn't miss it so much in the four months to come. The four lonely months until Dave could return to Chicago where he belonged.

"I love you too, my insatiable sex kitten," Dave joked, as he kept his arms wrapped around Carter, returning the smile. Yeah. They'd get through it. Somehow, they'd get through being apart until Dave could get out of his contract. They had to. Dave belonged with Carter. There just wasn't any other way to describe it. Dave hadn't felt this way about anyone before, and the time apart had told Dave that he wouldn't feel this way about anyone again. Carter...John...John was it. John was it his soul mate.

"You got me thinkin' about mushy stuff now," Dave teased, as he planted a kiss on John's nose. "I hope you don't mind, but I have this urge to keep telling you that I love you so that you never think anything else."

The shower water continued to pour down on them, but it was gettin' a little bit cooler. "What do you say we shut off this water, and crawl into that warm bed?"

"I think that's good," John said, a smile on his face. But inside he was frowning as he wondered how Dave knew that other's had called him 'sex kitten'? John definitely had never told that to Dave, but he obviously knew -- but how?

His thoughts were brought to a stop when the water ceased flowing and then Dave was drying him off. John wanted to ask him, but he didn't. He was too afraid that if he did, then Dave would ask him about *who* it had been who had called him that, and John wasn't in the mood to talk with Dave about Jenny.

Dave was smiling as he continued to dry Carter off, remembering how after their first time showering together Carter had told him the best way to go about drying him.. starting at the top and working his way down. It seemed like something wasn't quite right, though. Though Carter never said anything, his expression told Dave that Carter's mind was elsewhere. That he was thinking of something that Carter didn't wanna talk to Dave about.

Dave didn't want to push him...but man...if Dave had done something to upset him...he needed to know.

"Hey," he said, after he finished drying his lover off. "Are you okay? Did I hurt you?"

Bringing his hand up to the side of Carter's face, Dave wiped off a droplet of water that was running down the side of his cheek.

Shit! Dave had noticed something was wrong. John didn't want to get into a discussion, not right then. Not ever, really. Thinking fast, he chuckled and shook his head. "Not that I know about. Why? Am I bleeding or something?"

Dave furrowed his brow. "No...I don't think so...why... are you hurt? Man...I didn't use any lube...I thought it was okay because we were in the shower..."

Man, all Dave could think about was getting his rocks off...and his mind inadvertently went back to their very first time together...at least...the first time they fucked...when Carter was drunk...and Dave had inadvertently made him bleed.

"I'm sorry, man...I won't try it without lube again..."

John pulled Dave to him and hugged him tightly. "No. I'm fine, Dave. Completely fine. You can even check me out if you want, I won't stop you. But it was great and it didn't hurt and I'm fine." John looked intently into Dave's eyes. "Do you understand me, Dave? I'm fine."

God, Dave had to believe him because it was true, and because John didn't want a repeat of the argument that had broken them apart for such a long and lonely time. This time, no matter how many times Dave asked, John would answer, and not with his own fears and accusations, but with the truth -- that he was fine.

Dave nodded, hearing nothing but the truth in Carter's voice this time when he spoke. "Okay, I believe you...I promise...I'll never doubt you again, okay? I'm sorry that I doubted you before...man...you have no idea..."

Shutting his eyes tightly, Dave continued to hold Carter close to him. No way. No way was he gonna let there be a fight over this same issue...it was all too close for Dave...too much like that horrible fight which sent him away from Carter the first time.

"Please," Dave finally said, pulling back slightly from Carter's embrace. "I might not always say the right thing...but you gotta believe this...I love you so much...and nothin's gonna change that..."

John smiled, and then planted a kiss on Dave's forehead. "I know. Now, how about that bed? I don't know about you, but I'm one tired man."

Dave nodded. "Yeah...I'm pretty tired myself. You know, I've gotten so used ta sleeping next to you again, I don't know how I'm gonna sleep when I have to go back to my own cabin," he said, as he followed John back into the bedroom. Man. He was thinking of him as John again...just like he had before he left Chicago all those months ago. John. *His* John.

He climbed into bed, and waited for John to join him, conforming his body to John's as soon as the other man was settled. Dave wrapped his arms around him and sighed contentedly.

"Mmm...yes. I'm definitely used to this..."

"Me, too. I am so looking forward to running up my frequent flyer miles, but even without that perk, flying to California as often as possible will be well worth it, just as long as we get to sleep together like this," John said as he rested his head in the crook of Dave's arm. "What's your place like? We haven't talked much about where you live? Do you have the same bed?" John asked with a grin, remembering how perfect Dave's bed had been for their 'games'.

"Well...you know that I'm gonna have to spend most of my time out here on the ship...I only get a few hours off between cruises...and I think I've only got one more full week off till my contract is up. Uh, I live with my brother out here...I think I told ya about him...he's into construction and makes a pretty penny. His place is really nice.. not...uh...not too private. I...man...I'd *love* to see you before I move back...but I don't know if it's gonna be possible...you'll see...the four months will pass before ya know it...and I'll be back in Chicago.."

No...no way would John be able to stay with Dave. Dave's brother...man...if Steve ever found out...Steve would throw Dave out on his ass so quick that Dave knew his head would spin.

And he couldn't lose his brother. No matter how much Dave loved John...there was no way he could lose his brother.

John yawned deeply. "Sorry. I think I'm too tired for our usual pillow talk. We can find a way to work things out, Dave. You'll see." And with another yawn, John's eyes closed and he drifted off to sleep, images of he and Dave together dancing through his brain.

Dave sighed, and pulled John close. For once the feeling of his body pressed against John's not enough to allow him to fall into a peaceful sleep. No. He had too much on his mind now. How the Hell would they be able to cope bein' so far apart...without any hope of visitation?

It wasn't that Dave didn't trust John...he knew that John would never cheat on him...but still...man...he didn't wanna cause John any undue angst...or any more trouble then he already had. By the same token...there was *no* way Steve could find out what was going on. No way.

Cause then he'd lose his brother. He'd have John...but he'd lose his brother.

If Dave could keep John a secret from his brother...then he'd have both.

Finally, after pondering over this in his mind for a long while, Dave fell into a deep...but, still slightly troubled sleep.


To be continued....
Chapter Fourteen by MonaCK
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts



Sweat pouring off of his brow, Luka laid in a heap of exhaustion after another marathon night of sex with Mike -- the man he had met on board ship. Since meeting at dinner that night, the two had spent a lot of time together -- both day and night. But still...something was missing. Both knew that they would go their separate ways once the cruise was over -- if for no other reason, they knew it was not a good thing to try to maintain any kind of long distance relationship. While Luka was from Chicago, Mike and his family were from New York. And to even pretend there was enough as far as emotions were concerned to build a relationship from, would have been a foolish thought.

Once again, Luka's thoughts went back to John, and the moments they had shared together. Those were...almost like fire and ice...Luka and John complimented each other very well...and in the short time they had been together, things had grown into a rather nice relationship. And until Dave came back, Luka was quite sure that they were building something that was much more than friendship.

Dave. What was going to happen when they left the ship? Was Dave going to break John's heart again? Luka wasn't sure that John's heart could take it again...but Luka knew one thing...

If Dave hurt him again, Luka wanted to be right there to pick up the pieces.

Luka felt eyes on him, and he turned his head slightly with a small smile to hide the fact that Luka had been thinking of something...or more specifically, someone else while in bed with Mike.

"Thank you for another fun evening," Luka finally said, smiling over to Mike. "I have to say that one day we're going to soak right through the sheets if the sex gets any hotter..."

Mike laughed softly. "Do you think so? We can certainly try it, I guess. Give housekeeping something to talk about besides John and the ship's doctor. Hell, man, I'll bet they can hear those screams on the upper deck, don't you?" Mike asked, amused over someone getting that vocal during sex. Sure, he cried out, even talked a bit, but nothing like those two. He was just glad that Luka didn't have the bedroom right next to John's, or they'd never get any rest.

A smile flickered on Luka's lips as he remembered how John had once been vocal for him. "Yes. I guess they are a bit loud. They've known each other a long time, though...and I guess they've been having a very happy reunion."

Luka didn't want to think about John and Dave being vocal a few rooms over... because the more that he thought about it, the more upset he became. Luka couldn't control his feelings any more then he could control the weather. And the truth was that Luka was more attached to John than even he wanted to admit.

Mike nodded. "You like him, don't you? John, I mean. Not Dave. I saw the way you were looking at him that night at dinner, and the way you look at him in the morning when he's kissing Dave goodbye." It didn't bother Mike that he was most likely being used as an outlet for Luka's sexual frustrations. The man had a great body and a wonderful personality, and the cruise had been far better than Mike had ever dreamt it could be when he signed on for it. "It's okay, Luka. I don't mind talking about it if you want."

A flicker of emotion passed over Luka's eyes as he shifted his gaze from Mike up to the ceiling. "Yes...I...well...we were beginning to develop something...a slow friendship...building to something more. John was honest with me, he told me that he was still in love with Dave, but I thought that we would never see Dave again. We were both very surprised to find Dave on this ship when we came on board. I...well...I just want John to be happy, that's all. And I'm happy for him, if Dave makes him happy."

A slow smile spread back over Luka's lips as he looked back over towards Mike. "And besides, it hasn't been too bad for either of us that John and Dave found each other.. I can't complain about the fun that I've had so far on this trip, and we do have another week to enjoy each other before heading back to our real lives, huh?"

"This is true," Mike said as he leaned over Luka's body. "And I can think of a lot of different ways we can reach that enjoyment, too." Mike said right before he used his tongue to draw lazy circles upon Luka's belly.

"Mmm...yes. Yes we certainly can..."

Luka leaned his head back on the pillow, determined not to worry about it. But, he did set his mind on talking to Dave later that week. He wanted to make sure that Dave's intentions were honorable...and that he wasn't going to hurt John.

And as Mike's tongue continued a gentle assault on his body, soon all thoughts of John went completely out of his head. No. It was not the same as making love to John...but being with Mike was certainly satisfying enough for the time being.

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

Randi yawned as she rubbed more sunscreen onto Maggie's back. "I tell you, I'm more than thrilled that Carter and Dave are back together, but you'd think that by now they'd run out of steam or something. Their late night love-making sessions are depriving me of some badly needed beauty sleep." The two women were taking advantage of the suite's private balcony by sunbathing in the nude. Of course, stripping off their clothes had led to something else besides lying out, but now that they were both sated, it felt good to lounge around in the sun.

"Oh, please," Maggie said, her voice laced with sarcasm. "You really think that Dave is in this for any more than a bunch of cheap thrills? I'll betcha dollars to doughnuts that by the time they leave this ship, Dave and Carter will be *splitsville* with Dave making up some lame-ass excuse for it. That boy screams no commitment. And Luka...he and that Mike character are also not in it for the long term. Which is fine. Because Luka and Carter *should* be together. The only reason why Luka's with that Mike guy is because of the way that Carter flat left him..."

As Randi finished rubbing the sunscreen on Maggie's back, Maggie took the bottle from her and began to return the favor.

Randi stretched out on the lounge chair, presenting her back to Maggie. "Carter couldn't leave Luka because they were never together, Mags, you know that. If they were a couple, then they wouldn't have been in separate rooms, would they?" Randi didn't know why Maggie was always so down on Dave and insistent on making Luka like the best thing that ever breathed.

"They might not have been officially together...but not because of anything that Luka did. Luka and John were getting closer, and then Dave came back. C'mon. Dave is going to hurt John, we both know that. I know his type. Dave is a player."

Maggie continued to massage in suntan lotion as she spoke and thought about things. Truth was, Maggie didn't know anything about Dave...but her instincts were rarely wrong. There was *something* about the guy that was bothering her.

"And you think Luka isn't? Let's see, he was sniffing pretty heavily around Carol Hathaway, not caring she was pregnant. Then he didn't waste much time taking up with Abby Lockhart, and once *they* broke up, mostly from his side, I might add, or so I heard, he took up with this French bimbo. Luka went from being tall, dark and mysterious to being Mr. Fast cars, fast lines and fast women in a very short time. Doesn't sound to me like a man willing to make a commitment to another man. Hell, until recently, he acted as if he couldn't stand John Carter, and now you've got him madly in love with the man. Get real, Mags, get real." Randi said, adjusting her sunglasses as she rolled over onto her back.

"No, *you* get real, Randi," Maggie said, sitting up in her lounge chair as she looked down towards the other woman. "Dave picked up and left the person he was supposedly in love with, without even as much as a forwarding address, even though Carter was still pining for him. Now, he comes up out of the blue, and he and Carter are all hunky dory, as if they never broke up in the first place. Do you think that Dave's even *talked* about what's going to happen in two days, when this ship goes back into port? You don't think he's gonna break Carter's heart all over again? Please..."

She shook her head, and leaned back down on the chair. Randi could be really silly from time to time.

"I'm sure they've talked about it because Carter's mentioned it to me. Dave's got a few months left on his contract with the cruise line and Carter plans to fly out here whenever he can so they can be together the times when Dave's in port. He knows it will be rough going, but they're both committed to each other and staying in touch during that time. Damn, Maggie, he's *happy*. John Carter is happy and I don't understand why you want to continually shoot him down. You weren't there when he was stabbed and everything that happened after it. You didn't see him merely living from day to day, and then finally coming alive when the two of them took up together. Dave Malucci is the *best* thing that's ever happened to Carter, but you're too stubborn to see that."

Maggie merely shook her head, and was about to say something more when she caught a flash of movement out of the corner of her eye. The suite door had opened, and Luka was walking inside, sweat dripping off of his body as if he had just come from a workout of some kind. A smile crossed over Maggie's lips as she looked over towards Randi.

"Well, regardless as to whether or not we're right or wrong, Luka's gonna get a free show in a minute if he looks towards this balcony," Maggie teased, a glimmer in her eye. "But trust me...I'm telling you...Luka and Carter are *made* for each other."

Maggie grinned. She was unable to let Randi have the last word on the matter.

"Only in your dreams, Margaret Doyle," Randi retorted as she sat up and turned toward the balcony door to see if it really was Luka returning to the suite and not Carter. She wouldn't have put it past Maggie to make a comment like that with Carter in earshot. But, it was Luka, Randi noted with a smile -- and he had spotted them.

"Hey, Luka, why don't you get out of those sweaty clothes and come out here to sun with us?" she called to him through the open door.

Luka's eyes focused towards the voice, but at first he didn't se the girls -- he had only heard them. He began to walk towards the sound, a smile on his lips. But the grin faltered as he caught sight of bare breasts? Were the women sunbathing?

"Hi, Randi...uh...I don't want to disturb the two of you," Luka said, coughing uncomfortably. The fun that the four of them had had more than a week ago was all but forgotten in the sea of activity that they had all experienced while on the ship. But Luka would have had to have been dead to not feel his body responding to the sight of a very naked Randi on the balcony.

"You're not disturbing *us* at all," Randi said, her eyes on his burgeoning erection. She smiled broadly at him. "We're not disturbing you any, are we? If we are, then we can go get our bathing suits and put them on. We wouldn't want to make you uncomfortable or anything."

Luka quickly shook his head, averting his gaze slightly. "No. No you're not making me uncomfortable. I...uh...well...I'm just not used to having such a nice view, that's all," he said as he took a step closer to the balcony.

Maggie smirked back at Luka, shaking her head slightly as well. Poor Luka. He really didn't know what he was in for. Randi could be quite the vixen when she wanted to.

"Is that a fact? Well, maybe we need a nice view of our own out here? Certainly you're not shy about lounging around naked in front of two women, are you, Luka?" Randi asked as she pushed her sunglasses up onto her head and looked him up and down. "I thought you European men were pretty easy going about that sort of thing. Guess that must be a stereotype or something, huh?"

A smile spread over Luka's lips, and he hesitated for only a moment before taking his shirt off over his head. As his hands moved down towards his shorts, he lifted a brow. "Oh, you're right, Randi," he said, as his pants dropped around his ankles. Stepping out of them, he shifted his gaze towards Maggie.

"Are you sure you don't mind?"

"Not at all," Maggie said, smiling approvingly. "I might be gay, but I'm not dead. I can appreciate a fine male body when I see one."

Kicking his pants away from him, Luka stepped out onto the balcony, and then sat down on a chair opposite them. He pointed towards the suntan lotion with a laugh.

"I think there are some parts of me exposed to the sun that have not been exposed for a while. And there are certain parts of me that I don't want burnt."

"Is that a fact?" Randi asked as her eyes went straight to Luka's crotch and his semi-erect cock. "Ah, yes, I see the area you mean." She got to her feet and grabbed the bottle of lotion, then walked over to where he sat, resting on her knees in front of him. "Well, if you'll just spread your legs slightly, we'll do something about keeping you from being burnt by the sun." As she spoke, Randi filled her palm with the sunscreen, and then waited for Luka's permission before touching his body.

Luka raised a brow, and shifted his attention over to Maggie momentarily, who was leaning back in a lounge chair, intent on sitting back and watching the show. Luka only briefly mulled this over -- it wasn't like he was attached to anyone...and he had to admit that he was intrigued with how Randi had been able to satisfy John that first night that they were all together. Parting his legs, he leaned back, and nodded.

"I think it's very important to have good sunscreen coverage...don't you," he quipped, as he looked down towards Randi.

"Extremely important. But, we've first got to make sure that the skin surface is properly prepared to take the sunscreen. We don't want this lovely cock of yours to look like a barber shop pole, now do we?" Randi said as she began to work the sunscreen onto the skin of Luka's scrotum, her eyes still on his face as he considered her offer to give him a blow job.

"Yes...proper preparation is very important," Luka said, his erection building at the sensation of Randi's hand massaging into his testicles. "I think...you should do whatever is appropriate...after all...you are much more used to nude tanning than I am. I wouldn't want to do anything wrong now..."

Oh...he was not going to complain over a nice dose of oral sex.. That had been something that John was very...very good at...and Mike was okay at...and from what he understood, Randi was quite skilled at it as well...at least based on John's reactions to her that night they had all been together.

Randi ran her hand to the base of Luka's cock, then began to slowly stroke it. "Tell me something, Luka," she asked, an evil grin on her face. "When you go down on a woman, you taste her, right?"

Luka raised a brow, a smiling forming on his lips as sexual energy began to run through his body. "It's been a while since I've gone down on a woman, but yes..,I do,..ah..,taste her when I do..."

He wondered where the conversation was heading, because he certainly was enjoying Randi's actions for the moment.

"So, if you'll taste pussy, and you had no problem having Carter swallowing your come, then why don't you? Swallow, I mean." She said, working Luka over with both hands, one on his cock and the other on his balls.

Luka's eyes popped open, and he swallowed hard as he looked down towards Randi. She literally had him by the balls, but that didn't stop Luka from speaking his mind. "I really don't think that is any of your business, Randi," Luka said, his voice strangely calm as he began the task of distracting himself from what she was doing. Yes. It felt good. But even though he did not mind this...sitting outside naked...and having someone play with his most private parts, there were some things he didn't like talking about.

Randi turned and smirked at Maggie. "So much for your theory, my dear."

Luka stood, and crossed his arms over his chest, suddenly embarrassed, as if he had been the victim of a game. "Theory? What do you mean, theory?"

He shifted his eyes from Randi to Maggie, waiting for some kind of an explanation. Because at that moment, he felt only like a fool.

Randi tugged gently on Luka's cock. "Oh, sit back down and relax. God, you men can get worked up over nothing sometimes, can't you?" she asked as she gazed up his long body to his face, noting his scowl and the cute blush on his cheeks. "Come on, Luka, sit down," she cajoled him. "I promise to give you a blow job you'll never forget, but you've gotta sit down for it."

Luka hesitated for only a moment, and then shook his head. "I don't know what you take me for, but a fool is not one of those things, Randi. I don't like being played..."

He moved his hand towards the door, looking in towards the suite before turning back to the woman in question. "I do not appreciate being used, Randi. My emotions are not a game to be toyed with. Now, if you'll excuse me, I would like to take a shower before I meet with Mike tonight..."

And without another backwards glance, Luka made his way back into the suite, stopping only to pick up his clothing before shuffling off to his room to get ready for the evening.

"Damn," Randi muttered as she returned to her lounge chair. "So close, and yet so far away." Luka's cock had felt good in her hands, and she had been looking forward to getting her mouth on him. But, he obviously had other things on his mind. Like Mike. "See there, Maggie? He turned down a first rate blow job for *Mike*. Not for memories of Carter, but for Mike. He doesn't swallow Carter's come, either. Now, tell me again how madly in love he is with the man?"

Maggie sighed, and shook her head. Maybe Randi was right...

"I don't know, Rand. I just don't know. I'm still not sure about Dave...but you know something? If it makes them happy, I guess I don't have any right to judge. Besides," Maggie said, her eyes sparking. "If you *really* wanted to do something with your mouth, I can think of a thing or two," she teased, as she turned towards her lover.

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

Two more days.

Two more days until things had to go back to the way they were, until John went home, until he had to get used to sleeping alone again. Until he had to try to figure out how they were gonna get through this...

Dave was trying to hurry through his chart reviews...tryin' to get everything done so he could spend as much time with John as humanly possible. He wasn't even sure when the transition had happened...when he had stopped thinking of him as Carter again and as John...just like they were before their horrible breakup.

Dave didn't want that to happen this time. No. He wanted to try to make this work...somehow. Someway.

He didn't hear the knock on the door, which is why he was surprised when he looked up to see the door open, and Luka walk in.

Eyes widening in surprise, Dave got up from his chair to meet the taller man.

"Luka? Everything alright?"

Did something happen to John? That last part was silent, though. First and foremost, he was a doctor on board this ship. And if Luka was down here...man...there had to be something *really* wrong...

Luka shook his head, casting Dave a long glance. He had done a lot of soul searching to get to the point of actually coming downstairs. After leaving the girls on the balcony, feeling like a damned fool, Luka had taken a long shower, and as usual, his thoughts strayed away from Mike...from Randi...from Maggie...and focused on only one person...

John Carter.

He was in love with John Carter. To try to make a pretense of it being anything else would have been foolish. Even though John was with Dave, John was still on his mind. Always.

How serious could it be with Dave, anyway? Luka had thought about coming down to talk to Dave a few times before, but this time the urge was almost overwhelming. And before he could question himself further, Luka found himself making his way down to the medical center.

And now, he was standing before the man.

"Luka? Luka? Hello...Earth to Luka? Are you okay, man?"

Luka shook his head. He must have been lost in his own thoughts for longer than he thought, but he found that now he was in the place where he needed to be, Luka was at a loss for words.

"I...I'm sorry, do you mind if I sit down?" Luka sat down opposite of where Dave had been standing.

Settling himself down, Dave leaned his elbow against his desk trying to figure out why Luka was there.

"I want to know what your intentions are," Luka finally said after another moment's silence. "I...I want to know what is going to happen between you and John when this cruise ends in two days."

Dave eyed Luka curiously. Why the Hell did he wanna know about him and John?

"As I told him," Dave started, choosing his words carefully, "I'm bound to the cruise ship for four more months...and then I'm comin' home to Chicago...not that it's your business anyway."

"Not my business? Not my business? Do you realize...do you realize that before you came along...before you showed back up in his life...he was with *me*? That *we* were planning on spending the cruise together? Sure, he told me he was still in love with you...and we were taking it slow, but now,,you're here..,and all you're going to do is break his heart all over again..."

"Whoa. Where do you get the idea that I'm gonna break his heart? Did it occur to you that I *love* him?"

Dave wasn't even sure why he was doin' this - arguing with Luka -- other than try to put to rest any rumors that he was in this for anything other than love. After all, John was the guy that he had remained celibate for.

"If you loved him so much, Dave," Luka stated as he stood and began to pace the room, "If you really loved him...you never would have left him in the first place. You didn't have to deal with him moping around for the months you were gone, pining for you even though you weren't coming back. Do you realize...do you realize that John was on his way to being happy again until you came back into his life? Sure, he says he's happy now...but you're *not* going to be there...if you really wanted to...you could get out of this so-called contract..."

By this point, Luka had had enough, and he felt that he had gotten his point across, so he began to move towards the door.

"You could get out of it," he repeated. "And we both know it..."

Dave, for the first time in a long time, was rendered speechless. And as Luka left the room, he swallowed hard. The truth was...he *couldn't* get out of his contract...for one simple reason.

He didn't wanna quit. Dave didn't want to look like a quitter in anyone's eyes, not ever again. It was bad enough gettin' fired from County, but he *had* to stick this out. Besides John coming back into his life, this job was the best thing that had happened in a long while.

But the fact remained, now he had to worry about the fact that Luka was pining for John on top of everything else. And as Dave thought about it some more, the more it made sense for John to be with Luka. Luka could make him happy. Maybe Dave never could. Maybe Dave was destined to work on this cruise ship forever...

And as Dave sat with his head in his hands at his desk, he sighed. There was entirely too much to think about. And the more that the thoughts built up in his brain, the more frightened that he got.

He was gonna lose John.

Again.

And there wasn't a damned thing he could do about it.


To be continued
Chapter Fifteen by MonaCK
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts

John, Maggie and Randi were in the sitting room, watching a movie. It was the last night of the cruise, and Luka and Mike were out dancing somewhere, enjoying themselves one final time. John had thought that the women would go out, too, but they seemed content to stay in the suite and watch videos with him. Randi had voted to watch a lesbian porn film that she had bought back in LA, but John had vetoed that selection. He was having a difficult enough time waiting for Dave to arrive without having to deal with watching hot looking women doing each other on the TV -- especially since he was pretty sure it would quickly lead to Maggie and Randi doing each other, and they didn't always wait until they were behind closed doors to start, either.

The last night at sea -- John and Dave's last night together until they could arrange their schedules to mesh. God, he thought, it was going to be agony to have to wait to see Dave again, but John knew the reunion would be well worth the wait. He pretty much knew Dave's cruise schedule, it was his own shifts that he didn't know about. There was still a chance that Weaver would offer an attending position to him, which would alter his shifts quite a bit. As Chief Resident, he was expected to be there when others were out sick, expected to come in early or stay late, so there was more of a burden on him in that position than as an attending. But, nothing was written in stone. For all John knew, Weaver was still looking for someone with more experience and she wouldn't think twice about him. Which meant that at the end of his year as Chief Resident, he'd be in pretty much the same boat he was in before, when his residency ended -- to stay at County doing shift work or find a job elsewhere as an attending?

Maybe he could apply to whichever hospital it was that Dave ended up working? That would be good, John thought, very good.

He really, really wished Randi and Maggie had gone out partying. He wanted his last night with Dave to be special, but with them in the suite, it would only end up being the same as every night had been -- the two of them greeting each other chastely at the door, and then disappearing into John's bedroom. He wanted to have sex out on the balcony, dammitt! Or on the dining room table, or...someplace different. That's what he wanted. But it wasn't what he was going to get.

He sighed as the closing credits of the movie began, and was aware of two sets of eyes on him. "What?" he asked, looking over at Randi and Maggie as they sat cuddled on the love seat.

Randi grinned. "I was just wondering if we were boring you, that's all?"

"Of course not. I'm just...tired, that's all."

"Ah, tired. Of course. Well, one good thing about this cruise ending, you *will* be able to finally get some decent sleep," she replied with a smirk.

"I'm getting plenty of sleep now, thank you, and..." the rest of John's sentence remained unsaid as he heard a knock on the door. He was up from the sofa and to the door in seconds, his cock already hardening because he knew it was Dave standing there, waiting to come in.

Maggie looked over to Randi. "C'mon. We'd better leave loverboy here alone for his last night with Dr. Love out there," she teased. Since their argument a couple of days prior, both Randi and Maggie realized that it was a fruitless effort to argue over who was better for Carter -- especially if it ended up impinging on their own sex life.

As John opened the door, Dave stood stoically. He had been thinking way too much about the conversation that he had had with Luka...and now that the final moments of the cruise were approaching, Dave was more apprehensive than ever. He loved John. God...how he loved John. And because of that reason, Dave had to let him go...because there was no way that John would ever be happy with him. No. Luka would be there...and since Luka wanted him anyway...no...the temptation would be too great for John. This way, John could sleep with Luka...and didn't have to worry about feelin' guilty about it.

"Hey," Dave finally said, forcing a smile to his lips. "Man...you're looking *so* fine tonight."

Yeah...for that moment...he had to play it up, as if nothin' was wrong. There'd be plenty of time to talk later.

John grinned as his eyes moved up and down Dave's body. He was once again in his uniform, and John had no problem appreciating the way it set off Dave's muscles and coloring. "So are you. Come on in." He stood aside to let Dave into the suite. "I was hoping that we'd be able to spend our last night alone for a while in a memorable way, but Randi and Maggie decided they wanted to relax tonight, and they stayed in, so my plans to have my way with you out on the balcony have been put on hold. Maybe I'll just have to book another cruise within the next four months so we can try that? But, this time, I'll make sure that I'm all alone in the suite, so we'll never be disturbed." He shut and locked the door after Dave entered the room, then wrapped his arms around those broad shoulders as he spoke.

Dave shut his eyes, momentarily getting lost in his lover's arms as he spoke. Yeah...another cruise sounded like Heaven...but was it realistic? Was any of it realistic? They weren't gonna get to see each other...and Luka was gonna be right there...right within reach of him...

John deserved to be happy.

"Just bein' with you will be special, John," Dave finally said, keeping his eyes shut to try to block out any of those thoughts. "Let's...let's go into your room...that way we can talk a little bit in private...how does that sound?"

Yeah...get this out of the way now...maybe that was the way it had to be...that way...John could throw him out like he deserved...and that way it wouldn't look like he was out to get one last fuck.

Despite the fact that if he could, Dave would sell his soul to make love to John for the rest of his life. But the things that *Dave* wanted weren't usually meant to be.

"It sounds perfect," John said. He nibbled lightly at Dave's neck, and then pulled away from him, smiling. Taking Dave by the hand, John led him into the bedroom and shut the door, locking it for good measure since he knew Randi still had that Polaroid camera with her. "Will you need to leave early in the morning as usual, or can you stay a little bit longer since we'll be almost in port by then?" John asked as he began to unbutton Dave's shirt.

"I'm, uh...,I'm gonna have to leave at the usual time to get ready to go into port. Uh...John...maybe...maybe we should talk a little bit first..."

Man...it was hard...it was really hard because all Dave wanted to do was fall into bed with John, and never let him go. But that wasn't in the cards. No. He had to talk about this with John...it wasn't fair...it wasn't fair to him. John deserved to be happy...

John shook his head. "No talking, Dave. I don't want to waste a single moment of our last night together with words," he said. John decided to let his actions speak for him and he began to kiss each inch of Dave's flesh as it appeared when the buttons were undone.

Dave was gonna say something. He was gonna stop John. He really was. But then...then John's lips touched his body, and it was all over for him. His cock stood at full attention, hoping for some of the attention that it had been getting all week. There was nothing that he could do...yeah...they were still gonna have to...whoa...with one more motion...one more sweep of the hand, and all coherent thought went out of Dave's head.

He wanted to make love to John...and now that Dave's focus was narrowed, there was nothing that was gonna stop him.

The shirt out of the way, John stepped up to Dave, pressing their bodies together while he planted a long and passionate kiss on the man. He could feel Dave's erection through their clothes and knew that there was no way Dave would miss the one he was sporting. The kiss nearly made John dizzy, but he managed to pull out of it before he was breathless. There was too much he wanted to do and he didn't have the time to waste recovering from Dave's kisses.

With a slow smile, he knelt in front of Dave, then reached out and undid the belt around Dave's waist, deliberately not touching Dave's cock at all, but wanting to tease Dave with the idea that he would soon be doing more than touching it.

Irresistible. Once more...Dave found John a combination of intoxicating and irresistible. Dave found himself wanting everything at once; both of them naked, both of them in bed...touching...feeling...making love...making memories...

Oh man...as soon as John knelt in front of him, it was as if his cock just *knew* and seemed to get harder, further pressing against the fabric of his pants. Man, and so teasing. God...it was a slow form of torture...

"Please," Dave finally managed to say. Because in his mind, Dave knew this was the last time...this was it...and he was gonna have to make it the best that either of them had ever done...

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

Both men lay spent against the bed, drenched in sweat, in the throes of one Hell of a marathon love making session. But yet, Dave could only think of one thing. How they had to talk...how Dave couldn't do this...how he couldn't lead John on...

He still held John in his arms, pulling the man tighter to his chest as he thought about all that he would have to say, that he would most likely lose John forever with his words, but it was the way it *had* to be. John deserved to be happy...maybe with Luka he could be happy. Four months was a hell of a long time to have another man pining for you to be able to resist. Dave was just saving some time. No doubt, John would end up ending things with him sometime down the line...

Dave was just letting the heartbreak happen earlier rather than later. For both of them. It was so hard. Dave loved John so fucking much...but it was for that reason that he had to let him go.

He couldn't speak. He could only think. And he wasn't sure what was gonna come out of his mouth when he finally did speak.

John tenderly kissed Dave's chest as he became aware that the passion that had so recently filled the room was now replaced by sadness. It was going to be difficult, being apart for four months, but it wasn't going to be anything like the way it had been when they were apart because of them, him mostly, being stubborn. Then, John had no end in sight, nothing to aim for. But now...now, he knew that Dave would be there, and Dave knew he would be there as well. They'd wait for each other, see each other when they could, and survive it. Hell, people married to those in the military did it all the time -- faced long separations and the wonderful reunions.

Sighing, John rested his cheek against Dave's chest, content to just listen to the beating of the man's heart -- a heart that beat for him and him alone.

Dave found himself close to tears as he lay there...knowing it was for the last time. And finally...somewhere within him...he found the words to speak. "We...we have to talk about this," he said, his voice full of emotion. "We...have to talk about...all of this..."

He shut his eyes. Man...this was tough...when they were fighting...it was easy, but...not like this...he didn't wanna do this...but he had to.

"I...I don't know...what to do..."

Dave's voice rumbled into John's ear -- deep and somber. With the air of sadness in the room already, it was a bit too much for John to take, so he moved a bit, resting on his elbow so he could look at Dave while he spoke. "We've talked it all out, Dave. I know your cruise schedule, you gave that to me a few days ago. And once I'm back to work, I'll have a better idea of what my schedule will be like." He smiled warmly into Dave's dark brown eyes and reached out to caress his arm. "Four months isn't really all that long, you know. Trust me on that one. I spent three months in Atlanta, remember? Compared to that, this will be a piece of cake, except for missing you terribly each and every moment we're apart."

Luka's words kept rumbling in Dave's ears. John deserved to be happy. John deserved it. And that was why he had to do this. "Are...are we really gonna be able to see each other, though? I mean...I'm workin' more then I'm not, and, I don't know if you'll be able to stay with me when I'm not workin...four months...four months is a really long time. I...man, John, I...just don't know...I..."

He loved him. But if Dave said that, he knew he was sunk. Turning his head away in the hopes that John wouldn't see the emotion that was building in his eyes, he spoke again.

"I...I just don't know...I...I just want you to be happy..."

John brushed the back of his hand against Dave's cheek, "Even if we only get one night together, it will be worth it, Dave. Which reminds me that you haven't given me your phone number or address yet. It'll be pretty difficult for me to tell the cab driver where to go if I don't have your address, and I can't let you know when to expect me if I can't call you."

"See...see that's just it, John...I don't know if you're gonna be able to come and see me...not for the whole time...don't...I'm I'm stayin' with my brother, John...I'm not *out* to my brother...and he'll disown me if he finds out...I...I can't see you...I can't talk to you...not for the whole time we're apart...that's...that's a long time...I...I...damn it...John...I want you to be happy...maybe...maybe that's not with me..."

Feeling tears building, and not wanting to let John know that he was close to completely losing it, he abruptly sat up in bed. "You...you deserve better than someone who can't even tell you for sure when you'll see him again. You deserve...you deserve to be happy..."

Swinging his legs over the side, he made a move to get up. This was for the best, right?

John vaguely remembered Dave saying something before about his brother and he mentally kicked himself for not paying closer attention to Dave's fears. He started to reach for Dave, but then Dave sat up, and John had to move quickly to be able to reach him. "Dave..." John began as he wrapped his arms around Dave from behind. "It's okay. I'll get a hotel room somewhere and your brother will never have to know. I...I can call you here, on the ship. They have ship to shore lines, and I can do that instead. Having to work around your brother isn't going to make me unhappy, Dave, I promise you that."

"Is that the way you wanna be...sneakin' around? Calling me on the ship? I...I can't promise anything at this point. I don't think I'm gonna be able to get out of my contract...I don't know when I'm comin' back to Chicago...damn it, Carter...you deserve to be happy...you...you...God...I love you so much, but I...I can't do this.. I can't do this to you..."

He wrestled himself out of Carter's grasp and began to gather his clothing off the floor. "It isn't fair to you...I can't do this. I just...I can't...you deserve to be happy..."

He deserved to be with someone who could be there for him. Luka.

John's brain struggled to put all of Dave's words together, and by the time their meaning became clear, the man was nearly dressed.

"No." John scrambled out of the bed and went to stand in front of Dave, grasping him by the arm to hold him in place if he needed to. "Dave, I...I don't understand this. You said your contract was for six months and you've already worked two of them, so that means you'll be able to come back to Chicago in four months. You said so. Several times. This is about more than that, isn't it?" God, what had he done wrong? John's mind raced over the past two weeks, searching for clues as to what he had done or said wrong. He couldn't find anything, but he *had* to have done something wrong or else Dave wouldn't be standing there trying to walk out of his life again.

"Whatever it is I've done wrong, Dave, I'm sorry," he hastily said, looking intently at Dave. He wouldn't cry, he couldn't. No matter how much Dave's words hurt. "I promise I'll never do it again, but I don't know what it is I've done wrong. Tell me, please?"

Dave swung around, feeling tears fill his eyes as he faced John. Looking at his face, Dave almost lost his resolve. But he couldn't. He knew that he couldn't. "No. No...it's nothing you did...please, you have to believe that, *you* have done *nothing* wrong. I...I don't deserve you...you...you deserve someone who can make you happy. You deserve someone who can be there for you..."

A half smile formed on his lips as he brought his hand up to the side of John's face. "I'll never forget you, and I'll never stop loving you, but, you deserve so much better than me..."

He leaned in, and brought his lips to John's, kissing him briefly before forcing himself away. And then, without looking back, he left John's room. It was the way that it had to be.

Then why did Dave feel like his entire world had just fallen apart?

John felt as if someone had just punched him in the belly and he couldn't breathe -- he just couldn't. One moment his world was fine, a little sad, yes, but fine. And the next, it was over. Just like that.

Unwanted tears sprung to his eyes as he watched Dave walk out through the door. Just like he had before. And, like before, John was just standing there and letting him go.

Like Hell. John grabbed his robe and pulled it on as he walked into the main area of the suite. Dave already had the outer door open. "Dave...wait...you can't do this. Please stop so we can talk about things," John called out as he hurried his steps to catch up to Dave.

Tears were already streaming down Dave's face, and he frustratingly turned towards the man who had stopped him. "There's nothing to talk about..."

Damn it, why didn't John just let him go? It would have been so much easier...watching John in front of him.. Dave wanted to gather him in his arms and apologize for being so silly to try to end this. "Don't you understand? This is the way it has to be...I...I can't make you happy...and you deserve it, you deserve to have the *world* given to you. I can't...I can't give that to you..."

John shook his head. "But you *do* make me happy, Dave. And I thought I made you happy, too, but I guess I don't, or else you wouldn't find it so easy to walk away. If you love me, then you'll come back into that room with me so we can talk this out. I don't know what's wrong, but I'm not going to just let the best thing that ever happened to me walk away again. I won't." God, Dave had to see reason, he just had to. Because John didn't know what he'd do if Dave kept on walking.

"Four months, John, four months is an awfully long time...you deserve someone who can *be* with you those four months, not someone who isn't even sure when he's gonna be able to talk to you again...and because of how much I love you...I have to do this...you...you don't deserve to be strung along by me..."

He couldn't move. He couldn't leave. He couldn't stay. He could barely talk because if he did, he was gonna completely break down. And that wasn't an option.

"I"m only gonna hurt you in the end...you don't understand...I'm only gonna hurt you in the end...like I always do...so I might as well do it now when you have your friends around you to support you..."

Dave was crying, which to John meant that Dave didn't really believe what he was saying. He couldn't believe those words. There *had* to be something else...someone else. That was it. Dave had obviously never believed him about Luka. Dave had been celibate, not even touching a woman during their time apart, and John hadn't. "It's me who doesn't deserve you, Dave. I know I wasn't celibate while we were apart like you were, and I'm sorry about that. But I can be faithful to you for four months, I really can. I told you before that you don't have to worry about Luka or Randi or anyone else. I love you and we're back together and I don't want anyone else but you." John started to lean in toward Dave, thinking that if his words couldn't convince Dave about his feelings, then his kiss would. It had to.

Dave backed away, knowing that if he and John kissed he'd be sunk. "You shouldn't have to make that choice," he said, finally finding words even though they were choked with emotion. "You deserve to be with someone who can *be* there for you. I can't be there...and that's my own fault. It's my own fault that I'm on this cruise in the first place...and it's my own fault that I'm going to lose the best thing that ever happened to me. I don't deserve to be with you...I...I can't...please.."

And completely backing out of the door, he let the door slam in front of him...knowing if he let John touch him...if he let John near him he was gonna lose his resolve.

And taking a deep breath, Dave let the tears openly run down his cheeks as he walked down the hallway, not daring to look back.

This was the way it hadda be. Luka said so. And Luka was right. Dave was only gonna hurt John in the end.

John stood there, silent and still, but inside he was screaming. He wouldn't let Dave do this. They belonged together, and John was going to see to it that they stayed that way. He hurriedly tied the sash of his robe, then flung the door open and dashed into the hallway, looking around wildly for Dave and seeing him standing by the elevators at the end of the hall.

"Dave...don't..." John called as he ran toward him. He'd beg if he had to, get down on his knees and beg Dave's forgiveness for ever letting another man touch him if that's what it took -- vow to Heaven and earth to not even think about sex in the next four months -- whatever Dave's terms were, John would accept them. "Please don't go." The tears were now falling down his face, making it difficult to see Dave even as he neared him. But he saw the elevator doors open. "Don't go."

Dave stopped dead in his tracks as he heard John's voice behind him, his own vision blurred by the tears in his eyes. Damn it...he was makin' this so hard...so fucking hard...no...deep down this *wasn't* what Dave wanted, but he had no choice...he had to do this.

He couldn't look back. No way...if he looked back...he was sunk. As it was, his resolve had all but melted away...but then...then the elevator doors opened and out walked Mike and Luka. They had obviously had a good time, wherever they had been. Luka had a smile on his face, but it quickly left as soon as he saw the scene in front of him. Mike and Luka just exchanged a look, and Mike wordlessly walked down the hallway to his own room.

Dave took one look at Luka, and spoke.

"You...you were right," he said, his voice breaking. "I...I don't deserve him...please, please take care of him, please...make sure he's...okay..."

And before he completely lost any control over his speech, Dave walked into the elevator. He only dared to turn around once the doors began to close, and then he fully broke down, sobbing as the doors shut completely.

And, after pressing the button for his floor, he leaned against the side of the box, sliding down it with his head in his hands as he cried for the relationship he had ruined...and the friendship that was likely gone forever.

***********************************************
John's eyes were glued to Dave's form as he watched him step into the elevator. His own tears blinded him to the fact that tears were still in Dave's eyes as the man turned around and the elevator doors shut. But at that moment, something slammed shut inside of John. He came to a complete stop, his tears ceased even though his cheeks were still wet from the ones already shed.

Dave had ignored him. Dave had left him. Just like all the others.

And John still didn't know exactly what it was he had done wrong.

He vaguely became aware that he wasn't alone in the hallway, and his eyes left the elevator doors to see Luka looking sadly at him. He didn't need or want Luka's pity. And he definitely didn't want to hear Luka telling him 'I told you so'. The only thing John needed and wanted was leaving his life -- this time forever, from the way Dave made it sound. And all because John couldn't keep his clothes on, couldn't keep his lips and hands and mouth off of another.

Off of Luka. John had been celibate until that night at Luka's place. He could have come onto the cruise and faced Dave proudly, knowing he had been just as chaste while apart as Dave had been. And Dave wouldn't have been jealous or distrustful of him. Dave would have easily believed that John could be faithful for four months and more. But that wasn't possible because Luka had kissed him that night and John had given in to his desires and kissed Luka back. Wasn't that always the way with him? His flesh betrayed him each and every time. Another man might have blamed Luka, reasoning that since Luka had made the first move, he was to blame for all that had happened between them.

John Carter wasn't another man. He knew who was to blame -- the same person always to blame. God, why hadn't he just pushed a few extra cc's of Fentanyl or morphine when he had had the chance? Then he'd never have to face this pain, not once, but twice now. How was he supposed to live without Dave in his life?

Luka tried to come to terms to the scene that had unfolded in front of him...and the way that John's emotions seemed to shut off as quickly as the elevator doors had closed.

He took a tentative step towards John, and placed a hand on his shoulder. "I'll...I'll take care of you," Luka said, his voice soft...soothing. "Let's...let's go to bed.. I'll take care of you..."

And *very* tentatively, he moved to take the other man in his arms. Luka felt a twinge of guilt, knowing that his own words might have been the catalyst to the couple splitting...but Luka reasoned that Dave would have likely come to the realization on his own anyway.

Long distance relationships never worked. It was better to have the heartache now instead of later.

John bowed his head as he allowed Luka to take him into his arms. As he allowed Luka to treat him as the slut he surely was. And why not? Dave already believed him to be incapable of being faithful for four short months, and with good reason. So why not go from being in bed with Dave to Luka's bed? It's what he was good at anyway. John had known that for years, that one inescapable fact -- he was an insatiable sex kitten, as Dave and Jenny and lots of others had discovered. It was as if he had been born to be good at sex; that, too, had been said about him.

He automatically put his arms around Luka's waist, burying his head in the strong shoulder he found in front of him. But no tears came. Insatiable sex kittens didn't cry when their randy ways got them in trouble. They just moved on to the next body, the next bed.

"Come on," Luka said, walking him towards their suite. "It's time to go to bed...everything will be better in the morning...I promise...everything will be better..."

Opening the door to the suite, he led John inside. As soon as he did, the girl's room door opened slightly, and a sleepy Maggie poked her head out.

"What's goin..."

Luka waved her off, shaking his head as he continued to walk with Carter. Luka didn't particularly feel like being social at that moment -- guilt was eating away at him. Maybe Dave and John really did have something together...and it was very...very painful to watch it fall apart in front of his eyes..

Once again, Luka had John by default. A rather large default this time. And Luka wasn't sure how he felt about that.

Leading John back into his bedroom, Luka shut the door behind them before leading him towards the bed.

John had heard a voice as they walked through the suite, Maggie's he thought, but when he glanced in the direction of her room, the door was closed, so he thought maybe he had imagined it. How could Luka promise that things would be better in the morning? They'd never be better, not with Dave gone.

God, his hands were starting to shake, John realized, and the numbness that had gripped him in the hallway was slipping quickly away. "Luka..." he shakily said and then John felt his knees give out on him as the tears once more came, this time harder than ever before. He didn't even think he had cried that hard for Bobby when he died, but then again, John and his brother had sat together quite often, crying over what was happening with Bobby.

Luka instinctively sunk to the floor, kneeling on his knees as he wrapped his arms around John...feeling a mix of guilt -- fear...sadness.

What had he done? He had said that Dave was going to hurt him...and in the end...Luka had been the one to inadvertently bring the pain to John. "Shh, John, I'm sorry...I'm so sorry..."

He held John close to him, unsure of what to do to make John feel better. "I'll...I'll take care of you John...I promise, I'll take care of you..."

Luka's words seeped through John's sobs. Even he knew what John was -- those words were proof. Yes, Luka would take care of him quite thoroughly, John had no doubt of that, the few times they had been completely together had shown him that Luka was more than capable of satisfying his lust. Maybe Dave was right -- John needed to have someone around *all* the time to keep him satisfied in order to make sure his eyes didn't roam or that he didn't spread his legs for the next handsome face he saw.

Well, so be it, John thought as his fingers fumbled with the tie of his robe and then he shrugged it off his shoulders, getting to his feet at the same time. "How do you want it?" he asked Luka as he wiped the tears from his face, not noticing that new ones were quickly forming. "On my back or on my stomach? Or maybe standing up in the shower? I can wash away all traces of Dave first, if you'd prefer." John looked into Luka's eyes. "Anything you want, I'll do, just tell me."

Luka looked at John, surprised at his words...even more surprised at his actions...

"No! No...John, no...what are you doing? No, not like this...you...you love Dave, I'm...I'm not going to be with you this way. I'm...God...what the Hell have I done?"

Feeling suddenly dizzy, Luka stood, and turned, looking for the door. He...he had reduced John into thinking that all he had left was sex...Luka couldn't do that...he couldn't be with John that way.

Because it would be like making love to an empty shell...and that was the last thing that Luka wanted. "Tomorrow...after a good night's sleep...we're going to find Dave tomorrow after the ship is in port...and we're going to fix this between the two of you...you two...you two belong together He loves you, and you love him...and...and John...I'm going to help you fix this..."

John stared down at the floor, not quite believing that Luka now didn't even want him. But, as John thought about it, why should he? He'd been with Mike nearly the entire cruise while John tried his best to make up things to Dave. Luka had probably wanted to spend his last night on the ship with Mike, not with the County General whore. He backed up until the edge of the bed hit the back of his legs, and then John sat down, his world steadily closing in around him.

He was so lost in his thoughts that he didn't even realize Luka was talking until he heard the words 'I'm going to help you fix this', and John shook his head. "There's nothing to fix, Luka. I fucked up when I fucked, and now no one will fuck with me." For some reason, that struck John as being the funniest thing ever said and he began to laugh, not realizing how close to hysteria he was edging.

"I want you to listen to me, John. You are quite possibly one of the most desirable men I've ever been with. I won't be with you tonight, because it would be *wrong*. Your heart belongs to someone else, now...and I'm sorry that I even tried to pretend that it didn't. It's my fault that Dave left. I'm going to do my best to get him to realize that...you two should be together..."

Where had John's self esteem gone? Luka had *never* seen him this dejected before. "I'm...I'm just sorry it took all of this for me to see that...I'm going to fix this for you...I'm going to make it so you're happy again..."

John was near hysterical...and Luka walked over to the edge of the bed, sitting next to John before he wrapped his arms around him, trying to calm John down.

This was an awful way for their vacation to end.

John's laughter suddenly stopped as it sunk into his brain that Luka was blaming himself for what had happened. "It's not your fault, Luka. I kissed you back, remember?" He reached his hands up, trapping Luka's face between them. "You are *not* to blame for this, and I don't want to hear you saying anything like that again, do you hear me?"

"Yes...there was nothing wrong with you kissing me back," Luka said, "We...we both weren't with anyone else when things happened between us...and it's not your fault that I fell in love with you. I fell in love with you...and you were in love with someone else...you belong with Dave...you belong with him because you love each other..."

He trapped John's hand with his own. "I am not going to have sex with you tonight...but I will stay with you if you want me to..."

Maybe he could do *something* to help John feel better...but it wasn't going to be sex. Not until John and Dave resolved things.

"Dave was celibate the entire time we were apart. But not me. No, not me." John dropped his hands into his lap, looking once more at the floor. "It's my nature, Luka. I try to not be that way, but there are times when I just can't help it." He got to his feet, not caring that his robe was still on the floor. "Maybe Randi's awake? She was a bit disappointed that she didn't get a chance to have me go down on her. Do you think she'd like that tonight? End the cruise sorta the way we began it? Except that you won't fuck me, not that I blame you for that, I really don't. I wouldn't want to fuck someone who had just been fucked, either," John said as he headed toward the door of the bedroom.

"No...John...no. I'm not going to let you do this..."

Luka walked up to John, and slowly put his arms around the man once more, trying to get him to listen to reason. More and more, Luka realized that he had made a huge mistake in getting involved...he should have let Dave and John's relationship take it's natural course. And as he realized this, he came to a decision, even as John's body slumped within his arms.

He had to find Dave...


To be continued
Chapter Sixteen by MonaCK
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts

Randi's heart was racing as she ran down the corridor to the medical center. If Dave wasn't there then she didn't know where to find him. He had always come to the suite and she had no idea where his cabin was located. But she'd wake the Captain to find out if she had to. Luka had been...desperate and scared when he had yelled for her and Maggie from the door of Carter's room. He didn't dare leave Carter alone, and, once Randi got a look at Carter's face, she understood his reluctance and she had immediately volunteered to get Dave. She had taken the time to throw on shorts and a T-shirt, but nothing else. Thankfully, the interior of the ship was carpeted so she wasn't too concerned about being barefoot as she ran to find Dave.

There it was, the medical center door -- she pushed it open and stopped in the middle of the room, wondering which of the closed doors in front of her was Dave's office. One sure way to find out if he was there, she thought. "Dave!" she yelled as she headed for the first door, her fist raised to knock on it the minute she was within reach. "Dammitt, Malucci! Are you here?"


Over. It was over. Just like that...it was over. Dave was alone -- just like he had always been alone. Like Luka said -- John deserved someone who could make him happy...and Dave couldn't make John happy. Hell. Dave couldn't even make himself happy.

And the way that John had cried...it broke Dave's heart. And yet Dave had still walked away...walked away even though it was obvious that wasn't what John wanted.

It wasn't what *Dave* wanted.

But it was what was best...wasn't it?

With a sigh he looked at the charts on his desk. It was the end of the cruise, and Dave knew that he had some work he needed to get done before they got into port, but he didn't want to do any of it.

He didn't have the heart to.

Dave had his head bent down, and was still making a lame attempt to read charts when he heard a voice. A familiar voice. Was that...Randi? Lifting his head, he turned towards the noise, his ears trying to figure out where her voice was coming from. What the hell did she want...to rub it in?

"What the fuck do you want, Randi," Dave asked, his voice louder than necessary. He rose from his chair and walked towards the door of his office. Opening it, he was only momentarily jarred as it looked as if Randi was poised to knock on his skull.

Dave's eyes were red from crying...and now with Randi standing before him he was embarrassed for it. Quickly turning away he focused his eyes across to the opposite wall of his office.

Randi had been prepared to be angry when she saw Dave. Carter hadn't deserved being hurt that way, and Randi hated the very idea that she might have been wrong about how Dave felt toward Carter. Seeing Dave's red-rimmed eyes, still puffy from crying, her anger melted. She didn't know just what had happened, but she did know that three men were hurting very badly at the moment.

"Luka sent me to get you. He said you need to bring about two clicks of Ativan with you and to move fast," Randi said, once more remembering how scared Luka had looked as he gave her those instructions. And how...detached Carter had looked, as if he hadn't heard Luka at all.

"Ativan? Randi? What happened?" Dave felt like the bottom of his stomach had dropped from under him...and forcing himself to go into doctor mode, Dave made his way over to his drug lockup. With shaky hands he unlocked the door, and got the bottle of meds. He also grabbed a couple of syringes.

Randi shook her head. "You'd know what happened better than I would, but he's not in good shape, Dave. Luka mentioned something about emotional shock?" All Randi knew was that the sooner they were back to the suite, the better things would be. God knew they couldn't deteriorate any further.

"Fuck. This is my fault, Randi," he said, sadness turning towards panic. "What...what was I thinking...what the fuck was I thinking..."

Shaking his head to bring himself back to reality, he followed Randi out of the room and back towards the suite.

Randi's hands were shaking as she tried to fit her key into the door and she felt a surge of relief when the door opened seemingly on its own before her. Then Maggie's angry gaze let Randi know that the door had had a lot of help in opening. "Where are they?" Randi asked as she squeezed her way past Maggie and the doorjamb. "Are they still in Carter's room?" Randi looked over at Maggie, worried that the woman was going to keep Dave from coming into the suite.

"Maggie? Luka was very adamant about wanting Dave in there," she reminded her lover.

"Fine," Maggie said, as she stepped aside. "But if he makes things worse, I'll fucking strangle him myself," Maggie stated quite clearly, her arms crossed over her chest.

Dave's vision was focused only on Carter's door, and ignoring both Randi and Maggie, Dave clutched his medical bag close to him as he made his way to John's door. Shutting his eyes, he knocked on the door, and waited to see just what he was facing.

Luka had managed to calm John down enough that John was now wrapped in a blanket, and lying on his bed in an almost cationic state. The guilt that Luka felt was almost overwhelming, and as he opened the door, he eyed Dave with sadness filling his eyes.

"Thank you for coming," he simply said, as he stepped aside.

Dave wanted to cry when he saw John...and he quickly ran to his side. "Man...I'm so sorry...John...I'm so sorry...I never should have tried this...I love you...I'm *so* sorry..."

John continued to stare at the wall as he heard Dave's voice. So, he had come back. Probably decided that he hadn't quite had enough of someone insatiable. Tough.

"Go away, Dave," John said, his voice a monotone. "I don't feel like fucking right now. You should have come back ten minutes ago if that's what you wanted, I was still insatiable back then, but not right now. Even insatiable sex kittens get tired."

"No! I'm not looking to fuck...God...John, I'm so sorry...I never should have left. I never should have said what I did...I love you...I was wrong...you were right..."

Dave brought his hand up to the side of John's face -- trying to elicit *some* response from him that wasn't indifference. What the hell had he done? This was all his fault...he didn't deserve someone as wonderful as John was...but for some reason John wanted him...and instead of being grateful for it, he had thrown it all away...

Luka looked on helplessly, realizing that even Dave wasn't getting through to the man.

John vaguely became aware that he was being touched, and he didn't want that. "I said I didn't want to fuck," he angrily spat out as he jerked his head away from whoever it was that was touching him. If it was Dave, he was too late. If it was Luka, well, he was too late, too. John had offered himself to the man and been turned down.

All John wanted was for them to leave him alone -- all of them -- Luka, Randi, Maggie, even Dave. He didn't want to talk and he didn't want to fuck and he didn't want to smile and pretend everything was just fine, even if he did know how to do that. He just wanted to be alone.

"Go away. Both of you," he said, his eyes still focused on some point beyond the wall. It was better to focus on something they couldn't see, couldn't take away from him or make him leave behind. Just in case they insisted on fucking. If he could focus on some imaginary point, then John knew he could get through that without really noticing what was happening.

Sadly, Dave got up, and walked over to Luka, his eyes cast downward as he spoke. "I'm gonna give him something to help him sleep...and uh...I guess someone should stay with him in case he wakes up and is disoriented..."

Dave's voice trailed off as he looked back over towards John. *Dave* had done this to him. That was all that kept going through his head...that he had been the one to reduce John to being this upset and angry. Things had been going so well for them...and now Dave had gone and fucked it up.

"I think that person should be you," Luka finally said, after a moment's thought. "I...I don't know what happened...but...Dave...I'm truly sorry that I ever said anything to you. If I had known that this was what was going to happen..."

Luka's eyes drifted over towards John -- the broken man laying huddled on the bed. No. Luka supposed that no one could have predicted this.

John felt a small sense of relief when he felt the mattress move as Dave went away. Good, they were going to leave him alone.

Alone -- John hated being alone and yet he seemed fated to spend his life in that condition. He supposed that he either needed to get used to it or finally gather enough courage to just end things once and for all.

Hell, there was no time like the present to take matters into his own hands. He knew there was a water glass in the bathroom because he had left it in there earlier. It would shatter easily enough, he thought, and then a quick slash or two and it would all be over. If you hit the artery correctly, you'd bleed out too fast to be saved.

John rolled out of the bed, clutching the blanket tightly as he headed for the bathroom. Since Dave and Luka hadn't yet managed to leave his room, he wasn't going to flash them and give them any ideas. Not when he wasn't in the mood. He glared in their direction, angry over not being listened to. "I told you both to go. Did you think I didn't mean it?"

Dave turned around to face John as he spoke, his eyes widening as he realized that John was now up from the bed. "I'm sorry, John. I don't think you mean it. And sorry, but I'm not leaving. Not any time soon."

Dave realized that it might be too little, too late, but he had to try. He had to try to get through to him...somehow. "John...come on, buddy. Let me get you back to bed...please..."

Dave began to walk towards John, intent on getting him to lay back down so that he could inject him with the sedative. Luka was right behind Dave, wanting to help in any way that he could.

Both men felt guilty over the turn of events.

And both men wanted nothing more than to somehow make John okay again.

John backed away from the advancing men, fear starting to mingle in with his anger. "Goddammitt, I said I didn't want to fuck right now. Don't you touch me, don't you even *think* about touching me," he hissed at them. God, his back was to the wall and there was no escape. If they wanted him, he would have no choice but to let them fuck him. No choice at all. And his body, damn it all, his body would ultimately betray him, John knew that for a fact. It always betrayed him.

"I told you, John. I have no intention of fucking you right now...I promise...I'm not gonna hurt you...never again..." Dave's voice was soft...soothing, as he walked towards the man he loved more than anything in the world. And his heart broke as he realized that John was cowering in fear from him. He had done this to him -- there was no way that Dave could deny it.

Luka reached John's side, and Dave dared to take down his hand, reaching into his bag to prepare the Ativan to inject into John. Dave hated doing it to him, but he had no choice. John was out of control.

John closed his eyes as Luka neared him, praying he wouldn't touch him, silently begging God to make Luka leave him alone. And then John felt Luka's hand on his skin, touching his shoulder. It was going to happen and there was nothing John could do to stop it. Just like before. He knew he deserved it -- after all, he had willingly fucked both Dave and Luka, so it really wasn't a surprise that they'd not take no for an answer now. But he wished they would. He prayed they would.

He begged that they would. "Please? Don't do this. I'll fuck you in the morning, both of you...just not now, not like this. Please?" He opened his eyes and looked at Luka as he spoke, thinking that maybe he'd have an easier time getting Luka to change his mind. If he had Luka on his side, then Luka would stop Dave -- or so John hoped. "Please? Not now, Luka...tomorrow...I promise you both I'll fuck in the morning, but not now," he pleaded.

"John...listen to me...neither Dave nor I are going to fuck you right now...we're going to make you feel better...I promise you...you're going to feel better *very* soon..."

The fact that John was adamant...and practically begging both Luka and Dave to not touch him had not been lost on both men. Dave was brought back to earlier conversations -- conversations from long ago when John admitted to him that he had slept with his maid when he was eleven...and part of him wondered if there wasn't some other kind of sexual abuse that Dave didn't know about.

John seemed genuinely frightened by the thought of being alone with both Dave and Luka. And it was a bit ironic -- Dave and Luka both cared about John deeply.

Dave finished filling the syringe, relieved that it seemed that Luka was distracting John enough for him to give John the shot. And trying his best to keep himself out of focus, Dave moved John's blanket away from his skin, and attempted to administer the Ativan.

John shook his head. "No, Luka, it doesn't make me feel better...I've told you that before...no, not you...her..." He closed his eyes tightly as his past and present mixed within his mind. "It doesn't make me feel better. I don't like it, please?"

"What is it that you don't like? I promise you, neither Dave nor I will ever do anything that you don't like...or anything that'll hurt you..."

Luka's voice took on a gentle tone -- it was almost the same tone of voice that he used when trying to coax his daughter to talk to him so many years ago. But it was as if...John had regressed...and was suddenly a child again.

Dave was successful with injected the sedative into John's thigh. Breathing a sigh of relief that that part was done, he stood up once more, concern filling his eyes as he looked at John intently. There was something very wrong. *Very* wrong.

"I don't like it when you touch me...there...you know...my privates. It doesn't make me feel better, even when it swells up because you touch it. I know it's my fault you have to touch me," John earnestly said. "I don't mean to come on to you, I'm just insatiable, like you said. But I don't like it." Tears began to stream down his cheeks. "I don't want to be your sex kitten anymore. Please? Leave me alone? I'll be good if you'll leave me alone."

Dave looked over to Luka, and then back to John. "C'mon, buddy. Why dontcha come lay down. I promise. We're not gonna touch you anymore...but only if you come lay down...please...John..."

Dave's eyes met Luka's, and Luka looked back him in confusion. It was obvious to Dave that Luka knew nothing about the incidents that John and Dave had talked about all those months ago, and how Dave suspected that John was sexually abused as a child. Now, looking at the broken man in front of him, he realized that it was no longer a suspicion. It was the truth.

Truth be told, Dave would easily live without ever having sex with John again if he had to -- he loved the man that much.

And Dave felt awful that it had been his...withdrawal that had caused John to get this way.

John quickly looked from Luka to Dave, hopeful despite feeling tired. "You promise? You really promise? You won't change your mind this time?"

This time? What exactly what John talking about?

"I promise," Dave said, leading him towards the bed. "I promise that neither of us is gonna hurt you...not ever again...you're safe...I promise..."

Hopefully, the Ativan would kick in soon...and poor John would just go to sleep. At least, that's what Dave was hoping. Because John was just in *so* much pain.

And it was far too much pain for Dave to even begin to take away.

John stopped at the side of the bed. As tired as he was, he couldn't forget the most important thing. "My pajamas," he softly said. "I need my pajamas. I'll get in trouble if I get in bed naked and I don't want to get them angry with me again." John looked at Dave, tears once more in his eyes as he realized he didn't recognize this place as his bedroom. "I don't know where they are. This isn't my room," he said, slightly pouting. How could he obey the rules if he couldn't find his pajamas? John had been told that if he kept acting up and causing trouble then his parents wouldn't have any choice but to send him away to boarding school. And he didn't want to go away, even though that meant not being touched, but Jenny told him that at boarding schools, it was the men who touched and made things swell, and John didn't want to be touched by them.

Dave quickly shook his head. "No...no John...this isn't your room...this is the cruise ship...and you're going to be going home tomorrow. And...uh...I'll get you your pajamas, but you're not gonna get in trouble for gettin' into bed naked."

Dave nodded towards Luka, who quickly got out a pair of pajamas for John. Luka handed them to Dave, who in turn, handed them to John. "I don't wanna do anything that's gonna make you uncomfortable," he said, his voice soft. "I'll help you into these if you want me to...but not if it makes you uncomfortable..."

Imagine that -- Dave's touch not feeling good to John. Dave never thought he'd see the day.

John blinked sleepily at the pajamas Dave had handed him. They weren't his. He had 'Star Wars' pajamas, a present from Bobby. But they'd have to do, even though John suddenly wasn't sure how to put them on, and he was too tired to try to figure it out. He held the pajamas toward Dave. "Please?"

Dave brought his gaze up to meet Luka's as John handed him back the pajamas, and then he slowly nodded. "Yeah...I can do that for you..."

At least John was trusting Dave enough to touch him now. But it was so weird. Dave hadn't realized just how far gone John really was...but it was obvious that there were some major problems there. Guilt marred him once more, and he vowed to spend as long as necessary at John's side...to make sure the man was okay, of course.

Luka was standing towards the back of the room, obviously looking hesitant to leave at that moment.

"Luka...I've got this," Dave finally said, turning to face Luka fully. "Please...I need to try to fix this...I'll call you if I need you..."

Luka shut his eyes, and then finally nodded. Hesitating for only a moment longer, he left the room, shutting the door quietly behind him.

After Dave watched Luka leave, he turned his attention back to John. "Okay. You let me know right away if I'm doing *anything* that makes you feel uncomfortable...okay?"

And with a sigh, he began to put John's pajamas on him, hoping that he'd be able to do that without John being too upset. It was obvious to Dave that John was not in his right mind.

If John had been more alert, then he might have spoken up when Dave helped him step into the pajama bottoms. But he was so busy yawning that he didn't really pay any attention to it. John was more than ready for bed by the time Dave had finished buttoning the top.

"Thank you," John politely said as he crawled onto the bed, reaching for his covers, which seemed to be haphazardly tossed about. He looked up at Dave, his eyelids almost too heavy to stay open. "May I ask for one more thing?" Dave had been nice so far, and John was willing to risk asking for one more favor.

"Anything," Dave said sincerely, as he looked back down to John. Dave was afraid to touch him...afraid of sending John even further into his own world that he seemed to have found himself in.

"Would you leave one of the lights on?" He felt like a baby, feeling afraid of the dark, but since Bobby had died, the dark had seemed like a very cold and scary place. And the dark...hid things that people did. The light was much, much better. "Please?"

Dave thought for a moment, and then nodded. "Yeah...yeah I can do that for you..."

He hesitated for a moment, and then walked over to the side of John's bed, carefully tucking the blanket around John in a very fatherly-like fashion. He looked down to him, and then bent his head down to kiss John tenderly on the forehead. "I love you," he muttered, smoothing down John's hair on his head.

Dave's eyes swept over the room, and he then walked over to a chair that was nestled in the corner. He sat down in it, hands crossed over his chest as he watched and waited for John to fall asleep.

John tried to keep his eyes open so he could keep an eye on Dave. It *did* seem as if the man was going to keep his promise, although John wasn't too sure he liked the fact Dave was staying in the room, even if he was in the corner. It soon became too much effort to stay awake, and John finally let his eyes close against the room and the light and Dave, and he fell into a dreamless sleep, the first such sleep he had had for a very long time.

Finally...John was asleep. Dave was *far* from being able to sleep...the light in the room inhibiting his ability to close his eyes for very long, coupled with the fact that he was *so* worried about John. Again, his thoughts drifted back to when John had told him about the maid...and about how she had been the first person he had ever slept with...at age eleven. And how defensive he was that it had been normal...but some of the things John had said even then had made Dave suspicious.

And tonight's revelations had only confirmed his worst suspicions...and fears. John had *definitely* been abused, and Dave breaking up with him had only brought back those memories for John.

And Dave felt very guilty for setting him into this kind of mental state.

Finally Dave began to nod off, unable to keep his eyes open for even a moment longer. But his ears remained finely tuned to any sounds of John coming from the bed.

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

Randi sighed as she looked once more at the closed door of John's bedroom. It was unnerving, knowing that something was going on and not being able to do anything to help. She hated feeling helpless, it went against her nature. Randi had survived living half of the time on the streets because her mother didn't give a flying fuck what she did, and living out there had ultimately put Randi in prison -- and she had survived that, too. Handled it very well. But this...this made her feel helpless, just like when Carter and Lucy had been stabbed. They had been people she knew and she wanted to help them, but there wasn't anything she could do.

It didn't help matters any that Maggie was being just as silent as she paced the room, looking ready to kill at a moment's notice. Randi wanted to defend Dave to Maggie, to point out to her that he had been just as torn apart by whatever it was that had happened as Carter had been, but Randi didn't particularly like the idea of feeling Maggie's claws right then, and if she was reading her lover's mood correctly, that's exactly what would happen if she as much as said one kind word about Dave Malucci.

They both took notice when the door opened and Luka stepped through, still looking worried and upset. "How's he doing?" Randi asked, needing to know that Carter was all right. The cruise had made them closer, and she was discovering that she liked the idea of being his friend. Dave and Luka's, too, she thought. It had been nice to get to know all of them better. But knowing them better also meant that she cared even more about what was happening to them -- to them all.

Luka sadly shook his head, and made his way over to the couch. Now that he was no longer in the same room with John, the need for Luka to pretend that he was okay with quickly retreating.

"He's...he's regressing...he's acting like he's a small child...and...very much like...like both Dave and I were trying to hurt him. I...I think Dave realizes that he made a mistake...but John's reaction...it isn't normal. John didn't act angry...John acted frightened...like we...we were going to...to rape him..."

Luka crossed his arms over his chest, absent-mindedly rubbing his arms with his hands as he spoke to the girls.

Maggie was even silenced by this revelation, and she stopped pacing the room to look at Luka as he spoke. "Rape him? I might not like Dave...and I might think that for a while Dave was only in it for the sex, but even *I* don't think he's capable of rape."

"Or you," Randi added. "Why in the world would he think that about the two of you?" She asked as she moved so that she was sitting cross-legged on the couch beside Luka. Randi didn't like the sound of what Luka was saying, it hinted too much of things she had heard her street friends talking about when she was younger -- about never being safe, no matter where you were or who was around, because someone would always decide they wanted a piece of you. Randi had always thought they were exaggerating, but working in the ER had shown her that, while it wasn't as bad as they had made it out to be, it was still bad at times to be a kid or a teen on the street, or with parents who either didn't give a damn about you or else 'cared' entirely too much.

Luka shook his head. "I...I do not know," he said sincerely as he swept a hand over his eyes wearily. "I....you saw how he was when Dave left...yes...he was very upset...but it isn't a normal reaction. I...I'll talk to Dave about it later...but I honestly think that John might have been abused as a child...he was saying things like he was going to get in trouble for going to bed without clothing on...and he was upset that he wasn't in his own room."

With a sigh, he looked over to Randi. "I know that I have already lost him...Dave...Dave is the person who he belongs with, but Dave...even Dave couldn't get through to him..."

"Jesus!" Randi muttered. If Carter wouldn't even listen to Dave, then he really was fucked up. "I don't understand...why do you think he was abused? I mean, I know lots of anal people who won't sleep naked, why would that mean he was abused?"

"I...I do know that John had sex with someone when he was only 11 years old...someone who was quite a bit older than him...and...the signs that he was exhibiting...being afraid of his 'private parts' swelling, as he said...blaming himself...saying that he didn't like to be touched like that...Randi...it's all classic signs of abuse..."

Luka sighed. He realized that he might have been saying too much, but at this point...was there really *anything* he would be able to hide from Randi? They had all been through so much together.

Randi closed her eyes against the sudden feeling of nausea that swept over her. "Oh, God. And we...shit..." She lost the battle and hit the floor running as she headed to the bathroom, making it barely in time. The things she had done to Carter -- had wanted him to do to her -- feeling jealous that he had gone down on Maggie and made her feel so good -- it all sickened Randi. It had been wrong, so very, very wrong. It seemed to Randi that perhaps all of them had been responsible for Carter's melt down, and she wondered if he'd ever find a way to forgive them for that.

Luka watched as Randi left the room, as did Maggie. Maggie's eyes filled with worry for her lover, but she did focus her attention back on Luka figuring that Randi would want her privacy -- at least for a little while.

"So...you're sayin'...that some perverted guy laid his hands on Carter when Carter was only eight? What kinda sick..."

"No, Maggie," Luka said, interrupting her gently. "It was a woman...his maid...she was 25...and John was only eleven...I think that John might feel some guilt over it...but of course I am not exactly qualified to make these kinds of assessments..."

Luka sighed deeply, running his hands over his eyes. "Hopefully Dave will be able to get through to him...God knows I can't..."

Maggie sat awkwardly for a moment, and then slowly rose out of her chair. Walking over to the man who she now called friend, she wrapped her arms around him, pulling Luka into her embrace. Maggie felt awful about everything. And though she was concerned for Carter, she was also concerned for Luka. Luka just seemed so...lost.

To be continued
Chapter Seventeen by MonaCK
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts


John slowly opened his eyes, feeling more than a little out of sorts. His mouth was dry and his head seemed fuzzy, and he had no idea why. Thinking back, he remembered the horrible nightmare that he'd had and he shivered under the blankets. There could be nothing worse than Dave leaving him the way he had in the dream, John thought as he reached over for Dave. But Dave wasn't there, and John's heart fell a little as he remembered that Dave had to get up early, even though they would soon be in Los Angeles, it was still a cruise day, and Dave's schedule hadn't changed.

He sat up, running his hands through his hair as he considered his shower and packing to go home. He had Dave's schedule written down and could get the number for the ship from the concierge, since Dave hadn't liked the idea of John calling him at home. Not that John could blame Dave for his reluctance on that, he himself hadn't come out to his family and he had the same fears as Dave -- what if they rejected him, disowned him for life? The idea wasn't a pleasant one, but John knew that as long as he had Dave and his friends, then he'd get through it. But he still understood Dave's fear of being rejected by his own brother.

As John stood, he realized that he was wearing pajamas, but he didn't remember putting them on. Had he awoken because of the nightmare and just didn't remember it? It was possible -- it had happened before, although, thankfully, not often. Then he made his second discovery of the morning when he saw Dave, fully dressed, and dozing in the corner chair. Had the dream been so bad that Dave had run from the bed? God, that made John feel guilty, and he quietly walked over to Dave, standing beside the chair and simply looking at the man for a moment before reaching out to gently shake his shoulder. He knew Dave would want to shower and get back to his room to change for the day, and time was steadily moving on.

"Dave? Hey, wake up, sleepyhead," John said as he jostled Dave's shoulder.

As soon as John touched his shoulder, Dave was awakened, eyes flying open as his glance darted around the room. He had a crick in his neck the size of California. And he was just *so* stiff. Stiff from spending the night sitting in a chair instead of a comfortable bed.

He was a bit startled, but calmed down once he realized that it was John waking him up and not anyone else. John. John wanted him there...he wasn't trying to throw him out of the room...he wasn't accusing Dave of trying to rape him. And Dave found his arms going around John's waist, and he pulled the man close to him, as if he was never going to see him again.

Because, by all rights, Dave didn't deserve him.

There was a moment's silence right before Dave spoke. And turning his head up so his eyes met John's, he found the worry begin to leave his body. And then Dave began to wonder just how much John remembered from the night before...

"You're...you're okay?"

John smiled down at Dave and began to massage the back of Dave's neck, thinking that sleeping in the chair couldn't have been all that comfortable. "I'm a little sad that we're reaching port this morning, but last night will hopefully tide me over until I see you again. What about you? I must have had some nightmare if it ran you from the bed, or did you get paged during the night and that's why you're in your uniform?" he asked.

Nightmare? John thought he had a nightmare? Well...in a way it was one...but it was a nightmare for *all* of them involved. John massaging the back of Dave's neck felt good, but it was not enough to distract him from talking.

"How much do you remember from last night," Dave asked, his voice hesitant as he continued to hold onto the man he loved. Dave realized that he should be getting ready for the next cruise...and he was likely going to get in *big* trouble for skipping out of the Medical Center for this long, but he didn't care. There were some things more important...and solving things with John was more important than anything else that was going on in his life.

"I remember that you exhausted me," John said with a grin. "And I remember what you said about not wanting me to call you at Steve's place because you're not out to him, so I won't be doing that. I don't want to cause you any pain, Dave, I hope you know that."

Had John blocked everything out? It certainly seemed like that was what was happening. John didn't remember Dave breaking up with him...and his regression...well...well no, of course he wouldn't. John was *not* himself the previous night.

"We did have fun last night," Dave finally said after a moment's thought. "And...uh...yeah...thanks for not talking to my brother about all of this...but...uh...man...there...there was some other stuff that happened...stuff I wanna make sure you're okay with. I'm...I'm so sorry...because I *did* hurt you...and if you can't forgive me...I don't think I'll ever be able to forgive myself...I love you more than anything, and I'm so sorry for trying to do what I tried to do last night..."

His breath caught in his throat. Dave hoped that he wasn't making a mistake in saying this much to John, but he wanted to get all the cards out on the table. Lying wasn't his style...in any form.

John knelt down in between Dave's legs and looked up at him, frowning slightly. "I don't know what you're talking about, Dave. You didn't do anything to hurt me last night. Telling me not to call you at your home didn't hurt my feelings. I can understand your worries and fears about that because I have them, too. I don't know what my family will do when they finally find out about us, so I can understand your insecurities. Now, let's forget all about that and go shower, okay? This is the last day in a long while that I'll have the luxury of my own personal 'barber'." John got to his feet and tugged on Dave's hands, trying to get him out of the chair so they could enjoy a few last moments together.

Dave couldn't resist it when John began to pull on his hand, and he soon found himself standing on his feet and smiling over to John. "Yeah...we can shower...at this point, I'm already late. I won't get in trouble. They love me downstairs," Dave assured John, knowing that if John knew the truth that John would be too worried about him to enjoy the shower. "But...uh...there's...there's other stuff that happened last night...that...uh...we should talk about. I...I don't want you to be upset with me later, especially without me bein' here to defend myself."

They had begun to walk towards the bathroom, when Dave stopped in his tracks, pulling John around so that they were face to face. "I...I...can't believe you don't remember this...and I don't know how smart I am to bring it up...but I don't ever wanna hide anything for you...ever. I...I tried to break up with you last night...I somehow got it in my head you'd be better off without me...so I left...scared of having something good for the first time in my life...you...you kinda freaked out on Luka...and a little while later, Randi ran down to find me. I...I had to give you Ativan to get you to calm down enough to sleep. You...you weren't yourself...you were talkin' about not wantin' your private parts to swell...and not wanting to be my sex kitten anymore...I...man...I never realized...John, I'm so sorry...it was a stupid, stupid mistake on my part, and I never shoulda done it...I love you so much..."

Dave brought a hand up to the side of John's face, trying to read what his expression was as Dave spoke.

John turned his head slightly and kissed the palm of Dave's hand. "You know we didn't have the same dream, Dave, but it's nice of you to try to pretend we did just to make me feel better about the nightmare I did have. Now, come on, we're running out of time and I don't want to rush through any of this with you." He reached up and took Dave's hand into his own again, then turned to lead them both into the bathroom.

Dave began to walk with John, but continued to speak while he did so.

"I wish I could tell ya that it was a nightmare...but John...you didn't tell me what your nightmare was...how would I have known?"

Dave looked up to John, both his eyes and his voice sincere as he spoke. He knew that there was a possibility that Maggie, Randi, or even Luka might bring things up later...so he wanted John to be ready for it.

"Dave," John began, speaking patiently, "I obviously must have when I woke up from it. I'm in pajamas and I know I didn't go to bed that way, and you're dressed, and I know you didn't go to bed that way, either. So, enough of the playing around, okay?" While the idea of Dave pretending they had some sort of psychic connection was sweet, his insistence that it wasn't a dream was starting to get on John's nerves. He wanted a bit of quality time with Dave before the world of the ship took Dave away from him.

"I'm not playing around," Dave said, walking towards him. "I'm not. Man. Look. Last night was fucking *hard* for me. It was *hard* for me to hear you say that you didn't want me to touch you. And it was hard for me to watch you in so much obvious pain and know that I caused it. I *wish* I could tell you it was a nightmare. Maybe in a way it was. A horrible, horrible living nightmare..."

Dave turned his head away, not wanting to upset John...but by the same token, knowing that it would be a hundred times worse for both of them if John remembered everything when he was off of the ship.

"I...I'm sorry," Dave finally said, once again bringing up a hand to the side of John's face. "I almost lost you again last night...and it woulda been my fault. I just wanna make sure you're really not pushing me away..."

"Dave, if you had done anything in real life like you did in my dream, then...well, I certainly wouldn't be standing here like this talking to you, now would I? I really don't want to argue with you on our last morning together for God only knows how long, so would you *please* stop this and just come and shower with me?" John asked, more than a hint of exasperation in his voice.

Resigned, Dave relaxed his shoulders and nodded, feeling more guilty than ever. Dave *had* done all those things in real life. He *didn't* deserve to be by John's side. John had basically just *said* that.

"Yeah...okay...shower...sure...we can do that..."

What Dave felt like doing was crying. Because Dave knew...he knew in his soul that once John really did remember what happened the previous night, he would run so far from Dave that Dave wouldn't know what hit him.

Reaching out a hand, he rested it on John's shoulder. And then on pure impulse, he pulled the man into his embrace. He just needed to feel John next to him...to feel John's body covering his as Dave held him tightly.

"I...I love you," he said again...hoping that that fact would be enough to carry both of them through.

Because now, Dave was scared to death.

"I love you, too," John happily replied. "Now get your butt in the shower so I can show you just how much I'm going to miss you." They couldn't get naked quickly enough to suit John.

As Dave began to undress, thoughts of the previous night continued to run through his head. Specifically, Dave was thinking about how John accused both him and Luka of only wanting to fuck him...and when there wasn't fucking, that they wouldn't leave John alone. And that John didn't want them to touch him...

It was very hard for Dave to get past it all, and get back to some semblance of normal.

"John, how...how would you feel...if we took a shower...and then...just...laid down for a little while? No...no funny business...just...just us enjoyin' each other's company...talking...just bein' together?"

It was odd...Dave Malucci not wanting to have sex...but in this particular case, Dave wanted to make sure that he had his soul-mate by his side...and not necessarily all the rest of it.

Mostly because...Dave needed to figure out how to get past it without feeling the guilt. It was obvious to him that John was someone who had been abused in a far worse way than Dave had ever been, and Dave was now afraid that he was not helping matters, but only making them worse.

"Well, that would be nice too," John said, even though he was a little hurt by Dave's apparent reluctance to make love. Maybe he was more upset about being awakened in the middle of the night by John's nightmares than he had let on? As he dropped his pajama top to the floor, John asked. "My nightmares, they really bug you, don't they?"

Dave quickly shook his head. "Your nightmares don't bug me...what's bugging me right now, is that you refuse to realize that what happened last night wasn't a nightmare, and that's scaring the *Hell* outta me...because I'm afraid you're gonna remember all the horrible things I did when you least expect it, and then you're gonna leave *me*. And God...I don't want that to happen. I was such a fucking fool last night...and I'm scared to death of losing you...not to mention..."

Dave shook his head and stopped talking. He didn't want to say too much...didn't want to hurt the man that he loved any more than he already had.

John stepped up to Dave and gently placed his hands on Dave's cheeks, holding him still as he looked deeply into his eyes. "I will never leave you, Dave, I promise you that. I love you, and there's nothing you could ever do that would make me leave, do you understand me?" Dave's obvious insecurities were painful for John to see, and he vowed to himself to do all he could to make sure that Dave always knew he was loved and cared about.

"I'm scared of hurting you again," Dave flat out said, before he could put any kind of censor on his words. "I almost lost you again last night...and it woulda been my fault...all because I'm not good enough for you. I *know* I'm not good enough for you...but I have to try to make this work because living without you is too painful. I...I couldn't do it...even though it woulda been for your own good...I couldn't do it...I couldn't leave you...and then...when I saw you last night...I caused you to have those nightmares, John."

If John wanted to call them nightmares, then Dave would oblige.

"It was my fault that you didn't want Luka or I touching you...it was my fault that you were that way in the first place...my fault you were...afraid that we were going to rape you. I don't *ever* want you to think that I'm only in this for the sex...there's *so* much more going on here, man."

John shook his head. "I don't think that, Dave. I've never thought that about you, honest. And I don't like hearing you say that you're not good enough for me because it's nothing but a bunch of bull. You're the best thing that's ever happened to me, and, while I know you're not perfect, I also know that none of us are. I *love* you, every inch of you. I love your mind and your perfections and your faults, Dave." To emphasize his point, John gave Dave a lingering kiss, wishing that he could magically take all of that pain and lack of self-esteem away from Dave. In time, John thought, it would happen in time.

Dave returned the kiss, wrapping his arms around John's body as if just being there...in his arms...listening to his assurances...would make everything okay. And as the kiss ended, Dave was powerless to stop a smile from creeping across his lips.

As Dave ran his hands over John's smooth body, he dared to speak again. "Maybe...maybe we should take that shower now," he finally said. And as he moved his hands down to John's pajama bottoms, Dave decided that it was best for him to try to put it all out of his mind...for now. At least John knew how Dave felt...hopefully that would be something that John kept in mind if he ever truly remembered the events of the previous evening.

"Maybe we should," John agreed. "And will I get one last close shave from you, as a lesson on how it's properly done since I'll be on my own for the next several weeks or so? I definitely don't want to draw blood down there," John joked as he stepped back from Dave and pulled off the pajama bottoms, his self-consciousness about being naked in front of Dave long gone.

"Yeah...I can do that for you," Dave said, as he looked at the area admiringly. "No. I don't need you damaging my property," he teased as he took another step closer. Reaching for the bottom of his own shirt, he pulled it over his head, no longer even caring how late he was gonna be for work. "We do need to hurry a bit...or you're gonna end up cruising with me for another week," Dave teased, as he swooped his lips down over John's once more.

"As if that would be a hardship for either one of us," John said after the kiss ended. He grinned at Dave, then grabbed a fresh towel and placed it on top of the toilet lid before sitting down, his butt at the edge and his legs spread apart to give Dave ample access to his 'work' area. "All ready whenever you are," John said with a wicked smile since he was already half hard and the merest hint of a touch from Dave's hand would make that a full erection. Dave's act of shaving John's groin every morning always led to them making love in the shower -- which, as John thought about it, was a fine way to greet the day. A fine way, indeed.

Dave grinned as he watched John settle himself down on top of the toilet seat, and he grabbed John's razor, as well as a can of shaving cream. Soon, he was fully ready to do what he needed to do to make John clean-shaven. "You know...I really like how smooth you are like this," Dave commented as his hand touched John's dick. The organ seemed to spring to life in Dave's hand, and Dave couldn't help but run his fingers along the shaft.

"It's very important," Dave started, as he reached his free hand up for the shaving cream, "that you get a good lather goin' before you start..."

Emptying the gel in his hands, he rubbed the foam all over the areas of John's nads, and the base of his dick. "Then...you have to make sure you use a sharp razor. Believe it or not...a dull one does worse..."

He grinned up to John with a smile that reached his eyes. And as Dave began to shave John, he continued to speak and narrate for John exactly what he should do when doing this himself.

John watched Dave intently as the man worked, saying an occasional "I see" and "right", but not looking at what Dave was doing. John knew all too well how to shave and was pretty sure he could manage it on his own. It was far more interesting to watch Dave's face as he ran the razor carefully over the skin -- it almost seemed to John that Dave got as much pleasure from doing the shaving as John was getting from being shaved.

As Dave finished shaving, he reached for a towel, and began to carefully and teasingly wipe the last of the cream from John's cock and balls. And as he smiled up to his lover, he felt something flip inside him as he watched John's face. This was the face of a man who *did* love him...who *did* want Dave to be there...

Dave was a fool for trying to leave. And all doubts that John was going to kick him out of his life soon left his head. As Dave wiped John clean, he couldn't resist giving his cock a teasing suck. So bringing his lips down on top of John's erection, Dave drew his cock into his waiting mouth.

"Oh, God," John moaned as he felt the warmth of Dave's mouth caress his cock. It definitely seemed as if Dave's idea of showering and then just lying in bed was long gone from Dave's mind, and that suited John just fine, he thought as he ran his hands through Dave's thick hair. It somehow didn't seem fair that Dave still had his pants on, keeping John from seeing the erection that he knew Dave was sporting. The way the material was strained against Dave's crotch was the physical clue John had, but, he also emotionally knew that Dave was just as turned on. It was definitely going to be a long four months until Dave was back in Chicago where he belonged.

Dave's cock pressed against the fabric of his uniform pants, and as he lifted his mouth off of John's cock, he straightened his body up slightly so that John might have access to be able to take the offending garment off of Dave's body. Dave's mouth eagerly sought after John's once more...wanting their worlds to mesh together one more time...one more time until they had to part until the end of Dave's contract.

And Dave wasn't quite sure how he was going to deal with it. How could Dave have *ever* thought he could live without John in his life? He was a damned fool...and he was damned lucky...lucky that John didn't remember a blessed thing.

Breaking away from John's lips, Dave finally stood, bringing his lover up with him. "We'd better hurry...or you're not gonna be able to leave the ship on time."

"I thought I had until nine, right? It's not yet eight," John said with a laugh as he followed Dave into the spacious shower. "I get to wash you first," he volunteered. Soap in hand, John worked it into a rich lather, then began to run his hands all over Dave's skin, ending the washing at Dave's cock and balls and ass, making sure he was more than clean for the special treatment John had in mind. As soon as the water had rinsed away the soap, John's mouth had replaced it upon Dave's cock, and he sucked and licked and nibbled as if this was his last meal, Dave's moans and whimpers of delight letting John know that his efforts were very much appreciated.

Dave had learned that trying to argue with John was often a fruitless effort -- especially in matters regarding the bedroom. So he simply agreed, and wasn't going to complain as his body was exposed to the most luxurious treatment that Dave knew existed -- John's hands, lips, and tongue.

Better than any spa treatment. Better than massage therapy. Thank God John didn't want to bottle this and sell it, because though the man would likely make a fortune, Dave didn't want to have to share him with anyone.

Not ever again.

"Mine," Dave uttered, as John's touch continued to infect him. "You're...mine...mine...mine..."

Dave's hand found the top of John's head, and as John's sucking became more urgent, Dave's strokes through John's hair had the same urgency.

As Dave's body began to give off the little clues that signaled the onslaught of an orgasm, John changed tactics. He pulled his mouth off of Dave's cock in one long suck, and then gently moved to Dave's balls, tenderly sucking on them while his hands caressed and kneaded Dave's thighs. And when it seemed as if that sucking was going to be too much for Dave to handle, John moved so that he could rim Dave, knowing that it drove his lover nearly over the edge each and every time he did it. John wondered just how long he could manage to go from erogenous zone to erogenous zone without having Dave come -- would it be a matter of a few minutes or could he stretch it out to twenty, or even thirty minutes? It was definitely a goal to aspire to, even though John knew that it wouldn't be a goal he would try for that morning.

Once more his mouth was back on Dave's cock, licking it from the base to the tip, tickling the corona before taking the cock fully into his mouth and sucking it until his nose was pressed up against Dave's pubes. This time John intended to suck Dave off, not wanting to keep Dave from his job any longer than he already had.

The emotions that Dave were feeling were almost too much for him to classify. The feeling of Carter's tongue on his ass...he almost came right there...but somehow...somehow John just *knew* when it was going to happen, and would pull away, giving Dave just enough time to recover somewhat before starting the next assault.

However, when John placed his mouth on his cock that final time, it was too much for him to take. "Yeah...yeah...oh...oh, GOD, John...GOD!"

Unable to hold on even for a moment longer, Dave came in spectacular colors, seeming to spill his seed as endlessly as John seemed willing to almost drink it. John had this ability to satiate Dave like no one had ever done in the past, and Dave knew would never happen with anyone else ever again.

"God, I love you," Dave exclaimed, his voice breathless.

John grasped the base of Dave's cock tightly as he gave it one long suck and then kissed the top of Dave's thigh. "I know. I love you, too." He got to his feet and embraced Dave, pulling him close for a long and passionate kiss that would leave them both breathless.

Wrapping his arms around his lover, Dave gave everything to that kiss...knowing that there wouldn't be many more of these to come before Dave got back to Chicago after his tour was over. And as they pulled away, Dave's eyes were still full of passion, even though his body was definitely spent.

"You didn't think I was gonna leave you hanging...did you?"

Reaching his hand down, Dave found John's hard cock, and began to stroke it, liking the way the smooth skin of his dick felt between his fingers. His other hand reached down and cupped John's package. Once more, Dave enjoyed the weight of them in his hands and he gently squeezed them as he brought his mouth to John's nipple, eagerly taking the nub between his teeth as Dave began his assault on his body.

"I had thought you were in a hurry," John replied, and then his speech abilities disappeared as Dave's hands and mouth began to work magic upon his body. All of the worries about Dave's low self-esteem and even John's own disquiet about the nightmares that still plagued him went away, suddenly not important as Dave pulled his body toward completion.

Dave heard John speak, but he didn't care...didn't care that he was going to get in trouble...didn't care that he was late to set up for the next cruise...didn't care about *anything* but the man in his arms. Moving his lips down the front of John's body, Dave dropped to his knees, licking his lips in anticipation of sucking off John the way that John had sucked Dave off only moments before.

And soon, his mouth covered John's hard dick, licking some of the pre-come off the top before completely taking John's cock into his mouth.

John leaned his back against the cool tile of the shower as his hands rested on Dave's shoulders, holding him in place while his brain prayed that Dave would never even imagine doing what he had done in the dream and leave him. As Dave's tongue began to magically work its way over him, John closed his eyes, his desire for the man in front of him steadily building. "God, yes, Dave. Don't stop, please don't stop. Let me come...God..."

Stopping wasn't even close to being in the cards for Dave. He wanted to make John feel as good as Dave had felt only moments earlier. And he knew if he continued in this manner, it was only a matter of moments before John found his ultimate release. Dave's hands roamed over the surface of John's ass, and one of Dave's fingers drifted towards the opening, teasing the tip inside in the hopes that would help enhance his lover's orgasm.

"Jesus...oh, God...yeah...DAVE!!!!" John screamed out as his emotions reached the abyss and went right on over the edge, taking his mind with it and leaving nothing but sated desire behind. If not for the wall behind him, and Dave in front of him, John knew he would have fallen over from the perfection of it all.


To be continued
Chapter Eighteen by MonaCK
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts


Packed and ready to go, but still worried about Carter to the point where she had no appetite, Randi had skipped breakfast. It didn't miss her attention that Maggie and Luka had also declined to eat, and now they all sat, waiting for John to awaken. "Do you think Dave's still here? He usually has to be in the medical center by seven," Randi said, "And it's nearly nine, now. We've got to wake Carter up soon." They'd pack for him if they had to, and even carry him off the ship, if necessary. But Randi mainly wanted to awaken John to make sure he was okay. He had to be okay, she prayed, he just *had* to be.

Luka shook his head. "I don't know if he's still here. I don't think so...as you said, he's normally gone by now, and if John awoke and didn't want to talk to Dave...there would have been no reason for him to stay. I don't..."

Just then, Luka heard what he thought was a blood-curdling scream coming from the direction of John's bathroom.

"What was that?" Luka asked, as he quickly left from his chair. "Did you hear that?"

"You would have to be *dead* to not hear that," Maggie quipped, her expression turning slightly more worried at the sound.

Randi jumped to her feet. "Well, are we going to just stand here or are we going to help him?" she asked, having decided that she would do whatever she could, even if it was nothing more than holding Carter to help calm him. And just holding him, she thought to herself, none of that business of giving him a blow-job to make him feel better. She glared at Maggie and then Luka. "Well?"

Luka put up his hand as he got up from the chair. "If you don't mind, I'd like to go in," Luka said, his voice soft. "Please...I need to do this..."

And before the women could argue with him, Luka very quickly retreated into John's bedroom, shutting the door behind him.

The first thing that hit him was the sound of not one, but two voices. And the voices seemed to be...happy? What the hell was..?

"John? John, is everything okay? I heard a scream, and..."

Luka walked into the bathroom, and his speech stopped midstream. There were Dave and John, both naked as the days they were born, drying themselves off after a shower. Luka wasn't sure how he felt about this...relief that John seemed to be okay...but then concern that Dave was trying to take advantage of the situation.

"I...um...I guess everything *is* okay, then..."

John grinned, only feeling slightly embarrassed about being naked in front of Luka. They were friends, after all. "Well, that depends on your definition of okay. Considering I've got less than thirty minutes to pack so we can leave, and Dave's definitely running late, *that* part isn't okay. At least you guys can't accuse us of keeping you awake *this* time," he said with a smirk. Mostly dry, John gave Dave a quick kiss on the mouth, then went into his bedroom to dress and start packing. John wanted nothing more than to spend more time with Dave, but he knew that an extended 'goodbye' wasn't going to do anything for either one of them except make them sad, and he didn't want that for Dave.

While John left the bathroom, Dave hastily bent down to gather his clothing, fully aware that Luka was less then pleased about the turn of events. "John woke me this morning," Dave began, as he pulled on his underwear, "and he remembered *nothing*.. absolutely nothing...about what happened last night..."

"So you took this as a sign that it was okay for you to fuck him?" Luka's eyes were wild as he looked over to Dave, once again questioning his wisdom in allowing Dave to come here in the first place.

"No...and if you'd let me finish *speaking*, I'll tell you what happened. Jeez! So after we talked for a bit, I realized that John thought it was all a dream...and that he must have woken up in the middle of the night to tell me about the dream and then fallen back to sleep. I told him *everything*...'bout how I left...how I came back...how he didn't wanna be touched...but John kept accusing me of somehow reading his mind..."

Dave slowly pulled his pants up, and then began to put on his shirt before speaking again. "I...I made sure...before we did anything...I think it woulda hurt him more if we *hadn't* done anything before I left, and besides, I'm not gonna see him again for four months...hopefully that'll be enough celibacy time for him to sort stuff out in his mind..."

Luka was still almost peering through Dave, and with arms crossed over his chest, he nodded. "Yes. Well. You'd better get to work...and we have to get ready to get off the ship...so...I suggest you say goodbye now."

And with completely jumbled feelings, Luka left the room, intent on heading back out to the living room to talk to the girls.

John had just pulled on his shirt when the bathroom door opened and Luka walked out. Stalked out was more like it, he thought. "Luka, do you have a minute?" he asked, wanting to make sure that Luka was doing okay since he had spent the past two weeks with Mike and would now be facing the prospect of never seeing him again.

Luka turned around. His eyes were still ablaze, and his emotions were still confused after the bit of information he had learned from Dave in the bathroom. John was lost. He had lost him to Dave...and maybe John was never Luka's to begin with...but the absolute realization was very difficult for him to face.

"Sure...what can I help you with, John?" Luka's expression was set and serious.

"I just wanted to make sure you were okay, you know, with the idea of not being able to see Mike again? Or have you and he arranged to meet somewhere between New York and Chicago?" John asked, hoping they had since he had seen how much they had enjoyed each other's company.

Luka nodded. "Yes. I'm fine. We're very realistic that we are not going to see each other again after this week, but that's okay. We have exchanged numbers, and we'll look each other up if we are in each other's towns, so to speak.. You'd...you'd better hurry up and finish packing," Luka said, looking over towards John's suitcase. "And this way...it'll give you a chance to say goodbye to Dave too, huh? I'll see you out in the hallway..."

Luka glanced towards the bathroom door, which was just beginning to open. And before his emotions betrayed him once more, he slid out of John's room, intent on letting the couple have their privacy.

Dave walked out of the now ajar bathroom door, and immediately walked over to John, dropping his arms around his lover's waist while he rested his head on John's shoulder.

"I'm gonna miss you the next couple of months..."

"Not as much as I'm going to be missing you," John said as he rested his head against Dave's. "Now, you'd better go before you get into any trouble. The last thing I want is for you to get fired or something because of me. I'd never forgive myself if I was the cause of something like that, even if I do want you in Chicago with me now as opposed to later," he sincerely said. Dave had enough self-esteem problems and didn't need to add to them by losing his job or being written up for being late.

"Mmm...you'd be worth losin' my job over...but you're right, I do haveta get goin'," Dave said, reluctant to move. Planting a kiss on John's neck, he smiled softly, pulling John around so he could hold him in a full embrace. "Don't forget that I love you when you're back in Chicago scopin' out those hot guys..."

More specifically...scoping out Luka Kovac...but Dave didn't want to say anything like that out loud. And, forcing those thoughts out of his head, he brought his lips down onto John's for one last spine tingling, mind-blowing kiss.

As the kiss ended, John found enough breath to reassure Dave. "Trust me, the only hot guy I'll be scoping out will be you, and then only in my dreams. But at least they'll be nice dreams for a change." He gave Dave a quick kiss on the lips, and then pulled away from him. "Get outta here before I change my mind and pack you in this suitcase to take home."

Dave grinned from ear to ear, unable to stop it from happening, even though he was getting ready to leave the love of his life. "Yeah, yeah...I'd better go...take care of yourself...uh...don't talk to strangers...look both ways before crossin' the street..."

And, turning away before he lost all of his resolve, Dave opened the door, ready to face whatever he had to face in the living room.

The mood was still rather melancholy as Dave looked around to his friends, and as he shut John's door behind him, he kept his voice low. "He remembers *nothing* about what happened last night...and trying to talk to him about it only upsets him, so...I'd really recommend not doin' so. I tried to tell him what I wanted to do...the mistake I made...leaving...and he thinks that I somehow managed to get into his dreams and read them...he doesn't wanna believe it really happened..."

Dave shook his head, and then brought up his eyes to meet the expressions of those around him. "I...I gotta get to work or I'm gonna get fired..."

Randi frowned. While she could certainly understand Carter not wanting to remember what had happened the night before, she couldn't quite believe that he didn't actually remember it. "So, we're not supposed to tell him what a jerk you were for breaking his heart last night, is that it?" she asked as her mind tried to come to terms with what Dave was saying.

Dave turned towards Randi, not even trying to mask the anger in his eyes. "Yeah. Go ahead and say that. You don't think I already tried to tell him that? Tell him what I did, and what an ass I was for doin' it? Fine. You fucking believe what you wanna believe. And say whatever you wanna say to him. I'm just telling you what I *think* you should do based on the way he reacted to me. You know me, Randi. If there's one thing you know about me...I'm not a liar. What fucking reason would I have to start now?"

Crossing his arms over his chest, he stared back at Randi. He was going to get in so much trouble at work, but he just didn't care. This was more important than anything else.

Maggie watched the scene with marked interest. She still wasn't quite sure how she felt about Dave...but it was extremely obvious that despite his behavior the previous night, he really cared for John.

"It wasn't completely his fault, Randi," Luka piped up from the quiet corner of the room. "I...I might have encouraged Dave...to think about his future with John...and might have influenced his decision a bit..."

Luka was still feeling guilty over that...and he really didn't want Dave to take the total fall for what had happened the previous evening.

"What do you mean?" Randi asked, her anger at Dave and herself starting to ebb a bit at this new piece of information. "How could you have encouraged Dave to think anything?"

Luka took a deep breath, running his hand over his eyes. "I went down and had a conversation with Dave the other day...a couple of days before the end of the cruise, and I...I told him that if he was planning on breaking John's heart...that he should do it sooner rather than later, and...um...I might have told him that...Dave was ruining John's chances at happiness..."

Luka turned away, and as Randi looked over to Dave, Dave's head was downcast, and he refused to make eye contact with anyone in the room.

"Jesus Christ, but the two of you have got to be the biggest idiots in the history of mankind, aren't you? Did it ever occur to either one of you that Carter's happiness was something that he was perfectly capable of deciding on his own? He's not the prize in a pissing match, you know, and I can't understand how the two of you can treat him as if he is," Randi snapped, her anger now fully focused on both men. "Yeah, Carter might have some deep problems from when he was a kid, but, man, what the two of you did, it was just plain petty and mean and I'm sure it's what pushed him over the edge last night. I hope you guys are real proud of yourselves, I really do."

"You know something, Randi? Fuck you. Fuck YOU! Do you *think* I don't know that I was an ass? Do you think that I haven't been fucking *kicking* myself for not sticking with my instincts? I don't fucking need *you* pointing it out to me. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to leave, to see if I still have a fucking *job*. Enjoy your trip home. Goodbye."

And, without even a second glance back, Dave stormed out of the room, slamming the door of the suite behind him. Before he could stop to begin to rationalize his anger, he made his way to the elevators, intent on going back to his own cabin to change his clothes, and then try to go to work unseen by anyone.

Randi's eyes blazed as she listened to Dave, and when he stormed out, she turned those eyes on Luka. "Well? What's your excuse for doing your best to try to run Carter's life for him?"

"I have no excuse, Randi," Luka simply said, as he returned the woman's even gaze. "I suggest you think about minding *your* own business. I had my own reasons for doing what I did...wrong as they might have been. Dave had his reasons for listening to me...though they were also wrong. I suggest you stop meddling in John's love life, and worry about your own."

And, in a much calmer manner, Luka went back into his own cabin, shutting the door behind him to allow himself to gather his thoughts and emotions for a few moments before confronting his travel companions once again.

Maggie turned towards Randi, more dumbfounded than anything else. "C'mon, Rand," she said, trying to place a hand on her shoulder. "It's all going to resolve itself okay. Maybe all of this was a blessing in disguise for Carter, I mean...we all know now that there's a problem..."

"A problem with what?" John asked as he walked out of his room, his suitcases in hand. Randi and Maggie looked serious, and he wondered if they had waited until the very end of the cruise to have an argument. "And why would it be a blessing in disguise for me?"

Maggie widened her eyes in surprise, and cast a glance at Randi. Slowly a smile spread over her lips as something formed in her head. "This cruise, of course. It was a blessing in disguise because it brought you and Dave back together...right Randi?"

"Yeah, an honest-to-goodness blessing," Randi said, unable to believe her own eyes at the difference in how Carter looked from the night before to that moment. The man standing in front of her was the John Carter she was used to seeing, and not the near catatonic man from last night.

John grinned. "Yeah, I guess you could call it that. But it will be even more of a blessing when his contract is up and he's back in Chicago where he belongs. So, do we have time for breakfast before we leave this ship or will we have to stop somewhere on the way to the airport? I'm starving."

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

By the time Dave got back to his office, he was still not quite himself. He was thrilled that he was able to work things out with John, but he didn't like the way that the others had reacted to him...staring through him like it was his fault that John had his breakdown.

True -- he might have been the catalyst, but Dave truly felt that this was a long time coming. He loved John to the ends of the earth...but still...John had more issues than Dave did...and Dave was amazed by this fact.

There was so much about both of their pasts that they didn't know about each other. And Dave wondered if John would ever trust him enough to tell him all about his.

All of this was on his mind, which is why he didn't notice when he ran almost head first into Nurse Davis as he attempted to go into his office.

"Dr. Malucci," she said, using his formal name, which she rarely did. "Dr. Kotter is in his office, and wants to see you *now*. I *highly* suggest that you don't keep him waiting."

Dr. Kotter was Dave's supervisor. He only cruised on occasion, and usually just came on-board while they were in port to check up on how things were going. Dave had barely said two words to the man since getting this job, and now Dave was beginning to get worried. If Dr. Kotter wanted to speak to him...

Taking a deep breath, he pushed himself inside his boss's office.

"Hey, bossman...what can I do for ya?" he asked, forcing a grin to his face as he sat in a chair opposite from Dr. Kotter.

"Dr. Malucci, I'm going to get right down to the point. I don't like to beat around the bush...I'm a busy man, and I don't like being bamboozled. I have it on *very* good authority that you were goofing around more than you were working during this run, and also that you spent *no* nights in your cabin, but instead spent them in the cabin of one of the passengers. You *knew* when you signed on for this cruise that fraternizing with the passengers was not only discouraged, but not allowed. And to top it off, you missed your sign-in this morning. All of these things, combined with you being late on more than one occasion for past cruises, leaves me only one choice."

Dr. Kotter gave Dave a hard stare, and then continued.

"You're fired, Dr. Malucci. Don't even try to argue it. Pack your bags and be off the ship before the she leaves port." And, to punctuate the fact that nothing was open for negotiation, Dr. Kotter cast his eyes downward, refusing to make eye contact with the bewildered doctor.

"But...I...umm..."

Dave was speechless...and he felt like the bottom of his stomach had fallen out from under him. What the *fuck*? Well...he supposed that it was nothing more than he deserved. And then he realized...whoa, fired meant that he could go back to Chicago...back to John, sooner than he thought. But...how could he tell John that he was fired? He would never hear the end of it. No. What he was going to do was get the first plane back to Chicago...find a new job...and then tell John that he was in town.

Realizing that he was a LOT less upset then he should have been about getting fired, Dave headed back to his cabin, intent on getting the Hell out of dodge as soon as possible.

************************
Two weeks later:

John's hand was shaking as he dialed the number for Dave's cruise ship. He nearly laughed at himself for being nervous, because he knew he had nothing to be nervous over, but he couldn't deny he was a bundle of nerves as he waited for the phone to be answered. He had just arranged things so he'd be off the next time Dave was in port, and he wanted to let Dave know. Dave had managed to call him a few times on the cell phone, but since things were hectic at the hospital, they had ended up being quick calls, mostly to keep in touch and far too static-filled to be satisfying. But now -- now John was home from work and not due back to work until the next day at noon, so he had plenty of time to talk with Dave, provided Dave had time and wasn't with any patients. John was hopeful that the odds were on his side as far as that was concerned -- it was a cruise ship, after all. How many patients could Dave have in one day?

The switchboard transferred John's call to the medical center where it was immediately answered.

"Medical Center, Nurse Tompkins speaking. How may I help you?" She cheerfully asked.

"Dr. Malucci please," John asked, hoping he was available to come to the phone and she wouldn't ask why he needed to speak to Dave.

"I'm sorry, but he's not available. If you can hold I'll get Dr. Smith for you."

"No, that's okay. I really needed to speak with Dr. Malucci. I thought he was working on this cruise but I guess I was wrong."

"You should try to reach him at home, sir as he no longer works for the cruise line," she replied, her voice now sounding neutral instead of cheerful.

John's heart did a funny little leap at hearing that bit of news. So, Dave had found a way to get out of his contract early? One could only hope.

"I see. Yes, I'll try him there. Could you at least tell me when his last day was?" Knowing when Dave quit would give John a good idea about when he could expect to see Dave in Chicago -- the man did need time to pack and move.

"Oh, that was about two weeks ago, I think. I'm not sure of the exact date, and even if I knew it, I couldn't tell you. I probably shouldn't have told you as much as I have. What's your name again?"

"Thank you," John quickly said and then he ended the call. Two weeks? That would have been when the cruise ended...Dave quit then? Or...maybe he was fired? He had been late for work that morning. Dear God, if he had been fired, then it was John's fault for making him late for work.

Shit. No wonder he hadn't heard from Dave. John was sure that Dave was angry with him for getting him fired from his job. Still, John needed to talk with Dave, find out exactly what happened before he worried himself into a frenzy. But...talking with Dave meant calling him at his brother's place, and Dave hadn't wanted John to call there.

Fuck that, John thought as he dialed information. He had held back calling Dave when he had been fired from County, but he wasn't going to make that same mistake twice. There was only one Steven Malucci in the Los Angeles area, so John dialed that number, hoping that it really was Dave's brother and not someone else.

"Hello?" A deep male voice answered.

"Yes, my name is John Carter...Dr. Carter...is this Steven Malucci?" John asked, suddenly feeling awkward now that he was actually talking with someone.

"Yeah, it is. Is something wrong, Dr. Kotter?" Steve's voice, the New York accent prominent, now sounded worried.

"No, nothing's wrong," John hastened to reassure Steve. "I was calling about your brother, Dave. I haven't seen him since the cruise two weeks ago and I wanted to see how he was..."

"Look," Steve interrupted him, his voice now angry. "I think you've done more than enough to my brother, Dr. Kotter. He no longer has a job, and he's moved, so if you need anything from him, you'll have to go through me because I'm not giving out his address or phone number, especially to the likes of you. He's a good doctor and deserved better."

"Oh," was all John could think to say. So, his fears were confirmed -- *he* had been the reason Dave lost his job, and Dave was upset with him. More than upset if Dave didn't want to have anything to do with him now. "Thank you."

John hung up the receiver, feeling slightly numb and very guilty over costing his lover a job. John supposed he should find something positive in that Dave had outed himself to Steve, but he was too worried about Dave to even think that there was anything positive in the situation. Dave didn't want him, not any longer, and, even though John knew he deserved that, it hurt. It hurt a lot.

John stretched out on the bed and stared up at the ceiling of his room, his mind whirling with images of he and Dave together -- memories from the cruise and before -- it hurt to know that he and Dave would never kiss again, or hug or make love. And it hurt even more for John to know that he was the cause of it ending -- again. It seemed to always be his fault when things went badly for he and Dave, and John didn't know why. He just wished he could make things right, but he couldn't do that if he had no idea where Dave had gone. It obviously wasn't Chicago or else Dave would have called by now.

Shit, John thought, he'd really messed things up that time, hadn't he?


To be continued
Chapter Nineteen by MonaCK
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts


"Time of death, 12:59pm..."

Luka snapped off his gloves, and wearily looked down at his expired patient. With a sigh he left the trauma room, discarding his gloves as he made his way towards the lounge. It was time for the end of his shift. Well, actually his shift should have ended a couple of hours prior, but a few traumas in a row had prevented that from happening.

Now, there was a peaceful lull. So he decided to leave while he still could.

It had been about a week since Luka had moved into the mansion with John. Luka's landlord had come to him and said that he was going to be selling the building, so if possible, could he please leave sooner rather than later. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, John had opened up his home to Luka, and Luka had readily agreed.

Because despite the fact that John was now committed to Dave, it had not made Luka's feelings for him wane in the slightest. It also gave Luka the opportunity to keep an eye on John. So far, there had been no hint of John remembering that last night on the cruise, nor had John behaved in any way similar to that night, a fact that greatly relieved not only Luka, but Randi as well. Luka assumed that Maggie also felt heartened by that, since he was pretty sure that Randi was letting Maggie know what was going on with John.

About ten minutes after he entered the lounge, Luka was out the door, heading towards his car, happy to be headed home. Headed home to John.

Making his way into the house, he said hello to the maid whose name he hadn't quite gotten to know yet, and he climbed upstairs to his suite of rooms. Throwing his bag into his bedroom, he smiled as he went back into the hallway and towards John's door. And quietly, he knocked.

A knock on his door roused John from his latest round of self-recrimination. Wondering who was bothering him he glanced at the clock and was a bit surprised to see that hours had passed since he had spoken to Dave's brother. So, not only was it getting close to dinner time -- a dinner John had no appetite for -- it was also past time for Luka to be home. So, it was either Angela, the maid, or one of the butlers, either Roger or Henry, who came on duty around dinner time to work nights. Or it was Luka.

"Yes?" he called out, not quite up to getting off his bed just to see who was there.

"John...It's Luka. Can I come in?"

There was something in John's voice that didn't seem quite right, but Luka couldn't quite put his finger on it. Had something happened? A not entirely irrational fear loomed within him, and Luka found himself wishing he had left work on time.

Luka. God, how was he going to tell Luka what had happened? He'd definitely say 'I told you so', or worse, he'd just stand there and say nothing, but his face would say everything about how he knew Dave would never show up as promised. John briefly considered telling Luka to go away, but the man was persistent, even more so now that they were good friends without having sex involved, and John knew Luka wouldn't leave him be until he had some kind of an answer as to why John wouldn't let him into the bedroom.

"It's unlocked," John said as he pulled his legs up onto the bed and sat cross-legged and facing the door. "Come on in."

Luka opened the door, his eyes sweeping the room as he entered it. And then, his gaze focused on the man sitting in the middle of the bed. Something was wrong. Very wrong. It was written all of John's face.

"Are...Is everything okay, John?"

Walking over to the bed, Luka sat down next to his friend and put an arm around John's shoulders.

John shook his head. "No, nothing's okay. I wanted to let Dave know about the days off that I have coming up and that I was planning to fly out to see him since he's off then, too." John took a deep breath, thinking there was no easy way to repeat what he had learned. "He was fired, Luka. And when I tried to call him at his brother's place, Steve, that's his brother," John explained, "told me that Dave didn't want to have anything more to do with me. That I had done more than enough to hurt him."

John turned his head to look Luka in the eyes. "I'm sure that he was fired because he was late getting to work the last day of that cruise, Luka. I just know it. It's my fault he lost his job and now he hates me for it. Not that I can blame him. It definitely explains why his few calls were short and why he didn't tell me he loved me. He just couldn't find a way to tell me to get lost, that's all." Even though John knew he was to blame for the current state of affairs, he couldn't deny the fact that losing Dave hurt -- it hurt a lot, and even more so *because* the loss was due to John's own selfishness.

Luka could feel a certain degree of anger building up inside of him...how dare Dave hurt John like this again! After all they had been through together...and knowing what John's insecurities were like, how could Dave have done this to John?

Pulling John further into his embrace he kissed the top of John's head, sighing deeply as he tried to form the words that were in his mind and in his heart.

"I'm sure that it's not your fault, John," Luka said, trying to take away some of the blame and hurt that John was feeling. "He should have called you and told you...and I'm sorry that he didn't...I...I wish I could help...but all I can do is tell you that I'm here for you..."

One thing that Luka knew for certain was no matter what; he would be there for John. Because, really, that's part of what love was all about...

John hugged Luka tightly, feeling glad he had a friend like Luka around. "I know. It's been really nice having you around, Luka. I'm glad you weren't stubborn like Abby and that you accepted my offer of a place to stay. There are times I could kick myself for the way we treated each other and all the friendship we missed out on these past few years." He patted Luka's back, then pulled away from his friend, suddenly all too aware that he and Luka had done things together that mere friends didn't do.

Luka smiled softly, and reached out, taking John's hand in his. "I'm sorry for all the time we missed out on as well," he admitted, as he looked John in the eyes. "But at least we were able to move past all of that. I just want to make sure you know...know just how much I care about you...and that I'll always be here for you...no matter what."

Luka looked away for a moment, biting his bottom lip before continuing. "I...I just hate to see you hurting like this...hate to see you in this much pain again over something that could have been avoided by a simple phone call..."

Luka knew it was soon...too soon for him to admit that he was still in love with John. But he was hoping he would have the opportunity to show it. Because as much as he hated to admit it, Luka was secretly glad that Dave had done this again, because he hoped it would give him the opportunity to be able to prove his love for John.

John squeezed Luka's hand and smiled, his heart not quite as sad as it had been five minutes earlier. "I care a lot about you, too. And I know that I'll get past this eventually. I just don't understand why Dave didn't tell me, either about getting fired or not wanting to be with me anymore. It's not as if I'm going to shatter into a million pieces without him around. I survived it before when we broke up and I'll survive this, too." Especially since he had a good friend around, John thought. That would make all the difference in the world. Before, when Dave and he had broken up, John didn't really have anyone to turn to for comfort or just to talk. But now he had Luka, and John knew Luka would listen to him without passing judgment, and he treasured that knowledge.

"You should go on and get ready for dinner, I'm sure it will be ready soon. I'd appreciate it if you could tell Gamma that I won't be down to eat. I'm not all that hungry right now," John said as he let go of Luka's hand so the man could leave.

Luka quickly shook his head, once more worried over John's emotional state. He still obviously wasn't remember that night on the cruise, or else he'd know that yes, he was capable of shattering over being dumped by Dave. "No. I'm not going to go down for dinner. Not without you. I want to make sure you are okay. I ate not that long ago at the hospital...and...well...I am glad to see a smile on your face, even if it is a small one..."

Luka returned the smile, bringing a free hand up to the side of John's face. "I...also want to say something else...and feel free to tell me to leave if you're not ready to hear this right now, but I feel like I have to say it..."

Luka took a deep breath, and then smiled once more before continuing. "When I say that I'll always be here for you, it's in every sense of the word. Because...John, I...do more than care about you...I love you, and while I was more than happy to stand back while you were with Dave, well...just know...that I'm here...if and when you're ready to move on from him...okay?"

Luka's admission took John by surprise and he remembered Dave telling him that Luka cared for him more than a friend should or would. And John remembered him assuring Dave that it simply wasn't true.

And now John was finding out it was very true. And it scared him because his first response wasn't to run as quickly as he could in the other direction, but rather to just keep sitting there close to Luka. Luka would always be there for him, he had said so, and John knew that Luka Kovac was a man of his word. In all the years he'd known him -- or thought he knew him -- John had always seen that about Luka. Even Abby had confirmed that Luka did keep his word. She had also confirmed that Luka was the kind of person who wanted to 'take care' of the ones he loved, and, for some reason, John knew that Luka intended to take care of him.

"I'll keep that in mind," John softly replied, not quite ready to move away from Luka's touch, even though he knew in his heart that to stay where he was wouldn't be fair to Luka. "I really feel like going for a walk, is it still warm outside?"

"It is," Luka replied, keeping his voice low, and his eyes cast downward. "Would you like some company for your walk, or do you prefer to be by yourself?"

"I wouldn't mind your company," John replied as he stretched out his legs and then stood. Luka was a quiet man and John knew that Luka wouldn't pressure him into talking, even though he'd be all ears if John did decide to share his feelings. "Give me a few minutes and I'll meet you out by the pool, okay? I'd like to freshen up a bit and then I need to tell Gamma that we won't be having dinner with her tonight."

Luka looked at John, and then nodded, a smile once again crossing his lips. "Okay. I'll see you by the pool. I should probably change my clothes as well before heading down there seeing as I'm still in the clothing I wore to work today..."

Standing next to John, Luka briefly reached for the other man's hand, squeezing it in his before releasing it. "I'll see you downstairs in a little while."

And with a nod, Luka headed back to his own bedroom, intent on changing for his walk with John.

***********************
A week later:

John smiled at Corrine as he pushed his plate away, finally full. He and Luka had gotten off work at seven, and after the drive home and eating, it was now a bit after eight. And, in John's opinion, Corrine had done more than enough for them and it was now time for her to rest and relax. "Another great dinner, Corrine, thank you. Now, if I remember correctly, there's a show that you like to watch right about now?"

Corrine laughed as she reached for John's empty plate. It made her feel good to see him and Dr. Luka enjoying her meals. "You remember correctly, Dr. John," she replied.

He got to his feet and took the plate from her. "Then you should go and watch it. We can clean up in here. I think that Luka and I are more than capable of loading and running a dishwasher, isn't that right, Luka?" John looked over at Luka, grinning as he spoke.

Luka returned the smile. "Yes. I think we're capable of doing that. In fact, I could even wash the dishes by hand if I had to...I did them by hand for a long time before I ever saw a dishwasher," he teased, as he looked up to Corrine.

Corrine nodded. "Well, thank goodness for modern conveniences. Okay. I'll let you take over from here. Have a good evening, Dr. John, Dr. Luka.

She turned on her heels and headed out of the room, leaving the two young doctors to their own thoughts. Luka picked up his own plate from the table and made his way over to the sink, intent on scraping it into the garbage disposal before rinsing and loading the dishwasher.

"Dinner was very good tonight, no? Corrine always seems to somehow know exactly what kind of food I'm in the mood for," Luka quipped, as he tossed a look over his shoulder to John.

Life had been very good for the two of them since Luka had moved in a few weeks prior. Since everything that happened with Dave, Luka and John had managed to foster an even closer friendship than before. Luka found himself falling into even deeper feelings then he had previously, but he respected his distance, realizing that it was going to take a little while for John to be able to get over Dave.

And that was okay with Luka.

John nodded. "She's always been perceptive that way." John opened the dishwasher, accepting the dishes from Luka as they were rinsed and putting them into the racks. "Luka, may I ask you a question?" John kept his eyes on what he was doing as he didn't want Luka to think he was going to ask him anything important, even though he was.

It had been a bit over a week since John had discovered that Dave had moved on with his life, and during that time John had slowly started to move on with his life as well. Being friends with Luka was great, but John was finding himself missing the physical intimacy they had once shared. But, he didn't want to go back to being 'fuck buddies' with Luka -- John wanted to make love with Luka, he was sure of that. No, he couldn't say he was passionately in love with Luka as he had been -- and probably still was -- with Dave. But John had come to realize that he loved Luka more than as a friend. He just wasn't sure if it would be enough for Luka.

Luka handed John another plate, and then nodding, turned towards him before picking up another. "Sure, John. What's on your mind?"

"You said that you'd wait until I was ready and I was just wondering how ready I need to be?" John hoped he sounded nonchalant about the issue since he didn't want Luka to think he was some sort of a sex fiend or so emotionally needy that he couldn't wait any longer to take things to the next level.

Luka dropped his eyes down towards John, and a smile twitched across his lips. "Well...that depends," he said, leaning back against the sink. "Are you looking for someone who will just sleep with you again? Because if so, I'm not sure if I can handle being only your friend who sleeps with you. But if what you're telling me is that you want to give a try at some sort of a relationship...well, I think it would be a natural extension of the deeper friendship that has been growing...no?"

Luka couldn't help but have some hope that it did mean that their relationship was progressing to the next level. His feelings for John overwhelmed him sometimes...and well...though he knew that he did not possess all of John's heart yet, he hoped that the small piece that he did capture would be enough to keep him.

John looked up at Luka, encouraged by the older man's words. "I don't want to be your fuck buddy again, Luka. I want to be your lover." John smiled shyly as he continued. "But I can't stand here and tell you that I love you the same way or amount that I love Dave, because I don't. But I do love you, and I think that it could grow into something pretty good if we let it. I'm willing to give it a try if you are."

Luka placed a hand on John's shoulder, smiling broadly as the other man spoke. "This is what I was hoping you'd say. I know that you are still harboring feelings for Dave, and I'm not even hoping to compete with that...but I hope that you'll give me the opportunity to try to make you happy."

Biting his bottom lip before continuing, Luka moved down towards his knees so that his face was on the same level as John's. Bringing a hand up to the side of John's face, his smile turned softer. "You deserve so much happiness..."

John grinned as he captured Luka's hand in his own. "I was thinking the very same thing about you." John then placed a tender kiss in the palm of Luka's hand, and then he froze in place as he heard the sound of someone clearing their throat.

"I take it that there's something the two of you want to tell me?" Millicent said from the doorway of the kitchen. She had wanted a quick snack and had been quite surprised to see her grandson and Luka in an obviously intimate moment. She rolled further into the room, looking from one to the other and finally settling her eyes upon her furiously blushing grandson. "Well?"

Luka was sure that he was as red as John as he heard the voice of John's grandmother. But he couldn't discern, from looking up at the older woman's face, whether there was anger or amusement there.

"I'm...sorry ma'am," he said, squeezing John's hand tighter as opposed to letting it go. Luka was feeling quite flustered, almost as if he was a cat being caught chasing a canary. But it would have been foolish to try to deny that something was going on.

"Whether or not you need to apologize to me depends on what it is you have to tell me, Dr. Kovac," Millicent replied, switching to her most formal mode since she knew it would put Luka at a disadvantage. She had called him by his given name since the day he had accepted John's invitation to stay at the house. "Are you planning on moving out any time soon?" she asked in an attempt to gauge their intentions.

"I hope not," John spoke up and he gave Luka's hand a gentle squeeze in return, but he didn't let it go. "I was hoping he'd move though, but from his bedroom to mine, unless you'd prefer us to move out?" John looked steadily into Millicent's eyes, not sure if she'd tell them both to go to Hell or if she'd finally smile at them and tell John that everything was all right.

Millicent looked from John to Luka. "Is this what you want, Dr. Kovac? To switch bedrooms?" She knew full well what the two men intended, but she wasn't going to be that direct -- yet. It was much more amusing to watch the two of them squirm.

Luka continued to smile shyly, and then shook his head, following John's lead. He didn't want to get the man in trouble, but it was obvious to Luka that John was trying to come out to his grandmother.

"My intentions are not to *switch* bedrooms, Mrs. Carter," he said, continuing to hold John's hand tightly. "But to be in the same bedroom as him..."

"I see. And this would be because..." Millicent was doing her best to keep a straight face as she watched the emotions wash over John's face. Her grandson had never been too good at being able to hide his feelings, even though he was an excellent poker player and he had also managed to hide his depression and drug addiction from the household. But his true feelings, such as what he obviously felt now, were impossible for him to hide.

"It's because we love each other, Gamma," John told her. If she wanted them to move out, then that's what they would do. Even though John knew he'd feel guilty about leaving her alone in the house, he would go with Luka if he had to.

Millicent grinned. "That's what I was waiting to hear. As far as I'm concerned, the two of you are grown men and there's no need for you to explain your 'sleeping' arrangements to me. Now, if you'll excuse my interruption, I was looking for a snack. I believe we've got some ice cream in the freezer, would the two of you care for some dessert?"

Luka felt like a weight had been lifted off of his chest as the woman spoke, and he openly smiled over to John, darting his gaze from his lover back to the older woman. "I think some ice cream sounds like a very good idea. How about you, John?" he asked, squeezing John's hand playfully.

Even John's grandmother approved. Luka couldn't help but feel that maybe things were going to actually go the couple's way...

"Yeah, it sounds pretty good. You two wait here while I check out the selections." John reluctantly let go of Luka's hand, got to his feet and headed to the walk-in freezer.

"If there's anything with chocolate in it, then please bring that," Millicent called out to him.

"Yes, ma'am," John called back, grinning because he knew his grandmother loved chocolate just as much, if not more, than he did, and he found himself wickedly wondering if she had ever 'played' with chocolate sauce or syrup in any way. Not that he'd ever ask her -- for one thing, he'd be too embarrassed if she did answer him!

Millicent smiled once more at Luka, but her voice was stern as she spoke. "I've seen John hurt far too many times by people who claimed they loved him, Luka. I don't want to see it happening under my own roof."

Luka smiled over to John, the love evident in his eyes as he watched him from across the room. But he focused his attention back on Millicent as she spoke to him. "Oh, don't worry, Mrs. Carter," he said, his voice full of sincerity. "I would never hurt your grandson..."

That much was true. Luka couldn't help but put all trust in the hope that the reverse wouldn't happen -- that he wouldn't end up being hurt by John.

"Good." Millicent wheeled herself over to the table as John returned with two containers of ice cream. "It's occurred to me, John, that you're taking entirely too much responsibility upon yourself for my care. I appreciate all that you've done for me since I broke my hip, and even before, but I don't want you feeling as if you have to stay here just to take care of me. I've spoken with my personal physician about this and we've decided to hire someone from an agency to move in here. It's a place that hires people in the medical profession and Dr. Meyers has asked for a doctor. I've had the guest cottage prepared so whoever we hire will have his or her own place, as it were. I interviewed a very nice lady today, but I'm expecting another doctor tomorrow, and I won't make my decision until I've met with him."

John put the ice cream on the counter and listened to his grandmother. A part of him felt slighted that she would seek out another care-giver, but another part of him also felt relief that he wouldn't be shouldering the entire burden of her care. "Would you feel comfortable having a man help you with personal things?" he asked as he got out three bowls.

"The nurses from the agency will be staying on. The only thing different is that I'll have a doctor on call, I believe is how you say it, twenty-four hours a day. He or she will report to Dr. Meyers, but I think we'll all breathe a little easier with someone here all the time, just in case." Millicent didn't like to think about the fact that her disease was killing her. She was growing old, she knew that, had accepted it years ago. But she had always planned to go on her own terms and hated the idea that her body was failing her before she was ready. "Did you find chocolate?" she asked John, wanting to change the topic to something not as depressing.

John smiled. "Chocolate fudge ripple and Hershey's Almond bar. Which would you like?"

"A little of both, I think. It certainly won't hurt me to mix my ice cream flavors," Millicent replied, her mind at ease now that she knew John was going to accept having yet another doctor around the house.


To be continued
Chapter Twenty by MonaCK
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts


After a rather pleasant conversation with Millicent, and their bellies full of delicious ice cream, Luka and John made their way upstairs to John's suite of rooms. And Luka barely had the door closed behind him before he had the other man in his full embrace.

"What do you say we don't worry about moving my things until tomorrow... I have other things I'm interested in exploring before that happens..."

Covering John's mouth with his own, Luka moaned, happy to be in contact with him in this manner once more. He missed this intimacy...and he missed this contact, much more than he had been willing to admit to himself.

John wrapped his arms around Luka's waist, pulling him in closer until there was no space at all between their bodies. Luka tasted of ice cream and John was savoring every bit of the kiss, but most especially everything the kiss indicated -- Luka loved him and John loved Luka back. While it wasn't the same level of love that John knew Luka felt for him, he was sure that his feelings would grow -- pretty much the same way a certain part of his anatomy was growing. John hoped that Luka could feel just how much John wanted him at that moment and he parted his lips for Luka, wanting the kiss to deepen and never end.

At John's gentle urging, Luka let his tongue slide into his lover's waiting mouth, pulling the younger man closer to him as he moaned into his lips once more. Yes. He wanted this, he wanted this so much...to make love...to be one with John...finally. Finally, his feelings were being realized, and Luka's heart nearly skipped a beat at the thought of that.

There was no more Dave. Not anymore. No more barriers to stop the two of them from being together. Just like John had promised to be faithful to Dave those weeks prior, Luka knew in his heart it would be no different now for him. He could trust John. John wouldn't leave him.

It had been many, many years since Luka had felt love as strong as this love was. And as Luka's hands found the bottom of John's shirt, Luka realized that all of that didn't matter anymore.

All that mattered was this wonderful person in his arms.

A lack of oxygen finally brought their kiss to an end and John grinned happily as he imitated Luka's actions, doing his best to undress Luka even as Luka was busy removing John's clothing. Somehow they managed to get each other naked, and for John it seemed as if he had never before seen Luka.

"You're beautiful...just beautiful," John softly said as he tenderly caressed Luka's sides and then let his hands rest on Luka's hips, near enough to Luka's erect cock to be teasing. "I don't think I ever really appreciated just how magnificent you are, Luka and I'm sorry about that."

Luka felt a blush cross his cheeks as he returned John's intense gaze. "I always hoped you'd come to your senses one day," he quipped, a teasing grin on his lips. "But know that I have always thought that you were beautiful...and absolutely perfect. And now...I intend on showing you just how beautiful you are..."

A quick glance over John's shoulder told Luka that the bedroom door was locked, so with a smile he led John over to the bed, sitting down on top of it before pulling John down to his side. And as he brought his lips to John's once more, Luka's hand began a very gentle, tender assault over the rest of the man's body - starting at the side of his face, and ending near the top of John's thigh, teasingly...as if he could reach out and grab John's cock at any moment.

The kiss ended, once more because they were breathless, and Luka looked at John with pure lust in his eyes.

"I want to make love to you," he finally managed to say, his eyes dancing with desire.

"That's good, Luka, because making love to you is definitely on my agenda for tonight. And tomorrow morning, and tomorrow night and the next day and so on." John knelt between Luka's legs as he reached out and finally touched Luka's cock, retracting the foreskin to reveal a glistening and very sensitive head. "And I think I'll begin right here," John said and then he flicked his tongue out over the tip of Luka's cock, teasing the man a bit before slowly sucking the organ into his mouth.

"Oh, I'm not going to argue with you...I...oh...that feels...very, very good...John...that feels..."

Soon, coherent thought was no more. Luka hadn't been with another man since he'd been with Mike on the cruise. And even then, Mike hadn't been a man who he was in love with, so it was not the same. But this...this was something close to Heaven. He had never received oral sex quite this way before meeting John. And he knew now that it would never be the same again with any other.

This was the person he was meant to be with...even if John didn't fully understand that yet.

Luka's eyes fluttered closed as he leaned backwards, and he reached his hand down to the top of John's hair, caressing his scalp gently as John worked towards bringing Luka ultimate pleasure.

John lingered with Luka, bringing him to the edge of release time and time again, then backing off until he knew Luka could handle more stimulation. The moans and whimpers that John kept hearing were all he needed to hear to know that Luka was enjoying the beginning quite well. And John was determined that it was only the beginning, and he finally stopped altogether so they could move on to the next stage.

Looking up at Luka through eyelids heavy with desire, John grinned as he took in the total look of lustful abandon that was on Luka's face. "Okay, that was my turn, now what do you have planned for me?"

At first, Luka was surprised when the contact stopped. John had brought him close to the brink so many times that he had almost lost all control. But he hadn't. And now Luka's desire for the man before him was stronger than ever. And he wanted them to belong to each other in every way possible. Reaching down, he found John's arm, and pulled up the younger man so that their faces met. And with a heart full of love, lust, and emotions that were indescribable, Luka's lips descended upon John's.

Luka then pulled John onto the bed next to him, taking the opportunity to wrap his arms around the man that he loved.

The kiss finally ended, and once more both men were breathless with desire. In a haze of love, Luka's voice was husky as he spoke.

"I want you to make love to me...the way that I make love to you..."

Luka hoped that John understood what he meant. It would be another wonderful way for the two of them to be bound to each other.

He reached down and took John's cock in his hand, rubbing the shaft up and down with his fingers as he kept his eyes locked on his lover. "I want to feel you inside me..."

Oh," John was definitely surprised by Luka's request. Neither Luka nor Dave had ever before hinted at wanting to be fucked. Dave had often expressed an aversion to the idea, much the same way that Luka had an aversion to swallowing, John thought.

His grin grew wide as he thought about the idea. John knew first hand just how good it felt to be fucked by someone he cared about and who he knew cared about him as well, and the idea had a definite appeal to him. "Well, I guess we can give it a try. I've never fucked another man, though, but I've seen pictures and a porn flick or two, so I think I can manage it without hurting you."

"Ah...so I will be your first for something," Luka said, matching John's grin. That actually made him quite happy. He would finally have something of John's that Dave would never have. And the jealous, competitive part of him was happy about this, even though he knew that John's history with Dave should have been the furthest thing from his mind.

"It's been a long time for me," Luka said, bringing a hand up to the side of John's face. "But I think it will be okay as long as you stretch me first and use plenty of lubricant. Do you have any lubricant in here," he asked, his gaze leaving John's as he darted his eyes around the room. Luka thought he *might* have some in his room, but he wasn't exactly sure. He also wasn't looking forward to having to get dressed to go take a look, though he supposed that John had a robe or something he could borrow for the short trip next door.

"It's in the bathroom and I have more than enough, so you don't have to worry about that," John placed a quick kiss on Luka's mouth, then scrambled off of the bed. "Why don't you pull the covers back and get comfortable while I gather things together. I'm pretty sure I have some condoms since I never got to use up the ones I bought for the cruise." While John and Dave had made a conscious decision to not use condoms, John wasn't going to just assume he couldn't with Luka. For one thing, he had no idea what kind of precautions Luka and Mike had taken, and for another, he wasn't going to expose Luka to anything that John might have caught from Dave, even though John was confident that Dave had been clean.

Luka nodded, and watched as John headed off to the bathroom. Thoughts were going through his mind -- he couldn't help but wonder if that meant that John had not taken precautions with Dave when they were fooling around on the cruise together. This worried Luka. He wasn't sure what the man had been into before he had seen John again -- much as he had said that he had not done anything at all. It was hard to trust the word of a man who would hurt John again in such a manner. So, at least for the time being, until John could get tested, Luka was going to make sure that they used a condom for all of their love making sessions -- at least for ones where they actually fucked each other. While the risk was still there for blow-jobs, since Luka was not one to swallow, that didn't concern him as much.

He pulled the covers off of the bed, leaving the clean, cool sheets behind. And positioning himself on his side, he faced the door to the bathroom, waiting for John to reenter the room.

John grabbed a box of condoms and a bottle of lubricant from under his sink, then added a soft and fluffy towel to the collection, for cleanup purposes. Grinning, he returned to the bedroom, and the sight of a very aroused Luka just lounging on the top of his bed nearly took John's breath away.

"God, but you've got a beautiful cock, has anyone ever told you that?" John asked as he dumped everything on the sheets and climbed onto the bed, his hand automatically reaching out to stroke Luka's hardness.

Luka's eyebrow rose, and a grin twitched on his lips. Cock? That was different.

"Well...no, John...I don't think that anyone has ever told me in quite that way before," Luka quipped, as his eyes swept his lover's body. Centering on the focus of his attention, his smile grew broader. "I do have to say that I like what I see as well..."

Though it was hard to concentrate, Luka managed to sit up so his eyes lined up with John's once more. And reaching out his hand, he tenderly stroked the side of John's cheek. "You are so beautiful...so beautiful..."

Though he was anxious to have John inside him, Luka was also content with these moments as well. And as his hand reached down to stroke John's hardness, Luka moaned into his lips, so happy to be back with John in this intimate manner.

As the kiss grew longer, John moved around until he was straddling Luka's thighs, and he very gently began to push Luka down against the mattress, his hand still firmly attached to Luka's cock, squeezing it just as gently as he knew how.

The kiss ended, leaving John practically gasping for air. "Just lie back and enjoy yourself while I get you ready," John commanded as he reached for the lubricant. "I intend to make sure you are good and ready before I even *think* about entering you. I can't stand the thought of hurting you, Luka, so I hope you're willing to put up with a lot of foreplay."

Luka nodded, his body so filled with desire that he couldn't consciously put two words together. So he lay his head down on the pillow, and shut his eyes, letting waves of emotion rush over him as his essence continued to fill with feelings of lust coupled with love. At John's words about foreplay, Luka nodded, and he barely uttered the word "yes" while trying to keep absolute control over his own body.

There was one thing John had done often with Dave that he had yet to do with Luka, and that was to rim him. It seemed to John that rimming would be an excellent way to gently stretch the man and make him ready. Raising Luka's legs so he could reach that area, John instructed Luka to hold his thighs up, and then he began to make love to the area, using his mouth and hands on Luka's cock and balls.

"I really do like your cock, Luka," John said as he ran his hand over the object in question. "It's soft as velvet, yet so damn strong. I loved it when you fucked me, thrusting into me as if your life depended on it, over and over again, and I love sucking on it, making you moan just by using my mouth and tongue."

"Mmm...Yes...John...I love it when you do all those things to me too," Luka uttered, his voice barely above a whisper. "I love it when you suck me...I love it when you talk like this...I love it when you touch me...you are so...so good at making love...God...yes...John...I need you..."

Luka arched his head backwards as emotions continued to sweep his body. It felt *so* good, he couldn't even put it into words.

John's ego swelled as he heard Luka tell him how good he was at making love. Even dumped, he still had that special touch, John thought. He continued his oral assault upon Luka's cock, then moved to his balls.

"I love your balls, too, Luka. They're so heavy in my hand, but they still manage to fit into my mouth when I want to suck on them. Do you want me to suck your balls, Luka?" John looked up to Luka's face as he gently massaged his testicles, wanting more confirmation that this was, indeed, everything Luka wanted.

Luka had never heard John talk *this* dirty before during their lovemaking sessions. It was...different, but not unwelcome. He was going to comment on it, but one more gentle squeeze from John put all thought of anything other than the moment out of Luka's head.

"Yes...anything...anything you want, John...I'm yours...whatever you want to do...I want you to do to me...it all feels so wonderful..."

"As you wish," John replied with a grin, and then he couldn't speak any longer as he had his mouth full of Luka, first one testicle and then the other. John would tenderly suck one into his mouth, then massage it with his tongue for a while before releasing it and doing the same to its mate. As Luka's body increased the amount of writhing it was doing, John knew it was time to move onward -- or downward as the case happened to be.

Without warning, he slid his mouth off of Luka and then let his tongue trace a path down the perinium to his ultimate destination. John's ears were waiting for any comment Luka might make and he was ready to stop what he was doing if Luka happened to complain about it. But John somehow had a feeling that Luka wouldn't complain. After all, he had said that John was good at making love, so it just stood to reason that Luka would enjoy everything John did to him.

He had to.

A shudder filled Luka's body as John's mouth released his testicle. And a whimper escaped from his lips, his body truly missing the contact that had been there only moments before. But soon, Luka's body was filled with a new and different feeling...one that he was not quite sure he had ever quite felt...but...it felt very...very good to him.

"Yes...yes...John...that's...very good...yes...wow...that's...I can't...oh...wow...yes...keep...keep doing just that...keep doing..."

Luka's lips hung agape as all wetness disappeared from his mouth. And as he arched his head back once more on the pillow, Luka was quite sure he had never experienced the almost uncontrollable feelings such as these before in his life.

And then John put all thoughts aside as he slowly inserted his index finger alongside his tongue, wriggling it around and going deeper until he found Luka's prostate -- the center of the utmost pleasure for a man.

John sat up on his haunches and watched the myriad of emotions that Luka wore on his face while just one finger stroked his insides. "Are you sure you want my cock in you, Luka?" John asked, knowing that Luka did, but asking anyway, just so he could have the satisfaction of hearing him saying it once again.

It had been a very long time since these kinds of pleasures had swept over Luka's body. And he was already close to the edge as John spoke, so it took a moment for the words to register in Luka's head. And as he realized that John was asking if he could enter him, Luka nodded, and then spoke, realizing that John needed verbal affirmation.

"Yes...yes...I want you...all of you...inside of me...please..."

John grabbed the bottle of lubricant and poured a generous amount into his hand, then he rubbed his hands together, doing his best to warm up the lotion before he touched Luka's flushed skin. Again, John just used one finger, wriggling it a bit, moving it in and out before adding another finger to the equation. When he was finally satisfied that Luka's ass could accommodate his cock, John rolled a condom onto his own member, then liberally coated it with the lubricant as well.

He moved up until his cock was just touching Luka's ass, and John realized that his entire body was shaking as his mind finally grasped that he was about to fuck Luka Kovac. "Are you ready for me, Luka? I need you to relax and just feel what I'm doing, but don't be afraid to tell me to stop or slow down if you need me to, okay?" As much as John's body wanted to just thrust right into Luka then and there, John wasn't going to do so until he knew Luka was truly ready for him.

Luka's eyes fluttered closed, but they opened again at John's words. He then noticed just how nervous the man was. "I'm ready for you, John...are...you okay with this? If this is something that you are not ready for, we can do something else, I don't want you to feel like I am pressuring you..."

The memories of the night on the cruise ship when John had completely lost it had not been forgotten by Luka. He never wanted John to feel that all Luka wanted him for was sex. This was...so much more than that. And by the same token, Luka did not want John to feel like he was being forced into anything in the slightest.

"It's okay to wait for another night, yes...I very much want this, but I want *you* to be comfortable more..."

John smiled into Luka's eyes, touched by his concern. "I'm okay, and I'm comfortable with this, I really am. I just want it to be good for you, Luka, and I don't want to hurt you. I never want to hurt you." And, then, to show Luka that he really did appreciate the amount of trust that he was putting in him, John thrust his hips forward slightly, letting just the tip of his cock enter Luka's body. He immediately gasped out loud from the pleasure, and it took all his control not to come right then. He knew then why Dave, and Luka, had stopped immediately upon entering him -- the sensation was overpowering.

All concern left Luka as John finally entered him -- and Luka knew that he was not doing it out of any kind of obligation, but because he really wanted to do this. And as the familiar rushes of lust filled him, it took all of his willpower not to cry out...not to beg him to press in further...

He knew that John needed to do this at his own pace. But Luka also knew that John would need gentle coaxing. "Yes...that's it John...possess me...I'm yours...yes..."

Luka's words impelled John forward, and he held his breath as he felt the velvety warmth begin to completely encase his cock. "God, Luka, you're so tight and soft inside. This is incredible. I see why you didn't mind the idea of fucking me before...Jesus, yes!" The combination of pure physical pleasure and the trust that Luka had in him, together with Luka's love, was almost more than John could handle, and he soon found himself quickly thrusting in and out of Luka, his eyes on Luka's face the entire time as he watched his lover be pleasured. *His* lover -- John liked the sound of that. Luka was his, he had told him so, and John nearly laughed out loud over that fact. Instead, he kept on talking. "Mine. All mine. I like the sound of that, Luka. Tell me again who owns you?"

"Yes...John...Yes...you...God...you own...me...yes...you own...God...yes...you own me...I'm yours. Oh...yes...harder...please..."

He could feel John playing with his prostate...almost pressing it but not quite. And Luka was just close enough to the edge that he knew that one more touch there, especially by John's cock, would lead to ultimate release.

"Anything for you, Luka," John vowed, "Anything." And he thrust harder and was caught by surprise when Luka came, the contractions of his cock sending a ripple through his anus and over and around John's member. John immediately came to a stop, letting Luka simply enjoy his release, but intending to resume what he was doing just as soon as it became apparent that Luka had recovered enough to enjoy it.

As waves of his orgasm washed over his body, Luka cried out John's name as his hands grappled to reach for anything to hold onto, and only coming up with the sheets that were on the bed. Tightly he held the fabric in his hand, seeming to come in buckets. It was always a rather interesting sensation for him when he was able to come to release without any hands touching his penis. And it was a *wonderful* feeling.

"Oh...Yes...John...you...you are so amazing...I...I love you...God...how I love you..."

John wanted to kiss Luka, and he was able to bend over enough to reach the man's lips, but just barely. "I love you, too," he whispered as he straightened his body once more. "Are you ready for me to continue? Do you think you can still handle my cock after coming like that for me?" John asked with a grin.

Luka returned the smile, and nodded. "Oh, I think I can handle you, John. I'm just glad that you're enjoying this so much....very...very glad..."

And once again, Luka's heart did a bit of a leap as he realized that he had been John's first at something. This was something that Dave could *never* claim. And then he pushed all thoughts of Dave out of his head, not wanting to mar the moment by thinking of something so unpleasant.

It was just the two of them -- Luka and John. And that was the way it was going to be from then on.

"Oh, I am. I just might not ever let you fuck me again after tonight," John joked. "It's something I'm going to have to give a lot of thought to, because each way has a lot of plusses going for it." He adjusted his hips, wondering if the slight movement would be enough for him to be able to gauge if Luka was as ready as he claimed to be.

"Mmm...it does have its...appeal...doesn't it...oh...yes...that is very nice," Luka said, locking his eyes with his lover. Yes. Every movement the man made was intoxicating to Luka. And what was even more intoxicating to him was that Luka knew this was only the beginning. There were many more nights like this in their future.

"Yes, it does," John agreed, emphasizing each word with a thrust or withdrawal of his cock. He knew that his own release wasn't far off, yet John didn't want it to end quite yet. "Tell me again," he suddenly demanded as his pace began to increase. "Tell me that you love me and that you're mine."

"I'm yours...I'm all yours, no one else will ever be with me again...only you...I love you...John, I love you...and I'm *yours*."

Luka kept his eyes locked on John's face, enjoying the emotions that passed over his features with every push that John made inside him. It felt good, even though he was far from being hard again. Luka didn't care about that, though. He was so happy to see John enjoying what he was doing...and he was really enjoying John being so close to coming...

"Come for me, John...please come for me..."

John might have been able to hold out during his orgasm, but Luka's words triggered something in his heart and John screamed out Luka's name as he came over and over again, thrusting as far into Luka as he could get.

His body trembled from the force of his release, yet John managed to grab hold of the bottom of the condom as he pulled out of Luka and then he collapsed onto his lover's chest, his heart beating a thousand beats a minute and all because of the man before him -- or, was that under him, John thought with a grin.

"Tell me again," he said as his head rested against Luka's chest. John knew he'd never get enough of hearing Luka telling him how much he loved him and he made a promise then and there in his heart that one day he would love Luka just as much.

Luka smiled, as he wrapped his arms around his lover's quivering body. "I love you. I love you with all my heart, John. And I am *yours*," he said, his voice calm and full of love.

Yes. This was how wonderful it was supposed to be. Luka knew that anything else that had happened with other people was just child's play, and this was the real thing. And Luka intended on showing John just how special he was for the rest of both of their lives.

"And I'm all yours," John said. He then moved so that he could look at Luka. "I *do* love you, you know that, don't you?" It was important for John that Luka knew he was loved, even if it was the little bit that John felt.

Luka was aware that he did not own all of John's heart, but he could live with that for now. After all, Dave was not around, and it did not seem that the man would be around for a long while. So there was no reason for Luka to even worry about that. "I know," he said, after a moment's thought. "And whatever love you can give is enough for me..."

Luka lifted his head slightly, and kissed John, a sleepy smile crossing his face. "What do you say that we get cleaned up and then get some sleep? I don't know what your schedule is for tomorrow, but I do have an early shift..."

The thought of spending the night lying next to John's side was almost as exciting to him as their lovemaking session had been. Luka had missed the closeness. And he looked forward to regaining the sense of familiarity that the two of them had once shared.

"Well, I happen to know, courtesy of the Chief Resident, that we're both on the same shift, so I think that your idea is an excellent one." John preceded Luka into the bathroom so he could properly dispose of the condom, then he turned on the shower to let the water get hot. Life with Luka was going to be very good, John just had the feeling that it couldn't be anything *but* good. And this time he wouldn't do anything to mess things up. He had had to have learned his lesson from Dave, right? He wouldn't let Luka slip through his fingers the way he had let Dave get away.

"If we shower now, then it'll save time in the morning," John said as Luka walked into the bathroom. "And if we drive in together, then we'll end up coming home together, too," he added with a smile.

"That sounds like a very good idea, Dr. Carter," Luka teased, as he watched John prepare the shower. "And showering together sounds like a good idea as well. It's been a long time since we've shared this activity. But I have to say that I am very much looking forward to getting used to everything again."

With a grin, he slipped into the shower as the temperature was adjusted, and then he turned to wait for his lover.

Yes. Everything was going to work out right this time. Luka was with the person he was meant to be with. And Dave Malucci was a million miles away.


To be continued
Chapter Twenty-One by MonaCK
"Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes, Part 21"
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts


Dave looked at the address on the piece of paper in his hands. He had
pulled the car over to the side of the road just to make sure he had
read it correctly. Yup. This was it. 19837 West Cedar Drive. But
man, the driveway to get up to what Dave thought was the main house
looked really, really long. With a shrug, he put his car in gear.

His jalopy. It wasn't much, but it was his. Finally, after years of
wanting one, the nest egg he had saved from the cruise ship had given
him enough of a savings to buy a reliable used car. No, it wasn't
anything flashy. But it got good miles to the gallon, and it got him
from point A to point B.

Responsible. When had Dave Malucci turned responsible? He himself
was not sure. But now it seemed like there was a lot of stuff for him
to look forward to. And uppermost on his mind was seeing John.

John was going to be *so* surprised to see him. And as he drove
slowly down the long winding path, he surveyed the surroundings. It
all seemed so private. So secluded. How neat would it be for him and
John to make love out here in the middle of the seeming wilderness?
With nothing but a blanket to protect them from the elements...?

He was getting hard just thinking about it.

Okay. He needed to calm down and focus. And first finish the task at
hand.

He finally made his way to the top of the drive, and Dave easily
parked his car in an empty spot, remembering to take the keys and lock
the door behind him. Hey -- just because he was in a ritzy
neighborhood didn't mean he didn't have to be careful. He was still
in the city limits of Chicago.

His eyes swept over the building before him. Wow. It was hard to
believe that people actually *lived* in this place. It was just so
large. And with a bit of fear...but more confidence than anything
else, he knocked on the front door.

A rather imposing man opened the door, and Dave's smile faltered only
for a moment.

"Is this...the Carter residence?" Dave asked, looking down at his
piece of paper once more.

"Yes, this is. You must be Dr. Malucci. Yes. Mrs. Carter has been
expecting you. Please, come inside."

Dressed a bit stiffly in his only suit, Dave stepped inside, once
again his eyes sweeping the house, this time from the interior. He
followed the man into what he proposed was a sitting room, and then
smiled as he spotted an older woman in a wheelchair as he fully
entered the room.

"Mrs. Carter? I'm Dr. Malucci. The Fuller Agency sent me down."

Dave had to admit that he was a bit more nervous than he was letting
on. He *had* to get this job. There was no way he could face John
until he had a job in his pocket. It was humiliating enough to get
fired. It would be even more humiliating for Dave to show up on
John's doorstep unemployed, expecting John to take care of him. No.
He had to get himself situated. Then he'd let John know he was home.
Besides, the fact that he was interviewing with a woman who had the
same last name had to be a good sign. He was sure that John would get
a big kick out of that.

Millicent smiled up at the young doctor, quickly taking in his suit
and appearance. A good-looking man, carried himself with confidence.
Millicent liked that. She gestured to the chair across from where
she was seated. "I've been expecting you, Dr. Malucci. Please, have
a seat. Would you care for anything to drink? Tea, coffee, water or
soda?"

"Just some water would be fine," he said, as he once again surveyed
the room. It was hard to believe that he might actually be living on
these premises if he got this job.

"So Ms. Wagner from the agency explained to me a bit about what this
job would be about...I'd essentially be a backup physician to you? On
call in case you needed help with anything? I think you'll find that
my background at County General, as well as my recent experience on
the cruise ship will be beneficial to your needs. I'm quick on my
feet, and very efficient at what I do...but I also take the time to
make careful diagnosis," Dave declared. Well, he did that now. Dave
learned his lessons from when he worked at County. That much was sure...

Millicent gestured to the butler, who quietly left the room to get the
requested water, and then she turned her attention to Dave. "Well, I
have my diagnosis, Dr. Malucci. I'd mainly need you around to monitor
the progression of the disease as well as any complications from where
I broke my hip. You'd be working closely with Dr. Meyers, my personal
physician, and he can be quite demanding at times." It was
interesting that he had once worked at County General and Millicent
wondered if John or Luka knew him? She'd have to find out, but she
was sure she'd make her decision before either one of them returned
home from work.

Dave nodded. "Oh...I've worked with some tough, demanding doctors in
the past. I'm sure that Dr. Meyers and I will get along just fine,
that is if you should come to the decision to hire me on."

He could tell this woman was a tough one. But there was something
that drew him to her, but he wasn't sure why. He had a feeling that
this was the type of woman who had come to the decision to hire
someone for this particular position after a long and thought out
process, and that she wasn't going to hire just anyone to fill the
post. So Dave had to do what he could to try to charm her.

"I do have my resume with me, if you want to look at it, though I
think the agency likely forwarded that to you as well," Dave said,
reaching for the folder that he had brought with him.

Job hunting was certainly exhausting. Besides the interviews with
this agency, he also had submitted applications as Mercy and
Northwestern, and Dave was hoping to get a bite from somewhere
sometime soon. Very soon. Because he missed John terribly.

"That's quite all right, Dr. Malucci. As you surmised, the agency has
already provided me with a copy of it." What Millicent didn't add was
that she had yet to read it. Dr. Meyers had looked it over and
pronounced Dave Malucci to be a fit and capable doctor -- on paper,
anyway -- and that was good enough for Millicent. No, what she wanted
to know wasn't in his resume.

She smiled as the butler brought her a cup of tea and then handed a
glass of ice water to Dr. Malucci. "Tell me, Dr. Malucci, why do you
want this position? You're young and you have excellent credentials,
so why would you want to waste your days by looking after an elderly
woman?"

Dave considered the answer to this question for a moment. He could
lie through his teeth and say that he found that working with the
elderly to be an exciting or refreshing career change, and know that
this woman would be able to see right through him.

Or, he could simply state as much of the truth as he could.

"I moved away from this area several months ago...because of a really
big...misunderstanding between myself and...the person that I was in a
relationship with," he said, deciding that telling someone who might
be your boss that you were gay might not be that great of a first
impression. "I ended up working on a cruise ship out of California,
and while working on there I became reunited with this...person. And
we realized that we had both made some mistakes. At the end of the
cruise, we promised to keep in touch. I still had four months to
complete on my contract, but my intentions were to return to Chicago
once my stint with the cruise ship was over. Well, I...unexpectedly
ended my employment with the cruise ship early, so I came back. But,
I don't want to go to this person to tell them that I'm back in town
until I have a new job. So...while this is not the most exciting job
that I might undertake, I do promise that while I am in your employ,
I'll work very hard, and do my best to do everything I can to make you
feel good, and I'll be the best doctor that I can be. Because I
really want things to work out this time...all the way around..."

He hoped he hadn't said too much, and immediately cast his eyes
downward. Well, he'd know soon enough. If the older woman showed him
where the door was...well...at least he still had his car.

"I see. And do you plan to quit once this person sees you're
gainfully employed?" Millicent asked, needing to know just how long
he planned to stay around. She didn't see much sense in hiring
someone who wasn't willing to give her his best for a decent amount of
time. She did have to admit to herself that Dr. Malucci's insistence
on finishing out his contract, when he could have most likely broken
it, did speak in his favor.

Dave immediately shook his head. "Not at all, ma'am. If you hire me,
I'll stay on for as long as you'll have me. That much I promise you.
I'm a man of my word...and I won't quit. I'm not a quitter."

He knew that he was lazy at times...sometimes he didn't completely
follow through...but for Dave Malucci, the patient *always* came
first. The same would hold true for him if he was working for only
Mrs. Carter.

"Since you didn't quit your job with the cruise line, then were you
laid off or fired?" Millicent asked, wondering just why he had left
the position.

"I've got to be honest with you, Mrs. Carter," he said, as he brought
his eyes back up. "I was let go from the cruise line because they
found out that I had been seeing my...significant other while on
board, and my supervisor wouldn't listen to any explanation that it
was not a normal circumstance. I did not sleep around with everyone
on board...but running into this particular person...had caught me by
surprise...and made me realize how much I still loved this person..."

It was hard for Dave not to slip up and say something that would make
this woman suspect it was another guy that Dave was in love with. He
didn't want to take the chance, in case the woman had a problem with
that. And truth be told, he needed the job so badly that he'd find a
way to work around it if he had to.

"So...it wasn't my work performance that did it in for me...it
was...circumstances..."

"I see." Millicent took a sip of her tea. "If you should get this
position, you'd be staying in the guest cottage on the other side of
the lawn, so you'd have your privacy, Dr. Malucci. However, security
is always an issue and I'd like to know if you plan on inviting your
'significant other' to the estate at any time while in my employ."

Dave nodded. "Of course. I'll be happy to provide you with my
significant other's name and other particulars if you should hire me
to be in your employ," he said sincerely. And he would. First get
the job...then say he had a boyfriend. At least then, there would be
some kind of legal suit if he was fired for being gay.

Millicent nodded, noting how he had managed to not answer her while
still answering her. She liked a person who could play it close to
the vest, so to speak. "Tell me a bit about your medical background.
The details, please, and not what was put in your resume. What did
you like best about your job at County General and what did you like
the least about it?"

Dave thought about this for the moment, and didn't speak until an
answer was fully formulated in his mind.

"I think if I had to pick one thing that I liked most about working at
County, it was helping people. Nothing made me more satisfied then
putting the smile on a face of a little girl as I bandaged her
knee...or holding someone's hand when I told them that everything was
going to be okay...sometimes having to lie a bit because I knew it
really wasn't....and I think...I think I'd have to say that the thing
I hated most about working at County was having to deal with a bit of
the bureaucracy of working in a hospital setting. I hated that we
couldn't always do what was right for the patient because it was
against hospital policy, or wasn't the 'way things were done there'.
Sometimes...sometimes you have to do medicine by feel and at the
hospital there wasn't much opportunity for that."

Dave turned his head so his eyes met Mrs. Carter's. He hoped that
that was the kind of answer she was looking for...

Millicent couldn't keep from smiling as she listened to his answer.
"I hear the same sentiments from my grandson. He also works at County
General. Perhaps you've heard of him? John Carter? He works in the
emergency room."

Dave nearly dropped his water glass, which he had been holding
casually, out of his hand when Mrs. Carter spoke. And then, he
gripped the glass tighter. Whoa. How dumb was *he*? Of course this
was *the* Carter mansion! He was interviewing at *the* Carter mansion.

A grin spread over Dave's lips, and his eyes lit up. Nodding, he made
eye contact with the older woman once more. "Yeah...yeah you might
say I know John Carter. He's really...God...wow...John's one of my
closest friends. Honestly. He's...wow...he's...I'm...I...I can't
believe that I'm interviewing *here*," Dave finally sputtered out. "I
can't believe I didn't put two and two together, that I'm interviewing
*here*..."

Millicent began to remember John mentioning a doctor from the ER who
had been fired, presumably because he had been caught having sex in an
ambulance, but John had the opinion that it had more to do with a
death of a patient a few days prior. She found herself wondering if
Dr. Malucci was that man. "Well, John does resemble his parents more
than he resembles me. Still, I've been to County, but I don't
remember seeing you there. When did you leave the hospital again?"
she asked, remembering that she was supposed to have read his resume.

"My...my last day at the hospital was in September of last year," Dave
said, the smile that had been on his lips slowly disappearing. This
was possibly one of the most difficult interviews he had ever been on,
and he hoped that admitting that he knew John hadn't made his chances
at getting this job even more difficult.

"I believe John mentioned it at the time, but I didn't pay too much
attention to the story as I was still mourning for my husband. I'm
sorry that your time at County General ended in such a harsh way.
John usually has good things to say about Dr. Weaver, but he had some
very definite opinions about the way she handled herself at that
time." Millicent set her teacup aside and smiled warmly at Dave.

"I like you, Dr. Malucci, and the position is yours if you want it. I
do have to warn you that I can be a most stubborn patient, you can ask
my grandson for verification about that, but I don't want to be a
burden on him, and up to now, he's been handling a good portion of my
care as in making all the necessary arrangements. Having you around
will be a blessing in more than one way."

Millicent was certain that John would feel even better about things
once he knew that a good friend would be the person treating her.

The smile that had faded was quickly replaced, and Dave was up out of
his chair and over by Mrs. Carter's side to shake her hand. "Thank
you, Mrs. Carter," he said, smiling broadly. "I really appreciate it.
You won't regret it, I promise..."

This...this was great. Not only did Dave now not have to worry about
a job, but he didn't have to worry about a place to live. And not
only that, but for when he wanted to see John...Hell...it was *John's*
house..

Dave was thinking that he was pretty sure that his life couldn't get
any better than this. And now, he couldn't wait to talk to John to
tell him the good news.

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

John stretched as he got out of the Jeep. He was hoping to soak in
the Jacuzzi for a bit, to ease his aching back, and he hoped that Luka
would be willing to 'soak' with him. They both had had a hard day at
work, and were each returning home dressed in scrubs and not in the
clothes they wore to work that morning.

"What do you say we change into our swim trunks and hit the Jacuzzi
and the pool?" John asked Luka as they stepped into the kitchen.
Corrine was busy at the stove, stirring something that made John's
stomach growl, but despite his hunger, he first wanted to relax.

"Good afternoon," Corrine said, smiling at them. "In case you're
interested in meeting him, Mrs. Carter is interviewing a doctor right
now, you know, to be here all the time?" She informed them.

Luka's interest was piqued at this bit of information. "I think a dip
in the pool and the Jacuzzi sounds like a very good idea, but first
maybe we should go out and meet this doctor, in case it turns out it
is one that she wants to hire -- just to make sure that he knows his
stuff, huh? What do you say?"

A grin spread over Luka's lips. He was in a generally good mood.
Since their discovery of their feelings for each other the night
before, even the fact that they had had a long day at work didn't seem
to matter. He and John were together, and this made him very, very
happy.

John reached out for Luka's hand. "Shall we?" He grinned wickedly at
Luka, wanting to see if the doctor would freak out over knowing that
two men were living together in the house. If he did, then John was
sure his Gamma wouldn't hire him. And, if he didn't, then John and
Luka would have a little bit of experience at showing affection to
each other in front of a stranger.

Luka returned the squeeze of his lover's hand, fully aware of happy
look that the beloved cook was giving to the two of them. "I thought
there was some sort of attraction between the two of you," she quipped
as she looked from Luka to John. "I was just wondering when you would
figure it out yourselves."

Luka blushed, and then nodded, biting his bottom lip briefly as he
formulated an answer. "Thank you. It took us a while...but I think
that we are both very happy..."

Luka looked over towards John, and he was sure that their expressions
matched. With another smile towards Corrine, Luka and John headed
into the living room.

"So, yeah...I want to thank you again, Mrs. C, for this chance. I'll
really do good by you...I can have my stuff here by tomorrow," came a
familiar voice from the living room. And as they walked closer to
where the talking was coming from, Luka squeezed John's hand in almost
a death grip.

"J...John...is...*that* who I think it is?"

Dave. Dave Malucci. There was *no* mistaking that voice. Damn it.
What the hell was Dave doing here...?

Luka kept a possessive grip on John's hand as they continued to walk.
And soon, the two of them were standing in the doorway of the sitting
room, looking onto an elated Dave, and a rather pleased looking
Millicent Carter.

And then, Luka dared to cast a gaze over to John, trying to gauge what
his reaction to all of this was...

Dave's expression had been slightly guarded while he was talking to
Mrs. Carter, but he could *not* contain his joy when he saw John
appeared in the doorway.

"John...God...it's *great* to see you man..."

Dave resisted the urge to jump up, and take John in his arms. He had
missed him *so* much, and keeping from John that he had been in town
had been really tough for him to do. But seeing John now was all
worth it.

Then, he saw the person standing next to John's side. Luka was here?
Okay, that much he could handle...but...were...John and Luka holding
hands? What was *that* about?

Dave's face fell. From elation to deflation in a matter of seconds.
What, exactly was going on here? He could feel the anger building up
in him, but he couldn't show it. Like it or not, he needed this job.
And he had just promised Mrs. Carter that he would stick with it no
matter what, and he wasn't going to let her down.

Even if her grandson had just taken his heart, and smashed it into a
million pieces.

To be continued
Chapter Twenty-Two by MonaCK
"Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes, Part 22"
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts


John's mind was going in a million places from the moment he first
heard Dave's voice. He wasn't even aware that he and Luka had walked
to the doorway of the sitting room -- all he was aware of was Dave
Malucci. What in the Hell was he doing there? Why was he talking to
Gamma? John hadn't misheard Steve, the man had been quite emphatic
that Dave had wanted nothing more to do with him, so why was Dave
standing there?

By the time John's thoughts finally coalesced into one, Dave was no
longer looking happy and Luka seemed to have a death grip on John's
hand. "Dave...what are you doing *here*...I thought you..." John's
voice trailed off as he remembered the presence of his grandmother in
the room. It was one thing that she knew about him and Luka, but he
wasn't so sure he wanted her to know that his 'ex-lover' was standing
before her.

Millicent noticed the abrupt change of atmosphere. Dr. Malucci looked
as if he was about to kill someone, and so did Luka. John looked
stunned, and Millicent found herself wondering if the cruise John had
been on had been the one where Dr. Malucci had reunited with his
'significant other'. Well, no sense probing right now, she thought as
she turned her chair so she was facing her grandson. If Dr. Malucci
had worked with John, then he must have worked with Luka, as well, or
so Millicent surmised. "John, Luka, I believe the two of you know Dr.
Malucci? He's going to be working here, starting tomorrow."

Luka abruptly let go of John's hand, unable to keep control over his
anger any further. He didn't want to explode in front of John's
grandmother though, so he thought it would be best for him to just leave.

With a final glare towards Dave, he turned on his heels and headed up
towards his room. Luka knew that he was going to have to deal with
all of this, but he needed to deal with his anger first. And slamming
his fist into the wall of his room was a much better solution then
walking up to Dave in the living room and slamming his fist through
the younger, cockier man's face.

Why did Dave have to show up at that moment? Luka had finally gotten
John to admit his feelings. Luka had finally gotten John to admit
that it was time to start to get over Dave. And *again*, the very man
showed up, and threw everything into a tailspin.

Back downstairs, Dave watched Luka storm off, and then brought his
eyes back over towards John. Inside, he was a mixture of hurt,
confused, angry...everything all rolled into one.

"Um...Mrs. C...I...thank you for the job. I still want to work
here...very much...but, before I do, I...I think I need to talk to
John about something. Would...would it be alright if I had a few
words with your grandson?"

John's expression was almost unreadable. And Dave was honestly
confused as to what was going on. When they had last spoken, Dave had
thought he had told John how much he loved him, and missed him.
But...maybe something had been misinterpreted? What the fuck had
happened?

"Of course." Millicent smiled up at Dr. Malucci, then over at John
before she left the room, leaving to check on dinner.

John shook his head as he continued to stare at Dave, still confused.
If Dave hated him, then why was he taking the position? Was it just
to torment him? "Why are you here?" John asked, his heart starting to
break. It had been one thing to be dumped third hand, but now that he
had Dave in front of him, the pain was sharp and real.

"Why...why am I here?"

Dave repeated the words, a mixture of surprise and disbelief in his
voice. "Of course. Of course you would ask that question. So tell
me. Did you wait until the minute I left the cabin to jump into Luka
Kovac's bed, or did you at least wait until you got back to Chicago,
so you could wait a whole twenty four hours before cheating on me?"

His voice was low, but the words were clear. And Dave continued
speaking, figuring he'd might as well get all of the cards out on the
table while he could. "Gettin' fired was rough enough. You know,
being told that I was bein' fired because of being with you...you
know, it was actually a relief. Because it meant I could move to
Chicago sooner. So I told my brother I was leavin'. Leavin' to go
back to the person I loved. You know, Steve was happy for me. I
still didn't tell him that it was a guy...but maybe one day I'll be
able to tell him I swing that way. I don't know. Doesn't seem to
matter much now. Then...then I don't want you to be disappointed in
me. I don't wanna show up at your doorstep unemployed, expectin' you
to take care of me. So I fuckin' scour the streets of Chicago,
lookin' for anyone who will hire me. I find this agency...this home
care agency. They hire me on the spot. Been in one home after
another this week."

Dave let out a bitter laugh. "I didn't realize this was your house
until your grandmother mentioned her grandson worked for County General."

Dave shook his head, still unable to believe what was going on. "What
did I do wrong? I called you...I kept calling you...telling you I
loved you...telling you I missed you...and then...I...I find this..."

Dave gestured his arms around the room, not even sure what he was
pointing to. He was just *so* hurt, and felt so betrayed, he couldn't
even put his full feelings into words. So he sat there, waiting for
something -- some kind of justification. Some kind of a reason to not
go running out that door.

"What are you talking about? It was Steve who told me when I called
that you didn't want anything more to do with me. That you had moved
and if I wanted to get in contact with you, I'd have to go through
him." John was more than confused as he had listened to Dave -- there
had been no 'I love you' phone calls, nothing like that.

"My brother? Why the Hell would my brother say something like that?
I didn't tell my brother anything about you. Why would he tell you
that I didn't want to have anything to do with you anymore?"

Dave was genuinely confused. What the Hell had *that* been all about?
There was no reason for John to lie to him -- he really never had in
the past -- in fact, John was just as incapable of lying as Dave was.
Dave would have seen right through him.

"Is...is that what prompted all of this? Is...is that why...why
you're with...with him now?"

Dave's voice broke on the last words. He hadn't meant it to but he
was genuinely hurt and confused. This was supposed to be a happy
reunion, but, so far, it had been nothing but pain.

John looked away from Dave, not sure if he should believe the pain he
was seeing in the man's eyes. But, he couldn't ignore the fact that
Dave seemed to truly feel he was being cheated on.

"I was able to get my schedule arranged so I could come out to see
you. I called you on the ship, but Nurse Davis said you hadn't worked
there since the cruise ended. She didn't say why, but I thought that
maybe you had gotten in trouble for showing up late that day. I know
you didn't want me calling your brother, but, the last time you were
fired I didn't call you, and I lost you, and I didn't want that
happening again." But it had still happened, or so John had thought
at the time.

"So, I called, and as soon as I told Steve who I was, he got angry,
saying that I had done more than enough to you and that you never
wanted anything to do with me again. Hearing that, combined with the
fact you moved and that your phone calls always were short and ended
without you ever saying that you loved me...well, I thought you
decided I wasn't worth the trouble."

John shrugged. "That was a week ago, Dave. So, no, I didn't
immediately jump into Luka's bed. I tried to find you, even here, but
when I called information, they said that no one by your name had a
phone number. You didn't call me." He shook his head. "What else
was I supposed to think?"

"I told you I loved you every time -- I ended every conversation with
'Love you...Miss you...' -- maybe, maybe you hung up before you could
hear that, I don't know, but I told you I loved you every time. I
still do..."

Dave shook his head, frustrated at all of the emotions he was feeling.
Once he felt he got a grip on them, at least a little bit, he
continued on. "I kept the calls short cause I was embarrassed. I
didn't call this week cause I was running around on job interviews. I
didn't want you to be disappointed in me gettin' fired again. I...I
wanted to make sure I had somethin' lined up before I called you
again. I've been livin' in a hotel on the south side of town, hoping
I'd be able to find somewhere to live when I got a job, and then this
opportunity came up. Movin' in here meant that I didn't have to find
a place to live, but now...I'm not sure if workin' here is a very good
idea...it seems you've moved on..."

God, how that hurt. It hurt so much that Dave wasn't sure he could
take it. Dave quickly cast his eyes downwards again, once more
embarrassed at how upset he was over this. Once again he had opened
his heart to John. And once more, it was broken. And this time, Dave
wasn't sure he'd ever be able to move on from it. And the information
about Steve...Dave wasn't sure what to make of that. But he couldn't
think about that at the moment. He'd give his brother a call later.
He could understand why John would be feeling the way he felt, based
on the information given, but Dave couldn't help but feel like his
entire world was crumbling at his feet.

"I never ended a call until I couldn't hear your voice any longer,
Dave. You might have meant to say those things, but you didn't."
John looked away from Dave, not sure about what to believe or do.
*If* Dave was telling him the truth, then he had cheated on him and
they weren't broken up. But John also knew that Dave wouldn't want
him now, not knowing he had been with Luka again. Not knowing that he
had cheated on Dave, no way.

"I wouldn't have been disappointed in you, Dave. Never. I know it
was my fault you were fired, so how could I possibly hold that against
you?" John shook his head again. "You should have told me the truth
back when it happened. You could have stayed here." John looked back
at Dave, but Dave was staring at the floor. "You could have been here
with me this entire time," John softly added.

"I...I wanted you to be proud of me. How could you be proud of a
loser who couldn't even manage to hold down a job? God, I'm such a
fuck up...and I've managed to fuck things up for us again. Look at
us. Look at what I've done..."

Dave shook his head, unable to even look the man he loved in the eyes.
"I always ended those calls with 'I love you'. Maybe the call
disconnected before I did...I don't know, but I always wanted you to
know how much I loved you. How much I still love you. God...this
just hurts so fucking much. I never expected...I never expected you
and Luka to be together when I got here..."

He had lost John again. And it was all his own fault. His own fault
for getting fired. His own fault for not telling John. His own fault
for not telling John he was back in Chicago, even without a job...

John quickly walked over to Dave and put his arms around him. "Don't
say that. Don't *ever* say that, Dave. You're not a loser or a fuck
up. Cell phones can suddenly cut off, we both know that. I'm sorry.
I should have waited longer, or asked Steve more questions
or...something. I love you. Being with Luka...that didn't stop my
loving you."

Instinctively, Dave's arms went around John's body, pulling the taller
man closer to him. It was as if he was holding on for life -- afraid
if he let go, even for a moment, that John would leave him.

"But, but what about Luka? You might love me...but...if you're not
with Luka now, he sure thinks so...because Luka looked like he wanted
to rip my head off when he saw me in this living room," Dave said,
finally feeling a little bit calm for the first time since seeing
John. "I...I've really managed to fuck up your life again, John..."

John shook his head. "No, don't say that. It's not your fault you
were fired, it's mine. I should have known that there would be rules,
but I never asked. I'm sorry." He hugged Dave tightly, and then
stepped away from him. "As for Luka...God." John ran a hand
nervously through his hair, then looked into Dave's eyes.

"I love him. Not the same way I love you, I could never have those
same feelings for another person, but I *do* love him. We need to
talk this through, the three of us. If you never told Steve to say
those things to me, then that means we never broke up, right? So, I
did cheat on you. But I didn't know I was, I thought you had dumped
me, and rightfully so, and I tried to move on, and..." John's heart
felt as if it were being torn in two by his feelings. "And Luka loves
me, too."

"I know Luka loves you," Dave said, finally bringing his eyes up to
meet John's. "He was in love with you back on the ship -- but he was
too much of a gentleman to stand in your way when you came after me.
I knew he was jealous as Hell every time we were together, and I
didn't care. I didn't care cause I had you and he didn't. As for the
rest of it..."

Dave shook his head. "No. You didn't know. You didn't know. You
didn't cheat on me...cause you didn't know. I shoulda called you. If
I had called you, none of this would have happened. I guess...I guess
we both have to take a bit of the blame here."

He ran a hand over his eyes, trying to sort all of this out. "Yeah, I
think we do have to talk...all three of us. But, I think that the
most important thing that has to happen is...you have to make a
decision. You have to decide who it is you want to be with; me or
Luka. And as much as I hate to say it, one of us is *not* going to be
pleased when you make that decision...but the other person...the other
person will be the luckiest man alive..."

Dave was hoping that John would choose him. And part of him
knew...okay...all of him knew that if John decided that he wanted to
be with Luka, there was no way that Dave was going to let him go
without a fight.

John didn't want to have to make that decision, especially since it
was going to leave someone hurt and disappointed. So, he decided to
concentrate on the three of them talking. "Come on upstairs. I'd
like to get out of these scrubs and into some real clothes and then we
all can talk." He held out his hand toward Dave, ready to lead him up
the stairs.

"You want all three of us to talk now? Do...you wanna talk to Luka by
yourself first? I...man, this is a real mess...isn't it? Yeah, okay,
I'll come up with you...I'll be by your side. Anything that Luka
says...I wanna be there to defend myself.."

He took John's hand in his, a foreign and familiar experience at the
same time. Foreign because this was not how he had expected things to
be, yet familiar because Dave and John together...it was the way it
was ultimately meant to be.

Squeezing his hand, almost unconsciously, Dave let John lead him up
the stairs, completely unsure of what was going to await him once he
reached the top.

John took Dave to his room, opening the door wide to reveal a large
bedroom with a loveseat, a few chairs and some tables and the large
bed against the wall. "Go on inside and have a seat while I get Luka.
No reason why we can't be comfortable while talking, right?"

Dave nodded. "Yeah, okay.. I'll wait here for you," he said. And he
slowly made his way over to the loveseat. Dave wasn't sure what he
was more surprised over -- the fact that he was experiencing all of
this, or that John's bedroom was bigger than Dave's apartment had been
when he had last lived in Chicago.

"Go get him. I'm not goin' anywhere. I promise..."

John's eyes drank in the sight of Dave in his bedroom, and his heart
constricted just a little over the fact that he was possibly going to
lose the chance to ever see that sight again. "I'll be right back."

Without shutting the door, John walked the short way down the hall to
Luka's room, knocking softly on the hard wood. "Luka? May I come
in?" God, how was he going to explain things to Luka? And if Luka,
like Dave, wanted to insist that he choose between them, then John
wasn't sure what he was going to do.

After pounding his fist into the wall a few times, Luka had finally
collapsed on his bed in an exhausted heap, frustrated that nothing
*ever* seemed to go his way. Once again, he had thought that things
were finally going to work out for him, for John...and then Dave
showed up.

There was no mistaking the look that he had seen on John's face.
That, combined with the fact that John had admitted to him the night
before that he was still in love with Dave, spoke volumes.

Luka's expression was unreadable as he mulled all of this over in his
brain. And his voice was devoid of any emotion as he told John to
enter his room.

As the door swung open, Luka lifted his head off of the pillow. "What
do you want, John?"

John's heart broke into a few more pieces as he took in Luka's
defeated appearance. He couldn't choose between Dave and Luka, he
just couldn't. Not knowing how badly one of them would be hurt when
he choose the other.

He stepped into the room and walked over to the bed where he sat down
and rested his hand against Luka's cheek. "I'm sorry about all of
this, Luka. We need to talk...*all* of us. Dave's waiting next door
for us." God, but it hurt to see Luka trying to not show his pain.

Luka's eyes fluttered closed, his heart doing a leap as John touched
his cheek, and Luka flinched away, knowing that if he was going to get
past this, he was going to have to start to close himself off from
John sooner rather than later. And as John spoke, Luka slowly opened
his eyes, trying to focus his tired eyes on the man he loved. The man
who had the ability to crush him with one action, one look...

"You think that the three of us need to talk? What is there to talk
about? You told me last night that you didn't love me the way you
loved Dave...and now Dave is here...obviously he wants you back...and
you're going to go to him. So what is there to talk about?"

As much as he wanted to mask the hurt, it was nearly impossible to do
with the pain so close to the surface.

John shook his head, wondering why it was so easy for the men he loved
to think he'd desert them so quickly. "No, it's not that simple,
Luka. I thought Dave and I were broken up and I made a vow in my
heart to you, but, we weren't broken up, so that meant I cheated on
him. I love him, that much is true. But it's also true that I love
you. It might not be the same kind of love, Luka, but it's there and
it's real and I don't want to lose either one of you."

Luka now looked at John head on, disbelief growing in his eyes. "You
can't have it both ways, John. You might not want to lose either of
us, but can't have *both* of us. I won't stand for that, and I'm
quite sure that Dave won't stand for that, either. No. You are
dealing with some very real feelings here, both mine and Dave's, so
you need to decide...very, very soon, what you want, or the decision
is going to be made for you, John. I'll...I'll give you some time,
but I won't wait around forever. Sooner or later, I am going to have
to move on with my life if you should decide that you don't want to be
with me. But I am going to have to find some way to get closure from
this. And you not wanting to lose either of us will end up hurting
*both* of us in the end."

Luka shook his head, and then slowly sat up in bed, still trying to
make heads or tails out of what was going on. "If you want the three
of us to talk...I'll come in and talk, but frankly, I still don't know
what there is to talk about."

John ignored Luka's little speech about him having to choose. It
wasn't fair and he didn't want to face having to chose between the two
of them. "What there is to talk about is what happened to create this
situation, Luka. If you and Dave talk things out, then you won't hate
each other so much. It's not his fault, and it's not your fault,
either. There's no reason for the two of you to be at each other's
throats." John got to his feet and, as he had with Dave, held out his
hand for Luka to take. "Come on."

Unable to argue with the man anymore, Luka obediently rose from the
bed, and took John's hand in his. It was warm and smooth, just like
it always was. And Luka's hand still fit with John's nicely, but
something was different. Something had changed.

Dave Malucci. Dave had torn them apart again. And this time, Luka
knew if it happened, it was going to be forever, because he was not
going to let himself go through the pain of losing John for a third time.

As they walked back towards John's bedroom, Luka hesitated once more.
"Are...are you sure this is really necessary? Right now, all I want
to do is throw the man's head into a wall. I'm not so sure it's a
good idea for me to be in the same room with Dave for very long..."

John came to a stop in the hallway and he hugged Luka. "I know you're
hurting, and I know you're angry. But you're angry with the wrong
person, Luka. Hear him out about what happened, please?"

Luka nodded, and pulled away from John, once more trying to distance
himself from any more pain. And without taking John's hand in his
again, he made his way into John's bedroom, stopping short as he
noticed the eyes of the younger man on him once more.

Dave's eyes met Luka's...and he nearly shuddered at what he saw there.
Luka was someone who was hurting just as much as Dave was, and that
made all of this that much more difficult. It would be easier if Luka
had been a fling...if Luka hadn't actually had feelings for John, but
knowing that Luka was in love with John...and that John was in love
with Luke...

That hurt. John loving someone else. That *really* hurt. Because
John had been the only person that Dave had ever loved. And Dave knew
in his heart that would never love another...that John was *it*.

"Good afternoon, Luka," Dave finally managed to say. "I'll bet you're
wondering just what I'm doin' here..."

"The thought had crossed my mind," Luka said. He grabbed a chair from
the table that was in the room, and turned it so it was facing the
love seat. With another glance up towards John, Luka sat down, intent
on listening to everything that Dave had to say. Why, he wasn't sure.
Luka already knew in his heart what the end result was going to be.
He didn't know why he was putting himself through the pain.

Dave spoke. And he kept speaking, repeating essentially the same
story he had told John only moments earlier, only a little more matter
of factly. And as he finished speaking, he glanced over to Luka, and
then dared to look at John, trying to figure out how he was reacting
to all of this.

John had intended to change immediately, but he found himself standing
there and listening to Dave talk. He had wanted to sit, but he knew
that if he sat on the loveseat by Dave then Luka would be hurt, and if
he pulled a chair over and sat by Luka, then Dave would be hurt, and
God only knew what they both would think if he sat on the bed.

"I really need to change out of these scrubs," John said as he turned
to his chest of drawers to get some casual clothes. "You two can talk
about things and I'll just step into the bathroom for a few minutes."
As John closed the bathroom door behind him, he felt the sting of
tears in his eyes, and he walked over to the closed toilet, sitting
down while he silently cried over the entire mess his life had so
quickly become. He really needed a cigarette...or...something
stronger. God. What he needed was to change and go back into his
room to find Dave and Luka smiling at each other and willing to share
him. That's what he needed, and John didn't quite understand why he
couldn't have that.


To be continued
Chapter Twenty-Three by MonaCK
"Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes, Part 23"
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts


Both Dave and Luka watched as John left the room, and then they faced
each other with nothing left as a buffer between them. Two men with a
similar interest -- seeing John Carter happy, and each thinking that
they were the person who could *make* that happen.

They were silent for a while...but soon the lack of sound was
deafening. And Luka was the first to break the quiet.

"So...it was not intentional...you not calling. And all of this was a
misunderstanding. If...do...do you really love John? I mean...I
guess what I don't understand is why you didn't try to get in contact
with John as soon as you left the ship.."

If it had been Luka, he would have been on the first plane home, and
he would have immediately sought John out once he arrived back in
Chicago, but it was obvious that he and Dave were very different people.

Dave shook his head. "No. I didn't mean for *any* of this to happen.
All I wanted was to surprise John by bein' here, and instead…I was
the one surprised. Man, I'm sorry. I'm sorry for draggin' you into
this again...for gettin' you..."

"Dave, I didn't get involved with anything I didn't want a part in.
John was very up front about his feelings for you. I was just hoping
in time that I could take a bigger piece of his heart. But, Dave, the
man is *in love* with you...he always has been. I'll always be second
choice..." Luka lifted his eyes, and looked towards the bathroom door.
"...even if John doesn't want to admit that. I know. I know that
he'll always wonder what could have been with you if he chooses me.
While with you...with you, Dave...damn it...I hate it. I hate the
fact that he loves you more. But he does. He'll never wonder about
me, because he'll have *everything* if he has you."

More and more Luka was realizing what *he* was going to have to do,
but he still hoped that John would be able to be the one who came to
that decision on his own.

John finally dried his eyes, then got up and splashed cold water on
his face, not that it did much good. He still looked as if he had
been crying. Turning away from the mirror, he quickly stripped to his
underwear, and he briefly thought about going back into his room
naked, to seduce them both -- to keep them both.

But John went on and pulled on the Dockers he had grabbed, then
quickly buttoned up the shirt, not caring that they didn't go
together. It was more important to get back out there with them.

Still buttoning his sleeves, John stepped back into his room. Luka
and Dave weren't smiling at each other, but they weren't looking as
angry as they had before, either, so that was a good sign. John
leaned against the door frame. "So, any revelations while I was gone?"

Dave was still dumbfounded over how...easy Luka seemed to be giving
up. Almost as if Luka somehow *knew* that this day would come, and he
would have to say goodbye again. So when John walked back into the
room, Dave didn't say a word, and instead focused his eyes on Luka.
This was Luka's tale to tell now.

"John, sit down," Luka said, focusing his eyes up to the man he loved.
Luka was fully aware that this might be the last time he talked to
John in such an intimate setting. He waited until John was seated,
and then continued. "Because...because you've insisted that this
should be the three of us...I'm going to talk with Dave in the room.
Because you're right -- it is about the three of us. Dave and I have
something very special in common, and that's you. And we...we both
know how lucky we are to have had you in our lives...but.."

Luka looked at Dave and then back to John again. "But John, you have
to make a decision.. I think that Dave and I both agree on that...you
have to tell us...who do you want to be with...?" Luka wanted to give
John the chance first. And if John was still not able to make the
decision, Luka would make it for him.

John had sat down on the bed at Luka's urging, suddenly feeling as if
he didn't want to hear what Luka had to say. And as Luka spoke, John
knew he didn't want to hear those words. He should have walked out of
the bathroom naked, he thought. Seduced them both right there and
then and made it impossible for either one of them to even think about
leaving him.

John looked from Luka to Dave. "And you agree with this? You want me
to choose between the two of you?"

Dave nodded. "You have to choose, John. You *have* to. We both love
you, and I promise you that we won't hate you when you choose one of
us over the other. But *you* have to make a decision here."

"Why?" John blurted out as he got to his feet and began to pace the
room, not trusting himself to look at either one of them. If he did
then he might cry again, and he didn't want to show any weakness to
Luka and Dave. "Why do I have to be the bad guy here? I love both of
you and I don't really see why we can't find a way to make this work."

"You're not bein' the bad guy," Dave blurted out, looking up to John,
rather surprised at the outburst, his mind instantly remembering the
outbursts of emotion John had shown back on the ship -- and his
breakdown. "Neither Luka and I wanna share you! And it's really
selfish of you to ask us that! It *can't* work for the three of us,
because we both love you too much..."

What the Hell? John had gone from being someone who never cheated,
and who only was committed to one person, to wanting to have a three
person relationship?

Luka, as well, was not exactly happy with this, though he did not
emote it as passionately as Dave did. "No, John. Dave is right. It
can't be any other way."

"That's a bit hypocritical of you, isn't it, Luka?" John snapped.
"You didn't hesitate to sit back and watch while I fucked Randi, did
you? And, according to you, you loved me even then. If you'd let
someone I don't love fuck me while you watched, then why can't you let
me be with you *and* Dave? I'm not asking for some big three way orgy
here, I'd never ask either one of you to watch while I was with the
other one." Although, as John said that, he could see where sharing
the same bed with Luka and Dave would be the easiest solution. He
could sleep in the middle, with them on either side. But, before he
could even think of suggesting that solution to the two men, John had
to get them away from the idea that *he* had to chose between them.

"I loved you even then, but it was different. Damn it, John...you
simply don't understand. What you are doing is not fair to any of us.
How...how could you ask us to even entertain that kind of an idea?"

Luka was absolutely flabbergasted. And one look at Dave...Dave just
looked hurt. Hurt that John seemed to be having so much trouble
coming to the decision that Luka knew in his heart was the right one.
And uncomfortable. Luka wasn't sure Dave even knew about the
incident with Randi.

"I *can't* share you, John," Dave finally said, when he found his
voice once more. "If you want Luka so fucking badly...then have him.
But I'm *not* sharing you."

Dave stood from the couch, and looked as if he was about to storm out
of the room when Luka stopped him. "No, Dave. You stay. John...I'm
done. I'm done here. You can't make the decision...so I'm making it
for you. The two of us are finished because you will never love me in
the same way that you love Dave. That much is a fact. And I told you
once that I never wanted to be your second choice. But I know in my
heart that I am. I'm begging you, John, please...let me go..,so I can
begin to find some way to get over you..."

"Since when did either one of you become psychic? How can you stand
there and tell me what I'm feeling?" John looked from Luka to Dave
and then back again. "I guess that you love me the same way you loved
your wife, right? Because if you don't, then doesn't that mean that
I'd always be second in *your* heart? As for you," John glared over
at Dave. "You can't share me? As if I'm some piece of property that
you have control over? A toy that you've taken to school and now
won't let the other kids even look at, let alone touch? You guys want
a decision, fine. I'll give you a decision. Fuck you. Fuck both of
you. I choose neither one of you."

With that, John stormed out of his room, not quite sure where he was
going. All he knew was that he had to get away from Dave and Luka
before his resolve wavered. How dare they decide between themselves
what was going to make him happy? It was more than obvious that Luka
had planned to leave him in the first place, so why the bullshit about
making him choose? And, if Luka loved him as much as he had said,
then how, *how* was it that he could just walk away?

Dave stayed in his spot for only a moment before storming out of the
room after John, not caring whether Luka was following him or not.
Luckily, John hadn't gotten very far. Dave was angry. Very angry.
How *dare* John do this? How dare he...?

"What the fuck is your problem, John? You ask me how I say I don't
wanna share you? You think maybe it's because I fuckin' LOVE you?
And when you love someone this much...you don't wanna open your
bedroom to just anyone. Fuck. I thought that you loved me just as
much. But I was wrong. I was fuckin' WRONG if you were so afraid of
hurting *him* and so selfish that someone might reject *you* that I
get trampled on in the process. Damn it. I'm done. I'm done bein'
hurt by you. You don't want either of us? You wanna be alone?
Congratulations, John Carter. You're gonna get exactly what you asked
for..."

Tears sprung to his eyes, even though he didn't want them to. He knew
he was going to have to quit this place -- he didn't have a choice
now. No way could he live on the same property as John Carter. Not
when he was acting like this. And it didn't much matter where Dave
went this time. Only in one sense where he stood was quite clear --
Dave Malucci would never, ever again be hurt by John Carter. And Dave
Malucci would never, ever again love someone. He was done.

"I never once said I didn't want either one of you. Never." John
spat back. "It's the two of you who keep telling me that it's wrong
for me to love each of you. And I'm not afraid of hurting either one
of you. Being afraid of hurting someone and not wanting to hurt
someone are two different things, Dave, and you should know that. I
don't want to hurt you, either, but you don't seem to want to grasp
that fact." John didn't care if the entire household heard them
arguing, not any more. "And for your information, I don't want to be
alone. I've never wanted to be alone...all I ever wanted was to be
loved, truly loved, by someone who I loved. And now, when I get that,
you and Luka are telling me that I can't have it, that I *have* to
hurt one of you and make the other one happy." John shook his head.

"Well, I can't do that. I won't do that, and I refuse to allow you to
make me the bad guy in all of this. *I'm* not the one who sneaked
back to Chicago without a word to anyone, just because my pride was
hurt over being fired, was I?"

"I'm not *trying* to make you the bad guy, John...but damn it, for
someone who loves us so much...you're making it really hard for us to
believe. Okay. I can only speak for myself here, but God...the
thought of you being in the arms of another man...it makes me *sick*.
It makes me physically sick, and what upsets me more than anything
else is you can't see that. You can't see how that is killing
me...instead, you'd rather dig in and bring up how I sneaked back
here. Fine...have it your way...it's my fucking fault. It's all *my*
fault that I come back to surprise you and find you in the arms of
another man...it's all my fault...it's..."

Dave's stomach did a somersault, and Dave couldn't speak anymore. He
ran back into John's bedroom, flying past Luka into the bathroom,
barely managing to shut the door behind him before throwing up his
lunch into the toilet.

John followed Dave part of the way, stopping in the doorway of his
bedroom. As he heard the sounds of Dave being sick in the bathroom,
John looked at Luka. "And do you feel the same way? Do I make you
sick, too?" He coldly asked. Somehow, John had known it would all
come back to that -- to him having been with another man -- Luka --
while he and Dave were broken up. He had found comfort with someone
else while Dave had remained celibate and now Dave was punishing him
for it. Look at how easily Dave had found it to accuse him of jumping
into Luka's bed the second they left the ship.

Luka had been unable to keep from hearing the argument that was going
on in the hallway. And as John came back in and questioned him, Luka
couldn't believe that he had managed to fall for a man like this in
the first place - someone who was obviously so...ungrounded in reality.

"Did you listen to *anything* that Dave said? Because I did. You
didn't make him sick. Your words made him sick. He only wants to be
with you. I only want to be with you. And single-handedly, you're
managing to ruin what you had with both of us, because you can't
understand why we don't want to share you. No...No I'm not sick,
John. I'm saddened. Saddened that you are so worried about being
rejected, that you're not stopping to see what you are doing to the
people around you."

"So what you're saying is that I'm supposed to jump for joy and throw
myself down at his feet because he doesn't want to share me? Or do
the same to you? Be so overjoyed that you want me so much that you
feel you can decide between the two of you what will make me happy?
No one ever once thought about asking me how I felt. It was just an
automatic order for me to choose in a heartbeat. Well, I'm sorry that
I can't turn my emotions on and off so quickly as to be able to choose
one of you over the other in the blink of an eye, Luka. The two of
you mean too much to me for me to be able to do that, but that's not
something either one of you want to admit it, is it? You find it so
easy to put yourself down, telling me how I feel about you and
gallantly stepping aside. Meanwhile, Dave's alternating between
blaming himself for not calling me and blaming me for 'moving on' when
I did think he had dumped me."

John turned around to leave, but then stopped and looked back at Luka.
"Before either one of you were my lovers, you were my friends, and by
making me choose one of you over the other as a lover, you're also
making me choose one of you over the other as a friend. One of you is
going to walk out of my life forever, and neither one of you gives a
damn about how that makes me feel." John hurried on down the hallway
to the back stairs, needing more than ever to get away from the two of
them. God, he loved them so much that it hurt and yet they doubted
his feelings. One thing that he was realizing from all of this --
from having Luka's love and then being faced with losing it, was that
John saw he cared more about Luka than he had ever realized. And it
just wasn't fair that he had to lose either Dave or Luka, as a lover
or a friend.

Once outside, John just kept walking, knowing he needed to burn off
the anger, pain, hurt and disappointment.

After John left, Luka stood there, watching out of the open door for a
while as he tried to gather his thoughts. He supposed that John did
have a valid point...maybe it wasn't fair to put all the pressure on
him. Maybe it wasn't fair to make him choose so soon after learning
that he had to make a choice.

The retching sounds had long stopped from the bathroom, and Luka's
thoughts turned towards Dave. Had Dave heard what John said? And if
so, how much had he heard?

It had been a while, a good twenty minutes had passed since John had
disappeared, and now there were no sounds at all coming from inside
the bathroom. And Luka began to worry that maybe everything was not
okay with Dave. Luka might have been jealous of the man.. but he
didn't want Dave to come to any harm.

Hesitating for only a moment, he knocked on the door. "Dave?"

Dave was no longer sick, but was sitting against the wall of the
bathroom, tears streaming down his face as he tried to get himself
under control before going out to face the music, so to speak. He had
heard the final argument...most of it anyway. And since he didn't
hear John's voice anymore, he assumed that the man had finally stormed
off.

So be it. It wasn't like Dave hadn't tried to lay it on the line for
John.

Dave heard Luka's voice and jerked his head up towards the door. What
did *he* want? "What?"

"Are you okay, Dave? You've been in there for a while. I just want
to make sure..."

Luka? Caring? Dave wasn't sure he believed it. Luka only seemed to
care about John...but then again -- Luka hadn't exactly gone running
after John either. Maybe he was genuinely concerned...or maybe he
just wanted to get in and use the bathroom?

Well, whatever his agenda, Dave supposed he owed the guy an answer.
"It's open. Enter if you must."

Luka carefully opened the door. He stood in the doorway, looking down
on the broken man before him. Sighing, he entered the room. "John
took off...somewhere. I don't know where, and I don't think he wants
either of us to follow him. Maybe...maybe this was a mistake...maybe
we pushed him...?"

Dave shook his head. "It doesn't fucking matter anymore, okay?
You've won. You've won. If John wanted to be with me, he'd be with
me, he wouldn't be jerkin' me around like this."

Luka moved to sit on the floor, leaning his back against the tub so he
was sitting perpendicular to Dave. "I'm not sure that's the case. I
think...maybe he just...I don't know...I'm hurting here too, you know.
This isn't easy for any of us..."

None of it was easy. None of it at all. Somehow they had to try to
find a way to get through to John -- both Luka and Dave knew this.
Even if it meant that they had to try to get along to do so. For
John's sake.

Millicent Carter's mouth was set in a tight line as she sent her
electric wheelchair down the upstairs hallway. She had heard a good
portion of the argument that had gone on between John, Luka and Dr.
Malucci, although, under the circumstances, Millicent felt she could
most likely call him Dave. None of it was good, and her heart felt
heavy for all three of them, but it was breaking for her grandson.

She wheeled through the open door of his room, but no one was in
sight, which momentarily irritated her. How could she talk to them if
they weren't there? Then she heard a noise from the open door of the
bathroom, but modesty kept her from heading in that direction. Perhaps
the three of them had found a way to make up that involved the shower?
If so, then she didn't want to intrude, but she still wanted to talk
with the three of them.

"John? Luka? Dave? Are you in here?" she called out, thinking a
quick answer would mean that they were all fully clothed.

Dave heard the voice of his new employer, and pulled his knees to his
chest. He leaned his head down on top of them and shut his eyes.
Well...if he was going to quit his job it really didn't matter,
because when all was said and done, it was going to be a miracle that
Dave wasn't fired. Three times a charm. Three times in one year.
Dave was a three time loser.

Luka's eyes shifted from Dave to the open door of the bathroom.
"We're in here, Mrs. Carter," he finally said, sighing as he did so.
Obviously, the woman didn't know that John had run out on them. It
was only a matter of time, Luka thought, before she sent him packing.
He had promised that he would never hurt John. And now look at them.

"Are the three of you decent?" she asked as she tried to gauge the
tone of Luka's voice. Resignation after an argument was sometimes a
good sign, as it showed that the person was open to suggestions on how
to make things better.

Luka almost laughed, but didn't. Why wouldn't they be decent? "It's
only myself and Dave...but yes, we're decent," he said, as he looked
over to Dave. Luka actually found himself feeling sorry for the man.
Dave looked to be in a lot of pain.

Millicent frowned at hearing it was just the two men. Where had John
gone off to? She motored a little further into the room, then
stopped. "I'm afraid my wheelchair can't make it over to the
bathroom," she informed Luka. She wished she could see him, and Dave,
to see how upset they were. They had all sounded angry enough earlier.

"Okay, Mrs. Carter. We'll be right out..." Luka cast Dave another
glance, and then got up, standing before the younger man. "Come on.
Let me help you u..."

"Leave me alone."

"Dave...you need to talk to Mrs. Carter. She has to understand what
happened. It's not fair to *her* for you to sit in here and brood.
Dave, wouldn't it be better to try to work together while this is
going on?"

Dave was not a 'work together' kind of guy -- especially in matters
where his personal life were concerned. But maybe, just maybe, Luka
had a point. And casting his bloodshot eyes upwards, he nodded a very
small nod.

"What the Hell else do I have to lose at this point?" he muttered, as
he outstretched his hand towards Luka.

A few moments later, the two of them stumbled out to the bedroom.
Dave immediately headed over towards the couch, and slumped down on
it. His tie, which had been so carefully tied and neat round his
neck, was now haphazardly loosened. He had lost his suit jacket
somewhere along the way, and the top three buttons of his shirt were
undone. Dave's eyes were downcast as he sat, embarrassed to even try
to make eye contact with Mrs. Carter.

Luka was only barely better, but he was more skilled at keeping his
emotions at bay. He had done it for years -- shut off his emotions
while he let his practical side take over -- and it allowed him to be
able to function when all he really wanted to do was curl up in a ball
and cry.

Millicent carefully looked over the two men, seeing that the argument
had greatly reduced them. Well, she was sure that Dave would be
worried about his position, so she sought to alleviate that concern
first. "I called the agency and informed them that you will be
starting here tomorrow. I'm sure that Dr. Meyers will want to meet
with you soon to discuss my health issues, but I'm not sure when he'll
be contacting you. There is a telephone in the guest cottage, with
its own number, so you won't have to share a line with anyone here.
When you're ready, I can take you out there to have a look at the
house. It's small, but quite nice."

Dave finally brought his eyes up, genuinely surprised at Mrs. Carter's
words. "You...you mean...you still want me to be your doctor?"

He was sure that Mrs. Carter had heard at least part of their
arguments...Dave hadn't exactly kept his voice at bay. "I...I'd still
very much like to work here... "

Dave knew that he had said that he would have to quit, but he almost
felt like he had something to prove. He didn't want to be fired
again. He wanted to prove to everyone around him that he had the
ability to keep a job. And the fact that Mrs. Carter still wanted to
hire him meant a lot.

"Of course I still want you to be my doctor. Nothing has changed my
mind about that. And, Luka," she turned her gaze to the older man.
"You're certainly welcome to stay here as long as you like. Lord
knows that if people left this house every time they had an argument,
then this place would be completely empty," she said with a smile.

"Thank you, Mrs. Carter," Luka said sincerely, returning the woman's
gaze. "I really do appreciate this."

Luka wasn't quite sure if he was going to take her up on it yet -- a
lot depended on what happened when - if -- John came back.

"Mrs. Carter, I'm sorry about everything that's happened with John,"
Luka started, knowing that Dave was not going to be the one to start
this conversation. "I guess things...got out of hand, and John got
angry and left. Hopefully...hopefully he'll come back soon."

"He likes to take long walks when he's upset. Perhaps if he had been
able to do that back when he was recovering from being stabbed he
might have avoided becoming addicted, but that's neither here nor
there now, is it." She shrugged slightly. "John tends to feel things
deeply, and, as such, tends to react strongly when he's hurt. It will
pass. The question that the two of you need to address is what you'll
do when he returns to the house. Are you planning on forcing him to
make a life altering decision immediately, as you've already done, and
with no success, or are the two of you interested in finding another
way to solve this particular 'problem'?" she asked them, willing to
give them her opinion of things, should they wish to hear it.

"I can only speak for myself, Mrs. Carter," Luka said, casting a quick
glance over to Dave. "But I think that I will back away for now, give
John the space he is obviously looking for. I guess my jealousy got
the best of me..."

"Yeah, yeah...at this point...as long as John's no longer upset...I'll
do anything I can to try to make things right again," Dave commented.

Dave was in so much pain, it was almost blinding. And if Dave had
what *he* wanted, John would have kicked Luka to the curb, and stay
with Dave, as it should have been. But things were obviously more
complicated then that, and Dave had to accept that no matter how much
he didn't like it. Once more Dave found himself fighting the almost
overwhelming urge to flee. But he knew that he couldn't do that. Not
this time. He had something to prove. And he also had something to
fight for. Despite his words to John that he was 'done', he still
loved and wanted the man.

Millicent nodded as a small smile formed on her lips. "Are either one
of you familiar with horses in any way?"

Dave shook his head. "Not unless you mean the horses that pull the
carriages in Central Park. Saw them plenty of time."

Luka, at the same time was nodding. "Yes, I used to ride horses when I
was younger on my grandfather's farm in Croatia," Luka commented,
trying to figure out what the woman's point was.

"When I was younger, I had a horse bought for me as a birthday
present. He was a rather spectacular specimen, with a glossy coat and
intelligent eyes. He was also quite determined that no one would ever
ride him, nor put a saddle on him. My father was going to sell him
since he thought the horse was basically worthless and he didn't want
to pay money feeding an animal that only wanted to run free in the
pasture. At the time, we had an elderly man working for us, and he
said that he could get the horse to take a saddle, and me. My father
gave in, giving him three months in which to work this 'miracle', and
I tagged along, wanting to see how Johnson was going to manage this.
He told me that his first order of business was to get the stallion's
attention because whenever someone tried to approach the horse, he'd
run away. I was surprised when I saw Johnson walk into the corral
where Blueboy was, and sit down on the ground, on the far side, away
from the horse. Well, Johnson stayed there for hours, just sitting
and talking with me. Sometime he'd talk to Blueboy, but he never
looked at him. And when Johnson finally got to his feet, I saw that
Blueboy *had* come nearer to him. It took a lot of hours, but
eventually Blueboy came right up to Johnson, nuzzling him. And it went
on from there. Johnson would talk gently to the horse, and he never
forced him to do anything. He would always wait for Blueboy to come
to him, he never went after that horse, and when those three months
ended, I was riding him," Millicent said, her mind reflecting fondly
on that time and all she had learned from Johnson...and Blueboy.

The men sat and listened to Millicent. She had seemed to live such a
full life, and to hear her tell a story of her youth like this seemed
to be a rather special glance into it. Luka, right away, understood
the meaning. Dave understood it too, but on a different level. Not
enough to be able to say much about it because Dave was still trying
to process what the right thing to do regarding John was.

But Luka nodded. "So...I do understand what you're saying, Mrs.
Carter, that sometimes John can be as stubborn as a horse...and that
we have to give him the space he needs to figure out the decision on
his own...and not pressure him anymore."

"That's basically it. If you don't pressure him, then he will come
around. I was trying that myself, a few years ago. John and I, well,
all of us, had had a falling out over his cousin Chase. Has he
mentioned Chase to either one of you?"

Both men shook their head. Dave had remembered John talking about his
sister, but never a cousin. And Luka wasn't sure they ever really
discussed John's family at all.

"Chase is a year older than John, and when my husband was afraid that
John was going to stubbornly stick with medicine instead of joining
the family business, he pressured Chase into being groomed as his
heir, so to speak. Oh, J.C. never really intended to make Chase take
over, not at the beginning. He had hoped that John's competitiveness
would kick in and that he'd turn his back on being a doctor and go
into business as J.C. had always planned. But that didn't happen,
which vexed my husband to no end. For some reason, whenever J.C.
looked at John, he saw a business tycoon, and no amount of discussion
could convince him otherwise. He felt that John was merely dabbling
with medicine and using it as a way to get 'back' at him." Millicent
shook her head.

"Anyway, Chase liked his trust fund, and having money and living the
fine life, so he found it difficult to tell his grandfather no, even
though his heart wasn't in business any more than John's was. At the
time, though, even I refused to see that. It was my opinion that
family members owed the rest of the family something, and they didn't
shirk on their responsibilities." Millicent looked away from Luka and
Dave, her thoughts going back to the speech she had given John on that
very subject after Chase's overdose.

"Chase felt trapped in the business world. He was an artist and a
photographer. Those pictures over there," Millicent pointed to the
far wall, "were taken by him. Chase ended up turning to drugs for
some relief and John caught on to him. Chase begged him to keep quiet
about it, claiming it was just recreational use, and John believed
him. Later though, Chase came to him, admitting he was an addict and
asking for John's help to detox. John, of course, wanted Chase to go
to a clinic, and when Chase refused, John dropped the subject. In the
end, though, John ended up helping Chase get off of heroin. At least
he thought he had. Chase went back to his old ways and he overdosed
one evening."

Millicent closed her eyes briefly as she remembered how still Chase
had been when she had finally seen him after that time. "Chase was
brought to County General along with a few other heroin users.
Apparently they had all been trying some new strain of the drug
together. From what John told me, Chase hadn't been breathing for
quite some time by the time he was brought in. The doctor treating
Chase recognized him, and she called John into the room. John, of
course, had no intention of letting his cousin die, and eventually
they brought him back. Unfortunately, Chase's brain was damaged
because of the lack of oxygen. J.C. and I blamed John for the whole
affair, telling him that he had had no business keeping Chase's
addiction a secret from us. J.C. was particularly harsh with John
over it. Anyway, to shorten the story a bit, J.C. still wanted John
to work with him, but John kept refusing. I finally commented to him
that he seemed to have no problem spending the money earned by the
family, to which he replied that we could keep the money. And, I did.
I cut him off without notice, thinking he'd come running back,
desperate for the money. But, John never did that. I saw him once or
twice after that, mostly in connection with Chase's care at the Kenner
Institute, but that was it. Until he was stabbed, that is. I kicked
myself good and hard for that, let me tell you. It was a shame that
it took nearly losing John to make me realize that it had been wrong
of me to try to force him into doing what we wanted while completely
ignoring what it was he was born to do."

Luka and Dave had both sat silently, listening to the dynamic woman
speak about this part of John's life that neither of the men knew
about. Dave was especially interested -- he had no idea that John's
family had cut him off at one point. And for Mrs. Carter to be
sitting there admitting that she was wrong...and that she was key in
him being cut off in the first place...that was something else.

"Whoa...Mrs. Carter," Dave finally said, once the enormity of the
story had lifted off of his shoulders. "That's...something else. So
is Chase still alive now? Does John ever get to see him?"

Luka was wondering the same thing -- though John had been a couple
with Dave longer, Luka had spent more time with the man on his home
turf, and he could honestly not remember John ever mentioning this
cousin, even when they were in that class where everyone had full
disclosure a few months earlier. And if John had been visiting Chase,
it would have been news to Luka.

"Chase is alive, and doing much better. He's come a long way since
the overdose, and a good portion of his progress is due to John. At
first, John stayed with him all the time. They brought a bed into
Chase's room and John would sleep over there, and work with Chase.
Eventually though, his internship had to take priority, and he had to
cut back on those visits, but he never cut back on being Chase's
advocate, insisting that Chase stay at the Institute even when his
doctors felt they had done all they could for him. John quit going to
see him after the stabbing incident, although now he goes at least
once a week. I'm not sure what made John start going back, but I'm
glad for the both of them that he did," Millicent said.

Luka nodded slightly, thinking of all of this in his head. It was a
lot to absorb, but Luka was trying to. "It's good that he sees
Chase," the older man finally said. "Family is very very important."

Dave's head turned at this. Yes...family was important. Especially
if you didn't have that much family that cared to begin with. And it
seemed that as different as his and John's backgrounds were, in a lot
of ways they were a lot more alike than Dave originally thought they
were. Maybe money *wasn't* everything?

"Yeah...yeah," Dave said, after a moment's silence. "I'm glad that
John's seein' Chase now. Maybe one day, I'll get to..."

Dave's words trailed off. He was going to say that he had hoped that
he would get to meet someone who was obviously such an important part
of John's life, but at that point, it wasn't even a certainty that
Dave himself would even be in John's life anymore.

"Yes, family is very important. I'm glad that my husband learned that
before he died. He and John had been at odds for quite a long while
before the stabbing. Still, we did our best to try to get John to
leave that hospital, but he insisted on staying. As you've both seen,
he's very stubborn when he wants to be." Millicent informed them.
"And I'm sure you'll get to meet Chase. His therapist brings him out
here at least once a month. He hasn't been here though since I broke
my hip, but I'm sure the two of us could have wheelchair races." She
grinned at Dave. "John tells me that when it's slow at work, people
often play wheelchair hockey. One of you will have to teach me the game."

Dave's face broke into a grin at that. "Yeah, we used to get into
Wheelchair Hockey a lot," he commented, thinking back to his days at
County General. "John was pretty good at pushing himself around in
one of those chairs...but usually I was able to get the best of him.
Luka didn't really play, though. Heh. I remember trying to get him
to play on the softball team one time...he didn't realize that he had
hit a foul ball instead of a home run, but he ran around the bases
anyway.. slidin' into every plate. It was actually quite funny."
Dave grinned broadly over to the other doctor, who was sitting
red-faced on one of the chairs on the other side of the room.

"Hey, I didn't know any better," Luka admitted with a shrug. "How was
I supposed to know there was such a thing as a...what do you call it?
Foul line?" But Luka was grinning slightly as well. This was *much*
better than fighting.

Millicent laughed along with them. "Maybe one day you'll get a chance
to redeem yourself, Luka. Now, how about that tour of the guest cottage?"

Dave quickly nodded, and then looked over to Luka. "Uh...if you want,
I guess you can come along," Dave said, looking at the other man. At
least, he was no longer wanting to throw Luka through a wall or
anything, and by the looks of it, Luka was feeling sort of the same
about Dave, but still, Luka shook his head.

"I'm sure I'll be able to tour it some other time. Why don't you go
ahead, and I'll see you later," Luka said, getting up from his chair.
"I think I'd like to lay down for a little while."

"Shall we awaken you for dinner?" Millicent asked Luka, thinking it
would be good if he ate a decent meal, especially since he was tired.

Luka nodded. "Please," he said, as he moved towards the door. Luka
was worried about John, but he knew that Mrs. Carter was right -- to
push him into talking now would drive John even further away, maybe
even cause a repeat of his breakdown on the cruise. And with that
thought on his mind, Luka headed back to his own bedroom to try to
catch some sleep.

To be continued
Chapter Twenty-Four by MonaCK
"Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes, Part 24"
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts


"Follow me," Millicent said to Dave, and she headed down the hallway
to the electric lift. "When I first learned I would have to spend
most of my time in a wheelchair, I was livid. I hate not being able
to do things for myself, but John assured me that I'd be able to get
up and down the stairs and then he had this installed. It's quite
fast, and there are some days when I just ride it up and down the
stairs for the fun of it," she admitted with a grin. "Race you to the
bottom?"

Dave followed Mrs. Carter down the hallway, and waited as she lifted
herself into the electric lift. And the small smile that had been
playing on his lips grew wider as she spoke, appealing to his
competitive side. "Race? Hell yeah," Dave quipped, as he waited for
the woman to strap herself in. "Are ya ready?"

Millicent secured the strap, then grinned back at him, her hand
hovering over the controls. "Ready. On the count of
three...one...two...three!" She hit the button that started it up and
laughed as she began to descend the staircase.

Dave couldn't help but laugh as well, as he started down the stairs,
and he was genuinely surprised at just how fast the chair was going
down. In fact, as quickly as Dave headed down the stairs, even taking
two at a time, it was evident that the older woman was going to beat him.

"Whoa, Mrs. C," he said, as they reached the bottom and he helped her
into the wheelchair that was waiting there for her. "Did John have a
racing engine installed in this thing?"

Dave had to admit, he was in much better spirits then just a few
minutes prior. Maybe somehow...everything would turn out okay.

"I believe so," Millicent said, laughing. "He would think of
something like that. This way."

Millicent led Dave out through the patio doors and across the lawn,
but she slowed as she neared the guest cottage since she saw someone
sitting on one of the lounge chairs in front of it. "It appears as if
we've found John," she remarked, and then she continued on the way.

John looked up as he heard the sound of his grandmother's motorized
wheelchair, but he was more surprised to see that Dave was with her.
He had walked a bit, then his back really needed a rest and he had
found himself near the guest cottage, wondering if Dave was still
going to take the job. He had been selfish, he knew that, by wanting
to have both Dave and Luka. But he couldn't help the fact that he
wanted to hold onto the two people he loved. So many people he had
loved in the past had left him one way or another-- either by just
leaving him or by dying, and he didn't think it was so outrageous for
him to *want* to stay with the two of them.

As Dave and his Gamma neared, John got to his feet, not sure what to
say to Dave after all they had shouted at each other earlier. But, an
apology was definitely in order, he knew that much. He looked past
his grandmother and at Dave. "Dave, I'm sorry. I said things I
really didn't mean, and I know they hurt you, which is something I
never wanted to do."

Dave's eyes had shifted over towards John as they walked towards the
cottage, realizing that he was still happy to see the man, despite the
fact that they had just had a pretty horrible fight. And as they
arrived, and John spoke, Dave returned his gaze.

"I'm sorry too, Hoss," he said, shuffling his feet a bit uncomfortably
to be saying this in front of John's grandmother. No matter how nice
the woman was, there were some things that should be kept between just
the two parties. "I...shoulda thought before I spoke, and I didn't. I
was hurt...but that wasn't an excuse. I wasn't thinking of how you
might be feeling...and I'm sorry about that..."

Dave's voice was soft, but sincere. He hated the way that they had
ended things inside. Dave hated that he was the one that had ended up
driving John from the house. And more than anything else, Dave was
still sorry that he hadn't picked up the phone to make that call...to
tell John that he was coming home to Chicago.

Millicent smiled. "I think that John can give you the tour of the
cottage. Will you be joining us for dinner, Dave?"

"If John doesn't mind," Dave said, as he looked towards the other man.
"I wouldn't mind staying..."

"I wouldn't mind it at all," John said, although he knew he didn't
feel one bit like eating. Still, he could always sit there and just
enjoy the company. But, was Luka going to be there? John was afraid
that Luka was busy packing to leave him behind. But he wasn't going
to ask Dave that question -- he didn't want to cause him any further pain.

"Then we'll see you at dinner. Enjoy the tour of your new home."
Millicent said as she turned around and headed back toward the house.

John looked at Dave, and then headed for the door, but he stopped as
his hand touched the door knob. "I do love you, nothing has changed
that." He could at least reassure Dave of that truth.

Dave was standing behind John -- close enough to touch him, but Dave
didn't dare do that. And as John spoke, it was as if a bit of the
weight that had been on him had lifted off of his shoulders. "I know.
I love you too...you do know that...right? It's...why I went a
little nuts back there, but...John, your grandmother is a really wise
woman," he said, his voice soft, but full of sincerity. "I'm not
gonna push you to make a decision anymore. You gotta come to that
decision on your own, and while you figure things out...I'm not going
anywhere. Cause...I can't be without you again...and if that means I
gotta share you for a little while...then I guess that's what I have
to do...cause it's better then not bein' with you at all..."

Dave still wasn't 100% sure of things...but he knew that this was the
way it was going to have to be for a while. So, he had to accept it.

John turned around, his eyes searching Dave's for any sign that he was
just joking around. It was quickly obvious though, that the man was
serious. It was still a decision that John didn't want to have to
make, but at least Dave wasn't insisting that he make it immediately.
"I don't want to be without you, either, Dave," he admitted. "But I
also don't want to be without Luka, and I know that hurts you and I'm
sorry. Thank you for letting me have some time to think about all of
this."

It still felt like a dagger in Dave's heart to hear those words, after
those times when John had said to Dave that it would be only him in
John's life, but there was really nothing he could do about it. It
was either John's terms...or no terms. And not having John in his
life was not even close to an option.

But still, Dave kept himself calm, and nodded. "I knew that running
after ya woulda been a mistake. I was too busy huggin' your toilet
bowl to be of much use at all. But...yeah. I pushed. Luka pushed.
And it was a mistake. I can only speak for myself, but I think we're
both sorry about it.."

"Not as sorry as I am, trust me on that. Shall we go in now?" John
didn't want to think about the fact that their argument had made Dave
physically ill, or about the fact that Dave seemed to know what Luka
was feeling. Did that mean they had talked some more? And if so, to
what end? To decide again that they knew what was best for him? John
hoped not. He really hoped not.

Dave nodded, and watched as John opened the door to the cottage. And
as they stepped inside, Dave took some time to survey his surrounding.
No, it was not the largest house he'd ever seen...but it was larger
than any place Dave had ever lived before, he could tell that, and
they had only made it to the living room. "Whoa, John, this is where
I'm gonna live...?"

His voice was a mix of awe, and a bit of disbelief. He couldn't
believe that this was happening...that he was working on the Carter
estate...and that he was not going to have to worry about rent while
doing so. This place was larger than *anywhere* he could have
dreamed of affording on his own.

"This is it. The kitchen is over there," John pointed to the spot
where an open counter separated the living room from the kitchen.
"There isn't a dining room, although you could put a table in that
corner of the living room. Upstairs is a bedroom and the master bath
and there's another full bath behind that door," he explained as he
pointed to one of the closed doors in the open room.

Dave nodded, his eyes sweeping the room. "This place is pretty damned
amazing," he commented, as he brought his gaze back over towards John.
"I can't believe I'm gonna be living here. I mean...this is bigger
than I think my family house was in New York...and it's bigger than
any apartment I've ever had.. I haveta remember to thank your
grandmother again when we get back to the main house."

John looked away, suddenly feeling guilty for having been born to a
wealthy family when others weren't nearly half as fortunate. "Do you
want to check out the upstairs? It's also furnished, although if you
don't like anything in here, I'm sure Gamma wouldn't mind putting this
stuff in storage and letting you decorate it the way you'd like."

"Nah...man, this place is perfect. I'll need to go out and get a TV
and stuff like that...but that's okay. I sold the big screen TV when
I moved last year...I probably won't get anything nearly as big this
time around. John...man...thank you...just...thank you. Yeah, I
guess it wouldn't hurt to look at the bedroom."

In his excitement, he headed towards the stairs, and then turned to
look at John. "Come with me?"

John smiled and then headed Dave's way, wondering just what Dave was
going to think about when he saw the bed. It had been bought when his
grandmother was into her light and airy, yet sturdy phase. The
furniture was oak that had been stained light, 'white oak' he thought
they called it. And the bed was a king-sized brass and iron affair,
with plenty of places on the head and footboards to which a person
could be secured. Oh, yes, John *definitely* wanted to see Dave's
face when he saw that bed for the first time.

Dave got to the top of the stairs, and then turned in the direction
that John indicated to head into the bedroom. The door was closed, so
he opened it slowly. The first thing that struck him was the size of
the room. It was twice the size of his bedroom at his last apartment.
And the second thing that struck him was the bed that was in the
room. And slowly, a grin spread over his lips. "That's...a Hell of a
bed, isn't it?"

His grin grew broader, and he turned to look at John.

John grinned back at Dave. "It's a beauty, isn't it?" He walked past
Dave and into the room, and then sat down on the bed. It was a tall
bed, too, and he didn't have to bend too much to sit, he observed as
he began to bounce on the mattress. "The mattress is fairly new, so
you shouldn't have any trouble sleeping."

"Yeah...I'll have to take it for a test spin later," he said,
continuing to smile. Well, not really. Dave was going to have to go
back to his hotel that night, and pack. And then he was going to check
out in the morning and head back here. "Oh...I don't know if I told
you, but I got me a set of wheels, it's not much, but no more mooching
for rides."

The more that Dave thought about it, especially being alone with John
like this, the more Dave thought that things would actually work out
okay. He had nice digs, and well...at least part of John's heart.
There wasn't much that Dave could complain about.

What John wanted to do was suggest that Dave take his 'test spin' on
the bed right then, but instead he nodded. "I don't think you had a
chance to tell me about having a car. That's good, not that I ever
minded giving you a ride."

Dave couldn't help but grin even broader, and raise his brow. "The way
that I remember it, you weren't the one doin' much riding," he
commented as his eyes swept over John's body. "It was mostly me on
top..."

John stopped bouncing as he realized that Dave had misinterpreted what
he had said and he could feel himself blushing, still, he could give
as good as Dave. "From what I remember of those pictures we saw on
the internet, it could be done that way, we just never got around to
trying it out."

"Hmm...well...it's a good thing I'm back in town then. Maybe we'll
have to give a few more positions a try. That is, if you're
interested in that..." Dave suddenly realized that the conversation
was taking a turn towards the sexual, and he wasn't sure that was such
a good idea. Because as much as Dave still wanted John, he wasn't
quite sure that the reverse was still true.

John slowly grinned at Dave as he felt his cock grow hard, and he
scooted back until he was in the center of the bed. "There's plenty
of time for a test spin," he said, his eyes locked on Dave's.

Well. That was an invitation if Dave had ever heard one. And Dave's
dick thought so too as it twitched at the thought of climbing into
that bed with John. "Yeah? You think there's enough time before
dinner? I don't wanna keep you from anything..." Or anyone. He
certainly didn't want to step on any toes.

"Doesn't matter since I'm not hungry," John quickly replied. Inside,
he felt elated that Dave still wanted him, even after the arguing and
nasty words that had been exchanged. A part of him felt slightly
guilty for even thinking about making love to Dave the day after
having made love to Luka, but another part of him decided that it was
only right to give Dave equal time. After all, John needed to have
some basis for making his decision.

"Oh...I guess that's where you and I are feelin' a bit different
today," Dave said, as he sauntered over to the bed. "Cause...you
see...I've been really hungry...hungry for a certain guy named
John...who rocks my friggen world..."

Dave climbed up on the bed, and got on all fours, climbing across the
bed towards John, hoping that they could be together for the first
time in weeks. And Dave was determined...determined not to think
about the fact that John was likely with Luka the day before...or even
that morning...no. Right now, this was his time. And Dave intended
on making the most of it.

"Well, I guess I should correct myself," John said as Dave loomed over
his body. "I'm not hungry for *food*, but I am hungry for you." He
reached up and began to loosen Dave's tie. "What a shame I didn't put
a tie on when I changed. If I had, then we'd have two ties here right
now, one for each wrist."

"It's okay," Dave said, his arms now straddling either side of John's
body. "We got plenty of time to play with the headboard on this bed.
Right now I just wanna play with you. Do you know how long it's been
since I've tasted anything as sweet as what I'm about to taste?"

Dave's cock twitched to being fully hard, as one of his hands moved
towards the bottom of John's shirt. Soon his hand was underneath it,
and he gasped as he felt the smooth skin under his fingertips.
"God...I missed you so fucking much..."

And unable to resist any further, Dave swept his lips down on top of
John, kissing him fully and passionately, and yes, maybe a bit
possessively, while his hand continued to massage John's skin.

Dave's tie was forgotten when they kissed -- all John noticed was how
good Dave tasted and how much he had missed kissing the man over the
past few weeks. And the touch of his hand...it was setting John's
skin on fire, and he wanted more. Not as concerned with undressing
Dave, John began to unbutton his own shirt, eager to feel Dave's touch
on all of his body, and not just the little bit Dave could reach right
then.

Soon, the fabric of John's shirt was pushed away from his body,
leaving Dave free room to move his hand all over John's skin. He had
really missed this -- the feeling of the man underneath him, the
feeling of the man he loved in his arms, the feeling of complete
abandon that Dave felt when he was with John.

The kiss finally ended -- out of need, not want -- and Dave found
himself looking into John's eyes, hoping that the love that Dave felt
was echoed in the other man's expression. "God...I love you so much.
I'm sorry I didn't tell you enough. You'll never no how sorry I am
that I didn't tell you enough..."

It had managed to drive John away from him. Not completely, as
evidenced by the fact that the two of them were sharing a bed, but
enough that Dave was no longer allowed to have full control over his
lover's heart. But Dave was determined not to let that get him down.
He was going to enjoy whatever time he did have with John.

Dave's hand brushed over John's cock, feeling his hardness through the
fabric of his pants. Yeah, right now, John's cock was his. And Dave
was determined to make it feel *so* good, that John would forget that
there was ever another man who occupied John's thoughts.

"God, it hurt so much when I thought you had dumped me, but I should
have known how much you loved me. I'm sorry." John said, looking up
at Dave. "Maybe one day you can forgive me for doubting you?" Dave's
hand was hot, even through the fabric of John's pants, and he arched
his pelvis upward, pressing his cock against the palm of Dave's hand.
"I want you to make me come, please?" John asked, his need for Dave
so urgent that it hurt.

Dave nodded, wanting to do anything he could to make John happy. He
was here, John was under him. Hell, Dave would probably try to walk
on the walls if John asked him. And with his hand, he easily opened
the top of John's pants. Sitting up on his haunches, he pulled John's
pants and underwear down over his hips and legs

And then there it was...John's cock. In all its glory.

"Yes," he muttered, just before he brought his mouth down on top of
John's throbbing dick.

"Yes," John echoed Dave's word as his hands threaded their way through
Dave's hair. Luka was good at sucking cock, but the two men were so
completely different at how they did it. And, John felt badly about
thinking it, but he couldn't deny that it thrilled him to know that
Dave would swallow. Soon though, what Dave was doing to his cock made
all thoughts of Luka and swallowing leave John's mind -- the only
thing left behind was Dave. "God, yes," John repeated, wondering how
it was that he could even begin to think about giving up the man who
was making him feel so damn good.

Dave's mouth swept down on John's cock, sucking as he went along, his
teeth grazing over John's skin. His hand touched Carter's
balls...whoa...was that a lack of hair he felt? Dave hadn't really
looked at it, but that meant that John was still shaving. A brief
thought went through his head of Luka shaving him, but it quickly left
his mind, and he continued with the task at hand. He was going to
make John come, because Dave wanted to taste every last bit of it as
it entered his mouth.

Dave gave John's balls a light, and then a stronger squeeze as his
mouth continued to suckle on John's cock. Yes. This was where he
belonged.

John moaned as Dave played with his balls. "Harder," he managed to
say as he felt Dave's hand squeezing against them. "Harder,
please...God..."

Dave obliged, squeezing the life out of John's balls, loving the way
that they compressed in his hand. And then, almost teasingly, he
brought his mouth, which had been tightly sucking on John's cock up
off of his body. Dave's eyes were wild with desire, but he couldn't
help but wonder...hope...pray...that he was delivering the best damned
blow job that John had ever had in his life.

"Does *he* do it like this, John? Does he squeeze your balls until
you cry out his name? Does he suck on you until you come, and swallow
it all? Does he do it to you like I do it to you? I need to know...I
need to know that you're thinking of *me* and only me when I'm doing
this to you. I need to know that it's *me* that you want when I'm
doin' this to you...and not anyone else..."

He knew he was playing with fire for asking, but he figured that he
had John by the balls anyway...a few questions could hurt. And
then...then he would give John the sweet release that both of them craved.

John shook his head. "No. He doesn't do any of that. Lu..." John
somehow didn't feel right saying Luka's name out loud. "He doesn't
swallow. And he doesn't kiss me after I suck him off," he confessed.
"I haven't asked him," John added, not wanting to be too unfair to
Luka. After all, Dave hadn't squeezed him either until John had asked
him to do so. Nor had Dave tied him down on his own -- that, too, had
been something John had requested. But he somehow hadn't ever gotten
around to asking the same of Luka.

"You...you think you should have to ask someone for that..? How can
someone not want...?"

Dave shook his head. If he spoke any further, he was going to get
upset. So instead, he decided to go back to doing what he did best.
And eagerly, wanting to get the conversation back to the two of them,
he once more began his oral assault on John's cock, his hand squeezing
John's balls ever harder than before.

It briefly occurred to John that Dave misinterpreted what he meant
about not having asked Luka, but then Dave's mouth was back on his
cock, and his hands were all over him and John simply quit thinking.
"Yes, oh, God, Dave, yes...." John cried out as he felt his orgasm
near. He didn't even dream about making it last -- he wanted to come
for Dave right then. "God...Dave!" He screamed out as his body
erupted in a flash of pleasure.

As John came, Dave's own cock twitched hard at the feeling of John
spasming in his mouth. And he swallowed it, all of it. It was better
than any dessert that Dave could have asked for...and it was a taste
that Dave had missed so very much. And here it was...for his
enjoyment. Luka didn't do this for John. And for that, Dave was
really happy. And as he finished up every last drop, Dave crawled up
to the top of John's body to do something else Luka didn't do, and
kissed John fully on the lips, letting his tongue explore the inside
of his lover's mouth.

John eagerly sucked on Dave's tongue, relishing the taste of himself
on his lover's lips and tongue and wishing that he could go without
oxygen for a long time so that they would never have to stop kissing.

When the kiss did finally end, John grinned up at Dave. "I love you.
Now, fuck me senseless."

Dave rose a brow. "Yeah? You have any thoughts in mind as to HOW you
want me to fuck you? I mean...there are so many options...I can do it
like we used to do it...when we were first together...or we can do it
like we saw on the website.. with me facing you...how about that way?
I really wanna see your face when I come tonight...and I want you to
see me...so you can *see* how much I love you."

Dave knew that it was more than a little possessiveness and jealousy
coming through, but he really felt like he had something to prove, and
an even bigger something to lose. The love of his life.

John shook his head. "I think I'm going to ride you. That way we can
still see each other."

Dave nodded. "I think I like that, that way, I'll be givin' you a
ride, and it won't even be in my car…I think my engine is much
smoother though," he said, as he kept his eyes locked with his lovers.
"But I think I might have too many clothes on. Not fair that you're
naked, and I'm still pretty much fully dressed..."

Rolling over on his back, he looked over to John expectantly.

"Nope, not fair at all," John agreed. "Although I'm not fully naked."
It didn't take much though, for John to shrug out of his shirt. "So
why don't you do something about it? Strip for me, Dave," John said
as he moved over on the bed and propped himself up on one elbow.
"Strip for me slowly."

"I think I can do that," Dave said, as he sat up in bed.

Scooting over to the edge, Dave stood, and then turned to face John,
as he lazily lay looking over to him. And then, slowly, and very
deliberately, Dave peeled himself out of every inch of his clothing --
starting by throwing his tie up to John in the bed. Then, he
unbuttoned his shirt, undoing the cuffs while he kept his eyes locked
on John's, a small smile creeping over his lips. Tossing the garment
aside, Dave's hands moved down to his pants. He unbuttoned them, and
then slowly unzipped them, letting them fall where they dropped until
after he pulled down his underwear. Soon, his clothing was pooled
beneath him, and he kicked away the garments, leaving him in his full
glory for John to admire.

"Do you like what you see? Do you see how hard I am for you? How
much I want to be inside you...pressing my hard cock in and out of you
until you scream...scream *my* name in pleasure? How much do you want
it? How much do you want *me* and only me?"

John scooted over on the bed, reaching out to stroke Dave's cock as he
answered. "I love what I see, and I want you in me just as much, if
not more, than you want to be in me. God, I love you." He punctuated
his statement by placing a kiss on the head of Dave's cock. "One of
these days, Dave," John said with a slow smile as he looked up into
his lover's face, '"I'd like to make you scream because I'm pressing
my cock in and out of you. Would you do that for me, Dave? Would you
let me fuck you?" John continued to slowly stroke Dave's erection as
he waited for the answer.

Dave had been grinning as John spoke, the words that he was saying,
enough for Dave for the moment. And once more his heart did a flip
when John told him that he loved him.

As John continued, however, Dave's smile wavered slightly. What was
that? John wanted to fuck *him*? Dave thought about this for a
moment, and he had to admit that his thoughts were likely altered
because of the fact that John was stroking his ever-growing harder
cock. He was also thinking about how good it had felt to be rimmed by
John the couple of times that he had done that...and John seemed to
like to be fucked so much...

And if it meant that it would be one less reason for John to go
running to Luka...

"Yeah...Yeah, I think that at some point that might be fun to try.
I've never done that before...and...I'm...assuming that you have...?"

He didn't want to think about it, but Dave couldn't help dwelling on
it...comparing, wondering if Luka did something that John liked more,
or if there was something he could improve upon...because if there was
one thing that was more clear to him than ever -- he did *not* want to
be without John in his life.

"Once," John admitted. "It was pretty damn incredible and I can see
why you like it so much. Fucking me, I mean." Then John thought that
he was sounding as if he was bragging, and he didn't want that. "Not
that I mean me in particular, but me as in a guy." He knew he was
blushing, but he didn't care right then. It was enough that Dave had
said that he'd be willing to try it.

John started to move backward on the bed, tugging slightly at Dave's
cock to get him to follow. "Right now though, I want to be fucked. I
need you in me so badly, Dave."

Dave nodded, deciding to put the comparison talk on the back burner --
at least for that moment. He followed John up on the bed, and
situated himself so that he was ready for John when it hit him.
"John? Do you have any lube up here? I don't know if I can do this
without lube..."

No way was he going to hurt John. Not that way. Not ever again...

"Shit." John muttered as he shook his head. Then he smiled as he had
an idea. "Hold on, okay?" He moved down Dave's body a bit, then
wrapped his lips around Dave's cock, sucking it in and making sure he
had it wet and slick. Then, before it could dry, John quickly moved
back into position. "You're going to have to hold your cock steady
for me," he instructed.

By the time John moved himself back over Dave's cock, he could have
told Dave that the world was flat, and he would have believed him.
Oh, how he had missed the feeling of John's mouth on his dick like
that...and though he knew the reason was to get him wet enough to slip
inside John's ass, it didn't mean he didn't feel a bit disappointed
when John pulled away.

But Dave was able to refocus on what they were doing. And listening
to John's instructions, Dave moved his hand to base of his cock, a
smile twitching on his lips as he realized just how much John was
still talking dirty for him. He liked that. He liked that a lot.
And he shut his eyes as he held himself in place, waiting for the
feelings to consume him as John finally lowered himself.

"I want you so bad...please...let me fuck you...God..."

"No, I think I'm going to fuck myself on you," John stated as he began
to slowly lower himself upon Dave. God, but he had forgotten just how
good it felt to have Dave's cock inside his body. It took every ounce
of self-control that John had, but he managed to keep his pace slow as
he descended on Dave's magnificent cock.

Eyes closed, John moaned when he felt Dave's pubic hair tickling his
balls and he knew that he had taken in every single inch of Dave.
"Dear God, you'll never know just how much I've missed this."

"Oh...yes, tell me...tell me how much you like it...when I'm in
you...when I'm pressing my dick into your warm...wonderful body...like
this." Dave's eyes were at half-mast when he spoke. And as his hands
grabbed onto John's hips, Dave pressed his pelvis up so that his cock
was further pressed into John's ass. He knew that it was pressing
against John's prostate, and Dave could only hope that John was
feeling half as good as Dave was at that very moment. He knew it
wouldn't be long -- it had been far too long since Dave had last made
love. But Dave was going to try to make it last as long as he
possibly could.

John opened his eyes and looked down at Dave as he answered. "When
you're in me, it's as if the rest of the world no longer exists. The
only people in it are the two of us, and the only thing that matters
is knowing how much you enjoy fucking me. I love knowing that I can
make you feel good just by doing something as simple as this," John
said as he constricted his sphincter muscles around Dave's cock. "Or
this..." John rose up a bit, then slowly descended back, settling
against Dave's groin.

"Oh...God...God...yes...yes...you know...how to make me
feel...so...oh...John...John...I'm gonna..." And then Dave's vision
went to a world of colors. His eyes shut because he had no choice,
and as he came, he screamed out John's name over and over as the
feelings of passion overtook his body. Emotionally, physically, it
was all almost too much for him to handle.

John watched intently as a thousand emotions seemed to flitter across
Dave's face, and when it looked as if Dave's orgasm had crested and
ebbed, John slowly stretched out over Dave's body, doing his best to
make sure that Dave stayed snugly within his ass the entire time. "I
love you," John murmured and then his lips sought out Dave's. If
only, he thought, he could be able to say that to *both* Dave and
Luka, and not have the other be jealous, then life would be wonderful,
but it didn't look as if they were going to give in to his desires on
that issue.

Dave wanted to return the thought, tell him that he loved him too,
promise John that he would never leave him again, but his thoughts
were cut off by the simple gesture of an after sex kiss. Yes. This
made it all worth it.


To be continued
Chapter Twenty-Five by MonaCK
"Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes, Part 25"
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts


As the kiss ended, Dave kept his lips close to John's. And a smile
crept across his lips as he kept his gaze locked on John's. "I love
you so much, John, that it consumes me like nothin' I've ever
experienced before. I want to make sure you know that, and...I'll
take any part of you that I can get, John...anything that you can give
me...I'm gonna hold onto...and possess as much as I can. The biggest
mistake that I ever made in my life was lettin' you go...and I'm not
ever gonna do that again..."

John smiled sadly as he rolled off of Dave. "But you will, won't
you...I mean, if I should choose Luka over you? You both said you'd
leave me if I chose the other one." John stared up at the ceiling,
wanting to believe Dave when he told him that he'd never let him go,
but knowing in his heart that he was going to lose either Dave or
Luka, both as a lover and as a friend. To John, it was losing either
one of them as a friend that would be the hardest thing to get over.
It was a lot easier to get a lover than it was to get a friend, but
neither one of them seemed to understand that.

Dave thought about this for only a moment, and then brought his hand
up to John's chest, feeling the skin under his fingers as he spoke.
"I promise you...if you should decide...somewhere down the line that
you want Luka to be your life partner...I'll always be your friend.
Always. Because if that's what I have to do to remain in your life,
then that's what I'll be. Your friend."

Dave couldn't think about that, he couldn't think about what would
happen if John ultimately rejected him, because it hurt too much.
"I...want to make sure you know this, though. Months ago I lost my
heart to you. It happened. I can't say I wanted it to happen, but
I'm really glad it did. My heart is yours now. And I don't think
that it can ever fully come back to me. You'll always have part of me
with you...and if you should...should decide that I'm not the person
you wanna spend the rest of your life with...I...don't think I could
ever...ever love anyone else like I've loved you."

He swallowed hard, and then turned his head so he was facing the
ceiling. "But I don't want you to think about that. I don't want you
to run away from me...I don't want you to think that I'm pressuring
you into making a decision, cause the last thing I want to do is push
you away...not now." And not ever.

"The minute you each told me I had to choose between you two, I was
pressured into making a decision." John rose up on his elbow and
looked down at Dave. "It means a lot to me that you're willing to
always be my friend...no matter what I choose. But I want you to know
that even if that should happen, that I'll always love you. Choosing
one of you over the other doesn't mean that the love I feel for the
other is going to go away, and I think that you need to know that, for
if I *do* choose you, I'll always love Luka, Dave. Just as I'll
always love you. I didn't mean to fall in love with him, it more or
less snuck up on me, but it happened, and I can't just shut it off.
And he's going to have to realize that if I choose him, then I'll
always love you."

John reached out and stroked his hand over Dave's belly. "I just wish
I could convince the two of you that my idea isn't as bad as you seem
to think it is. Life would be much simpler that way."

"I...I don't wanna get into an argument about this, so please, don't
get upset about this...but I want you to understand why I feel so
strongly about this," Dave began, his eyes seeking out John's.
"I...don't fall in love that easily. I can honestly say the feelings
that I have for you are unique. I've never had them before, and I
don't think I'll ever have them again. I think...if I didn't love you
as much as I do...I wouldn't have a problem with what you're
suggesting, but...having the three of us act like a "couple" on a
regular basis...the jealous, hot blooded Italian in me can't
understand it."

Dave's lips twitched into a smile, as he said that, hoping that he had
added a little levity to the situation.

"I...I can accept that part of your heart belongs to him. I guess I
don't have any choice but to, since it's my fault that it happened.
But I'm not as sure I can deal with sharing you in his bed, though I
guess I have to get used to that too, at least for now. If I didn't
love you as much as I did..,it probably wouldn't be an issue for me..."

Dave's voice trailed off. He hoped he was explaining himself better
than he felt he was. Because Dave actually felt like he was talking
in circles.

John slowly nodded, but his heart was still sad over the entire
situation. "I guess I can see your point. I don't quite understand
it, but I can see it." He reached out and caressed Dave's cheek.
"I'll never ask it of you again, I promise." And John meant that.
However, he didn't see why he couldn't take a long time, a very, very
long time, to decide between Dave and Luka. He at least intended to
try to take as long as possible, just so he could hold onto each of
them a little bit longer.

"We...we should probably get back soon," Dave said, sighing as he
looked over to John. "They're probably gonna wonder where we are
soon..." Dave's expression turned sadder over the fact that he was
going to have to go back to his hotel room. Where was John planning
on going? Right into Luka's bed, after being with Dave all afternoon?

The thought of it turned Dave's stomach, but he was determined not to
say a word about it to John.

John checked his watch. "It's just about dinner time, and you did
tell Gamma that you'd be staying for dinner." John rolled over and
got off of the bed. He would definitely need to shower before showing
up for dinner, or else people might just suspect he had been fooling
around. There was one advantage to using condoms, he thought as he
started picking up his clothes and putting them on.

"Right. Yeah, I said I'd stay for dinner," Dave said, suddenly
feeling sad that the contact was over. He didn't even really feel
like he was part of a couple anymore. No. He was part of some
bizarre love triangle that he didn't know if he wanted to begin to
understand. Was this the way it was going to be from then on? They
had sex...and then it was going to be like there was nothing else
going on between them?

Once more, Dave wished that things were different -- that he hadn't
been such a stubborn ass, that he hadn't been so afraid of losing John
when he got fired that he didn't call him. If he had just told John
what was going on -- none of this would have happened. Dave and John
would still be a couple, just the two of them. And Dave wouldn't have
this feeling of doom in the pit of his stomach, that he was lining his
heart up to be broken once more.

Dave moved off the bed as well, searching for his now wrinkled
clothing on the floor of the bedroom. "Maybe I shouldn't stay. I
look like I just rolled out of bed," he commented as he picked up his
shirt.

"Is there a problem with that? After all, we *did* just roll out of
bed, and I'm not ashamed of it," John said as he pulled on his shirt.
"I'd like it if you stayed. Hell, I'd like it if we went back to
your hotel tonight and moved you in here instead of you having to do
it tomorrow." John grinned at Dave. "But you don't have any food in
here, or towels, or toilet paper or anything like that, so you might
not be too comfortable staying here tonight."

"Yeah, I do need to go do some food shopping," Dave mused, looking
around his bedroom. Dave was somewhat surprised that John offered to
go with him to move Dave in. And then, Dave began to wonder what the
sleeping arrangements would be altogether...

"So...is there any chance at all...that I can convince you to spend at
least *some* of your nights here? I mean, I know it's not as big as
the mansion...but I promise to be a good pillow for you..."

John liked Dave's suggestion, but he wasn't going to give Dave
anything he couldn't give Luka. "I'd like to spend some of my nights
with you, but I think it's only fair to give Luka the same chance. I
haven't yet had a chance to talk with him since we argued...I don't
know if he's even planning on staying. If he is...I don't want
anything flaunted in his face...or yours, either," John said. "I
won't hide the fact that I love both of you, and I don't intend to
pretend that nothing's going on when we're together, but I don't want
it rubbed in. That's not fair to either one of you, especially since
I know that merely knowing about the other is going to hurt you both."

"Well...I think that Luka's planning on staying. He's just as
stubborn as I am," Dave said, a small smile on his lips once more.
Dave mulled the rest of John's words over in his head, still in a bit
of a haze of disbelief that any of this was happening at all.
"Whatever you want, John. Whatever you need to do to come to terms
with this...I'll do for you. I just hope that you...that you are able
to...never mind...no...I'm not gonna do this. I'm not gonna talk
about it...cause if I do, you'll think I'm trying to pressure you.
And I'm not. I'm really just trying to understand this in my head,
cause right now I'm in a situation I never in my life thought I'd be
in. In a way, even though I'm in love with you, and you're in love
with me, and I had you first, I feel almost like I'm the other
guy...sneaking around, and I don't wanna sneak around...not anymore..."

He shook his head, reaching down to the floor to pick up his underwear
and put them on. "I can't believe that you're gonna be here and I'm
gonna have to get used to sleeping alone again...I can't believe that
you're not...all mine anymore. And I'm sorry, but it still hurts.
And it's going to take some gettin' used to."

John waited until Dave was upright once more and he walked over to
him, hugging him tightly. "I don't want you to feel as if you're
sneaking around. I want everything out in the open, Dave. And I'm so
sorry that I've hurt you."

"I'm...I'm sorry I hurt you too...especially since it was one big
misunderstanding," Dave said as he fell into John's embrace. "Damned
cell phone...I think the first thing I'm doin' when I get a paycheck
is changing cell phone providers..."

Dave shook his head, pulling away slightly. He knew that in order to
get through this, he was going to have to close himself off somewhat,
and joking around was one way for him to do that. Dave still had a
'dinner with the family' to get through. And he knew in order to get
through that, it was going to take every ounce of strength in his body.

His thoughts constantly fluctuated between wanting to kill Luka, and
wanting to cry. And neither scenario was a very good one.

"I think that changing providers is an excellent idea," John agreed.
Knowing the depths of Dave's feelings for him, John felt even guiltier
about not waiting a bit longer -- he could have easily held off
another day or two before letting Luka in on how he felt. But he
hadn't, and it mostly had been because John had missed the physical
intimacy of being with someone he loved. Wanting to make love to Luka
had gotten them all into this mess, and John now knew that making love
to both Dave *and* Luka was going to be his only way to hold onto them
while he decided which one he had to hurt with his decision.

"What do you say we get back up to the main house so you can go
shower, and I can get some dinner. Our activities certainly built up
my appetite," Dave teased, even though in reality, food was the
farthest thing from his mind. It was really easy in the heat of the
moment to forget that there were any problems at all, but when
thinking with a clear head, Dave realized that there was a lot more to
them then a roll in the hay. Dave wanted *every* part of John, and he
was not happy with this sharing at all. And he frankly did not know
if he would ever get used to the idea.

John nodded, and once they were both fully dressed, they headed back
toward the house. As they walked, John reached out and took Dave's
hand into his own, not feeling ashamed at all at walking hand in hand
across the lawn with Dave.

As they walked into the house, a delicious aroma greeted the two men.
It made John's stomach start to growl, and he began to think that
maybe he'd be able to handle eating after all, although there was
still the issue of talking things over with Luka...and that thought
alone sent John's appetite into hiding.

He stopped at the foot of the stairs. "The dining room's over there,
and there's a half bath down that hallway, first door on the right, if
you want to wash up before dinner," John informed Dave. Then he gave
him a quick kiss. "I'll see you in a bit."

Dave gave John's hand a quick squeeze, and then nodded. "Okay,
thanks. Yeah. I should go in and brush my hair or something, maybe
wash out my mouth. Though, I have to say, havin' the taste of you in
my mouth while eatin' my dinner doesn't sound like a bad thing," Dave
joked, as the smile grew broader on his face.

Dave watched as John walked up the stairs, waiting until he couldn't
see him any longer before finally walking away himself. Dave found
the bathroom that John was talking about, and quietly entered,
shutting the door behind him. Once when he was finally alone again
did he let any emotion show. Making sure the door was locked, Dave
ran the water on the pretense of washing his face. The nice thing
about running water, was that it hid other noises as well. So, anyone
walking by wouldn't be able to hear the choked back tears that were
coming from Dave. It was way too much for the young man to handle.
But Dave knew he had to try, because the only other option was not
having John in his life at all. And that was an option that Dave
simply could not live with.


Luka had woken up on his own about a half hour before the alarm that
he had set. The sleep that Luka had gotten had been quite troubled,
marred with visions of John...Dave...and specifically John and Dave in
compromising positions that he did not want to think about. But it
constantly invaded his thoughts. He couldn't help it.

Luka heard movement in the hallway, so he decided to get up to let the
maids know that he did not need to be woken up, thus saving them the
embarrassment of walking into his darkened room. And as he opened the
door, a smile flickered across his lips. It was John, not the maids,
coming up the stairs. And John was alone. Luka couldn't help but be
happy about that. And the man looked happy. That was good as well --
at least it meant that he was okay. Maybe John had come to some sort
of realization...or decision. But there was one thing that Luka knew
for sure -- there was no way that *he* was going to be the one to push
John into anything. The words of John's grandmother echoed in his
ears. This was something that John had to come to terms with on his own.

John glanced towards Luka's door as he heard it open and he smiled as
he saw Luka standing there. "Hey," he said, coming to a stop in the
hallway. Now that the two of them were face to face, John suddenly
had no idea how he was going to tell Luka that he was going to be
spending some of his nights with Dave, and John's smile wavered as he
remembered the hurt look on Luka's face earlier. There was no way
that he wanted to hurt Luka, just as there was no way he wanted to
hurt Dave, and John couldn't help but inwardly curse the fates that
had put them all in their current situation.

"Hi, John," Luka said, noting how when John had not known that he was
standing there, he had seemed happy. Now he seemed to freeze, almost
as if John was afraid of something. "Did you have a good walk? Did
it give you the chance to think of some things?"

Luka wasn't sure if he was ready to hear the answer to that. But Luka
had promised to try to be open-minded about this, so he knew that he
would listen to anything that John said.

John remembered his promise to Dave to not mention his desire to be
with both of them, and he thought it was important for Luka to know
that he wasn't going to push that issue. "I had the chance to clear
my head, yes. And then I ran into Dave and Gamma, and Dave and I
talked for a bit. I think we, you and I, that is, need to talk after
dinner." John took a tentative step toward Luka, wanting to kiss away
the uncertainty he saw in those eyes, but he held back since he wasn't
sure what was on Luka's mind. "I'm not going to ask again about being
able to be with you and Dave, Luka. I realized how much it hurt the
two of you to even think about that, and I don't want to hurt either
one of you. So, you can rest assured that it's a subject I won't
bring up again."

Luka listened, and then slowly nodded. "I think that the two of us do
have a lot to talk about, and..." The entire time that John was
talking, and part of the time that Luka was, the older man's eyes had
been sweeping up and down John's body. After taking stock of the
younger man's appearance, he had suddenly come to a couple of
conclusions. First, the man was badly in need of a shower. Second,
it seemed to Luka that John and Dave might have done a lot more than
*talk* while they were together.

"Did...did you and Dave just...fool around, John?" Luka's voice,
while inquisitive, was also very much laced with jealousy. Luka had
*no* idea how he was going to handle this, and get past all of these
feelings to be able to do what John wanted him to do.

"No," John kept his eyes locked on Luka's. "Dave and I just made love."

If John had just punched Luka in the stomach, Luka didn't think it
could hurt more than he was hurting right at that moment. He felt his
entire body tense, and he very tersely nodded. "I see. Well. John.
You'd better get ready for dinner. I will see you downstairs."

Turning away from the man he loved, Luka went back into his room, and
shut the door. Leaning his back against it, Luka shut his eyes,
wishing that doing that mere act would block out all of the pain that
he was feeling.

John's knees felt weak as he watched a very defeated looking Luka walk
back into his bedroom and shut the door. What if Luka was thinking
that John had made up his mind already? John couldn't let Luka think
that, and he walked over to the door, leaning up close against it and
hoping Luka could hear him through the wood.

"Luka? I haven't made any decision yet, I want you to know that.
That's one of the things we need to talk about later, okay? Not that
I've made up my mind, but...but that I need some time to think things
through." John held his breath as he strained his ears for some
response from Luka -- even if it was just a grunt of acknowledgement
that Luka had heard him.

Luka nodded, and then realized that John would not be able to see
that. Swallowing hard, he found his voice once again. "Okay. Okay,
John. We'll...talk later. I understand. You need time, and I'm not
going to pressure you for that...just...understand that I am going to
need my space too, okay?" John could not have it both ways. What was
the term? Having your pie and eating it too? That's what this was
very much like. John could not have his pie and eat it too.

"Okay," John said, nodding, even though the sound of Luka's voice
didn't make him feel very hopeful. Then again, there hadn't been much
since he arrived home that had -- except for making love to Dave.

Sighing, John headed into his bedroom to shower, wondering how it had
been possible for him to have ever imagined that his life would go
smoothly.

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

By the time Dave left the bathroom, all traces that he was upset were
gone. His eyes were clear; his face, clean. His hair was slightly
damp from the make-shift wash job he had done. He had taken off his
shirt to clean up. Dave realized he had left his tie at the cottage,
though that didn't matter much. Dave would be in his new abode the
next day.

He was looking forward to starting the new job. And as he walked into
the dining room and saw his new employer already seated at the head of
the table, Dave's eyes sparkled, and his grin grew wider. "Hey, Mrs.
C. I hope you had a good afternoon. Dinner smells absolutely
delicious, and I am *starved*. You doin' alright? Anything I can get
for ya?"

Even though Dave did not officially start until the next day, that
didn't mean that he couldn't make sure he was still in John's
grandmother's good graces. After all, if he was on the good side of
the only family member that John liked and respected, it couldn't be
*all* bad for Dave...

Millicent smiled warmly at Dave. "I'm fine, thank you. Why don't you
have a seat here?" She indicated the chair to her immediate right.
When Luka appeared for dinner, she planned to place him at her left,
to make it easier to keep her eyes on the two of them. Even though
the two men had seemed to take her advice to heart, Millicent wanted
them close just in case John decided to put in an appearance for
dinner. Knowing John and the way his stomach became easily upset when
he was troubled, Millicent wasn't really expecting her grandson to
eat. He might just show up, but that all depended on what had
happened between him and Dave after she had returned to the house.

"Do you like the guest cottage? If there's anything in there that you
don't like, then we can easily replace it, just tell me," Millicent
said to Dave, wanting him to feel quite at home once he started to
work for her.

Dave nodded, and sat down, turning his full attention to Mrs. Carter
as she spoke. "Yeah, it's really great. I mean...it's better than
just about anyplace I've ever lived before. Thank you so much for it
-- I wasn't expectin' much more than a room when I was told that board
would be included in this job. But I can't say I'm upset about the
arrangements. And the furniture is perfect -- it's saving me from
having to go furniture shopping right away," Dave said, smiling over
to the woman. Dave was hoping that the conversation could stay off of
the topic of John -- at least for the time being. Mrs. Carter didn't
need to hear Dave vent about how much he was in love with her
grandson. It just wasn't something that you chatted to your employer
about.

Millicent nodded again. "I'm glad. I feel that you can do your best
job as my doctor if you're happy in your surroundings. Did John come
back with you? I was wondering if he planned to join us for dinner?"

Dave nodded. "I think he was. He was running upstairs to take a
shower when we got back to the house. I'm sure he'll come down when
he's finished changing," he said, as he looked down at the place
setting in front of him. In reality, Dave had no idea if John was
going to be down for dinner or not, and Dave no longer felt it was his
place to ask. After all, they were no longer *really* a couple in the
committed sense of the word, no matter how much John claimed to love him.

"Most likely, but not to eat, I'm sure," Millicent commented. "John's
stomach rebels against him when he's upset, and I'm not expecting
tonight to be any different." She looked up at Henry. "You can serve
dinner once Dr. Kovac has joined us."

"Very good, madam," Henry replied. "Shall I serve the beverages?"

Millicent nodded. "Please. I'll have water with my dinner." She
looked over to Dave. "What would you like? We have just about
anything you could possibly think to ask for, so please don't feel
obligated to ask for water again," she said with a grin.

Dave shook his head and laughed. "I'll just have a soda then, if you
have that," Dave said, as he looked back over towards Mrs. Carter.
Dave had decided that he *was* going to get drunk that night, but it
wasn't going to be until after he got back at his hotel. Dave had had
enough experience with drinking before work that he knew he'd be able
to be sober enough to start work the next day at the mansion. Dave
couldn't help but want to drink, though. Anything to numb the
feelings that John was causing inside him.

Henry nodded, then disappeared into the kitchen. Millicent returned
her attention to Dave. "So, how familiar are you with Shys-Drager
Syndrome?" She asked, wanting to see if he was willing to tell her
more than John or Dr. Meyers had revealed to her about the condition.

Dave thought about this for a moment, and then shook his head. "I
gotta be honest with you, Mrs. C. I read up a little bit on it before
the interview, but I don't know that much about it. I am planning on
researching some current treatments, and I wanna make sure that the
course of treatment that you're going under is the best one for you.
I'm sure that part of my job here is making sure that you're getting
the best care possible, so I wanna make sure of that."

Henry came back out with their drinks, and waited towards the back of
the room for Luka to get there in order to start to serve their meal.
Dave was grateful for the glass to focus his attention on, and he
quickly took a sip, wetting his suddenly dry lips.

"That's good. I'm sure that Dr. Meyers is doing everything possible,
though. John wouldn't stand for it any other way, so don't be
surprised if you find him looking over your shoulder from time to
time. There are some times when having a doctor in the family is more
of a curse than a blessing." Millicent took a sip of her water, and
then discreetly checked her watch, wondering just how much more time
she would need to give Luka to appear for dinner.

"Henry, did anyone go upstairs to inform Dr. Kovac that dinner was ready?"

"Yes, Mrs. Carter. He was already awake and said he'd be down
shortly," Henry replied.

"Very well," Millicent said with a sigh. She'd give him a few more
minutes then.

Dave couldn't help but grin that the Croatian was late in coming down
for dinner. It gave him a certain amount of satisfaction, in a purely
competitive, sophomoric way. But Dave didn't say a word, and just
smiled over towards Mrs. Carter.


Luka was in his room, and trying to get a grip on his emotions before
coming down the stairs. He was already dressed, but wanted to make
sure that it didn't look as if he was as upset as he was feeling
before going down to dinner. Luka was also hoping that he and John
could go down together, just like they had the previous day.

But it was no longer the previous day. And what a difference those
twenty-four hours had made. While the day before Luka had been the
only focus of John's attentions, now there was Dave as a spike between
them. Shutting his eyes for a moment, Luka shook his head, and then
opened the door, hoping that he was giving off worlds more confidence
than he felt.

Luka glanced towards John's door. He hesitated, and then softly
knocked on it, wanting to make sure that John was okay before heading
down for dinner. He was already running late, but hopefully Mrs.
Carter would understand.


To be continued
Chapter Twenty-Six by MonaCK
"Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes, Part 26"
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts


As John showered, his thoughts were jumbled and trying to run in a
thousand different directions. To begin with, he felt guilty.
Incredibly guilty. Guilty about cheating on Dave, even though it was
done unwittingly, guilty about cheating on Luka, although the promises
he made to Luka were based on erroneous information. He sighed,
stepping under the hot water to rinse. Why hadn't Dave shown up a day
earlier, or, more importantly, why hadn't John himself been able to
put off the needs and desires of his body another day or week? Hell,
he had gone for long periods of time without having sex, so why,
suddenly, had it become so important for him to be with Luka? Another
week or so of celibacy wouldn't have hurt him, or made Luka feel
unloved. The man had been patiently waiting.

And now, now John had the man upset, hurt and confused. He also had
Dave feeling those things. And, truth be told, John felt all of that
as well. Life would have been simpler if John had been the type of
person who could have sex with a person he didn't care about. Then he
could have bedded Susan back when they were dating, or he could have
gone to bed with Luka and not felt guilty about Dave knowing about it.
But, he wasn't that kind of a person. He only had sexual
relationships with people he cared about, and, looking back, even
before the cruise, John had cared for Luka as just a bit more than a
friend. It had been Luka who kept insisting they were just 'friends
who happened to have sex with each other', not John. John had cared
too much to consider what they did to be fooling around and unmeaningful.

As he dried himself off, John found his thoughts drifting to how he
was going to decide between Dave and Luka. He loved them both, but
was it equally? The sex was definitely different with each man, John
could easily admit that. And he didn't want to have to rate either
one of his lovers. So, that meant that sex couldn't be a criteria for
his decision. And, until he could figure out *if* he loved one more
than the other, love couldn't be a criteria, either. So, what would
it be then? And just how much time were they going to give him to
decide? John was hoping it would be a long time. A long time where he
could alternate his nights, one with Dave, another with Luka, learning
each man better. And if doing that meant that John was getting what
he had asked them for, well, he couldn't quite help that, could he?
He *did* have to have some basis for making his decision.

John wrapped a towel around his waist and padded into his bedroom,
this time selecting matching clothes so he'd look presentable when he
appeared in the dining room. He was in the process of removing his
towel when he heard a knock on the door and then Luka's voice, asking
if he was okay. John quickly dropped the towel and pulled on a pair
of plaid boxers.

"Yeah, I'm fine, Luka," he called back, wondering if he should try to
talk to Luka before dinner instead of after. John still felt the need
to reassure Luka that no decision had yet been made, even if he had
more or less seduced Dave back in the guest cottage. John had had the
need to know for sure that Dave still wanted and needed him, and Dave
had managed to reassure him on quite a few issues.

"We are running late for dinner," Luka said, his voice still soft.
"Do you want me to wait for you or go on down without you and let your
grandmother know that you will be a few more minutes?"

Luka couldn't help but realize that either way it would look like to
Dave that he and John had been together this whole time. And truth be
told, part of him wanted Dave to believe that. The petty, jealous
part of Luka didn't mind that at all.

Pants in hand, John answered the door. "If you don't mind waiting,
I'm almost dressed." Maybe if Luka came in, then John could at least
start to put his mind at ease. "You can wait in here if you like."

Out of habit, Luka's eyes swept over John's body as he stepped inside
the younger man's bedroom. "I don't want your Grandmother to be too
upset that we're late for dinner," he commented, as he took a seat on
the couch that Dave had occupied earlier. "Did...you have a good shower?"

Luka couldn't help but think about the earlier conversation, and once
again jealousy invaded his body as thoughts of John and Dave being
together in the cardinal sense crept into his mind. Luka didn't like
being this way -- not in the slightest. But he really couldn't help it.

John nodded as he closed the door. "The water was nice and hot and
just what my back needed. We never did make it into the Jacuzzi," he
commented as he pulled on the slacks he had selected. It was breaking
his heart to see Luka looking sad, and something else. Jealous? That
was certainly possible, John thought. "Luka, I'm sorry about all of
this happening. I know it's partially my fault. Well, mostly my
fault." John sat down in a chair and began to pull on his socks as he
spoke. "If I had waited another day or two before accepting your
offer then you wouldn't be suffering like this right now, and I'm sorry."

Luka looked over to him, truly surprised. "John...do you think that
my feelings of loving you popped up overnight? I've been in love with
you for a long time now, last night just cemented all of it. But I
think that even if we had waited, and Dave had shown up, I still would
be feeling the kind of hurt that I am now...only then...I think I
would have truly known that it was over. The...the last thing I want
to do is pressure you, you know that, but the only difference
is...before we made love again, you would have been able to let me go,
a clean cut as they say. But because of last night, you're not able
to do that. I know that you're realizing your own feelings for me,"
Luka continued before John could speak again. "So I know it's not a
matter of obligation, but I almost think it would have been...easier
if last night had never happened..."

Turning his head away, Luka focused his eyes on a picture on the
opposite side of the room, unable to even look at John to see his
reaction. It was all just too painful for him.

John sat down on the loveseat beside Luka. "It's not all that simple,
Luka. I don't have sex with people I don't care about. When we were
together before, it was always you saying that we were just friends
messing around. I talked myself into believing it because you seemed
to believe it so much. But, it just wasn't so, not for me, at least.
And, when I saw Dave on the ship, I found it easier to believe you
than to face the fact that I had cared about you more than a friend
would care about a friend. The first time you ever kissed me, I
shouldn't have kissed you back." John was glad that Luka was looking
elsewhere, as he wasn't too sure that he wanted eye-to-eye contact for
that admission.

John sighed. "I don't know what I should have done. Running wasn't a
choice because you were my friend, and I didn't want to lose you. I
still don't. It's like I said earlier, I really don't like the idea
of losing either you or Dave as a friend. If I just wanted someone to
fuck with, then I could easily find a body, but I don't want that. I
never did. If I choose Dave, then am I going to lose your friendship?
You said something earlier about moving on, so does that mean you'd
leave County? If I don't choose you, are you out of my life forever,
Luka?" John asked, needing to know the answer. He needed to know
that Luka wasn't going to desert him just because he decided to give
his loyalty and love to Dave.

When John admitted that he was sorry that he had ever kissed Luka, it
was once more like a knife was being driven right through his heart.
So it was a mistake...it was all a mistake. Luka wasn't sure how he
felt about that, but he did partially blame himself since he had known
when he had gotten involved with John that his heart belonged to
another...long before John ever admitted that to him.

And as John continued, Luka quickly shook his head. "I am not going
to leave County. And it's very important to me that you're a part of
my life, even if that is a role as a friend, and not a lover. When I
say moving on...I mean moving on past all of this mess. If you do
decide that you want to be with Dave, then there's really nothing I
can do about that. But, I want to make sure that you know that I am
not going to abandon you...that is not my plan at all."

Luka's words were sincere, even though inside he wanted to cry,
because it seemed to him that John had made his choice already.

John slowly nodded as a feeling of relief swept through him. "Thank
you. That's pretty much what Dave said, too." John got to his feet
and reached for the shirt he had left on the bed. "I don't know how
to do this, Luka. How to choose between the two of you, I mean. How
am I supposed to put what I feel for each of you into neat little
boxes for comparison? Love and all the rest is just too complicated
for something like that."

Luka felt a bit of relief at John's words -- so maybe he hadn't made
his decision. It was only a small sense of relief, because part of
him wished that if John was going to let him go, that he would do it
already, instead of continuing to drag his heart through the mud.

"I really don't know what to tell you, John, because for me it is very
simple. But I know that it is not so simple for you. You...I'm
guessing that your heart and your mind will eventually tell you what
is right."

And Luka could only hope that that realization would lead John right
back to him.

"I guess." John began to do up the buttons. "It's not an easy
decision to make. Definitely not one that can be made in a split
second. I guess that's why I was so upset earlier. I didn't feel as
if I could make a decision that important on the spur of the moment."
He looked over at Luka, hoping that Luka would volunteer to give him
all the time he needed in which to reach a decision. It would
definitely take some of the pressure away, John thought.

"No. I imagine it's not an easy decision," Luka said, after a
moment's consideration. "And I'm sure you'll be able to come to one
when you can. I'm sure that your intentions are not to keep either of
us on some sort of a leash, but to ultimately have some happiness..."

Standing up from the couch, Luka brought his gaze over to John once
more. "Are you about ready for dinner? I find that I'm famished..."

Luka didn't want to talk about this anymore, even though he realized
that dinner was *not* going to be an easy thing to get through.

"Just about." John replied as he began to tuck in his shirt. So much
for the assurance that he could have all the time he needed, he
thought. After slipping into his shoes, John turned to face Luka.
"I'm as ready as I'll ever be," he said, but inside his head John was
urging Luka to kiss him, or to reach out and take his hand -- anything
-- any kind of physical contact would be enough to reassure John that
Luka still cared, just as he claimed he did.

They were about to leave, when Luka turned to face John once more, a
half grin on his face. Reaching out his hand, he brushed a stray
piece of hair off of the younger man's forehead, and then smoothed
back his still slightly damp hair.

"That's better," he said, as he ran his fingers lightly down the side
of John's face. "Now you're...dressed to kill...that's the correct
term, right?" Luka then turned towards the door, and slowly opened
in, hoping that John's grandmother would understand why they were late.

John quickly smiled. "That's the correct phrase, yes," he replied.
Inside he was cheering. It wasn't as good of an affirmation as making
love to Dave had been, but it was a start. A good start.

"If Gamma's too upset with us, then we'll find out when we get there
because they'll already have started to eat," John commented as he led
the way downstairs.

But walking into the dining room, John saw that while his grandmother
and Dave had drinks, they weren't eating, and that was a good sign,
even though Millicent made a point of checking her watch as soon as
she saw John. "Sorry we're late. I had showered and Luka was kind
enough to wait for me before coming down."

"I understand...this time," Millicent replied. She found it difficult
to be angry with her grandson, especially under the current
circumstances. "Luka, I'd like for you to sit by me," she added,
indicating the chair to her left and opposite from where Dave was
seated. That left John having to sit at the other end of the table,
and separated from both men by a vacant chair on each side of him.

John took his seat, somewhat grateful for the distance that his
grandmother had managed to arrange to put between him and the other
men. Since he had no appetite, being seated away from them would make
it a bit less noticeable that he wasn't eating, John realized. And,
they would most likely be paying attention to Millicent, giving him a
chance to study each man in turn, as if that alone could give him the
answer he so desperately needed.

Luka obediently went towards his seat, looking at the man who would be
seated across from him has he sat down.

"Dave," he simply said, if only to be polite. Truth be told, if he
never heard the name Dave Malucci again, or saw his face, it would
make Luka's world. But Luka knew that it wasn't that simple. He had
to try to make peace with the hot-headed doctor if he wanted a
*chance* of staying in John's life, even if it made Luka's stomach
turn thinking about it.

Dave had already drunk down half of his glass of soda, and was
grateful to see Henry going to get the food to serve. With a grin, he
looked over to Luka, and then to John. "Glad you guys came down. I'm
so hungry, I was ready to eat the table cloth," he said with a smirk.
Then, he fully turned his gaze over to John, unable to resist
noticing how good the man looked all freshly showered like that.
"Didja have a good shower, John?"

If Dave were alone with Luka and John, he might have been tempted to
add something on about the state that John had been in when they had
arrived back at the house. But he didn't do that -- for John's
grandmother's sake. It wasn't her fault that the three of them were
caught up in a pretty fucked up love triangle.

John nodded as he placed his napkin in his lap. "The water was hot
enough to do me some good," he replied.

Millicent frowned. "You really should see a doctor about your back,
John. I know, I know, you keep telling me that there isn't anything
that can be done for it, but unless you've actually seen a specialist,
then how can you tell?"

"Gamma, there isn't much a doctor can do for me, trust me on that.
Acupuncture helped it before, and so did the yoga, I just haven't had
much of a chance to do either one lately. Besides, it doesn't hurt
all the time." He watched as Henry served Dave, and then proceeded to
move around the table by heading in Millicent's direction next. Good,
he thought. 'Everyone will be busy cutting their roast beef and won't
have the chance to pay attention to me.'

"Back injuries are tricky," Dave said, as he cut into his roast beef.
"You can see all the specialists in the world, and sometimes they
still won't be able to do anything for 'em other than prescribe pain
killers. And that's not an option here. So some of the alternative
meds are the way to go," he mused, as he bit into the meat.

Luka listened and nodded. "I agree, but it probably couldn't hurt for
him to get another doctors opinion. What's the worst that would
happen? He would be told what he already knows?" Biting into his
food, Luka's lips broke into a grin. "This is very good. My
compliments to the chef," he mused, as he looked over to Mrs. Carter.

John silently shook his head as Henry headed in his direction, and the
butler quietly disappeared into the kitchen. John couldn't help but
smile as he listened to Dave and Luka disagree about his back
problems. Their concern for him was obvious and touching. But it
didn't make his decision any easier.

Millicent smiled at Luka. "Corrine makes an excellent pot roast.
It's been a signature specialty of hers for years." She had noticed
that Henry had left the room without serving John and it only
confirmed to her that John was still upset, even though he acted as if
nothing at all was wrong. Harping on him about his back was
definitely not going to make John feel better, so Millicent decided to
change the subject. She had managed to read a little bit of Dave's
resume once she had returned to the house, so she picked a topic from
that.

"I saw on your resume that you spent several years in Grenada," she
said to Dave. "How did you like living down in the islands?"

Dave nodded. "It was actually great. I learned a lot about medical
techniques that you just don't find out about in the States, and it
helped out on more than one occasion in the ER when faced with some
weird stuff that they had never seen before, but were commonplace in
Grenada. I'm also now fluent in Spanish as a result. Yeah, I think
that going to Grenada was one of the best decisions I could have made
for myself, career wise." Well, that and the fact that no Med School
in the US would take him because of how badly he had fucked up in
school. But that wasn't important at the moment.

Luka nodded in agreement. "I think you're right about out of country
experience being a help in the Emergency Room setting," he said,
unable to deny that the younger doctor had a point. "Sometimes you're
able to diagnose things that others don't see right away..." For as
cocky as Dave had been in the hospital, Luka couldn't help but admit
that the man was a good doctor who obviously cared about what he did.
Luka didn't feel that the man should have been fired for his actions
-- how many times had Luka himself lost a patient because of a
judgment call?

Millicent nodded. "I can see where that would be a benefit. I wonder
why you never tried to go out of the country for medical school?" she
asked John.

"It was tempting, but I was having too much fun tormenting grandfather
about my decision to become a doctor," he replied with a grin. There
wasn't much of a need to point out to her that most of the American
med school students who ended up in foreign countries were there
because they weren't able to get into a medical school within the
United States. Why that was always considered to be a bad thing, he
had no idea, as doctors in other countries were certainly as capable
as those in the States. Luka and Dave were both fine examples of
that. So, strike off another item on the comparison list, he thought.
So, sex, friendship, compassion and education were now categories
that he couldn't use.

Dave continued to eat his meal, noticing that all they were doing was
making small talk -- the whole lot of them. It all seemed almost
inane, the four of them having dinner together as if everything was
normal. As if there wasn't some sort of strange stuff going on
between the three men in the room. The desire for Dave to get drunk
had never really been greater, and once he packed up his room, he was
going to hit the bar, and try his best to forget the name John Carter.
At least for one night, he could be numb.

Luka, as well, reflected on his own thoughts. How could he, a man who
was so very much into commitment, honesty, love -- end up in a
situation where he was competing with another man for a third man's
attention? It was a situation that didn't sit very well with him, and
Luka wasn't sure it he would ever feel right about it. This just
wasn't in his nature.

"So...are you going to eat anything at all, John?" Luka finally said,
as he looked over to him. Luka set his own fork down on his plate,
quite finished with his meal. But he was concerned that John had not
eaten at all.

Dave, on the other hand, knew enough about John not to push him when
he wasn't hungry. This had been a bad day for him - for them all --
and John was obviously still upset about Dave's reappearance.

John shook his head as he smiled down the table at Luka. "I'm not
hungry right now," he said. "But don't let me keep you from enjoying
dessert. I'm sure that Corrine's made something wonderful."

The dinner plates were cleared away, and Dave leaned back in his
chair, quite full from his meal. Truth be told, he was anxious to
just get the Hell out of there, but he wouldn't do that, not yet. Not
while there was a chance that he might get to spend some more time
with John. Amazing that that's what his life had boiled down to.
Love made people do funny things.

Luka's eyes drifted towards the kitchen door. "I'm full, but I always
have room for whatever dessert that Corrine has cooked up," he said,
as he looked over towards Mrs. Carter.

Millicent smiled. "I believe that Corrine was making a Black Forest
cake today. It seems she overheard you mentioning that you liked it
and thought you'd enjoy having some." She turned her attention to
Dave. "You'll have to let Corrine know what your favorite foods are,
Dave. She'd be more than happy to prepare something special for you."

Dinner was finally getting the better of John, and he had suddenly
remembered that he had a pack of cigarettes in the glove compartment
of the Jeep. At least he hoped there was still a pack there. It had
been several months since he had quit smoking, but he was pretty sure
that he had placed a pack there. And it was definitely time to take
up smoking again, or else John knew he'd be too tempted by his
grandmother's liquor cabinet -- or worse.

"If you'll excuse me, I need to check on something," John said as he
got to his feet. He placed his napkin on the table and smiled at
everyone in the room. "I shouldn't be long, but please, feel free to
have dessert without me." And then he walked out of the room, but
John wasn't able to really breathe easily until he was in the garage.

Dave's face paled as he watched John jump up and leave. What the
Hell? How were they going to live with this, if they couldn't get
through a simple meal together? "If you'll excuse me, Mrs. C," Dave
said, as he stood. "I think I'd better to check on John. He didn't
seem to be doing so well."

At these words, Luka stood as well. "I can very easily check on him,
Dave," Luka said, returning the other man's stare. "There is no
reason for you to have to trouble yourself...for tonight at least, you
are a guest here..."

"Don't be silly, Luka," Dave said, with a bit of a smile. "Really.
It's not that big of a deal for me to take a walk..."

"Both of you should sit back down and remember that you're trying to
not pressure John," Millicent's voice was firm, but her expression was
sympathetic as she looked from Dave to Luka. "Going after John right
now would only crowd him. All in all, I think dinner went rather well
under the circumstances, wouldn't the two of you agree?" She smiled
as Henry placed a piece of cake in front of Dave. "Thank you, Henry.
We'll need two more slices."

"Yes, madam," he replied before going back into the kitchen for two
more slices of cake.

Resigned, both men sat back down. Luka cast his eyes downward while
Dave began to pick at his piece of Black Forest cake. He really
wasn't hungry anymore -- he was worried. Worried about John. Worried
that he had done something to set him off.

"I agree," Luka finally said after a moment's silence. "Dinner did go
very well."

"Yeah," Dave said, as his fork ran through the cake. "We didn't kill
each other...I guess that's a good sign."

Millicent chuckled. "A very good sign," she commented as a slice of
cake was placed in front of her and then Henry served Luka. "Thank
you," she told the man, but she didn't speak again until Henry was
once more out of the room, although she knew all too well that the
servants in a household were always the first ones who knew what was
going on.

"Seeing the two of you arguing with each other would only make John's
choice more difficult to make. I'm not in any way suggesting that the
two of you become best friends, but if you can find some common
ground, then I'm sure things will go a lot easier on all of you."

Luka nodded in agreement. "Mrs. Carter does have a point," he said,
as he eyed Dave from over the table. "I know we haven't gotten along
lately, but for John's sake...maybe we should try?

Dave was still playing with his piece of cake, more interested in
smashing it then eating it. And he was silent as he thought about
things. His first thought was that Luka was a brownnoser...but then
he realized that Luka actually did have a valid point. "Yeah, I
suppose you're right," he said, casting his eyes downward once more.
"I guess we can call a truce."

Bringing his eyes up, he extended his hand across the table, a slight
grin on his face. Luka, realizing there was no other choice, took it
in his own and shook it. "Yes, truce...we'll do what we can to be on
the best of terms...especially when John is around."

Millicent beamed as she watched the two men shake hands. If nothing
else, then perhaps this entire fiasco would end with the two of them
finding friendship.

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

After finding a half full pack of cigarettes in his Jeep, John had
retreated to the solitude of the pool. He stretched out flat on the
concrete to see if that would make his back feel any better, then lit
up and looked up to the heavens for a sudden answer to his problems.
There was a light breeze and as it made waves in the water, the lights
from the pool rippled outward, causing some very interesting shadows
on everything they touched.

John knew he should be trying to make his decision, but he found
himself mesmerized by the flickering shadows. If -- and that was a
big *if* -- he could get Luka to go along with the idea of him
spending one night with Dave and the next with Luka and so on, then
John could get what he wanted, and they wouldn't be the wiser. But,
that solution only worked if Luka and Dave were willing to let him
have as much time as he needed, and somehow John knew that neither man
was going to be willing to do that. Not that he could really blame
them. As much as he wanted to keep both men, he knew that they needed
closure, and the chance to move on.

Knowing that he'd still have their friendship was a big relief to
John. He had been so afraid that if he chose one over the other, then
he'd lose a friend, too. So, keeping hold of a friend now wasn't an
issue. What could be a deciding factor? That was going to have to be
the first thing that John thought up, he realized. Just what criteria
was he going to use in order to assess Dave against Luka? His mind
went back over the options he'd already considered. Remaining friends
was out -- they both had assured him that they wouldn't leave him.
Sex was probably out, as well, unless John wanted to get picky and
rate them according to what each one of them would and wouldn't do.
And if he was going to do *that*, then it would only be fair to make
sure they knew it, and John wasn't quite ready to confess to all of
his likes and dislikes.

Love? They both said they loved him, and he loved each of them.
True, it wasn't the same kind of love, but it was love. And not just
the kind of love that you feel for a good friend, either. John had
those kinds of feelings for Abby and Deb, and he knew that what he
felt for Luka and Dave went way beyond what he felt for the two women.

Two cigarettes later, John was still trying to think of how to judge
one lover against the other. Dinner certainly had to be over and he
knew he needed to get back to the house -- if for no other reason than
to say goodnight to Dave. And he still needed to fully talk with Luka
about things. Yet John was reluctant to leave the quiet of the pool,
and he decided that it wouldn't hurt to stay five minutes longer.

Dessert was long over at the main house. Luka had retired up to his
room -- his patience on trying to get along with Dave could only go so
far. So that left Dave and Millicent waiting patiently at the dining
room table for John to get back. He wasn't going to give him that
much more time -- as much as he wanted to see John before heading back
to his hotel, the desire to get drunk was almost overwhelming him.

Dave took another sip of his soda, and smiled over to Mrs. Carter, who
was waiting patiently with him. "You should go ahead, Mrs. C. I'll
wait for John."

That was, if John ever got his ass back to the house...

John checked his watch and saw that the time he had given himself as a
deadline for going back in had passed. Sighing, he put out his
cigarette, pocketed the rest of the pack and headed back to the house.
He went in through the kitchen, noticing that it was cleaned and
quiet, an indication that dinner was long over. While he wasn't
hungry enough to eat a meal, he had been hoping to snag a leftover or
two. Since that was now out of the question, John decided on getting
something to drink, and he opened the refrigerator and grabbed the
bottle of orange juice. Even though he knew that he should be using a
glass, it just felt like too much of a bother.

Looking around to make sure he was alone, John removed the lid and
took a couple of deep swallows, the cold juice feeling good against a
throat he hadn't realized was thirsty. John licked his lips clean and
replaced the orange juice, then continued on through the kitchen to
the rest of the house.

Feeling guilty and hoping he hadn't missed Dave, John stepped into the
dining room. Much to his relief, Dave was still at the table.
"You're still here?" he asked with a smile.

Dave had been sitting by himself at the dining room table for a good
twenty minutes after Mrs. Carter retired for the night. He wasn't
even sure why he was sticking around, other than hoping to get to see
John one more time before getting totally shitfaced. He was just
beginning to give up hope when he heard a familiar voice from the
dining room door.

Returning the smile, Dave lifted his head up. "Yeah, but I was
gettin' ready to bug out. You...you doin' all right? I...I was
worried about you. I wanted to come after you, but your Gamma advised
against it."

John nodded. "I'm okay. I just needed some fresh air, that's all.
I'm glad you stayed." John took a step further into the room, wanting
to kiss Dave goodnight, yet not sure if he should. Even though they
had made love earlier, John was all too aware that he still needed to
talk things over with Luka, and he wasn't sure that letting himself
get all worked up by necking with Dave would be the best prelude to
that talk.

"I...I almost left, but, I couldn't go without seeing you one more
time. I...I don't know...still tryin' to get used to all this, you
know? Luka and I have called a truce, we're gonna try to get along
for as long as possible...so that we don't put any added pressure on
you. Just...just know that I love you, okay? I..."

Dave stood from his chair, and made his way around the edge of the
table. Walking up to John, he tentatively reached out his hand, and
gave John's shoulder a gentle squeeze. Then Dave slowly moved his
fingers down John's arm, and found his hand and interlaced their
fingers together. "I just don't wanna be without you anymore, you know?"

Bringing his other hand to the side of John's face, Dave caressed his
cheek, his lips forming a soft smile. And as their eyes locked, Dave
leaned in, and he locked his lips with John's as well. John's clothes
smelled of smoke, and if Dave was in a state of mind other than
wanting to just be, he might have minded. But he didn't want to think
about it. All of Dave's energy was channeled into one thing. If Dave
had to leave, he was going to make sure he left with John thinking of
*him*, and not anyone else.

The kiss was everything John had hoped and feared it would be, and his
body instantly responded to it. As it ended though, he resisted the
urge to pull Dave close to him for another. "I've missed you. It
shouldn't be like this, Dave, it just shouldn't. I'm sorry I didn't
wait longer for you to call or show up or something. I'm sorry I ever
kissed Luka back in the first place, even though we weren't back
together then." John smiled sadly. "Not that I'm sorry for ever
being with Luka or loving him, but I'm sorry for the hurt that my, I
guess loneliness is as good a word as any, has caused."

Dave listened to John speak, and cast his eyes down, resisting the
temptation to tell John that it could be very simple -- that he should
tell the Croatian Love Machine to go scratch while Dave and John rode
off into the sunset together, but Dave was afraid that that would push
him away again. So instead, Dave decided to take the simple approach.

"I'm sorry too," Dave said, his voice sad. "I'm sorry for not trying
harder to keep you, and I'm sorry for lettin' you get away again. I
think I'd better go, or I'm gonna be tempted to seduce you...make you
come back with me, make you forget anything but me. But I don't wanna
do that to you...don't wanna make you more confused then you already are."

John reached out and lifted Dave's chin, looking him once more in the
eyes. "Thank you." He leaned in for a quick kiss, and then took a
step back from Dave. "I do love you. Nothing will ever change that,
Dave."

Dave pulled away as well, taking back his hands so he could cross them
protectively over his chest. "I know," he simply said. Getting a
grip on his emotions again, he plastered a grin on his face. "Well.
I'd better get going. A night of packin' awaits me so I can move into
my new digs. What's your schedule tomorrow? Maybe we can hang out or
something for a bit when you're off of work?"

Dave was willing to do just about anything to spend time with John,
hoping that it would help John make his ultimate decision.

John nodded. "The same as today, six until noon, so if you need help
moving in, just wait until after noon and I'll be available," John
offered with a smile, meaning that in more than one way.

Dave's grin turned wider. "Okay. I might just do that," he said,
cocking his head to one side. "Of course, I might need help taking a
certain thing I own in and out of something else...you think you might
be up for that as well?"

Dave's eyes were sparkling with mischief, and already he was feeling a
bit better. Dave didn't think that was going to stop him from getting
plastered -- but he was feeling a bit better.

John's smile turned wicked. "Oh, yeah, I'm pretty sure I'll be up for
that."

Dave nodded, and then took a step closer to John. "Well, I really
think I'd better get outta here or I'm *never* gonna leave.."
Reaching out, he pulled John into his embrace again, and then planted
his lips onto John's. After probing the man's mouth with his tongue,
Dave finally pulled away, and forced himself to move from John's embrace.

"Somethin' to remember me by," Dave said, his eyes twinkling once
more. And then, before he could change his mind, Dave was gone -- out
of the dining room and through the living room, out of the front door
and towards the car he had parked in the driveway earlier in the day.
Amazing how his life had changed once again in a matter of a few
hours. And as Dave drove back towards his hotel, he couldn't help but
hope that John would make the decision that would make *both* of them
happy -- which was for John to spend the rest of his life with Dave.
And right then, Dave swore to himself that if the fates allowed that
to happen, he would *never* let John go again.


To be continued
Chapter Twenty-Seven by MonaCK
"Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes, Part 27"
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts


John walked to the front door and watched as Dave drove away, the
taste of the man still on his lips. It was tempting at that moment to
run after Dave and tell him to stay, that John wanted him forever.
And he did. But he also wanted the man who was upstairs.

John closed and locked the door, then climbed the stairs to the second
story. By the time he reached Luka's door, his arousal had ebbed, and
John felt more than ready to have that discussion with Luka. Well, as
ready as he'd ever be.

He knocked lightly on the door. "Luka? Are you still awake?"

Luka was laying down in his bed, arm covering his eyes. The emotion
of the day was still quite high, and now he was worried that John
wasn't back yet. What if Dave had gone off and found him, and had
managed to convince John to spend the night with him? What if John
had left both of them?

It seemed that his life was full of what if's these days, and he was
thinking about this fact when he heard the knock on the door.

"Yes.. come in," he answered, as he sat up on the bed. The light was
on in the room, and Luka inclined his head towards the door, wondering
what was awaiting him in terms of his talk with John.

John quietly opened the door, then closed it behind him, leaning
against it as he looked over to where Luka sat on the bed. "I didn't
wake you, did I?" he asked, even though he could plainly see that Luka
was still dressed and on top of the covers. Still, it made
conversation, and put off their talk a little bit.

Luka quickly shook his head. "No.. no you didn't wake me. I was
just...waiting for you. Did...your walk clear your head a little bit?"

Awkward. Luka suddenly felt awkward. That closeness that had been
there just twenty four hours prior was almost gone, and this saddened
Luka more than anything else. He was hoping that once the air
cleared, and John was more sure of what he wanted, that Luka and John
would be able to work back towards...something.

"I didn't go for another walk, but the fresh air did me some good.
Although I'm no closer to knowing just how to phrase what it is I need
to tell you than I was before," John admitted with a shy smile. He
indicated the love seat at the foot of Luka's bed. "Mind if I sit down?"

"Of course you can sit," Luka said, sitting up further in the bed.
"And whatever it is that you have to tell me...I usually find it's
best to just say things that are your mind, John."

Even though John had assured Luka earlier that he hadn't come to a
decision yet, Luka had to admit that he was still a little bit nervous
as to what was in John's thoughts.

John chuckled. What Luka was saying made sense, but only if you
really knew what was exactly on your mind, he thought. He sat down,
turning around in the love seat so he could look at Luka while he
spoke. "I think that it's only fair that you and Dave be treated
equally. Get equal chances at things. Or at least offered equal
chances." John really wasn't sure how Luka was going to handle what
he had to say, but he plowed on. "Dave asked me to stay with him in
the guest cottage from time to time. I told him I would, but that I'd
also give you the same chance. So, if you want me to, I can sleep
with you. I mean, spend the night with you, here in your room...from
time to time. Or at least every other night or something like that."
John knew he was rambling but he couldn't help it. It wasn't easy
telling the man you loved that you were going to be sleeping with the
'other' man you loved and that you hoped he understood.

John looked away from Luka and his eyes rested on the aquarium against
the wall. How many times was he going to have to move that, John
wondered. He had helped Abby take it to Luka's apartment, then helped
Luka move it here. John didn't want to think about when he'd be
helping Luka move it away.

Luka considered this for a moment. Luka knew without a shadow of a
doubt that he would be very jealous of any nights that he spent
completely with Dave, but Luka couldn't say anything about that -- it
was not his place. "I...I'm not sure that it's a good idea that we
share a bed...all night anyway," Luka finally said, after a moments
consideration. "I mean...I want to spend time with you, but if I get
used to sleeping next to you at night...I'm always going to be
wondering about you on nights when I sleep alone. So I think it
might be better until you come to a decision for me to sleep in my
bed...and you to sleep in yours."

Luka brought his eyes up to John's, hoping that he wasn't completely
hurting the man with his words. But one thing he wanted to try to do
was to be as honest with John as possible. And Luka needed to protect
himself, at least a little bit. If Dave could handle only having John
half the time, then good for him. Luka couldn't handle it at all.

"Oh," John quietly said when Luka was done speaking. It wasn't the
answer he had been hoping to get. How could he hold onto Luka if he
couldn't be with him? John wanted to argue the point with Luka, but
if Luka didn't think he could handle it, then John knew it would be
wrong for him to force Luka into having him around. But it did seem
to John that Luka was, more or less, looking at things from the
viewpoint of John choosing Dave, and he hadn't done that yet.

John got to his feet. "Well, I just wanted you to know that. If you
change your mind, then let me know." He looked at Luka, trying to
read the expression in the man's eyes. "I haven't made my choice yet,
Luka, and there's no reason for you to just assume that I'm not going
to choose you. Just as Dave can't assume that I'm not going to choose
him. It just doesn't seem...fair...that I'll be able to make love to
Dave but not to you, but if that's what you want...well, I won't argue
with you about it."

Luka opened his eyes, surprised. "No...no, John...that's not what I
meant at all. I...I would still like very much to...to make love to
you. But I don't think I can spend the whole night with you, meaning
that I would prefer to sleep alone. But...but I have to admit that I
would still very much to have some of the closeness we had begun to
share together..."

He hoped he wasn't asking for too much. And Luka wasn't even sure he
could handle *that* much of it. But without a doubt, Luka knew he was
sunk if he got used to falling asleep with John by his side.

"Oh," John repeated, but this time he didn't feel as down about
things. Luka still wanted him and that was a good sign. Sitting back
down, he smiled at Luka. "I don't want to lose that closeness,
either. It's been nice, very nice. Abby said that if she knew you
were so talkative, she'd have never let you go, but instead she would
have sat on you until you talked with her the way you do with me,"
John said, his thoughts about leaving right then long gone. Luka
wanted him, and John had to admit that the idea of making love to Luka
was one he enjoyed. He just wasn't sure if Luka would be willing to
make love right then, although John wanted it very much. He didn't
think he could get it up for Luka, his body had been through too much
during the day for him to think he could, his recent arousal
notwithstanding, but he would most definitely enjoy doing all he could
to pleasure Luka.

Luka couldn't help but laugh. "Well...Abby was the one who never
wanted to talk," Luka admitted, a small smile on his face. "She was
always much more comfortable talking to you than talking to me. I
tried to get her to open up to me...but..."

Luka shrugged. "I guess you're just very easy to talk to, John."

Luka wasn't sure where they were supposed to go from here. He knew
that John had been with Dave earlier in the evening -- and Luka still
wasn't sure how he felt about that.

"Yeah," John smirked. "They always want to 'talk' to me, but no one
ever wanted to...never mind, it's not important, especially now."
John had been about to comment that no one had ever wanted to be with
him, but now he was faced with two men who wanted to be with him. How
did that old saying go? "Be careful what you wish for, you just might
get it," he muttered.

Luka rose a brow. "Hmm? What was that? Be careful what you wish for?
And what exactly are you wishing for, John," he said, as he rose off
the bed. His libido was getting the better of him, and even though he
wasn't sure if his heart was completely into it yet, Luka had a desire
to get closer to John once more. Sitting down on the love seat next
to John, he turned to face him once more.

"So what do you wish for?"

John smiled. "I can't tell you because I promised to not mention it
any more," he quickly replied. "Truthfully, I was thinking about how
much I used to long for someone to love me the same way or more than I
loved them, and now look at me. I have two sexy and wonderful men who
feel that way and I don't know what to do about it."

Luka was silent for a moment, keeping his hands to his side as he
thought about his answer. "Well, honestly John, one day you'll know
the answer to that," he said, as he brought his eyes to meet John's
once more. "All...all that Dave and I can do is hope that you make
the decision that makes *you* happiest, because I...I think that's
what we both want...is to see you happy..."

John reached up and laid his hand against Luka's cheek. "And all I
want is for each of you to be happy, but that's not going to happen,
is it?" he asked, unable to keep the sadness out of his voice. It was
breaking his heart to see how much Luka and Dave were hurting,
especially since John knew he was the cause of that hurt.

Luka's eyes fluttered closed, and he brought his own hand up to cover
Johns, as it rested against his face. "I can only speak for myself,
John, but any time I get to spend with you makes me happy...and if I
end up having to adjust that so that we are only spending time
together on a friendship level...then that is what I'll have to do."

Luka brought his own fingers to John's cheek, caressing his skin ever
so gently. "I do love you, John, you know that, right? And it's
because of that that I'll do anything that you want me to do..."

John turned his head enough so that he could capture Luka's fingers in
his mouth. Doing something, even if it was merely sucking on Luka's
fingers, was far better than arguing with Luka over what he had said.
Because they both knew that Luka wouldn't really do anything that
John wanted, or else he would have easily agreed to John's desire to
not to have to choose.

Luka's eyes fluttered shut once more, enjoying the feeling of John
suckling on his finger. And the very sensation was making his penis
stir to life as it was reminded of how John's mouth felt on that
particular area of his body. Taking John's hand from his cheek, Luka
brought it to his mouth, and mimicked John's actions, sucking on
John's fingers as well.

Luka decided at that moment to try his best to forget about the issues
and enjoy the fact that John was there with him -- right at that
moment -- even if he knew that that might not be the case the
following day.

John moaned as Luka began to mimic his actions, and he was happily
surprised to see that he had been wrong about his physical condition
-- his cock was instantly hard the moment Luka's lips touched his fingers.

John let go of Luka's fingers, but he kept a grip on Luka's wrist as
he began to kiss his way up Luka's arm, intending to end his journey
at Luka's mouth.

Luka had begun a mini-assault on John's hand, bringing each finger
into his mouth as he suckled on each one, like it was a special treat
that he should enjoy and savor.

His 'snack' was interrupted by something much much better, though. As
John's lips left a trail of pleasure throughout his body, his mouth
was soon just inches away from Luka's.. and Luka took this opportunity
to kiss his lover fully and passionately. Yes. This was what he
wanted, and once again, Luka couldn't help but feel that right where
he was was where he belonged.

As their kiss deepened, John began to undo the buttons of Luka's
shirt, suddenly desperate to be skin to skin with the man. He needed
and wanted so badly to please Luka, to keep him close, and the only
way he knew to do that was to make love to the man and be better at it
than anyone Luka had ever had before.

It was a challenge that John usually liked taking, but this time it
seemed much more important that he not fail, and that added a whole
new urgency to his movements. He remembered Dave's questions on if
Luka knew how to please him, and John felt that perhaps the time had
come to give Luka some 'hints' about things like that. Anything to
keep Luka's interest.

Luka was breathless as he broke away from the kiss. And his eyes were
wild with desire as he looked at the man before him. He penis swelled
even further at the thought of being in bed with John. Yes. His
desire for the man was growing with every passing moment.

Soon, he realized that John had completely taken off Luka's shirt, and
Luka felt to be fair that he should do the same. Nimbly, he opened up
the buttons on front of John's shirt, and his fingers moved down to
play with the fly of John's pants.

"Shall we take this to the bed?"

"Yes," John eagerly agreed and the two men got to their feet, making
it all the easier to finish undressing each other. John drew back the
covers, then looked over his shoulder at Luka, a shy smile on his
face. "Can I ask you a question?" It was time to drop some hints,
John decided. Or to maybe even be fully direct about what he wanted.
As long as they still ended up in bed, it really didn't matter to John
how they got there.

Luka's hands moved towards John's back, the desire to touch some part
of his skin was overwhelming. As John asked his question, he nodded.
"Of course you can ask me a question. What's on your mind?"

"Have you...have you ever given much thought to bondage?" John looked
down, not quite sure if he wanted to see the look in Luka's eyes at
that question. It wasn't a bad choice since John ended up looking
directly at Luka's erection, and he smiled as he thought about all he
could do to that cock to make Luka squirm and feel good.

Luka was silent. So silent that the room was almost deafening with
the quiet as Luka tried to form his answer to John's inquiry.
Bondage? That was...tying people up. Luka wasn't sure how he felt
about that.

"What do you mean by bondage?"

Luka's expression was pensive as he asked, but he wanted to make sure
he knew exactly what he was dealing with.

John shrugged. "You know...tying someone down to the bed and having
your way with them...you know what....forget I asked. It's stupid."
He began to crawl onto the bed, embarrassed at having asked Luka that
question in the first place.

Luka opened his mouth, and then shut it again. "If it's something
that you're interested in, then it's not stupid," he said, as he
followed John onto the bed. "I'm...I'm not sure if it's something
that I am interested in, but I do want to know what you like and you
don't like. Why don't you tell me about it, and we'll see where it
goes from there, okay?"

Luka sensed John's apprehension, and reached for him, pulling the
younger man into his embrace. "If you don't tell me about it, how am
I going to know?"

"There's not much to tell, really. You just tie something to my
wrists, then tie the other end of the tie or rope or whatever to each
bedpost. Same thing with my ankles. And then you have your way with
me," John said, but he could feel his cheeks burning and he still
didn't dare to look at Luka's face. What if Luka thought that was
repulsive or sick or too kinky? John didn't want to see that in
Luka's eyes if he did feel those things.

Luka shut his eyes, thoughts invading his mind that he did not want to
deal with, but he knew that he had to. If Luka outright refused, John
was going to take that as a rejection, and Luka didn't want that. He
owed John some kind of an explanation.

"I'm not sure if I'm entirely comfortable with that...and you have to
understand why...where I came from...I can't even begin to describe to
you the type of torture I saw with my own eyes, not the least of which
involved my own children and wife being killed. After...after they
died, I walked through the streets. The things I saw...people being
tied up...people being beaten...unable to move...unable to
think...John, I'm very very sorry, but this is something that I just
cannot do to someone that I love."

Unwillingly there were tears in his eyes as the memories came rushing
back to him. He was no longer in the mood for sex, the mood was gone
for him. In his mind he was back in Croatia...wandering through the
streets, looking for anyone that he knew, anyone who had
survived...and instead being met with visions that he never wanted to
see again.

John could feel the tension suddenly envelope Luka's body and he
immediately regretted ever asking Luka that question. "I'm sorry...I
had no idea. It's okay, Luka." He looked up and his heart broke
once more at the look in Luka's eyes. The man was obviously
remembering those times, and John felt guilty for being the catalyst
for that. He gently touched Luka's cheek. "I'm sorry."

"It's okay, you couldn't have known," Luka said, his voice soft. He
kept his body very still, the moment that had been so nice only
minutes before was completely gone, and Luka suddenly wanted to do
nothing more than go to sleep. "I'm...I'm sorry as well. Can...can
you just stay with me for a little while? I don't think...I'm
sorry...I don't want to disappoint you..."

"I can stay here for as long as you like." John reached down and
pulled the covers up over the both of them, then wrapped his arms
around Luka, holding him tightly. He wanted to do all he could to
comfort Luka, and if Luka didn't think that he could be comforted by
sex, then John wasn't going to force the issue. A small voice in the
back of his head reminded him that sex didn't always fix all hurts.

"I promise that I won't fall asleep here since you don't want that,"
John said, remembering that Luka had said he didn't want to get used
to having John sleeping beside him.

Luka nodded, putting his own hands over John's as he pulled himself
into the younger man's embrace. "You...you can stay the night if you
want. I don't want to get used to it, but for tonight..,for tonight I
think it would be okay..."

Luka was feeling more needy than he remembered feeling in a long time.
The rush of memories had done that to him -- the feeling of
loneliness after he lost his wife and children. And Luka found that
he did not want to be alone again. And there was no reason for it --
at least not for that night. He just...Luka just hoped he wasn't
setting himself up for a large fall.

"Thank you...for being here tonight," he said, his voice laced with
exhaustion. And before he could even form another thought in his
head, Luka's eyes drifted shut. Feeling safe, he feel to sleep rather
quickly.

As John held Luka close, he found himself wondering how he could ever
forsake the man. It was obvious that Luka needed someone around to
love him and take care of him, and he obviously felt that John fit
that role. Dave...Dave was self-reliant and didn't act as if he
needed anyone around. But John knew that was mostly an act. Dave did
need people, he just didn't like admitting to that need.

And so, John was once more left no closer to a decision than before.
It was a long time before his eyes closed and he fell asleep.

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

"One Bourbon...one Scotch...and one Beer....I ain't seen my baby since
the night before last...gonna get goosed man...I'm gonna get
gassed...gonna get stoned baby...gonna get drunk...gimme a triple shot
of that stuff...one Bourbon...one Scotch...and one Beer..."

Dave was drunk. And as luck would have it, it was karaoke night at
the hotel bar. Dave had just enough liquid courage in him to think
that going up to sing was a good idea, much to the chagrin of everyone
around him. He had picked the song "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One
Beer" by George Thoroughgood, which was not only a song he could
stumble through, but it was also one of the longest songs in the
Karaoke Host's repertoire.

He finally finished singing, and obtained a smattering of applause.
Stumbling back to his seat, he sat down, feeling quite depressed. He
was here. John wasn't. John was likely fucking another man at that
very moment, and Dave was unable to get that thought out of his head.
The waiter brought over another drink, and as Dave took a sip, he
pulled his cell phone out of his pocket.

Fuck it. He was going to give John a call...tell him how much he
loved him...beg him to dump the Croatian, and be only with him.

It took a couple of tries, but he finally got the call to go through.
And it rang straight through to John's voicemail. He waited for the
message to finish, and then he began to speak.

"John...John, man, it's...it's Dave, I...God...I love you so fucking
much...and...and I'm so sorry for causin' all of this. I'll do
anything...anything to make things like they used to be...I...I can't
be like this. I can't stand the thought of you bein' with anyone
else...please...tell me that you'll come back...please..."

Tears had begun to roll down his cheeks, and the waiter dropped off
Dave's check, clearly sure that Dave was too drunk to be served
anymore. And as Dave shut off his cell phone, he gave his room number
to the waiter, and made is way upstairs.

He practically fell into his room, and he crawled onto the bed, not
even bothering to get undressed. And soon he passed out -- too drunk
to even think about doing anything else.

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

Sunlight streamed into the window, waking Luka from an otherwise sound
slumber. A sleepy eye on his alarm clock told him he did not need to
be awake for a few more minutes, but it seemed that he could no longer
sleep. His head was swimming with thoughts, most of them having to do
with the man peacefully sleeping by his side.

Extracting himself from John's embrace, Luka sighed as he got up from
the warmth of his covers. There was no point in him laying there
anymore -- he was sure that sleep would no longer return, so he
decided to take a shower and get ready for work.

Stripping down to nothing, Luka grabbed his towel, and headed into the
bathroom, intent on spending a long while under the hot spray of the
shower.

John slowly opened his eyes, at first not sure where he was and then
he remembered falling asleep in Luka's room. His joy at that was
quickly dashed as he remembered just why it was that Luka had given in
and allowed him to stay all night -- he had made Luka remember some
horrible things by asking a stupid question. Guilt washed over John
once more and he reached out to touch Luka, to make sure the man was
all right.

And all he found was a cold sheet. Then John heard the sound of water
running and he realized Luka had gone to shower to get ready for work.
He briefly thought about joining him in there, but Luka hadn't wanted
to have sex last night and John wasn't sure if he would be in the mood
for it right then.

Maybe Luka had changed his mind about wanting him, period, John
thought. It wouldn't surprise him if Luka had -- not after the way he
had botched things up between them. John got out of bed and began to
put on his clothes, intending to return to his own room to get ready
for his shift at the hospital. Maybe it was better this way, he
thought. With Luka rejecting him, John no longer had to make a choice
-- but it still hurt.

Luka felt much better after his shower, almost like a new man. It was
amazing what a little hot water could do to a man's psyche, and he
actually found himself smiling as he finished brushing back his hair.

A few moment's later, he pushed his way back into his bedroom,
stopping dead in his tracks when he noticed that John was gone from
the bed. Somehow, Luka wasn't expecting that, and he wasn't sure why.
Though...Luka did realize that he had brought it on himself. He had
probably given John some sort of a complex when he had gone to shower
without waking John first...but John had just looked so peaceful,
laying there.. sleeping...

But now, John was gone -- likely back in his own room to get ready for
work. So Luka quickly got dressed, and then headed over towards
John's suite of rooms, where he knocked softly on the door.

When John had walked into his room, he heard the sound of either his
cell phone or his pager vibrating against the wooden top of his
dresser. He quickly walked over and checked both objects, discovering
that it was his cell phone vibrating to let him know he had a voice
mail message.

He punched in his password, then listened to a message from Dave. A
very drunk Dave. And again, John's heart broke. How could he go on
hurting Dave and Luka the way he had? Or rather, since Luka no longer
wanted him around, how could he keep hurting Dave? And John knew
that's what would happen if he stayed with Dave -- he'd just keep
hurting him over and over again. Just as Dave had accused him of
doing the day before.

John was brought out of his thoughts by the sound of someone knocking
softly on the door, but he wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone. "Go
away," he called out, but even as he said the words, he knew he needed
a reason to tell someone to leave him alone. "I'm...getting dressed,"
he weakly added. How could he go to work and face Luka all day long?
How could he come home and face Dave? John dropped his cell phone on
the bed as he sat down on the mattress, and he rested his head in his
hands as he wondered just how it had happened that he had managed to
hurt two very special people so badly.

Luka furrowed his brow. "John, is..,are you okay? Please..,let me
in." There was a tone in John's voice that indicated to him that
there was something very wrong. And Luka was concerned enough that he
wasn't going to leave just yet.

The door wasn't locked. John realized that as he listened to Luka's
voice. Hell, he didn't need to have Luka put his rejection into words
-- not right then, anyway. John quietly walked over to the door.
"I'm getting dressed, Luka," he said as he turned the lock to keep
Luka and everyone else out. "Just go away."

Something had happened...something...and then, in his heart, Luka
knew. John had made his decision. John didn't want to be with
him...maybe because of the fact that Luka hadn't slept with him the
night before...maybe because he wasn't into...bondage or whatever it
was called. But whatever the reason, Luka knew when he was no longer
wanted.

"Fine," he finally said, after a moments silence. "I'll see you at
work..."

Luka didn't want to stick around to deal with this any longer. He
didn't have the strength to try to figure out for sure what it was
that he had done wrong. So instead, he decided to avoid the problem.

"Yeah," John said from the safety of his room. "I'll catch up to you
there." He blinked back tears as he turned away from the door. There
was no way he could handle seeing Luka at work -- not that day. Maybe
not any other day.

He picked up his cell phone and quickly dialed the number for the ER,
leaving a message that he wasn't going to be in. So what if it meant
he was shirking his responsibilities as Chief Resident and maybe even
hurting his chances of being an attending? It had been stupid of him
to think that he could have chosen Dave over Luka and then been able
to exist merely as Luka's friend. Or vice versa. Just plain stupid
all the way around. There was no way he could ever handle that, and
he nearly laughed out loud at himself for ever thinking he could.

John curled up under his covers and just let himself cry until he fell
asleep.


To be continued.
Chapter Twenty-Eight by MonaCK
"Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes, Part 28"
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts


Luka exited the exam room, and looked down at his shirt in disgust.
Only the second patient of the day, and already he had been vomited
on. After signing off on the patient's chart, Luka replaced it in the
bin, and then headed off to the supply closet to get a fresh pair of
scrubs.

A few moments later, Luka was freshly changed, and decided that since
it was relatively quiet, it would be a good time to head over to the
lounge to grab himself a fresh cup of coffee. The conversation with
John in the morning was still weighing heavily on his mind. Luka
couldn't figure out for the life of him why John had acted the way
that he did. So far, he had not seen John come in, but that didn't
mean anything -- they often had different paths once they came to work.

Pushing open the door, a smile flickered on his lips as he spotted
Abby sitting on the couch, drinking her own cup of coffee. "Good
morning, Abby," he said as he walked over to the coffee machine.
"How's the coffee today? Okay to drink, or should I run over to Docs?"

Abby looked up at Luka and grimaced. "It's never okay to drink, but
we do it anyway. Besides, there's not time to run over to Doc's, not
with John out sick. How is he?" She asked, her grimace turning to a
look of concern as she waited for Luka's diagnosis of what had been so
bad as to keep John away from work. The man never called in sick, and
everyone had been surprised when he had gone on that two-week cruise.
John hadn't had any real time off since either his stay in Atlanta or
his medical leave after the stabbing, depending on how much you knew
about him.

Luka looked over to Abby from the coffee pot in surprise. "John
called out sick...? I...when I left the house, he told me that he
would see me here...I hope he's okay..." Obviously, whatever had
happened this morning was having a profound effect on John, and once
more Luka wondered what the Hell had happened.

"Yeah, um," Abby raised her eyebrows in surprise. "Frank said he
called in around six and that he sounded...strange. Definitely not
himself." With the way John and Luka had been walking on cloud nine
the day before, Abby was surprised that Luka hadn't known that John
was ill. Perhaps they had fought or something? She almost found
herself hoping they had, and that one or both men would realize that
they really didn't have feelings for each other after all and get back
to being straight. At least then she'd have a chance with one or the
other of them.

Luka shook his head, returning Abby's gaze. "Did Frank say what was
wrong? It's not like him to call out, and frankly, I'm worried about
him Abby. Abby...Dave came back yesterday, and...everything was
thrown into a loop...and I think it was too much for John to take..."

Luka knew that Abby was aware of what was going on -- and he was
pretty sure that John had confided in her about Dave. So she was one
of the few people that he felt safe talking to about all of this.

Abby frowned. "Dave Malucci? I thought he had dumped John. I
remember John saying that Malucci had seemed to move on shortly after
the cruise. He was fired or something like that, right?" Suddenly,
Abby's fear that she was turning all of her boyfriends -- or, would-be
boyfriends, gay, seemed unimportant. She remembered how John had
literally glowed with love when he came back from the cruise. But it
wasn't until she pressed him for details about his obvious shipboard
romance that he had finally told her about Dave Malucci. As Abby had
listened to John telling her about how the two of them had been a
couple even before Dave had been fired, Abby realized that she had
been blind and stupid to have ever thought that John was pining away
for her. Oh, he had been pining away, all right -- just not for her.

But, despite her disillusionment over that, Abby had been happy that
John and Dave had gotten back together. Malucci planned to move back
to Chicago in a few months and John had been so excited about that.
And then he had tried to call Dave and found out the man had dumped
him without a word of warning. Shortly after that is when Abby got
her second surprise as John told her about Luka's offer. But, she had
recovered from that and encouraged John to work past his feelings for
someone who obviously didn't give a damn about him and instead do his
best to have a relationship with someone who did -- Luka.

And now Luka was telling her that Malucci had shown up after all?
That couldn't be right, it just couldn't be. Abby felt that Luka's
words about it being too much for John to take were an understatement,
considering all he had told her about his feelings for Dave and then
how he felt about Luka.

What a mess.

"No...he didn't dump John...it was apparently a misunderstanding.
Malucci came to the house, looking for a job as Mrs. Carter's personal
physician. John and I came home from work yesterday, to find Dave in
the sitting room with her. Dave and I put perhaps a little too much
pressure on John to make a decision on who he wanted to be with, and
now...John wants to work something out so that he can be with both of
us, because he claims to be in love with both of us...and while Dave
and I do not agree on much...we do agree that this would not be a good
thing in the long run. I...I can't have that, Abby. I can't have the
person who I am committed to committed to another person as
well...things were doing better, I thought, but something must have
happened this morning. When I left for work, John was acting strange..."

Luka took a deep breath and looked over to Abby. He had no idea how
he and John were going to ever get past this, if at all. And then
there was Dave...would Dave take no for an answer if John ultimately
decided to stay with him? Luka just didn't know.

Abby got to her feet and walked over to Luka, giving him a hug because
he definitely looked as if he could use one. "It's not just a claim,
Luka. John told me how he felt about you. He *does* love you. And
he also happens to love Malucci. I'm so sorry about this. I can't
even begin to imagine the Hell all of you must be going through over
this." She didn't particularly care about how Malucci felt, but Abby
couldn't stand the thought of John and Luka hurting so badly.

"It is a bit of a mess," Luka admitted, allowing himself to feel the
comfort of his former girlfriend's arms around him. "It's been less
than twenty-four hours, and I don't think I can handle it...and yet
John wants as much time as he needs to make a decision. Honestly, I
don't know if I can do it. We can't talk to John, out of fear of him
going into a breakdown.. and he just doesn't understand that he is
toying with both my and Malucci's feelings here..."

"A breakdown?" Abby looked up at Luka in disbelief. "John Carter is
much stronger than that, Luka. You should know that. The worst this
might do is make him crave the sensation of being high, but a
breakdown?" She shook her head. "Not John."

Luka shook his head, his mind on the present as well as the past and
what had happened on the cruise. "You didn't see him yesterday,
Abby...or this morning. I don't think John is as strong as we would
link to think he is. He ran screaming from the house while we were
trying to work all of this out...he hasn't eaten since sometime
yesterday. Abby, I just hope that I haven't done something to drive
him into some sort of depression...he wouldn't even talk to me this
morning before I left the house."

Tears unwillingly leapt into the man's eyes and he angrily brushed
them away. Luka had not realized just how heavily this was all
weighing on his mind.

"Luka, he just needs time, and maybe a little bit of space. I mean,
he's got you in the room next to his, and now you're telling me that
Malucci's working there, so he's probably in the house, too. John
likes to please people and he hates the idea of having anyone
disappointed in him. It wasn't having to hear people say he had a
drug problem that hurt him the most about when they all confronted
him, it was knowing they were disappointed in him." Abby reached into
the pocket of her smock and pulled out a tissue, then handed it to
Luka. "Here, take this. Maybe all John needed was some time alone
today and when you get done with your shift you'll find that he's in
much better shape than he was in this morning."

Luka took the tissue, and stared for a moment. "Yes. Yes, you're
probably correct. Now.. if you'll excuse me, Abby...I need to go
check on a patient..."

Suddenly embarrassed that he had displayed as much emotion as he had,
Luka felt the need to leave the lounge. So he did, quickly making his
exit, and headed right into the men's room to try to compose himself.
Luka had a feeling it was going to be a *very* long day. And God
only knew what he was going to be facing once he got back home.

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

*ring* *ring* *ring*

Dave raised his head off of the mattress, the pounding in his head far
worse than it had been in ages. He had had too much to drink the
previous night. Way too much to drink. And now, the phone was
ringing. That was likely his wake up call -- he had called one in for
extra early because he had to finish packing before heading out of the
hotel.

Wearily, he got up out of bed, realizing that the pressure on his
bladder was not going to let him sleep for even a moment more.
Looking down, he realized that he had never bothered to get out of his
clothing the night before. Boy. Did he feel horrible...

About a half hour later, Dave was feeling slightly better. He had
taken some Advil, which was beginning to work towards his headache.
He had gone to the bathroom, and taken a shower, which had helped with
his attitude. And he was looking forward to starting his job...at
least John and Luka were going to be at work, and he wouldn't have to
deal with them. He was looking forward to getting to know Mrs. Carter
better.

He was soon packed -- most of his clothing was in one large suitcase.
Dave realized that he was going to need to go shopping soon -- both
for clothing and for things for the cottage. While the house had all
the furniture he was ever going to need, Dave needed to do things like
rebuy his big screen TV. That was a requirement, and he was hoping
that he would be able to afford to buy that soon.

Soon Dave had checked out of the hotel, and was loading his car. And
fifteen minutes later, he pulled onto the Carter estate. He couldn't
help but recall how the previous day, he had had such high hopes for
what was going to happen. Dave was going to get this job and then
find John and tell him that he was back in town. Instead, Dave was
competing with the Croatian wonder for the love of his life. What did
Luka have that Dave didn't have? It didn't seem fair to Dave that he
was in this situation at all.

Dave parked his car in front of the mansion, deciding that he would
head over to the cottage after checking on Mrs. Carter to make sure
that she was okay, and also wanting to make sure that everything was
set with exactly what Dave was going to be doing. And with this
thought in mind...and trying to push thoughts of John far away, Dave
knocked on the door of the estate.

Millicent was in the study when she heard the maid announce that Dr.
Malucci had arrived, and she looked up, a smile on her face as he
walked into the room. "Good morning. Have you had breakfast yet? If
you're hungry, I'm sure Corrine could whip something up for you."

Dave grinned shakily. The thought of food at that moment turned his
stomach, but he wasn't going to tell Mrs. Carter that. "Nah, I'm all
right. I grabbed something before I left the hotel," he lied, as he
looked toward the older woman in the wheel chair. "How are ya doing
so far today, Mrs. C? Anything I can help you with?"

As long as he didn't let thoughts turn towards John, Dave was in good
shape. But Dave knew the moment he let his thoughts wander...he was a
dead man.

Millicent shook her head. "I'm fine. Dr. Meyer will be here around
eleven and the three of us can discuss my needs and just exactly what
it is he needs you to do every day. So, why don't you take the
morning to get settled into the cottage? If something should happen
and I need you, we'll know where to find you," she added with a grin.

Dave nodded. "Okay, Mrs. C. I have my pager on, so you can page me
also and I'll come over if ya need me. And.. um.. Mrs. C? Thanks
again for this opportunity. I'm really looking forward to living and
working here." Despite the fact that Dave was going to have to deal
with nights without John -- that wasn't part of his original game plan.

After saying goodbye to the woman, Dave headed back out to his car,
intending on driving over to the cottage so he could unload his meager
belongings out of the car. 11am gave him a couple of hours to set up
shop the best that he could.

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

At some point in the morning, John had fallen asleep, and it was close
to noon when he awoke, and his mind was finally clear. He knew what
he had done wrong -- well, most of it, anyway, and he knew what had to
be done. He just didn't like it, that was all.

Needing a cigarette, but not wanting to face anyone, John took the
pack into the bathroom and he opened the window all the way, letting
fresh air into the room. He sat down on the edge of the tub, smoking
the remainder of the pack as he went over one more time all the
conclusions he had reached just prior to falling asleep.

The first was that he was a selfish bastard. That had been an easy
thing to conclude, John thought. He had been called selfish many
times, but it wasn't until that morning, when he realized that Luka
had dumped him, that John had realized just how selfish he had been
toward Luka and Dave. He had been so insistent that each man promise
to remain his friend no matter what he decided, thinking that he
couldn't live without either one around. But it took Luka dumping him
and John having to face working with the man as a friend for him to
realize that he couldn't handle that at all. And neither could Luka
or Dave. Selfish bastard, John chastised himself. Selfish, selfish,
selfish.

There was no way he could have Dave and keep Luka as a friend, and no
way to have Luka and keep Dave as a friend. He was deluding himself
to even imagine he could, and so were they. The only thing he could
do was what he had said the day before -- choose neither one of them
and spend the rest of his life alone.

It was all he deserved anyway. Selfish bastards who couldn't keep
their bodies under control, and who went around lusting after two men
at the same time, didn't deserve love. Not at all. John was a
selfish bastard, and he was a...a sex kitten. That's what Dave had
called him on the ship, and Jenny...she had used those words often.
Telling him about how his body so easily responded to her
touches...and how he was obviously born to please and just a natural
when it came to sex.

It hadn't been her fault that they had sex when he lost his virginity
-- it had been his. If his cock hadn't become hard....if only his
cock hadn't become hard when Luka had kissed him....or Dave....or
Alex....John shook his head, not wanting his thoughts to go *there*,
not after all this time. It was painful enough to think about Jenny
and how she had dumped him, left him behind without hardly a word. He
definitely didn't want to think about how Alex had done the same
thing, only Alex, like Dave had done in his nightmare, had made sure
he didn't leave until he had come, but that was just a blow job and
not the same thing, and Dave wasn't Alex and that had just been a
dream, even though Dave had claimed it was real, but it wasn't....Dave
loved him and would never leave him, right?

But now John was going to leave Dave. He got to his feet and splashed
some water on his face, then looked at his reflection in the mirror.
His hair was standing out in several directions, and, despite having
napped, there were dark circles under his eyes. In short, he looked
horrible. Why would anyone, let alone two hot men like Dave and Luka,
want him?

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

Luka was exhausted. As he pulled his car up in front of the mansion,
he sighed as he sat behind the wheel of the car. He had no idea what
he was going to be facing once he got inside, and in all honesty, Luka
was not looking forward to finding out. The weariness he was feeling
was both physical and mental -- the day in the ER had been busy,
especially since they were short handed, and mentally -- mentally Luka
was about ready to shut down.

He fumbled for his keys, and entered the house, drawn towards the
voices in the dining room. Luka wasn't sure why, but he decided to go
investigate who was talking, in case it was John. It was clear that
Luka was going to have to talk to him, and make sure that he was okay.
Abby hadn't really seemed concerned, but Luka knew better than that.
There was something very, very wrong.

Millicent looked up as she heard the sound of footsteps approaching
the dining room. "Luka, you're just in time for lunch. I imagine
John must be starving by now as well since you both missed breakfast.
You remember Dr. Meyer, don't you?" she asked, remembering that Dr.
Meyer had been over to the house a few times since Luka had come there
to stay. She couldn't help but think that Luka looked as worn out and
exhausted as Dave appeared, and she wondered if John was going to walk
in looking the same way. There were some days when the ER was hectic,
and it seemed to take a lot out of them, but Millicent knew that their
exhaustion wasn't work related this time.

"Yes, nice to see you, Dr. Meyer," he said, looking at the man sitting
at the table. "And I'll be happy to join you for lunch, but, speaking
of John, have you seen him?" He couldn't believe that Mrs. Carter
didn't know that John had called out of work. Of course, the man
might have just fallen back to sleep after Luka left since it was so
early.

Dave looked up to Luka, surprised. "What do you mean? He wasn't at
the hospital today with you?"

Luka shook his head. "No. They got a call early in the ER that he
was sick. According to Abby, who spoke to Frank, John did not sound
like himself...and John was acting...very strangely when I left this
morning as well, it was as if I had done something wrong, but I hadn't
done anything wrong..."

Luka was clearly distressed, and becoming more upset by the minute.

Millicent frowned. "I haven't seen him at all this morning. Sarah?"
she called out for the maid, who quickly entered the room. "Have you
seen John today?"

"No, ma'am, but when I was collecting the bed linens this morning I
wasn't able to get into his room because the door's locked. I didn't
say anything because he usually does lock the door on wash day if his
sheets are still clean."

Millicent's frown deepened as she looked from the maid to Dave and
then to Luka. "Perhaps I should check on him," she said as she moved
her wheelchair away from the table.

Dave had been listening to everything, concern overwhelming him as he
thought about John and everything that had happened, and all he had
done to contribute to John's lack of security. "No. Mrs. C...let me
go. I wanna check on him..."

Luka stood, and walked in front of Dave. "No. Let me. I think that
it might have been something I said that upset him..."

"All the more reason that I should check on him, my friend," Dave
said, feeling hurt and anger build inside of him. "C'mon. Let me
go...if he's pissed at you, then he probably won't talk to you...we
learned that already..."

Luka sighed, and then nodded not wanting to push the issue, and Dave
did have a point. "Okay, I'll wait here."

Dave turned to look at Mrs. Carter, to make sure that it was alright
that he be the one to go check on John.

Millicent nodded, the worry clearly in her eyes as she watched Dave
leave the dining room. She wanted to reassure Luka, but couldn't find
the words and instead she turned her attention to Dr. Meyer. "Usually
we wouldn't be so worried about John, but he's had a rough time of it
the last couple of days.
"
The man nodded. "I'm sure he's fine, but it's good that he has people
around to care about him. It's not like him to be ill though. John's
one of the healthiest people I know."

Dave headed out. He heard Mrs. Carter speaking from the dining room,
but his mind was focused on one person -- John. What was going on
with him? Why was he acting this way again? Okay -- so Dave knew on
some level why -- all of this was obviously too much for John to
handle. Dave briefly remembered what had happened on the ship- - the
meltdown that had scared the living Hell out of him. He hoped that
something similar wasn't brewing now -- though at least now they were
somewhere where they could get John some real help.

Dave knocked on John's door once he reached the room. "John? You
okay? It's Dave, please open up..."

Unable to stand his own reflection, John had retreated to the relative
safety of his bed, burrowing under the covers. There were so many
thoughts -- memories -- going through his mind that he was finding it
difficult to concentrate on what it was he had to do. And then he
heard Dave's voice from the other side of the door and he remembered
-- he had to NOT choose Dave. Or Luka.

He could still hear the pain in Dave's voice from his voice mail
message and John's heart, which had already broken into a hundred
pieces, found a way to break once more. He had to let Dave go, Luka,
too. No, that wasn't right. He couldn't let Luka go because Luka had
rejected him -- dumped him. Just as he deserved Just as everyone
did. Luka...Dave...Elaine...God, the list was endless, wasn't it?

But...he wasn't ready to let Dave go just yet. John didn't know what
to say to him. He needed time, more time. Time alone. "I'm okay, go
away," he called out, hoping Dave could hear him.

"No. I'm not leaving. If you don't open the door, I'm gonna break it
down...and you know I will, man," he said, his voice perfectly serious.

John sighed. Why wouldn't Dave listen to him? Why was he making John
hurt him? Why? He crawled out from under the covers and went to
stand behind the door. John ran a shaking hand through his hair as he
knew what he had to do. "Go away, Dave. I don't choose you. Go."

Dave's mouth opened, and shut again. And in a matter of moments, his
heart broke. Had John really said that? Had John really chosen Luka
over him? Just like that? "But...John, no...I...you...you can't
mean...after all this, you...you don't...you can't...God...no..."

He couldn't even form a thought.. and before John could further drive
the knife into his heart, he took a step back from the door.
"I'm...not leaving...until you tell me that to my face, because...I
don't believe you," he found himself saying through unshed tears.
Dave had never felt more in pain than he did at that very moment. His
voice broke as he spoke. There was no way that John could possibly
mean it just like that. There was no way that it was over...Dave
simply refused to believe that it was true.

John began to tap his head against the hard wooden door. "No. Just
go, Dave. It's over. I'm a selfish bastard and it's over. Go and
forget me. Be happy with someone else. Someone who can love only you
and can keep his pants on and his legs closed and his mouth shut
and...just go."

"Damn it, John, I won't be happy with anyone but you...I told you that
a long time ago, and it still holds true. I tried to live without
you...and I can't. I'm miserable when I'm not with you, please, open
the fucking door...let me talk to you about this..." Dave was a
bundle of confused emotions, all the feelings that he had been trying
to suppress found their way to the surface. It simply wasn't fair --
that after all this, Luka was going to win.

John's body slid down the door until he was sitting on the floor, and
he put his hands over his ears, not wanting to hear the pain in Dave's
voice. The pain he had caused, but it was better than all the pain he
knew he would cause Dave in the future if they stayed together. "Go
away," he said. "Just go. I'll only destroy you, Dave. You deserve
someone who isn't...I'm a bastard, Dave, a selfish bastard...Luka
realized that, why can't you? Just go away. Please, just go away."

"You're not a bastard...damn it...listen to me...you are *not* a
bastard, you're confused, that's understandable, but, you're *not* a
bastard...you won't destroy me...doin' this...pushing me away is
what's destroying me, and...what did you mean by Luka realizing it?"
Dave asked, the last part of John's speech registering in his brain.
What John had just said was not compatible with how Luka was acting
downstairs.

Having his hands over his ears didn't keep John from hearing Dave, and
he gave up on that, squeezing his eyes shut against his tears.
"Stupid. I'm so stupid and selfish and a bastard and a...a good
cocksucker. I *am* good at that, aren't I? You've said so. Luka
said so. Alex used to say that, too. A natural born cock
sucker...but that doesn't keep me from being a selfish bastard..." he
had to keep his thoughts on track, or else he'd never get his point
across to Dave. Never. "I hurt Luka last night, and he came to his
senses and left...why can't you do the same? Save us both this pain,
Dave.. just go." Once again, John began to knock his head against the
wood. How could he be so selfish? How? He loved Dave and Luka, but
all he kept doing was hurting them? Over and over and over again.

"Alex? John.. who's Alex?" That was a name that Dave had not heard
before. Had John been with someone else in the interim that Dave
didn't know about? He didn't think so.. but at this point, nothing
would surprise Dave. "As for the rest of it.. Yeah...you're good at
that...but that doesn't make you selfish, and that doesn't make you a
bastard. I don't think that either Luka or I think that...we...we
just want you to be happy, John, be happy...while somehow gettin' what
we want too, and maybe that make each of us a little selfish..."

Dave's voice was pained but calmer. "Please...please open the door
John, let's...let's talk about this, please?"

"Leave me alone, Dave. Go away, just like Luka did. Just go. Like
you did in my dream. Walk away and leave me. Do you hear me? Just
go." John pleaded, the tears now pouring down his face. "I can't
open the door. I can't see you ever again. Never. Ever. Because if
I do then all of this will mean nothing and I'll do what you asked in
your phone call last night and I'll come back to you, but it will be
wrong, Dave. Wrong. So very, very wrong. Go away."

"Phone call? What phone call?" Dave was genuinely confused...about
all of this. Luka hadn't walked away -- Luka was downstairs looking
like a kicked puppy. And a phone call? In his drunken haze he didn't
remember...and then it hit him like a ton of bricks. Singing in the
karaoke bar, flipping open his cell phone, crying into it. It *was*
Dave's fault that John was acting like this. "It...it wouldn't be
wrong," Dave finally said, as the realization hit him. By this point,
Dave was also leaning against the door, as he realized that this was
the closest he could be to John for the time being. "Being with you
could never be wrong. I'm not going away...I can't go away, damn
it...I love you, John, please don't do this..."

God, why wouldn't Dave listen to him? Why didn't anyone *ever* listen
to him? John scrambled to his feet and faced the door, suddenly angry
over the fact that people just didn't listen to him. Even in that
nightmare, Dave hadn't listened to him -- John had begged Dave to not
leave, but Dave had left. And now, in real life, Dave was begging him
not to leave -- but he would. He had to. To save Dave. It didn't
matter how much it hurt now, the hurt had to be less than what John
knew he would cause in the future. And all because he always got
hard, always wanted...needed....always.

He shook his head, trying to clear his mind again, needing to
concentrate on getting Dave away from his door. "It's wrong," he
yelled. "It's all wrong. It's always been wrong. Go away. Go the
fuck away, Dave," he screamed out. "Go."

Dave was dumbfounded, and he really didn't know what to do. It was
obvious that John had gone off the deep end - again -- not even
wanting to talk to him about it...and this nonsense about Luka
breaking up with him -- as much as Dave * wished* it was true, he knew
that it wasn't. What was going on with this complex man on the other
side of the door?

"Fine. I'm goin'...but you can bet your ass I'll be back, John. I'm
not giving up on you...on us...because I love you, and I didn't invest
this much time in you...and all of this just to have you give up on it
with a few simple words...it's not that easy, John...it's not that easy."

And with tears in his eyes, Dave made his way downstairs. Not knowing
where else to turn, he headed back into the dining room, where Mrs.
Carter was sitting stoically with Luka and Dr. Meyers. "He's...I
don't know what the Hell's wrong with him. He thinks Luka's broken up
with him...and...I think he just told me to get out of his life.."

Dave could barely stand he was so distraught.

Millicent slowly shook her head. "We heard screaming? Was that you
or John?" she asked.

"It was both of us...John started screaming...I screamed back that I
wasn't leaving. He didn't care, he said that wanted me to leave him,
that he was selfish, that I shouldn't be with him.. I...I tried to
tell him that it wasn't true, that none of it was true. That I loved
him, but he didn't care...he didn't listen..."

Dave was, to put it mildly, destroyed. Luka wasn't in much better
shape -- the words that Dave had said were swimming in his head -- why
would John think that he had broken up with him?

"I think it's best that we leave him alone for now," Luka declared as
he ran a hand over his eyes. "We don't want to push him too far, and
as much as I would like to go up and see if he's okay, I'm afraid that
will just continue to drive him away."

"You might be right," Millicent said. "We can give him some more time
alone, maybe until dinner. Lord knows when he ate last, he's got to
be hungry soon. And, if he doesn't come out by then, I've got a key,
so we can get into the bedroom."

"Excuse me," Dr. Meyer said, looking uneasy. "I know this isn't any
of my business, but the man Dr. Malucci is describing isn't the John
Carter I know. Has he ever behaved this way before or is this just
something brought on by recent stress?"

Luka looked over to Dave, and seeing that the man was still visibly
shaken, he took the time to answer. "On the cruise we were on...the
last night of the cruise, he had a...breakdown...and he was talking
about some woman named Jenny. Every time that either Dave or I tried
to touch John, he would accuse us of trying to have sex with him, and
then claim that it was the only thing he was good at...which of course
I don't believe either of us think is true."

Luka looked over to Dave, who was in complete agreement with him.
Feeling that he was a little more composed, he interrupted Luka and
spoke. "You know, back when John and I were...friends when I last
lived in Chicago, he and I talked one night about the first time we
ever...you know...had sex...and he told me a story about some woman
named Jenny. I thought it was kinda odd, claiming that losing your
virginity at 11 was some kind of a normal thing..."

Dave's voice trailed off as he felt the eyes of the room on him.
Realizing that he had inadvertently hit on something, Dave clamped his
mouth closed. Dave had assumed that John's grandmother knew about it.
Obviously, he was wrong.

When Luka first said the name, Millicent didn't think twice about it,
she was concentrating too hard on the rest of the story, but when Dave
said it, and also mentioned that John was 11 when he lost his
virginity -- eleven! -- the name clicked in the back of Millicent's
mind. Corrine's niece, Jenny, had worked for Jack and Eleanor as a
maid at one time. Had John been eleven then? But, it couldn't be,
she thought. It just couldn't. Jenny was so much older than John and
she had known John nearly all of his life. There was just no way.
Still, she had to ask. Looking Dave squarely in the eyes, Millicent
found the courage to speak. "And did John tell you how he knew this
Jenny?" Her hands were tightly clenched around the arms of the wheelchair.

Dave nodded. "Yeah...if I remember correctly," he said, looking
directly at Mrs. Carter. "He said that she was his maid. And...that
she was older than him..."

Luka nodded in agreement. "I knew about this too. When we were in
that class together many months ago, John talked a little about her
when conversations went towards first times..."

There was a nervous air in the room, and the energy was almost
palatable to all those who occupied it. Dave watched as Dr. Meyers
shifted nervously in his seat. And Dave wondered if he had just
opened a big can of worms...of course, if one of those worms could
help John, maybe it wasn't all bad.

Millicent felt herself grow pale. "Dear God, no." She looked over at
Dr. Meyer, not quite able to take in the fact that her grandson had
been sexually abused.

Dr. Meyer got to his feet. "We need that key, Millicent. In light of
this...revelation, and the breakdown John had earlier, I don't feel
it's safe to leave him alone behind a locked door. He knows me and
hopefully he'll let me stay in the room with him until he's...calmer."
He looked over to Dave and Luka. "I have my medical bag with me," he
gestured toward the sideboard where it sat. "Thankfully, I've got two
different sedatives in there, although I hope we won't have to use any
at all."

"I can't remember where it is," Millicent exclaimed, mentally kicking
herself for not being able to remember such a simple thing as where
the skeleton key was for all the rooms in the house. "I can't
remember..."

"I can break in there," Dave said, crossing his arms over his chest.
"I know I can. It's easy with those kinds of locks. All I need is a
paperclip and a credit card of some sort.. and I'll be able to get in
there," he said, looking over towards the rest of the occupants of the
room. "And...Mrs. C., I'm sorry to be the one to break this to you,
it's...something I've suspected for a while, but I guess I didn't
wanna admit it to myself..."

Dr. Meyer walked over to his medical bag and opened it, then turned
around, a paper clip in his hand. "I've got a credit card in my
pocket, let's go. I think it might be a good idea for you and Luka to
hang out in the hallway upstairs, out of his line of sight, but handy
if I should need you." He picked up his bag. "One of you can hold
onto this for me."

Millicent still couldn't believe what was happening. "She was close
to the family...she used to watch John and Bobby so Jack and Eleanor
could go out. The boys loved her...dear God. Poor Corrine. How am I
ever going to face her again?"

Dave nodded, and took the paperclip from the doctor, intending on
bending it to the right position while they walked. He then looked
sadly down at Mrs. Carter. "I'm sorry...I'm really sorry."

There was really nothing more that he could say.

To be continued.
Chapter Twenty-Nine by MonaCK
"Changes In Latitudes, Changes In Attitudes, Part 29"
By MonaCK and Cathy Roberts


Both Dave and Luka agreed with the doctor -- that they should stay out
of sight when the doctor entered the room. And they followed him up
the stairs, waiting for Mrs. Carter to situate herself in her lift so
she could meet them up top as well. And silently they stood while the
doctor first tried to knock on John's door.

As he walked up the stairs, Dr. Meyers tried to think of the best
tactic to use to get John to let him into the room. The one thing
that the doctor felt would never waver with John was his devotion to,
and love, for Millicent, so telling John he wanted to talk with him
about her condition would most likely gain him entrance. "John? It's
Dr. Meyers, may I come in? I'd like to update you on Millicent's
condition."

After Dave had left, John had once more curled up under the covers,
still crying. It was no good, none of it -- not his life or the way
he loved people. Just no good at all. He lifted his head when he
heard a soft knock on his door and then Dr. Meyers was asking to come
in. Had something happened to his grandmother?

John rushed out of the bed, leaving some of the covers trailing on the
floor in his haste. His hands were trembling as he unlocked the door
and then opened it. "Is Gamma okay? What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong, John. I just want to update you on how she's doing.
May I come in?" Dr. Meyers asked as his mind registered how John
appeared. He didn't like it at all and he was glad he had decided to
butt his nose into things. There was no way that John should have
been left alone for one hour, let alone five or six.

John nodded and was about to open the door wider when he heard someone
sniffle and it wasn't Dr. Meyers. Dave was using Dr. Meyers to get to
him -- and that made John angry. "What did Dave tell you? Never
mind...it doesn't matter. Go away. All of you." John slammed the
door shut, quickly locking it again. The door was too heavy for anyone
to actually break down, despite Dave's earlier threat to do just that,
so John wasn't worried about that. Except that if Dave tried, he
might hurt himself. But Dr. Meyers was there and could help him if he
did. "Leave me alone!" John yelled through the door, hoping and
praying that this time he would be listened to.

Millicent was shocked at John's outburst and her heart ached for the
pain he was obviously feeling. "Let me get to the door," she said as
she rolled down the hallway to John's room. "John? Please open the
door. Dr. Meyers just wants to talk things over with you, but I
promise you that he won't mention Dave or Luka. Please, John?"

John frowned as he heard his grandmother's voice and he couldn't think
of what Dr. Meyers could possibly want to speak with him about, unless
the man hadn't been lying about wanting to update him on Millicent's
condition. "What does he want?" he asked, not willing to risk opening
the door to find out.

"John...I...I can't tell you through a closed door. Please open the
door," Millicent urged him.

John shook his head, even though he knew she couldn't see him. "No.
It's a trick. I'm fine and I don't want to talk to anybody. Just go
away and leave me alone. Please leave me alone!" He backed away from
the door, not wanting to listen to them any more.

Dave wanted to kick himself for sniffling at just that moment...that
moment when Dr. Meyers had actually gotten John to open the door. His
own emotions were right on edge, and he really didn't know what to do
anymore. John was obviously hurting, really hurting, and he was
fighting back like a caged animal who didn't want to be there anymore.

Luka's heart was breaking for John. He still wished that he knew what
it was that had set John off in the first place...all that he had done
was go and take a shower in the morning...and it was like some sort of
revelation had come to John while Luka was away, and he simply didn't
understand it at all. "Maybe...maybe I should try speaking to him?"

Dave quickly shook his head. "I don't think it'll work. Dr. Meyers,
I think we're gonna have to break in there...and you said you had a
sedative... a sedative worked last time this happened, too. Man, what
a mess, he's...really not doing well, is he? And I don't think that
either Luka or I are helping much here..."

Taking the paperclip he had been playing with out of his pocket, he
looked over to Dr. Meyers. "You ready to do this?"

Dr. Meyers nodded and reached into his pocket, pulling out his wallet
so he could retrieve a credit card. "You should get something ready.
Just enough to calm him, but not enough to put him out," he said to
Luka as he handed his Visa card to Dave.

Luka nodded, and opened up Dr. Meyers's medical bag, quickly finding
the meds and the syringe. While he prepared the dosage, Dave set to
work on John's door, easily picking the lock with the paperclip. He
turned towards the rest of the group as he was ready to open the door.
"You guys ready?"

Luka nodded. "I'm ready with the medicine..."

Millicent looked up at the men around her, tears in her eyes and
nodded. Dr. Meyers put his hand gently on her shoulder and also
nodded. "I'll try to talk with him once we're inside, but I'll need
the both of you behind me while I try to convince him to let us give
him the sedative. And Millicent, I really need you to stay out here."

Inside his room, John was frantic. He had heard voices outside of his
door and then watched with disbelief as the lock turned. He didn't
know whether to try to relock the door or to run -- although he really
had nowhere to run except the bathroom, and if they could unlock the
one door, then they could unlock that one, too. He looked around and
saw a vase of flowers. It was heavy enough to throw and he grabbed
it, ready to toss it toward the door if it should open -- not to hurt
anyone, but to warn them away, although he really hoped he wouldn't
have to resort to that.

"Stay out," he called to them. "I'm warning you...stay out of my room
and just leave me alone!"

Dave looked up towards the group, tears in his eyes again. "Man...he's
fucked up...he's really fucked up...I hope this works. I hope we can
at least calm him down..."

Dave turned the door, stepping back to let Dr. Meyers through first.
Both he and Luka lined up behind Dr. Meyers, close, but not too close,
ready to do whatever they had to do to try to get John to stop from
being so upset.

Dr. Meyers slowly opened the door, not sure where John was in the room
and not wanting to bang the door into him if he happened to be right
behind it. "John? I'm not going to hurt you, but I do need to speak
with you."

"Get out!" John yelled as he threw the vase, flowers and all, at the
door. It crashed against the wood and shattered, sending glass, water
and irises all over the floor. John frantically looked around for
something else to throw. "I warned you to stay out," he said as he
grabbed his clock radio, tearing the cord out from the wall as he
tossed that in the direction of the door as well and making the
plastic crack and scatter. "Stay out!"

The first crash hadn't really surprised Dr. Meyers, and the
possibility that John wouldn't welcome anyone into his room had been
the main reason why the man hadn't opened the door wider. When the
second object hit the back of the door, he turned to the others.
"Does anyone have any idea how much stuff he has in there that he can
throw? I'm more than willing to wait him out as opposed to us risking
being hurt by a flying object. I doubt if he's trying to hurt us and
I don't want to add to his issues if one of us should be hurt by
accident."

Millicent shook her head. "There are a few knick knacks, some
paintings and photographs...books, I think. I really don't know."
She looked up at Luka, her eyes begging him to remember. "You've
stayed in his room, Luka, what do you remember being in there?"

Another crash punctuated her question as something with glass in it
hit the door and broke.

Dave turned away as Mrs. Carter addressed Luka, not wanting to admit
he was still jealous over the fact that Luka had spent time in John's
room, and he hadn't. What did it really matter, though? At this
point, they all needed to work together to make sure John was
okay...and Dave understood this...but he still couldn't help but feel
the irrational feelings inside him.

Luka thought for a moment. "There's not much in there...books...some
cologne...which judging from the smell that's coming from the room, is
probably what he just threw..."

Another thud hit the door, and Luka surmised that was the beginning of
the book collection being thrown at them. The thuds were then coming
regularly. "I don't think there's much more that he can throw at us.
I would recommend at this point waiting until the sounds stop."

Dr. Meyers nodded. "I agree." He placed the toe of his shoe in the
small opening, not wanting to give John the chance to relock the door,
and then he waited. One benefit of letting John throw everything at
them was that he'd quickly tire himself out, which would definitely be
to their advantage should John refuse to be sedated.

Minutes later, John was feeling extremely frustrated. He had thrown
just about everything he could get his hands on at the door and it
hadn't closed at all. Damn them, he thought as he sank to his knees
in the middle of the debris strewn room. Damn them all. "Just go
away," he said, his voice hoarse from yelling and his energy spent.
He knew he couldn't keep them from coming in and it saddened him that
there was one more aspect of his life in which he had no control.
Resting his head in his hands, the only thing left for John to do was
to beg. "Please just go away. I'll be good and talk to you later,
but please, please, leave me alone now."

Luka spoke now. "I'm sorry, John, but we can't do that.
We're...we're all just worried about you, and we want to make sure
you're okay. If you let us in, and let us see that you're
okay...we'll leave you alone...please...please John..."

Dave nodded. He was too full of emotion, and for once the young
doctor was speechless. He just looked over towards Mrs. Carter and
Dr. Meyers helplessly -- hoping that they were doing the right thing.
This was too much like what had happened last time, only this time,
Dave was sure that he wasn't going to be the one spending the night
with John, making sure that he was okay. It was likely going to be
Luka, or no one at all. And Dave was just consumed with worry for
John to feel jealous over that.

John grabbed hold of Luka's words, knowing the man wouldn't lie to
him. "You promise? Once you see that I'm okay, you'll leave?" he
asked, getting to his feet and taking a tentative step toward the
partially opened door.

Luka looked over towards Dr. Meyers and Mrs. Carter, wondering why
they hadn't tried this approach in the first place. "Yes. We're
going to make sure you're okay...and then we'll leave. But we...we
need you to let us in. Please, John, we're worried about you..."

"I'm fine," John automatically replied as he took two more steps
toward the door. If Luka was there, then did that mean he had changed
his mind about dumping him? John found himself hoping so, but then
his hopes fell as he realized that he would have to not choose Luka,
either, and for the same reasons he couldn't choose Dave. It simply
wasn't fair to either man and they'd only be hurt in the long run.
But, he didn't have to tell Luka that right then. He could let Luka
see he was fine and then Luka would leave him alone -- and so would
the others -- and then John could have time to figure out how to tell
Dave and Luka that news in such a way as to get them to believe it.

"There's no need for you to worry," John said as he crossed the rest
of the space and put his hand on the door knob, ready to open the door
fully so they could all get their good look. "I'm fine," he repeated,
not realizing that the glass and other broken debris that he had just
walked over had cut his bare feet. At that point, John's body was
beyond feeling pain of any nature, although it might have registered
in his brain that he was hurt if he had happened to look behind him
and see the bloody footprints on the carpet, or even looked down at
his feet as they oozed blood beneath him. But he didn't do either of
those things, instead, his attention was fixed on the door and the
people on the other side of it as he opened it wider and forced
himself to smile at them.

"There. You're seeing me and I'm fine. Now you all can go."

Dave was the first to spot the blood, and his face paled. Had John
tried to kill himself, on top of everything else? But then he
realized that the blood was coming from his feet -- which didn't
change the worry -- only refocused it. "John...you're bleeding...you
are most definitely not okay," he said, as he took a step into the
room, with the others following behind.

The group was now inside, blocking the door from being closed again.
And Luka found himself walking closer to John, intent on helping him
back into the bed so he could take care of cleaning up John's cuts.
But then he realized that he still held the syringe in his hand, so he
looked helplessly over towards Dave.

Dave nodded, and focused his attention on John once more. "Let me
help you lie down. I just wanna take a look at your feet. Please,
man, you're bleeding..."

John had backed up into the bedroom when Luka and the others had
pushed their way through, not quite believing that Luka would make up
some story in order to not follow through on his promise. But then
Dave mentioned that he was bleeding and John looked down at his feet,
seeing blood there and on the carpet. Strange how it didn't hurt, he
thought, but he had no intention of letting anyone look at anything.

"I'm okay," he said, looking up and directly at Luka. "You said that
if I was okay you'd leave. So leave. All of you. They're just
scratches and I'm okay."

"John," Dr. Meyers said, "You're not okay. Please allow us to take a
look at your feet. If for no other reason, then do it for Millicent,
let her be satisfied that you're physically fine." Inwardly, he was
glad that Millicent had defied his request that she remain in the
hallway, since he knew that John would do just about anything for her.

John heard Dr. Meyers and he looked from the man over to his
grandmother, taking in her worried appearance and immediately feeling
guilty for causing that worry. He walked over to her wheelchair and
knelt down by it. "I'm okay, Gamma. Really. There's nothing for you
to worry about."

"Oh, John," Millicent's hands were shaking as she reached out to
gently stroke his hair. "There's so much for me to worry about, but
it would help if you'd let Dave and Dr. Meyers examine you. Please,
John?"

It always killed John to see tears in his grandmother's eyes, mostly
because Millicent Carter hardly ever cried, and this time was no
exception. He mutely nodded, then stood and walked over to the bed,
sitting down on the mattress. Once again, his focus landed on the
blood stains on the floor -- at least they were footprints and not
handprints, he thought, remembering back to that Valentine's night
when he had left quite a few bloody handprints on the floor of Curtain
Three. Those had been cleaned away, as had the rest of his blood and
Lucy's blood, and he was sure that the bloody footprints on his carpet
would also be cleaned away and forgotten in time. "I'm okay," he
repeated, but his hands were grasping the bottom sheet as he struggled
to find something -- anything -- to hold onto, just some little bit of
reassurance that he could control *something* in his life.

Dave tentatively walked a little bit closer, hoping that touching him
wouldn't send John into a panic like it had last time this had
happened. Last time John hadn't hurt himself, either. Dave had never
realized just how mentally unstable that John was, and in a way it was
almost good that all of this had happened. Maybe it was a cry for
help...he didn't know. But one thing Dave was aware of was the guilt
that he felt for letting things get this far in the first place.

"Okay, John, listen to me...I'm just gonna lift up your foot, and put
it on the bed, so I can see where the cuts are, okay? Let me do this
for you...let me help you stop hurting..." Because Dave knew that he
alone wasn't going to be able to stop John's heart from hurting, as
much as he wanted to, since he was partially to blame for the
heartbreak to begin with.

Luka stood back, ready with the sedative if Dr. Meyers requested it,
and feeling a bit frustrated that he was really unable to help. So
instead, he kept half an eye on Mrs. Carter, to make sure she was all
right with everything that was going on, because frankly, Luka was
worried about her as well.

John lay back on the bed, rolling onto his side so he wouldn't have to
see Dave and Luka and his grandmother or Dr. Meyers. He just wanted
them to take a look at his feet and leave. "It's just a few
scratches," he said. "Nothing to worry about. I'm okay and Luka said
you all would leave once you saw I was okay. He promised."

Dr. Meyers stepped over to Luka and silently took the syringe from
him. "I think he needs *you* more than he needs this right now," he
whispered, and then he went to stand beside Millicent, touching her
arm reassuringly. She looked up at him and managed a shaky smile,
then returned her attention to her grandson. If she ever got her
hands on Jenny, she'd kill the woman, even if she was Corrine's niece.
It was clear to Millicent that this...breakdown, or whatever it could
be called, could be traced back to that bitch and whatever it was she
had done to John.

Luka nodded, silently thanking the man as he handed over the sedative
to Dr. Meyers. Walking over to opposite side of John's bed, he sat on
the edge, turning his body so that he could look at John. "We're not
trying to hurt you, John...we just want to make sure you're okay...and
Dave is just going to check your feet now, and take out any glass that
might be in them, okay?"

Dave turned towards Dr. Meyers, indicated that he needed to use some
of the things that were in his medical bag. The older doctor
willingly gave the bag over, and Dave dug through it, picking out a
bottle of alcohol and a sterile gauze pad. "Okay, John, I'm warning
you, this might sting a bit, but it's only because I haveta clean out
the wound..." Dave knew that he was talking to another doctor, but he
was pretty sure that proper doctor procedure was not uppermost on
John's mind at that moment.

"It doesn't feel as if there's glass in either foot. I've stepped on
glass before and had a piece stuck in there, remember?" John asked
Dave over his shoulder. Then he frowned. "No, you wouldn't remember.
It was the day that Abby talked me into helping her replace the
aquarium in Luka's apartment and she forgot her key and she crawled in
through his window and a neighbor called the police." John found
himself smiling at the memory. "Right when we were ready to leave,
thinking we had managed to switch tanks, the doorbell rang and it was
the police. Then Luka showed up because they called him and you were
so angry." John looked up at Luka. "Do you remember that? You
wouldn't even look at us, you were that upset."

"I do remember that," Luka said, turning away from John. "I wasn't
very fond of you back then...but...you know that changed...you know
how my feelings for you changed..." The older man was distraught,
trying to figure out why John was bringing all of this up, now. That
was ancient history.

Then John's smile vanished as he remembered something else. "That was
the day you were caught fucking that EMT in the ambulance and got
fired." He looked back over his shoulder at Dave, sadness in his
eyes. "That was when you first thought about leaving Chicago, wasn't
it? I know you didn't mention anything about it until a few days
after that, when we were finally able to get together to talk, but
that day...you were already planning to leave me, weren't you?"

Dave looked up at John, surprise mixing with sadness as he looked over
to the man. "I...John, I didn't wanna leave you. I wanted to take
you with me. I...I needed to start a new life after everything that
happened at County. God, John, we've...we've been through this.
I...I slept with that woman out of anger. I shouldn't have done it.
I never meant to hurt you. God, John, I love you. I loved you then,
and I love you now."

Dave forced himself to look down at John's feet, not trusting himself
to look John in the eye any further. No. Dave had to focus on fixing
John, and making his physical pain stop.

"I know," John softly said. "I never meant to hurt you, either.
Either one of you." He looked back at Luka. "I'm sorry about last
night. I didn't mean to make you remember bad things. A person
should never have to remember anything that they don't want to, and it
was wrong of me to not even think about what I was saying. You were
right to see that I was selfish, so very right, and I don't understand
why you came back. Especially since I have to hurt both of you one
more time because I can't bear the thought of hurting either one of
you, and I know I will. It's my nature and I can't help it. I'll
hurt you over and over and over again and never see it, never
understand it, and I'm sorry about that."

John looked back at Dave. "I really am sorry. I never should have
asked if you'd still be my friend. I realized that this morning, too,
when I knew Luka had dumped me. I couldn't stand the thought of going
to work and just being his friend and nothing else, not now. And I
can't stand the thought of ever just being your friend, either." John
reached out with both hands, one arm stretched out toward Luka until
he could touch him and the other toward Dave until he was also
touching him. "It was selfish of me to ask that because I know how
much it would hurt you," he looked over at Luka, "both of you, to go
back to that. That's why I can't choose either one of you. Yes, that
means I'll be alone, or, rather, without love, but I can handle that.
I've lived without love this long and I can go back to that. But I
won't be alone. It's not in my nature to stay alone, and I know that,
too."

Luka shook his head. "There is nothing to be sorry for," he said, his
brow furrowed in confusion. And as John continued, Luka shook his
head once more, this time his eyes opening in surprise. "But...John,
I didn't break up with you this morning, where did you get that
impression? I told you I would give you as much time as you need.
I...I got up to take a shower before going to work, and when I came
out, you were gone. I didn't say anything to you, why did you think
that I broke up with you?" Luka's voice was laced with hurt and
confusion, and he didn't even try to hide the fact that he was very,
very upset.

Dave was upset as well, and he gripped John's hand very tightly.
"John, I'm sorry about the phone call last night. I had too much to
drink...and I shouldn't have called. I'm...I'm so sorry man. I can't
deal with not having you in my life. Please, I'll...I'll give you all
the time you need, but, please don't...don't push me away. I can't be
without you in my life, and I don't think you can be without me
either." Dave knew John too well -- and he knew instinctively that
this was some sort of defense mechanism. It had to be -- for him to
all of a sudden make this decision. "And you're wrong about something
else too, you won't live without love, because pushin' us away,
pushing me and Luka away isn't gonna make us stop loving you...it's
just not that easy, John."

This was one big mess, and Dave still knew that he was mostly to blame
for it. And he would spend his life making up for it if he had to.
"Maybe, I don't know...maybe we can try what you suggested...that the
two of us...share you..."

Luka's face blanched at those words, but he found himself nodding.
Anything, at that point, to keep John from continuing down this self
destructive path. Anything to make the man smile a genuine smile again.

John shook his head, then freed his hands, wrapping his arms around
his body and finding a spot on the ceiling to look at since he
couldn't bear to see Dave or Luka in pain. He wanted so much to take
them up on that offer, but he knew he couldn't -- it would hurt them
both so very much.

"No, I can't do that. It will hurt you too much, you said so. Both
of you said so. I don't want to hurt you any more, I just don't. And
I will, even if I kept both of you. I know I will. Some other person
will smile at me, then be nice to me, and I'll be her or his friend
and think that's a good thing and then one day I'll get kissed and
I'll kiss back and one thing will lead to another and I'll end up
hurting you both. I can't help it. My mind might want one thing, but
my body...it always wants another. Always. And neither one of you
needs someone like me in your life. I'll only disappoint you and then
you'll leave me in the end. It's better this way. Just like you said
in my dream, Dave. Have some hurt now to avoid the bigger hurt later,
because I'm just not good enough for either one of you. That's not
what you said then. You kept saying you weren't good enough for me,
but I knew better. I know...what I am. I've always known."

Tears filled Dave's eyes again, and he frustratingly wiped them away.
He had shed more tears over John in the past few days then he had
remembered crying in his whole life, and he was tired of it. "What
you're doing right now is hurting me," Dave said, no longer caring
that Luka was still in the room. And then something that John said
caught his ear. "What...what is it that you think you are, John?"

If they could get him to talk about it...to talk about Jenny - maybe,
maybe it would lead to something else -- some kind of revelation, some
way to start John healing again.

Luka stood back, knowing that too many people talking right at that
moment would not be a good thing. It was best to try to let Dave draw
it out of John..

"You said it once, Dave. You said it the nice way, but it's still the
same thing when all is said and done. A sex kitten. An insatiable
sex kitten. A slut. I was born knowing how to pleasure someone, it's
what I'm good at. A natural born cock-sucker. Hell, I shouldn't have
gone into medicine, I would have made so much more money being a whore
since I can bring pleasure to women and men." It pained John to have
to voice his failings, especially in front of his grandmother, but he
couldn't deny what he was, not any longer. Getting that truth out
would make Dave and Luka understand that they were better off without
him and never should have wasted their love on him in the first
place. No one else had.

Dave's first instinct was to look over towards Mrs. Carter and make
sure she was okay with hearing this. And then, he turned his
attention back to John. "Don't you understand," he said, slightly
embarrassed that he was talking about his sex life in front of John's
family. "Don't you understand that if you told me that you never
wanted to have sex again, that I would still want to be with you? I
love *you*. Yeah, the sex is nice, but this is about so much more
then that. God, John...I think about you *all* the fucking time, and
*not*about the sex. You are *not* a whore...and...and..."

Dave was getting frustrated, and he had to stop speaking. He looked
over towards Luka, tears welling in his eyes once more. Luka nodded,
and brought his attention fully on John. He took a moment to compose
himself, still trying to recover from everything that had been said so
far that afternoon. "You...you need to understand, John...what
happened with Jenny...whatever it was that she said to you...it's
*not* true. You are worth *so* much more than that..."

"It wasn't just Jenny, Luka. I could have maybe forgotten about what
she said if she had been the only one. There was Alex and...." John's
voice trailed off as he realized that they were talking about Jenny in
front of his grandmother and he couldn't do that. He wasn't supposed
to ever say anything about Jenny. Never. He finally looked at Luka,
feeling more than a bit of panic. "I was never with anyone named
Jenny, I don't know who you're talking about."

Millicent move her wheelchair a little closer to the bed. "John, it's
going to be all right. I know about Jenny," she gently said.

John abruptly sat up, puzzled. "You know? He told you? But he told
me to never tell anyone about her, that I had embarrassed him more
than enough as it was and he didn't want any of you ever being hurt
because of what I did."

Millicent didn't know what to say to that revelation. John was
admitting that someone in the family or household knew what had
happened and she wanted to keep him talking, but she wasn't sure how
to do that without letting him know that this mysterious 'he' hadn't
said anything at all to her.

Dave was completely confused. As was Luka. But there was something
that Dave wanted to clear up right away. "John...I swear I never told
your Grandmother *anything* about Jenny, I swear."

Luka shook his head. "Neither did I, John, but, I do
wonder...who...who is this Alex?" That was a name that Luka hadn't
recognized. Was it a family member of John's? Was that someone else
who John had told about Jenny?

John scowled at Dave and ignored Luka's questions. It was bad enough
they all knew about Jenny, they didn't need to know how he had
embarrassed himself with Alex. Then again, maybe they did need to
know, since it showed even more just what he was. "First of all, I
know neither one of you told Gamma. You weren't there to see it, were
you? As for Alex..." John suddenly wasn't sure about talking about
Alex in front of his grandmother. She had been more than
understanding about him and Luka and him and Dave, and she didn't seem
to be too disappointed in him about Jenny, but that would change when
he told them all about Alex. "Gamma, maybe you and Dr. Meyers should
go downstairs now? You can see that I'm fine, so there's no need for
you to worry any more about me."

Millicent didn't want to go, but she nodded, thinking that perhaps she
and Dr. Meyers could figure out on their own just who John meant about
a man who had been there to see whatever it was that had happened with
Jenny. Had it been her husband? Had that really been what J.C. had
meant when he had said, time and time again, that John deciding to be
a doctor was his way of 'getting back' at him? It would be just like
the man to have known something so devastating and keep it a secret
for all those years. "We'll be down in my room," she said, and then
the two of them left, with Dr. Meyers pulling the door closed behind them.

John looked at Dave. "Are you done?" He wasn't sure why it was
taking Dave so long to simply look at his feet, but then again, when
he had sat up, he had moved, and his feet weren't facing Dave any
longer. Still, how long did it take to clean a few scratches?

Dave looked back down at John's feet, reaching out to touch one as he
spoke. "I'm almost done," he said, looking up towards John again.
"Why don't you tell us about Alex while I finish this up? I thought I
knew most of your friends...but I never heard ya talk about Alex
before today," Dave said sincerely, casting Luka a quick glance.

Luka nodded, and took his place on the edge of John's bed once more.
Turning towards John, he waited with patient eyes for him to speak again.

John lay back down so that the soles of his feet would face Dave. "He
sent me away, just like Jenny had said he would if he ever found out.
If I was bad, then I'd be sent to boarding school, it was that
simple. So, I went. They'd already started the school year though,
and I was in late. All of the kids my age were already assigned
roommates, so I ended up with Alex. He didn't really want some
homesick kid sharing a room with him, so he mostly ignored me, which
was fine with me. I was too worried about what the teachers were
going to do because Jenny had said that the men who worked at boarding
schools liked the boys, you know?" John found himself staring at
Luka's knee, a safe place to look, he thought.

"But, I think she was wrong about that and probably said it to scare
me because as it got closer to Christmas, none of them even hinted
anything, which was fine with me. And it was at Christmas when Alex
started to like me, I think. Gamma and grandfather were out of the
country and I found out that my parents were also traveling and I
couldn't come home. Alex was going home and he invited me to come
with him. At first I didn't want to go, because I didn't want to be a
pest, but he insisted, so I went. His family was really nice about
having me around and I had a pretty good time even though I wasn't
home. I wanted...I...Jenny had said..."

Saying what he had done was going to be a lot more difficult than John
had thought it would be.

Dave's touch was gentle on John's feet, and he listened intently as he
heard John speak about his past. Again Dave felt something akin to
anger building up inside him, but this time towards this guy Alex --
whoever he was -- for also very likely taking advantage of a young
boy. "Who...who sent you away, John?" he asked, his voice soft.
"And...what had Jenny said? What did Alex do?"

Luka kept himself close to John's side, but didn't touch him --not
wanting to send John back into his shell again. This was good...John
talking this out -- whether John realized it yet or not.

"She always said that the best way to properly thank someone for being
kind to you, or doing something for you, was to give them pleasure.
And Alex had been nice to me...more than nice...I knew that I liked it
when Jenny...when she sucked on my cock, so I thought that Alex would
like it, too. We stayed there through New Year's, so on New Year's
Day I decided that I'd wake him up by pleasing him. He didn't seem
too happy about it when he woke up, but then he seemed to like it. He
kept running his hands through my hair and telling me how good it felt
and that I was doing a great job...better than a woman, even, and he
asked if I had been born just knowing how to do that." John shrugged.

"Looking back now, I guess I was, although I didn't realize it then.
So, we went back to school and Alex liked me a lot better then. He
wouldn't let me sleep in his bed with him or anything like that, but
every morning I'd wake him up that way and every night before he went
to sleep he'd ask me to suck him off and I would. I thought...I
thought he was really liking me. He kept saying how much he loved
what I did with my mouth, but...but when he graduated, he didn't even
invite me to go out to dinner with him and his parents, even though he
did ask me to suck him off before his parents got there. The seniors
didn't leave the school when they graduated, so he had a few more days
to stay there, but he still didn't say anything about how he felt.
That last day, he packed, never even looking at me. And then, when I
thought he was going to leave without even saying goodbye, he turned
to me and undid his pants, telling me he needed me to suck him off one
more time. And when he came, he just laughed and said something about
how lucky he had been to have had a born cocksucker for a roommate and
then he picked up his suitcase and left."

John was about to stare a hole through Luka's leg as he remembered how
hurt he had been that Alex hadn't said anything else. "It was my
birthday and my first present was finding out that Alex didn't really
care at all. Then school ended and I went home and found out that
Jenny had gotten married and I never saw her again, and I realized
then that she hadn't really cared either. I think it's safer that
way, for them, anyway. Because when you care about someone like me,
then you'll just get hurt when they move on to the next body, and
there's always a next body. I guess I can understand them not caring,
but I don't understand why they left without at least saying goodbye.
They were the only ones though...everyone else said goodbye or fuck
you or something...until you left." John directed that last bit
toward Dave, but he didn't dare look around at the man because he
didn't want to see if he had succeeded in making Dave realize just how
much of a nothing he really was.


To be continued.
This story archived at http://errealmofslash.com/viewstory.php?sid=609