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Chapter Five

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Everyone falls for it."

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

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

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

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

"Then how do you feel?"

"I don't feel anything."

Dave rolled his eyes. "Fine."

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

"Of course not," Dave replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"And where do they usually go?"

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

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

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

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

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


To be continued..
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