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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.
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