The next day, in keeping with their Tuesday night Pizza Night, JC offered to swing by and pick up dinner on his way over.  After working all day Carter was glad to have someone else worry about dinner, and since Fiona was laid up in bed he wasn't counting on her being the one to get it.

            "Hey kids."  JC smiled as he walked into the living room with a pizza in one hand and a bag of Chinese take out in the other.  "Whatever food you want, I've got."

            "I love you."  Fiona smiled from the couch and closed her eyes in ecstasy as the scent of the pizza filled the room.

            "Oooh, I love you too."  Carter reached over the back of the couch and took the Chinese food from JC.  "C'mere."  He smiled and tilted his chin up as JC planted a kiss on his lips.

            JC blindly held the pizza box out to Fiona who took it and pretended not to see the flash of tongue between JC's lips or Carter's hand pulling at the flimsy waistband of JC's sweats.  "Listen, I'm all for the nasty boy porn, but can you wait till after I'm done eating?"  She asked as she opened the lid and once again expressed her love for JC.  "I want to have your children."  She said softly as she lifted a piece covered in pepperoni and peppers to her lips.

            "Hey, what about your mouth?"  Carter asked as he turned away from JC's lips, forcing them to collide with his ear.

            "I'll deal with it later."

            "The pepperoni is going to hurt."

            "Thanks dad."  Fiona rolled her eyes then picked the pepperoni and peppers off and stuck them back in the box. He was right.

            Carter went back to kissing JC as Fiona ate her plain cheese pizza and tried to ignore the pain in her mouth and throat.  The pizza was just too good to pass up.

 

            They enjoyed their dinner together in the living room, though Carter and JC were more interested in each other than the food, which was fine.  Fiona ate more than her share of the pizza then rolled her eyes at the two boys entangled in each others limbs on the far side of the couch.  She tapped Carter's back as she walked past them into her room.  "Just don’t make a mess, okay?"

            Carter waved a reply without freeing his mouth from the side of JC's neck.

            "G'night Fi."  JC opened his eyes long enough to smile at her before she shook her head and shut her door. 

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            Carter jumped visibly as his muscles tensed against JC's back in the middle of the night.  "What?"  JC asked softly, waking slowly from a deep sleep.  They'd made their way to Carter's room hours earlier, but only just fell asleep when Carter jostled JC awake.

            "I heard something."  Carter whispered.

            "What?"

            "I heard something.  In the other room."  Carter pushed himself up to a sitting position and tapped on JC's side.  "Did you hear that?"

            "I don't hear any –"  He was cut off by the sound of a dull thud in the living room.  JC's breath caught in his throat and his mind jumped into action.  "Is it Fiona?"  He whispered, meeting Carter's eyes in the dark.

            Carter shook his head, "She's asleep."

            "You're sure?"

            Carter paused and listened again as the sound repeated itself but with three quick bumps.  "That's by the back door.  She wouldn't be by the back door and if she knocked into something she'd be swearing."  He licked his lips as his heart raced in his chest.

            "Does anyone else have a key?"

            "No."

            "But you hide that one under the planter."  JC sighed as the realization struck him.  "You need to take that out of there."

            "It's for just in case."  Carter argued.

            "In case some nutcase wants to break in in the middle of the night?"  JC frowned and pulled the covers back slowly.  He reached to the floor and found his shorts.

            Carter ignored him and sighed softly, "What are you doing?"

            "I'm going to go have a look."

            "Are you crazy?"

            "What was your idea?"

            "Call 911."  Carter reached for the phone on his nightstand.

            JC thought for a minute.  "Okay.  Dial nine one and have your finger over the one to dial in case something happens."

            "Wait."

            "What?"

            "What about Fiona?"

            "You said it wasn't her."

            "It's not."  Carter shook his head.  "I don't think."

            "Okay…?"

            "Shouldn't one of us go protect her?"

            JC took a deep breath, "In order to get to her room you have to expose yourself to the living room."

            "Right."

            "Which is where the intruder is.  If there is one."

            "Damn."

            "What do you have that I can use as a weapon?"  JC looked around the shadowed room.

            "Knives."

            "In here?"

            "In the kitchen."  Carter shook his head as whatever it was in the living room thumped again, sounding closer to the hall that before.  "Shit.  It's coming to the hall."  He picked up the phone and began to dial.

            "Wait.  Not yet." JC put out his hand to stop Carter.  "What do you have in here that I can use?"

            "Nothing."  Carter shook his head as his hands began to sweat.

            "Nothing?  You don't have a baseball bat or a heavy flashlight or anything?"

            "Do I look like the kind of guy who plays baseball?"  Carter asked.

            "Well…?"

            "Golf clubs!  Fi's dad had golf clubs and they're in the closet."

            "Great.  Go get me the three iron."  JC stood up and pulled his sweats on over his shorts.

            Carter tip toed to the closet and opened it slowly, "Which one is the three iron?"  He whispered across the room.

            "The big one."  JC whispered as he held his hand out for the weapon.

            "Okay."  Carter pulled the bright blue knitted sock off the top and handed the heavy club to JC.  "Be careful."

            "I will."

            "Do you want me to go?"

            "No.  I want you to get on the phone and be ready to dial."  JC said softly.  "If you hear anything, dial 911 and barricade the door."

            "What about Fiona?"

            "Carter… just… just do it."  JC rested his fingers on the handle of the door as whatever was in the living room slammed into what sounded like a cupboard.  "It's in the kitchen."  JC said over his shoulder.

            "What if he has a knife?"

            "This is big enough.  He won't get close enough to use it."  JC swung the club in his hands.

            "Be careful."  Carter whispered as his voice shook.

            "Get ready to dial."  JC said with a quick look at the phone.

            Carter picked up the phone and pressed nine, one.  His finger hovered above the one to press it if he needed to, all the while his heart pounded in his chest and his feet froze on the cold hardwood floor.

            "Okay."  JC turned the doorknob slowly then carefully opened the door without a sound.  He stepped into the hall and the last thing Carter saw was his muscular and perfectly rounded shoulder before the door shut.

            "Shit, shit, shit, shit."  Carter mumbled under his breath. His ears strained to hear something, anything.  In the ten seconds of silence Carter convinced himself that there was nothing there and that they both had incredibly overactive imaginations.  If there was someone in the house, he'd have heard a scuffle or some sound.

            Then it came.  A high pitched shriek followed by a thud and the sound of breaking glass.  Carter's finger pressed the one as he dove to the floor and crawled halfway under the bed.  As he fell, the phone flew from his hand and skitted across the floor just out of reach.  From his position under the bed he could hear it ring two feet away as he reached to bring it closer.

            Tears formed in his eyes as his hands shook like leaves in a storm.  "911, please state your emergency."  The voice on the other end said clearly.

            "Th-there's someone in my house.  There's someone in my house!"  Carter raised his voice then stopped as he heard laughing coming from the living room. JC's laughing, a sound he would recognize anywhere.  "Hang on."  He said into the phone.  "JC?"  He shouted toward the door.  His voice bounced off the bottom of the bed and was absorbed by the box spring above him.

            "What the hell is going on?"  He heard Fiona demand from the hall.  Her voice was followed by JC laughing again and the sound of broken glass being moved across the floor.

            "Hang on. Maybe not."   He frowned into the phone and scooted out from under the bed.

            "Can you confirm your address?"

            "It might be nothing, hang on.  He's laughing."

            "Who's laughing sir?"

            "My boyfriend."  Carter pushed himself off the floor and went to the door.

            "Carter, it's okay.  Come on out."  JC said from the other side.

            He threw the door open and stepped into the hall with his heart pounding like a jackhammer. JC and Fiona were standing on the couch with broken glass strewn across the floor.  "Who are you talking to?"  Fiona asked,

            "Fucking 911."  Carter glared at the two of them on the couch.

            "It's okay.  It's just a bird."  JC laughed.

            "It's a what?"

            "A bird."  He pointed to the kitchen where a big black bird was walking around on the counter.

            "It's a bird."  Carter sighed with relief.  "Never mind," he told the operator, "it's just a bird.  I'm sorry, I just kinda freaked out."

            "We can send an officer out to check your property."

            "No, no it's okay."  Carter smiled, "There's a bird in our house and it was slamming into the walls.  It's okay."

            "Are you sure?"

            "Yeah, I'm sure."  He shook his head, "Thank you.  Good night."  He hung up the phone then threw it at JC who caught it expertly.  "You scared the crap out of me, what was that?"

            "It flew at my head!"  JC laughed.  "I walked out with that club raised and as I got to the couch it flew at my head so I threw the club and it broke the window."  JC nodded at the shattered back door.  "I'll get it fixed."

            "What about you?"  Carter turned to Fiona.

            "I heard the glass shatter and I thought… I don't know what I thought.  But I went to investigate."  She shrugged and laughed as she sat down on the couch.

            "Watch your feet, there's glass all over."  JC pointed to the floor.  "Can you grab my shoes?  They're by your door."

            Carter sighed and shook his head.  "I can't believe you two."

            "Us?!  You're the one having a heart attack over a bird."  JC laughed.

            "Well I didn't know what it was!"  Carter said defensively as he blushed and ducked into his room.  He returned a minute later with his sneakers on over his bare feet and JC's shoes in his hands. He handed them to him then turned his back to Fiona.  "Come on doll, I'll give you a ride back to your room."  She hopped on for a piggy back ride and laughed into his hair as he carried her down the hall.

            "Your boyfriend is my hero."

            "Yeah, a real knight in shining armor. He saved us from the killer bird."  Carter rolled his eyes but was silently pleased with JC.

            "Dude.  I didn't see you out there defending the house."

            "Hrmph."  Carter grumbled as she dropped onto the bed.  "Go back to sleep."

            "What about the bird?"

            "We'll get it out."  He sighed and ran his hand through his hair as he heard JC and the bird going after each other in the other room.  Carter had more to deal with now than just Fiona.  He took a deep breath before grabbing a towel from the hall closet to help JC wrangle the bird and patch the door.

            Thirty minutes later they were wide awake and sweaty from chasing the very persistent bird around the house.  JC finally opened the front door and together they shooed it out into the cool night air, then hung a sheet over the wide opening of the back door.  Carter swept the remainder of the glass up before he and JC returned to bed, though sleep wasn't first on their agenda.

            "Fiona said you're her hero."  Carter whispered into the darkness of the room, though the early dawn light hinted at the window.

            "Yeah?"  JC whispered back with a smile.

            "A knight in shining armor."  Carter laughed and nuzzled JC's neck.

            "Oh really?"  JC tilted his head to give Carter more room.   "Do I get to ride a horse?"

            Carter snickered and forced himself not to make a stallion comment.  "Of course.  You can ride a horse when you come rescue us."  He smiled, but he knew that JC could easily be their hero… if he was willing.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            When Fiona woke up the next morning, Carter was in the kitchen wiping sweat off his brow.  "What are you doing?"  She asked with a scratchy, thick morning voice.

            "I had to tape up the hole."  He nodded toward the living room.  "JC put up a sheet last night, but we needed more than that."  A mismatched patch of cardboard covered the huge space their sliding glass window had taken up.

            "Ahh.  Where is he?"

            "He had a meeting at eight in Santa Monica."

            "Ouch."

            "Yeah."  Carter sighed.  "I'm glad you're up though, I almost had to come and get you."

            "What for?"

            "To see how you were feeling.  Dr. Simon wanted us to call if you weren't feeling better."  He looked her over.  "I'm gonna call."

            "Carter."  She sighed.

            "You can't swallow without crying and you're flushed which means you probably," he placed his hand on her forehead, "definitely have a fever."

            "Carter."  Fiona whined again.

            "So I'll call and make you an appointment for tomorrow."

            "Fine."

            "Unless you want to go to urgent care today.  I can stay home and –"

            "Tomorrow will be fine.  I'll call."

            "You will not."

            "Yes I will.  I know how serious this can be Carter.  I'll call."  She reached for the phone and dialed to prove her point.  When the nurse answered Fiona smiled and identified herself.  After a few minutes she had an appointment for the next afternoon and instructions on what to do between then and the appointment.

            "All righty then, I'll take tomorrow off."

            "I have a car.  You don't have to drive."

            "Don't even start that again."  Carter sighed.  "If you get checked out and you're okay then I'll go in for a half day.  Don't worry about it."  He took her cream of wheat from the microwave and set it on the table in front of before planting a gentle kiss on top of her head.

 

            That evening after work, Carter retreated to his room after making sure Fiona had taken her last course of medicine.  He hadn't talked to JC all day and he was getting that fluttery feeling in his chest that meant he needed to hear JC's voice, even if it was just his voice mail greeting.  He called from his cell phone, knowing that JC would get the special ring and know it was him.  Hopefully, he'd hear the funky tune and stop what he was doing to answer; he almost always did.

            Fiona flipped through the channels on the TV until she hit The Learning Channel where she paused to watch the opening of Trading Spaces. The phone on the table in front of her rang, but she decided to let Carter get it.  It was probably JC anyway.

            By the time it rang three times she figured he wasn't going to answer it so she picked it up before the machine clicked on.  "Hello?"  Fiona's voice sounded more like a frog than she expected and she desperately hoped it wasn't anyone calling for her.

            "H-hi.  Fiona?"

            She covered her eyes with her hand.  She could have easily said no, but it was Wes.  "Yeah."

            "Hey, this is Wes.  Are you okay?"

            "I'm uh… I'm actually, I'm kinda sick."

            "Oh."  He actually sounded disappointed.  "Well I was calling to see if you wanted to go to the movies or something tonight.  There are about a dozen movies that came out this week so… but if you're sick…"

            "Yeah.  Thank you, but I should probably stay in."  Fiona sulked and forced herself to swallow against the razors in her throat.  The medicine was working, kind of, but she knew she had another couple days of feeling crummy before things started to look up.

            "Absolutely, I understand."

            "But thanks."  Fiona smiled weakly.

            "No problem.  Hey, do you want me to bring you something?"

            "What?"

            "Dinner?"  Wes asked.  When she didn't answer he jumped in to fill the silence, "Unless, I mean, are you… sick sick?  Are you, I mean… can you eat?"  That was the polite way of asking if she was imitating the girl from "The Exorcist".

            "I, yeah, no I can eat."  Fiona shook her head.  "Just nothing spicy or crunchy or whatever.  Soft stuff."

            "Oh okay.  Can I bring you some soup or something?"

            "No, it's okay.  I think I'm going to try to talk Carter's going to go get Chinese food or something."

            "Well… would you like a visitor?"

            "I don't… you want to come by?"

            "Unless you're horrendously contagious."  Wed laughed lightly.

            "I'm not."

            "Well then yeah, I'd like to see you."

            "I…"  She bit her lip and looked down at her three day old pajamas.  "I look like crap."

            "You're sick, you're allowed."

            "I haven't showered since the day before yesterday."

            "I'll pretend not to notice."

            Fiona paused, "I seriously look like crap."

            "If you don't want me to come, just say so."  Wes continued to smile, knowing that he'd be going over anyway.

            "No, I do."

            "Okay then.  I'll even save Carter the trip.  I'll bring you some soup and good soft food to make you better."

            "Thank you."  Fiona smiled and sunk deep into the pillows.

            "I'll be there in about an hour, can you hold on that long?"

            "I think so."

            "Great.  I'll see you in a few."

            "Thanks, Wes."

            "Anytime." He smiled, then with a quick goodbye, hung up.

            Fiona clicked the phone off and set it on the glass topped coffee table as Carter came out of his room.  "Hey, cupcake.  How are you feeling?"

            "I'm fine."  She sighed.

            "I'm going to run and get some dinner then I thought I'd hop on over to JC's for a bit.  What do you want?  I'll bring you something back before I go."

            "Actually…"

            "You have to eat something."

            "I know, and –"

            "Something more than the cream of wheat garbage you've been living on.  Don't think I haven't noticed that you've pretty much finished it off by yourself this afternoon."

            "Dude, let me finish."  She swallowed thickly and winced.  "Wes is bringing me some soup and stuff."

            Carter blinked slowly then smiled, "Oh really?"  He raised his eyebrow at her.  "It's been what?  A week?  And he's already taking care of you?  He's a keeper."

            "I know."  Fiona smiled and closed her eyes, though inside she was reminding herself that she'd have to tell him sooner or later; before she really fell for him… and he might not turn out to be a keeper.

            "So he's coming over?"

            "Yeah.  So you can go on over to JC's and have fun."

            Carter bent to kiss her cheek.  "I'll have my cell phone on."

            "Okay."

            "And I'll be home tonight."

            "Okay."

            "Late."

            "I figured as much."  Fiona smiled up at him as he headed for the door.

            "And you have a doctor's appointment tomorrow afternoon."

            "I know."  She frowned quickly and made a face.

            "It'll be alright."

            "He's gonna put me on that crap so I don't get toxoplasmosis or whatever."

            "If your count is down he will, yes.  But would you rather have your brain rot?"  Fiona considered that for a moment, "No.  You wouldn't."  He answered for her.

            "But it'll make me sick."

            "Why don't you not worry about it until we go see him?  Maybe your count will be fine."

            "Ha."  She rolled her eyes.

            Cater sighed and shook his head, "I'll see you later, sugar pie."

            "Stop with the food names."

            "Good night."  Carter snickered and opened the front door.  "Peach blossom."

            "Bite me."  Fiona raised her hand in a single fingered wave.  "Good night."

            "Bye."  He laughed and let the door swing shut behind him.

            Fiona napped for a little bit until her stomach began to growl and there was a knock on the door.  She dragged herself from the couch and pulled the front door open.  "Hey."  She forced a smile as Wes stepped into the entry.

            "Hey."  He pulled her in for a quick hug then stood back to look at her.  "You should probably go lay down."

            "Yeah."  She stumbled back to the couch and curled up in her corner.

            "Oh my goodness.  What happened here?"  Wes asked as he looked at the boarded up sliding glass door.

            "Um, we had a bird in the house last night."

            "A bird did that?"

            "No, a golf club did that."  Fiona laughed.  "The guys heard something so Jay – "  She paused and caught herself, "Carter's boyfriend went to investigate and he freaked and threw his golf club at the intruder.  Only it was just a bird and the golf club went through the window."

            "Ahh."

            "We're getting it fixed, but the installation guys can't come until tomorrow morning."  Fiona made a face and sighed.

            "I guess you're lucky we're having such nice weather then, huh?"  Wes set the bag he was carrying down and leaned over the couch to hug her.  He dropped a light kiss on her cheek as his lips passed, then said, "I hope you're hungry.  I brought tomato soup and some chicken and stars that looked like fun."

            "Mmm, sounds good."  She closed her eyes and smiled at the thought of warm food.

            "So if you'll just tell me where the bowls are, I'll serve it up.  Do you want a sandwich too?  I can make you a grilled cheese if you want."

            "No.  I better not."  Fiona put her hand over her queasy stomach.  She honestly just hoped she'd be able to stomach the soup; she didn't want to try anything more than that.

            "If you change your mind, let me know.  Now… bowls?"

            "In the kitchen, top cupboard to the left of the sink."  Fiona said softly.

            "Perfect."  Wes disappeared into the small kitchen and returned a few minutes later with two steaming bowls of soup.  "Chicken or tomato?"

            "Chicken."

            "With stars."

            "Of course."  Fiona took the large bowl and blew on the soup to cool it.  "Oh man, it smells good."  She said as her stomach grumbled again.  The soup did smell marvelous; she just hoped that her stomach would be accepting of it once she took a bite.

            Wes walked around the couch to sit beside her, then lay a napkin carefully on her knees.  "In case you spill."

            "Good idea."  Fiona smiled and carefully brought her spoon to her mouth.

            "Is it too hot?"

            "It's perfect."  She shook her head and took another bite as he joined her.

            They talked very little while they ate.  Fiona was pleased to see that after five or six bites her stomach had calmed down enough so that she wasn't worried about seeing it in reverse all night.  "Thank you so much for this.  I needed something warm."  She licked her lips slowly but still cringed when she swallowed.  Nothing tasted right, but her stomach was full and she was feeling better.

            "Your throat is sore?"

            "Uh huh."  She nodded and made a sour face as the infected taste in her mouth returned.

            "Is it strep?"

            "No.  I…"  She shook her head and took a deep breath.  She could tell him then and let him leave if he wanted to.  Being in her house, on her couch, was probably the best place to do it so that she was in her comfort zone.  "It's actually called thrush.  It's an oral infection that… well it really sucks."

            Wes nodded and reached for her empty bowl.  He set it in his then put both spoons in the top bowl.  "I've heard of it."

            "It's actually like a yeast infection."

            "Yeah." He nodded and stood up to take the dishes to the sink.

            "Wes, wait."  Fiona reached out and grabbed his wrist as he walked behind the couch.  "Can you put those down for a second?"

            "I'm taking them to the sink." He nodded toward the kitchen.

            "Can you put them down though?  I want to talk to you."

            "Let me rinse them first."  He smiled, then bent to kiss the top of her head with a smile.  "Gimme a second."  He continued to the kitchen where he rinsed the dishes and stacked them on the drain board while Fiona's stomach did cartwheels.

            When he came back he sat by her feet and placed his big hand on her knee through the blanket.  "Okay, now you can talk."

            "I'm sick."  She said softly as she stared at the design of the quilt.

            "That's why I'm here."  He smiled as he opened and closed his hand on her knee.

            "No.  I mean…"  Fiona sighed softly and placed her hand on his to stop the motion.  This was going to be harder than she thought.  She didn't want to lose what she had with Wes; he was so much fun and he cared about her and she knew that dropping this on him would probably make him leave.  Selfishly, she didn’t want that to happen.  For the first time in her life she wanted to lie to someone to keep them around.

            "You mean what?"  Wes asked as he turned his hand over to hold hers awkwardly while his thumb moved over her knuckles.

            She didn't realize how long she'd been silent and his voice brought her back to the moment.  She cleared her throat and winced as she swallowed.  In that second she knew it wasn't fair to keep it from him and it'd be better for him to leave before they both got too attached.  Though she already was.  "I have HIV, Wes.  That's why I have thrush and why I'm sick and… and I don't know."  HIV always sounded less threatening than AIDS, so she used that instead.

            "You, uh, you do?"

            "Yes."

            "Oh."  His thumb stopped moving and he stared at her hand as she moved it to the edge of the quilt.  "I uh… I didn't know that."

            "I know you didn't."

            "Is… do I need to do something?"

            "What do you mean?"

            "Well, I've never been around anyone with AIDS before.  Not really anyway.  I just… I don't know what to say."

            "I just wanted to tell you so you would know.  You don't have to do or say anything."

            "Okay." He nodded.  "But, I mean…"

            "You don't have to hang around."

            "I don't… you mean tonight?"

            "Tonight.  At all."  Fiona nodded.

            "Are you tired?"

            "No, I'm okay."

            "Then…?"

            "What?"  She asked softly.

            "You want me to leave?"

            "You can if you want to."

            "Okay… but -"

            "I'm just saying you can.  Of course.  I mean, don't feel like you have to hang around."  She shrugged and kept her eyes anywhere but on him.

            "Well if you're tired or want to rest or just want to be alone, then I'll go ahead and go."

            "Okay."

            Wes gave her a confused look and stood up, "O-okay…"  He grabbed his jacket from the back of the recliner chair then paused, "Are you sure you're okay?"

            "I'm fine."  She insisted with a deep breath.  He was really going to leave; and she wasn't going to stop him.

            Wes took two steps for the door then stopped, "Fi, are you sure you're okay?"

            "I'm fine."  She said through clenched teeth.

            "I think we should talk about this or something.  I mean… this is just really weird."

            "It's not weird."

            "Yeah it is."  He nodded and held his jacket tight in his hand.  "We've spent this nice night together and then you tell me your sick and then that’s the end of the night?  I just… that's weird.  I feel weird leaving."

            "You don't have to feel weird.  You can leave… it's okay."

            "You keep saying that but I don't know what you mean.  It sounds like you want me to leave… but I don't get that."

            "I don't want you to leave.  I'm saying you can."

            "I know I can." He frowned.

            "So then go."  She met his eye and waved at the door.

            "You don't want me to leave… but you don't want me to stay?"  Wes shook his head, more lost than ever before.

            "I didn't say that I wanted you to leave or stay."

            "Fiona… I'm totally lost."  He sighed and leaned on the couch by her arm.  "What's going on here?"

            "Nothing."

            "Nothing?  You tell me you've got HIV and then things shifted into some weird parallel universe where I don't know which end is up."  Wes shook his head and sighed.

            "No.  I'm just telling you that if you want to leave that's fine.  I won't be offended or upset or anything."

            "You won't be offended or upset if I leave?"

            "No.  It's… it's fine.  It's expected."

            "Wait.  You mean leave as in leave and don't come back?"  He tilted his head to the side and kept his face expressionless.

            "Don't sound so shocked."

            "Time out.  You expect me to leave because you told me you have HIV?  You won't be upset if I leave.  You won't be the least bit offended if I leave you because you're sick?"  Wes' eyebrows shot up in surprise.  She shrugged and clasped her hands in her lap as she pursed her lips.  "Well I'll tell you what, I'm offended.  I'm offended that you would think that.  I mean… really.  I'm upset if you're not."  He crossed his arms over his chest and shook his head.  "You really think that little of me that you expect me to just leave because you're sick?"

            "No, I –"

            "Because that's what it sounds like."

            "That's not what I meant."

            "Then what did you mean?"

            "I just meant that…"  She paused and licked her lips.  "I just meant that that's the way it happens sometimes so it's expected and I wouldn't be upset if you wanted to leave."

            Wes slowly shook his head again as his jaw moved from side to side.  "You know what Fiona… that's… that's just not cool.  I thought we, I mean… I thought maybe we…"

            "We do."

            "I like you a lot and I'd be upset if you just got up and walked away for no good reason.  How do you think it makes me feel to know that you wouldn't even be upset if I left?"

            "It's not that I wouldn't be upset."  She sighed; this wasn't going at all how she'd planned.  "I like you a lot.  I'm just saying…"

            "That I can use you being sick as an excuse to leave."

            "Yeah.  I guess."

            "That's what usually happens?"

            "Sometimes."  She nodded, remembering some of the reactions she'd received.

            "Well if I leave here tonight it'll be because I don’t like you, not because you're sick."  Wes crossed his arms over his chest again and sighed.  "Why don't you tell me what you really want and we can take it from there."

            "I want to not be sick." Fiona said with tears in her eyes.

            "Okay.  Well I can't change that.  What else?"

            "I…"  Fiona took a deep breath and let it out slowly.  It'd been ages since she was truly honest with anyone other than Carter and going there was going to take a huge leap of faith on her part.  "I want you to stay and I want you to be okay with this and I… I just want… I want you to stay."

            Wes nodded and rounded the couch to sit at her feet again, "That's something that I can do."  He put his hand back on her knee and leaned in close.  "You can't expect me to act like everyone else."  Fiona nodded and dropped her chin to her chest.  Wes carefully tilted her chin back up to look her in the eye.  When he had her attention he smiled slightly and continued, "I want to stay here with you tonight.  And when you get better I want to take you to see 'Mama Mia' downtown.  I want all of that regardless of what you want.  If you don't want that, then that's fine… but that won't make me not want it just the same."

            "Wes."  She bit her lip and blinked away her tears.  "I want all of that.  I want this… to be normal."

            "This?"

            "Our relationship."

            "Okay." He nodded.

            "But it can't be."

            "Says who?"

            "Wes…"  She sighed and rolled her eyes.

            "It's our relationship, Fiona.  No one else's.  It can be whatever we want it to be."  He kissed the corner of her mouth then lightly trailed his fingertips over her sweaty hairline.  "Okay?"  He asked as almost an afterthought.

            Fiona didn't trust her own voice for a moment, and knew that if she answered with the truth she'd be taking a step into somewhere she'd never been before.  Her head tilted forward slowly, "Okay."

            Wes smiled, "Good.  Now, first things first… seriously, are you feeling okay?"

            "I'll be okay."  She nodded.  "I've got my medication and Carter."

            "And me."

            "And… and you."  She sighed softly and smiled with a light blush.  Now that he knew, Fiona could begin to let her guard down.

            Wes stayed until after ten when they both began yawning.  Fiona was glad for the time they were able to spend and she was even more pleased that AIDS wasn't the main focus of their conversation.  He gave her a hug before he left and refilled her glass of water for her to take her last course of pills for the day.

            Fiona stayed on the couch and flipped channels until she found a Lifetime Movie that looked interesting enough to entertain her until Carter got home.  The movie ended though, and Carter still hadn't come through the front door.  She turned the TV off and settled in for a night on the couch.  Her bed would have been more comfortable, but she didn't feel like moving and she wanted to be able to catch Carter on his way in.

            A key turned in the lock as she was repositioning the throw pillow under her head and Carter walked in without turning a light on.

            "Hey."  Fiona's voice in the darkness startled Carter as he shut the front door.

            "Hey you, what are you doing up?  It's after midnight."  Carter's voice instinctively dropped to a whisper.  "You should be in bed, that cardboard stuff isn't keeping the cool air out."

            "I told him."

            "You... what?"  Carter's heart skipped an anxious beat; he knew what she meant.

            "I told him.  Wes."

            Carter sighed and sat on the back of the couch next to the dark lump he assumed was her knees.  "How'd it go?"  He asked cautiously.

            "Fine."

            "Yeah?"

            Fiona paused and Carter saw her tongue flick between her lips to wet them.  "Yeah."

            "He's...?"

            "He's okay."

            "I don't care if he's okay or not, Fi."  Carter rolled his eyes.

            "He's okay with it I mean."

            "Really?"

            "I think so.  Either that, or he's putting on a great front."

            "Hrm."  He pursed his lips and breathed out through his nose.  "What'd he say?"

            Fiona sighed softly and swung her legs over the side of the couch to stand up.  "We talked a lot.  He's a good guy, Carter."

            "I hope so."

            "He is."

            "Will you… I mean, are you going to see him again?"

            Fiona dragged the blanket from the couch behind her, then smiled over her shoulder at Carter from across the dark room.  "Yeah.  I like him."

            Carter smiled back and nodded, glad that for once someone cared enough about Fiona to not let a little thing like HIV get in the way of what could be a great relationship.  Though he was forever going to be wary of new straight men in her life, he knew this was a step in the right direction.  "Good.  I think I like him too."  Carter walked up to where she stood and placed a brotherly kiss on her forehead.

            "I already told you, he's straight."  Fiona smiled and hugged Carter close.  "Good night."

            Carter laughed lightly and patted her back, feeling the heat of her fever through their clothes.  "Good night hun.  Did you take –"

            "I took all of my meds.  Promise.  And I even feel a little better."  She stumbled through her door and waved once before she shut the door and climbed into bed.

            Carter stared at her closed door for a few minutes before he let his smile grow to reach his eyes.  Fiona was not only happy but she was getting healthy; Carter could now sleep without worry.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            The next afternoon Carter took a half day off and drove Fiona to the doctor's.  She complained the whole way but when she got there she was glad to have him so close.  From the minute she checked in, Carter knew she wasn't going to be happy.  Her temperature was over a hundred which warranted a fever watch.  Since she'd had the fever for at least two days and the medication from Monday wasn't bringing it down, she would be given a whole knew regimen that would wreak havoc on her already fragile system.

            By the time they left an hour later, she'd been given more thrush medication plus another medication to help ward off PCP, which was what they wanted to avoid. Her T-cell count had gone down and her viral load was up, a potentially dangerous combination.  She was expected back in the doctor's office on Monday to check everything one more time.  "I hate medication, yes I do.  I hate medication, how 'bout you?"  Fiona sang softly as they left the office.

            "You'd hate to have it turn into pneumonia even more."

            Fiona rolled her eyes and tried not to argue.  It didn't work.  "I have thrush.  I don't care how bad my thrush is, it's not going to turn into anything else.  That's not how it works."

            "I know how it works, honey.  And you know as well as I do that when you have thrush, or anything else for that matter, your immune system is impaired and it leaves the doors open for a bazillion other ickies to get in.  You have to protect your immune system."  They spoke the last sentence in unison.

            "I wish you didn't know everything."

            "Yeah.  Me too."  Carter unlocked her door and waited for her to get in.  "Now we're going to go home so you can lie on the couch and watch chick flicks and you can eat something and take your fancy new meds and take a nap."

            "Oh gee, can I?"  She rolled her eyes then squeezed them tights as she swallowed.  "You know, this wouldn't be so bad if the throat stuff didn't taste so bad.  Ugh."

            Carter smiled, but didn't laugh, as he drove them home and got her settled under her blankets on the couch.

 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

 

            When Fiona awoke the next morning she vaguely remembered Carter poking his head in to check on her before he left for work in the week hours of the dawn.  "I'm going to JC's after work, but I'll call you… okay?"  She remembered those words, but she wasn't sure if she responded.

            As she sat up though, she didn't care if she responded at all.  The room spun and her stomach tumbled dangerously.  With energy she didn't know she had, Fiona lurched from the bed and made it to the bathroom just in time.  What little food there was in her stomach emptied itself into the toilet bowl with a force that shocked Fiona.

            "Oh Jesus."  She gasped when she was finally done.  She flushed the toilet and rested her slick forehead against the cool porcelain.  After resting for a minute she hauled herself off the floor and went to the kitchen to get a glass of water and her medication.  Her stomach seemed a little more settled once it was empty, so she took the chance.

            By afternoon Fiona guessed that she'd spent ninety-six percent of her time in the bathroom after taking her morning dose of medication with a plain piece of toast and a glass of tepid tap water.  If she wasn't kneeling before the toilet, she was sitting on it, and sometime after one o'clock when the guys arrived to fix the window, hives broke out on her arms and chest.  "Just what I need."  She grumbled as she scratched at her arm on her way back to bed, the only place she felt comfortable.

            When Carter called that afternoon on his way to JC's, she didn't have the heart to tell him how she'd spent her day.  "How are you feeling?"  He asked, knowing full well that she couldn't be feeling great.

            "I'm still feeling all sickly and stuff."

            "Will you be okay if I go to JC's?  Do you want me to bring you some dinner?"

            Fiona's stomach gurgled in protest.  "Oh uh… no.  No, that's okay."

            "Because Mr. Chin's is on my way.  I know their food is kinda greasy, but it's good."

            Fiona's hand went to her mouth as her intestines reacted to the merest mention of the grease laden Chinese food.  "No.  I'll just… find something here."

            "You're sure?"

            "I'm sure.  I'll see you when you get home Carter.  Bye."  She hung up the phone and tossed it over her shoulder as she made a beeline for the bathroom again.

 

            Fiona was, as expected, in the bathroom when Carter came home later that night.  She hadn't been able to keep anything down all day and would have called him if she could have found three minutes to talk, and the phone.

            "Hey kiddo, I'm home and I brought Chinese food."

            Fiona sat up quickly and regretted it immediately.  "Oh my God."  She growled into the toilet.  "Carter!"

            "What?  Are you okay?"  He ran into the bathroom and made a sour face.  "Holy shit.  Clearly you're not."  He waved his hand in front of his face and dropped the bag of food in the hall.

            "This isn't funny."

            "I know it isn't."  He pulled his shirt up to cover his nose.

            "I feel like shit."

            "Yeah… well…"  Carter smirked from behind the thin protection of his shirt, his eyes gave him away.

            "It's not funny."  She threw him a dirty look.

            "I'm so not laughing."

            "Help me out here."

            "What do you want me to do?"

            "Just… hang on."  She got back up on her knees and threw up again.

            "Fi… oh baby."  Carter knelt beside her and put his hand on her back.  As disgusting as it was, she was more miserable than he could possibly be.  "Here."  He leaned back and pulled a washcloth from the tub to run it under cold water.  "Here, use this."

            "Thank you."  She croaked as she wiped her face off.  "I need to call Dr. Simon."

            "He said this was a possible side effect."

            "I know.  But this can't be normal.  I can't even keep water down."

            "Are you having any of the other side effects?"

            "Like… all of them.  Fever and a rash and… and diarrhea."

            "Oh."  Carter licked his lips and tried to not think about the smell as he reached over and flushed the toilet.  "Shit, Fi.  How long has this been going on?"

            "All day."  She coughed and wiped her mouth on her splotchy arm.  "But I'm not getting any of the medication because I'm throwing it up and I itch all over the place."  She sat back on the tile and leaned against the bath tub.  Her teeth chattered with the chill that came along with the fever as she pressed her hands over her eyes.

            Carter bit back any snappy remarks he would have normally made about her not telling him and focused on the problem at hand.  "There are other medications you can take, right?"

            "Uh huh."  She nodded.  "But he said this was the one I should be on.  But Carter… I can't.  I've got it coming out of both ends and I can't stop scratching."  Tears threatened to overflow as she pressed her hands to her eyes one more time.

            "It's okay.  I'll give Dr. Simon a call."

            "I've been throwing up everything."

            "You should have called me."  Carter sighed and tried to look upset, but concern took over his expression.

            "Call him please." Her bottom lips quivered as she wiped at her messy hair.

            "I'll call him in just a minute; let's get you back to bed first."  He reached under her arms and helped her up.

            "I'm gonna be sick again."

            "Now?"  Carter turned and aimed her toward the sink.

            "No, but I will again.  I'm sure of it."  Fiona's voice cracked and she looked about ready to cry.  "I feel like shit.  I'd rather get toxoplasmosis and PCP."

            "No you wouldn't."

            "Yes I would."

            "Fiona, no you wouldn't."  Carter dragged her down the hall to her room and deposited her on the bed.  "Crawl under the covers, I'll get you the barf can."  He made sure she was safely in the bed before he went out to the garage to get the pale blue rubber trash can that they used for times like this.  It was small enough to fit beside the bed, but big enough that she couldn't miss.  Not to mention, it could be hosed out in the backyard.  Easy cleaning was an added bonus.

            He carried it back into her room with the cordless phone in his free hand.  "Here you go doll.  Be sick all you want in there."

            "Thank you, Carter."

            "No problem."  He smiled and ran his hand over her sweaty forehead.  He hit the speed dial number for Dr. Simon's office and rolled the prescription between his hands as he waited.  "Hi Doreen, this is Carter.  I'm a fried of Fiona Garrett."

            "Of course, hi."  Doreen smiled.  She recognized the names from the many times they'd been in to see the doctor.  "How's Miss Garrett doing?"

            "Well… actually she's not doing too well.  Dr. Simon put her on…"  He held the phone away from his mouth and said, "What is this, honey?  Cotrim?"

            She shook her head weakly, "Septra."

            He returned to the phone and said, "Septra, and it's making her sick."

            "How long has she been on it?"

            "Um, just today.  Well today and last night."  He corrected himself.

            "Okay.  Let me go get Dr. Simon.  He's going to want to talk to you."

            "Okay."  Carter bit his lip and waited as she went to get the doctor.

            After three minutes of elevator music, Dr. Simon answered the phone with his usual cheerful tone.  "Carter, hello."

            "Hi Dr. Simon."

            "So I hear Fiona's not doing well?  How's her thrush?"

            "That's doing better I think.  But with this Septra stuff you've got her on, she'd been throwing up and she has a rash and a fever."

            "And diarrhea."  Fiona grumbled.

            "And she has diarrhea."  Carter added with a half smile.

            "Those are all possible side effects with Septra."

            "Yeah, we knew those were side effects but I really think that if we can change the meds or something, it would be best."

            "I'm not getting any of it anyway.  As soon as I take it, it comes right back up and I can't stop itching."  Fiona said as she scratched at her neck and pulled the blanket over her head.

            "Hey.  Do you want to talk to him or do you want me to do it?"  Carter poked at her as she pulled the covers up over her head.

            "You."

            "Then hush." Carter poked her through the blanket then went back to the doctor.  "And she's irritable."

            "Well at least she's feeling okay enough to be grouchy."  Dr. Simon laughed lightly.

            "Yeah, no kidding."  Carter smiled.

            "So when did all this start?"  Dr. Simon asked carefully.

            Carter looked at Fiona, "When did you start getting sick?"

            "This morning when I woke up."

            "This morning." Carter placed his hand on Fiona's shoulder through the blanket and gave her a quick squeeze.  "But she said she's been throwing up most of the meds that she's taking, so really we're just concerned that she's not getting what she needs."

            "Understood."  Dr. Simon nodded.  "Have her try to take her dose again tonight and if she vomits or if the symptoms get worse, bring her in to urgent care in the morning and we'll give Dapsone a try."

            "Okay.  Will that… does that do the same thing?"

            "The Dapsone is less effective, but basically yeah." Dr. Simon sighed.  "She's due to come in on Monday do get her count checked anyway.  Hopefully she'll start feeling better and won't need to come in before then."

            "Yeah, I hope so."  Carter nodded and smoothed down what little bit of hair he could see of Fiona's.

            "But don't hesitate to call or come in if things change or if you get concerned."

            "I won't.  Thanks, Dr. Simon."

            "No problem Carter.  I'll see you later."

            "Okay, bye."  He hung up and took a deep breath.  "He said to try it again tonight and if you still can't keep it down or if things get worse, to go in in the morning and he'll try you on some other meds."

            "Carter…"  She whined and threw the covers off her face.  "I feel like shit."

            "I know you do, sweetie.  I'll go to the store and get you some ginger ale and lime Jell-O, how's that sound?"  Carter bounced lightly on the bed.

            Fiona frowned and grumbled a bit, then said, "That sounds good actually."

            "Good."  Carter smiled and stood up. He leaned over and quickly kissed her warm temple, "Get some sleep sweetie."

            Though he hated to leave her home alone when she was sick, they didn't have anything bland enough for her to try to eat in the house.  Carter went to the grocery store and picked up saltines, some soup, ginger ale, pudding and little Jell-O cups that were ready to eat.  It wasn't the most nutritious stuff she could possibly eat, but if she could keep it down it'd be better than nothing.

            When Carter got home he poured the room temperature ginger ale into a spill proof sports bottle and carried that, along with a small cup of Jell-O, to her room.  "Here you go, Fi."

            "Ugh."

            "I know."  Carter sat at the edge of her bed and brushed her sweaty bangs off her forehead.  "How are you feeling?"

            "Crappy."

            He sighed and held the ginger ale to her lips.  "Have a sip of this and a few bites of Jell-O and I'll leave you alone."

            "Promise?"

            "I've left you alone all day, haven't I?"

            Fiona sipped at the bubbly soda and nodded.  "Yeah.  I'm sorry I didn't tell you I was sick.  I know you need to work."

            "This is more important than work."

            "You have to go tomorrow."

            Carter just shrugged and reached for the Jell-O. He spooned a bite into her mouth like a baby and sniffed.  "Tomorrow's Saturday.  Eat your Jell-O."

            "It's gross."  She made a face as she swallowed the cold gel.

            "It's not gross."

            "It's orange."

            "It's all they had."  He sighed and watched as she slurped the Jell-O off the spoon.  "If you can keep that down I'll make you some soup."

            "Ugh."  Fiona rolled onto her side.  "I feel like dookie."

            "I'm sure you do."  Carter watched her for a second.  "Okay.  Eat what you can, then go back to sleep.  I'll come check on you later."

            "All right."

            "Unless you want me to hang out in here with you?"

            "No.  Get outta here."  She smiled weakly as her stomach revolted.  Her eyes clamped tightly shut as she willed her body to hold onto the little bit of fluid she'd taken.

            "You okay?"

            "Yeah."  She nodded and kept her eyes closed.

            "I'll check on you later…"  Carter slowly shut her bedroom door and went to the living room to channel surf.  He muted the TV every few minutes to listen for sounds from Fiona's room, but every time he was met with silence.  "Well at least she's not throwing it up."  He said softly to himself just before the phone rang.  Carter jumped to answer it before it woke Fiona up… assuming she was sleeping.

            "Hello?"  Carter answered the phone quietly.

            "Hi, is Fiona there please?  This is Wes."

            "Hi Wes, no she's asleep.  Or she should be anyway."  Carter sighed softly.

            "Is she okay?"

            "Um."

            "Is she?"

            "Not… not really.  I mean, she's okay she's just… she's sick."

            "Still?"

            "Well the thrush is pretty much cleared up but she's been throwing up."  Carter shrugged and wondered just how much he should share; and how much Wes would understand.

            "Is there anything I can do?"

            "No.  She's going to be sleeping a lot.  I've got it covered."

            "So… is…"

            "It's just a side effect of the medication she's taking."  Carter explained quickly.  "Or a couple side effects really."

            "Oh."  Wes tugged at his lower lip.  "She's sleeping?"

            "Yeah."

            "Okay.  Well can you tell her I called?"

            "I will."  Carter nodded slowly.

            "Are you… can I bring you anything?"

            "No.  Thank you though."  He paused.  "If you'd like to come over maybe tomorrow, she might like that."

            "Tomorrow?"

            "Yeah.  Tonight's just… not a good idea."

            "Okay.  I'll call tomorrow."  Wes tried to smile.  "And if you need anything you can call.  Or have her call.  Or whatever."

            "I will."  They were silent on the line, both wondering how to end the call when someone they both cared for was sick and neither of them could help.  "Anyway, I'll uh… I'll let her know you called.  She'll be glad to hear that."

            "Okay.  Thanks."

            "Thanks."  Carter mumbled.  "So uh… I'll talk to you tomorrow then."

            "Yeah. Bye."  Wes hung up the phone and sighed.  He liked Carter just fine, but he wasn't sure where that line was drawn.  Carter was so protective of Fiona, he knew eventually he'd come up against the strong wall of Carter's defense.  He hoped he'd be prepared for whatever that entailed.

 

 

 Next...

 

 

Copyright 2003, Amy Lynn