After checking on Fiona one more time, making sure she took her evening course of medication, Carter retreated to his bedroom to call JC.  He didn't hear Fiona all night long, so he assumed that she was handling the medication a little better than before.  But when he woke in the morning he saw that she'd been sick at least once, and the little pills she took the night before were dissolving in the barf can.

            "I was sick."  Fiona grumbled from under the covers.

            "I can see that."

            "I don't want to get out of bed."

            "You're going to have to."  Carter shook his head, took a deep breath, then removed the can from the room; he'd hose it out later.  When he returned to the room he saw that Fiona hadn't moved an inch.  "Come on, princess.  How come I have to convince you to go to the doctors all the time?  Where's your will to live?"  He playfully poked her in the side to get her moving.

            "In the barf can."  Fiona joked as she carefully moved herself to a seated position.  "I'm not complaining; I just feel like if I move I'll turn inside out."

            "I know."  Carter turned sympathetic as he moved to her side.  "You can go in what you've got on, I need to get dressed though."

            "I want to put on jeans."

            "Okay."  Carter sighed and fished her baggy jeans out of her hamper.  "Here you go.  You got it?"

            "I got it."

            "Okay.  Take your time."  He dashed out of the room and took a power shower before throwing on a clean pair of jeans and a sweat shirt.  "Ready or not, here I come."

            "I'm ready."  Fiona stood in her door way rubbing her eyes.  "I even brushed my teeth."  She smiled big to show him.

            "Good."  Carter laughed and fanned his hand in front of his face.  "The sooner we get there the sooner we can go home."  He got his keys from the board and led her out to his car.  She kept the complaining to a minimum as they drove to the urgent care clinic and didn't utter a word while they waited in the crowded waiting room.

            When it was her turn to be called in, she clasped Carter's hand like a lifeline and dragged him with her.  Dr. Simon walked into the room a few minutes later and did his best to suppress a laugh.  "Well Missy, you look like something the cat dragged in."  He and Carter laughed softly.

            "It's not funny."  Fiona tried to look mad but she was too tired.

            "I know it's not.  It's not very often that someone gets every side effect listed, but it looks like you're the grand prize winner this time."

            "Lucky me."

            "Let's take you off today, let it clear your system and everything.  Then tomorrow night I want you to start on Dapsone."

            "Go off today?"

            "Just the Septra.  Keep taking your regular course of everything else."

            "Okay."

            "Then tomorrow take one pill before bed, that way if you're going to have any side effects you'll know right away.  If you do, don't take anything else and come back in here Monday."

            "What are the side effects?"

            "Headache, dry mouth, nausea."

            "Shit."  Fiona rolled her eyes and cringed.

            "But it tends to be easier on your body than Septra.  It's a lower dosage of what you need."  Dr. Simon scribbled on a prescription pad.  "I think you'll be fine."

            "I sure hope so, because honestly... I felt better when I was just sick."

            Dr. Simon laughed which elicited a small smile from Fiona.  "Well this should do the trick.  Of course I want you to call or come in if anything goes weird with it."

            "I know."

            "Our main goal here is to get rid of your infections and to keep PCP away, right?"  Dr. Simon gave them both a look and they nodded in response.  "Okay.  Then after we lick this, we're going to talk about giving your body a rest."

            "A rest?"  Carter asked.  He knew what he thought the doctor meant, but he couldn't be right.  Could he?

            "No meds."  He confirmed Carter's fears, though Fiona didn't flinch at all.

            "For how long?"  Was the only thing Fiona had to say.

            Dr. Simon paused, "We'll talk about that more when the time comes around.  But seeing how you're reacting to these medications now... well it's no wonder your body is going a little haywire."

            "So when I'm done with this?"

            "Yeah.  When you kick this, we'll talk more."

            "Okay."  Fiona sighed and folded the prescription in half.  "Thank you Dr. Simon."

            "No problem, kid.  Give me a call later in the week and let me know how you're doing, okay?"

            "Okay."

            "Wait."  Carter put his hand up as the doctor headed for the door.

            "Yes?"

            "Well... wait, you want to take her off the medication?  Like, all of it?  Her cocktail?"

            Dr. Simon looked from Carter to Fiona, "That's the plan, yes.  But we'll talk about that a little later.  Right now she needs to focus on getting this cleared up."

            "But wait."  Carter said again.

            "Carter, it's fine."  Fiona shook her head and stood up.

            "Fi, the cocktail is practically the only thing extending the lives of people with –"

            "Carter, I know."  Fiona sighed and pushed him toward the door.  "We'll talk about it later.  Just take me home and put me to bed already."  She gave Dr. Simon a small smile, "Thank you."

            "No problem, kid.  Take care of yourself."

            Carter and Fiona left the doctor's office and just from his body language, Fiona knew that Carter wasn't done yet.  He waited until the got back onto the road before he licked his lips and turned to her.  "You can't possibly be okay with him taking you off your meds."

            "Carter."  Fiona sighed; she knew he wouldn't be able to just drop it.  "He's right.  My body will need a break.  AIDS patients have to do this every now and then."

            "You've been on it for years now; they've never taken you off before."

            "Then I'm long over due."  She frowned and stared out the window.  "It's like rebooting a computer."

            "That's a lovely analogy."

            "It works."  Fiona shrugged and closed her eyes.  "You know Dr. Simon isn't a quack.  You know he's one of the best in the city and you know that my dad trusted him.  You know that he wouldn't put my life in danger for anything in the world… so why are you questioning his advice?  And why are you freaking out now when we haven't even done anything yet?"

            "I'm just saying…"

            "I know what you're saying, but don't."  She cracked an eye open and looked at Carter.  "Let's just go home, please?"

            Carter sighed in resignation, "That's where we're headed."

            They stopped at Burger King on the way home so Carter could get a greasy breakfast sandwich.  Fiona nibbled on a hash brown, but ended up dropping it back in the bag after the first bite.  "You don't want it?"

            "I want ginger ale and cinnamon toast."

            "We have some at home."  Carter took a bite of his sandwich and mentally planned for the days ahead.

            By the time they got home Fiona was half asleep against the window and Carter's stomach was flipping over on itself.  He knew better than to get fast food breakfast sandwiches, but he had been hungry.

            They got inside and Fiona went to her bedroom mumbling something about not forgetting her toast as Carter made a bee line for the bathroom.  When he was feeling better he made cinnamon toast per her request, then carried the two liter bottle of ginger ale into Fiona's room.  "Your toast, Miss Fiona."  He set the toast on her bed spread beside her covered form.

            "Thank you."  She pulled the blanket back and reached for the still warm toast.  "I'm supposed to go to the auction thing with JC."  Fiona pursed her lips as Carter poured her a glass of ginger ale.

            "I talked to him last night."

            "And?"

            "Well he knows you can't go."  Carter rolled his eyes.

            "Is he upset?"

            "Are you serious?"

            "What?"

            "You think he'd be upset because you're too sick to go?  Give me a break."

            "Well I told him I would go."  Fiona argued.

            "Trust me Fi; he's not upset that you can't go.  He's worried about you, but he's not upset."  He held the glass to her lips but she took it from him to sip it on her own.

            Fiona set the glass aside and licked the sweetness from her lips, "You should go with him."

            "Yeah.  Right."

            "What?  You should, it'll be fun.  There will be all kinds of famous people there."

            "That's not my scene."  Carter cleared his throat and stood up.

            "Oh sell that story somewhere else, Carter."  Fiona rolled her eyes and waggled her fingers toward her book on the nightstand beside Carter.

            He handed her the book and shook his head, "We have to be discreet."

            "Uh huh."  Fiona opened the book to the folded page and began reading, excusing Carter without a word.

            "I'll check on you later."

            "Mm hm."

            Carter shook his head again, then left her alone in the room.  He could already tell that she was feeling better and that was a good thing.

 

            By nine thirty Fiona was sound asleep without the barf can near her bed.  She'd kept her dinner down and was actually comfortable when Carter tucked her in.  Carter settled into the couch and turned on the "Real World" marathon just as someone knocked at the front door.  He jumped at the sound, then smiled thinking it might be JC stopping by after the auction.

            He bounced up to the door and checked to see who it was.  He was surprised to see Wes standing under the pale yellow porch light.  "Hey."  Carter said as he opened the door slowly.

            "Hey."  Wes cleared his throat and shuffled his feet on the welcome mat.  "Is… is uh, Fiona home?"

            Carter laughed softly, "Of course she is.  She's asleep."

            "Oh."  His eyes flitted from his feet to the porch light, then to Carter's shoulder.  "Well I uh… I just wanted to talk to her.  But if she's asleep…"

            "Wait… why?"  Carter straightened his back and set his jaw.  Wes' stance spoke volumes and he knew what was coming next.  "Are you…?"

            "Listen.  I don't know what I'm doing."  Wes explained quickly.  "Everything just kind of happened so fast."

            "Do you want to come in?  She just went to sleep, I'm sure I could -"

            "I… no thank you." Wes shook his head and stared at his feet.

            Carter stepped outside and shut the door behind him. His arms crossed almost unconsciously across his chest as he took a deep breath.  "If you're breaking up with her, I'm gonna have to ask that you come back later.  She feels enough like shit right now.  She doesn't need this."

            "It's just.  When she told me the other night I was just… I mean, I didn’t know what to think.  I was upset because she just expected me to leave.  Like I was no better than those assholes that actually do that.  That's not who I am."  Carter refrained from snorting, since it appeared to be exactly who he was.  "And I thought I would be okay with it.  I am okay with it.  Fiona… she's great.  I can handle her being sick, that's not it.  But I can't…"  Wes sighed and gave Carter the opportunity to speak.

            "It's not like she has chicken pox, you know.  It's a different kind of sick."

            "I know."

            "You can't treat it the same.  It's not going away."

            "I… I know."  Wes pursed his lips.

            "She'll never be able to do some of the normal things girls do, like have kids."

            Wes looked up and nodded, "I know."

            "It's hard enough for her to know that she's not going to get better.  That even when she feels great and is out dancing or whatever, that she's still sick.  She will always be sick.  She'll always have to be careful."  Carter paused.  "She needs friends, Wes.  As much as I hate to say it, I'm pretty much the only one she's got.  Well, me and Jamie.  But that's not much."

            "It's not."

            "I can understand if you don't want to… I don't know… date her or whatever.  There's no chance of having the white picket fence with her.  The two point three kids or whatever.  She'll understand that too.  But really, I think the main thing she's worried about is losing you as a friend."

            "I want to be her friend."  Wes sighed, grateful that Carter knew what he was getting at so he didn't have to say it himself.  "It just.  It hit me today, you know?  She has… AIDS.  That's huge."

            "Yeah.  It is."

            "And I immediately thought about…"  Wes shook his head.  "Never mind."

            "You thought about all the times you'd touched her… or kissed her."

            "That sounds so awful."

            "It's normal."

            "How do you do it?"

            Carter paused and thought for a moment, "I… I guess it doesn't scare me."

            "I'm not –"

            "It's okay to be scared.  This is a scary thing."  Carter shook his head.  "But as scary as it is for you, it's a thousand times more scary for Fiona."

            "I know."  Wes took a deep breath and blew it out at the porch light in the corner.  "Is she going to hate me?"

            "No."  Carter shook his head.  "That's not her style."

            "What about you?"

            All of the possible answers danced in Carter's head before he shook his head and looked up at Wes, "No.  You're being honest.  That's a good thing.  Just promise me that you'll be her friend.  That's all I'm asking for."

            "If she still wants to be."

            "Fair enough."  Carter nodded, then reached back and opened the front door.  "So…?"  He nodded into the house.

            "I… I'd better not."  Wes shook his head and took a step back off the porch.  "Tell her I'll come by when she's feeling a little better."

            "I will."

            "And don't… don't say anything.  Please?"

            "I wouldn't want to."  Carter laughed softly.

            "Thanks.  Thank you, Carter."

            "No problem."  Carter bit his lip and watched Wes walk away.  This was the first time in all the years he'd known Fiona that someone had actually broken up with her through him.

 

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

 

            Sunday afternoon JC came over to see Fiona and fill her in on the auction.  He bought Sharon Stone's art piece for his home, but he brought it there to show them as well.  They visited for a while before he and Carter took off for the movies with some of JC's other friends.

            Fiona spent the rest of the day playing on her computer or laying on the couch.  Without the medication turning her inside out she began to feel much better and even managed to eat dinner on her own.  It was after nine when she took the first dose of her new medicine and sat back down in front of the TV, eyeing the bathroom door every few minutes, praying that she wouldn't need to make a run for it.

            When Carter returned home a short while later he looked flushed, and tired.  "What are you doing home so early?"

            "I came home to check on you."

            "I'm fine."  Fiona coughed lightly into her shoulder before looking up at him.  "Look at you, sheesh.  Are you two rabbits or what?"

            "We went to the arcade after.  He's good at that skiing game thing where you get on and go like this."  He imitated the skiing moves with his legs.  "It's harder than it looks."

            "Uh huh."  Fi gave him a knowing smile that he ignored.  She would think nasty things no matter what he said.

            "Did you take your medicine?"  Carter changed the subject.

            "Yes."  She nodded as she pulled the fridge open and took an orange out.  "And I ate dinner and I didn't throw up."

            "Well that's good.  How do you feel now?"  Carter asked, looking at her carefully.

            She shrugged and tossed orange peel into the sink.  "I've got a little bit of a headache."  She paused a beat then smiled, "But I think it's all in my head."

            "Ha ha."

            "I actually feel fine.  Better, anyway.  I'm not diving for the toilet so compared to before, I'm perfect."

            "Good."  Carter placed a quick kiss on her cheek and said, "Then I'm going to go over to my boyfriends for a little bit.  You'll be okay?"

            "I'm a grown up, Carter.  I'll be fine."

            "Don't play with knives or run with scissors."

            "Dangit, that's just what I was planning on doing."  She stuck her tongue out at him, then stuck a piece of orange in her mouth.  "Go play with JC and give him a hug for me."

            "I will."

            "I think I'm going to go to work tomorrow."

            Carter stuck his hand on her forehead and shook his head, "Why don't you wait and see how you feel.  You've had a rough week."

            "But –"

            "I'm leaving.  We'll talk in the morning."  Carter grabbed his keys before she could start the argument he was sure she had prepared, then ducked out the door.

 

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

 

            Carter somehow managed to talk Fiona into taking one more day off to make sure the medication sat well with her, but on Tuesday she happily returned to work.  "It's better than sitting around here thinking about how crummy I look."  She reasoned.

            Tuesday night they ordered their pizza and turned on MTV in their usual ritual, then checked in for the day.  "Ugh.  Is it Friday yet?"  Fiona grumbled as she reached for a piece of steaming pizza.

            "What's wrong?"  Carter sat at the table across from Fiona and looked her over.  The pizza boxes between them sent waves of delicious smells straight to his stomach.  He took a piece and blew on the narrow end.

            "Nothing."  Fiona shook her head and rubbed her eyes.

            "Nothing?"

            "Going back to work after being sick for a week, sucks."

            "Tell me about it."

            "I forgot how tiring it is to just sit and talk all day."  Her voice sounded scratchy and exhausted.

            "Is your throat sore?"

            "No.  But they're doing some kind of construction on the floor above us and like, half the people at work have allergies so everyone is sneezing and coughing.  Ugh, it's just... it's gross.  I just got done being sick, I don't need this."

            "If they're sick you need to stay away.  Do you have your face mask thing?"

            "It's allergies."  Fiona rolled her eyes and took a bite of her pizza.  "Man, I love pizza."

            "You still need to be careful.  You know that."

            "I know that."

            "Okay."  He gave her a skeptical look, then dove into his pizza.  He'd spent too long worrying about Fiona, he decided to let her worry about herself for a little bit.

 

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

 

            Over the next two days Fiona continued to look tired, but she insisted that she felt fine.  Carter let it go but on Friday when he woke up at nine he saw Fiona's keys and purse still sitting by the door.  He frowned and pursed his lips as he back-stepped to her door and knocked.  "Fi?  Hey, are you going to work today?"

            She didn't respond so Carter knocked again, louder than before.  "Hmwhat?"  Fiona mumbled from behind the door.

            "Fi?  It's like, nine.  Are you feeling okay?"

            "What?"

            "It's nine.  You're late."

            "Crap."  Carter heard something thump on the floor as Fiona fought her way out of bed.  She tore the door open and stumbled into the hall.  "I must have slept through my alarm.  Shit.  Is it really nine?"

            "Ten after."  Carter nodded.

            "Dammit."  She stopped to lean against the wall.  "I'm like, an hour and a half late.  I might as well not even go."

            "Come here."  Carter extended his hand to feel her forehead but she flinched away.

            "I'm fine."

            "Wrong answer."  He stepped closer and all but pinned her to the wall.  "Hold still for two seconds Miss Sick-o."  His hand went to her forehead and he sighed.  "Do you want to get dressed or do you want to go in that?"  Her flannel men's pajama bottoms were fine, but the "pussy" shirt might need to be changed.

            "I don't want to go at all."

            "You're hot, so too bad."

            "I'm hot because I was just under my covers."  Fiona tried to argue, but she returned to her room to change anyway.

            "Nice try.  Change your shirt."

            "Carter…"

            "Why do you fight me on this?  You know you need to go."

            "I know."

            "So then change and let's go already, stop complaining."

            "I have to complain or it's no fun."  She smiled weakly then peeled her offensive shirt over her head.  "Can I go in my pajama bottoms?"  Carter had long since gotten used to seeing Fiona topless, but he averted his eyes nonetheless.

            "And a shirt, sure."

            "Fine."  She pulled her Red Sox shirt from the stack in her closet and they headed out.  "I don't want to go."  Fiona complained as she climbed in Carter's car and fastened her seatbelt.

            "I know."

            "They're going to load me up with stuff."

            "Maybe."

            "They're gonna stick stuff down my throat."

            "Probably."

            "They're gonna make me stay overnight."

            "For a fever?  You're overreacting a bit, don't you think?"  Carter looked at her from the corner of his eye.  "Unless there's something you're not telling me."

            "I don't think the cough and throat thing are allergies."

            "Fi…"  Carter sighed heavily.

            "Oh stop, it only started last night."  She frowned at the passing cars and half wished she was on her way to work instead of the hospital.  "This is a crappy month."

            "Yeah it is."

            "And Wes hasn't even called or anything."

            "Hmm."  Carter kept comments to himself.

            "Do you think I should call him?"

            He paused and bit his lip, "If you want to."

            "I need guy advice."

            "I can't give you guy advice."  Carter sighed.  "If you want to talk to him, then call him."

            "But…"

            "I've never understood guys, Fi.  You know that."

            "I know."

            "He's called though.  He's left messages."

            "One."

            "So call him."  Carter reached into his center console and handed her his cell phone.  "Call him and yell at him for not calling you more than once."

            "Why are you being a prick?"

            "Because that's what I'm good at."  Carter mumbled.

            "You're horrible at it."  Fiona took the phone and put it away.  "Men are confusing."

            "I know."

            "I'll call him later."  She said softly as she turned to watch the familiar streets fly by.

            Carter took the cell phone out again and called his work to let them know he wouldn't be in.  After a short argument with someone who apparently wasn't his boss, he was granted a vacation day.  Before he put the phone back he called Fiona's work to let them know she wouldn't be in and spoke with Jamie.  "Are you going to come by?"  Carter asked.

            "Is it… I mean, do I need to come now?"  Jamie's voice wavered ever so slightly at the end.

            "No.  No, you can come after work.  It's nothing big.  They might not even admit her, I mean, it's just a fever."

            "Well yeah, but…"

            "We'll give you a call when we know what's going on.  I just wanted to let you know so you can tell her boss or whatever."

            "Okay."  Jamie nodded.  "Call me as soon as you know anything.  I get off at like, three, so I'll see you after that."

            "Okay.  See you later."

            "Love to Fi."

            "Okay, bye."  Carter smiled and blew a kiss in Fiona's direction.  "Jamie sends his love.  He's going to come by later."

            "Okay."

            "You doing okay?"

            "Mm hm."  Fiona nodded and sighed as she turned her attention back to the window.  Carter didn't believe her for a second, but he knew better than to push the issue.  He knew that Fiona was just as scared as he was, if not more, and that until she saw the doctor she would be more moody than usual.

 

            They arrived at the doctor's office only to be told to wait in the mint green colored waiting room to the left.  Fiona rested her head on Carter's shoulder as they waited and when she was finally called she dragged Carter with her into the room.  The doctor came in a short while later and began with the usual panel of questions.  Carter began to tone him out as he asked, "Have you had trouble breathing?"

            "I was a little wheezy last night."  Fiona explained, speaking into her lap.

            "You what?"  Carter smacked her arm with the back of his hand.  "Are you serious?  You were wheezy last night and you didn't come get me?"

            "You were asleep and it wasn't that bad."  Fiona tried to sigh but it ended in a small coughing fit.

            "If you weren't already sick, I'd kill you myself."  Carter shook his head and looked at the doctor.  "Can you believe this?  We've been dealing with this for like, five years, and she still won't tell me when she's sick."

            "We haven't been dealing with it for five years, I have.  Don't start going on with that we crap, Carter.  I'm the one who's sick, not you."  Fiona scowled.  Her back talk proved to Carter that she wasn't feeling that bad, but he wasn't used to her overly sharp tone.

            The doctor cleared his throat to bring Fiona and Carter back to the original conversation, "Well Miss Fiona, dear.  We're going to have to hit you with a chest X-ray."

            "Yay."  Fiona frowned to hide her worry.  "Do you think it's PCP?"

            "I can't say for sure until we do the X-ray and some other fun tests.  But I can tell you that you've got some kind of beast in there.  Whatever it is, it's not friendly."

            "Do I have to stay the night?"

            The doctor paused and tapped his fingertips together, "Probably.  But we'll have to see."

            "I don't really want to."

            "I'll keep that in mind."  He smiled and handed Fiona her lab slip.  "Head on down to radiology then stop by the lab to do a full panel, then come back up here and we'll talk about it."

            "Okay."  Fiona scooted off the table and rubbed her eyes as Carter followed her out of the room.

            "How lucky are you?  You get to have a picture of your insides!"  Carter bounced on his toes like an excited toddler.  '"How cool is that?"

            "Do you have any idea how annoying you are?"

            "I have some vague idea."

            "You can't possibly."  Fiona rolled her eyes and coughed violently into her forearm.  "Dammit."  She made a face, then bent over a trashcan to spit it out.  "Gross."

            "That's nasty."

            "Thank you."  She would have kicked him if she had the energy.  They found their way to the basement where the radiology department was and got her name put on the list.  When her name was called Fiona disappeared behind the heavy door while Carter was left in the musty waiting room.

            While Fiona was getting her x-ray done, Carter stepped outside and called JC's home, then cell number.  After not getting a response at either one, he left a message on the cell phone, "Hey babe, it's uh… me.  Um.  Fiona, I had to bring her back to the doctor's today and it looks like they'll probably admit her.  I can't have my cell phone on inside, but if you get this call and leave me a message.  I'll check my messages as often as I can.  Talk to you later.  Bye."  He clicked the phone off then went inside to collect Fiona and take her back upstairs.

            "Where'd you go?"  She asked with a frown when he walked into the radiology waiting area.

            "I went outside to call JC."

            "Did you tell him I was here?"

            "I left a message."  Carter nodded and they headed toward the elevator.  When the doors closed and they were alone in the small elevator Carter asked, "Are you scared?"

            Fiona shrugged and pushed the button marked "3" repeatedly.  "A little."

            "You know… if you have to stay then that's good.  They can make you better faster than being at home."

            "Uh huh."

            "How… are you feeling okay?  Honestly?"

            She shook her head but didn't answer.  "That's why I'm scared."

            "This is different?"

            "Yeah."

            "Does it –"

            "It's just different."  Fiona cut him off and pressed the three again.

            When the elevator stopped and the doors opened, Carter followed two steps behind Fiona as she led the way down the hall.  She went by herself into the little lab and came out a minute later with a scowl on her face and a cotton ball taped to the crook of her arm.  "I hate giving blood.  She took like, three gallons."

            "I don't think they took that much."

            "It felt like it."  She bit her lip.  "She took six of those big vials."

            "They have a lot of tests to do."

            "I hate it."

            "I know."  Carter leaned over and kissed her warm cheek as they waited for the elevator again.

            When they got back to the urgent care clinic, the nurse at the desk took the x-rays and showed them back to the exam room they were in before.  "Would you like to wait in the outer room?"  She asked Carter.

            "I'd like him to stay, please."  Fiona said.

            "Okay.  The doctor should be with you in just a minute.  If you can have a seat up there, I'll let him know you're here."

            "Thanks."  Fiona lifted herself onto the wait high table and coughed into her shoulder.

            She and Carter waited in silence, each reading the posters with the cartoon bacteria attacking healthy cells.  They heard the doctor's voice in the hall before he pushed the door open and smiled, holding the x-ray sheets in his hand.  "Well."  The doctor shook his head, "Would you prefer the green or the blue hospital gown?"

            "Neither."  Fiona's frown deepened.  "I have to stay?"

            "Yep.  Your T-cell count is hovering around a hundred and that's too low for me to feel comfortable letting you go home.  Also, it looks like you've got pneumonia so we're going to have to do a brochoscopy."

            "Shit."  Tears rose in Fiona's eyes as she reached for Carter's hand.  She'd had that panel of tests before and it was nothing she wanted to do again.  "How long do I have to stay?"

            "I don't know.  A day, maybe three."

            "Okay."  Fiona nodded slowly.  "And Carter…?"

            "He can stay if he wants.  But you know the rules."

            "I know."  Carter nodded, he'd been there before.

            "Okay.  Well let's get you over to four west so we can check you in and get the ball rolling."  The doctor slid his hands into the pockets of his white coat.

 

            Once the nurse checked Fiona in and hooked her up to the machine to check her blood oxygen, another doctor came in to talk about the bronchoscopy.  Carter excused himself and went outside to check his voice mail and call JC again.  He had no messages on his cell but at home there were three messages; two from telemarketers and one from Wes.  Carter scribbled Wes' number on a scrap piece of paper, then hung up and called JC's cell phone.  Once again it rang through to voicemail so he left another message, letting JC know that Fiona was being admitted to the hospital.  While he had the time outside, he dialed Jamie's number, putting off calling Wes until he absolutely had to.  When Jamie answered, Carter gave him the details but couldn't hide the hint of fear in his voice.

            "I'll be there as soon as I can."  Jamie said quickly.

            "There's no hurry.  They're doing some lung test thing and stuff.  Just come by after work."

            "Are you sure?"

            "I'm sure."

            "This isn't…?"

            "No."  Carter shook his head.  "No, she'll be okay.  They just, it's probably pneumonia.  But she was breathing pretty much okay when we got here.  I mean, I didn't notice anything.  I think they caught it early, you know?"

            "You're sure?"

            "Pretty sure."

            "Okay.  I get off at like, three.  I'll be there after that.  Do you want me to pick you up some food or something?"

            "Um, yeah.  Just something small."

            "Okay.  Give her a hug from me and everything.  Keep me updated."  Jamie sighed softly with relief.

            "I will.  Thanks, Jamie."

            "No problem.  I'll talk to you later."

            They hung up and Carter stared at the piece of paper in his hand, mentally talking himself into calling.  He'd talked to Wes several times but he'd never called him.  It'd been a long time since he called a guy he didn't know, and while he knew this situation was completely different, it felt oddly the same.  As soon as Wes answered the phone, Carter's heart skipped a beat.  "H-hi Wes, this is uh… Carter."

            "Oh.  Hey, what's up?"

            "Fiona's in the hospital."

            "What?  What happened?"

            "She's been fighting this cough and this morning it was worse so I brought her in and they did all kinds of tests and -"

            "Where is she?"  Wes cut him off quietly.  Fiona had said several times that if you didn't stop Carter at the beginning, his nervous rants could go on for hours.

            "We're at Good Samaritan on Wilshire."

            "Okay."

            "We… she can't have visitors right now.  They're doing some tests and stuff so…"

            "No, that's okay.  I can't come right now, I have a class."

            "Okay."  Carter nodded.  "If you want to come later, call first."

            "I… okay."  Wes sniffed.

            "If you have a cold you can't come."  Carter said quickly.

            Wes paused and flipped his keys around his finger.  "I'll call."

            "You don't have to come by."

            "I know.  I'll uh, I'll call though."

            "Okay."  Carter nodded slowly, then said goodbye.  He went back up to the floor where Fiona's room was and sat in the waiting room.  One of the nurses at the station told him that they'd taken her in for a few tests and that he would have to wait there.

 

            Two hours and three magazines later, Carter was educated on new lip lining techniques and how brown was the new black in 1999.  He was in the middle of a yawn when the elevator doors opened.  "Carter!"  Jamie's shoes squeaked to a halt on the shiny linoleum floor.  "There you are."  He leaned on the door way and panted.  "Man, I had to park out in the boonies.  Where's Fi?"

            "They're doing tests."  Carter shrugged and set the Vogue magazine down.  "What… I thought you didn't get off till three?"

            "I pulled in some personal time and left early."  Jamie shrugged.  "Is she okay?"

            "Yeah.  I think so.  She seemed okay when we came in."  He reassured Jamie as always.

            "Is it pneumonia?"

            "I don't know.  I haven't talked to her or her doctor since I called you."  Carter made a face.  "It shouldn't take this long."

            "It's pneumonia." Jamie nodded.  "It has to be.  Otherwise they'd just say it's not and put her on antibiotics or whatever."

            "Well… let's just wait."  Carter licked his lips as Jamie sat beside him.

            "Where's Jay… your boyfriend?"

            "He's working.  I think."

            "Have you talked to him?"

            "No.  I left him a message.  His phone isn't on, or well… he's not answering."

            "Did you try –"

            "He's working."  Carter interrupted him.  "I'll try him again later."

            "What about Fiona's thigh man?"

            "Wes."

            "Okay?"

            "He's… that's a long story."

            "Give me the short version."  Jamie crossed his legs and leaned forward.  "I don't have all day you know."

            "He broke up with us."

            "Excuse me, us?"

            "With Fiona, through me."

            "What?"

            "Fi was sleeping when he came over so he broke up with her kind of through me."

            "And Fiona didn't kill you?" Jamie's eyebrows shot up in surprise.

            "I didn't tell her."

            "Dude.  You've got the hugest balls on the planet."

            "He asked me not to."  Carter tried to defend himself.  "He's going to talk to her."

            "Yeah?  When?"

            "I don't know."

            "Does he know she's here?"  Jamie sat back and reached for Carter's discarded Vogue."

            "Yeah, I called him.  He said he has a class but he'd be by later."

            "Later today or just later in general?"

            "I didn't play twenty questions with him."  Carter sighed heavily.  "Probably just later in general."

            "Nice."

            "Subject change."  Carter grumbled and kicked at Jamie's shoes.  "So tell me about Rory's house in Malibu.  You went over last weekend, right?"  He needed something to get his mind off of the hospital.

            "Yes… I did.  And oh.  My God.  Carter… you would not believe how many mirrors this guy has in his house.  We're talking carnival here.  The house of mirrors has nothing on Rory Mc Clintock."  Jamie talked with his hands, sending the pages of the ancient magazine flying.  "You know how much I love to look at myself, but sweet Jesus, it was awful.  Everywhere I turned it was me, me, me."

            "Terrifying I'm sure."

            "It was.  I think I was traumatized.  When I came home I took down the mirror in my hall."  Jamie shook his head and flipped the magazine open.  "But anyway."

            "I'm going to go downstairs and try calling again."

            "I'll keep an eye on the magazines."  Jamie said without looking up.

            Carter smiled and headed for the elevators.  He followed the now familiar walkway to the outside and stood by the vending machine as he dialed JC's number one more time.  It rang through to his voice mail, but Carter hung up instead of leaving another message.  All morning he hadn't let himself be worried, but now he let himself feel it.  JC always had his cell phone with him; it wasn't like him to go all day without checking his voice mail.

            Before heading back upstairs he paused at the snack machine and bought a bag of M&M's.  He ate them on the way back upstairs where Fiona's nurse said he could go in and see her; she was back in her room.

            "Thanks."  He flagged Jamie down and they walked down the hall to the room they were in that morning.  "Hey you."  Carter smiled as he pushed the curtain aside.

            "Needles suck."  Were the first words out of Fiona's mouth.

            "I know."

            "Bronchiowhatever things suck."

            "I know."

            "Anything that goes in your mouth, sucks."  She frowned and looked at her arm.  "Or in your arm."

            "I agree."  Carter smiled and leaned against the wall as Jamie walked in beside him.

            "So what's the verdict, Miss Pretty?"  Jamie crossed his arms over his chest and raised his eyebrow at her.

            Fiona paused for a second before she coughed and shook her head.  "It's what we thought it was."

            "PCP?"

            "Yeah."

            "Are you serious?"  The blood left Carter's face as his mind flashed back to the last time she was diagnosed with PCP.  He knew it was a possibility this time, but he hadn't actually thought about what would happen if it was.

            "Yes."  Fiona saved her smart aleck come back for another time.  From the look on Carter's face, she knew he wouldn't appreciate it at the moment.  "I'm going to be here for a couple days."

            "Well… yeah."  Jamie nodded.  "I'll let the boss people know."

            "Thanks."

            "I'll let mine know too."  Carter added.

            "I expect flowers tomorrow."  Fiona tried to smile.

            "Look at you already demanding things.  A over night stay is required before you get flowers."  Jamie laughed.

            "I'll be here tonight."

            "Then tomorrow you will have earned them.  Until then you don't get to be a diva."

            "You're the meanest fairy godmother's every."

            "Who said anything about godmothers?"  Jamie gave her a questioning look then they both laughed, though Fiona was cut off by another cough.

            "That doesn't sound good."  Carter frowned.

            "They gave me that mist stuff to break up whatever's down there."  She made a face at the memory.  "I get to do it like, all night or whatever."

            "Fun."

            "Yeah that's what you think."  Fiona shook her head and coughed again, wincing with each exhale.

            They stayed and visited for a while before a nurse came in to check on her and help her to the bathroom with her IV pole.  "Yeah we'll just wait out here."  Jamie blushed as he playfully pushed Carter out into the hall.  "I'll send him back in a few."

            "Thanks guys."

            "See ya, doll face."  Jamie waved and Carter blew her a kiss as the nurse helped her to a standing position.

            They walked down the hall and around the corner at the nurse's station.  "I’m going to run downstairs again."  Carter sighed as he looked at the clock on the wall.

            "There's a pay phone right by the waiting room."  Jamie said.

            "There is?"

            "Yeah."  He nodded to the black phone on the wall before he ducked into the familiar room and fell back on the chair to finish reading the article on how to please your man without using your mouth.

            Carter bit his lip then pulled fifty cents out of his pocket. He dropped it into the phone, waiting for the sound of the coins falling before he dialed JC's cell phone number.  Part of him expected it to just go to voice mail again, so when JC answered he was taken aback.  "Hello?"  JC asked for the second time.

            "Hey."

            "Carter?"

            "Where are you?”  Carter asked softly.

            “I… I’m kinda in the middle of something.”  JC said softly as he shut the studio door behind him.

            “I’ve been calling you all day.”

            “I'm sorry; my phone was in the other room.”  JC explained as he waved at the producer through the window.  A five minute break was in order.  “What’s wrong?”

            “Fiona’s in the hospital.”

            “What?”  JC asked as the breath was sucked out of his lungs.  “What?  Why?  What happened?”

            “She’s had this cough thing for a couple days and last night she was having trouble breathing.  The stupid brat overslept this morning and when I went and woke her up she had a fever so I brought her here and I’ve been calling you all day.”  He repeated himself.

            “Fuck.  Carter, I’m sorry.”  JC shook his head as his heart sped up in his chest.  “What hospital are you at?”

            “Good Samaritan on Wilshire.”

            “Okay.”  JC nodded and looked at the clock on the wall.  “I… shit… Carter, I have to finish this.”  He thought for a second and said, “I have like, another hour here.”

            Carter sighed through his nose and bit his lip, “Fine. You don’t have to come JC; I just wanted you to know.”

            “No… I’ll be there.  I just… I have to finish up here first.”

            “I said it’s fine.  You don’t have to hurry up just to come to the hospital.  She’s asleep anyway.”

            “I said I’d be there.”

            “Don’t bother.”

            “Carter… come on.  I’d leave right now if I could, you know that.”

            “No.  I don’t know that.”

            JC sat in silence for a second, this was the hard part.  Whoever he dated or became friends with never fully understood that his work had to come first a lot of the time.  Regardless of what JC really wanted.  “You know that Carter.  I would have been there this morning if I knew.  I’m sorry I left my phone in the other room.  I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

            “Fine.  Great.  See you then.”  Carter said sarcastically before he hung up and heard the coins fall in the payphone.

            “Is he coming?”  Jamie asked from the smelly couch in the corner.

            “No.”

            “No?”

            “He’s got work to do first.”  Carter sighed and headed back down the hall to Fiona’s room.

            “Fuck.”  Jamie sighed under his breath as he stretched out and closed his eyes.  It had been a long day for everyone, but Carter was feeling the brunt of it all.

 

            An hour later Jamie was roused by quick footsteps on the linoleum floor of the hall.  The footsteps stopped and turned around, heading back to the elevators before stopping yet again in front of the waiting room.  “Excuse me?”  JC asked into the partial darkness.

            “Hmm?”  Jamie sat up and ran his hands through his hair.  “Yeah?”

            “Do you… where’s the nurses' station?”

            “Down the hall.”  Jamie pointed to his left.

            “Thanks.”  JC lowered his head and took a deep breath, looking unsure whether or not he wanted to actually move.

            “Hey, you’re…” Jamie stood up and squinted through his sleep filled eyes.

            “Nah… I just look like – “

            “I’m Jamie.  Carter’s friend Jamie.”  He extended his hand for JC to shake.  “It’s nice to finally meet you.  He talks about you all the time.”

            “Oh?”

            “Not by name, no… but I know what he means.”  Jamie smiled and then let it drop slowly as he noticed JC’s eyes flicking back toward the elevator.  “You’re here to see Fi?”

            “Um.”  JC licked his lips and kept his eyes on the floor.  “She’s sleeping though, right?”

            “I think so.”  Jamie nodded.

            “I should probably just go then.”

            “Wait.”  Jamie put his hand out to touch JC’s shoulder, which brought JC’s eyes up to meet Jamie’s.  “Listen, I know that Carter can be clingy or whatever… and I know that you’re busy and all that.”  Jamie pursed his lips then frowned and continued.  “But Carter needs you right now.”

            “I know.”

            “He’s needed you all day.”

            “I know.”  JC lowered his voice.

            “His best friend in the whole wide world is in the hospital and as much as I want to help and be there for him, it's you he needs.”

            “I didn’t know until an hour ago.”  JC tried to defend himself.

            “Yeah?  Well you’re here now.”  Jamie nodded.  “This… all of this with Fiona is only going to get harder, so if you’re not going to be able to be here for Carter then maybe you should just leave now.”  The two men stood in silence just inside the waiting room.  “I’m not trying to come off like a bitch, but that would be best for everyone.  Don’t go giving Carter a false sense of hope.  He needs someone he can count on and who can help him along through this.  Fiona is sick.  Carter is facing losing her on his own… and she's the only real family he has.  If you can’t be there through it all then it’d be best if you walked out that door right now and never came back.  Commit or don't, but leaving him hanging on like you did today isn't what he needs.”

            JC bit the inside of his lip, took a deep breath then turned back toward the elevators.  Jamie was right; Carter needed someone he could count on at anytime, day or night, and unfortunately JC didn't think he was the kind who could commit to something like that.

 

 

 

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Copyright © 2002, 2003 Amy Lynn