Carter awoke just before dawn to see the pale light peeking in through the sheer curtains in JC’s bedroom.  He rolled over carefully so not to wake JC and was startled when JC’s arm wrapped around him.  “Where do you think you’re going?”  JC asked softly.

            “You said till sunrise.”  Carter whispered.

            Carter heard JC sigh loudly as his hand dropped away and he rolled away from Carter.  “What?”  Carter asked defensively.  “The sun is up.”

            “Fine.”  JC pulled the covers up to his ears and frowned into his pillow.

            “Don’t be mad.  You said until sunrise.”

            Without turning to face him JC replied, “I just wish you weren’t in such a hurry to leave.”

            “I… I’m not.”

            JC made an argumentative sound deep in his throat and threw his legs over the side of the bed.  He walked naked into the bathroom and splashed water on his face.  “Listen.”  He paused and turned to face Carter with his hair wild around his wide eyes and drops of water clinging to his chin.  “I know you’re worried about Fiona. I am too.  But…” He sighed and shook his head, unsure of how to say what he needed to say.  “I miss you.  I miss the Carter I fell for.  You haven’t been here mentally for weeks now.  Last night when we got here it was like you were you again.”  He coughed to clear his throat then swallowed as he sat on the edge of the bed.  JC yawned before he continued.  “I liked that.  I thought you did too.”  He reached to touch Carter’s bare hip.

            “I did.”

            “Then…?”  His cool fingertip drew a figure eight on Carter’s pale skin.

            Carter paused, weighing his options.  “I have to take care of her.  When she’s back to normal you will have my undivided attention.  I promise.”

            “And until then?”

            Carter licked his lips and furrowed his brow.  “Until then… I guess I have to ask you to hang on.”   He stood up and slid into his jeans, leaving the fly undone as he pulled one of JC’s t-shirts over his head.  His feet slid into his sneakers as he buttoned his fly and ran his hands through his hair.

            “I’m hanging.”

            “It won’t be much longer.  She’ll be back on her feet before you know it.”

            “I hope so.  I hate seeing you rush out of here.”

            “I wish I didn’t have to.”  Carter leaned across the bed and kissed JC quickly.  “I’ll come back as soon as I can.  Maybe we can go get some lunch?”  He didn’t wait for an answer before he turned for the door.

            “Maybe.”  JC said softly as he fell back into his feather pillow, hearing Carter’s steps in the hall heading for the door.

 

            When Carter opened the front door he was met with the stale, musty scent of a warm house with no open windows.  “Gross.”  He grumbled, leaving the front door open as he crossed to the back door to get some cross ventilation going.  It was chilly outside, but stifling inside.

            He checked on Fiona and found her sound asleep on top of her blankets.  With a quiet yawn he stepped into the bathroom and took a much-needed shower.  After cleaning up and eating breakfast, he made some food for Fiona and took it to her.

            As usual, she was a grouch when he woke her and grateful when he showed her breakfast.  “You rule.”

            “I know.”

            “Was I mean to you?”

            “When?”

            “Ever.”

            “Yes.”

            “Then I’m sorry.”  She took a third bite of the oatmeal and sat back on the pillows.  “How’s JC?”

            Carter paused and pursed his lips.  “Fine.”

            “Fine?”

            “I don’t want to talk about it.”  He stood up and looked at the bowl.  “Are you going to eat that?”

            She made a face.  “No.”  She shook her head and coughed into her shoulder.  “What’s wrong with him?”

            “With who?”

            “Don’t be like this.”  She rolled her eyes the closed them.

            “We’ll talk about it later.  Maybe.”

            “Don’t keep me out of the loop.”

            “There’s no loop.”  Carter took the bowl of barely touched oatmeal and headed out of the room. 

            “There’s always a loop.”

            “You’re loopy.  Go back to sleep.”  Carter slid out the door and shut it softly behind him.

 

            He spent the afternoon picking up and doing everything he could to keep his mind off of the episode in JC’s bedroom that morning.  A cold glob of fear sat in his stomach though, and he knew he’d have to do something soon to fix it.  Or to at least see if it was fixable.

            It was after three o’clock when Carter fond himself in the kitchen with Fiona’s uneaten lunch in front of him and the phone in his hand.  He pursed his lips and pushed the food around on the plate.  With his thumb he dialed JC’s cell phone number and almost prayed for his voicemail.

            “Hey.”  JC said softly into the phone.

            Carter fought the urge to hang up before taking a deep breath.  “Hey.”  Carter matched his tone.”

            “Listen, I’m – “

            “I just wanted – “ They both started at the same time.  “Go ahead.”  Carter said.

            JC paused, “I’m sorry.”

            “Me too.”

            “I mean… I…”  JC thought about what to say and rather than dishing out a long speech, he just said, “I’m glad you’re taking care of Fiona like you are.  Because if it were one of the guys, I’d do the same thing and I would hope you would understand.”

            Carter nodded in silence, “I would.”

            “I’ve been thinking about this a lot.”

            “Yeah?”  Carter’s heart skipped a beat.

            “As cliché as this sounds, the other relationships I’ve been in that didn’t last… well they didn’t last because of a lot of reasons but one of the big reasons I think was because I think I need the attention.”  JC shook his head and went ahead with his speech.  “I mean, with the… with being in Nsync and stuff it’s kinda always about me.  Or, us.  The group I mean.  I’m used to getting what I want when I want it.  And I know that sounds stupid… and I don’t want to be like that.  So… so I’m trying real hard.”

            “You are who you are.  That’s what I like about you.”

            “But I don’t want who I am to break us up.”

            Carter was speechless.  How many time had he thought the exactly same thing?  “You won’t.  See I could flip your little monologue there around.  Because I give so much attention to Fiona, sometimes that has ended relationships.”

            “Well…”

            “But that’s who I am… that’s all I know.  Like you.  And I don’t want who I am to break us up.”

            JC laughed softly, “You won’t.”

            “So… now what?”

            “Now I work on giving you more room.”

            “And I’ll work on giving you more time.”

            The line hummed with silence for a moment.  “Are we working on a healthy relationship here?”   JC asked softly.

            “I think so.”  Carter said with mock terror.

            “No one will believe it.”  JC laughed, but inside he was relieved.  He wanted this to work, more than he wanted anything else.  And he was willing to sacrifice almost anything to keep it… to show that he could.

 

            For two days JC didn’t call, and Carter didn’t notice.  Carter spent the time running between work, the pharmacy, KFC and home.  The only thing Fiona wanted to eat was mashed potatoes and only one kind would do.  He ran himself ragged and by the second night he was exhausted.  Carter collapsed into bed and didn’t move an inch until his neighbor began mowing his yard at nine the next morning.

            He pulled himself from bed and stretched, realizing that he hadn’t eaten anything since lunch the day before.  When he checked the cupboards he groaned, he hadn’t been shopping in a week.  With a silent promise to go that afternoon, he pulled what was left of the cereal out and made himself some breakfast.  Carter flipped through a month old Vogue magazine, dribbling milk on the creased pages.

            Almost without a sound Fiona stepped out of her room on her own for the first time in days.  There was a small patch of sunlight coming in through the curtains that warmed the wood beneath her feet.  She curled her toes and stretched her arms over her head as she stood in the hall.

            Carter's spoon stopped half way to his mouth as he saw Fiona put her hands over her head and arch her back.  "Hey...?"  He said softly.

            "Hey."  She opened her eyes and smiled, but continued to stretch.  When she was done she scratched her nose and yawned, "I'm starving.  What are you eating?"

            "Um.  Raisin Bran."  Carter said as he looked down into his bowl, "And Cheerios.  The last of both actually."

            "Oh."

            "But I can make you something else." He set his bowl down quickly.

            "It's okay.  We have bread?"

            "Uh."  Carter pulled the fridge open and came out with the loaf of bread.  "Whole wheat."

            "Cool."  Fiona stepped past him into the kitchen and took four pieces of bread out to place them in the toaster.  "Man, peanut butter toast sounds good."  She closed her eyes and smiled as the toaster warmed up.

            "So you're feeling better then?"

            "Yeah.  Oh God yeah... much better."

            "How's your mouth?"

            She opened her mouth and stuck her pink tongue out at him, "Good."

            "And your chest?"

            Fiona took a deep breath to check for herself, "Good."  She nodded when nothing rattled.

            "Wow... right on."  Carter said with genuine surprise.

            "I am amazing."  Fiona opened the cupboard and took out the chunky peanut butter that Carter hated.

            He paused for a second as he watched her get a knife from the drawer and stick it in the jar.  He hadn't expected her to be well so soon, and definitely not just overnight like she had.  "You... you know you still have a doctors appointment tomorrow."

            "I know."  She made a face and licked a smear of peanut butter from her finger before spreading the rest across her toast.  "What are you doing today?"

            "I don't know really."  Carter picked up his bowl and took another bite of his mixed cereal.  "I was going to go grocery shopping."

            "Yeah, you probably should."

            "Yeah."  He leaned against the dining room table and ate a few more bites.

            "What about JC?"

            "He goes at night."

            "Huh?"

            "Grocery shopping."

            "What?"

            "JC.  He goes grocery shopping at night."  Carter explained.

            Fiona gave him a look and pried the peanut butter toast off of the roof of her mouth.  "I meant what is he up to today?"

            "Oh."  Carter pursed his lips and chewed slowly, watching Fiona's tightly puckered lips as she tried to work the sticky food from her teeth.  "I’m not sure."  He frowned and thought for a moment.  “I uh… I need to call him.”

            "Make that boyfriend of yours take you out.  You deserve it."  She managed to say as she poured herself a glass of Sunny Delight since the milk carton was empty.  She took a long drink and made a face as the two flavors mixed.  "What’s Jamie doing?"

            "Orlando."

            "Who?"

            “Where.  He’s in Orlando.  Some big “to do” with George Something-or-other.”

            “Where does he find these guys?”  Fiona shook her head and bit into her toast.

            “Beats me.”  Carter shrugged and rubbed at his hair.

            “So how come you don’t have plans with JC.  I figured with me out of your hair you’d be all busy with him.”

            "Because like I said I was going to go grocery shopping.  Then I was going to come home and force feed you Jell-O or something."  He looked at her carefully, looking for any sign that her illness was lingering.  “And if you thing you were out of my hair, you’re sadly mistaken.”

            Fiona ignored his last remark and narrowed her eyes at Carter. "You'd give up a day hanging out with your hot boyfriend, to put up with a bitchy and sick me?"

            "Of course."  Carter looked up from his breakfast and licked the milk from his lips.  "You're sick."

            "Forget that.  Go see him."

            "Fi…"

            "Come on, he's more fun than me anyway."  She smiled and took another bite of her toast.  "I'm just gonna hang around here and finish off whatever food is left in the house and maybe call and harass Wes at work.  Go see JC, then go grocery shopping, then come home and feed me again."  Fiona smiled with peanut butter smeared lips.

            "But - "

            "And bring a large Hawaiian pizza home with you."  She interrupted him with a spray of toast crumbs.

            "You've been practically dying for a week… I'm not just going to leave you alone all day."

            "Carter… I'm fine."  She shook her head and drank more juice.  "Take your phone and I'll call you if I start to die again."

            "Fiona… I swear."

            "Stop.  I'm tired of seeing you."  She smiled.  "And tell JC thanks for the CD."

            "Yeah right."  Carter stood up with a defeated sigh and put his bowl in the sink.  "I'm going to destroy that CD if I ever get my hands on it."

            “No you’re not.  It kept me sane in there.”

            “You can’t be serious.”  Carter made a disgusted face.

            Fiona held her arms out and looked down the front of her crumb-covered chest.  “I’m here, aren’t I?”

            Carter paused for a moment; “Good point.”  He took a deep breath and headed for the door.  “You’re sure you’ll be okay?”

            “I’m positive.  I’m even going to go to work tomorrow.”

            “Um, no.”  Carter scoffed and shook his head.

            “Um, yes.”

            “Absolutely not.  You were in the hospital and today is the first day you’ve been out of bed in a week.  You are not going to work tomorrow.  I won’t let you and neither will your boss.”

            “Kelly will let me work.”

            “Oh no she won’t.”  He stopped the argument there by grabbing his keys and opening the front door.  For a second he just looked at her, then he crossed the kitchen and dropped a kiss on the top of her head.  “I’m glad you’re feeling better.  I’ll be back in a bit.”

            “Don’t forget the pizza.”

            “I won’t.  Hawaiian.”

            “Thank you.”  She opened the fridge to scrounge around for something else to eat.

            He paused again at the door and for a second thought about staying home with Fiona.  Carter shook the thought from his head and left the house, the fresh air filled his lungs and he felt like he was breathing it for the first time.

 

            Carter didn’t make it to the freeway before he picked up his phone and called JC’s cell phone.  "Hey there you."  JC smiled as he answered the phone.

            "Hey."  Carter blushed and licked his lips.  “Where are you?”

            “I’m in my car on my way to Starbucks before heading into the office.”  JC smiled and turned his turn signal on.  “Wanna join me?”

            “Which Starbucks?”

            “Um, the one on Gower.”

            “Ooo, too far.”

            “Where are you?”

            “I just left my house, I’m almost to the 405.”

            “Ew.”

            “Yeah.”  Carter smiled, just hearing JC on the line.  "So um, what are you up to today?"

            "Same old thing.  I'll be in a meeting this morning then I'm going to the studio tonight."

            "Tonight?"

            "Yeah."

            "Oh."

            "Why?  What's up?"

            "Well nothing."

            "Did you want to come by the studio and watch?"  JC asked as he steered into traffic.

            "I…"

            "It's at 1510 Century Plaza, if you want to."

            "But you won't be there until later?"

            "Yeah.  I try to work during the day but Dallas was busy so we're getting together later."

            "Oh, okay."  Carter bit his lip.  "Well then I'll call you later and see what's going on."

            "Okay.  How’s Fiona?”

            “She’s… actually she’s a lot better.  She came out of her room today like nothing was wrong.”

            “Wow, well that’s good.”

            “Yeah.”  Carter bit his lip and changed lanes.  “Yeah, I guess.  It just makes me worried since she was so sick, you know?”

            “Yeah but if she’s better that’s good.”  JC smiled and tried to reassure Carter.

            “I guess.”

            “I’m right.”

            “Okay.”

            “Have I ever been wrong before?”  JC smirked just to get Carter to smile.  Carter laughed softly in response.  “Okay then.”

            “Okay then.”  He conceded as he stopped at a red light.

            “I’ll see you later then?”  JC asked.

            “Yeah.”

            “Call me.”

            “I will.”  Carter nodded and turned to look at the young lady in the convertible beside him.  She used the time stopped at the light to reapply her lip-gloss.

            “Drive careful.”

            Carter kept his eyes on the woman and muttered, “You too,” before hanging up.  The light in front of him turned green, but his eyes stayed on the blonde beside him as she waited in the turn lane.  She applied her lip-gloss and smoothed her lips together.  Music played loudly so that everyone nearby could hear that it was going to be a bright, bright, bright, bright sun shiny day.  To Carter it appeared that her biggest concern was the glob of rusted peach lip-gloss stuck on her lower lip.

            The car behind Carter sounded its horn, jolting Carter into action.  He drove through the intersection wondering what it would be like for him to go one day without a care in the world.  Without the weight of… everything… on his shoulders.

            As soon as he thought it he caught his breath; what would it be like for Fiona to only be concerned about her lip-gloss.  Carter shook the thought from his head and turned right to head toward the office.  If he wasn’t careful the only thing he’d have to worry about would be finding another job.  A few hours on the weekend would help him a little bit, and he was going to do whatever it took.

 

            Carter busted his butt and got most of the work he’d let pile up over the week done and then headed to Jamie’s to kick back for a bit before calling JC.  They chatted for a while after Carter gave him the full, and incredible, Fiona update.  Jamie promised to call Fiona as soon as Carter left to cheer her up and fill her in on what he’d been doing since they’d missed about a dozen gossip sessions.

            With a hug and a quick kiss, Carter got into his car and headed absentmindedly toward the studio where JC said he’d be working.

 

 

            "Hey there sunshine."  JC answered his cell phone with a smile after hearing the special ring he'd set up just for Carter.

            "Hey, guess where I am."  Carter smiled.

            "Is it good or bad?"  JC asked.

            "Good."

            "Hawaii?"

            "Better than that."  Carter laughed.

            JC looked over his shoulder and around the little studio. "Well the only place better than that would be here and you're not here.  Unless you're hiding under the soundboard.  Are you hiding under the soundboard?"  JC bent to look by Joey's feet under the soundboard as Joey gave him a weird look.

            "No.  But only because they won't let me past the lobby."

            "You… you're here?"  JC asked as he went to stand up, knocking the back of his head on the table.  "Ow!"

            "Are you okay?"  Carter asked with a chuckle, knowing full well what JC had just done.

            "Yeah, I'm fine.  You're seriously here?"

            "I'm seriously in the lobby.  I don't know what studio you're in and the guy up front didn't know how to reach you without going up and looking through all of the studios."

            "Yeah, he's new and pretty much useless.  I swear."  JC sighed.  "I'll be down in a second."

            "Okay."

            "Don't move."

            "I won't."  Carter laughed and listened as JC clicked his phone off.  Carter tucked his phone back in his pocket and waited patiently by the planter near the exit.  Within a minute the stairwell doors opened and JC bounded out.

            "There you are!"  He practically danced over to Carter with a big smile showing his teeth.  "Come on up, you've gotta hear what we've been working on."

            "Is it okay?"

            "That you come up?  Absolutely.  Come on."  JC nodded toward the elevator and Carter followed cautiously.  They stepped onto the elevator and waited until the doors slid shut before JC kissed Carter.  "I've been wanting to do that all day."

            "Yeah?"  Carter asked breathlessly.

            "Yeah."  JC kissed him again, letting his lips linger as the elevator stopped on their floor and the doors opened slowly.  "Seriously though, you have to hear this song.  You'll like it."

            "Is this for your solo project?"

            JC shrugged one shoulder in response and led the way down the empty hall, his hair flopping with each step making Carter want to reach out and touch it.  “I’m still working on that.”

            “Hmm.”  Carter made a sound deep in his throat as they walked down the poorly lit hallway to the studio on the far end.  “So you're here by yourself?"  Carter asked as JC pushed the studio door open.

            "Not really, I mean… Dallas is here, he's producing it with me.  And Joey's here today too."

            "Joey's here?"  Carter stopped just inside the door.  "He's… he's done with uh, Broadway or whatever?"

            "Not yet, he's just taking a few days off."  JC reached for Carter's hand and pulled him all the way in as the door shut behind them and Joey looked up.  With his cell phone pressed to his ear he held his hand up in a friendly wave as Carter passed.

            "Hey."  Carter nodded a greeting at Joey and cleared his throat as Joey's voice dropped and he leaned to the side to talk in private.

            "He's on the phone with Kelly.  Bri is a little under the weather so…” JC shrugged and nodded for Carter to follow into the sound studio.  "Come on, I want you to hear this."

            "Okay."  Carter said softly as he followed, careful to watch where he was stepping.  A setting like that was the perfect place for him to show JC just how clumsy he could be.

            "This isn't the final copy or anything, but it's what we've got so far."

            "It's not done?"

            "No, the song is done it's just not the final edit.  We want to work on the mix and stuff.  But this is it."  JC nodded and expertly leaned across the board to flip the switches.  "Here."  The music started in the small soundproof room as JC closed his eyes and leaned against the short table.

            Carter stood with his head down and his hands in his pockets, letting the music surround him with the passion that JC let show through in his singing.  He smirked to himself as the female-centric lyrics began, but he knew that was to sell the album and ignored that small discrepancy.

            When the song ended Carter opened his eyes and looked up at JC who had the heels of his hands pressed against his eyes.  "Well?"

            "Well?  That was good."  Carter nodded.

            "It was good?"

            "It was amazing.  Seriously."  Carter walked over to JC and stood a few inches in front of him.  He reached up and removed JC's hands from his eyes and forced the taller man to look at him in the eye.  "It's not like anything else I've ever heard, I love it."

            "Really?"

            "Really."  Carter squeezed JC's wrists as his heart skipped a beat.  "Not that I know anything about music… but yeah, I liked it a lot.  You'd be an amazing solo artist."

            "Well… I don't know about that."

            "If you decide you want to, you'll do great.  Nsync's stuff is good, I love it, you know that.  But this is just… it's all you JC."

            "It is… isn't it?"  JC smiled and pulled Carter closer by his belt loops with Carter's hands still on JC's wrists.  JC leaned in and kissed Carter.  "Thank you."

            "You're welcome."  Carter kissed JC back and ran his hands up JC's arms and under the short sleeves of his t-shirt.

            "Ahem."  Joey cleared his throat from the doorway and drew the two men apart.  "Hey Carter."

            "H-hi Joey."  Carter's hand came to his mouth and he hastily rubbed his sleeve over his lips as JC laughed softly.

            "He likes it."  JC said with obvious pride.

            "Of course he does, it's the best thing you've ever turned out."  Joey winked at JC and forced a smile as he looked from JC to Carter, where his eyes lingered for a moment on the man who was now in JC's life, then back to JC.

            "How's Bri?"

            "She's uh… she's okay.  Kelly took her to the doctors this morning and she's got a little ear infection, but she'll be alright."  Joey nodded and remembered the choice he had made.

            "That's good, she's too cute to be sick.  I'll have to send her a teddy bear or something."

            "Yeah, that's what she needs, more toys from Uncle JC."

            "Hey, if I can't spoil her rotten what good is it being an uncle?"  JC laughed, but didn't let go of Carter.

            "Heh."  Joey gave a soft snort and shook his head,  "We've gotta go though.  We're supposed to be there in like, fifteen minutes."

            "We're always late though."

            "Yeah, I know."

            "Okay, okay.  Let's go." JC stood up straight causing Carter to have to back up a few steps.  He released Carter's pants and reached around him for the short stack of unmarked CDs.  "Here, you can keep this."

            "What is it?"  Carter turned the case over in his hand.

            "It's the song."  JC dropped another kiss on Carter's forehead and practically bounced out of the studio.

            Carter looked over at Joey who was watching JC prance around the outer studio with a dark look on his face.  "Does recording make him high or something?"

            "Yeah.  Something like that." Joey mumbled as he followed JC out and into the hall.  "Come on pretty boy. Dallas is meeting us there because he wants to get some take out on the way."

            "Okay."  JC turned to Carter and bounced up on his toes again.  "Come with us."  It was a request, not an order.

            "To… where are you going?"

            "To the radio station.  This is debuting tonight." He waved the two CD cases in his hands and bounced again.          

            "I thought it wasn't done yet?"

            "It's not.  But this is a sneak peek.  They love shit like this."

            “I…” Carter thought of Fiona at home.

            “It’ll be fun.  When was the last time you had fun?”  JC’s eyes danced as he smiled, and Carter had a hard time remember the last fun he’d had.

            “I don’t…what about Fiona?”

            “We don’t have time to pick her up.”

            “No, I mean…” Carter shoved his hands in his pockets.

            “Fun.”  JC waggled his eyebrows at Carter and waved the CD’s once more.  “Fun, fun, fun.”

            “Right.”  Carter smiled and nodded.  “Let’s go.”

            “Joey’s getting the car.”  JC nodded toward the hall and Carter followed him to the elevator where they rode down to the underground parking garage.

            Joey was waiting in a huge black SUV with the windows down and the radio up.  His head bopped to the music as Carter and JC hopped in.  JC took the passenger seat, Carter slid in the back.  Joey finished the chorus, then turned the music down.

            "So Fiona’s feeling better?"  JC asked as he turned halfway around in his seat.

            "Yeah.  This morning her chest was clear and her throat wasn't red."

            "That's good."  JC nodded.  "I'll have to swing by and say hi."

            "Fiona?  Your friend you brought out to New York?"  Joey asked as they exited the garage.

            "Yeah."  Carter cleared his throat and looked out the window.

            "Is… she's sick?"

            "She has HIV."  JC explained.

            "No, yeah I know that.  But I mean…"

            "The last few weeks she's been fighting off pneumonia and thrush and… stuff like that."  Carter said softly.

            "Whoa."  Joey blew his breath out loudly.  "But she's okay?"

            "Yeah.  Her doctor took her off her medications to try to let her body mend itself and… and I guess it is."

            Joey's eyes widened as he turned around in his seat.  "They took her off all of her medications?  Isn't that dangerous?"

            Carter shrugged; he'd gone through the whole spectrum of feelings when it came to that issue.  "Her doctor wouldn't do it if it was going to be bad for her."

            "But – “ Joey started.

            "Her body was being pulled in a dozen different directions."  JC interrupted them.  "She had meds that contradicted other meds she was taking.  Her system needed a rest.  Any risk that presented was worth it.  She couldn't just keep on doing that to her body, she'd wear out."

            Carter looked at JC, speechless.  "I…"

            "Hm."  Joey nodded and seemed appeased with that answer.

            JC caught Carter's look and laughed softly, "I've done my homework."

            "I can tell."

            "I actually talked with one of the doctor guys I met at the AIDS walk auction thing.  He was pretty cool."

            "Yeah?"

            "Yeah.  I told him about Fiona and what she's been doing.  He said that's exactly what he'd do."

            "Her doctor is top of the line."  Carter said, sounding a bit more defensive than he intended.

            "No, I know that."

            "He's one of the best in Los Angeles."

            "I'm sure he is." JC smiled and reached for Carter's hand.  "And Fiona's better, so that's what matters."

            Carter took a deep breath and forced a smile, he really needed to relax a bit when it came to his immediate emotional responses.  "Exactly."

            "So will she go back on her… what do you call it?"  Joey asked to break up the silence.

            "Cocktail."  Carter said.

            "Yeah."  Joey nodded and licked his lips.

            "She has a couple weeks left off of meds before she goes back in to see what they're going to do next."

            "Oh."  Joey bit his lip.  "That's cool."

            "Yeah.  She'll get all used to not having to take anything then they'll bombard her with twenty pills a day."  Carter rolled his eyes.

            "Really?"  JC frowned.

            "No.  I don't know.  Probably not.  I hope they'll just give her whatever she needs, and not so much preventative stuff for a bit.  She could use the break."

            "How long has she been on them?"

            "Since she was diagnosed."  Carter sighed, his night was taking an odd turn and he just wanted to get back to talking about JC's song.  "I don't think there's ever been a day when she didn't take at least sixteen pills."

            "Wow."

            "So yeah… but anyway."  Carter forced himself to broaden his smile and squeeze JC's hand.  "So your song will be on the radio tonight?"

            "Yes."  JC smiled at the subject change.

            "Awesome.”  Carter grinned at JC in the side mirror and they talked about nothing else the rest of the way to the station.

 

            When they arrived at the radio station they were shuttled into the studio, already more than fifteen minutes late.  The DJ cracked a few jokes about JC being high maintenance and how he probably had to stop and get his hair done, while Carter took his seat next to the producer in the small soundproof booth across from the DJ.

            Carter watched in silence as the electricity practically sparked between JC and Joey.  There was definitely a connection there that no one could ever penetrate.  Where jealousy should have overrun every other emotion Carter felt, all he noticed was love.  Watching JC and Joey interact, knowing their past, only made Carter love JC more.  JC made eye contact with everyone he spoke to, but when he talked to Joey there was a playful smile hiding just under the surface.  While they were together Joey had obviously tapped into a part of JC he hadn’t known was there before, and he kept it around to share with Carter.  For that, Carter wanted to kiss Joey himself… though he knew he wouldn’t.

            When the song premiered, Carter watched as the phone bank in the studio lit up with hundreds of calls.  JC took a few calls, answered a few questions, and talked about the movie and the possibility of him doing a solo CD.  After almost an hour in the studio, JC and Joey said goodbye to the DJ and they all left the station on cloud 9.

            “I can’t believe it, man.  I mean, I knew it was good but shit.  It’s gonna hit the ceiling.  I give it a week.  Nine days tops.”  Joey couldn’t hide his excitement.

            “Yeah, we’ll have to see.  I hope so.”  JC tried to keep his feet on the ground as the climbed into the car and shut the doors.

            Joey tuned the radio to the station they’d just left and listened as the DJ did nothing but praise JC and the song for the next few minutes, leaving the song playing in the background.  Eventually he broke down and played some other top 40 songs, but by then they were back at the studios underground parking garage.

            “Where to now?”  Joey tapped his hands on the steering wheel.

            “Um…” JC looked back at Carter.

            “Oh shit.”  Carter closed his eyes.  “I have to hit the grocery store, I’ve got nothing at home.”

            “The grocery store?”  Joey laughed.

            “It’s late.”  JC frowned.

            “Yeah but… we need food.”  Carter shrugged.  “And I need to call Fiona and see if she still wants a pizza.”

            “At this hour?”

            “Hey.”  Carter shrugged.  “Sometimes pizza is all you want.”

            “He’s got a point.”  Joey smiled and unlocked the doors.  “So you’re going with him?”  He asked JC.

            “Yeah.”  JC nodded.  “When are you heading back?”

            “To the city?  Tomorrow afternoon.”

            “Okay.  Call me tomorrow, we’ll work something out.”  JC leaned over and hugged Joey across the center console.  “See ya.”

            “Take care.”  Joey mumbled into JC’s hair.

            “Good to see you again, Joey.”  Carter said as he stepped out into the cool night air.

            “You too.”  Joey said as he quickly pecked JC’s cheek.

            “G’night.”  Carter waved.

            JC stepped out of the car and shut the door before leaning into the open window, “Drive careful.”

            “Will do.”  Joey smiled and turned the radio up as JC’s song started again.

            JC waved as Joey pulled away.  “I can’t believe I did it.”

            “You totally did.”  Carter laughed and put his arm around JC’s waist.  “Now, how about that trip to the grocery store?”

            “You’re driving.”  JC held his hands up showing he was at Carter’s mercy.

            “It’ll only take a few minutes.”  Carter led the way back to his car and they headed for the store closest to Carter’s home.  JC joined Carter in the almost empty grocery store and carried the little red basket as Carter filled it to capacity with fruits and vegetables, with a bag of cookies thrown in for good measure.

            When they left the grocery store Carter called Fiona as promised.  “Hey gorgeous.”

            “Hey.”  Fiona yawned into the phone.

            “Did I wake you?”

            “It’s okay.”

            “Did you still want pizza?"  Carter asked softly.

            "No."  Fiona yawned into the phone and adjusted the couch pillow behind her head.  "But thank you for remembering to call."

            "Anytime."

            "Where are you?"

            "Um, we're on our way home."  Carter raised his eyebrow at JC whose hand had found it's way to Carter's upper thigh.

            "Can you get me Dr. Pepper though?"

            "I... yeah.  I'll pick some up on the way."

            "Okay."  She yawned again.  "Thanks."

            "No problem."

            "Hey wait, what time is it?"

            "It's almost... it's like midnight."

            "Where have you been all day?"

            "I went in to work for a little bit, then I went and bothered Jamie for a little bit to update him on how you're doing.  Then I went and saw JC at the studio."

            "Oooh, how was that?"

            "Good."  Carter nodded and put his hand over JC's to stop it from moving any more.  "Can she hear it?"

            "It's on the radio."  JC shrugged and wiggled his fingers.

            "I've got a surprise for you too.  JC gave me a CD."

            "Of him!?"

            "Yeah."

            "Oh man, hurry home."  Carter could practically hear Fiona’s heart race with excitement.

            Carter caught JC’s eye as he squeezed his hand gently.  He looked right at JC as he spoke into the phone.  “I will.”  And he would…

 

 

 

 

 

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Copyright © 2003, 2004  Amy Lynn