Fiona spent most of Saturday picking up around the house while Carter and JC stayed in the bedroom, only appearing for brief moments on the way to the bathroom or in the kitchen for a snack.  She rolled her eyes each time Carter came out to grab a piece of pizza or an apple, but she only made crude comments twice.  Both times were met with a sly smirk or a raised finger from Carter before he laughed and went back to his room and shut the door.

            By late afternoon Fiona was finished with the cleaning and curled up on the couch watching a Trading Spaces marathon on The Learning Channel.  Carter stepped out of the bathroom steaming and wet in his almost too small blue towel, then sat at the end of the couch.  "Hey."  He smiled and tried not to yawn as JC made a mad dash for the bathroom and started his own shower.

            "Hey."  Fiona smirked but didn't take her eyes off of the TV.  "You gonna put some clothes on or just walk around with your goods hanging out all over the place?"

            "I'm covered."  Carter said, but he moved the towel over a little just in case.  "So hey.  Do you wanna go out to dinner tonight?"

            "Go out?"  She turned to look at him, keeping her eyes on his to avoid seeing something she really didn't need to.

            "As in leave the house."

            "You want to leave the house?  For dinner?"  Fiona frowned.

            "You want me to ask you in Dutch?  Come on, I know you speak English."

            "You want to go out to dinner with me?  That's just... odd.  What about JC?"

            "It's not odd; people do it all the time.  We've got reservations at Paulson's on the Pier."  Carter smiled and stuck his bare foot out to kick her ankle.

            "That's a date restaurant.  What are you trying to get out of me?"

            "Nothing."

            "You don't take a girl there unless you're trying to score, which you're not.  So what is it?"

            "JC."

            "Now who's not speaking English?  What are you talking about?"

            "JC and I want to go on a date to Paulson's.  He wants to take me and... well we can't really do that."

            "Dude, Carter... I love you and all but I'm not riding bitch on your date.  Forget it."  She held her hands up and pushed him away.

            "It's our one month anniversary."  Carter pleaded.  "Come on."

            "Even more reason for me not to go Carter.  This is a night for you two."

            "Jen is going too."

            "Jen?"

            "Jen is JC's 'date' for tonight and you can be mine."

            "Um.  Yeah, okay but see… when you guys start kissing it's going to look weird."

            "Fiona."  Carter sighed.  "Listen.  We can't go to the restaurant by ourselves because like you said, it's a date place and… you've said this countless times… he's not openly gay."

            "Right."

            "So we bring along two girls and it looks like a double date."

            "Where the girls don’t talk and the boys make googly eyes at each other all night?"  Fiona crossed her arms over her chest.

            "I don’t know what you're whining about, you're gonna get a free dinner at one of the nicest restaurants in the city.  All you have to do is sit there and eat.  Maybe join in the conversation.  It won't kill you."

            "You're buying?"

            "JC is."

            "Your boyfriend is willing to buy four dinners just so you two can go on a date?"

            "Uh huh."

            "Wow."

            "Yeah."

            "No, I mean... really... wow.  That's..."

            "I know.  So will you go?"

            "Absolutely."  Fiona smiled, realizing just how special Carter must be to JC.

            "And you have to wear your blue and white dress."  Carter said as he pulled her in for a hug while his towel slipped.

            "You're dressing me now?"  She asked with her chin on his damp shoulder.

            "Yes."  He laughed into her hair and kissed her cheek.  "Thanks Fi."

            "No problem."  She patted his back and held him tight, moments like that were the times when she never wanted to let him go.  Part of her knew that JC was the best thing that had happened to Carter in a while, but another part wanted to protect him from getting hurt again.  "Now fix your towel so I can let you go without being traumatized."

            "You've seen me naked before."

            "Never voluntarily."  She said with her arms still wrapped around his neck.  "Come on, fix it."

            "Okay."  Carter removed his arms and carefully adjusted the towel around his waist.  "Now go get ready, we have to leave in two hours."

            "Your boyfriend is in the shower."

            "He'll be done in a minute, he's quick."

            "Oh really?"

            "Not like that."

            "Uh huh."  She cleared her throat and laughed as Carter stood up and shook his head.

            "No, with that he takes his time."  He sighed happily and went back to his room as the shower was turned off behind the closed bathroom door.  "It's torturous."

            "Yeah.  I bet.  Thanks."  Fiona stuck her tongue out at him then laughed as he shut the door.  She finished watching the episode that was on, then went to her room to get her blue and white dress out while JC finished up in the bathroom.

 

            By the time Carter grabbed his keys and headed for the front door they were all dressed, prettied up, and ready to go.  Fiona rode in the back seat and stared at the side of JC's head almost the whole way there.  His profile was amazing, and more so than she originally thought.  The picture's she'd seen did not do him justice and for the millionth time she was horribly jealous of Carter.

            When they got to the restaurant, Jen was waiting under the front awning for them.  She spotted JC in the passenger seat as they drove up and met them in the small parking lot on the side.

            "Hey you."  JC smiled as he walked up and snaked his arm around Jen's waist.  "Thanks for coming."

            "Thanks for calling."  She smiled back and kissed his cheek.

            "Fiona, this is Jen.  Jen, this is Fiona and uh… Carter.  Carter, this is Jen."  JC made the introductions and they all smiled politely.

            "It's nice to meet you finally, I've heard so much about you."  She said to Carter.

            "Really?"  JC and Carter said in unison.

            "I uh, Justin told Brit about it, yeah."  Jen explained quickly.

            "Ahh, okay yeah.  That would explain it.  The infamous Nsync grapevine."  JC laughed and guided Jen into the restaurant.  Fiona and Carter followed a few steps behind, each holding the others hand in a death grip.

            "She's pretty."  Carter whispered softly.

            "Yes, she is.  I would kill for skin like that."  Fiona sighed and carefully touched her own cheek.  "Seriously."

            "Your skin is fine."

            "Fine, yes.  Perfectly flawless?  No."

            "You've got great skin Fi."  Carter squeezed her hand and kissed her cheek.  "This whole straight date thing is kinda weird." He laughed with his lips against her skin.

            "Shut up."  Fiona laughed and playfully pushed him away.

            "Chasez for four please?"  JC said as he walked to the podium.

            "Certainly sir, right this way."  The host led them to their table by the window in the corner, overlooking the waves of the Pacific Ocean crashing against the pier.

            "Thank you."  JC smiled as he pulled Jen's chair out for her.

            Carter mimicked JC's actions and sat the girls on one side of the table while they took their seats side by side.  Their knees touched as they scooted their chairs in and the electricity could be felt by everyone at the table.  Fiona cleared her throat and kicked Carter's foot under the table to get him to tear his eye away from JC long enough to open the menu and order.

            The boys laughed softly and blushed as JC reached for his water and took a quick sip.  "This is going to be a long meal."  He said softly.

            "It will be if you keep this up."  Fiona raised her eyebrow at him and smiled.

            "Okay, okay."  JC rolled his eyes and opened his menu.  "So."  He sighed heavily.  "What looks good?"  Fiona and Carter's eyes met over the tops of their menus and they giggled to themselves, each one knowing what, or who, they thought looked good.

 

            Dinner went better than Fiona expected.  She was able to keep in the conversation with Carter and JC, since they'd been spending so much time together anyway, their topics seemed second nature to Fiona.  Jen on the other hand didn't have a lot of input and generally looked bored.  She'd answer questions when they spoke to her, but other than that she picked at her food and tried to look like she was part of the conversation, though she clearly wasn't.

            When the bill arrived at the table JC slid his card in the slot and sent it back without even looking at the total.  Carter and Fiona exchanged glances and snickered softly to themselves.  She kicked his ankle under the table and tried to keep from laughing out loud and embarrassing everyone at the table.

            "What?"  JC asked with a mostly lost smile.

            "Nothing."  Carter shook his head.

            "Fiona?"  JC turned to her.

            "No, it's nothing."  She smiled even wider and shook her head.  "I'll tell you later."

            "You guys are nuts."  JC laughed and folded his napkin on the table.

            "Yeah.  Well."  Carter shrugged his shoulders and sighed with a happy smile.  Even with the two girls tagging along, this was one of the best dates Carter had ever been on.  They'd toasted new relationships and as they sipped the wine JC's hand found Carter's under the table.

            After finishing their after dinner coffee, the group stood up and headed two by two for the exit.  Along the way JC stopped to say hello to someone sitting near the window.  Carter looked at Fiona with a look that said he recognized the man and woman at the table, but couldn't quite place them.  "Who?" He whispered softly as they stood several steps back from the table.

            "Reese and Ryan."  Fiona whispered back a little louder, her excitement caused her voice to go up a notch or two.

            "Who?"

            "Jesus.  I'll tell you when we get outside."  She sighed and rolled her eyes as JC shook Ryan's hand and smiled politely at Reese.

            "Legally blonde?"  Carter leaned to whisper in Fiona's ear.

            "Yes."

            "Oh awesome."  Carter smiled and squeezed her hand.  "That's so cool."

            "Yeah it is."  Fiona did her best not to bounce as they followed JC past the table and out to the parking lot.

            "That was cool; I haven't seen Ryan in like, a year." JC said when they were outside.

            "You know him?"

            "Yeah.  We met at the Kid's Choice awards a few years back, right after they got married."  JC nodded.  "He's cool.  He actually plays guitar a little so we talked about that.  Anyway… I guess they're doing good.  I'm glad to see a Hollywood couple make it, you know?"

            "Uh huh."  Carter nodded, though Fiona knew he lived for the tabloids and loved showing her whose marriage had failed and how he knew from the start that it was doomed.

            "So…?"  Fiona looked around the parking lot.

            "Are you coming back?"  Carter asked JC who was standing closer to Carter than he was to Jen who was looking bored.

            "Sure."  JC smiled and lowered his voice.

            "Cool."  Carter's mouth turned into a slow smile as he looked up at JC.

            Fiona cleared her throat and reached for Carter's hand to pull him back to reality.  "Honey, do you have the valet ticket?"  She asked with a firm squeeze to his hand.

            "Oh.  Oh, uh… yeah."  Carter tore his eyes away from JC for a moment and reached into his pocket to hand the valet the little red ticket.  "Thank you."

            "No problem."  The young man said as he went to retrieve the car.

            "Well Jen, it was nice to meet you."  Carter held his hand out and shook hers with a pleasant smile.

            "You too."  She forced a smile back and tried to keep her teeth from chattering.

            "You look cold."

            "I'm freezing."  She nodded.

            "Well here, take my jacket."  Carter shrugged out of his jacket that was too dressy anyway and slid it over her shoulders.  "I'll just get it back from Jace some other time."

            "Thank you."  Her smile warmed a bit as she pulled the jacket closed over her chest.

            “It was nice to meet you.”  Fiona smiled and shook Jen’s hand as Carter’s jacket sleeve covered the other girl's hand.

            “You too.”  Jen smiled, and though it looked forced Fiona wasn’t offended.  She could tell where Jen was coming from and she sympathized with her.

            When the valet brought their cars around, Jen climbed into hers alone.  JC leaned in the driver's side and said something to her softly, then kissed her quickly and shut the door.  He waved as she left the circular driveway then turned back to Carter with a sigh.  “Man, I’m ready to get out of here.”

            “Me too.”  Carter smiled and the look that passed between them spoke volumes.  Fiona blushed and cleared her throat again as she took the keys from the valet and dropped them into Carter’s hand.

            “Can you keep your eyes off him for three seconds?”  She asked softly.

            “I can try.”  Carter laughed and kissed her cheek as he rattled the keys in his hand.  He stepped around to the driver’s side as JC opened the car door for Fiona.

            “Thank you.”  She smiled and slid in the back seat, knowing the boys would want to be close enough to touch on the way home.

            "So Jen seems nice."  Carter smiled as they pulled out of the parking lot a minute later.

            JC and Fiona responded with the same grunting sound that didn't sound like they quite agreed with him.  "She's okay."  JC said finally.

            "Fi?"  Carter waited for her response.

            "What?"

            "What was that sound for?"

            "She just… I don't know.  She rubbed me the wrong way."  Fiona shrugged in the back seat as she shifted herself to get her knees out of JC's back.

            "You're just too touchy."  Carter shook his head and navigated his way onto the freeway.

            "I am not."

            "She seemed jealous tonight."  JC nodded.  "She's not usually like that."

            "Jealous of who?  Me?"  Carter asked.

            "It seemed like it."  Fiona nodded in agreement.

            "It's not like she's seeing you though."  Carter frowned and turned to face JC.  "I mean, she knows that right?"

            "Yeah, she knows."  JC nodded.  "I've known her for a while."

            "Well then…"

            "That doesn't change the fact that she's a girl."  JC sighed.

            "Hey."  Fiona slapped the back of his seat and tried to sound properly offended.

            "I just mean that girls, straight girls anyway, have a hard time just being friends with a guy."  JC explained.

            "Um."  Fiona laughed and leaned forward.  "Carter dear, I'm straight… right?"

            "As far as I know, yes."  Carter smiled.

            "And have I ever tried to get in your pants?"

            "Nope.  But you've climbed in my bed a few times."

            "Have I ever tried to be more than a friend to you?"

            "You try to be my mom a lot, but that's not the same I'm sure."  Carter laughed and turned to look at her quickly.

            "Okay, you two are a rare exception to the rule."  JC laughed and reached over the emergency break to place his hand on Carter's thigh.

            "Actually, I think the problem might lay in the fact that the world sees you as a gorgeous straight man wooing all the ladies so Jen sees that too kind of and it gets her wires all outta whack.  See, with Carter there's never been a question.  You know.  Not even a "maybe" or a "what if"."  Fiona shrugged.

            "You think so?"

            "Heck yeah.  If I saw Carter hitting on chicks and taking girls out on dates and stuff I'd get all up in a huff wondering why he didn't choose me.  You know?"

            "Uh huh."  JC nodded slowly.

            "And for the record."  Fiona smacked Carter's shoulder.  "If you ever decide to go straight I get first dibs."

            JC and Carter laughed in the front seat as Carter shook his head with a smile, "I promise.  You'd be the only girl for me."  He puckered his lips in her direction and she happily obliged with a quick peck.

            "Okay but do you think you could be just friends with a straight guy?"  JC asked, bringing the conversation back on topic.

            "Eh.  Probably."  Fiona shrugged.  "I've never really tried or thought about it."  She sighed and sat back in her seat, "But I think that if I were going to be just friends with a straight guy, I wouldn't want to hold hands or go on dates or kiss them.  See, and maybe that's another problem.  You want to be just friends with your beards which is fine, but then you're hugging her and kissing her and holding her hand and everything and between two straight people that's practically dating."

            "Or two gay people."

            "Right."  Fiona nodded.  "So maybe for Jen she's got all the vibes and feelings of a girlfriend because you do all of that with her, but then that's it.  Nothing else, no love letters or midnight phone calls or other affection."

            "Hmmm."  JC creased his brow and looked at Carter.

            "She's got a point."  Carter shrugged and turned his attention to the road.

            "You do.  That's a very good point." JC nodded and looked back at Fiona.  "So how do I fix it?"

            "Beats me."  She shrugged.  "I mean, if she's got any kind of romantic feelings for you, which it looks like she might, then… I don't know.  Talk to her I guess."

            "Yeah."  JC sighed.

            "And assure her that you're gay and that the straightness is an act."

            "She knows."

            "Nah, you may have told her before, but it doesn't look like she truly gets it.  It's gotta be confusing though."

            "Okay." JC sighed again and reached back to pat Fiona's knee.  "Thanks."

            "Anytime.  Really, anytime you need straight girl advice, you just give me a call."  She smiled and put her hand over his.

            "Oh stop hitting on my boyfriend already."  Carter laughed and shook his head.  "He's gay dear."

            "I know, I know.  It's a tragedy, but I know."

            "See?  That's why she's great."  Carter laughed and gave JC a quick peck on the cheek.

            "I agree." JC sat back in his seat and stared out the window.  Fiona was great, and the perfect person to explain to him what he'd assumed for a while.

            They headed home and Fiona went straight to her room to finish reading and to get some sleep.  She felt a head cold coming on and if she didn't nip it in the bud, she'd end up paying for it.  Carter and JC made themselves comfortable on the couch and insisted that they were going to watch "The Mummy" on TV before they went to bed.  Fiona doubted they'd even make it to the first commercial break the way their eyes danced and their hands found each other on the back of the couch.

            She smiled and shook her head, then shut her door as Carter dropped his legs over JC's lap and wrapped his arms around JC's neck to kiss him as the opening credits started.

            "Not even to the commercials."  Fiona snickered under her breath and rolled her eyes.  "Happy anniversary!"  She called through the door before she forgot her manners.

            It took a second and she was sure they were finishing up a kiss, before either of them shouted, "Thank you!"  back to her.  One month had passed like a flash and Fiona could hardly wait to see where their relationship went.  She hadn't seen Carter as happy as he was in years, and JC seemed happy as well.  The three of them were happy and she didn't want anything at all to change that.

 

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

 

            Carter woke up to the sound of a lawn mower outside his window and JC's soft laugh by his ear.  "Does your neighbor know its Sunday morning?"  JC whispered as Carter rolled over into his arms.

            "He mows our lawn while he's at it so I can't really complain."  Carter mumbled with his eyes closed.

            "True."  JC brought his nose to Carter's neck and nuzzled like a puppy as he planted tiny kisses up to Carter's ear.  "So are you awake now?"

            "Yeah."

            "Okay good."  JC pulled Carter's hand to his mouth and kissed his palm.  "I have to go to New York next weekend."  He said softly.

            "Yeah?" Carter whispered, his breath warm against JC's ear.

            JC squirmed as a tingle went from his ear to his groin, which didn't need any more stimulation.  "MTV's Video Music Awards."

            "Sounds like fun."  Carter grinned then gently nibbled JC's earlobe.

            "Mmm hmm." JC's eyes closed as he rolled his shoulder to get more comfortable in Carter's arms.  "Come with me?"

            Carter stopped his nibbling and pushed himself up onto his elbow.  "Go with you?"

            "Yeah.  I told you next time I went anywhere you were invited."  JC sighed with his eyes still closed.  His lashes rested on his flushed cheeks and it was all Carter could do to keep from touching them. 

            "You want me to go to New York with you?"

            "Mmm hmm."

            "For an awards thing?"  Carter frowned.  That didn't sound like the JC he knew and… liked.

            "For the weekend."  JC's eyes opened slowly and he rolled onto his back to stare up at Carter.  "The ahh… the awards are…"

            "They're not your coming out party."  Carter finished JC's sentence with his own version of what he might have meant.

            "That's - "  JC started to try to make up excuses why that wasn't it, but in fact that was it exactly.  "I just want you to come see the city with me.  It's amazing, really.  I've got to do the awards thing for a few hours on Friday night, but other than that I'm all yours.  And I do mean all yours."  JC pulled Carter down for a kiss, weaving his fingers through Carter's short hair.

            "You're bringing Jen?"

            "Uh no.  Not after last night.  That… that would just be awkward I think."

            "You're going stag?"  Carter raised his eyebrow.  From what JC had said, he never went stag to public events like that.

            "Actually…"  JC smiled and tried to hide his blush.  "I was kind of hoping you could talk Fiona into going."

            Carter threw his head back and laughed at the ceiling.  "Are you serious?"  He asked louder than necessary.  "You're serious, aren't you?  You want Fiona to go to New York with you?"

            "With us." JC corrected him.

            "To go to the MTV Video Music Awards."

            "Yeah."

            "As your girlfriend?"

            JC shrugged, "According to the media."

            "You want her to be your beard?"  Carter's smile broadened as he eyes twinkled.

            "Do you think she'd go for it?"

            Carter just laughed and shook his head as he sat up and straddled JC's hips.  "Hey Fi!"  He shouted as he turned his head toward the closed door of his room.

            "Yeah?"  She yelled back.

            "Do you want to go to New York next weekend?"  Carter asked as JC's hands rested on his hips, his stomach muscles rippling with pleasure as his body responded to Carter's sudden presence.

            "Oh sure hun, let's just hop on an airplane and jet off to New York for the weekend.  Oh yeah wait, I forgot.  I'm broke."

            "I'm buying." JC whispered as his thumbs went under the waist of Carter's boxers.

            "JC's buying."  Carter shouted to the door and swatted at JC's hands.  "In a minute." He promised in an almost silent whisper as he looked at JC.

            "What?"  Fiona shouted as she walked towards Carter's room, then stopped just outside.  "Bases flying?"  She asked through the door.

            "JC is buying.  He wants to take us to New York so he can show me around and be his boyfriend in the city… and so that you can be his beard at the Video Music Awards or whatever."  Carter laughed and tightened his knees at JC's ribs to keep the older man from wiggling beneath him.

            "Are you serious?"  She asked a moment later.  Carter was known for his practical jokes and she wouldn't have been surprised if this was just another one.

            "I'm serious."

            "So people would think I was his girlfriend?"

            "I… I guess, yeah.  They'd think you were with him that night anyway."

            "What if his fans call me a ho?"  Fiona frowned on the far side of the door.

            "Then they wouldn't be too far off."  Carter laughed.

            "Fuck you."

            "Maybe when I'm done in here."  He smirked back another laugh and jabbed JC in the stomach to keep him still.

            "Is he in there?"  Fiona dropped her voice.

            "Uh huh."  Carter smiled.  "Say hi."  He said to JC.

            "Hi Fiona."  JC pinched Carter's thigh and laughed.

            "Are you decent?"  Fiona asked, and Carter could tell her excitement was barely being kept contained.

            "Uhh."  JC looked down to where his and Carter's hips met.

            "Yeah."  Carter said as he rolled off of JC and pulled the sheet up to their waists.

            The door flew open and Fiona launched herself into the room and landed between the boys in the bed.  "Eeeee!!  Are you serious?"  She looked from Carter to JC.  "Good morning."

            "G'morning."  JC cleared his throat and tugged the sheet carefully to make sure he was covered though nothing could hide the upward protrusion in of the sheets.

            "Jeez Fi, give us some room."  Carter laughed and tugged at the sheets, though she'd seen all he had to offer before.

            "You're serious?"  She asked again, completely ignoring Carter.

            "Yeah.  I was going to see if you'd be willing to do that, to uh… go with me."

            "Shit yeah I'll go."  She bounced between them then turned to Carter and grabbed his face in her hands.  Fiona landed a big wet kiss on his lips and said, "I love your boyfriend, you know that?  You used my toothpaste."  She licked her lips and sat back on her knees.

            "No I -" Carter stopped and looked at JC.  "You used her toothpaste."

            "Sorry."  JC mumbled as he tried not to smile at her expression.

            "Oh man." Fiona giggled and bounced some more.  "I just practically kissed JC Chasez from Nsync."  She placed her hand over her heart and pretended to faint.  "All the girls at work would be so jealous."

            "Hey."  Carter poked her side.

            "If I told them.  Which I won't.  Man… this is awesome.  Kiss him again, then kiss me."  She kneed Carter's side and ran her hand through her hair.

            "Don’t be weird."  Carter frowned, but his eyes were smiling.  "That's all we wanted to know, you can leave now." He went to try to playfully push her off the bed but JC grabbed her elbow to help balance her.

            "Here." He pulled her close and gently brushed his lips over hers.  "Now you can say you know first hand."

            "Consider it done.  So I can tell people you kissed me?"  She swooned melodramatically, knowing how teeny she must sound.

            "They'll assume it after the awards."  JC shrugged as she climbed off the bed.  "Thanks Fiona."

            "Any time!  And I do mean that… any time."  She paused at the door and leaned on the frame to look at her best friend in bed with the gorgeous man who liked him back.  "Man, you guys are the coolest.  If you swung my way I'd bang you both."  She sighed, and then shut the door behind her.

            "She really doesn't mind?"  JC asked softly as Carter rolled back into his position on his lap.

            Carter swiveled his hips and grinned down at JC.  "She understands the lifestyle better than almost anyone else I know."

            "Yeah?"

            Carter bit his lip and frowned slightly.  He didn't like sharing other people's business, but this was nothing Fiona had hidden.  "Well uh… her dad was gay and she was raised by him and his partner.  She understands everything."

            "Everything?"

            "Yeah."  He leaned down and kissed JC to get his mind off of Fiona. He loved her dearly, but at that moment all he wanted to think about was the man between his knees.

 

            Fiona went out to the kitchen walking on air.  With the new lift in her step she decided to make breakfast for everyone, because those boys needed a good healthy breakfast and she was feeling very domestic.  To her surprise, Carter had gone grocery shopping and there was actually food in the house.  She took the eggs, tomatoes, cheese, sausage, bread and cantaloupe out of the refrigerator and set about making cheese and tomato omelets while the sausage cooked in the frying pan and the cantaloupe waited to be cut.

            As she reached up to grab plates out of the cupboard she felt a tingling in her nose that threatened to turn into a sneeze.  She lowered her hands to her face to rub the sneeze away but when she took her hand away there was a smear of blood across the back.  For a moment it confused her, how did blood get on her hand?  Then as she felt herself go lightheaded, she knew.

            "Shit."  She said as her heart skipped a beat.  It was then that she felt the trickle in her nose and down her upper lip.  "Dammit. Carter!”  Fiona shouted from the kitchen.  “Carter!”  She held her hand to her nose, suddenly confused and completely disoriented.  Blood dripped between her fingers and all she could think of to do was pull the hem of her shirt up to her face.  “Carter!”  She shouted again through her shirt.

            “What?”  He shouted through his door.

            “He’s kinda occupied.”  JC’s voice laughed through the door and she knew that they were.

            “I need help.  I’m bleeding.”  Fiona raised her voice as the blood seeped through her thin shirt and dripped to the floor.  She hobbled across the narrow kitchen and hunched over the sink to let it drip freely onto the stainless steel sink bottom.  It had been a year since she had a nosebleed, but when she got them… she got them good.

            Carter’s door crashed open as he ran out with his baggy sweats on backwards and his face flushed.  “What happened?”  He ran to her and put his hand flat on her back.

            “It’s just my nose but I’m getting it everywhere.”  She mumbled and looked up at him with panicked eyes.  “There’s blood on the floor, be careful.”

            “Here.” JC pulled the roll of paper towels from the counter and tore three off.  He reached to hold them to her nose as the only really calm person in the room.  “Hold those and tip your head – “

            “No!”  Carter slapped his hand away before he could put the towels close enough for Fiona to grab.  “I’ve got it.  Just… just go over there.”  He pointed to the living room behind him.

            “Well here, let me help.  Justin used to get bloody noses all the time.”  JC tried again with the paper towels as blood dripped into the sink.

            “Don’t.”  Carter took the towels from him and gave him the stare of death.  “I’ve got it.  Go back to my room.”  He used his no nonsense voice and was met with a surprised look from JC.  “Please.”  Carter softened his tone and tried to look more relaxed than he actually was.

            “Can someone just hand them to me please?”  Fiona asked with her head still lowered over the sink.

            “Yeah, here.”  Carter held them out to her.

            She wadded them around her nose then looked back at JC around the mass of paper towels, “Thanks.”

            “Tilt your head back and press your sinuses kind of.”

            “Here?”  Fiona’s brow creased as she pinched her nostrils.

            “No, you’ll drown that way.” He smiled and took a step closer, avoiding Carter.  “Here, let me show you.”

            “No, just tell me.”  She backed up a step and raised her fingers to the bridge of her nose.  “Here?”

            “Y-yeah.”  JC nodded and licked his lips.  “Are you guys okay?”

            “I’m fine.”  Fiona said.

            “She’s fine.”  Carter agreed.

            "Can you turn the stove off?"  She asked, being rational in the midst of her panic.

            "I'll get it."  JC reached over and turned the burners off, then moved the pans to the back where they wouldn't continue to burn.  "Are these done?"

            "Uh huh."  Fiona mumbled through the paper towel.

            "Okay."

            “I got some on the floor by the table so be careful.”  She said again.

            “I’ll clean it.”  JC offered.  He just wanted to help and he wasn't sure why the others were freaking out over a simple nosebleed.

            “JC… just leave it.”

            “It’ll stain the floor.”  JC sighed.

            “It’s fine.  Just leave it and we’ll clean it up later.”  Carter said over his shoulder as he resumed rubbing Fiona’s back.

            JC sighed deeply.  “Fine, whatever.”  He turned quickly to walk back to Carter’s room.  “Get a cold wash cloth and put it behind her neck, that’ll help.”

            “Thank you JC.”  Fiona called after him, but he had already slammed the door.  “You fuck.”  She said to Carter as she flailed her arm out to smack him.

            “What?”

            “He doesn’t know?”

            “It’s not his business.”  Carter shook his head and went to the sink to wet a washcloth.  “Here.”  He lifted her hair and placed it on her neck, letting the water run down her shirt.  “How’s it feeling?”

            “It’s slowing down.”  She said with a stuffed up nose.  “You should have told him.”

            “No.”

            “Carter…”

            “What?  Why does he need to know?”

            “Because he’s here with you all the time.”

            “So?”

            “So?!”  She raised her eyebrows at him over the wadded up and bloody paper towels.  “Carter.  Come on.”

            “Fine.”  He sighed just to stop her from arguing.

            “I’ll tell him.”

            “That’s up to you.”  Carter nodded.  “It’s not my place to be sharing your business.”

            “Fuck you Carter.  He’s your responsibility.  You have a responsibility to tell him, not me.”

            “Well fuck you Fiona; I’m not the one who cares if he knows.”  He shot back, but left his hand behind her neck.  “Take those away for a second, let me see.”

            She removed the paper towels and tilted her head back so that he could look up her nose.  “It looks like its stopped dripping anyway.”

            “Yeah.”  Fiona nodded and put the paper towels back to blow her nose.  “Ugh, this is nasty.”

            "Your shirt is nasty."

            "I know."  She put the bloody paper towels in a new trash bag and tied the ends before setting it by the front door.  Carter pulled another couple paper towels from the roll and wet them in the sink.  He bent by the doorway and wiped at the small trail of dried blood drops.

            "Just leave that, I'll get it."  She said when she saw him bent over in the kitchen.

            "Nah, it's almost dry.  I've got it."

            "Can you toss me another paper towel?"  She asked with her hand outstretched toward him.  Carter tore one off and handed it to her.  "I have to be presentable when I go explain this to your boyfriend."  She rolled her eyes and blew her nose again and looked at the towel.  "Ugh, this is so nasty."  She shook her head and stuck the paper towel in her pocket as she knocked on the door.  “JC?”  Fiona waited for a response.

            “Yeah?”

            “Can I come in?”

            “Sure.”  He shrugged from behind the closed door.

            Fiona slowly turned the knob and stepped into the room then shut the door behind her.  If Carter didn’t want to be a part of it, then that was his choice.  She sat on the corner of the bed beside where he was lounging with a magazine.  “Thank you for your help out there.  I get kind of panicked when I get nosebleeds.”  She folded the bloody hem of her shirt up around the clean part; it was ruined anyway.

            “No problem.”

            “But see… JC I… I’m sick.  I mean.  I’m not sick like contagious or – well yeah I am… but not like, a flu or whatever.  I’m not sick sick, I’m just… sick.”

            “It’s fine.”  JC insisted.

            “JC I have AIDS.  That’s why Carter didn’t want you to touch me when I was bleeding.  That’s why he was snapping at you and why I was panicking about the blood.”

            JC was good at hiding his real feelings but nothing could disguise the sudden paleness in his lips or the rapid blinking that went on as soon as Fiona said AIDS.  He licked his lips quickly as his composure fell into place and he went back to the unexpressive mask that she noticed he wore a lot.  “You…”

            “Yep.”  She nodded.  “Almost five years now.”  Fiona folded her hands in her lap and looked up at JC who hadn’t moved at all.  That was a good sign, usually people moved away and she hated that.  “Carter should have told you before.”

            “No, I – it’s…”  He stumbled over his words.

            “I’m sorry.  You should have known.  I know not everyone is comfortable being in the same house or room or whatever as someone who is sick.”

            “That’s not it.”  JC shook his head without conviction.

            “He should have told you, but please don’t take this out on him.”

            JC looked her in the eye for the first time and frowned in confusion.  “Take it out on him?”

            “He likes you a lot.  Don’t let this be an excuse to leave him.”

            “Fi…”  JC shook his head.  “I’m not gonna break up with Carter or whatever.”  He pushed himself to a sitting position and put his hand on her knee.  “Listen… I’m glad you told me.  If I had known I wouldn’t have… well I wouldn’t have tried to make you uncomfortable by trying to help out there.”  He gave her knee a squeeze and asked, “Are you okay?”

            Fiona shrugged.  “My nose is all stuffed up, but yeah.”

            “No, I mean…”

            “Yeah.”  She nodded and bit her lip.  “Yeah, I’m fine.  I’ve managed to stay relatively healthy for the last couple years.”  She looked up at him and sighed, “Its not airborne or anything.  I mean, you can’t catch it that way.  Or by eating off the same plates as I do or even by sharing a drink with me.”

            “I know.”

            “And you can’t get it from Carter. He’s clean.  I mean, he doesn’t have it.  He gets tested all the time.”

            “I know.”  He laughed softly.  “I know all the ways you can and can’t get it.  I’ve… we’ve done a lot of charity work for AIDS projects around the world so we’ve spent a lot of time with infected kids and stuff.”  JC smiled.  “We had to go through a class and stuff.”

            “Oh.”

            “How… how did you…?”

            "Catch it?"  Fiona asked and was answered with JC's head dipping forward in the smallest of movements.  “My dad.”

            “Your dad?”  JC's eyes widened like most people's did when she told them.

            “Yeah, I uh… maybe.  I think so anyway.  It must have been."  She shrugged.  "He and his partner Greg raised me and they both got sick around the same time.  I took care of them here until… until the end.  My dad was a diabetic so I had to give him insulin shots twice a day and one time I got careless.”  JC looked at her with pursed lips, stopping his shortness of breath.  “A needle stick, can you believe it?  I took care of both of them for two years and a needle stick the week before my dad died is what did me in.  As best as I can guess anyway.  Since we don't know when they got it, it could have been anytime.  I mean, when we didn't know.”  She sighed and shrugged.  That was something she had thought about for endless hours at the beginning.  "I don't suppose it really matters how I got it.  But the only contact I know of for sure is that needle stick.  Of course in the fifteen years before that who can know if I ever stuck myself or touched his blood or anything?"  She shrugged again and tried not to think about it.

            “Wow.”

            “Greg passed away four months after my dad and I tested positive about a month after that.  They never knew… and… well I think that’s better.  My dad would have killed himself if he knew that I was infected too.  He already had a self blame thing going on and that would have just wrecked him.”

            “You must have been young.”

            Fiona nodded.  “I was sixteen when they got sick… and nineteen when they died.”

            “That’s quick.”

            “Yep.”  She nodded again and bit her lip.  “But treatment has come along way since then.  I’ve already outlasted them.  Kind of.  I mean, from diagnosis till death I have… but who knows how long they had it before.”

            "What about Carter?"

            "What do you mean?"

            "You guys have been friends for a while... how'd you catch him?"

            "Ahh."  Her mind flashed back to when they first met and she couldn't help but smile.  "We went to school together, we were drama geeks.  I didn't really know him but we were in a production of 'Oliver' together and kind of started talking then."  She shook her head and smiled.  "Other kids used to make fun of him and called him names and everything and I was always the one to step up and tell them off.  I was really defensive about that since I would get the same teasing because of my dads.  Then when we were done with 'Oliver' we started hanging out more, he'd come over to my house almost every day after school.  Greg and my dad completely adored him, he was like the son they never had.  They were the first people he came out to and they were…"  She sighed and looked down at her hands.  "They were the best.  The three of them came and told me; like I didn't already know… then Greg went with Carter to his house to help him tell his parents."

            "Oh man..."

            "Yeah.  Greg looked younger than he was, but that still didn't go over well.  His parents reacted… well… badly.  I'm sure you know the type."  JC nodded and placed his hand over hers.  "They sent him to therapy and everything, but instead of going there he'd come over here and hang out with my dads and me."  She laughed softly.  "Then they got sick and he did a research paper on AIDS and helped me out around here.  When he graduated his parents kicked him out and of course my dads insisted that he move in here."

            "And he's been here ever since?"

            "Yep."  Fiona nodded.  "He's been there through everything.  Literally.  He took me to get the test and was there when I got the results.  I had… well to say I freaked out would be putting it very mildly.  I had issues."

            "Well… yeah."

            "A lot of issues.  Carter has saved my life a couple times.  He's… he's stronger than he looks."  Fiona took a deep breath and looked up at JC.

            "I know." JC nodded with a small smile.  He squeezed her hand gently then leaned in and rested his warm forehead against hers.  "Thanks."

            "For what?"

            "For telling me."

            "You're welcome."  She smiled slowly.

            "Do you still want to come to New York?"  JC asked as he leaned back.

            "If you still want me to."

            JC furrowed his brow and smiled as though she were nuts, "Of course I still want you too." He moved forward and kissed her forehead.  "We'll have a lot of fun in the city."

            "Fiona, are you molesting my boyfriend?"  Carter shouted through the door.

            "Yes."  Fiona shouted back with a frown.  It would serve him right to get even a momentary mental image of what that would look like.

            "Oh Fiona."  JC moaned as he nuzzled her neck.

            Carter threw the door open and launched himself onto the bed, "Hands off." He said as he landed between them, drawing JC's mouth away from her hair.  They all laughed as Carter pulled them down onto the bed and lay between them.  "You okay?" He asked as he looked at Fiona with raised eyebrows.

            "Uh huh."

            "You?"  He turned his head to look at JC.

            "Yeah." JC nodded.

            "Am I a prick for not saying something sooner?" He asked, still keeping his eyes on JC.

            "Yes."  Fiona answered with a poke to his side.

            JC's shoulder rose in a half shrug as he rolled onto his side and kissed Carter.  "It's okay."  He said against Carter's teeth.

            "If you guys are gonna start that I'm going to leave."

            "Okay." They mumbled into the hollow of the others mouth.  Carter laughed as he rolled on top of JC to keep kissing him.  "Bye Fi."

            "You two are like rabbits."  She rolled her eyes and stood up.  "Honestly.  There will be none of this in New York."

            "Mmmh hmm."  One of them responded but Fiona was unable to tell which it was.

            She sighed and smiled, then loudly shut the door behind her.  What they did behind closed doors was their business and she still had a mess to clean up… and a trip to start planning for.

 

 

 

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Copyright 2002, 2003 Amy Lynn