"More Than Friends, Less Than Lovers - Assignations"
By:  Melissa and Cathy

"I ordered for you", Doug said as Carter slid into the seat opposite him.  "Hope you like link sausages, because I'm going to get a kick out of watching you eat them."

"Oh, Lord."  John had been a little apprehensive that seeing Doug again - with clothes on - would be awkward, that he might even say he was having second thoughts.  Obviously that wasn't happening.

"Seriously, though, we do need to talk about a few things."  Doug paused as the waitress set their food in front of them, then continued, "We need to be careful.   And I'm not just talking about acting normal in the hospital.  I want us both to get tested for STDs, and I want us to use condoms, all the time."  He took a sip of coffee, and watched John's reaction.  "And you keep your hands off Carol."

John nodded his agreement to the conditions, then said, "Susan."

Doug was incredulous.  "You're not telling me that you and Susan..."

"No, but I did almost kiss her once.  And I might get a chance again one day."  He scowled as Doug laughed.  "I might!"

"Okay," Doug was still laughing, "if you get to tell me to keep away from women you haven't even dated, then you have to stay away from Melanie in radiology."

John grinned and shook his head.  "Too late!"

They continued trading names for awhile, then John said seriously, "I don't want there to be any other men.  For either of us, Doug."

"There aren't, and there won't be."  Even as Doug said the words, he was slightly surprised.  If a woman he'd just gone to bed with the night before suggested over breakfast that they not see other people, then he'd have run screaming from the room.  But that wasn't what John had suggested, was it?  He wasn't saying Doug couldn't see other women. 

John picked up his fork, determined to embarrass Doug by eating every bit as suggestively as Doug had teasingly said.  He stabbed a sausage link in the middle, then held the fork so that the link was vertical.  Ever so slowly he brought it to his mouth, licking it in one motion from the tines to the end, then sticking the end of it in his mouth and slowly biting the tip off, devouring the meat in small bites.

Doug grinned, knowing that he would probably be choking if he had been stupid enough to take a drink of coffee while John was playing with his food.  He licked his lips suggestively and watched as the sausage link disappeared.  He cleared his throat, "I think that you should try mine.  It's much bigger."  He pushed his plate toward John, expecting a repeat performance.

Instead, John picked it up with his fingers, sticking nearly the entire sausage into his mouth, then slowly pulling it back out, licking the juices off of it.  John knew he had succeeded in his quest to embarrass Doug when Doug had to avert his eyes to the side and rest his head on the table.  That was when he saw her:  Jeannie Boulet, who had recently begun working in the Emergency Room, sitting in the booth behind Doug, looking straight at him, her face showing more than a little confusion and amusement.  John felt himself redden, wishing that the floor would open up right under him at that moment.  No, it would be better for everyone at the hospital if the floor under Jeannie would open up and swallow her whole.  God, why did he think that thought?  Swallow her whole indeed?  Well, there was no way that he was going to allow the fact that she probably thought he was crazy get in the way of his small victory over Doug.  He put the sausage down on his plate, then saw that Doug's entire body was shaking.  The son of a bitch was laughing at him.

Doug got up and turned to Jeannie.  He winked and said, "I think Carter's scared the customers enough, don't you?"  He pulled John to his feet, paid the bill, and propelled him through the door with a hand on his arm.

John was still horrified.  "You should have let me explain.  Now she's going to tell Benton, and he'll think...God knows what he'll think." 

Doug watched John run his fingers through his hair in that now familiar panicked gesture, and tried to reassure him.  "Everyone thinks you're a nut, anyway.  They'll just think it's funny.  Besides, what were you going to tell her?  'I was demonstrating a new technique with tongue depressors'?"

"I was thinking about saying 'throat swabs', actually".  The corners of John's mouth twitched as he began to see the humor in the situation.  "Cherry flavored."

"Sounds like something for your procedure book.  I might need to have you give me another demonstration -- see how that throat swab works in the field.  Might even try it myself."  They walked through the hospital doors, and their conversation was cut short as they ran almost immediately into Peter Benton.

"Where the hell have you been, Carter?  We're scrubbing in on an appy with Dr. Hicks in 20 minutes.  Let's move!"  Benton turned and stalked towards the elevators, clearly expecting his student to follow at his heels.

John rolled his eyes at the retreating figure, then asked Doug, "Look like that demo will have to wait until tonight, I guess."  He hurried after Benton.

Doug shouted after him, "Hey Carter! You can have Benton.  Hicks, too!"

Carter laughed as he walked into the elevator with Benton, for once ignoring his teacher's glare.

Doug watched, and smiled.  This would be fun - a lot of fun.

Over the next few weeks, they carried on a reckless affair, stealing time when they could, and checking their inhibitions at the doors of their respective apartments.  They came to prefer staying at John's since there was less chance of someone they both knew barging in.  Besides, Doug wasn't altogether sure that Linda Farrell wouldn't actually offer to join in.

They weren't, however, always able to get their schedules to mesh.  During one particularly frustrating week, they actually stole some time together in the early morning in John's Jeep in the parking garage.  Shocked at how careless they'd been, John and Doug renewed their pact to behave professionally at work.  It didn't last. 

In the middle of a particularly slow night shift one night, Doug led John discreetly to a disused storeroom in the basement.  John watched, amused, as Doug removed some things from a hole in the ceiling tile: a candle, lighter, and a tiny radio.  When Doug switched the light off in the room and locked the door, John said, "Are you romancing me, Doug Ross?"

"Romance," Doug said, pausing to light the candle, "is the last thing on my mind."  He tossed John one of the condoms he'd taken from his pocket.  "Put this on me."

John ignored the request, walking instead over to the cot next to the wall, and promptly knocking some IV stands over.  He froze for a moment, then ran over to the door, listening to see if the noise had drawn any attention.  Doug came up behind him.  "It's deserted down here - no one will have heard that.  Relax."  He gently bit John's ear.

John turned to him, back against the door.  "Sounds like you've been in this room a lot," he smiled.  "How many others have you been here with?"

"Just Carol."  

Before John had time to consider the implications of that statement, Doug's mouth was on his, and he cast lucid thought aside.  Doug was frantic, impatient, and demanding, and so was he.

Doug found that the darkened room and the chance of discovery, however slight, heightened his excitement.  He closed his eyes as he lay back on the cot, forcing himself to be uncharacteristically passive.  He let John practically tear his clothes open, then felt a gentle hand caress his buttock, felt lips close roughly around a nipple.

With a sense of urgency, almost desperation, he pushed John's head down.  He had no patience with being teased.  Fortunately, John wasn't in the mood for teasing.  He launched an all-out assault on Doug's senses, aggressively licking and sucking on his penis.  All pretense of passivity cast aside, Doug insisted that they change positions, so he could have John in his mouth at the same time.

As nearly always after one of their encounters, John's perceptions blurred, and only parts of the experience remained clear.  He retained several sensations: the feel of the shaft of Doug's penis under his tongue, the taste of the skin on Doug's thigh, the smell of his cologne, the muffled sound of his groans.

Doug was starting to become slightly worried.  He'd promised himself that he and John would be completely discreet at work, yet here they were lying on a cot in a basement storeroom, having just had wild, intense, and probably, if his memory served him correctly, loud sex.  It was crazy, he knew.  He just couldn't bring himself to stop it.

He mentioned that he was considering dating Diane Leeds, and John mock-jealously named the areas of Doug's body he wasn't willing to share.  "So basically," Doug said, "I'm only allowed to touch her with my left earlobe, is that right?"

"Right.  And you can't bring her here."  As John gestured about the room, he knocked the candle over.

"Damn," Doug said as he surveyed the candle spill.  "Hot wax!  I knew I was forgetting something."

With a wide grin, John handed the lighter to Doug, and Doug pretended to seriously consider the idea, then shaking his head.

Doug relit the candle, knowing that now he was in the mood for teasing.  More specifically, to be the one doing the teasing.  He glanced at his watch, noting that they had been down here for a good thirty minutes.  He knew that he should get John back upstairs just in case Benton was screaming for him.  As for himself, he knew that if he was needed, he would be paged.  Students weren't given the wonderful gift of pagers though; it was expected that they be within earshot.  Doug's desire to be in John battled with his need to keep John out of trouble.

"Oh, Hell," Doug muttered.  "Lay down on the cot - and try to not knock anything over this time.  No, not that way.  I want you on your stomach."

John rolled over and let his arms dangle over the top edge of the cot as he felt Doug lightly run his hands up his legs, caressing and massaging each and every inch of skin he could reach.  Then Doug pushed his legs apart, spreading them wide and placing his body between them and placing quick kisses in the small of John's back.  John moaned loudly, knowing what would be next.  Despite the frequency of their sexual encounters, John was still amazed at how much he enjoyed the things that Doug did to him and for him.  All of a sudden, John felt cold air where Doug's warm mouth had just been and he heard Doug curse vividly under his breath.

"What's wrong?" John rolled over to his side to see that Doug was frantically going through the pockets of his pants.

"I think we used up all the condoms.  I remember putting two of them in my pocket, but I usually keep one in my wallet.  Damn it all!  It's gone."  Doug slammed his pants and wallet to the floor, his frustration clear upon his face.

"I think you used that one the last time you were at my place.  We ran out."

"Damn."  Doug ran a hand through his hair, trying to think about what to do.  He could just insist that they get dressed and get back to work - which would be the sensible thing.  After all, he was the one who made the rule about always using condoms and it wouldn't be right if he bent the rules just because he wanted John, would it?  But, he was so damn hard for John and John was laying there, looking so ripe for the taking, his own arousal for Doug very evident.  With the way their schedules had been lately, there was no telling when they would be able to get together again.  Making a sound that was something between a growl and a moan, Doug pushed John back onto his stomach and resumed his place between his legs, using his own spit as a lubricant.

John was pleasantly surprised that Doug had decided to have sex without a condom.  He wondered why Doug had changed his mind, but he wasn't going to risk asking him about it.  He didn't want to give Doug any reason to have second thoughts about what they were doing.

They moved together, their want and need for each other erasing their fear of being discovered.  Later, when they had returned upstairs and John discovered that Benton was taking a nap somewhere, he mused that he and Doug could have probably slowed things down quite a bit and still not be found out.  He decided that the next time they visited the storeroom they would make sure they could take their time.

They did have some serious moments.  When, one evening, Doug discovered a footprint on a child's back, then angrily attacked the child's father, John silently applauded him.  Doug injured his own hand in the process, and he remained silent while John patched it up.  Noting how agitated Doug remained, John insisted on driving him home.

They sat quietly on his couch for some time, John waiting for Doug to talk.   Finally, he said, "I have a son.  Somewhere."

John had no patience for deadbeat fathers.  He hoped Doug wasn't one.  "How old is he?"

"Eight.  His mother put him up for adoption.  We were in school, me in med school and her in law school...neither of us wanted the responsibility, and we weren't kidding ourselves that we loved each other. I didn't give it a lot of thought at the time, but now...when I see a kid who's been kicked, burned with a cigarette butt, with a broken arm...I wonder what kind of home my kid's growing up in."  He sighed.

John had a flash of understanding for Doug's zero-tolerance policy of abusers, his haste to call in Social Services when abuse was suspected.  "You can't let yourself think that.  It'll..." he gestured with his hands, "It'll tear you apart.  You've just got to trust that there's another guy out there looking out for your son, the way you look out for the kids who come through County.  I mean that."

"No one else knows," Doug said quietly.  "Just Mark, Carol...probably Susan, I guess."  He looked over at John and smiled.  "You know, Susan -- your ex."

"Hey, she wants me, I know it."  John played along with the joke, relieved that Doug seemed to be coming to terms with the day.  "Look at it this way, Doug.   You wouldn't want the kid growing up with a dad who doesn't even have a decent jump shot."

"You're going to eat those words, John Carter."  Doug leaped up and ran over to John's hall closet.  He grabbed the basketball inside, then held the door of the apartment open. 

"Loser buys dinner," John said, looking around for his shoes.

"Okay, so hurry up, loser.  I'm hungry."  Doug smiled, grateful to John for listening, but eager to put the thoughts out of his mind.

Diane turned out to be just a little too much for him.  She took his time away from John, of course, which he didn't like much, but then she started making noises about Doug moving in with her.  He enjoyed being with her, sure, and spending time with her son, but he didn't want to be with her full-time.  His familiar flight response had been triggered, and he was looking for a way out.  Linda Farrell proved to be a godsend.  He knew it was taking the coward's way out, but he let Diane catch them together.  He got to be the schmuck, a familiar role, and Linda the slut - again, a role she didn't mind.  

Most importantly, it left John out of the mix.  He had started assuring Doug that he didn't mind people finding out about them, but Doug didn't want that to happen.  Not that he didn't enjoy being with John, and more than he was willing to admit even to himself, but it wasn't a relationship he wanted to take public.  They were spending less time together, anyway, with John's sub-I problems, and with his own apprehensions over Carol's quickly approaching wedding. 

For John, the sub-I competition was all consuming, and he was devastated when his application was rejected.  He realized that he would have to find another program to work in and with this in mind, he and Doug put a halt to their relationship.  They moved back into their easy, teasing public friendship, and remained determinedly casual.  

On his last day at work, John found out that he received the sub-I after all, he was too elated to think of anything other than the success of his job.  He never had the opportunity to let Doug know that he would be returning to County.  With relief, he said his goodbyes to his co-workers and left happy, knowing he would be back in a few months.

Chapter Three - Betrayal

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