"Tag, You're It, Part 3"
By: Melissa and Cathy
When Tag awoke, he saw that John was still in a deep sleep. He decided to let him sleep in peace. He quietly went outside and sat at the table, thinking about his feelings once more. "Enough of that," he admonished himself. "John is fine." Doctor Wang had told them both that it would be best for John to remain abed for the next few days and once up and about, to take it easy. His ribs weren't broken, but it wouldn't take much to put them in that condition. The doctor had given Tag a stern look as he said that, then added that sex was definitely out of the question for the next couple of days. Tag assured the doctor that John would follow all his orders. He also told him that John wouldn't be coming back in to have his stitches removed because they would be in Paris in a few days. The doctor gave him another stern look, then put an end to those plans. No going in an airplane in a few days, especially an airplane to Paris. When John looked as if he would argue, Tag smoothly agreed to change their plans. It wouldn't take much to tack on more days to their stay. Besides, it made more sense for John's stitches to be removed at the hospital where he had been treated. They had his records and Tag felt it to be better to stay put.
He grabbed his room key and wallet, then silently left the bungalow to go to the main desk. He figured that if they left on June 2nd, then John would be more up to the fifteen-hour plane ride to Paris. At least he wouldn't have to worry about still having the stitches in his head because they would be removed before then. At the desk, Tag got his second shock when the clerk refused to allow him to change the checkout date.
"Look, I realize that this was arranged by a travel agent, but I should be able to get the time extended. If the problem is with letting me keep the bungalow, I have no problem with taking a regular room, or a bungalow without a beach," Tag argued with her.
"There's not a problem with letting you have the bungalow, sir. It will be available for that time. The problem is that you aren't authorized to make any changes to the reservation," she patiently explained.
"So, you're saying that my travel agent has to do this?"
"Oh, no, sir. Nothing like that. Mr. Carter can change the reservation. Just have him come to the desk and we'll take care of it for him."
Tag blinked, not quite understanding what John had to do with all of this. Then he remembered that John had been the one to check them in. Obviously, the clerk was confused.
"The reservation was made in my name, even though Mr. Carter checked us into the hotel."
"Is there a problem here?" An older man stepped up behind the clerk.
"No, sir. Doctor Taglieri wants to extend the time on their room reservation and I was just explaining to him that since the reservation was made by Mr. Carter, that Mr. Carter would have to be the person to make that change."
The man, who Tag assumed to be the manager nodded. "I remember Mr. Carter. I handled the arrangements for him."
"There's some type of mistake here," Tag told him. "I made the reservations through a travel agency in Chicago."
"That's correct, Doctor, but, you were in no condition to check into the resort upon your arrival and our rules prevented us from allowing Mr. Carter to check the two of in. We were able to cancel your reservation and then allow Mr. Carter to book the bungalow in his name. You should be receiving a refund from
your travel agency."
"I see." Tag wondered why John had never mentioned any of that to him. Not that it really mattered. It was just another glimpse into John's world. When John had told him in the bar that he had come to Hawaii often with his parents, just because his father wanted to play golf, he had thought that John's family must be fairly well off. But, if John could afford to pay for the bungalow, then that meant he and his family were extremely well off. Medical students weren't that wealthy on their own. "I'll have Mr. Carter come down to make the changes then."
"We'll make a note in the computer that the two of you will be wanting to keep the room until June 2nd. I trust that everything here has been to your liking so far?" The manager smiled as he spoke.
"It's been wonderful. You have a beautiful island here."
"Thank you," the manager beamed. "I hope that you and Mr. Carter decide to join us for a luau. No visit to Hawaii is complete without one."
"I think we'll take you up on that offer. How can I arrange to attend?"
"We have a sign-up sheet. Luaus are held nightly. The one for tonight is full, but there is plenty of room for tomorrow's."
"Sign us up for that one then." Tag figured that John would be rested by then. "Thank you for your help."
"It's our pleasure to be of service to our guests, doctor. We look forward to having you and Mr. Carter join us tomorrow at the luau."
Tag's steps were slow as he returned to the bungalow. For some reason, the fact that John had paid for all of this was unnerving. Made him feel as if he was being bought and paid for. Then it occurred to him that John might have been having that same feeling when Tag invited him along. Maybe felt as if Tag expected sex as payment in return for the trip. If so, John apparently didn't mind that thought.
Tag's thoughts were still jumbled and his emotions uneven as he entered the room. John was awake and up, sitting outside at the table. With no clothes on. Again. What was it with John Carter and clothing? Seeing John completely dressed when they went out sightseeing had been surprisingly nice, but Tag had easily admitted to himself that he preferred seeing John without clothing.
Still, with the various trains of thought that he had been following, seeing John like that now was more than he wanted to deal with. Besides, the doctor had specifically said no sex and if Tag couldn't touch John's body, he didn't want to look at it either. He grabbed clean clothes from the dresser drawer, then went outside.
"Get dressed," he said as he tossed the clothing to John.
John grabbed the bundle, a frown on his face. "Why?"
"Because I told you to, that's why. You don't need to be sitting here naked as a jay bird."
"You put me to bed like this. Besides, there's no one here to see me."
"And you're saying that I'm no one?"
John's face reddened. "I didn't mean it like that. I -- never mind."
"What?" Tag snapped.
"I thought you liked seeing me like this," he softly answered.
"I do, but not when I can't touch you. Put on your clothes, John. Then you can tell me why you didn't bother to inform me that you're paying for this place."
Once again, John reddened. "I'm sorry. It slipped my mind."
"This place runs somewhere around five thousand dollars for a week and it just slipped your mind that you were paying for it?" Tag shook his head.
"I had other things on my mind, Tag. Like you."
"I need to take a walk." Tag got up from his seat and headed out to the beach.
John stood, then slowly dressed, wondering if what he had done was so wrong that it would make Tag want to send him away. He didn't want to leave, but it was apparent that Tag didn't want to hear that. His getting hurt had ruined Tag's plans, but John wouldn't do anything different about saving that boy's life. Even if it meant losing Tag because of his rash behavior.
His first impulse was to run after Tag, but he found himself unwilling to. Not only because his injuries would make that difficult, but because he wasn't sure what he thought of the man running away from him.
John had jumped at the chance to come along on this trip because he was attracted to Tag in more ways than one. Sure, the guy was great looking and had a fabulous body, but John had seen how capable, even gentle, he was with patients. Tag somehow gave hope to the old ladies beginning a long struggle with osteoporosis, to parents of a child injured in an accident. And John, also, had watched the long dance that Carol and Doug Ross had going on all year, mostly unbeknownst to Tag, supposedly her fiancÚ. He felt sorry for her being left at the altar, but hell - she'd always treated Tag like he was second choice. John had told himself that, if he had the chance, Tag would never be second best.
He knew that Tag had invited him along just for sex, but had still been hurt when the guy hadn't even known his first name. God, that had hurt a lot. Still, he'd believed that Tag had grown to care for him over the last few days. He'd been so tender when John was in the hospital, and so gentle with him when they'd arrived back at the hotel.
And now this. Snarling at him like he was some kind of rent-boy. He felt like a piece of trash, and he didn't like it. Remembering their conversation of a few minutes ago, John was disgusted. He'd sat there, stammering, trying and failing to justify his right to be Tag's equal. There was no reason he shouldn't pay for his share of the trip, but Tag obviously didn't see it that way.
So he'd been kidding himself. Tag hadn't grown to care for him after all -- he was literally just a body to him. An ass to be covered up when not in use. A mouth that could suck him off, but not talk back. Great. John realized that he deserved better - someone who'd respect him. Hell, maybe he deserved the treatment he'd gotten-- after all, he'd fallen into bed with the guy so quickly, what was Tag supposed to think?
In any case, things weren't going to improve by just sitting there. John got up and packed his things as quickly as he could. He intended to catch a cab to the airport and take the first flight out, but the small exertion of packing was exhausting. He decided instead to take another bungalow, and made the arrangements at the front desk. This was accomplished quickly, and the desk staff's discretion in the matter was admirable, considering that Tag had been there only a few minutes before to make very different arrangements. If they saw the extensive bruising through John's open shirt, and winced as he painfully moved away from the desk, he didn't notice.
Tag walked along the beach, and saw the sandcastle that John had built the other morning. A sandcastle, for Christ's sake. He kicked it over, annoyed. John could be such a kid sometimes. Such a kid. Honest, open, trusting. And Tag had taken that trust and thrown it back in his face.
His anger evaporated as quickly as it had arrived. He knew John hadn't had any ulterior motives in paying for the stay, and he felt guilty as hell for insinuating such a thing. Was that the only reason he'd been angry? Not really. Maybe a part of him had felt secure about the relationship as long as he was the one in the driver's seat, so to speak. Knowing that John was paying for the trip somehow took some of that power out of his hands, and made him feel more vulnerable. Tag didn't want to be hurt again, and he felt that as long as he was in charge, he wouldn't be.
Then he remembered the look in John's eyes, and felt like a real bastard for saying the things he had, especially at a time like this. He knew John was still in a lot of pain, and didn't need to be kicked while he was down. He sat by the ocean, going over and over again in his mind the conversation they just had. He hadn't meant to snap at him - it was something that happened anyway. It bothered Tag when he did or said things that he hadn't thought through. He had been trying to figure out why he was so upset. It wasn't just that he felt as if he had been bought by John, but that feeling was in there, too. Tag kept coming back to one conclusion - he was upset because he felt as if he were just one of many for John. That John had not felt bought because he was used to being treated this way. Used to being picked up by men he barely knew and then taken care of. Used for sex.
And that conclusion led Tag to another one - this one just as disturbing. He had asked John along to just have sex. He felt genuinely ashamed at that, but he couldn't deny that it was true. And now he found himself having to admit to himself that he wanted to be the one in charge at all times.
He had spent a lot of his formative years feeling as if everyone else was in charge of his life - his parents, his teachers, his coaches - all of them telling him what he had to do if he wanted to get ahead in this world. Keep your grades up, John, get a scholarship. Get out of this stinking West Virginia mining town - that was his teacher's talking. Play hard, Tag, show the scouts you're the best, get away from here. Take whatever they offer you and run with it - that was his coach. Get out of here the best way you can, son. Make something of yourself. Be a strong man. Don't let the bastards break you - that was his father. But, the bastards had broken his father. Ruined his lungs with their black dust and left him with a ramshackle house hanging on a hillside. Tag had run away and never looked back. He refused to go back to West Virginia. Instead, if he wanted to spend time with his parents or anyone else from his family, he brought them to Chicago. He had the money now to do that. He had worked hard to get to this point of power in his life and he didn't want to let any of it go. He wasn't sure if he could handle sharing any of it with someone who was almost young enough to be his son. No matter how much he loved John, he just couldn't picture it. And yet, John had never asked to share it, either. He had simply done what he thought needed to be done. No questions asked, no bragging that he had the means to do it. And he had hurt him for it.
He finally got to his feet and headed back inside. He needed to apologize to John, but he wasn't sure if he should go into any of the reasons why he had been so snotty acting. He thought about the first time he had gone down into the Emergency Room and saw Peter Benton's latest medical student. Tag never got medical students like him, that was for sure. Benton was lucky - the student hung on his every word, soaking up his knowledge and experience. And Benton treated him like shit. Normal operating procedure for Benton though. Tag reflected that there must be some reasoning behind Benton's behavior because he turned out some of the best students.
Tag had not asked about the students' first name. He was afraid to know - scared to put a real name with that face. He needed to quit going to the E.R. to look for him and concentrate on going down there to see Carol. After all, she was his fiancÚ, right? But, if Carol was busy and John was around, Tag indulged his whimsy - John was eye candy and mighty fine eye candy at that. If only he had not been drunk when he invited him to come to Hawaii. He knew he had not been too smooth in that bar. If he would have been sober, he would have approached John far more differently. Better. Made things clear from the start about who was paying for what and what was expected and not expected.
Tag suddenly stopped in the middle of the room. Something was wrong. He then saw that the closet door was open and his suitcase sat there alone. His mouth went dry as he walked to the dresser and opened the drawers. His clothes were there. John's were gone.
"No," he whispered. He checked the bathroom and found that John's things were gone from there as well. There was no doubt about it - John had left him. Tag knew he had not been outside for a long time, so there was a chance to catch John before he left the resort. If John was leaving the island, then he would have to wait for a cab or shuttle to get to the airport. Tag could catch him in the lobby.
He left the room and ran to the lobby, hoping and praying that John would be there. Skidding to a halt on the granite floor, Tag looked around. No John. No luggage either. He didn't know if that was a good sign or a bad sign. He approached the front desk.
"Yes, sir?" It was the same clerk that had helped him earlier.
"I was looking for Mr. Carter. Has he been by? Maybe asking for you to call a taxi or a shuttle to the airport?"
The clerk licked her lips nervously and she glanced behind her, into the manager's office. "Can you excuse me for a second?"
"You have seen him? Wait! Don't go..." Tag fell silent as she disappeared into the other room. So John had been here. Tag tapped the counter nervously as he waited for the clerk to return.
When she did, she still didn't tell him what he wanted to hear. "I'm sorry, Doctor Taglieri, but Mr. Carter has not requested for us to call a taxi or a shuttle."
"But, he was here, right? Did he go into the restaurant then?"
He looked into her nervous eyes and finally realized that she wasn't going to tell him anything about John. Damn her anyway.
"Look, if Mr. Carter is still here, then I want to know where he is. I'm supposed to meet him."
Again, she glanced into the manager's office. Tag was getting annoyed with her and her attitude. "Do you know anything at all? Have you even seen John Carter? Do you know what he looks like?"
"Yes, sir," she coldly replied. "I know what he looks like."
"Has he been out here today?"
"Yes," she snapped.
"Now we're finally getting somewhere. Has he checked out?"
"Doctor Taglieri, I can assure you that you will not be kicked out of the resort. Your room has not been cancelled," the manager smoothly replied.
Tag had not even heard the manager approach them. "Has he taken another bungalow then?"
"We can't tell you that. If Mr. Carter wishes for you to know where he is, then he will have to be the one to provide you with that information."
"That's bullshit and you know it! We came here together and I have the right to know where he is." Tag knew he was practically shouting, but he really didn't care anymore. He wanted to find John. Now.
"Doctor Taglieri, there's no need for you to get irate. Our resort is noted for a high level of privacy. One aspect of the privacy is that we don't reveal bungalow numbers to anyone. The minute that Mr. Carter checked in, he had the right to assume that his privacy was going to be guarded."
"I have no argument with the rules of this resort. I do have a problem with the fact that you are fully aware that he's here with me and you refuse to tell me where I can find him!" Tag was now leaning over the counter, fighting the temptation to climb over it and throttle the manager for not telling him where John was.
"I don't want to have to call security, but I will if I have to," the manager calmly said.
Tag eased back from the counter, then saw the clerk look at something past his shoulder, a look of concern in her eyes. He whirled around and saw that John had just entered the lobby. It only took a few strides to bring him to John.
"You left," he said. He knew he still sounded angry, but he didn't care. Hell, he was angry. Angry with the staff for keeping John away from him and angry with John for leaving in the first place.
"I wasn't wanted where I was," John evenly replied. "If you'll excuse me, I need to speak to the manager." John walked past Tag and went up to the desk. Tag could hear him talking to the clerk about how the phone didn't appear to be working properly. He asked her to have something, Tag couldn't make out what, delivered to his bungalow. Tag had no trouble overhearing the number. When John started to leave the lobby, Tag stepped in front of him. He wasn't done yet with this conversation.
"What do you mean that you weren't wanted where you were? When have I made you feel unwanted?"
"Today when you growled at me, ordered me to get dressed and then stalked off to pout because I can't have sex with you."
"I didn't stalk off to pout. I went to take a walk so I could think. Finding out that you had paid for all this took me by surprise. I didn't know what to think. Now, go get your suitcase and come back to our room."
Tag reached out for John's arm, intending to lead him back to the bungalow where his suitcase sat so they could retrieve it.
John jerked his arm away, "Don't touch me. I don't want you touching me."
"Oh really? You certainly haven't been acting that way. As a matter of fact, you seemed eager enough to be touched by me since we got here," Tag snidely commented. "Or maybe you don't want me touching you because you've got someone else waiting back at your bungalow for you? Is that it, John? Have you replaced me that quickly? Or maybe you just arranged for the manager to send you someone, anyone. God knows you're not choosy."
John glowered at him. "I won't even comment on that remark. Just get back to your room and leave me alone. I'll be gone from here tomorrow and you can enjoy the rest of your vacation without me."
"And just where in Hell do you think you're going?"
"Back to Chicago. You made it clear that I was an inconvenience."
Tag shook his head. "No way. You agreed to come with me and you will."
"Try and make me," John sternly challenged.
"Oh, stop this. You're being an idiot." Tag's relief at finding John still there had now turned to irritation at his childishness. "Running away isn't going to solve this."
"Wrong. It solves everything. You don't want me around if you can't sleep with me, and I don't want to be around you, period." John shrugged, his eyes flashing with anger.
"Stop twisting my words. That isn't what I meant, and you know it."
"Great. First you say I'll fuck anything that moves; now you're calling me a liar."
Tag looked around, seeing that the hotel staff was watching this exchange surreptitiously. Their voices had risen without them realizing it. He took a deep breath and turned back to John. He wasn't there. Damn him anyway! He'd heard the new bungalow number mentioned, fortunately, and decided to pursue John. If he had to sit outside the door all night, so be it.
There was no answer when Tag knocked on the door, but he was willing to bet John was inside, ignoring him. He kept knocking periodically, and after a long wait, John answered the door, hair still damp, having evidently been in the shower. He gave Tag a cool look, and silently stepped aside, allowing him into the room.
"The front desk called - asked me if I want to have you thrown out. I told them I wasn't sure. Maybe I'll wait until they send me a new man, and I'll let him decide."
"John, I'm so sorry..." Tag began, but John cut him off.
"Sorry you don't have someone to fuck tonight? Why not go into the bar and pick up someone else whose name you don't know. You're good at that. Look, whatever you seem to think about me, I have never slept with anyone I didn't care about, including you. And you didn't even know who I was. You didn't even know my name. I was just a piece of ass, and I guess I still am, hmm?"
Tag had realized John was hurt, but hadn't expected his anger. And John was so wrong. So very wrong.
He'd had plenty of time to cool off while he was waiting for John to speak to him, but this latest challenge reignited his exasperation. "Act like a piece of ass, and you get treated like one. But then again, I guess you should behave how you're used to behaving." The second the words were out of his mouth, Tag regretted saying them, but it was as if he were watching from a distance - he couldn't help himself. "Oh, God...I'm so sorry, John. I didn't mean that."
"So that's what you think of me?" The fight was gone from John's tone, which had become very quiet. "Maybe you should leave now. I really don't want to hear anymore."
Tag knew he had to fix things - this whole argument was his fault -- but he still wasn't sure what to say.
Honesty was the best thing to try. "No, it's not what I think. I was just...lashing out - saying things to hurt you. And I did know your name."
John looked surprised at this, and Tag continued, grateful that he had his continued attention. "I had noticed you from the beginning, but didn't let myself consider anything going on between us. I was supposed to be engaged, but I kept making excuses to be near where you were. And even if I'd been sober, I would have asked you along on this trip - drinking just made the possibility of your saying no easier to deal with.
Look, I'm scared. Nothing has happened like I thought it would. I thought we'd come here, have fun, and probably go our separate ways when we got home. Now that's not what I want anymore - I want so much more than that.
But when I found out you'd paid for the trip, it made me realize it wasn't only my choice. I got scared when I found out I wasn't in charge of everything. Not that you don't have the right to be, but it made me realize that we both have to make the choice to take this further. We're both equals in this relationship..."
John ended his silence with a bitter tone that made Tag wince almost as much as the words. "Equals? Right. Not emotionally, not in decisions, and certainly not sexually. Never. You're in charge, but you decide to share that with me. Thanks so much. You decide you want to take the relationship home with us. And let's not forget, you even decide what we do in bed. It's always about what you want to do to me, and you don't give a second thought to what I want. You have always assumed, from the very first, that I was your whore."
Tag realized the truth in what John was saying, but at the same time, it was with difficulty that he bit back his own bitter retort. He was determined to make this work, and if John was lashing out at him now, it was only what he deserved. He'd said some very hurtful, and unprovoked, things, and maybe it was better to get the air cleared now. " I never thought that about you. It's true that I've never asked you to be in me. I usually don't prefer that. But, I would make that exception for you, John. All you had to do was ask me. I can't be expected to read your mind any more than I can expect for you to be able to read mine. I haven't treated you like I should - I see that now. I'll change that if you let me. And it's none of my business who you've been with before. Only who you're with now. You're with me now, and I want you to stay with me. I thought I'd lost you during that accident, and I thought I'd lost you when I came back to our room and you weren't there. Both times I was scared to death, and I thought....if I got you back, I'd never let you go again. Tell me I haven't lost you. Please."
John remained silent, but his gaze didn't hold that angry glower from earlier and Tag felt somewhat encouraged by that fact. His encouragement faded though, when John spoke.
"I can't talk about this right now, Tag. I still have a raging headache and I'm confused as Hell about what you want from me. About what I want. Can you give me some time alone to think? Would that be asking too much of you?"
Tag wanted to scream out that it would be, but he didn't. If letting John have time alone to think would result in John coming back to their bungalow, then he would let him have what he wanted. "I would prefer to have you sleeping with me tonight, but I'll give you the time you want. Shall we meet for breakfast then?"
John slowly nodded. "Breakfast would be good. You can come here and I'll have room service bring something."
It was Tag's turn to nod then. "Okay. Is seven too early for you?"
"No. Seven will be fine."
"Okay. I guess I had better go now."
Neither man made a move toward the door.
"I guess I should apologize to the manager and the desk clerk."
"Liani. Her name is Liani. The manager's name is Donald Askew."
The fact that John knew their names made Tag feel all the more low for not ever asking about John's. But, he didn't want to open that can of worms again. He did want to explain to John why he had chosen to not know his first name, but he thought it would be safer to do that tomorrow. He had to believe that John would not return to Chicago then.
Tag finally opened the door and stepped out into the breezeway. He saw something moving from the corner of his eye and looked to his right in time to see someone slipping around the corner in the direction of the lobby. So, the staff had sent someone to watch over John after all. Tag actually smiled at that. He couldn't blame them for being worried - he had behaved like a real bastard to them. He took a deep breath, then headed to the lobby to make his apologies. After that, he didn't know what he would do with the rest of his day and evening. He didn't want to spend it alone, but since the person he wanted to spend it with was unwilling right now to be with him, he didn't have much choice.
John watched the door close with his heart in his throat. He hated fighting with people. Hated having them feel disappointed in him in any way. But, there was no way that could continue on with Tag without letting his feelings known. And now he knew Tag's feelings. At least he hoped he did. Some of Tag's words though had hurt him deeply, and even though Tag admitted he said them just to hurt him, John couldn't help but wonder if deep down inside, Tag really did mean them. It wasn't the first time that he had been told he was nothing but a piece of ass and it hurt just as much now to hear it as it had then. Not the first time he had been accused of sleeping around either. Okay, maybe he exaggerated a little when he said he had never slept with someone he didn't have feelings for. He barely knew Tag after all. But, he had watched him and he most definitely had wanted to get to know him better. That was pretty much the same thing, right?
He locked the door, then headed to bed. He had gone out to the lobby earlier to ask Liani to get his painkiller prescription filled, but it hadn't arrived yet. They were probably afraid of interrupting him and Tag. He figured he was tired enough to get some sleep anyway, despite his headache. He was just about to get into bed when he heard a soft knock on the door. He opened it, halfway hoping that Tag had come back to try to explain things once again. It was the guy from room service with the medicine. John gave him a tip and thanked him, then locked the door again.
He finally settled into bed after washing down four of the tablets with water. He needed sleep and lots of it. After that, he would be able to think about Tag.