"Tag, You're It, Part 6"
By:  Melissa and Cathy

The next morning John and Tag headed out to meet Barbara and Janie for breakfast.  After that, the four of them were driving out of the city for a wine tasting tour.  Breakfast was at a sidewalk café a few blocks from where Barbara and Janie lived.  As they sat down, Tag noticed that more than a few of the tables were filled with same sex couples.  Had Barbara scoped out every place that catered to gays?  So far, she seemed to know where they all were.  While he found it nice to be able to put his arm around John's shoulder without being stared at by the other patrons, he did find himself wanting to go to a "regular" restaurant while in Paris.  He made a mental note to refrain from asking Barbara for any suggestions about where to get a good meal.  His reverie was shattered though as he became aware that Barbara and John were arguing.

"You know I hate that name," John angrily said.

"Since when?"

"Since always.  Just don't call me that again."

"You know, Johnny, most people who are on their honeymoon are in a good mood.  Maybe you should try to cultivate one," she retorted.

"I was in a wonderful mood until a minute ago.  Just lay off the childhood names and I'll be fine."

Tag looked from one to the other, wondering just what he had missed.  John was obviously referring to a nickname from his childhood, but Tag had no idea what it was and he was now reluctant to ask.  Perhaps later he could ask Janie or Barbara in private.

The tension at the table was thick and not even the waiter bringing their food did anything to break it.  John and Barbara were both sulking, their arms crossed over their chests as they refused to look at each other.  More than ever before, it was obvious they were brother and sister and Tag couldn't keep from smiling at their antics.  Janie caught his eye and she too smiled.

"I think if we give them about two hours to sulk then they'll snap out of it," she said.

"Does it take that long?"

"It does for Barb."

"I am not sulking," Barbara firmly declared.

John unfolded his arms, but remained silent as he pushed the food around on his plate.  He had never liked being called "Scooter" and he was more than a little upset that Barbara had called him that in front of Tag.  God, there were times when she could be worse than their mother for causing him embarrassment.

"You are sulking, dear," Janie evenly replied.

"It's not my fault that Johnny's so thin skinned this morning."

"And whose fault is it then, Barbie?" John asked, putting a lot of emphasis on the last word.  He knew that she hated to be called "Barbie".  Even as a little girl she had refused to play with the doll of the same name.  She would cheerfully accept a gift of Skipper, Madge or Ken, but it would cause a battle royal for someone to give her a Barbie Doll.

"What did you call me?" she icily asked.


"That's what I thought you said.  You know I don't like being called by that name.  You're just being mean and spiteful this morning."

"Just as you were being spiteful when you called me Scooter.  You have always known that I hate being called that."  John gave up on pretending to eat and he pushed his plate away.

"Scooter?  You guys are fighting because she called you Scooter?"  Tag asked, shaking his head.

"Don't even start," John warned.  "I hate that name.  I have always hated that name and Barbara knows it."

"How can I know it?  This is the first time that you've ever mentioned that you hated it," she responded.

"It is not."

"Is, too."

"It is not.  You just didn't listen before.  As usual."

"And what the Hell do you mean by that?  I always listen to you and you know it."

"If that was true, then you would know that I hate the name Scooter."

Barbara shook her head.  She honestly could not recall a time when Johnny had expressed his feelings regarding his childhood nickname.  She also couldn't recall a time when he had been this argumentative with her.

"Maybe we should put off our drive until tomorrow," she suggested, hoping that having a relaxing day might put her brother in a better mood.  Perhaps he was still suffering from jet lag.  After all, the flight from Hawaii to Paris was not a short one.

"Instead of beating around the bush, you can just straight out tell me that you don't want to be around me, Barbara.  It's been ages since we've seen each other and now you can't wait to get away from me.  Thanks a Hell of a lot.  Your love and affection is just overwhelming!"  He threw his napkin on the table, then got up and walked away.

Tag looked around the table.  Barbara's mouth was hanging open in surprise and even Janie looked shocked by what John had said and done.  "What just happened here?"

"I wish I knew, Tag.  Excuse me."  Barbara got up and went after John.

"They don't usually argue like this, do they?" Tag asked Janie.

"I don't think they argue at all.  John doesn't like to argue with people.  He wants people to be happy with him," she carefully replied.  "Sure, there have been times when they haven't totally agreed with each other, but I've never them

"Well, I hope that they get this worked out," he said.

"Me, too.  I was looking forward to spending today with you guys.  And I know for sure that Barbara was very happy about spending time with John.  She adores him, you know."

"I picked up on that yesterday.  I also know that he thinks very highly of her.  That's why I don't understand this argument."

"I don't think there's anyone out there who can ever completely understand what goes on between siblings."

"I think you might be right about that."

Barbara saw John leaning on the railing which ran along the Seine,watching the boats on the river.  She came up beside him, leaning her arms on the railing, waiting for him to break the silence.  She had long ago learned that you were just wasting your breath to try to engage him in conversation of any kind if Johnny didn't want to talk.

"I envy you sometimes," he finally said.


"Because you had the strength to do what you wanted with your life.  You moved here to live, not caring if the old man disowned you for it."

"I never cared much about grandfather's money.  I just want their approval, Johnny.  I was thinking that you were the strong one."

He turned to look at her, his eyebrows raised questioningly.  "Why?"

"You went ahead and followed your dream of going to medical school.  And now that you've found Tag, you're determined to return to Chicago together.  I didn't move to Paris because I was brave, Johnny.  I moved here to escape our family.  You're headed into the lion's den."

"I know." 

Barbara watched as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a bottle of pills.  He quickly took two of them, then shoved the bottle back into his pocket.

"What's that for?"

"Headache.  So, do you really want to put off our drive out to the country?"

"No.  I don't.  I was looking forward to spending the day with you and getting to know Tag better."  She was glad to learn he had a headache.  Perhaps that was the reason he had been so out of sorts earlier.

He nodded.  "Tag wants to get to know you better, too.  I figure that he should meet the best of the family before I introduce him to anyone else," he grinned.

"How thoughtful of you," she replied.  "Shall we get back to breakfast while it's still warm?"

"Sure."  He held out his arm for her and she hooked her arm through it so he could escort her back to the café.

The weather was beautiful as they headed out to the country in Barbara's car.  She had made plans for them to tour a few vineyards, then stop for a lunch at a provincial county inn before visiting more vineyards.  After that, they would head back to Paris where she would drop the men off at their hotel.

As she parked at the first vineyard, she informed the others that this one was known for its champagne.

"And we didn't bring any orange juice," Tag commented with a grin.  Mimosas had long been a favorite morning drink.

"Not to fear, I believe they keep some on hand for the Americans," Barbara grinned back at him.

"I thought they usually had cheese on hand to keep people from getting drunk," John observed.

"They have that, too.  Follow me."

They followed Barbara into the main building, where they were warmly greeted by the owners.  There were a few other people inside, waiting for the tour to begin.  As Barbara talked with the owners, John turned to Tag to translate.

"The tour will begin in twenty minutes, but we're welcome to look around outside as long as we're back in time for the tour."

"I think I'd rather stay inside, if you don't mind?"

"I did want to walk around some more, but I'll stay here with you if you prefer."

"There's no need for that.  You go on."

"Janie?  Did you want to wait inside or would you like to take a walk?"  John asked.

"I'd like to walk around some.  What about you?" she asked as Barbara rejoined them.

"I'll stay and keep Tag company.  Just remember to keep an eye on the time," she said.

"We will."  John and Janie headed outside.

"So, how do you like France so far?" Barbara asked Tag.

"It's been great.  John and I did a lot of sightseeing yesterday.  We even went to Disneyland."

Barbara laughed.  "That sounds a lot more like Johnny than going sight-seeing does."

"He did appear to be having a good time.  I take it that he's been here a lot."

Barbara nodded.  "Paris has always been one of our parent's favorite vacation spots."

"He mentioned going to Hawaii a lot as well."

"There's a golf course there that Dad finds challenging.  What Johnny really likes to do is to go down to the Caribbean or the Bahamas.  Our family owns a place on St. Bart's and they also have a rather large sailboat down there.  Johnny is really in his element when he's on the boat."

"I just never pictured him as the athletic type."

Barbara laughed again.  "He's full of surprises, that's for sure.  He wrestled at Penn.  Junior Varsity, but he still competed.  He wasn't too bad at it either.  And in boarding school he ran track and wrestled, plus he did dressage.  What about you?  Did you compete in sports while in school?"

"Football.  I was good enough to get a full ride in college.  I was even being looked at for the pros, but I wanted to be a doctor, so I turned that down."

Barbara nodded.  "I would have pegged you for a football player.  You have the build for it."

"That's what I was always told.  Of course, when I watch pro ball these days, the linebackers look to be one Hell of a lot bigger than I was."

"We get a few games over here.  American football isn't quite on a par with soccer but it is popular over here, as is basketball."  Her eyes sparkled as she added, "Which, by the way, Johnny also likes to play."

"Really?  He didn't mention that.  Does he like to go bowling or fishing?"

"Bowling?"  She shook her head.  "I have absolutely no idea.  I think he likes to go deep sea fishing, but he could also be using that as an excuse to get out on a boat."

"I'm partial to fly fishing myself.  I don't think there's a lot of that in the Caribbean."

"Well, you can always change that, can't you?"  She smiled up at him.  "You know, when you and Johnny go down to St. Bart's."

"Assuming that your family approves of me and is willing to allow me to set foot on their boat."

"I think they'll like you.  You're a nice guy, John Taglieri."

"Thank you.  I think there are some people right now who wouldn't agree with you on that though."  Tag was certain that Carol's family and friends probably were still muttering curses about the way he called off the wedding.

"Well, they would be wrong."

"Again, thank you for that vote of confidence."

Janie and John returned just as the owners announced that it was time for the tour to begin.

"Good timing," Tag commented.

"Hey, I would not miss out on a chance to try fine French champagne," John commented.

Barbara threw a worried glance his way.  She wasn't a doctor or even a medical student, but she had always known that it wasn't wise to mix alcohol with pain relievers.  Of course, she had not gotten a good look at the bottle of pills, so she wasn't sure if he was taking prescription strength or regular tablets.  Still, she didn't think it was a good idea for him to be mixing alcohol and any type of drug.

"You didn't plan on drinking any, did you?" she cautiously asked.

"You did say you were taking us on a wine tasting, Barbara.  Of course I plan on drinking some of it."

"Is that a good idea?"

"You should move now, we're holding up the tour," John pointed out that the group was leaving without them.

Barbara sighed as she turned to follow the group out the back door of the building.  She would just have to keep an eye on her younger brother and make sure he didn't over indulge.

As the tour ended and Barbara tried to get the small group back to the parking lot, she realized that John was more than just tipsy.  He was having a long conversation with the owners, in perfect French no less, telling them how good the champagne had been and asking about their family and how long they had been in the winery business.

"Johnny?  We need to go," she clutched at his arm, attempting to pull him away.  He pulled out of her grasp and answered her in French, telling her he wasn't ready to leave yet.

"Too bad.  The rest of us are.  There are more places to visit, Johnny.  Come on."

John reluctantly said his good-byes to the owners, who looked disappointed that the conversation was coming to a close.  That's what really mattered in life, they thought, good wine, good food, and good conversation.

"You might want to keep a window open back there," Barbara told Tag as she got in the driver's seat.  "Just in case he gets sick."

John informed her that he didn't feel ill, but it was in French again.

"English, Johnny.  Tag can't understand you."

Tag grinned, "He did tell me that his French was very good when he was drunk."

"He wasn't lying to you about that."  Barbara said as she pulled out onto the main road and headed for their next destination.

"They were a really nice couple," John observed.

"Yes, they were.  You seemed to be having a good time talking to them," Tag said.

"They've been doing this all their lives.  Henri's great grandfather founded the winery and the family has been living in that same house for all this time," John cheerfully explained.

"I don't think that Johnny has ever met a stranger," Barbara commented.

Tag nodded his agreement.  It didn't surprise him one bit that John had found out the history of Henri's family.  If asked, John could probably tell him the names of Henri's children as well.

John suddenly yawned.  "Excuse me.  I guess I'm a little tired."

"A little wired is more like it," Barbara kept her voice low.  She adjusted her rearview mirror enough to enable her to see John and she noted with satisfaction that he had rested his head against Tag's shoulder and closed his eyes.  He was going to be out for a little while.  She had not seen him drink more than one glass of champagne, but in combination with his pills, it had been enough.  She wondered what he was taking?

"Tag?  Is he asleep?"

Tag tightened his hold on John, who didn't move.  "Yeah, it looks that way.  I'm surprised though.  He only had one glass of champagne.  I know he can handle more than that."

"Before we left Paris, he took two pills.  He said they were for a headache.  Do you know what he took?"

Tag frowned as he wondered just what they were or weren't teaching in medical school these days.  John should have known better than to mix alcohol with a pain reliever.  "He's got a prescription for Tylenol with codeine to take as needed.  Doctor Wang, the man who treated him in Hawaii, said that John might have some bad headaches and other aches from time to time for the next few weeks.  But, John should know not to take that and then drink alcohol."

"He should, but he did it anyway.  Well, we can let him sleep while we tour the next vineyard.  It's a small place, so we won't be leaving him alone for long."

"I don't think it's a good idea to leave him alone.  He could aspirate."

"He could what?"

"If he gets sick, then he could choke on his own vomit," Tag explained.

"Well, we can skip it then."

"I can stay with John while the two of you take the tour.  I'm a qualified EMT, even though I haven't had to use any of that in the last few years," Janie said.


"Really, and I don't feel up to having any more wine.  That champagne was more than enough for me this morning.  You guys can take the tour and I'll keep an eye on John, then we'll go have lunch.  He should be awake by then."

"It's up to you, Tag.  I can tour the vineyard any time, but you don't get to Paris much."

"We'll take the tour.  I'll never hear the end of it from him if I don't."

"That's true enough," Barbara grinned.  "He doesn't like the idea of people rearranging their schedules for him, especially when he doesn't feel good."

She drove on to the next vineyard.  When she and Tag returned to the car after the tour, John was still asleep.  But, by the time they parked at the inn, he was awake.  A little groggy, but awake.

"What time is it?"

"Lunch time.  You hungry?" Tag asked.

"Not really.  I still feel sleepy."

"Well, maybe this will teach you not to mix alcohol with codeine," Tag commented.

"I'll try to keep this lesson in mind."  John's mouth felt like had shoved a handful of cotton inside it.  He was also thirsty.  But, not for anymore champagne, that was for sure.

"Come on, maybe your appetite will return once you get inside.  They have the most wonderful food here," Barbara said.

The rest of the afternoon passed in a blur for John.  Aside from still feeling groggy from mixing the medicine with champagne, his headache had returned with a vengeance.  By the time he and Tag were dropped off at their hotel, all he wanted to do was crawl into bed and die.  He knew that was impossible, so he was willing to settle for just going to sleep.

"I take it that John's not going to be in the mood to go out tonight," Barbara commented as she sat down in the sitting area of the suite.

"It looks that way.  He's asleep already," Tag said as he quietly shut the bedroom door.  "Why don't we make general plans to do something tomorrow night?"

"A show maybe?" Janie suggested.

"That sounds good.  We could meet the two of you somewhere."

"Okay.  Any preferences?  Drama, comedy, cabaret?"

"Cabaret sounds good.  It's not something we usually get in Chicago."

"True enough.  Well, we had better go now.  I'll give you guys a call tomorrow to let you know when and where to meet us, okay?"

"Sounds great to me, Barbara.  Thanks for the wonderful day out in the country.  I only wish that John could have enjoyed it."

"Me, too.  At least he's taken a vineyard tour before, so he didn't miss out on too much."  Barbara gave him a good bye hug, as did Janie and then the ladies were gone.

Tag sat down and turned on the television, keeping the volume low so he wouldn't awaken John.  Not that he really needed to worry about that.  By the time he joined John in bed, he found that his husband was still out like a light.

Tag wrapped his arms around John, snuggled against him and fell asleep, secure in the knowledge that John would be very reluctant to mix drugs and alcohol in the future.

The day had been a pleasant one and Tag had thoroughly enjoyed the time he had spent with Barbara and Janie.  Still, even though he had found out a little bit more about John, it seemed as if Barbara had once more succeeded in getting him to open up to her.  Not only was Barbara Carter inquisitive, but she was also easy to talk with.  When Tag had commented upon her open-mindedness and kind demeanor, she had warned him not to expect anything of that sort from the rest of the Carter family.  She had not gone into detail, but Tag got the impression that he and John were going to be in for a rough time once they returned to Chicago.  Well, they had plenty of time to figure out a way to break the news of their relationship to John's family so that they wouldn't be too shocked.  Maybe in time they might even come to accept it.  However, it didn't escape Tag's notice that Barbara's relationship had not been accepted.  He could only hope and pray that John fared better.

Chapter Seven

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