Disclaimers apply.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Crossroads xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Crossover Diagnosis Murder/ER

"by Nicol Leoraine"

Second Part

"What´s wrong with him?" asked Steve for a tenth time, only now there was his father, looking tired and a little troubled.

"Anaphylactic shock. It was an allergic reaction to Compazine I prescribed him. He´s allright now, asleep."

"He was allergic? And nobody told you?"

"No. I had a faxed copy of his medical records from Chicago, but there wasn´t any mention about Compazine. I think nobody knew it."

"So, it´s better that it happened in hospital and not somewhere else," Steve tried to reasure his father and Mark smiled.

"Probably. I take it you two didn´t make much of a talking."

"Nope. It seems everytime we meet, he has a problem with breathing," smirked Steve and looked at his watch. "Oh hell, I´ll be late! Dad... you think he will be up for some visitors a little later?"

"Sure."

"Did you find anyone from his family?"

"I left at least twenty messages. They servant told me to call later."

"Quite a family," muttered Steve, leaving the Community General and headed to the station for his car. Kyle Briggs was waiting there, bored and fidgety.

"You took your time, sergeant," Gribbs was clearly annoyed by his younger colleague.

"Sorry, I was in the hospital after the kid."

"Did he say anything?"

"No... he had some reaction to the medication. Couldn´t talk." Gribbs raised his eyebrows.

"Well, that´s just great. Now that you decided to join me in the work, I should update you about the case. Shall we get the car first?"

Once Steve was seated in the driver´s seat and they left the station heading for the ranch, Gribbs started to talk.

"When you jumped to the ambulance and rode away, I stayed and secured the area. You should know I found another note."
xxxx

Fly like a wind... what do you say - cops? Rats, rats, rats - rotten brats. What´s it to feel, to be hit from behind? I will make you pay, I will hit my mark. And if you didn´t know me then, you´ll know me now.

xxxx

"This is utterly crazy," noted Steve with a disgust.

"Do you know what he thinks by this?"

"He definitely do not like the kids from the ranch. But what is he meaning by that I will make you pay? It seems personal. Too personal for my liking. You think he choose his target?"

"I showed all three notes to one of my friends, who is working as a profiler. She thinks, that the man is psychotic. He´s for some reason hating the kids and the ranch - maybe once he too belonged there, but lost that privileged status. She´s warning us though. He got too close and he will pose more danger."

Steve snorted.

"Yeah? And what he did till now wasn´t dangerous?"

"She thinks he will kill the next time," said Kyle Gribbs bluntly.

"Great. But it´s not like we don´t know, who it is. The driver of the bus... what´s his name?"

"Billy Krowak. Sorry, Sloan... but he´s clear."

"What?! He was there at Monday and..."

"Yep, Krowak was there but left an hour before the fire started."

"How do you know that?"

"I talked to him - he came to the ranch because he left a check in his uniform. He left almost an hour before the fire - and I believe him, because I was at the bank where he paid the check."

"He could´ve returned,"

"That bank is forty minutes from the ranch. It´s impossible to make it in better time. Anyway - Krowak seemed like a good guy."

"So we´re at the beginning?"

"Pretty much yeah. I want to talk with the staff, without Ms. Prescott behind my back. Who knows, maybe something will slip out of them."

"Why don´t they just close the ranch?" wondered Steve.

"Because they can´t."

"How´s that?"

"Once they close, the culprit will stop, but so will they business. If we don´t catch him, Ms. Prescott can go to pension."

"But what if someone get killed?" resented Steve thinking about the kids.

"Uhm, it´ll be not our problem anymore, Sloan. Nevermind, I think, that once the Carters discover what happened to their son, the Federals will breath at our necks."

"I doubt it," muttered Steve not heard by his older partner.

Two days later, the culprit was still unknown and the ranch of Jenny Prescott still open, however there wasn´t any new incidents or notes indicating that the man was still there. But Steve Sloan had a feeling he´s just waiting, playing the game and planning. At least the events in the hospital were equally peaceful. John was recovering and Steve stopped by his room two times a day, trying to keep him company.

"Did you talk with your grandmother?" It was something that brought up a smile on the boy´s face.

"Yeah. She wanted to come but I told her not to," John was sitting up, recovered from his allergic reaction which send him to a deep darkness, fearing for his life and let him realize, how much he want to see another day. When Steve showed up little later that day, John welcomed him by a smile and he was enthusiastically listening to the cop´s story about his rescue. But the next day brought back discomfort and pain - much deeper than any blow to the head. His parents didn´t come, didn´t even call him. Sure, they had a brief talk with Dr. Sloan ending it with a curt excuse, that they can´t return to the States sooner than the end of summer. When Steve came that morning, he found a depressed boy, who silently watched the black tv screen, and only after ten minutes muttered in cold voice how much he hates hospitals and doctors alike. Mark Sloan wasn´t very happy that day, because his patient wouldn´t say a word to him, even if he was in pain.

The call from his grandmother was a welcomed distraction. After a ten minute long talk the doctor hanged up and walked to Carter´s room with a wheelchair. John, thinking that he´s due for another tests, wouldn´t move, even look at him.

"John, you need a little stir. I know the wheelchair probably isn´t too comfortable for you right now, but it won´t be long."

John didn´t move. Mark parked the chair next to the bed and summoned all of his paternal voice he could muster then said:

"Young man, I´m your doctor and even if you don´t like that fact, I´m here to help you. You should cooperate in your own behalf. Sooner you heal, sooner you´ll be out. Now come on - someone would like to talk with you."

At least this brought his attention and with a little help from Dr. Sloan, Carter positioned himself in the chair, not uttering a word on the way. Mark wheeled him to his office, next to the phone. Dialing a number, he waited then spoke:

"Hello, Mrs. Carter. Yes, John is here."

"Do you want to talk with her?" asked Mark seeing the look of uneasiness cross his face.

"It´s mom?" asked John, his voice tight and uncertain.

"No, it´s your grandmother," answered Mark with confusion. John´s face lit up and he quickly nodded, wincing a little as it sent a thousand of little needles of pain through his skull, but his eyes were impatient. Mark handed him the receiver.

"Gamma? It´s John," his face lit up and Mark for a first time saw him smile - really smile.

"Yes, I´m allright. No..." he bit at his lip nervously, "It´s not so bad, gamma. Really."

Mark heard only a one sided converstaion, but it was enough to picture what is Milllicent Carter telling John.

"Yeah, I´ll behave. No, I´m not!" protested John fiercely, then nodded, admitting something. "Yes, gamma... I´m sorry. I´ll not do it again."

What should the kid be sorry about? wondered Mark then remembered, what he told the fiery woman about John pouting and chuckled. John frowned at him, but his grandmother was surely asking him something.

"N-no," replied John and his voice betrayed dissapointment. "Yes, I understood. No, I... know that they would´ve come if they could. Yes, I know gamma. I love you too. Do you want to talk with Dr. Sloan?"

The answer was yes, because Mark was handed back the receiver.

"Mrs. Carter?"

"When will you release him?"

"In few days."

"Good. He sounded a little tired. Is he in pain?"

Mark quickly inspected the boy, while Carter avoided his eyes, looking deep in thoughts, but knowing they´re talking about him.

"We´re handling it, Mrs. Carter. The concussion is not a pleasant experience." John blushed but remained silent, his left hand making circles on his temple, touching lightly the white bandage.

"Take good care about him, Dr. Sloan and your clinic may find a new fundraiser in Carter´s family."

"We treat all the patients the same," replied Mark a little annoyed but otherwise in control. "I will inform you about any changes, Mrs. Carter," added Mark in a lighter tone, seeing that John´s hand started making bigger circles and his leg tapped an unknown rythm. It was time to end the conversation and return him to his room.

"You have my number. I´m sorry if I offended you, I just want to thank you. If something should happen to John, I don´t know..."

"It´s all right, Mrs. Carter. I have to go now,"

"Oh yes, of course. Goodbye, Dr. Sloan."

"I think it´s enough commotion for one day, what you say?"

"Sorry, I´m tired, Dr. Sloan. I... want to apologize, for my..."

"It´s all right, John. Just don´t do it again. You know, it´s hard to help you, when you don´t want."

"Bobby wanted and he still died. I don´t see a difference," muttered John.

"There is. I´m sure your brother was trying hard... but sometimes it can´t be helped. You´re alive, and it is not a bad thing. You´re worth it, John. Who knows, perhaps in the future you will save someone´s life."

"I doubt it," thought John but didn´t say it aloud. Dr. Sloan may think whatever he wants - but the feelings of his parents will not change anything. He wasn´t wanted, because he wasn´t Bobby. While his brother was alive, John was worth the effort, but now... he was just a reminder. A false picture of his brother, not good enough, not worth enough. The only thing his parents wanted him for now, was because he was the only son, only heritor. Sure, there was also Barbara, but she was a girl and she made it clear, that the business isn´t for her. She wanted something more. It was one of the things that lured her to England.

John let out a sigh, as he was wheeled to his room. The headache was back - it didn´t really vanish like he thought. His shoulder and back was throbbing and John knew, that he will soon get some pills which will make him sleepy. Right now it wasn´t a bad idea - sleep. He repeated the words of his gamma... they couldn´t come, John, dear, but they´re worried about you.

Yeah, I know, gamma. Worried, that they only son will die, but can´t get a ticket or just a telephone. Damn, if gamma can call him, why not his parents? Did his mother so hate him or just simply didn´t care anymore?

The throbbing changed into a full scale pain and John moaned as Dr. Sloan helped him lie down. He took his vitals then looked at his patient, hoping, that the call didn´t made the matters worse.

Steve came to his room when John suspiciously glared at the white something laying on his plate, with a yellow jello next to it. The nurse was trying to persuade him, but John shook his head and refused to eat, claiming that he felt sick to his stomach. Steve came to the room, eyeing the food with hungry look.

"You should eat it," stated Steve.

"I don´t feel too well, not for this food anyway,"

Steve shrugged.

"They´re cooking good."

John looked at him as if he was a two-headed cow. Steve just grinned.

"You can eat it, if you want," offered him John.

"Nah, dad would kill me if he found out I eat your food. I know it isn´t caviar, but you should try it."

"I don´t eat caviar," snarled John. "Anyway, I´m not hungry. Did you have a concussion?"

"Once or twice."

"How long did your head spin?"

"Not much, maybe the first day, or if I moved too quickly. It should go away, don´t fear."

"I´m not afraid. It´s just so damn annoying. I can´t read, because the letters are just mangling up and the nurse wouldn´t turn on the tv."

"I can bring you a walkman, if you want,"

"Nah," protested John. "My head´s still throbbing. Better let it be. Did you find the guy who set that trap?" John abruptly changed the subject.

"No, we just know it wasn´t Billy Krowak. He has an alibi."

"Do you have some other suspect?"

"Sorry, only the staff of the ranch. I wanted to ask... didn´t you see anything out of ordinary?"

"Not that I know, but I didn´t pay much attention. So the ranch is still functioning? I mean... didn´t they close up after all the incidents?"

Steve told him about the cases and John was surprised, that none of the parents made some protest or tried to pull their kids from the program. It seemed, that nobody really knew what was happening there. John was also curious as to why is Steve talking with him so freely. Why was he here anyway? It wasn´t cursory for the cops to visit the victims more than once. And Steve was here two times a day.

"I think Ms. Prescott didn´t really inform the parents about the incidents."

"Why don´t you do it?"

Steve shrugged.

"We can´t."

"But if I´d drowned..."

"You didn´t drown, John," halted him Steve. "You´re safe."

"Why are you coming here, sergeant?" asked John the question which plagued him the last hour. Steve seemed a little shocked, but quickly composed himself.

"Or do you keep company to all patients of your father?" asked John with a little smile.

"No. It´s just... I pulled you from that water, Carter. I feel somehow... obliged."

"Obliged? Why? You saved me, that´s all. I should feel obliged to you, not the other way."

Steve shook his head and shrugged, corners of his mouth turning up in a smile.

"I think that you remind me of someone who needed help a long time ago."

"Someone close to you?"

"Not exactly. What you say about eating this stuff first? My dad wouldn´t be happy if you don´t eat. I know him first hand, believe me. He´s capable to sit down and wait. You know, when your appetite return, you´ll be discharged sooner. Dad will not let you go if you refuse to eat."

"Oh, well... what´s this white thing?"

"Uhm... I think it´s mashed potatoes. Hey, I can talk about pizza while you eat it," taunted Steve when John got a spoonful of smashed potatoes and appeared to be slightly disgusted.

"I like more hot dogs," stated John with full mouth and Steve rolled his eyes.

"Hey, if you´re better, I can bring here something-"

"Only after I see it, son," sounded a voice from behind and Steve grimaced before turning at his father with an innocent smile. John almost chocked at the food, trying hard not to laugh as the two Sloan´s stared at each other.

"Dad, you´re here? I thought you would be home tonight," Steve tried to change the subject by a trivial question. Mark didn´t bought it.

"It´s only seven, Steve. You should know by now, that I´m ending at eight today."
Steve turned to John and sent out a silent plea for help. John gulped down the offensive (tasteless) food and tried to look as innocent, as he could. Even Steve had to envy him his puppy dog eyes and Mark let out a sigh.

"He´s only trying to convice me, that this thing is edible. Which isn´t, by the way,"

"But it´s good for your stomach and there is less of a risk that it will come up the same way it came."

John looked at the food dubiously.

"You sure it wasn´t someones dinner first?"

Steve squibbed in laugh, while John smirked at his own joke. Mark couldn´t retain a stern face, seeing them both in good mood.

"Okay guys, I take the hint. John, if you can keep down this, I´ll let Steve bring you here something tomorrow."

"Cool," agreed John and consumed the food in a speed that only twelve year olds could manage and don´t choke at it at the same time. Well, Mark corrected himself, only twelve year olds and Steve.

"Now Steve, if you could excuse us for a while, I need to examine him."

Steve nodded and John sighed. When Mark told him to sit up and inspected his back, at least what he could see under the bandages, John hissed.

"It will be sore for a week, your right side a little longer. Now try and slowly raise your hand... good, that´s enough. Your physical therapy will start after we release you."

"How long will I have to wear a sling?"

"It depends on your therapy. Week, maybe two."

"Oh. And when do you release me?"

Mark eyed the black and purple bruises on his back up to his neck, glad that the log didn´t hit his spinal column because the boy could be dead or paralyzed for the rest of his life.

"Dr. Sloan? Is something wrong?" John´s voice was thight and Mark registered worry.

"No, sorry. I was just thinking. Everything is all right, John. I think... if the test result will come out good and no complications arise, you´ll be free in two days."

"Oh," muttered John. Mark frowned.

"Oh? That´s all? I thought you will be glad to go home."

"Gamma said, that she had to stay in Australia for another week. Chase and Barbara are in summer camps, so the house will be empty. And I don´t really feel up to six hours in the air. My head is complaining everytime I stand, what will it do so high in the sky?"

Mark didn´t thought about the travelling. The tone of Carter´s voice however betrayed something else.

"You don´t want to be home alone," stated Mark and John gave him a half shrug, wincing.

"Not alone, but servants wouldn´t talk with me like to a normal person - I´m someone, who could tell the adults about Jenny, who is smoking in the closet, or about Karl, who brings women to the house, when nobody´s there."

"I think Chicago has a good rehab center,"

"Yeah, well, Dr. Sloan... I´ve had enough of all hospitals and doctors - besides you. I was there when Bobby died, the doctors paid attention to my mother, who was hysterical, and I was ushered out like some garbage. I didn´t know what happened, till my father came out to talk with us. And that was the last time I saw him display any emotions. I couldn´t recover on a place like that. Can´t I return to the ranch?"

"We will see, John. For now you need your rest." John wanted to protest but thought better of it. Mark Sloan wasn´t a man whom he wanted to cross and besides - he was tired and saw double.

"Good night, Dr. Sloan," he muttered and turned to his side, half asleep already.

Mark walked out from the room and headed for Steve, who was waiting by the nurse desk, chatting lightly with Angella Reed a long legged brunett with a sharming smile. Mark coughed to announce his presence, put the chart on the desk and turned to his son.

"Dad?"

"Angella, how´s your husband doing?"

The nurse blushed just like Steve.

"Thank you, Dr. Sloan. Marty is on the business trip in New York."

"Dad, you wanted to talk with me?" asked Steve, trying to change the topic.

"Why yes, Steve. I´m free and thought perhaps you can come up to the beach house for dinner."

"Sure, dad." Steve eyed his father suspiciously. "Is there something else?"

"Could be, son. Get the car, we will stop at the supermarket."

Steve looked at Angella, little confused by his father´s behaviour. The nurse only shrugged and returned to her duty, while Steve went for the car.

"How is the investigation coming along?"

"It isn´t. Briggs is trying to snoop out something about Edward Callar and Sam Prescott."

"Who is who?"

"Callar is taking care about the animals, he´s a veterinarian, but doesn´t have a licency because of some incident three years ago. So Ms. Prescott employed him because of his training and experiences with animals. Sam Prescott is her brother. We wouldn´t really consider him, but he was in trouble few times, got kicked out from Berkeley, ended up like a cook."

"But he´s also Ms. Prescott´s brother. Why would he do it? Their ranch can be closed,"

"Maybe that´s what he wants, but we aren´t sure. We can´t arrest him without evidence and it´s one thing we don´t have." Steve was clearly annoyed by the subject. They were in the kitchen, making a dinner. Steve was currently carving the vegetables and Mark feared for his fingers.

"Careful, son, I don´t have the right supplies to stitch up your hand if you cut it. Not to mention what a mess it would be, if your finger fell into the disposer."

Steve smiled and eased the rhytm of the knife.

"By my luck it would end up stitched by the wrong end."

"I didn´t hear this," grumbled Mark looking insulted.

"You wanted to talk about the case, dad?"

"I was just curious."

"Why?"

"You know, John is recovering pretty well. I think we can release him in two days."

"That´s great," said Steve delighted by the news.

"Yeah, well..."

"What´s the problem, dad?"

"You see, his family is not in Chicago, and John don´t want to return to the empty house. Not talking about the uncomfortable flight. I too don´t think he should return to Chicago right now."

"He can stay here, no?"

"I don´t think he want´s to stay in the hospital any longer than needed," replied Mark. "I asked you about the case, because he wanted to return to the ranch."

"No, it would be too dangerous," protested Steve shaking his head.

"Dad, I thought he could come here,"

"To my house?"

"Well... yeah. Is that a problem?"

Mark was silent, weighing the possibilities.

"How did it occur to you, son?"

Steve, not sure about his father´s decision, shrugged.

"Why not? You have a day duty so he will not be alone at night."

"I can´t leave him here for the whole day, Steve. He can be released but still needs a care not talking about rehabilitation."

"Dad," whimpered Steve with the puppy dog blue eyes and Mark let out a sigh.

"I´ll see what I can do about my duty roaster. You know, Steve... If I took the night duty, I can be home for the day, and if you´re so fond of him, you can be here for the night. If it´s not a problem for you,"

"No, that would be great, dad!" exclaimed Steve. "I´ll tell him."

"Uhm, before you do it, though... I need to call his grandmother. Just to be on the safe side, you know, son."

"I´m sure she wouldn´t mind." Mark was a little taken aback by his son´s demeanor. Steve sure liked kids, but never before showed so much affection towards them. It almost seemed, as if John was his secret project and Mark feared that one of them could be hurt. Not bodily, but the soul is also a fragile thing. But seeing that look on his face, Mark couldn´t warn him.

"You ready to stay few nights in this house? Whithout the company of some girl?" teased Mark as Steve rolled his eyes.

"Stacy is away and I don´t date any other woman, so you can relax. But I don´t know if John has any girl..." smirked Steve. "I saw one blonde looking at him on the hallway. He ignored her, though," Mark laughed.

"Yeah, you know son, I see at least one thing that you´re related at."

"What?" asked Steve suspiciously.

"Those puppy dog eyes. Both you and John can manipulate most of the women by one look. It´s a shame that you don´t even realize it."

Steve shot him one of his innocent looks and Mark laughed.

"You see? And that´s the next one."

"Yes, Mrs. Carter. I´m sure..." Mark laughed, "Steve and John are quite a friends now." Another laugh.

"How old is my son? Well, sometimes I think he´s only ten."

"I´ll see that he calls you. You want a number to my house?" Mark dictated the number then after a courtesy farewell hanged up.

It wasn´t so hard to convince Millicent Carter about her grandsons whereabouts, though John had some pleading to do. That was an hour before, sixty minutes while Mrs. Carter debated the subject and decided. Carter was back in his room, impatient and restless. Steve was in work, once again riding through the streets with Kyle Briggs on the seat of the passenger.

Mark slowly walked into the room, mischievous look on his face. Carter watched him, shuffling on the bed as if it was full of rattle snakes.

"Dr. Sloan?" he asked sheepishly then grinned when Mark nodded.

"Thanks, Dr. Sloan. I´m really glad to not go back to the ranch. Thank you,"

"Hey, it was Steve´s idea," answered Mark with a grin.

"Uh," John let out a relieved sigh. "I thought gamma wouldn´t let me. You know, she talked in her stern voice and all... whew, it was though."

"She cares for you, John, and wanted to make sure you´re in good hands."

"Yeah," John´s face sobered a little. "If it´s not for her, I would probably-" John abruptly stopped, realizing just what he wanted to say and to whom. He turned pink then coughed, just to detract attention from his words. Mark handed him a cup of water and John smiled.

"Can I go today?"

"Not a chance, boy. You´re due to some test by morning, and if the results come back good, then I will release you."

"Oh my," sighed John. "It will be a looong day."

It was after six p.m. the next day when Carter was free and Dr. Sloan rode them "home". The beach house wasn´t at all so big as the Carter´s residence, but John liked it at the first sight. It was little, but lived in. The sound of the water hitting the shore was relaxing and John ached for the chance to take a swim. While Dr. Sloan prepared the dinner, John was sitting at the bench and watching the sun go down. His right arm was in a sling and his head still throbbed, but it was nothing compared to the headaches he had in the hospital. Wondering, how the persons life could change in one minute - it wasn´t more, when Bobby was diagnosed by leukemia. And the Carter´s family broke.

Does God exist? The question bothered John quite a while, but he started to think that even if the almighty one is real, he´s probably enjoying his work, seeing all the suffering.

"Maybe this world is another planet´s hell," thought John not realizing he spoke aloud.

"Who said that?" asked Mark and John replied a little taken aback.

"Aldous Huxley."

"You read him?"

"Huh? No. I just heard it from someone," a distant look on his face and Mark wondered if perhaps it wasn´t his brother. He recalled how after his mother´s death Steve asked about God and death. He was angry at everything and Mark wasn´t really here to help him. If not for one detective, Steve would´ve probably ended as a criminal. Thank God it didn´t happen, thought Mark and looked at the boy next to him. He needed help and Steve was maybe the right man to provide it.

"The dinner is ready,"

"Pizza?" asked John hopefully so reminding him of Steve.

"Chicken with salad and aplle pie with vanille cream."
"Sounds good," John slowly rose and walked inside. The dinner was something formal in his family. If their parents or grandparents were home, they were all dressed up. Only when no adult was present did the kids eat in the kitchen, laughing and making a mess with food. After Bobby´s death even this wasn´t same. John mostly eat alone, or in the company of his grandmother, occassionaly his sister Barbara. Their parents were home only rarely.

It was fun. He could eat chicken without knife and fork, because of his right arm in sling. Dr. Sloan was joking and he wasn´t reprimeranded, if he talked at the table. Soon he was listening to stories about Steve and Carol and found himself relaxing. After the terrific dessert, they moved to the living room and Mark turned on the TV. They reprised the popular show MASH. John watched some episodes even if he wasn´t a fan of medical shows, not after Bobby. But the humor of Hawkeye Pierce get to him and soon he was laughing at the episode, where Radar get to fake illness, only to bring Henry back to the camp. John was clutching at his stomach, when Henry prepared for Radar´s surgery and the poor corporal was abruptly healed. After the MASH ended, started some old western. When Steve parked at his father´s house, John was fast asleep on the couch, lying on his good side and covered with a comforter. Mark was in the kitchen, making a tea.

"Hi, dad. I see you talked him to sleep."

"Nah, just an old western. I´ll woke him in a while, when the movie ends. It´s only nine, but he was tired."

"Well, sleeping at this couch wouldn´t help him a bit."

"How was your day?"

"Humph," murmured Steve. "Nothing extra. Ms. Prescott asked about John, I told her he´s coming here. She seemed satisfied. I think she didn´t really wanted to take care about him, you know."

"It´s better for him here, Steve. He´s still recuperating. Will you stay for the night?"

"Yeah, I don´t plan to ride to my apartment. It´s a little empty without Stacy and well... Tomorrow I´ll stay here so I thought it can´t hurt to domesticate somehow."

"I see. And you didn´t want to be late for a dessert. Here, I stashed a pie for you."
The movie ended and the titles woke up John. He rubbed his eyes, trying to expel the sleepiness, but he succeeded only in yawning.

The teapot whistled.

"I´ll take him to his room, dad," said Steve and walked to the living room. John was looking around a little confused, when he spotted Steve.

"Hi! I didn´t hear you come,"

"I bet you didn´t hear even the end of the movie."

"Nope," John smirked sheepishly. "I think I slept it away."

"It´s allright. Dad said you should go to bed."

"It´s only nine," suddenly he yawned, "but I think, it´s the best time." Slowly, John sit up and wavered a little as the world blurred.

"You okay?" asked Steve and grabbed his left arm to support him.

"Yeah, just a little woozy. Thanks."

"Come on," they made it up the stairs. Steve showed him where is the bathroom, then led him to the guest room. The only thing John took in was a strown bed and a little lamp standing on the bedside table. He sat down and Steve helped him remove his shoes. Not bothering with the sling, John only sagged to his left side, adjusting the pillow under his head. Steve covered him with the blanket and turned on the little lamp.

"Do you want it on or off?"

"On, please," muttered John and closed his eyes. Steve turned off the big lamp, and left the door slightly ajar.

"He´s asleep," reported Steve to his father who was turning off the television.

"You´re now working only on the case of that ranch?"

"Not really. We can´t do much till the suspect will make another move, and Briggs´ chief is still pissed off with him, so we´re patroling. But I think if we solve this case, I could get some promotion and get to the homicide."

"But you´re not doing it only for promotion?"

"What? No, dad! How can you think about it?"

"I just don´t want to hurt the kid, Steve. I remember what it was to raise you. If not for Mike, you would´ve ended up much worse, and I´m not proud about the fact, that it took some stranger to help you."

"It seems that it´s pretty normal, dad. To be dependant on strangers, because your family hadn´t enough strength to help you," answered Steve absent minded. "You´re home tomorrow?"

"For the day, then I have a night shift."

"I´ll try to come home soon." It didn´t even occur to Steve, that he is talking about the beach house like his home, but Mark was pleased.

"I think I´ll call it a night, son."

"Good night, dad. I´ll stay a little longer," and he switched on the tv. A scary vampire appeared on the screen and Steve settled to watch the old movie about Dracula, sipping at the tea. He removed his shoes and eased himself to the comfortable position, for once not thinking about his work, the death of his partner or Vietnam. The feeling of a home engulfed him and he felt like a boy. It was a good feeling.

After a breakfast, John was due for his first physical therapy. Mark dropped him at the hospital, while he checked out his patients. After an hour of therapy, John was sent home but even if he was tired, Mark knew, that he don´t wanted to go home and sleep, so he took him to a little trip through Los Angeles. They get to see the Zoological Garden, then sat in a little pizzeria and John finally could eat the Haway pizza he wanted so much in hospital. After the lunch, they headed home. John fell asleep in the car and Mark let him sleep, grinning at the picture of the boy. He was curious, if he will wake up once they stop. Steve always woke up when they was home, not sooner. When they stopped at the gas station, he didn´t move a muscle, even if Carol instantly awakened and roamed through the stuff in the shop, looking for some junk food. Mark parked the car and waited, but John didn´t stir.

"We´re here," he spoke and John blinked, looking ashamed.

"Sorry, I fell asleep."

"No problem. You can go to your room, if you want or turn on the tv. But I think some rest will only help you."

"I think I should call Gamma. I forget it when we came from the hospital."

"Here´s the number," Mark pulled the paper from his pocket and opened the doors. He took one step inside, then abruptly stopped. John, who was close behind ran into him and yelped as he hit his sore shoulder. Mark turned and pushed him out of the house, but not soon enough. John gasped for breath. The interrior of the house was broken, the furniture scattered through the house and there, on the door leading to the bench was an inscription. John read it, shocked, that someone could follow him there. The note didn´t let anyone in doubts about the reason of such violence.

xxxx

Dear Rich Brat You will follow you brother to hell. All of you belongs there.
Sloan - you saved him once. Can you do it twice or rather let him burn?

xxxx

It was written with red paint and in the middle of the room was a burned photo of John and Bobby, taken at the camp last year. His eyes wide, the breathing became harder every second as the words sink in. Dead like your brother. Someone wanted to make it even - and John realized, he don´t want to die like Bobby. Mark led the boy back to the car, looking around to make sure, no one is there. He opened the doors and pushed him to the seat.

"It´ll be allright, John. Take deep breaths and let them slowly out. We don´t want you hyperventilate. Good," Mark reassuringly stroked his face, taking note of his clammy skin. He so wanted someone to suffer, to capture this scum who is bothering them, but mostly he wanted for John to relax and call Steve. He pulled a dusty cover from the backseat and wrapped it around Carter.

"Listen to me, John. I need to call Steve, but I need to do it from the house." John shuddered but tried to rose.

"No, you stay here." The fear in his eyes was enough for Mark to realize the horror John felt.

"Don´t be afraid. That man is long gone, and I´ll only be a second."

"No, please... don´t leave me here..."

"You´re safe, John. I just need to call. Look, you can sit on the driver seat, and lock the doors. This way you´ll be safe, but if you see someone, you can blare the horn. Okay?"

John thought about it and although there was still fear in his eyes, he nodded.

"Good. It will take only a minute."

Mark watched as John locked up the door on both sides and ventured back to the house. It was a real mess and he only now spotted the burned photo on the table. Gritting his teeth in anger and frustration, he looked for the telephone. It was on the ground and Mark shuddered, seeing the cord was cut. He headed for the kitchen, picking up the first thing he saw on the way - which was a vase. Looking around, taking slow and careful steps, he made it to the kitchen and with a satisfied sight grabbed the phone and began to dial the number to the police station.

He had to wait and nervously looked around the kitchen. It wasn´t so messed up, but the burglar was here too. Wonder why he didn´t cut also this phone. Just as he was connected with Steve, the horn blared.

"Dad?"

"Come home, quickly!" that was all he said, because the horn stopped and he could hear the motor of his car.

Damn! He left the keys in the ignition!

Running from the house, he saw only the back of his car, tires screeching on the tarmac and the cloud of dust.

"Stop! Carter!" screamed Mark after the retreating car and kicked at the trashcan, sending it to the ground with an expressive rattle. Inhaling deeply, Mark realized what he must do and ran back to the house. Steve needs to know what happened, so he can start the search for his car. Mark only prayed it wasn´t too late.

The click behind him was a startling reminder of his recklesness, or rather the prolonged effects of his concussion. John couldn´t spun around to look who opened the back door, which wasn´t locked. The only sight of a man, grinning from ear to ear was in the mirror, but it was enough for John to push at the horn. In the next second something hard connected with his head and something inside his skull exploded to myriad lights and sounds. He didn´t feel the pain from being moved to the passengers seat and didn´t stop the man from starting the engine and drove away from the beach house.

They could´ve rode ten minutes or ten hours, John didn´t know. The only thing he was aware of were the curses, blearing of sirens and the jolting of the car, which send him spiralling back to darkness. When he came to himself, he was pinned on his seat, the throbbing in his shoulder changed to a pulsating white pain and he couldn´t make out the voices surrounding him, because of the roaring inside his skull. Then someone grabbed his left hand and pulled him out of the darkness, out of the car. John yelped and was about to fell to the ground - the rough treatment didn´t help him a bit, but the man pulled him close, so close, that John could smell the garlic breath mixed with alcohol. It alone made him sick. Something cold was pressed against his neck and the sounds slit together.

"Go away, or I´ll shoot out his brain!" screamed the man near his ears and John flinched. It was getting dark, but he could still make out the police cars with blinking red and blue lights, along with shapes hiding behind them. Only one person was standing with his gun aimed at Carter and his abductor.

"John, you okay?" asked Steve Sloan and John felt a glint of hope. He wanted to answer, but the man dug the gun deeper into his skin and John could only yelp out.

"Sam... let him go. The kid´s not gonna hurt you,"

"But you´re! Go away! Put down that gun!" John felt his shoulder giving away under the pressure, and his vision blurred. He sagged a little. Sam? The name meant something - and his brain, sluggish from all the shock, only now recognized the voice screaming behind him.

"Mr. Prescott?" asked John in thin voice and was rewarded by angry hiss.

"Shut up! Just shut up! It´s all your fault, Kyle! You´re responsible - and you´ll pay!" The tone of his voice held a tinge of finality. John felt cold running up his spine and knew, what will happen. Like in the slow-motion picture, his knees buckled and his body sagged. John looked right onto Steve and watched as the cop fired out one shot, then next. His captor jerked as the bullets hit him. The cold gun was not dugging into his skin anymore, and John crumpled along with his captor. The world was silent. The flaring lights played on the barrier of John´s consciousness as a fire of a candle. Then the sound returned as if someone turned the switch.

"John? You with me?" the pleading voice of the cop, and a touch on his forehead. Steve´s hand came up covered with blood and John´s eyes widened.

"It´s not yours," assured him Steve quickly and John blinked, as someone covered him with a blanket and checked his pulse. Slowly he looked to his left and spotted Mark. His memory returned and hit him harder than the log by the lake. He turned and saw a body, covered in red and the face which wasn´t anymore, as one of the bulletts shattered it to a bloody mess. His eyes locked with the man laying only inches from him. A sob emerged, only one. Then he closed his eyes and let the darkness engulf him like a warm blanket of security.

Another day in the city of Los Angeles. What could it mean? Perhaps Lost Angels, pondered John, laying in his bed back in the hospital with another concussion and who knows what else. It didn´t really matter to him. One thing or another - he was still alive, when everyone else was dying. First Bobby, then Sam Prescott. When he woke up this morning, Steve was here, sleeping on the chair next to his bed. Few days ago, John would´ve gave anything, if someone cared for him so much to fall asleep in those hospital chairs, which were probably designed as a tool of torture. But things change and John was too afraid to take relief from the presence of a man, which saved his life - twice. Fidgeting on the bed, trying to find more comfortable position, John moaned and Steve opened his eyes.

"Hey, you took your time," smiled the cop.

"Hi," muttered John and sank his eyes.

"How are you feeling?"

"Fine," replied John.

"Fine?" Steve looked at him curious. "I really doubt it, John."
Carter tried to shrug, but discovered that his whole right side is bandaged, so he couldn´t move it.

"Back to square one with that shoulder," told him Steve and eyed the boy. Something wasn´t quite right - and it has nothing to do with his physical health.

"You okay, Carter?"

"Yeah, I´m fine," was an angry reply. How could someone ask so stupid questions after a night like that?

"I know it wasn´t easy, John. I´m sorry it happened."

"Why?" was the question.

"Why did he do it?"

"Mr. Prescott had psychical problems, John. Something happened to him - long time ago and the illness caused that he thought, it was happening again."

"I don´t understand."

"When Sam was younger, he had a friend, whose name was Kyle. They were attending to Berkeley University. Sam and Kyle were room-mates. Nobody knows, what really happened - only that on their second year of study, someone started a fire on the college, where they were living. Kyle died, while Sam escaped, but the later investigation uncovered that the fire started in their room from a stack of marihuana, they were hiding in the cupboard. It was determined as an accident, but Sam was excluded, because of the drugs. Even if he said that the marihuana belonged to Kyle, it ruined his future."

"What it has to do with me?" once again the resigned tone, that worried Steve.

"Sam Prescott was long years keeping his anger bottled up inside. So long that it changed into hate. He build it, let it grow inside him, until one day, all the hate and pain erupted. It took one small incident, one boy smoking marihuana in the closet, that triggered his insanity. He kept it down just like you, John. Didn´t let it out, until it exploded and he couldn´t control it anymore."

Steve wasn´t explaining, what happened to Mr. Prescott. He was trying to provoke John for some reaction. He wanted to know, what´s eating at the boy.

Well, it worked all right. John´s eyes clouded over, he long ago lost interest in Steve. His mind was showing him the image of his brother dying, mixed up with the body of a man, whose brain was spattered on the tarmac. The images blurred together. He heard his parents, crying, and felt the pain build inside him. He couldn´t cry, because there was no one to comfort him. What if he started to cry and couldn´t stop?

"You don´t know," it was just a hiss, Steve almost didn´t catch it.

"What?"

"How could they?" John was looking at the ceiling, not seeing it at all. "I wanted to die. So many times. But they wouldn´t even knew it. No, I was dead for them, just like Bobby. Dead from the moment, he was diagnosed. I ceased to exist with my brother. Not important anymore, only a poor, clumsy reminder. And I hated him for that. Hated..." he choked on the words and the first tear ran down his cheek. "... myself, for hating him. I wanted to grieve, to love him, to remember the good times; but they reduced me to a person, who wasn´t capable of it. Because I was nothing and it was only him. He stole my mother, my family. That fucking illness robbed me of everything!"

And it was like the dam broke. There was nothing to stop the tears, and John sobbed, not feeling shame, only relief and pain flooding from him. Then there was Steve, holding him, making hushing noises and saying, that he knows how he feels, that he understood. And John shook his head, knowing, that he couldn´t understand, not ever.

"My mother died from cancer when I was ten," told him Steve and John looked up at him and knew, that he was right.

"I´m sorry," he said, choking down tears, and saw Steve smile.

"It´s all right, Carter."

"Sorry for everything," added John with a slight smile on his own face. "For your mom, for Mr. Prescott. For Kyle and for the beach house. And I´m most sorry for your dad, because he promised Gamma, that nothing happens to me, and something happenned. Yeah, I´m most sorry for your dad," chuckled John as Steve grimaced. Maybe, just maybe, it will be allright.

When the situation calmed, and Mark Sloan survived a little chat with Millicent Carter without so much as a mild headache, John felt a whole lot contented. Sure, the headache was back, he couldn´t read because the letters just didn´t make sense and he probably ruined one pair of Steve´s shoes, because he wasn´t fast enough with the basin, but his soul was lighter and calmer then in the last year. It hurt, that his parents didn´t call him even after this second incident, but he talked with Gamma, and even Barbara found the time for a little chat.

Now, after a day of sleep, he was curious about what really happened. Steve had to go to work and Dr. Sloan stopped by only occassionally. He probably felt guilty, and John didn´t know, what Gamma told him, but the doctor had a downcast look half the day, then after a lunch he came in, looking as if someone took the wheight of the world from his shoulder.

"How long had I to stay, Dr. Sloan?" asked John at this particular visit.

"At least three days," was a curt reply.

"What´s wrong?"

"Nothing, you´ll be allright."

"No, what´s wrong with you? Are you mad at me? I know it was stupid - I forgot to lock the back of the car, I think I just panicked-"

"John, you have nothing to be sorry for," halted him Mark sternly, then sighed. He don´t wanted to trouble the boy with his own guilt.

"I shouldn´t leave you alone in the first time. It was stupid from me."

"No," protested John. "We just made some mistakes," he admitted.

"Yeah. Your Grandmother made it clear to me. I don´t think we´ll convince her to allow you came to the beach house."

John only grinned - he had his ways.

"I´ll leave you to rest,"

"Dr. Sloan? I just wanted to know..."

"Hm?"

"What the hell happened yesterday? Because all I can remember is the beach house and the shooting on the parking lot. Nothing between. How did you find me?"

"Oh, it wasn´t so hard. Once I told Steve to start a search for my car, some officer spotted it. Steve sent a patrol for me, while he was chasing you. You was heading for Berkeley. It was a big chase, with helicopters and all. Two police cars blocked his way and your car spinned, then hit one of the cars parking there. While the police secured the area, Prescott pulled you out... and the rest you know."

"You were there too?"

"Yeah. I thought, that I´ll go crazy. First you was in the hands of this madman, then Steve was there - aiming at him. I thought one of you will get shot."

"You´ve a great relationship with your son, Dr. Sloan. I´d do anything to have something similar with my parents, but it wouldn´t happen."

"You can still try,"

"Maybe. But I don´t have to try for the rest of my life. Steve saved my life twice, and who I am to dabble at his work?"

Mark smiled. The fate has many ways - crossing roads was just one of them.

"Maybe you´ll help him once. Chicago isn´t so far away, after all."

xxxxxxxxxxx The End xxxxxxxxxxx (of part one)

Sequel of Crossroads coming soon Crossroads II: Reunion

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