SA Collins

Words and Errata

Words and Errata


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Angels of Mercy - Phoenix In The Fire

Updated: 25 December 2015 [Work In Progress – subject to revisions]

Chapter 1


Into The Light …



I died.


Well, I think I did. How can you endure that much pain from a homophobic beat down and not die? It’s rhetorical, I don’t have an answer for that. 

All I knew was, it was dark – at times oppressively so. 

There was a period where I think my brain was outside my body. In a drawer. Tucked away. In a quiet place.

That didn’t last long.

Pain began to eke in. Like an eternal flooding, rivulets of pain  poured through me. From every part of me, too. I’d feel what were supposed to be gentle touches along my skin that felt like fire. I wanted to scream for it to stop, but found I had no voice. Torture in a sound proof box – a stifling test of endurance.

At times I felt like I had a reprieve from that torture. It was brief, and fleeting, but fuck me did it burn when it would come back upon me – wave after wave.

What I wondered throughout all of it, where was Marco? Without his light it was dark and painful and I never felt so alone. If I died, wasn’t there supposed to be light? Wasn’t it supposed to be warm? And most of all, wasn’t it supposed to be peaceful?

Unless ...

I didn’t want to think about the alternative. Maybe all those uptight Christians were right. Maybe religion was right.

I heard voices. Voices I knew. They were distant. So far away but they sort of held my attention. A lingering thread of hope, glowing in the darkness that continued to press in upon me.

“That’s it, babe. C’mon Els. Come back to me ... you want me to call it, so I’m calling it ...” I knew that voice. It called to me like a beacon in the darkness.

Marco! Baby! I’m right here! I tried to call out to him, to let him know I heard him. He didn’t seem to notice.

My throat hurt like hell, raw, rasped, burned. I coughed, or tried to. I didn’t handle that so great, either. Something was there, in it, and I didn’t know why.

A voice, stronger than all of the others came rolling to me like thunder in the distance. Like lightening it lit up around me. I knew this voice. This voice was home.

“Cassiel? This is your father. Cass, you come back to me, Son. You fight and claw your way back. Daddy’s here. Marco, your mom and I have your back. You come back to us, Son. I’ve missed you so much. For months I’ve imagined how we’d come back together, what I’d say. What you’d say. I never once imagined it’d be like this. I am so sorry I arrived too late to protect you. But I’m here now. You are the greatest thing I’ve ever created. You are my blood and bone, my soul and my life. I have always, always, been proud of you. I promise not a day will go by that you won’t know how much you mean to me. Not a single day. So you come back now. Come back to us.”

I wanted to. I tried to obey him. 


Daddy ...


Dad ...


Like a passing storm, it faded. I felt it slip away from me. Once again, darkness, silence and pain were my companions. They were of little comfort.

In fact, they hurt like a muthafucker.

Another flash and roll of thunder  – this one deeply unsettling. 


HOLD HIM STEADY. TIME TO SEND THIS LITTLE FAGGOTY DEMON BACK TO HELL!


A flash of white light then … oppressive black.

No, not this … I don’t want this again.

I don’t know how long I was in that total black. At times I could hear people. At times I felt things along my skin. But those moments were fleeting. It felt detached, too. Like I could sense it but it was over there.

Time passed and yet it all seemed squashed into one prolonged moment. It stretched out but, at the same time, bent back upon itself to where I didn’t know where I was or when I was.

Marco.

“C’mon Els. That’s it, baby. Open your eyes, babe.”


TIME TO SEND THIS LITTLE FAGGOTY DEMON BACK TO HELL.


I tried to see. I tried to move my eyelids but I found I couldn’t.


FAGGOTY DEMON …


A finger snap – louder than it should be, crackling like lightning, making me jump a bit.


BACK TO HELL!


“Towel with warm water! Quickly!” 

Bursts of light as sandpaper scraped across my eyes, like breaking caked mud and grit from them.

They fluttered. 

So much light. Jesus, the pain of it all. But that light, the light that said I was safe again. I found him. I found my way back. 

Marco.

Babe. God, I missed you. Where were you?

I coughed, hard. It hurt. Everything hurt. The beeps, the hums the whispered voices sounded like the flap of birds wings against my ears.

Too much. Far too much.

“Time to come back to all of us. I say it’s time, and you like me to say so. It’s how we are. You know it. How we’ll always be …” I heard him say but it was muffled and at times near and a few words later, far. But I knew what he meant. It’s how we’d always be. 

“Always …” 

I tried to speak but my mouth was frozen. I coughed again. God, did it hurt! I gagged. My throat hurt and it was because something foreign was there. I feebly put my hand to my face, and tried to tug whatever it was out of my nose and mouth. I found I couldn’t control it very well. 

“No, baby. No. I know it bothers you. Calm down, just listen to me. Listen to me, Els!” 

I could hear the sudden panic in his tone so I stopped what I was doing. I never could bare it when Marco sounded distressed. Somehow I was causing it now. I watched him. His normally brilliant green eyes were duller now. His face was filled with worry. What caused this to happen to him?

“Babe, you’re hurt. You’re in the hospital. Understand? Do you understand me?”

I tried to clear my mouth again, gurgling a bit as I did so. I sputtered and some spit flew into Marco’s face. He jerked back as it dotted his face. I felt bad that I did that to him.

“Nod once if you understand.”

I stopped pulling on the fucking irritating tube and looked at him for a moment. He wanted me to nod once. Yeah, I could do that.

So I did. Just once, like he asked. 

I could hear and see everyone else in the room became happy once I did that. 


Why?


“Do you know who we are? Nod once if ya do.” 

I searched the room, most everyone I remembered except the big tall red haired guy next to Danny. I tried like hell to figure out who he was, but I couldn’t place him. 


How did Danny become so close to him? When did that happen?


“You won’t know Angus,” Marco pointed to that big guy holding Danny. I tried to focus on him. Everything was such a major chore and it shouldn’t be. At least, I thought it shouldn’t be. 

But it was.

Marco said something else, about this Angus guy with Danny, but I didn’t hear it. I was too wrapped up in trying to stay focused. 

“Nod once if you do.”

I nodded, ‘cause I got that part. I needed him. That’s all. Just Marco. Just my love. I wanted them all to go away. All I wanted was Marco. I just wanted him to pull me close and hide me from everything. That’s what I wanted.

I turned slightly so I could look at him. So much worry there. I had to show him how much I missed him. I brought my hand up and tried to stroke the side of his face but couldn’t get things to work just right. I was so tired. It just all took so much energy and I knew I was running out.

“Always?”

I knew that word meant us. We said it to each other all the time.


Always.


Marco got really close to my face. God, I loved him so much. 


Babe, when those boys hurt me …


I just didn’t think I’d see him again.


Maybe this is heaven and everyone is here. But it shouldn’t hurt this much. Marco said hospital. Did I survive being beaten? 


Marco’s voice, so soft, sang words to me that he couldn’t possibly know. Then he sang softly to me, a melody that was so familiar and deeply felt. It meant everything in the world that he sang it as best he could.

“I’m gonna tear this world apart, baby, until you’re mine …”

Denmark. Jay Brannan. I knew that song. But I’d never played it for him. How did he find out? My eyes widened with that thought. He knew. He found my songs and he knew.


Always.


Marco started to pull away.

No, baby. No. Don’t. You can’t. I just got here.

I pulled on his hand, letting him know I didn’t want him to move away from me.  He seemed to understand.

Mama came forward. Her eyes were red and wet. She’d been crying a lot. I guess she’s the one who found me. She was supposed to be home that night.

Mama don’t cry. I’m here. I’m okay. Sort of.

Daddy was right behind her. I didn’t know what to think. I missed him so damned much and he was here. He came back. They must have told him and he had to leave his job on the rig to come back. He wasn’t gonna be too happy about that.

“Hey, baby. How are you feeling, sweetheart?” She kissed me on my forehead. I couldn’t feel her lips much. There were bandages there. My head was wrapped. I just realized that.

Then Daddy stepped up to me. I pulled on Marco’s hand for support. I was losing my energy fast but I knew if Marco was here I’d be okay. He wouldn’t let anything happen to me, now that he’s here. I knew my eyes were wide with what Daddy might say. Would he be mad for being taken away from his job? 

Dad stopped. He held up a hand to me as if telling me to wait and watch. I didn’t understand. Then he reached out for Marco and pulled him forward and placed a kiss on Marco’s forehead. 

I still didn’t understand. When did this happen? 

“Cass? You n’ me? We’re good. A father couldn’t love his boy more than I do.” I faded a bit, trying to hold on and hear him. I knew it was important. I tried really hard to pay attention, but I was fading fast. “I could never be ashamed of you. If I’ve given you that impression, I am deeply sorry, Son. Couldn’t be happier that you have someone like him in your life. We’re family now. You, me, your mom and Marco.”

Then Daddy leaned in and his lips touched my forehead. I wanted to melt into him. I missed him far more than I remembered. I tried to smell him, to make sure he was here, but the tube in my nose sort of prevented me doing that.

“I’ve always been proud you’re mine. I’m sorry that I went away. But I’ll be in your corner no matter what. I’m your father; you’re my son. That love is eternal, a bond that can never be broken. You understand me?”

“Honey, give the boy some time. It’s gotta be surreal for him,” Mama nudged him slightly in that way that was distinctly her.

I watched Marco for a second. He’d be my barometer. His face wouldn’t lie to me. He gave me a worrisome smile. I knew it was because I’d frightened him. Then my gaze moved back to Daddy and I saw him in a way I never had before. My daddy was a big guy. Always seemed so. I was so small compared to him that I didn’t know how I could be his. But it was clear, the way he was looking at me now, that I knew there wasn’t any other way to see it. The moment I locked my gaze to his I found I couldn’t look away. And there was so much there I never gave him credit for. I untangled my fingers from Marco’s, patting his hand slightly to say don’t worry hon, just gotta do this for a sec, I’ll be back. He seemed to understand. I still couldn’t move as deftly as I wanted. Brain ahead of my body, I suppose. Daddy tried to take my hand thinking that’s what I wanted. 

I shook my hand out of his and beckoned him to come closer. I lazily ran my hand down the side of his face. I had very little energy left. Everything seemed monumental to do. Just breathing seemed easier but I supposed that was the tube running up my nose that ensured that. I moved my fingers as best I could along his lips then they slowly crept alongside his face to the back of his neck as I pulled him close so his forehead touched mine – and I let go hoping he’d catch me. I broke. Tears and quiet sobs shuddered their way from me and from Daddy, too.

“I got you, boy. You are mine and I will never leave you again. You understand? You are the greatest thing I’ve ever done.”

He said that and so many other words, letting me know how much he wanted me here and that my being gay didn’t matter. Hearing him surround me with his love and his words melted all those years of building an ice wall around me. I’d always felt I was a disappointment to them. It was just easier to excuse his absence and not feel too much about it. It was easier to blame Alaska, or anything else for that matter, than to actually hear what he’d been saying all along because, if I had, it would’ve put the responsibility on me to deal with my parents and their support. Instead, I took the coward way out and blamed them for my own shortcomings.

“I love you, boy. No father could love their son more than me. You hear me? No one …” It was the best thing I could’ve heard, and it had to come from him. I gave myself back to him, letting his love for me wash over me and for that moment I forgot the pain, the pain I’d caused them both, the worrying, the denials of their support, the physical pain I’d endured at the hands of those boys. Boys like Marco. Only, not. 

They aren’t like Marco in anyway.

I mustn’t think those thoughts. Marco was not one of them. He never would be. Marco was family now. Daddy said so.

I heard the rest of them sniffle as they were wiping their eyes. It was distant. It didn’t hold a candle to what was passing between Daddy and me. For this moment, I just wanted to let him take me away to where I was just his boy. The same little boy who did whatever his daddy said because that’s what good sons did. I wanted to be that son. I tried and tried like hell to be that son.

I didn’t think I was always so successful.

But here he was, saying those things and I felt them. Like a newly forged sword, those words and feelings sliced right through whatever I put up to keep my heart safe from what I thought he thought of me. Everyone tried to tell me how wrong I was about him. On some level I knew. 

So tired. This is too much. I need to rest. 

Marco said something that I didn’t catch and then I heard a voice I didn’t know. 

“Hey there, Elliot. I’m Patti, your nurse.” 

She was wiping her eyes as she made her way to me. 

Why was she crying?

“I’ve called your doctor and he’s on his way. We’re going to evaluate you; run a few tests to see where we are, okay?”

I didn’t want to. Not right now. Too much. Simply too much. I reached for Marco out of desperation and pulled his hand tightly to me. I didn’t want to be alone, not ever again. Being alone is when I got hurt; being alone is how I am most vulnerable. I can’t, I just can’t do that anymore. 

I do have people who love me; I do. 

I beckoned with my cast hand, bashing it a bit along the bed rails which sort of hurt but it seemed to get everyone’s attention. I wiggled my fingers at my father as they scooted up near the head of the bed, tucked up near the monitors on that side. I didn’t care. Now that they were here, I wanted them near.

But it wasn’t enough. Not nearly enough. I shook my hand out of Marco’s and huffed, some spit burst from my lips with the exertion. I pointed at Angus and Danny, motioning for them to come forward. They did so, slowly. I waved at them to move it along and as soon as they joined Marco on that side I grabbed Marco’s hand again and put on my best defiant look.  I huffed again.

This is my family. They’re with me.

But it proved to be too much. I was overdoing it. My head fell back for a moment. I could feel myself slipping the tiniest bit.

I’ve slept too damned much. Wake up!

I pointed at my father and then to the bed. 

“Here …” I said. But it was harsh, it hurt. 

“I don’t think he wants us to leave,” Marco said.

“Well, they can stay but they’re gonna have to move over toward the other bed while Doctor Forlani takes a look at you. That’s the best I can do right now. Okay?”

Well, if that’s the best they can do.

I nodded slowly that I accepted that. I gripped Dad’s and Marco’s hands so hard that I felt the tips of my fingers go white. I glanced at Daddy, his face was wet but he didn’t look upset. He looked like I made him proud. When did I cause that?

Then the practicality of my mother’s wisdom inserted itself like she was wont to do.

“Let’s, uh, give Patti some room to work, eh, guys?” She shooed Angus and Dan along with herself over to the spare bed to the right side of mine.

Patti came up near Dad. “The doctor should be here soon.”

“He’s here already,” a very extremely handsome doctor came into the room. Doctor McDreamy on Grey’s Anatomy didn’t have anything up on this doctor. He had that trace of superstar quality about him.

Dad seemed to sense my apprehension with the doctor’s arrival because he ran a comforting hand along my face. I was apprehensive only because I didn’t know what to expect. Having been beaten within an inch of my life was a new experience for me. Gayboy me took that rulebook we’d been playing by and chucked it over his shoulder. We didn’t have a plan B in this sort of situation.  

Marco leaned in so his face was very close to my ear.

“Don’t worry, babe. He’s one of us … he knows about you and me. Evidently, his boyfriend looks a lot like you.”

Okay, that came from out of nowhere.

I knew my eyes widened a bit at that. He just nodded that I heard him correctly. So the real Doctor McDreamy batted for our team. I could get behind that.

I still loved my baby, but having a good-looking doctor wasn’t hard on the eyes or the spirit at this point. I’d gladly take my blessings wherever I could find them now.

“Elliot, I’m Doctor Ari Forlani. But you can call me Ari, okay? And don’t worry about speaking. I know you’re probably really irritated what with that breathing tube. You’ve been through quite a lot. You’ve got some cracked ribs, some head injuries as well as the cast on your left leg and arm. I know you’re uncomfortable with the breathing tube but just let me get a few things sorted and we’ll get that out of you, okay? Just nod if you understand me. All right?”

I nodded to let him know I understood him.

“Fine.”

He poked and prodded me. I responded as best I could given I had a tube that felt like it was the size of an elephant’s trunk down my throat. I kept feeling like I wanted to cough. My jaw was irritated beyond belief. I was achy all over, and I really just wanted to get this shit over with so I could get some rest. 

Energy, man. It was all about the energy.

“Do you think if I remove the breathing tube you’ll have any problems breathing on your own? Any doubts?”

Get this damned thing out, NOW!

“Please … out.”

He smiled. He had perfect teeth! Do all dreamy looking doctors have perfect teeth? I must be tired, ‘cause I couldn’t understand why I kept mentally rambling on about his teeth and his über dreaminess. 

After promising him I would let Marco and Dad move off a bit so they could get in a better position to pull the tube out they moved in to take care of it.

No mistaking it, that was singularly the strangest sensation I’d gone through in the longest time, and not something I wanted to repeat … ever.

“Are you breathing okay?” he asked.

I tried to clear my throat. It was a bit raw but it felt wonderful not to feel obstructed like it had been. I gingerly swallowed, only wincing a bit from it.

“Yeah, I’m good.” It sounded like wet gravel to hear me speak. “Water would be good.”

Mama handed a cup with some water and a straw and she held it to my mouth. I sipped. Like pouring water over cracked Earth. It felt wonderful. I sipped a bit more.

“I’ll still need to test a few sensory things. Perception, that sort of thing. It shouldn’t take too long.”

“How … long?” It was hard to get words to form yet in my mouth since I couldn’t move my jaw. They all came out garbled.

He frowned the tiniest bit, “A few minutes at most, I should think.”

Not what I meant.

“How long ’til … I can … get up?”

Doctor McStudly sighed a bit. I was glad that Beau and the others hadn’t stolen my sense of obtuse humor and wit, even if it was sapping the shit out of me right now to employ it. But it was his sigh that drew my attention just now.

Not good.

I knew then I was in it for the long haul. My gaze darted to Marco for support. He gripped my hand a tiny bit harder to let me know whatever was coming our way he was going to be right there with me.

“Well, let’s see how the next couple of days go, shall we?” He babbled at that point. I knew that Marco was paying attention so I sort of tuned out a bit and just watched his perfectly white teeth while he discussed my higher brain functions. He then caught my gaze and my attention again.

“I know it’s a struggle to figure out how to do anything. You’ve woken from a terrible ordeal. Your body’s half trapped in casts, wired contraptions, and a small sensor inserted into your head. That last was my doing, by the way.”

I felt his hand on my shoulder and he gripped it a tiny bit

“But don’t worry ‘bout that just now. I’m sure if the rest of you checks out as well as your speaking, then I probably won’t have need of the sensor much longer. It’s highly possible that you could be out of ICU before mid-week. So cheer up, things will only get better from here.”

And there was my game plan.  He seemed to sense my deflating from that and continued to try to bolster my less than optimistic route to recovery.

“I know it’s been a lot to wake up to. But we’ll do our best to put things right, at least to get you on the road to recovery. I know it’s not much right now. And you’ll have a hard enough road ahead. I won’t insult you by telling you that you’ll be out of here and back on your feet quickly. I think you’re too smart for that sort of pep talk. We’ll have some therapy for you to go through. And there’ll be some relearning on how to speak and eat for a while. But there’s no reason that by the Christmas holidays you’ll be coming out the other side from all of this, as long as the bumps in the road are kept to a minimum. The most important thing is to know it will get better from here out. And you’ve got an amazing support system. Marco hasn’t left this room since you were brought here a little over two days ago.” 

Nice words, doc. Don’t give me a whole lot to cling to right this red hot second, but yeah, I’ll get back to you on that.

“Babe, just let Doctor Ari take a look at everything and then we’ll have time together. Okay? I promise I’m not going anywhere.”

“You stay here – with me,” I told him. He nodded.

So more checking and “routine” testing began. It wasn’t too bad. He asked the silly questions you hear the doctors ask in the movies. I guess that shit was for real. 

Who knew? I know I sure as hell didn’t. 

It did amaze me how quickly I seemed to want to fire on all thrusters. Though the amount of energy I was expending to do so was staggering. It shouldn’t be like this. That, in and of itself, told me quite a lot about how much I’d been through. But I struggled on, trying to right the ship that was so horribly off course.

To be honest, I got bored with the testing. The doctor had to go out to the nursing station to check on some EEG results. So in my boredom my gaze wandered over to Danny and this Angus guy. 

Ginger. Didn’t Marco say something about a guy being a sexy ginger stud when he was at Stanford?

This guy had to be him.

But how in the hell did he get to know my Danny? I beckoned them over to me. Mom was along for the ride.

“Who’s the big guy?”

Marco leaned in. He was so cute to think that the question was for him. 

“Oh, that’s Ang …” I lazily put my fingers to his face.

Love you, big guy. But this one isn’t for you. Danny has some ‘splaining to do.

I put a finger to Danny’s chest and then pointed to Angus. I hoped they got the gist of my pantomime because while I was fairly aching to talk, it really was a chore.

I knew I was putting the new guy on the spot but goddammit, that was my GBF there. If some stud was muscling in on my turf, then dammit, I deserved to know who he was.

“Well, blame your boyfriend,” Danny deadpanned.

I’d’a growled if my throat didn’t hurt already; so instead I just huffed.

Then Angus’ voice filled the room. He had an awesome speaking voice. Some guys are gifted with a voice that sounds like chocolate. This guy had a voice that would melt chocolate.

“Uh, I don’t think that’s enough, hon. I think he wants you to spill it.”

Dan rolled his eyes, and I rolled mine. It’s just how we are and it warmed me to my very cold soul that we hadn’t lost that between us. I could feel another wave of weariness settling in. I was fighting it. I fucking hated fatigue.

“Keep it short, you two. Elliot’s probably not going to last much longer.”

Hey! Babe, that’s my call …

“Will … so …” I bit back at him. Marco wasn’t buying my bullshit for one muthafucking second.

“Uh huh,” he drawled – he got that from me. “Dan, keep it short, please, despite what the light of my life thinks, he’s fading faster than he realizes.”

Danny didn’t waste time arguing. He just launched into a complete timeline in a stream of consciousness that only Danny could do. It’s why I loved him as much as I did.

“Well, your boyfriend called me when he was leaving the restaurant with Angus. Angus plays on the team at Stanford – and yes, before you huff out your next question, he’s the ginger guy that he told you about. And no, we don’t need to worry about them being so tight with each other, even if they’re so smitten with each other it’s like long lost brothers who’ve been reunited. It’d be kinda sickening if they weren’t so damned cute together. But yeah, we both hate how we had to meet over what happened and all, but you gotta blame the love of your life for this one. Embarrassed the crap out of both of us. But even though we gripe about how he set us up, Marco was right. He knew we were a perfect match.”

Then, like he knew what would heal me, he did the one thing I needed most of all, he leaned in real close and whispered, “I don’t know how I know this, but I do. I think this one is it; I found my Marco.”

Really? Now I really took a good look at him. If Danny was already feeling it that deeply, then I needed to get the download on this guy.

I shoved Danny aside, and held my hand out for Angus to take it. 


This is so not an option, Angus. Take my muthafucking hand or you’re gonna land in the bed next to me!


He was smart if he was anything ‘cause he did and I tugged him right up to me so he couldn’t mistake my meaning.

“I love him with all my heart. Hurt him, and you’ll be worse than me.” It took me a great amount of energy to get that one out so it was crystal clear on what I meant about it.

“Well, all I can tell you, Elliot, is that the way Danny talks about you and Marco is absolutely what I want. It’s what Dan wants in life, too. I’m pissed as hell that we had to meet like this because you’re obviously an amazing person to have so many people who love you as much as they do. All I can do is promise you that I’ll take real good care of him and try to love him as much as Marco loves you. It’s a pretty high bar to meet, but, uh,” he turned his face back to look at Danny standing next to Mom before turning back to me, “what do you think? You think I’m up to the task? I think I’m ready for it.”

I ran a soothing hand down the side of his face.

“Just keep him happy. Promise …”

“You have my word on it. But don’t worry, you’ll see. I’m gonna be around in your life more since I’ve got Dan in mine, right?” he offered with as sincere a voice as I could see him muster.

“Good.”

It was about all I had left. I was really starting to feel the effects of pushing it as hard as I had. As usual, Marco was there for the save.

“Yeah, he’s pushed it too much. But you can’t tell him anything. He likes to think I’m the boss, but I only say what he wants me to anyway.”

What the … 

I gave him the sternest look I could give, daring him to press that button some more and see where it got him.

“Well, you are, sweetheart. You always have been. I just know what you want me to say so I just do that. It’s how we’ll always be.”

I nodded, only ‘cause it sorta was the truth. He leaned in to press his point. 

“You’ll always call the shots, even when you tell me to do it. I’ve just always known what you want me to do. You and me? We’re the best team on the planet. Always will be, right?”

I nodded, finally running out of energy enough that I could feel my eyelids flutter in exhaustion. 

“You rest, sweetheart. We’ll be here when you come to.”

I waved my hand lazily at him and he gently retook it as Angus brought him a chair to sit in next to the bed while I let my fingers gently caress his palm. Just a feather touch because it was all I had at the moment. I sorta let go and closed my eyes to rest them for just a second or two.

I could hear Doctor McStudMuffin return with my testing results. 

“Well, it appears that his EEG and other vitals have been steady and strong since his brief ordeal early Friday morning. In fact, some of his readings have shown a vast improvement already. I think if we can get through the next day without anything cropping up, we should be able to remove the catheter from his head.”

Wait, what? Catheter? In my head?

I struggled back out of my doze to find Marco looking down at me with such love. He placed a soft kiss on the top of my head.

“You should rest, sweetheart. I’ll take care of it for you. I’ll never leave you again.”

“Always?” I managed to whisper to him, my mouth suddenly dry.

He nodded and leaned the side of his cheek gently on my head. 

“… and forever, too.”

I tried to smile for him but the whole thing was so lopsided and painful. My eyes closed, wincing a bit as I did so. He seemed to see this and I loved him for moving in to take care of me.

“Is there something we can give him for the pain?”

“Yes, I was just coming to that. Elliot?”

Marco nudged me again, causing me to open my eyes.

“Yes?”

“On a scale of one to ten, where are you with the pain?”

“Forty-seven.”

Well, my sarcasm didn’t seem to be affected by any of this. In true gayboy me fashion, it just managed to fall out of my wired mouth anyway.

Everyone seemed to have a small chuckle at my little joke. How sad for them that there was so much truth buried in what they thought was funny.

“Yes, well, let me get something going to take the edge off of it for the time being, maybe even get it into the low 20s for you. Would that help?”

I nodded, only because I knew we were past discussing it. He was going to prescribe whatever he thought was warranted. It wasn’t like I really had a say in the matter. So I sort of tuned him out at this point, far more interested in this Angus guy manhandling my gayboy bestie. I tried to see them as a couple but it was all so fucking new and thrown on me that there was a big part of me that wanted to scream GET YOUR FUCKING HANDS OFF MY GUY!

Only, he wasn’t mine. I needed to put that away. 

I was just angry because somehow I missed this turn in Danny’s life. And it seemed to be an important one. But goddammit, he was my guy, too! I know I can come off like a whiny little bitch. I’m not proud of it. But Jesus, you’d think these guys would be a little more appreciative that for a great long while I didn’t have anyone in my world.

Just me.

I played with Marco’s fingers a tiny bit as I wrestled with it, leaving Marco to deal with the über handsome doctor. I had other fish to fry right now.

Danny’s head nestled into the crook of Angus’ neck as he leaned in a bit onto his shoulder. Angus kissed his forehead and Danny’s eyes closed gently. I knew that feeling. It was what I felt every time Marco did it to me. I watched this, trying it on with less selfish eyes. I was tired. That’s why this had to be so irritating to me. Angus obviously was taken with Danny. And Danny did need someone. I knew that. And he needed someone in a hurry ‘cause fucking girls to spend the time in between boyfriends was seriously fucked up. I was still trying to sort that one out. I mean, you had a hand for fuck sake. Why would you want to bang some poontang instead? I seriously needed to work on that boy to get his head on straight. 

Heh. Head on straight. Even I thought that was funny.

“… and if by late tomorrow it seems that you’re able to sit up and not have any other bumps on the road to recovery, then I’ll get a machine set up so you can administer something a bit stronger as you need it yourself. Okay?” The doctor seemed to conclude his little I’m here to make all your pain go away speech.

A light knock on the door of the room and like an energy bolt that brought me alive within seconds my eyes found him was Marcel. Every sense in my body woke up the moment he started to talk. Marco released me, kissed my hand, and moved over to give him a hug. And it was a good thing he did because I’d’ve shoved him that way to do it if he hadn’t.

“Marcel!”  Marco called out cheerfully.

In that way that only Marcel can command a room’s attention, he swept in. I tended to see him far more dramatic and with a big gay flare than he really possessed, though just his being here made me come alive in so many ways. He was better than any pain medication. Marcel brought life.

“I couldn’t help not stopping by when your father called. Elliot, mon dieu.”

He hugged Marco and then came up alongside my bed. 

Marco felt the need to explain our vibrant new guest to everyone in the room. I was glad he did because though I kept wanting to talk I still wasn’t used to having limited ability to do so. I was only too happy to have my future husband take care of it for me.

“This is a friend and colleague of my father’s. Els and I met him and his husband over the last weekend before school began. We were celebrating his parents-in-law wedding anniversary.”

Mom’s eyes lit up. A connection to our past was made.

“Oh! That’s why Elliot wanted that weekend off and how he ended up at that party.”

Marcel waved a dismissive hand, “Ah, it was hardly a party. More of a family get together.”

I could feel the energy coming off of Marcel. Jesus, did I ever miss that lyrical French accent of his. It came at me in waves that I could almost see. It was a turning point for me since I’d come out of my long recuperative sleep. If Marcel knew I was here, then things would get better for me. I had a champion at the hospital. I didn’t know what strings he could pull for me, but I knew he’d try. Or face the wrath of his mother-in-law. I had a small inward chuckle with that thought alone. Clarey was a force to be reckoned with. Somehow I didn’t envy Marcel’s journey with them.

“I will personally be handling Elliot’s rehabilitation as we get him on his feet again. Mon dieu, Elliot. You sweet, sweet boy.” 

Sweeter words had rarely been spoken. Well, to me at any rate, if they weren’t from Marco. 

I could tell that they all thought Marco’s quick explanation of Marcel’s place in our world provided minimal information about how we knew him. I was slightly amused by their not understanding the breadth of it, but was too wrapped up in Marcel to deal with it. I’d leave that to my future hubs.

True to form, Marco was there for the hand-off.

“But, er, you’re right, Mom. That was the party that Elliot called you from that night. Marcel is married to their son. They have two delightful children.”

“Holy terrors, actually. But Jeffrey and I adore them. So what can you do, eh?” He shrugged but his eyes were so bright that I couldn’t help myself and I felt myself metaphorically lean into them. Marco, on the other hand, wasn’t through with needling Marcel about it.

“Careful now. Henri and I are old playmates. I’ll tell him you said that.”

To my delight, Marcel volleyed right back.

“Then, I will have to get you two to babysit for a day and we’ll see just how much you love them, no?”

“You do that, only, uh, yeah, after we’re back on our feet again,” Marco concluded. Doctor McHottie seemed to be amused by Marcel’s takeover of the room.

“Mon ami, I’ve been furious when I found out about this shit! I’m sure you’ll be seeing Clarice and Morty soon. You know how much they love you both.”

I felt a slight pat on my shoulder from Marcel and it was such a wonderful feeling, though it also triggered Marcel going into full-on big time doctor mode. To be honest, I sort of liked seeing Marcel in this light. Normally, I wasn’t one for doctors as hospitals and operating rooms tended to creep me the fuck out. But I guess, given the nature of my boyfriend’s family profession, I’d have to get myself over that, especially, because I had another doctor in my ever widening family.

“All his vitals checking out?” Marcel asked in that very professional tone doctors used with one another. I know I was reading way too much into it, but it made me feel better to have Marcel take control.

“Yes, the EEG and other functions are all where they should be or improving greatly now. I should think by tomorrow morning with any luck, he should be able to sit up. We’ll see to his catheter removal at that time because I think we’ll’ve cleared that hurdle.”

Mom gasped. My gaze moved from Marcel to find her hopeful. 

“A cautionary optimism. Let’s take it one step at a time,” Doctor Sexy offered. 

I really already had so many adjectives to describe Doctor Ari it was rather alarming. He didn’t belong in some real hospital. He needed to be on some soap opera making million of housewives swoon with his dreamy looks. And I could take solace that he was on our team, sister. I was secretly fantasizing with the thought of watching him break hearts left and right. That really amused me to no end, though why I was wasting precious energy on this line of thinking was a bit beyond me.

Focus, dammit.

Mom apologized for jumping the shark on my recovery.

Eh, it’s okay, Mom. If you can get this whole thing to move along, I’m good with it.

I think she recognized what I was mentally sending her way. She winked at me, so maybe she did. We could be like that at times.

I suddenly found I wanted Marco near me again. It happened in waves. My thoughts would be elsewhere and suddenly my body would go into a solid craving for his touch and his touch alone.

Like now.

I wiggled my fingers at him while Doctor Porn Star finished yapping about some machine that would make my life truly wonderful. Whatevs … I just wanted my guy again. I’d let Marco take care of the details.

He saw my hand waving around for attention. He came to me without hesitation and as soon as I felt his hand in mine my thumb immediately, without a second thought, purposefully rubbed his inner palm. I wanted him. I wanted him to devour me and make all of this go away. I wanted to leave everything behind and just melt into him. He could surround me and keep the world away and I’d just become a part of him. 

Anger roiled around in there. 

I looked up at Marco. He had such love for me and look how I repaid that. He nudged his chin forward a bit at me letting me know message received, babe. But I could also see that he was worried about me physically.

I felt my brow furrow over that. 


I’m not made of glass, babe. In case ya hadn’t noticed, I survived.


He smirked the tiniest bit. Yeah, I think he heard me.

We were still good, still connected and that was what was going to get me through. Marco was my protector, my lover and he’d be there for me at every turn.


Always.