“Michael Waters?” Ian stared at Asher lying in his hospital bed. “You’re telling me that you kissed Mr. Dimples…that incredibly hot, but undeniably straight guy from the bar the other night?”
Asher nodded his head and smiled at the confused look on Ian’s face.
“But what about your date with Tyler on Saturday night?” Ian asked.
Wincing at the mention of the other man’s name, Asher contemplated coming clean. Tyler worked with Milo at the art gallery. The news of their one-night-stand was going to get around eventually. Before he confessed all of the sorted details, Ian blurted out, “Oh my god, you fucked Tyler, didn’t you!”
Asher’s eyes widen when Ian figured it out. There was no use denying it, “You have to believe me, it wasn’t planned. We hit it off and it just kind of happened.” Asher’s voice strained when he started coughing, as he admitted the truth.
“Where does that leave Tyler? Are you planning on telling him that you’re interested in someone else or are you just going to leave the poor guy hanging, hoping for a second date?”
Asher pinched the bridge of his nose, squeezing his eyes closed, he said, “He already knows.”
Ian opened and closed his mouth like a fish out of water, gasping in air. His pale face slowly grew redder, but still, no words came out as he glared at Asher.
“Michael sort of showed up at my apartment. I thought he came to apologize for the fight we had, but instead he kissed me.”
“He kissed you?”
Asher bit his bottom lip trying to contain his smile, “Yes, and it was amazing.”
“Jesus Christ, you’re getting a freaking boner just thinking about him!” Ian raised his voice and pointed to the thin hospital sheet starting to tent with Asher’s erection.
Quickly adjusting to cover his growing excitement, Asher chuckled and rolled his eyes at his best friend pointing out his body’s response to just thinking about Michael Waters.
“Unfortunately,” Asher sighed, “Tyler was still in my bed when Michael kissed me and he was able to see the whole thing.” Closing his eyes, Asher remembered the pain on both men’s faces. “It just happened so fast, and then Tyler was walking naked through my apartment. Michael freaked out and ran away. A few minutes later, Tyler was leaving too.”
Ian chuckled. “Dude, you really know how to fuck-up a first date.”
Asher rubbed his fingers over his face and nodded in agreement. “Yeah, I know.”
“Where is Mikie-boy?”
“You just missed him. Michael went home to change, but he’ll be back soon.”
“So, are you guys dating now?”
The long pause spoke volumes. Asher had also debated that very question in his mind a million times.
The playfulness left Ian’s voice. “Let me guess. Mr. Dimples is a hopeless closet case that only wants to fool around in the dark?”
“It’s not like that,” Asher quickly defended Michael. “He’s confused about all this--”
“About what,” Ian growled, “He has the balls to make-out with you, he’s brave enough to dabble with his bi-curious side, but he draws the line at actually dating you?”
“Ian,” Asher tried to protest, but a fit of coughs choked out his words.
“I don’t want to sound cliché Ash, but screwing around with straight guys might be fun for a while, but it never ends well.”
“What do you mean, ‘it was a fucking accident?’ This guy ‘accidentally’ discharged his gun into Asher’s chest?” Michael raised his voice at the police officer standing in Asher’s hospital room.
Everyone jumped when Michael continued to shout. “He could have killed him, does he know that? Does that asshole know Asher almost fucking died?”
Ian sat on the edge of Asher’s bed while his parents, Lilly and Tom, paced around the small room. Everyone stared at Michael and Officer Duvall squaring off. The officer scowled as his dark eyes narrowed on Michael, taking a protective stance in front of Asher and the rest of his family.
“Just calm down, Mr.…” The officer quickly scanned the notes in his little black journal looking for Michael’s name.
“Mr. Waters,” Michael finished for him with a growl. “I’ll be a lot calmer after you have that douchebag locked up.”
“That’s one of the reasons why I stopped by. I wanted to tell you that we have a suspect in custody.” The officer proudly puffed out his chest when he announced, “Douglas Allen was placed under arrest this afternoon.”
“That’s great news,” Ian said patting the back of Asher’s hand. “I can’t believe they caught the guy so quick." Michael’s eyes glared at Ian touching Asher’s skin. His face reddened when Ian didn’t immediately remove his hand from Asher’s body. The touch was innocent, but Michael looked shaken by the close contact. He shook his head and turned his attention back to the officer, ready to continue the argument when he was interrupted.
“Did he confess?” Lilly asked, while her husband, Tom, wrapped his arms around his wife. “Has he told you why he did this to our son?” She needed to know. Up to this point, they had all speculated why someone would have wanted to hurt Asher, yet none of them could come up with a valid reason.
“Yes, ma’am. The suspect admitted to shooting Asher, but he claims that his intended target was your son’s co-worker, Mr. Andrew Zigler.”
“Ziggy?” Asher exclaimed with surprise. “The guy was trying to kill Ziggy?”
Officer Duvall nodded his head. “It appears that Mr. Zigler was having a sexual relationship with the suspect’s wife.”
Asher burst out laughing, which brought a fit of wracking coughs that shook his entire body. Lilly rushed over to her son at the same time one of the nurses rushed in to investigate what was happening. The episode passed quickly, but not before Asher chuckled and told the officer, “Of all the dicks to get shot over, Ziggy is the last guy I thought I’d take a bullet for!”
Ian chuckled under his breath as Lilly and Tom rolled their eyes at Asher’s inside joke. The officer glanced between them before suddenly looking back at Michael, whose face paled at the bad pun.
The nurse wasn’t happy that Asher had gotten so agitated. She glared at Officer Duvall, then quickly glanced over everyone else in the room, “I think it’s time for Mr. Burkhart to get some rest. Why don’t you come back later when he’s feeling up to having visitors?”
“Yes, ma’am.” The officer tipped his head towards the nurse, and then turned his attention to Asher. “I just wanted to let you know that the man has been placed under arrest. You need your rest, so I’ll check back in a day or two to update you on the case; in the meantime, you have my phone number, in case you need to call for any reason.” The man glanced at the nurse, who silently confirmed that Asher would still be in the hospital for the next few days.
After the officer left, she turned her attention on Asher’s remaining visitors, “That goes for all of you.” She frowned when they didn’t immediately move towards the door. “C’mon, chop-chop.”
“Alright, Nurse Ratched,” Ian mumbled under his breath, bringing a smile to Asher’s face. Lilly and Tom both kissed their son on his forehead and told him they would be back after grabbing something to eat.
“That applies to you, too,” The nurse cocked an eyebrow at Michael, hanging back after everyone else left.
When Michael reluctantly headed for the door, Asher reached out and grabbed his hand. “Can he please stay?” He asked the nurse with big pleading eyes. She glanced between them then placed her hands on her hips with a huff.
“He can stay only if you promise to get some sleep--”
“I promise,” They answered in unison.
“And you,” She continued over top of them, turning her icy stare on Michael, “keep your voice down. There are other patients on this floor who need just as much rest as your friend.”
“Yes, ma’am, I promise.” Michael spoke, looking like a child that had been scolded.
Once she was satisfied that she wouldn’t have any more trouble out of them, she checked Asher’s chest injury, then lifted his limp right hand, inspecting it for any change in sensation. The nurse finished up and recorded his vitals in his chart. “Are you having any trouble breathing?” She asked him as she adjusted the dial on the medication pump set on Asher’s I.V. stand.
Asher told her no. She appeared satisfied with his answers and worked her way towards the door. Michael grabbed the chair from the far corner and scooted it closer to the bed; he laced their fingers together, just as Asher’s heavy eyelids fluttered closed.
Dr. Edwards checked on Asher’s progress the next morning while he still slept. “I’m quite pleased with Asher’s prognosis. He’s recovering remarkably well.”
“When can he go home, doc?” Michael asked, still curled up in the chair beside Asher’s bed. Lilly smiled at him. He had barely left Asher’s side since the moment he arrived.
The doctor glanced between Asher’s parents then back to Michael. Lilly nodded her head. It was a slight movement, giving permission to discuss Asher’s care with this man that obviously had strong feelings for her son. “If Asher continues to improve at this rate, I think he should be ready to go home by the end of the week, but he won’t be back to work for a while.”
As if hearing his name, Asher started to stir in his the hospital bed. He moaned when his stretch was cut off by the IV line stopping his arm from extending. All eyes turned to him and watched him slowly wake up after another medicated sleep.
Removing his glasses, the doctor smiled when he turned towards Asher. “You’re incredibly lucky, Mr. Burkhart. If that bullet had hit the left side of your chest instead of the right, it would have struck your heart dead center. Even with the track the bullet actually took, it still did extensive damage to the pectoral muscle as well as the nerves that extend under your arm and continue down to your elbow and hand. There was a lot of repair done during surgery, but you’re going to need physical therapy after you leave the hospital to regain full strength in your arm. Now that you’ve had a collapsed lung, you’ll have an increased risk of lung complications down the road, but we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”
Tom Burkhart thanked the doctor as he left to check on his other patients. Turning towards his wife, he told her, “We have to get your sewing supplies out of Asher’s bedroom before this weekend.”
“I can move some things into Allison’s room for the time being.” Lilly told Tom. The Burkharts had not touched their daughter’s bedroom since the day she died. Everything was exactly where she had left it.
“No, Mom,” Asher’s voice was still groggy from the pain medication, “I want to go home--”
“That’s what we’re discussing, honey.” Lilly patted his leg, as she and her husband continued to make arrangements for Asher’s release from the hospital.
“Not to your home. I want to go to my home.” Asher said more forcibly.
“The apartment is out of the question.” Lilly didn’t even look at him, as she and Tom continued planning for his medical needs.
Michael remained quiet as the tension mounted between Asher and his parents.
“I want to be in my own place, surrounded by my own things.” Asher struggled to sit up and gasped from the pain.
“You see that?” Lilly admonished her son, “That’s exactly why you can’t go home on your own. You are going to need constant care for a few weeks. It already takes us almost an hour to drive into the city as it is. The daily commute alone--”
“I’ll stay with him,” Michael suddenly spoke.
All eyes turned towards Michael, sitting in the chair beside Asher’s bed.
“I have plenty of sick leave and vacation time accumulated,” He suggested, “And I already live in the city so it’s really not out of the way.”
Asher stared at Michael. The distance between Michael’s uptown apartment and Asher’s downtown walk-up was further than Michael was letting on, but Asher was contemplating the idea. Over the last few days, they had very few moments alone. They were surrounded by doctors and nurses, family, friends and co-workers. Michael had been by his side the entire time, yet they’d hardly had two seconds alone.
Smiling at the opportunity to get to know Michael better, Asher quickly agreed, “Thank you, Michael, that’s a very generous offer.”
Lilly frowned. “Are you sure, honey? It’s a lot of work for just one person,” She questioned her son.
“Yes, Mom, I think it’s a good idea, and if Michael needs to do some work or run an errand then Ian or Milo can swing by and sit with me, so you don’t have to make such a long trip,--”
“I would walk to the ends of the earth for you, Asher Gabriel Burkhart.” Lilly scolded her son. Asher knew it was true. His mother had always put her children and her family first before everything else.
“I know, and I love you for it,” Asher softly admitted to his mother.
Michael’s eyes crinkled when he heard Asher’s full name. “Gabriel?”
Cocking an eyebrow, Asher shot Michael a challenging look, “Don’t forget that I’ve seen your driver license,” He let that knowledge sink in before announcing, “Not only do I know your middle name, your height and your weight, but I also know your age and that you’re an organ donor.” Asher finished playfully sticking out his tongue.
Michael faked a look of outrage, “I think that’s an invasion of privacy,” He claimed.
Asher shook his head and chuckled. “Nope, that knowledge is protected under Client-Bartender Privileges Act of 1933.”
Lilly and Tom smiled listening to their playful banter.
Lilly Burkhart took charge of getting things ready for Asher’s homecoming. When Michael left to gather his personal belongings from his home, Lilly contacted a cleaning service in the city to give the apartment a thorough scrubbing, convinced that the colony of microbes living in Asher’s place would cause even the healthiest person to come down with some mysterious third world disease.
Asher begged his mother not to go out of her way, but she insisted. Once Lilly was out of earshot, Asher pleaded with his dad to supervise the work, stating his urgency by adding, “There’s stuff in my place that is, uhmmm, well, let’s say that it’s very, very personal,” Asher winced as he searched for the right words.
“Jesus Christ, Ash, what do you have, a secret orgy room?” Tom muttered under his breath.
Asher rolled his eyes. “No, Dad, but I’m a healthy young guy with an active sex life--”
“Don’t you think you’re over reacting a little, Ash? I’m sure the maids’ have cleaned homes for customers who have sex,” Tom waved his hand, dismissing Asher’s concern.
“I was having sex… gay sex, hours before I was shot, Dad, how well do you think that one is going to go over?” Asher was blunt, his eyebrows shot up as he watched Tom’s face pale suddenly understanding Asher’s urgency.
“Oh! I’ll just send Michael to the apartment ahead of the maids--”
“It wasn’t with Michael,” Asher bit his lip, as his eyes glanced around the room, too ashamed to look his father in the eyes after admitting the truth to the man that raised him.
Confusion clouded Tom’s words, “But, I thought you and Michael were dating?”
Asher took a long deep breath before looking up at his dad, “It’s complicated.”
Tom nodded his head. He wouldn’t do anything to cause his son more pain. “Well, on second thought, maybe I should go help your mother.”
Asher forced a weak smile when his father suddenly understood the depth of his dilemma and ran off to oversee Lilly’s latest project before the maids arrived.
New Chapter is up as promised. I didn't want to leave you guys hanging. I'm heading to the hospital tomorrow morning, my surgery is scheduled for first thing and if everything goes well, I'll be home in a few days. ((I make a terrible patient...everyone who works in HealthCare does, LOL))