Steve: Chapter Seven
  Here's the warning. If you're not 18 or your parents are in the room, don't read this story. If you don't like the thought of two guys doing it until the windows shake, don't read this story. If you're a dumbass, don't read this story. If you don't know the difference between "prostate" and "prostrate," you must have some pretty interesting sex. Otherwise, go ahead and read the story.

This chapter of the story is narrated by Mike. This is the first story I've ever posted, so be gentle.

My heart had been ripped out of my chest, torn apart, lit on fire, and stomped into the ground. The second I heard what had happened, I grabbed my dad's car keys and drove way too fast to the hospital. What usually would have been a 30-minute trip I made in 20. It was just dumb luck that I didn't get into an accident of my own.

When I got to the hospital, they made me wait. I had to sit in that claustrophobic little room with the stale air and magazines from 1982 while I waited to find out whether Steve was going to die. I couldn't believe this was happening to me.

"Fuck, this isn't real. I'm gonna wake up all sweaty and irritable in a few seconds. Come on." I just buried my head in my hands and sat there, still in shock. Not an hour and a half before, I was sitting on the couch, snuggled up to him. How had this happened? Damn.

"Are you okay, sweetie?" I looked up and saw an old woman, maybe 70 years old, sitting on the couch across from me. I gave the best smile I could manage (which wasn't all that great) and nodded.

"Yeah, I'm fine. It's just my-" I paused for a second, thinking about what I was about to say "-best friend was found on the side of the road. He was hit by a car."

"Oh, that's horrible!" She brought her hand up to her mouth in a gesture you'd expect from someone her age. If it was a different time, it would have been funny. "What happened?"

I told her how I had found out, leaving out the parts about us being together. The phone ringing had woken me up. It was George. The hospital had picked Steve up after some guy walking his dog called an ambulance. He didn't have any ID on him, since he was wearing my clothes, so they faxed a picture of him to the police station to see if they could identify him. George had been working late, and when he saw Steve, he called me.

The old woman just shook her head and looked sympathetic. I knew she could tell I was too upset to be just his best friend, but she didn't know why. It was all the better, I suppose. I didn't need to have THAT conversation right then.

After about a half-hour or so, one of the nurses came by and told me I could see him. They had moved him from the ER into one of their patient care rooms, or whatever they called them. I thanked the nice old woman who had kept me company; her name was Gladys or something similar. I didn't really catch it when she said it. She gave me a friendly hug and told me she hoped Steve got better soon.

There was a doctor waiting for me when I got to the room. He looked me over and raised an eyebrow.

"The room is only open to immediate family," he said.

I shook my head. "I'm the closest thing he has to immediate family at the moment." That made his ears perk up. "What's the matter with him?"

Astutely professional, he started talking. "The police are calling this a hit-and-run for the moment, until there can be a full investigation. He's extremely lucky to be alive. He has several superficial bruises on his legs and a wound on his left arm. There are a few bruised ribs, but nothing too serious there. He also apparently hit his head, knocking him unconscious. We're not sure how long it's going to be until he wakes up."

I heard him but I didn't understand. I mean, I understood all of the concepts, but things weren't penetrating. At least Steve was alive. That was all I needed to hear. He'd wake up soon and be able to go home with me. The doctor left and I sat down in a chair next to the bed.

Steve looked pretty peaceful, actually. He was even more covered in bruises than before, but he was alright. Just... asleep. I sat there for the longest time, staring at him. I looked up when there was a knock at the door.

"Hey guy, you okay?" George was standing at the door in full uniform. I motioned for him to come in. "I heard what happened from the front desk." He stood next to me and put a hand on my shoulder. It was a comforting gesture, but it didn't do much for me. "He'll be alright. He's a scrapper."

I looked up at him, giving him a crooked look. "A scrapper? When did it become 1950?" I laughed for the first time since I had woken up. It was forced, though. I sighed and went back to staring at him, wishing he would wake up.

"Come on, your parents are in the waiting room. This really isn't the way I wanted to meet your dad, but I guess you gotta take what you get." He patted my shoulder and started walking out. "Coming?"

I shook my head. "What if he wakes up and I'm gone?"

"Then he realizes, 'Hey, I'm in the hospital.' He pushes the nurse call button and a nurse comes in. She says, 'Hey, you're awake.' He says, 'Yeah, I figured that out.' She goes to call his parents. Everybody's happy." I winced at the mention of his parents. "What?"

"It's just that he's staying with us because his parents reacted badly to the news about him and me." I shook my head. "It's okay, though. He's got me still. And I'm not leaving."

George walked over and grabbed me by the arm, pulling me out of the chair. "Yes, you are. Come on. It's not healthy for you to sit here and just stare at him. Besides, it'd be awkward if it was just me and your parents."

I let him pull me out of the room, only putting up a bit more of a fight.

He, my parents, and I all had dinner at some steakhouse. I wasn't hungry, but they made me eat. I guess it was good they did, because I wasn't exactly thinking clearly. They could see how upset I was. Conversation was stalled at best. When we were leaving, Dad took George aside and said something to him. I didn't catch it, but I wasn't paying much attention, either.

My parents dropped George and me off at the hospital, where our cars were. I insisted on going to check on Steve again, so George insisted on coming with me. I tried to convince him not to, but he was more stubborn than I was. We both went up to see him.

Nothing had changed. I sat down next to him again, just staring. I must have looked pretty damn close to catatonic, really. I didn't even notice that George was still in the room. It was silent for a while.

"Come on, we're going home. You can come back tomorrow." George started to pull me up again, but I fought him.

"Just go," I said, "you don't need me to get home."

He shook his head. "Yeah, I do. What, you thought I was going to let you drive home like that? Your dad told me to bring you back home with me, and that's what I intend to do."

"Look, I'm fine, just a little tired." I tried to reason with him, but knew it wouldn't work. "I'm okay. Really."

"Driving while tired is actually worse than driving drunk. Come on. We're leaving." He grabbed me again and pulled me up. I was pretty sure that if I didn't go with him, he'd pick me up and carry me to the car. I followed him out.

We got back to his place and he changed into more comfortable clothes. There was a conversation, but I wasn't an active participant. Most of my answers didn't contain more than three words, if that many. He eventually gave up and went to bed. I was tired as hell, too, so I stripped down to my t-shirt and boxers (Steve's, actually) and tried to get some sleep on the couch.

I couldn't even close my eyes. This was the first time in almost a week I'd had to sleep alone. Before that night, Steve had always been there by my side. I was exhausted, but couldn't make my mind stop working long enough to get to sleep. After about 20 minutes of trying, I gave up and went into the bedroom.

"George?" I called softly. "You awake?"

"Uh huh," he said in a voice that sounded half-asleep.

"Umm, I know this sounds weird, but could I, maybe, sleep in here tonight?" I asked the question before I could tell myself not to.

"Yeah, get in. I was wondering when you were going to ask." He rolled over from the center of the bed to make room for me. I climbed in, keeping a respectful distance. He was nearly naked, save for his boxers. I guess he did know I was coming.

I turned to face him. "Thanks for doing this. I know it's-"

"Not talk now. Sleep now. Talk later," he interrupted. I turned and got on my side. Somehow, I managed to get to sleep. It wasn't very deep or relaxing, though.

About an hour or two after I had finally fallen asleep, I woke to find myself snuggled tight against George. He had an arm wrapped around me, but he was still asleep. I thought about pulling away for a second, but it was comforting to know that he'd do this for me - even if he wasn't fully aware of it.

Still, there was no way he could ever compare to Steve. He didn't have the right scent. There's really no other way to say it, but Steve smelled like Steve, and I loved it. He didn't have Steve's stubble that would graze my cheek when I touched him. He didn't have Steve's ability to make me feel secure with just a touch. He just wasn't Steve, and that was what I needed. I sighed, rested my head against George's arm, and fell back to sleep.

When I woke up, he was in the shower. I got up in search of some breakfast. When George came out, neither of us mentioned what had happened. How awkward would that have been?

"So what're you going to do this morning? I don't think they're going to let you see him for another few hours." George had sat down across from me.

"I dunno," I said, "I guess I'll go home for a while. I'll probably have to call up a few people and let them know what happened. That'll take up a bit of time."

He nodded. We weren't talking much and I really wasn't trying to. I went and grabbed a shower before we left. He dropped me off at the hospital with my car and told me he'd come by and check up on me later. I nodded and he drove off.

The entire morning I just felt sick, like I could start vomiting up breakfast any minute. I called Susan and she came over as soon as she could. I would've called Rachel, too, but she was working. It was just Susan and me, like it had been every Saturday night for the past few years. Usually we just went and saw a movie or did some shopping or something. It was fun. After I had come out to her, she'd point out all of the cute guys around us. "One of us has a shot," she'd always say. I'd just laugh and shake my head.

There wasn't much laughing that morning, though. She and I sat in the living room, not really talking, but she was being comforting and I appreciated it. It was right around then that I realized how many extraordinary people I had in my life. How many other people can say that they have friends who were close enough to just sit there and listen to you be depressed?

I had woken her up when I called her. It was around 7 by the time I got home, so we just sat and talked (well, she talked) for two hours or so. Then it was off to the hospital again, so I could sit there for hours that never seemed to end, waiting for something that just didn't want to happen. She sat with me for a while, maybe a little over an hour, but needed to get home. I stayed. In a way, I wished I had gone, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.

Steve's mother came in while I was looking at his hand, tracing the lines that made his fingerprints. His hands weren't really that much bigger than mine. They were rougher, though. Darker, too. All of his skin was naturally darker than mine. Not by much, but it was.

I gave her a cursory nod when she sat down in a chair on the opposite side of his bed. I didn't look at her, though. I couldn't. I knew that if I did, I'd probably start saying things that I'd never be able to take back. Despite all that, I could feel something gnawing at me. I stood up and went to leave.

"He didn't mean it," she said quietly. That got me madder than anything else she possibly could have said.

"Really," I started. The glare could actually be heard in my voice. "It seemed pretty sincere when I was wiping the blood off his face yesterday."

She looked down at Steve. She actually hadn't made any eye contact with me the entire time she was there. "I don't suppose it would mean anything if I said I was sorry."

"Not to me, no." I shook my head. "I really don't give a damn how you feel."

She sighed. "I just don't want him to hate us." There was a pause. "No, me. I don't want him to hate me."

I leaned against the wall, just thinking for a second. "You said he didn't mean it. What did he mean, then?"

"I don't know if he's ready to accept it. I'm not." She stopped and looked over at me apologetically. "I don't know if he-if we-ever will be, really. I just don't want to lose him."

"You should have thought of that before your husband tried to kill him," I thought. I didn't say it. It'd lead to a meaningless string of insults and attempts to hurt each other. I headed for the door. "I'm going out for a bit. I'll be back later." In my head, I added, "... and I hope you won't be here."

I had a headache and the feeling that I was about to puke came back. I drove around for a little bit, looking for somewhere to sit and think. I didn't want to do anything. For a second, I wished I could just join Steve in unconsciousness. It'd be so much easier than dealing with it. I eventually wound up back in the hospital parking lot. I didn't want to go back up. I'd have to see him lying there, unable to do anything about it. A deep sense of melancholy settled over me. I started to slowly trudge in, not able to do anything else.

Rachel was sitting in the hall outside Steve's room. "I was wondering when you'd be showing up."

"Hey, Rach," I said, standing her up and giving her a hug. "How'd you know?"

"Susan called me a little while ago at work. I was working half-day today, so when I got off a little while ago I decided to come up and see how you were doing." She let go of me. "Both of you."

"There hasn't been much of a change with him." I looked at the door, but it was shut and there was a curtain over the window. "Is his mother still in there?"

"No, she left a few minutes ago." She turned and started going into the room. "Why?"

I explained to her about what had happened: all about how his dad had tried to beat the shit out of him, how he was living with me now, and I made an effort to explain how he was put in the hospital. She just shook her head sympathetically and sat with me.

"I've been spending entirely too much time in hospitals lately," I said. We had moved into Steve's room and were sitting next to each other. I don't know why, but I never really figured Rachel for the type of person I could easily talk to. Yeah, I liked her and enjoyed her company, but she always seemed a little vapid to me. There I was, though, telling her how I felt. Not all about how I felt, of course; I'd never told anybody that, not even Steve.

I always had my secrets. There were things about myself that I never wanted anybody else to know. Certain things made me appear weak and I hated them. I would keep a distance from other people, using my sarcasm and irony, but I could never really do that with Steve. He wouldn't let me keep him at bay, so I just kept some things to myself. It was torture not telling him, but I felt that I couldn't.

I guess Rachel and I were sharing a bond created by our mutual depression over the utterly horrible state our lives were in. We talked for a bit, laughing a little, but mostly just a serious conversation about what we were doing and how it was going to affect us for the rest of our lives. It was scary. She'd always have what happened to her in the back of her mind, gnawing at her, making her uncomfortable and untrusting of anybody. I'd have trust issues of my own, too. There were always people like Steve's father around, and you can never really tell who they are.

She had to leave at around noon. We had spent two hours just sitting and talking to each other. I enjoyed it, and she said she did, too. Once again, I was left alone with my thoughts.

It was weird to look at him in the bed, IV tubes in his arm, hooked up to monitors to make sure he didn't stop breathing or anything. I leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. He had a day or so worth of stubble on his face. Cute as ever. I started talking to him, even though I knew he couldn't hear me.

"Hey." I laughed at myself for a second. "Damn, I can't believe I'm talking to an unconscious guy. My unconscious guy. You're still cute, even if your hair's a little messed up." I reached down and moved it into place. "There, that's better. Now all the nurses will be fighting over who gets to give you a sponge bath."

I chuckled at that thought, but got serious again all too quickly. "Do you have any idea how hard this is for me? I mean, just looking at you lying there, helpless... it's almost too much for me. You were always the strong one, you know. Always the one who took care of everything-of me." I sighed and bent down along the side of the bed, getting into a position where I could hug him. I did, gently, resting my head on his shoulder. "I've always needed you there to protect me. From what, I don't know, but I always have. I never told you, though. But I will."

I felt his arm move slightly, resting itself on my back in a slight hug.

"Did you think I didn't know?" he whispered in a labored voice. My eyes opened up and I looked at him to see him looking right back.

"Steve!" I cried, happier than I can ever remember being. I hugged him as tight as I could.

He flinched. "Oww! My ribs!"

He was awake! I went to the pay-phone in the lobby outside the waiting room and started calling people. The nurse and doctor had shooed me out while they gave Steve a checkup to make sure he wasn't too severely damaged, so I was making good use of my time.

Susan told me she'd come as soon as she could. Rachel was getting a very unhealthy lunch at a donut shop, so she said she'd bring over a box for me. George was glad, but couldn't make it off work. He said he'd come by as soon as he got off. My parents said that they'd be coming up later that afternoon-they both had to work until then. I thought about calling his mother for a second, but decided against it. She was one of the last people he needed to see at the minute, falling a distant second to his father. Besides, I figured that the hospital would be calling them.

When I could finally be alone with Steve again, I checked to make sure nobody was coming, then gave him the most passionate kiss we had ever shared. His lips were soft against my own; the stubble around his mouth gently scratched at them when I'd move my head. When I pushed my tongue past his lips, he readily accepted it. He pulled me down and wrapped his right arm around my back, bringing me closer to him. I explored his mouth, gently licking the inside of his cheek and tasting him. He was as close to perfection as you can get.

"God damn," he said when I pulled off, "where the hell did you learn to kiss like that? Shit, that was incredible!"

I stood up and got into the chair beside his bed. "I had a great teacher." He grinned at me. I reached over and grabbed his hand, then started stroking the back with two fingers. "I'm so glad you're alright. When I thought that you might not be, I-"

"I'm all right, I swear," he cut me off. "There's something I need to tell you, though."

"What? Did you puncture a lung or something?" I stiffened up again, nervous about losing him.

"No, nothing like that. Relax." He grabbed my hand. "It's just that the guy driving the car... it was Jeff."

"Jeff?" I said, not able to wrap my mind around the concept. "Pizza-delivering, ex-boyfriend Jeff? Why would he try to run you down?"

"I dunno, maybe the thirty minutes were almost up." He saw me glare at him. "Sorry. I really don't know, though. I'm pretty sure he knew it was me and he was trying to hit me. I tried to get out of the way when I saw him, but he swerved to hit me. It's just luck that I was able to roll myself off the side instead of being run over."

"God, not more drama. That's the last thing we need right now." I slumped down in the chair. "Are you sure you were kidding about Susan's evil twin?"

He chuckled. We both started thinking about something. A silence settled over the room.

"Umm, Mike?" He looked over at me. "Did my parents come in to see me?"

"Yeah," I said, "but just your mother. I didn't talk to her that much, though. I had to leave before I said anything too bad to her."

Steve leaned his head back and closed his eyes. "Don't be mad at her. It's not her fault."

"She didn't stop it," I said quietly.

He looked over at me again, sitting up slightly. "In a way, she did. If she hadn't distracted Dad by yelling at him, I might not have been able to push him off me. He's a big guy."

"Just like someone else I know," I said. I leaned over and lightly rubbed his chest. "I love you, ya know."

"Yeah, I know." He reached down and held my hand in place. "But not nearly as much as I love you."

"'Scuse me? Who was the one sitting here pining away at your bedside?" I grinned, wondering how I was able to joke about it so soon after the fact.

"Pssh, that's nothing. Who's the one who got hit by a car for you?" He smiled at me and intertwined his fingers with my own.

"Oh, whatever, you got hit because Jeff's a raving psycho." I leaned down and kissed him again, not as passionately, but with just as much feeling. "Let's just call it a tie, okay?"

"Yeah, sure. That's what the loser always says." He grinned up at me again. I wanted to slap him, but I didn't know where I could without hurting him. I just glared at him instead.

There was a knock at the door, so we separated quickly. Susan walked in.

"Glad I'm not interrupting you guys," she said. "That's odd. There's a bed, and you two are in the room alone together. I would have expected that you'd be doin' it like rabid bunnies by now. I can come back later."

"Hey, I'm always up for a little experimentation with the fairer sex." Steve grinned over at Susan. "You can play around with Mike, too, if ya want." I glared at him and twisted his hand back until he winced. "Oww, car accident victim here."

"Say you're sorry." I put a little more pressure on his hand.

"I'm sorry," he said in a far-too-sincere voice. I released the pressure. "Look at what I have to put up with from him! Here I am, lying in a bed after waking up from being unconscious for almost 24 hours and look at what he does to me!"

"You know you like it," Susan said, laughing. "Otherwise, you wouldn't still be holding his hand. I never would have figured you for the whole pain thing, though."

"Thanks for coming, Suse." Steve smiled up at her. "Rachel should be here in a minute. She promised me donuts when Mike called her."

"I did no such thing!" Rachel walked in, holding a box. "I promised Mike donuts. If you want some, you're gonna have to ask him."

"Please?" He looked at me with the biggest puppy-dog eyes and I almost melted. I stayed reserved, though.

"I dunno, it can't be good for you to have all that sugar." I pretended to think about it.

"Pretty please?" I don't know how, but he managed to bat his eyelashes at me. I almost laughed.

"Hon, your cuteness is about to collapse in on itself," I said, "take a damn donut. Just not the Boston-cream. I love me some Boston-cream."

Guess which donut he took.

"You fucking bastard, give that back!" I shouted once he had taken a bite. I leaned down and licked some of the filling off of his lips. He winked at me, giving as good a smile as he could with his mouth full. I took a bite out of the donut and relented. Susan and Rachel were sitting there, shaking their heads and grimacing at each other.

"You girls are welcome to participate in some hot lesbian action," Steve said, swallowing. "It'll just be wasted on us, though."

"Don't you wish," Rachel smirked. "How come the phrase is always 'Hot lesbian action?' I'm sure that has to put a lot of pressure on the lesbians to be hot all the time." We all gave her a funny look and laughed. "Sadly, nobody in this room is attracted to girls."

Just then, a doctor walked in. Damn. All of our eyes popped right out of our heads. He was gorgeous.

"I hope that just changed," Susan said. We all just started laughing. It felt good after brooding for so long. The look on the doctor's face was precious, too. He had no idea what was going on. That just made us laugh more. By the time we had all calmed down enough to hear what he had to say, he ordered us all out of the room so he could talk to Steve. I decided to go call George again. There was something I wanted him to do for me.

"Officer Davis, please," I said. There was a pause.

"Davis here," came the voice on the other end.

"Yeah, hey George, it's Mike again. I'm not sure if this qualifies as hot information or anything, but we know who was driving the car, and we think he hit Steve intentionally. I was wondering if you'd be able to open an investigation or something." I played around nervously with the phone, slipping my finger into the change return. I found a nickel.

"Yeah, I'm pretty sure the last time I checked it was a crime to run somebody down in a car. Hold on, I'll check on that." He shouted across the room at somebody, "Hey, Smith, is it still a crime to run somebody down in a car?" He turned back to me. "Yep, it is."

"This is all I need: McGruff the bitter and sarcastic crime dog. Just gather up any information you have on Jeff Williams and come to the hospital, you blue-suited freak." I grinned into the phone.

"Yeah, I'll be there in 45 minutes or so. Don't go anywhere." He hung up and I just shook my head. I knew what everyone was trying to do: they were trying to take my mind off the fact that Steve was run down by some raving psycho. It wasn't working too well. I kept thinking about why Jeff would do something like this, and the only thing I could come up with was me-the fact that I had a relationship with Steve and he didn't. Jealousy can do weird things in the mentally unbalanced.

I sat down next to Rachel. We were still waiting on the okay to go back into the room and talk to Steve some more. He was okay and that was all I needed, really. I don't think I had ever been as upset as I was the night before. But now, here was the news that he was fine and he'd be able to come home with me soon. I was ready to get out of that hospital, too: it smelled like disinfectant, which I guess is kinda necessary for a hospital, but I didn't like it.

Finally, the doctor came back out and told us we could see him again. The tubes were gone from his body and he could get up freely. The three of us went in and sat around the bed. A nurse was finishing up with some machines, but left soon after we arrived.

"The doctor says I'll be good to go by tomorrow afternoon, but they need to keep me overnight again so they can monitor my progress and charge me more money." I smiled at him again. There was just something about him that made me constantly want to smile.

"Speaking of which, are you still on your mom's insurance?" I asked. His father paid for the car, life, and home insurance, and his mother got medical and dental through work. His father did, too, but his mother's was better. I found all this out three summers before, when he had broken his arm and I went with him to the hospital.

"Yeah, I think I'm covered until I'm 20, or until I get disowned," he said, frowning. His eyes perked up again in a second or two, though. "My card's in my wallet, which is in my pants, which are on the floor in your room."

Rachel and Susan looked at each other and started laughing. "You two have been doing naughty things, huh?" Steve just smirked.

"I took my pants off so I could put on a pair of sweats, thank you very much. Filthy minded girls. Mike and I are as virginal as... umm... I was going to use one of you as an example, but that just wouldn't work." The girls glared, then got up and surrounded him. They both reached down and started tickling him, right on the sides of his stomach where he was extremely sensitive. He alternated between laughing and grimacing in pain. "Oww, stop it! This is abuse of the handicapped!"

"Quit your whining, boy." Susan slapped him on the shoulder. "Otherwise we might just have to hurt you."

The tickling continued for a few more minutes until I broke it up. Susan and Rachel offered to go call my parents and tell them to bring Steve's wallet, even though I knew it was just a flimsy excuse to let us be alone.

"I wish I could go back with you tonight," Steve said after they had left. I nodded.

"Yeah, but the hospital really isn't in the habit of letting their unconscious patients go the second after they wake up. Never made any sense to me, either." I smiled. "Do you have any idea how good it feels to have you back?"

"I don't suppose I do, no," he said, holding my hand against his chest. "I'm glad you think it does, though."

"Alright, one, where did this sudden streak of modesty come from? And two, how could I not? You should have seen me while you were unconscious. I was, I dunno, more scared than I had ever been in my entire life." I looked down into his eyes and smiled at him. "You're the best thing that's ever happened to me. Even before we were together, I don't think I could have pictured my life without you. The words don't even begin to do justice to it, but I love you."

"That's one of the things about you that drives me insane, ya know." He smiled at me.

"What?" I asked, smiling back because it was infectious.

"Your ability to say exactly what I'm feeling in words that I'd never even think to use." He stopped for a second, just staring at me. "Well, that, and your ability to use words like 'pretentious' and 'unrequited' in every day conversation without looking stupid. And, of course, there's always that great blowjob you give."

"You are such a horny little bastard." I pretended to be shocked at his comment. "Although I haven't had a piece of that cute ass in a while." I lifted the blanket and looked under at his body, covered in the flimsy hospital robe. "Cute gown, too. Does a lot for your figure."

"Screw you," he said.

"Yeah, that's kinda the point." I bent down and kissed him. That was something I could never get enough of. The way his mouth tasted, similar to mine but a little different, was beyond intoxicating. His tongue darted into my mouth, starting up a miniature fight between us. I didn't complain, of course. Still, after a minute or two, I pulled up. There was something nagging at the back of my mind.

"Okay, I'm really not sure how to broach the subject, but here goes," I said, my hand still on his chest. "Last night, after I found out that you were in the hospital, I came down here and just sat for a long time. Then, George and my parents came down and we all went out to dinner. Afterwards, he wouldn't let me drive home, so I wound up staying at his place. I couldn't sleep on the couch, so I wound up in bed with him."

Steve gave me a raised eyebrow.

"Oh, no, we didn't do anything. I'd just gotten used to a warm body next to me, but you weren't there, so I had to make do." I could tell he wasn't upset or anything, just a little surprised. "I just wanted to tell you so it wouldn't be this big secret and get blown way out of proportion if you found out later or something."

"Don't worry about it." He grinned at my slightly surprised reaction. "What, you thought I'd get all jealous over you and George? Please. I'm three times the man he is, and I've got all that fuzz on my tummy you love so much."

I reached down and petted him through the blanket. He was right. George was absolutely no match for Steve in any department.

"'Scuse me? Three times? Whatever." George walked in through the slightly open door. "I don't see you walking around with a gun in your belt."

"That's 'cause it's in my pants, dumbass." Steve smirked up at him. "So how long were you eavesdropping?"

"I wasn't, I just heard my name when I went to come in, so I listened for a minute." He looked over at me. "Why didn't you tell him that I'm pregnant with your baby?"

"Because it's not mine, you ugly crack whore." I grinned, too. "Anyways, get to conducting your investigation."

Rachel and Susan wandered in sometime during the exchange and took their seats behind us. Rachel was still checking George out, and Susan wasn't exactly averting her eyes when he bent over, either. He reached into a leather case he had brought with him and pulled out a folder. He handed it to Steve.

"Is that the guy who hit you?" he asked. Steve looked at the picture and nodded. He handed the folder back to George, who sat it on the table next to him and started looking through his case again. Rachel looked over at the picture.

"Oh my god," she said, "I-I think he was one of the guys from the other day."

In my mind, I could tell that things were falling into place, but I really couldn't see how. Rachel's situation was related to Steve's. That much was pretty apparent. What I couldn't figure out was how. Where did Jeff fit in? How was he related to Ryan? Why did he go after Steve? It was all too much. I sat there, quietly, just watching George ask the questions. Susan and Rachel had left the room to talk, but George and Steve were going over the incident.

"Hey, Mike, you there?" George was waving his hand in front of my face.

"Hmm?" I mumbled, shaking my head. "Yeah, I'm just thinking."

"Well, would you like to share with the rest of the class?" George asked. I just rolled my eyes at him.

"I was wondering how everything was related and all." I looked up at him. "You have a hard job, ya know."

"Why do you think I wanna quit?" He grinned at me, then sat back down. "Things might not be related at all. Jeff could just be a raving psycho. Of course, that's not very likely. I mean, he'd have to be a little nuts to do this, but I'm guessing things are connected."

"What I can't figure out is how he's related to Ryan," Steve said. He had sat up in the bed, complaining about stiffness from having laid in one place for too long.

"I dunno, we're just gonna have to ask." George reached down and picked up the picture again. "Hey, Mike, can you go get this copied for me. I only need one more."

I grabbed the picture and went to the front desk.

"Hey, can I get two copies of this, please? It's for the officer in room 119." The nurse behind the desk smiled at me, then took the picture to make copies. He was kinda cute, for a nurse. He turned back to me and handed me the copies. On my way down the hall, I folded one up and shoved it into my back pocket. I had a plan, and I doubt George would have let me do it if he knew about it.

"Hope you boys didn't have too much fun while I was gone." I handed the folder to George, who tucked it into his case. He stood up.

"If you two don't mind, I'm going to go talk to Rachel now. I swear, you guys have brought more work into my life..." he trailed off, smiling at us. We waved and he left.

"You sure do know how to pick 'em, eh?" I said, smiling. I moved over to the chair closest to Steve.

He smiled at me. "Yeah, I know. I seem to have a thing for the crazies."

I glared at him. It didn't last long, though. I could never even pretend to be mad at him for any amount of time. "I am worried about you, though. I mean, he's still out there. He could be on his way here at the moment."

Steve moved over in the bed, turning onto his side. "C'mere," he said, patting the bed with his hand. I lay down next to him, facing him. He put his arm around me. It was comforting, to say the least.

"This really doesn't do much to help with the worrying, ya know." I grinned at him and he grinned back. He was warm, so I pushed myself closer. It wasn't exactly cold in the room, but it wasn't very hot, either. I sighed contentedly.

"I've got the best security around, though." He looked toward the door. "A large, angry policeman who happens to be our friend. Think about it: couldn't George kick Jeff's ass?"

I laughed a little at that thought. Still, I was scared about what might happen. For some reason, I thought that if I could just get him home, he'd be safe, even though there was better security at the hospital and it was very close to the Columbus police station.

We were just staring into each others' eyes when we heard someone clear his throat at the door. I immediately jumped up and Steve rolled over onto his back.

"We've, umm, got your card," my father said, still standing in the doorway. Steve motioned for him to come in.

"Hi, Steve. How're you doing?" Mom sat in one of the chairs next to the bed. What was this? Was she actually being cordial to Steve? She hadn't even spoken to him since our "discussion" the other day.

"I'm a lot better, thanks. I can finally move around. Gotta hate those IV tubes." He smiled. I could hear a touch of awkwardness in his voice, but I don't think anyone else caught on.

"We're just glad to see you up and about. Mike, why don't you come with me out to the waiting room. Everybody's out there, and I think we should check it out." Dad got up and started toward the door. I followed.

"Sure, Dad," I said, grinning a little, "I'll leave Steve and Mom alone to talk."

He just shook his head and we left. There wasn't much going on in the waiting room. Rachel was sitting quietly, deep in thought. George was sitting next to her, comforting her. Susan looked bored and angry and anxious and concerned all at the same time. Dad and I sat in what had become a little circle of people.

None of us said anything. We really didn't have anything to say. All of us, except Dad, were going over what had happened and wondering if there had been any signs of it before. I couldn't see any. Maybe the way Jeff had looked jealous that first night. My mind just ran itself in circles until it tired itself out and I just stopped thinking about it. It seemed like everyone else had the same blank look on their faces, too.

Mom came out after about 15 minutes or so. Dad went to go talk to her for a second, then they both came back over.

"Mike, we're gonna get going. You'll be home in a little bit, right?" Mom asked. I nodded. "Good. I'm gonna need my car tomorrow. As it is, I had to have your dad take me to work." She stopped for a second and looked at me, smiling a little. "I think I'll be able to handle this. Bye, honey."

She gave me a peck on the cheek and they were off. Everybody went back into the room. It had been a weird day and it wasn't even close to over yet. It was somewhere close to 3, so the hospital staff would probably be chasing us out soon. George needed to get back to the station to file a report or something to that extent. We all sat and talked for another 20 minutes or so, not really mentioning what all of us were thinking.

The mood had changed so rapidly over the day. I kept going from depressed to thoughtful and moody to completely ecstatic, then back again. Everyone was like that, usually at the same time. When we all went to leave, we were stuck at thoughtful and moody. I was, of course, the last one out.

"I'll miss you," I said. Steve smiled at me.

"Yeah, I know," he said, "there's not going to be a large cop for you to sleep with, either. You're just gonna have to make do with your teddy bear."

"I don't own a teddy bear, dumbass," I said, smirking.

"Yes you do," he smiled back. "I saw it on the top shelf of your closet. Raggedy looking thing, too."

"Oh, that," I said, blushing a little. "Well, what do you expect? I've had him since I was 3. Besides, you're a way better teddy bear than he is." I looked around for a second. "Just don't tell him I said that."

I leaned over and kissed him again. It felt so good that I really didn't want to leave, but I knew I had to. I promised to be in and check him out first thing in the morning.

The drive home was unexciting. I stopped off to get some gas for my mother (and a soda for me), then realized that I hadn't had anything but a donut or three since breakfast, so I stopped off at the drive through. The evening was boring, too. It lasted forever. I tried to watch TV, play video games, read something, write something, do some designing, and all kinds of other stuff, but still the time just dragged on. I turned in early, at around 9:30. I swear, I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

The next morning, I was up far too early. I had to wait a few hours before I could go get Steve from the hospital. My parents had both gone to work (their days off and half-days coincided strangely with the trauma in my life), so I was alone. I checked my email, did some replying, and basically wasted time until I could leave.

Checking him out didn't take too long. I brought along some clothes for him, and we were in his car about 45 minutes after I had arrived. There was a bandage around his left arm and his face was a little bruised, but other than that, he looked good.

We ate lunch at one of the fast food places in town, then went home and sat around talking. Eventually we wound up in the position of me lying on my back on the couch and him lying on top of me, on his stomach. It felt incredible. He was warm and sexy and comforting. I sighed happily.

"This is what I used to dream about," I said. He had his head resting next to mine on the pillow, his eyes closed. "I mean, of course I used to think about sex with you, but this was what I thought about most. Being close to you, feeling you against me. It's better than I ever imagined."

He smiled. "I know what you mean. I used to think about something similar to this. You're incredible, you know."

I felt that now-familiar feeling of a soft tickle in my stomach. I smiled at him. "Of course, in my fantasies, you were never this heavy. What the hell have you been eating?"

Steve laughed. "Mike, stop ruining our moment and kiss me." I did.

I'm very sorry about how long it took to get this chapter out. There have been far too many traumas for me to mention, though they did include a mild case of writer's block. Suffice it to say that I've been lacking time and drive to work on the story lately, but that's going to change soon, I promise.

Thanks again to Andy, who keeps my work legible and neat. Also, thanks to everyone who has sent me letters: even if I didn't respond (as I may not have, since I often forget which ones I've written back and which I haven't), they're appreciated. Keep writing.

Send constructive feedback on this story to Flamers will be forced to eat like college students. That's right: Spam, ramen, and that soda that costs 15-cents from the machine outside the grocery store.