Sunlight gleamed off the brightly colored tents, lending them jewel-like hues. Everything seemed brighter today. The spark of light on a sword, the elderly matron’s eyes as she turned to him, the spun gold of the strawberry vendor’s hair. Anthony smiled for the dance partner he had chosen from the twenty-first century audience and got a girlish giggle in response. Even that sounded sweet. Jerrett was bringing Sasha to the Faire that afternoon. Life was grand.
He kissed the woman’s hand at the end of the pavan, sent her back to her family and bowed to the other dancers before he scampered off to his next scripted piece at the ‘tavern’. This faire operated on a scripted theme, though the actors had plenty of room for improv, and this year the director had chosen the point in Henry VIII’s life where he had begun making accusations of adultery against Anne Boleyn.
Anthony, chosen to play the Queen’s champion, Sir Francis Weston, couldn’t have been more pleased. Playing the bad guy was great fun; playing the hero was even better when your lover and your…ah…what was he to Jerrett, anyway? Sex toy? Conquered rival? Friend?
He shook his head. Not a time for puzzles. He had to concentrate on work.
He spotted them while he was walking Thunder, getting him warmed up for the jousts. It gave him a chance to show the Friesian stallion off to the children, talk to them about war horses and let the big guy bask shamelessly in all the attention. He didn’t have more than a chance to wave to Sasha and Jerrett but it was enough to know they were there.
Jerrett was in a mellow, indulgent mood. He wouldn’t have picked this particular outing for himself, but it made Sasha happy. So odd, he didn’t know when he’d started caring about making his lover happy…no, that was a lie. He knew when. It was the moment he knew he wanted Sasha for more than just a casual fuck, the moment he realized he would take a beating to have him back if that’s what it took, the moment he realized he loved him.
He looked at Sasha’s smiling face as he waved at Anthony and wished there was some private spot he could take him in this throng of people and make him moan and beg. He shook his head at himself. Yep, Hawthorn, you got it sooo bad, he thought with a little chuckle. He waved at Anthony, too, and then led Sasha toward a shady spot where they could sit and people watch while they waited for the real reason they were here, to see Anthony perform.
Anthony asked one of the children the time and pretended horror at the late hour. He must be off, he told the gathered crowd as he lifted a little girl down from Thunder’s back. Taking great care to walk Thunder clear of all those gathered, he ignored the stirrups and vaulted to the stallion’s back, giving Thunder the click signal for a little bit of careful rearing and pawing before he rode off.
Grandstanding? But of course. In this venue it wasn’t merely acceptable, it was expected.
The first set of jousts was a series of formal games where the knights had no need of plate and helm. Targets and rings to spear with the lances, practice dummies to behead on galloping ride-bys, it was more a set up for the main event than serious competition. This venue also acted as the dramatic set up, where Henry finally made public accusations and Anthony, in the guise of Sir Francis, protested the Queen’s innocence and declared he would defend her honor on the field.
Renaissance soap opera, a real bit of melodrama, but it was fun. The preliminaries ended with Sir Francis accepting his Queen’s favor in the form of a bunch of blue and yellow ribbons on the end of his lance.
Sasha watched it all with bright, sparkling eyes. He loved this stuff, all this chivalry and honor business. “He’s not too shabby, is he, sir?” he said as he looked up at Jerrett.
“He’s quite a good actor,” Jerrett said, and he meant it. Anthony had the crowd enthralled. Jerrett smiled, and he was damn cute in his tights, too.
Sasha ducked his head on a little grin, catching the predatory gleam in that smile. He wondered if all the knights had problems with people checking out their…assets. Probably.
Half an hour and a lemon ice that Jerrett bought him later, Sasha settled with his Dom onto a bench for the best view of the jousting, directly mid-field. This was the real thing, no acting. While the actors tried for a certain outcome, (the hero was supposed to win) anything could and frequently did happen.
Anthony was damn good, though, and it didn’t take any acting for him to unhorse his first three opponents. Even though all the knights were in full plate now, he was still easy to spot and follow with his bright gold shield, bear rampant, and Thunder caparisoned in gold and red.
In Sasha’s opinion, Thunder was by far the most beautiful horse there, with his feathered fetlocks and his glorious black tail. He didn’t belong to Anthony – it was more of a jockey sort of relationship, a partnership developed over the years without the expense of boarding and feeding such a massive beast.
With the field whittled down to the final two combatants, Anthony rode out to the lists again. Jerry, who played his squire, handed up his shield, wished him good luck and waited for him to get settled before he handed up the lance. Turned away from the crowd, he failed to see the danger before it was too late.
The little girl who had sat astride Thunder, in some sudden, fey wish to bestow her own favor on her new favorite horse, ducked under the barrier and dashed into the lists. She had no way of knowing that the chanfron Thunder wore severely restricted his vision. The unexpected footsteps startled him. The ribbons suddenly waved under his nose panicked him. He shied and reared with a piercing whinny, the little one directly under his dinner-plate sized hooves.
“Hells!” Anthony swore.
In an adrenaline-driven feat of strength, he yanked Thunder’s head around to the left, away from the child. Good for the kid, bad for him. Thunder backed a step, overbalanced, and began to topple. Time slowed to an agonizing crawl. Anthony had time to think that he should probably kick free of his stirrups and jump clear, time to realize the plate had caught on the damned things, and time to think, oh, damn, of all the times for this to happen…
The clatter and thud of their fall brought people to their feet, shrieking. Jerry yanked the little girl to safety and Thunder floundered on his side with Anthony trapped beneath him. The horse regained his feet, stamping and snorting, the knight, with one foot still snagged in the stirrup, lay still in the dust.
Jerrett was completely unused to the sensation of utter fear and panic that gripped him. That did not, however, slow him down. He jumped over the rail and down onto the sandy soil and was halfway to Anthony when he realized Sasha was right beside him. He had no idea how bad Anthony was, and he didn’t want Sasha to see if it was really bad. He grabbed Sasha’s arm and pulled him to a halt. “Sweetheart, stay here.” He didn’t wait to see if Sasha would comply or not, he ran to the figure sprawled in the dirt.
Jerrett, fortunately, did not make the same mistake the little girl had. He stopped running a few paces before he actually reached Anthony and tried for a hurried, yet less startling walk the last few paces. The last thing he wanted was for the spooked animal to take off dragging Anthony behind him.
The horse blew through his nostrils but did not shy and Jerrett quickly got around to his other side. “Anthony? Anthony…?” he called, heart thudding in his chest as he got his foot un-wedged from the stirrup and carefully lowered his leg. That was one less worry at least. He dropped to his knees, the weird gut gripping fear still twisting inside him. “Anthony? Can you talk?” Fuck fuck fuck!
There were people shouting all around, he heard more people running now. Probably people who knew what they were doing, he hoped. He shouldn’t touch him, shouldn’t move him, just in case… oh, fuck it, they would have to take the damn helmet off anyway. Gently, disturbing him as little as possible he removed it and tossed it aside. Anthony’s face was ghostly white, with a stark line of red at his lips dribbling from the corner of his mouth.
Oh, god… “Anthony, if you can hear me don’t try and move, ok?” he said, although he had a feeling Anthony couldn’t hear him at all, it was better than doing nothing. He put his hand gently on his forehead. “Just hang on, help’s coming.” Which they were, official looking guys running across to them now.
“Sir, you a friend?” the one in charge asked. When Jerrett nodded, he went on. “You can stay right there, just don’t get in the way.”
Security had appeared as if by magic and began to herd the crowd out. Sasha, tearful and pointing, was adamant enough that they let him stay at the edge of the field where Jerrett had put him.
“Jerry? How much of this damn sardine can is removable without jostling him?” the medic called out.
Jerry had secured Thunder to the pickets and hurried back. “Most of it. The breastplate, probably not.”
“It’ll have to do. Get started. Careful with the left leg. Probably broken.”
While they worked on easing the armor off as much as possible, Anthony’s eyes fluttered open. He blinked up at Jerrett, struggling to focus. “Sir? Did I sleep through the alarm?” he rasped out.
“Shh…” Jerrett stroked his fingers gently over his hair . “No, just lie still. Don’t try to move,” he repeated now that Anthony was awake. “You had an accident, help’s here though, and you’re going to be ok. Just lie still.” He managed to make it all sound very calm and reasonable, not even a hint of a tremor in his voice. What he was thinking was, please let that be true, let him be ok.
A little hiss came from Jerry as he removed the sabatons and greaves. White bone protruded from Anthony’s left shin, blood dripping from the tear. “Oh, damn, that can’t be good.”
One of the medics moved quickly to secure the broken leg while the other shone a light into Anthony’s eyes and tried to ask him questions. Puzzled and drifting, Anthony asked why all these people were in the bedroom before his eyes slid shut again.
“Concussed,” the older medic muttered. He pulled out a little walkie-talkie and began to speak rapid-fire, “Bring the wagon out here, Fran. We’re not moving him on foot. Pulse is rapid, respirations steady but shallow, hard to say about lung sounds with that damn armor. Get a move on.”
He turned to Jerrett again. “Coming with him or you want to follow?”
Jerrett almost said he was going with them, almost. He wanted to stay with Anthony, but there was no way he could leave Sasha to follow on his own. “We’ll follow,” he said, his voice still steady but lower, almost hoarse. He leaned down low toward Anthony’s ear as the ambulance rolled across the sand toward them. “Ant, you’re hurt, but you’re going to be fine. You do what these guys say to do, hear me? Sasha and I are going to be right behind you, you won’t be alone but a few minutes.”
The ambulance had pulled to a stop and Jerrett had to move back so they could get him on the stretcher. He kissed Anthony’s forehead and got up, moving to let the pros do their job. He immediately looked for Sasha and made a beckoning gesture as he walked back toward him.
Sasha came at a run, a hasty wipe of his sleeve drying his tears. A muscle twitched at Jerrett’s jaw and Sasha wasn’t about to add to his stress with hysterics. No questions, no demands, he simply slid his hand into Jerrett’s and hurried along beside him.
He fought to control his shaking as they drove behind the ambulance. Anthony would be all right. He had to be. Silently, Sasha prayed.
In the ER, they were soon separated from Anthony again and ordered out to the waiting room. The plate had been cut off and the gurney whisked away to radiology first, then to the OR.
Now, with everything at a halt for them and nothing to do but wait, Sasha allowed himself the luxury of turning to bury his head against Jerrett’s chest and cry.
“Sh…sweetheart.” Jerrett murmured into his soft hair and held him close. “He’ll be all right.”
In his head, he kept seeing the horse going over backward, all that weight landing on Anthony’s slim body, Anthony’s pale face and that bright red line of blood at his mouth. Jerrett shook his head. He was going to be fine. He was at the hospital, they would fix him up, and he would be fine. His hand stroked Sasha’s back and his arms clutched him tight. He had better be fine. He wanted to storm past those swinging doors and demand they make him fine. For Sasha’s sake. Because he was so upset, and he would be even more upset if…
“He’s going to be fine, Sasha.” Jerrett said, a firmness in his tone that said no arguments would be allowed. Still holding Sasha with one arm, he reached into his pocket for his cell phone. He needed a distraction. He scrolled through the contacts and called Elric. Keit answered.
“Keit, there was an accident today. Anthony was hurt. We’re at the hospital now, no word yet on how bad.” He voice was steady as he relayed the information. Keit said he would let the Prince know, and make some calls.
Elric blew out a slow breath when Keit relayed the news. “I shall call Derelict. He vill be…distressed. If you could call Vincent. Ve shall start there. I hesitate to call Anthony’s mother until ve know more.”
Bright lights shone in Anthony’s eyes. He wished someone would turn them off. From murmured conversation nearby he gathered where he was and that he was in trouble. The phrase ‘have to intubate if his respiration doesn’t stabilize’ disturbed him the most.
Through a red haze of pain, he followed events distantly as the anesthetist sat down beside him and spoke to him softly about putting him under and how he might wake up with a breathing tube. He wanted to say he understood, that they should go ahead, but what came out sounded more like, “String and watchmakers.”
Lovely. His mouth had come disconnected from his brain. Maybe he had landed on his head. Must have since he had the oddest memories of Jerrett, gentle and concerned. Stroking his hair and calling him Ant. That couldn’t be right.
Der showed up first, and Sasha pulled himself together long enough to tell him everything that had happened and then cry all over him. Keit showed up about ten minutes later, and the scene was pretty much a repeat. Jerrett let Sasha do the talking, it gave him something to do for one thing, and he wasn’t much in the mood for talking himself. He stood with his shoulders leaned against a wall and his arms and ankles crossed, a casual pose but his vibe definitely didn’t invite anyone near.
Vincent showed up a while later, the little knot of friends comforting each other as they waited. Jerrett left them alone and stayed where he was.
As the hours went by each of them took turns going for coffee, soda, or snacks. Jerrett stayed right where he was, unmoving. Sasha came and asked him once if he needed anything, Jerrett told him no, he was fine, and Sasha went back and sat with Keit and Vince.
Finally, a doctor with a clipboard came out and said, “Is there someone here for Anthony Dupree?”
Jerrett pushed himself from the wall like a statue suddenly come to life. “Yes,” he said, before anyone else moved.
“And you are?”
The doctor flipped through his papers and nodded. “Good, yes, he indicated we could speak with you.” He tucked the chart under his arm and spoke in a low, clipped voice, “He’s out of surgery. In recovery. A lot’s going to depend on how well his body tends to fight off infection. He’ll be in considerable pain when he wakes up and once the lung stabilizes and we start talking about releasing him, he’s going to need considerable support.”
Jerrett waved that off. “No problem. How is his leg?” The sight of white bone and blood kept replaying in Jerrett’s head. It had been a really bad break, he knew that.
“We’ve inserted surgical pins. He’ll need therapy, but he should regain full use in time.”
Jerrett nodded. “When can we see him?”
“He’ll be out of recovery shortly, and they’ll bring him to his room. You can go up as soon as you want.”
Jerrett gave another little nod and thanked the doctor. He told everyone else the news, even though they had probably heard most of it. He gave the room number and let them all go up, saying it was probably a bit much for five to go at once. He waited until the little troupe had made their way to the elevators and then sunk down into a chair. His shoulders slumped and he ran a tired hand over his face, taking a single deep shuddering breath and blowing out.
Not twenty minutes later, Sasha returned, chalk white but with a determined set to his jaw. He eased into the chair beside Jerrett and wrapped his arms around him.
“I sent everybody else home. Ant’s not awake and Der just kept bawling. I thought maybe it would be better for everybody if it was just us.” He nuzzled at Jerrett’s throat. “Are you all right?”
“I’m fine, sweetheart. Let’s go home then, if he’s not awake.” Jerrett said, and stood, tucking Sasha under his arm as he did.
Sasha nearly balked. He wanted to stay…but he understood Jerrett well enough by now. “Yessir,” he said softly, nestling close.
Anthony woke in the middle of the night, still intubated, and panicked. Alarms shrieked, staff pelted into his room, and the tube was pulled out, an incredibly unpleasant sensation. Then, since he never had reacted well to anesthesia, he took some time to heave into the basin one of the nurses held for him.
“Fuck,” he whispered when he could lie back again, panting. Hells…his chest hurt so bad, his head pounded and somewhere lower down the pain became a tangle of agony. He wasn’t sure exactly where.
“Now, now, none of that,” the nurse murmured while she mopped the sweat from his face.
“At least you’re saying what you mean again.” She smiled and gave his shoulder an encouraging pat.
A resident arrived a few minutes later and replaced the tube with an oxygen mask so Anthony wouldn’t feel as if he struggled so hard to breathe. She sat down with him and explained where the damage was, none of which truly surprised him. A couple tons of draft horse had fallen on him, after all. The armor had probably saved him from worse.
Alone again in the two a.m. hush of the hospital, he tried to rest, a futile effort with all the pain. They didn’t want to pump him full of happy meds, concerned about depressing his respiration rate too far. All he could do was lie there and think, a dangerous exercise for a hyperactive man.
He kept returning to Jerrett’s hand on his forehead, wrestling with how much he might have imagined. Not that he really cared how Jerrett felt about him, as long as it meant he could see Sasha. The man wasn’t his type at all, so arrogant, high-handed, and full of himself. He didn’t feel any real attachment to Jerrett, why would…
Of course, there was that gorgeous body. The fire in those dark eyes right before he closed in for a kiss. Gods…those kisses. An ache settled in Anthony’s groin despite all the pain. The memory of Jerrett’s soft laugh washed over him, the way he saw through everything. No. Ridiculous. He couldn’t be falling for Jerrett. It was just silly. And even if he did…was…had… Damn. Even so, he could never expect the feelings to be returned.
He sighed, wished he hadn’t, and prayed for morning to come.
Over the next few days Jerrett made sure the necessities were taken care of, Anthony’s car picked up, his employers and insurance people dealt with, although he didn’t officially have any power to do so. It was just one of those things that was very ‘Jerrett’. He simply acted as if he had all the authority to do whatever he wished and people didn’t question it. He did not go to visit, but he made sure he had an update from Sasha, and privately from Anthony’s doctor, every day.
By the time Anthony was released from the hospital, he had nothing to worry about or to take care of; it had all been neatly done without any bother.
Jerrett drove with Sasha to the hospital to pick Anthony up. In typical Jerrett fashion, he hadn’t bothered to ask Anthony if he wanted to stay with them while he recovered. He simply sent Sasha to collect whatever he thought Anthony would want or need and set up one of the guest rooms for him.
Naturally, Sasha had filled in the courtesy gap and let Anthony know so there wouldn’t be any surprise. For his part, Anthony was grateful. He harbored no illusions about staying alone in his apartment, in a wheelchair, barely able to hold a spoon steady to feed himself. The Prince had offered, Vincent had offered, but the thought of having Sasha look out for him, even part time, felt much more soothing than anyone else.
He pestered the nurses until they helped him get washed up and as dressed as he could in a good pair of pj‘s, and into the hospital wheelchair which would transport him to the car. Cheerful, cooperative, no trouble at all, that was the face he wanted to put on for Jerrett. But gods, he hurt by the time they were done and he felt woozy and tired.
Sasha came into the room only a moment or two later, nearly bouncing on the balls of his feet. Jerrett came at a more sedate pace just behind him.
It was the first Jerrett had seen Anthony since the day of the accident on the faire grounds. He looked at him now with that touch of a smile on his lips as if the world was his playground and he was simply indulging the people around him with his presence. “Well… all the king’s horses and all the king’s men seem to have put you back in one piece at least. Ready to go?”
Anthony looked down at himself, pretending surprise and rasped out, “Well, so they have.” He gulped a breath, still finding the whole breathing thing difficult. “Yes, please. Get me out of here before they decide to keep me.”
So they took Anthony home.
With Anthony carried between them, his broken leg in its cast sticking out like some strange, sculpted appendage, they got him in and out of the wheelchair as gently as possible. He kept a smile frozen in place but his gray-green pallor told them it was a brave lie, every movement excruciating.
That first night, Sasha slept beside him in the guest room. Rested, rather, since sleep would have been a misnomer. Anthony’s struggles to breathe terrified him and though the doctors assured them he was much improved, he lay awake listening to the quality of each breath, like a mother terrified of SIDS.
As long as Anthony lay quietly and experienced no spikes in pain, his torn lung and broken ribs behaved well enough. Only when he gasped or began to pant in pain the whole respiration thing became a challenge.
When Sasha had to go to work the next day, he made sure both his loves were fed and that Anthony was comfortably propped up for the day with everything he might want within easy reach. That way, Jerrett wouldn’t have to play nursemaid too much.
Anthony channel surfed for a while, amazed at the incredible wasteland of daytime TV. He settled on a show about tigers and lay there, immobile and dejected. Nothing worse than being stuck in bed, alone, with his own thoughts. He sniffed and realized his nose had started to run.
The one thing that was on the far side of the nightstand- the tissue box. Couldn’t very well wipe his nose on his sleeve, though. He edged over an inch, hissing at the pain in his leg, then decided to simply reach over and…
Flame arced through his side. He snatched his arm back with a sharp cry. “Fuck…oh, fuck.” With his arm clamped in hard, he tried desperately to keep the tears of pain back and slow his shallow panting. He couldn’t even sit back up to reach the oxygen and now his vision tunneled since he couldn’t slow down.
Jerrett had been puttering in his office, distracted and a bit surly for no real reason. He heard Anthony’s cry of pain and was out the door and down the hall without even knowing he moved.
“Anthony? What happened?” he asked as he came to the side of the bed. He had a sudden vivid picture in his head of Anthony lying in the dirt, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. He thought for sure that image was going to haunt him for a long time. He was almost surprised he didn’t see any blood now.
The voice registered from a few thousand miles away. Half-curled over at the side of the bed, a high pitched whine in his ears telling him he was on his way out, Anthony managed a vague wave and a whimper.
“Shit…” Jerrett murmured under his breath. He snatched the little oxygen mask thing up, although his hands were very gentle as they moved Anthony to his back and placed it over his face. “Relax. Lie still. Take a deep breath,” he ordered. “I know it’s gonna hurt, but take just one good breath, Ant, or you’re gonna pass out.”
The gentle hand on his hair, the concern in that deep voice…there it was again. Though it was hard to tell how much was real and how much was oxygen deprivation. He managed a shuddering gulp of air on another soft whimper, Jerrett’s voice commanding and soothing all at once.
Eventually he calmed and managed a slow, careful breath, then another. “Sorry,” he whispered. “Jerrett…” Dammit, he wasn’t going to cry. Hells bells, what was wrong with him?
Jerrett saw the shimmer of tears in his eyes and reached one long arm over for the box of tissues that had flummoxed Anthony to begin with. “Did you take your pain meds?”
Anthony shut his eyes and shook his head. He didn’t have the breath to explain that he hated the dull, listless state they left him in and he couldn’t have gotten the words past the lump in his throat anyway.
“If you’re in this much pain I think you should take one,” Jerrett said reasonably, thinking the pain was where his tears stemmed from.
Anthony shook his head that he didn’t want to and Jerrett sighed. “All right.” He picked the remote off the blanket and hit mute on the TV. “So… would you like to tell me what’s wrong?” he asked, his tone even and for once not impatient.
“It’s…” Anthony took the mask down. His chest still hurt like hell but he could control the rate of his breaths again. “It’s so hard. Not being able…to do the simplest things. Being a…” He hitched a breath and looked up at Jerrett. “A burden.”
He slid his hand down to touch Jerrett’s fingers. “On you. Being weak…and helpless…this isn’t how…I want…you to see me.”
Jerrett snorted. “What does it matter how I see you?” But before Anthony could answer, he shook his head and went on. “You let a ton of horseflesh flip over on top of you rather than let the animal crush a little girl’s skull… I think that gives you a pass on being a ‘burden’ for a while, sweetheart.”
Sweetheart? No…he didn’t mean it. He was just trying to be nice. Still, Anthony dared to grip his fingers, in a touch so much more intimate than all the hours of sex that had passed between them. “Thank you,” he said in a shaky whisper.
Jerrett leaned forward, it seemed only natural to kiss him now, and Jerrett being Jerrett rarely denied himself any urge he had. He brushed his lips over Anthony’s in a feather light touch, not even thinking about the impulse, much less where it came from.
A soft sound came from Anthony and he lifted his head a fraction to meet those firm lips more fully. Not that he had the energy for anything more at the moment but he had so missed those kisses. Of course it mattered to him how Jerrett saw him. He’d fallen in love with the arrogant, self-serving man, this man who had supplanted him and humiliated him.
Who now called him sweetheart and kissed him tenderly.
Jerrett leaned back again. He glanced over his shoulder at the TV. “Are you really into this show?” he asked, with obvious disdain.
Anthony shook his head, and Jerrett told him he’d be right back. He returned a few minutes later with a book and, of all things, a game. Battleship. He set the game down and propped himself up against the headboard next to Anthony with some pillows. There seemed to be at least a dozen that Sasha had left in there for him.
“I just got this one.” Jerrett said, indicating the book. “I know Stephen King’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but it has to be better than anything on daytime television. Want me to read some to you?”
Anthony’s big gray eyes had gone huge in shock. He recovered quickly, though, not one to miss such an opportunity, and snuggled back under his blankets. “I like his stuff,” he whispered. He wanted to go on about this book and that but had to edit his normally hyper-vocal speech to conserve his breath. “Yes, please. Thank you, sir.”
As it turned out, Jerrett was pretty good at reading aloud. They got through several chapters and Anthony was right there with him, being drawn into the story before he started to drift, exhaustion tugging at him.
Jerrett paused at the end of a sentence when he noticed his boy had fallen asleep… and as soon as he thought it, all further mental or physical function froze solid for a few seconds. Wait. Back up, his brain demanded. What was that? When did you start thinking of him as yours? He’s just here on your sufferance, remember? Because Sasha likes him and you don’t mind fucking him. Remember?
He looked down at the pale blond head on the pillow and he saw him lying on the ground again, his skin so pale and blood trickling down his chin. His heart had been hammering in panic. He had managed to shut the panic down to get the things that needed doing done, but the whole time they had been at the hospital he had to keep a tight lid on it, not that anyone would have been able to even guess at the mess going on inside while they had waited.
He tried to tell himself he would have reacted the same for anyone, but one thing Jerrett was not was a good liar, even to himself. If it had been a stranger, he probably would have stayed in the crowd and let the pros handle it as most everyone else did. If it had been someone he knew… a friend? Say, Robbie? He would have been upset, annoyed, he would have done what needed doing, yes. But would his heart have been hammering like that? Would a large part of his head been involved in the futile begging and pleading with whatever unknown entities might be listening to spare him? To let him keep him awhile longer? Maybe…maybe not as much.
His fingers caressed across Ant’s forehead, brushing a stray lock of silky hair back. He might have done the same for Sasha… and then his brain tried to put Sasha in Ant’s place that day the horse flipped over and everything in him rebelled at the very thought… but it showed him one thing. The horrible feeling of losing Sasha like that might be stronger, but it was the same feeling as when he thought he might lose Anthony.
When Sasha returned home in the early afternoon, he went to Anthony’s sick room first to check on him and…stopped. Jerrett sat next to him on the bed, an arm draped over the top of Anthony’s pillow-nest so the blond head rested against Jerrett’s chest.
Sasha blinked, shook himself mentally and whispered, “Is he all right?”
Jerrett yawned and slowly stood up to stretch. “He’s fine, love.” He crossed over to Sasha and lifted his chin with his fingers to kiss him. “But you can check him for claw and tooth marks if you’d like.” He chuckled softly and slipped out of the room to let Sasha fuss, or go make dinner, or whatever he wanted to do.
Sasha shook his head on a little sigh. “That wasn’t what I meant.” But, of course, Jerrett was gone by the time he got it out.
He went to the bed, though, to check the wrappings around Anthony’s ribs. His patient stirred and his eyes cracked open.
“Hey, sweet thistle pie,” Anthony whispered on a little smile.
“Hi.” Sasha leaned in for a soft kiss. “How’re you feeling?”
“Not so bad.” Anthony’s eyes shone as he went on. “His lordship sat here and read to me.”
“Did he?” Sasha felt as if his brain might have a short. “That was nice of him.” And whatever was going on in Jerrett’s head, Sasha thought it best to let him chew it over on his own for now.
January 27, 2015