Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Co-written By: Teri and Jodie
Characters: Hugh, Patrick and Kyler

Kyler angrily paced the living room floor. He’d pause by the fireplace for a few minutes, poking at the logs and sending sparks flying up the chimney. Then he’d quickly lose interest and go stare out the window before returning to the fireplace.

“Patrick was supposed to be home by now,” he groused for the umpteenth time. He glared at Hugh when the older man merely lowered his newspaper. “He promised he’d be back in time to help decorate the tree to night after his shift in Kelowna. So where is he?”

Hugh merely grunted and returned to his newspaper.

Kyler proceeded to address the room in general. “A week tonight is Christmas Eve and he is on-call all this weekend here in town. You just watch; I bet we’ll be decorating without him.” He walked over to the large recliner and pulled down the offensive paper his Top was hiding behind and demanded, “Are you gonna answer me?”

Hugh sighed and laid the paper aside. He reached up and pulled Kyler down on top of him. “Come here, you. What did we agree on earlier?” When Kyler raised questioning brows, Hugh prompted him with a friendly but firm pat on the thigh. “About Patrick’s work commitments?”

“That we show our support by not griping about him being gone, cause he misses us as much as we miss him,” Kyler softly parroted off the words he had heard many times before.

“So why all this ranting now?”

“He’s always calling and saying ‘just one more patient’. There’s no such thing as one more patient. They’re crawling out of the woodwork 24/7. It never ends.” Kyler was apt to exaggerate when disappointed. “It’s not as if Patrick is the only surgeon around these parts. Okay, so maybe he’s the best; but still not the only one.”

Hugh pushed his brat off his lap and reached for the paper once more. “You know Kyler; I could make this easier for you. I could send you to bed now and decide that we will decorate the tree another night. Would you like that?”

Kyler glanced around. Everything was decorated for the holidays, with the exception of a naked tree that stood in its’ stand next to the large bay window. Boxes of colourful ornaments lay opened on almost every available flat surface. Strings of lights stretched untangled over the back of the chesterfield. The only place to sit in the room was already occupied by his oldest partner.

“Nooo, I wanna finish it all up before we call it a day.” There was a decided pout on Kyler’s mouth, making him look vulnerable.

“And we will as soon as Patrick gets home. But I don’t want you stressing yourself like this – and me for that matter – so why don’t you go and clear out the closet while we wait?” Hugh suggested helpfully. “You’ve been saying you want to get it done for weeks. Now’s as good a time as any.”

The pout became more pronounced but Kyler capitulated and decided to go with the suggestion. At least it would help pass the time. He spent the following fifteen minutes dragging various items out of the huge coat closet that for some reason became a catch all for just about anything. It took several trips upstairs to relocate summer clothing, tennis rackets, golf clubs and a couple of boxes of miscellaneous sports equipment. He packed it all neatly into the small storage cupboard in the spare bedroom.

He was thumping his way down the stairs for the last time when the phone rang. “I’ll get it! It’s Patrick!” he hollered out to Hugh after looking at the caller ID. “Hi, Patrick; I hope you’re calling to tell us you’re on your way home.”

“Yes honey, I AM on my way home, and you don’t need to yell, I hear you just fine!”

“Finally! But I wasn’t yelling at you, Patrick; I was just letting Hugh know it was you on the phone. We've both been waiting.”

“I know, I know ... sorry darling; I know I promised to be early tonight but ...” His voice was ragged and tired despite his attempt to sound cheerful.

"You sound kinda beat, man. You sure you still feel up to doing the tree?” Kyler softly asked after picking up on his Top’s exhaustion.

“Of course we are decorating the tree. I am looking forward to it. Don’t tell me you started without me!” Patrick asked in mock indignation.

“Nope, I only straightened out all the strings of lights. You know, the real boring part of the job that you dislike so much," Kyler chuckled teasingly.

“Now that’s what I call forward thinking and good team work!”

“I thought it would save time.” Kyler added, easily picturing Patrick’s grin.

“I’m sorry you got stuck with that most unpleasant job, babe,” Patrick apologized again. “Why don’t I make it up to you?”

“How? By bringing home treats, maybe?” Kyler thought this was starting to sound promising. He loved surprise treats.

Patrick pretended to ponder for a moment. “Now, let me see .... what could I possibly get that would make you forgive me? Hmmm ... perhaps some double chocolate-chip cookies ice-cream? Would that do the trick?”

“Hey, any kind of ice cream will do the trick, Patrick. Just remember, the more stuff in it or on it the better.” Kyler paused as a thought hit him. “I trust you’re not talking on your cell and driving at the same time, right? Hugh will kick your butt if you are. I get spanked if I do it.”

“Your memory is improving. No Ky, I am still at the hospital car park. I should be on my way in a bit.”

“Good. But we should hang up now and let you hit the road, ‘cause you have at least an hour’s drive ahead of you. I’ll let Hugh know you’re on your way bearing gifts. Maybe we’ll surprise you with something here at home.”

“Can’t wait, see you soon baby. Love ya!”

“Miss ya, man. Love ya too. Drive safe.” Kyler spoke softly into the phone and gently replaced it in it’s’ cradle.

Kyler excitedly skipped into the living room. “Our man is on his way home!” he gleefully announced.

A quick glance at the clock told Hugh it was after eight. “Poor Patrick,” he said, “he should be beat - he’s been working practically round the clock. And now such a long drive home as well.” Hugh sounded concerned.

“Maybe he’ll be able to sleep in tomorrow. I think he should also look into taking a bit of a break.”

Hugh opened his arms wide and waited for Kyler to snuggle up. “Yeah, I’ll talk to him and see if he can get some time off. God knows he deserves it.”

“He sure does,” Kyler murmured his agreement as he wrapped his arms around Hugh’s neck and began to drop gentle kisses on his partner’s unshaven chin.

They smooched, enjoying the intimacy. For a while, they lost track of time until Kyler began to get restless. He grinned as he slowly undid the buttons on Hugh’s shirt. Encouraged by the older man’s lack of resistance, Kyler then moved lower to unbuckle Hugh’s belt and open his fly.

“You want to go any further, big guy?” Kyler smirked as he teasingly slipped a hand into Hugh’s boxers.
Hugh grabbed Kyler and easily wrestled him round so that he had the younger man pinned beneath him. “Oh yeah ... I want.” He began to undress Kyler, efficiently stripping him of his t-shirt and jeans. Even as he held down a squirming and giggling Kyler he could feel Kyler’s hands eagerly peeling his own clothing off, almost popping buttons in his zeal to have their naked bodies pressed together.

They made love slowly, Hugh setting the pace and guiding Kyler through the motions. He knew what his young lover liked and needed and he playfully held back enough to tease him until Kyler could no longer stand it and began to beg. Hugh timed it such that they both came at the same time, climaxing with Hugh deep inside Kyler.

Kyler lay gazing up at his lover. He was still gasping and his eyes were slightly glazed over. “Sooo glad you wanted; that was terrific,” he managed to pant out around a crooked grin.


Patrick pulled his newly acquired BMW smoothly out of the car park especially reserved for him and turned right. He exited the hospital grounds and headed towards the highway. He knew there was a deli along the same road which sold good ice-cream, the type Kyler loved, with lots of choices of toppings. The best part was they even packed it in boxes with dry ice, so that it could last the journey home. Unfortunately by the time Patrick reached the shop, he saw that the lights were off. Apparently they didn’t keep such long hours as he did, at least not during the winter.

With a sigh, he swung back onto the highway and thought about where else he could get the ice-cream for Kyler. There was nothing he liked more than to see Kyler’s face wreathed in smiles when he brought home some gift. It didn’t have to be anything expensive or elaborate – every little thing delighted him. And that was the magic of Kyler. Ever since the young man moved in with him and Hugh going on two years ago, an untouched part of Patrick had been fulfilled. He knew Hugh felt the same way as well.

Just as he left the outskirts of Kelowna, he decided to make a detour. He remembered seeing a banner advertising a 24/7 ice-cream parlour somewhere in the vicinity. He had to drive around a bit before he spotted the shop; not being too familiar with this neighbourhood, he had been afraid he couldn’t find it. The last thing he wanted to do was to break his word and go home with no ice-cream for Kyler.


Hugh and Kyler cuddled together in the comfy lazy boy, enjoying the dreamy aftermath of their love-making. Only a light throw covered their naked bodies, but they were warm enough to actually doze off.

Sometime later, Kyler woke and glanced at the clock on the mantel. He bolted upright when he noticed how much time had passed.

“Hugh, Hugh,” he gently shook the other man awake. “It’s almost nine-thirty. Patrick should have been home by now. I wonder what’s keeping him.”

Hugh stretched and then sat up, rubbing sleep from his eyes. It took him a moment to consider the possibilities and then he got up and began to get dressed, saying soothingly, “I’m sure he got detained somewhere. An emergency perhaps, and he had to turn back ... let me try to reach him ...”

While Hugh dialled the phone, Kyler gathered up his clothing, getting dressed as he located each article.

Hugh waited for the ring tone and looked a little puzzled. “The phone’s off.”

“Nah, he’d never leave it off,” Kyler emphatically stated as he hopped around on one foot, trying to get the other into his jeans. “It’s against the rules.”

“Well, he could have run out of battery,” Hugh replied. “Hmm ... are you sure he said he was on his way home?”

“Yes I’m sure, but he was going to stop off to pick up some ice cream.”

“Ah ... there you go. Probably went hunting for your favourite flavour. Let’s give him a few more minutes. Why don’t you go heat up dinner?”

Kyler chuckled as he headed for the kitchen. “You needn’t think I don’t know what you’re up to,” he called over his shoulder. “It’s a ‘keep the Brat busy’ project to make the time pass faster.”

There was still no sign of Patrick by the time dinner was ready and three places had been set on the kitchen table. Kyler was beginning to fret and even Hugh had a frown in between his eyes.

“Something must have happened. Patrick had plenty of time to stop and still be home by now.” Kyler peered out the window into the darkened night and bounced anxiously on the balls of his feet.

“OK, I’ll call the hospital and check,” Hugh said. He was just about to pick up the house phone when it rang. It startled both of them and they grinned at one another rather sheepishly. “If that’s Patrick, I’ll wring his neck.” Hugh growled and picked up the receiver. “Hello?”

Hugh listened intently and answered, “Yes, this is Hugh.” Suddenly he stiffened, his face losing colour. “Who is this? What? When?” His voice had become unusually sharp.

Kyler had moved over to stand beside the older man. His anxiety increased when he saw Hugh go pale. “What’s wrong?” he demanded.

Hugh looked at Kyler without seeing. For once, he totally ignored Kyler and his hand signals. He continued speaking into the phone. “Aha ... yes. How is he?” Pause. “All right, thank you for calling. We’ll be right over.”

“Tell me!” Kyler demanded before the phone was even returned to its’ cradle.

“That was the hospital.”

Kyler’s movements stilled momentarily before the agitated bouncing began again. “What’s happened to Patrick?” A feeling of dread came over him.

“Listen honey,” Hugh took a deep breath and caught hold of Kyler and held him in a tight grip. “Patrick’s hurt. I don’t have too much detail but I’m told he’s unconscious and we need to go to him. He’s at Kelowna General Hospital.”

Kyler backed away as his eyes widened. Hugh watched him and swallowed the lump in this throat. “It’s going be okay, honey,” he whispered, trying to sound reassuring.

“We better hurry then,” Kyler declare as he began pulling their heavy jackets, gloves, hats and boots out of the hall closet. He wanted more information but was afraid of just what that might be. ‘Hugh will take care of things.’ The thought gave him some short-lived comfort.

It would wane long before they got to Kelowna.


The ride to the city was passed in silence as each man dwelt on his own worrisome thoughts. Hugh concentrated on the road which had a light dusting of snow. Kyler concentrated on keeping his worst fears at bay, blinking back tears and wishing with all his heart that Hugh would drive faster.

They managed to arrive at the hospital in record time, parked as close to the ER as possible and raced inside. They approached the nurses’ station only to be told it would be a few minutes before the attending physician could see them.

Hugh took a seat and watched Kyler pacing nervously in the waiting room. He perfectly understood Kyler’s restlessness. To be unable to do anything except wait was terrible. Not just terrible, but frightening too. Hugh firmly pushed such unproductive thoughts away.

What seemed like hours later, but in fact was only ten or twelve minutes, a doctor came out to them. He quickly explained that Patrick was in no immediate danger but he had not regained consciousness either, which was a point of concern. He sounded and looked grave and Hugh put his arm around Kyler. There was not much they could do except offer comfort to one another.

The doctor did not say much else but acquiesced to their request to see Patrick. Hugh and Kyler found themselves being taken into the observation room where their injured partner lay. Kyler gasped when he saw Patrick. Stepping up to the bed beside Hugh, he grabbed the older man’s arm and clung to it. Hugh swallowed on a suddenly tight throat.

“You may stay a while,” the doctor said in a low voice, and nodded to the nurse standing by to make sure she would know when to shoo them out. “We normally don’t allow visitors in the observation room for more than a few minutes.”

“Of course,” Hugh said quietly. “Thanks doc,” he said as the doctor and nurse turned to leave.

They moved closer to the bed once they were alone and Hugh put out a hand to touch Patrick’s lifeless arm. It was hard to see him looking so still and vulnerable. Kyler was too shocked by Patrick’s appearance to do anything. His lover’s head was heavily wrapped in white bandages, the left cheek had several stitches and the eye above them was black and badly swollen. There was an IV running into his right hand and an oxygen tube under his nose. Kyler tried to look away but was unable to, so he just tightened his grip on Hugh’s arm and leaned against him.

“He looks awful,” Kyler whispered. It was easy to see he was fighting back tears.

“I am sure he will be okay; the doctors will do everything they can to make him well, honey,” Hugh said with as much conviction as he could. He needed to believe that himself.

“Do you think we ought to have called Bette and Doug?” Kyler asked.

“I will call them first thing tomorrow morning – it’s really too late now. Patrick’s condition is stable so there’s no need to worry them for now.”

“I am so glad we put off telling his parents. I am scared enough, so I can only imagine how upsetting this would be for them.” Kyler was keeping his voice so low, even Hugh had trouble hearing him.

They saw the nurse come back into the room and knew their time was up. “Come on, we need to let Patrick rest now.” Hugh tugged at Kyler’s arm.

Kyler meekly allowed Hugh to steer him out of the room. He paused just long enough to take one last glance over his shoulder at his stricken partner and wondered once again why it had to be Patrick lying there.

Hugh saw Kyler run his hand over his eyes as they came back out to the waiting area. He wanted to reach out to him and hold him in his arms to comfort him but there were several other people in the room, apparently waiting for them. The doctor led a police officer forward and introduced them as Patrick’s partners. No one reacted - apparently it was pretty open knowledge and accepted that Patrick had two gay partners.

The police officer wearing a name tag that displayed the initials C Lang was the one who had been called to the scene and who would be investigating the case. While Hugh did most of the talking, answering as well as asking questions, Kyler stayed silent. He vaguely heard the officer providing Hugh with the details of what had happened but most of the conversation seemed garbled to Kyler as he mentally tried to escape.

Hugh struggled to pay attention to Officer Lang’s words while his mind was focussed mainly on Patrick. He gathered enough to make out that Patrick had apparently gone into some ice cream parlour and bought a tub of ice-cream. Then he had walked back to his car which was parked at the side of the building. As near as the officer could figure, it was well after eight when the incident occurred.

Hugh frowned to himself. That was about when he had been making love to Kyler in their living room. His heart squeezed with pain and he brushed his hair back from his forehead in an effort to hide his inner turmoil.

Officer Lang went on talking. It appeared Patrick was about to open his car door when someone had come up to him and swung a hard object at him – possibly a bat or stick judging from the injuries sustained.

The officer noted the shock in Kyler’s eyes and continued in a calm monotone. “In a lot of these cases, the victims are knocked out immediately and they hurt themselves in the fall, thus the cuts and bruises. But I’ve seen many of them recover quite quickly too. The bruises are usually worse than they look ... as long as there are no internal injuries ... I wouldn’t start to worry too much just yet ...”

Hugh felt Kyler move nearer to him and he put his arm around Kyler’s shoulders. He was grateful to the officer for his sensitivity and kindness. “Thanks Officer Lang. We are praying that will be the case with Patrick.”

“Has anyone ever died from something like this?” Kyler asked hesitantly. He wanted to know, and yet he didn’t.

Officer Lang answered Kyler’s question solemnly. “Yes, people do die from muggings but there is no reason to suppose this will be the case. I am sure the attending physician will be able to provide you with more information on that.”

“How did it happen in the first place? I mean Patrick is a big man,” Kyler questioned, beginning to get a little angry on his lover’s behalf.

“Well, Dr Dean was probably caught unawares. In all likelihood, the attacker had seen his medical tag in the car and assumed it might contain drugs. There have been a number of petty drug-related thefts in that neighbourhood. The perp may have tricked Dr. Dean into thinking there was a medical emergency. There are all kinds of possibilities and we can only conjecture at this point.”

“Was anything taken?” Hugh asked.

Officer Lang checked his notes. “I believe the mugger took the doctor’s wallet, watch and keys; these were all missing when we brought him in. You will have to call the bank and arrange to get credit cards cancelled if he was carrying any. Also I was informed by the hospital staff that Dr Dean was driving a brand new BMW 5-series?”

Hugh and Kyler both nodded.

The officer looked genuinely sorry when he said, “Well, unfortunately we think they drove off in the vehicle. We’ve already got an APB out on the vehicle.”

Kyler groaned at the though of Patrick’s prized possession in someone else’s hands. “Who found Patrick?”

“Some kids passing by – it probably was only a few minutes after the incident as there was no sign of frostbite in Dr Dean’s face or hands; they saw the doctor on the ground and alerted a couple of adults, who in turn called 911.”

There wasn’t much more to add after that. After answering a few more questions the officer left, leaving the ER doctor to update Hugh and Kyler on Patrick’s condition. Their partner had not yet gained consciousness, so it wasn’t possible for the medical staff to make a conclusive prognosis. At the moment, the patient’s vital signs were stable and he was breathing on his own. Time alone would tell the extent of the injuries he had sustained.

“Can we just hang around here in the waiting room, Hugh?” Kyler asked when they were advised to go home and rest.

“I think it might make more sense to go get some rest as the doctor suggested. He said Patrick is unlikely to wake up tonight due to the trauma he’s undergone, and the medication administered.”

“But I really prefer to be here in case he surprises everyone and does gain consciousness.”

Hugh pulled Kyler to his chest and hugged him for a moment. “The doctor doesn’t believe that is going to happen. I know how you feel, love. I feel exactly the same. But it would be more sensible for us to be around when he wakes, which I am hoping will be tomorrow.”

“Then can we get a motel room nearby? Jade Heights is too far away. We’ll be on hand when the doc calls to tell us Patrick’s awake.”

“Of course!” Hugh consented at once. “That is an excellent idea. I’ll arrange for Bette and Doug to be driven here first thing in the morning and hopefully Patrick will be awake by the time they arrive.”

“Great! I bet either Mom or Uncle Kipper would be glad to do that. I’ll call mom first thing tomorrow morning.” Kyler brightened slightly at being able to do something instead of just wait, and also the thought of more family members being on hand to offer support.


Patrick had not awakened the next day when Hugh and Kyler arrived back at the hospital. Hardly refreshed by their restless night, Hugh and Kyler stood at the side of the bed and tried not to feel crushed. They had been so hopeful Patrick would be awake by then.

Hugh had asked Bette to stop by the house to pack a bag and bring it with her when she and Doug were brought to Kelowna. He and Kyler greeted Bette, Doug and Clarissa at the hospital entrance and together all five of them trooped back to the observation room, quickly bringing the others up to date on Patrick’s progress. They then spent every waking moment of that Saturday in the hospital, waiting anxiously for more news.

Bette was understandably getting more overwrought as time passed while Doug stoically attempted to keep a brave front in an effort to calm his wife. Clarissa’s presence seemed to have a soothing effect on all of them as she quietly stayed in the background, seeing to their needs for food and drink.

By late-morning Hugh was deeply worried too. It had been well over twelve hours since Patrick had been brought in and although the doctor had assured them Patrick’s condition was showing signs of improvement, for some reason he had not re-gained consciousness.

“I’m glad they finally decided to run some extra tests. It’s about time they did more than try to Patrick get to respond to physical stimuli and check his vitals,” Kyler murmured to his mother when she brought him a sandwich and glass of milk at noon.

Putting her arm around her son’s shoulders, Clarissa softly offered encouragement. “You have to trust in the doctors, sweetheart, and in Patrick’s will to overcome this.” She smiled gently when all she received was a grunt of acknowledgment that Kyler had heard her.

“They are going to move Patrick to another room when they bring him back from imaging,” Kyler informed her around a mouthful of food. “It should make it so much easier when we don’t have to take turns staying with him and dividing our time between this waiting area and the observation unit he was in.”

“Oh, here comes the doctor again. He has someone with him,” Bette announced nervously. “I wonder what news they have for us.”

“I’d like to introduce Dr. Bannon, our neurosurgeon.” The ER doctor indicated the older man standing next to him. “He is going to bring you up-to-date on Patrick’s condition.”

“Let’s all sit down,” Dr. Bannon suggested after all introductions were out of the way. “There is good news and some not-so-good news. I’ll start at the beginning. Please interrupt if you are finding it hard to follow me or if you have questions”

Immediately five pairs of eyes trained on him, picking up on the ‘not-so-good news’ bit. Hugh reached out and held Kyler’s hands in a firm grip.

Dr Bannon smiled reassuringly at his audience. “Before I start, let me just say that I have been working with Patrick for the past few years and I have the greatest respect for him. He is an excellent doctor. He is also young, healthy and strong, and that will be an important factor in his recovery. I want to assure you that I and the medical team here will do whatever possible to get him through this. He is well-liked by everyone here.”

Doug spoke first. “Thanks doc. We appreciate that, but tell us how Patrick is. We are very anxious naturally.”

Dr Bannon nodded. “Of course. Well, first off, Patrick received excellent care at the scene of the trauma. The prompt medical treatment he received prevented the worsening of symptoms and will lead to a better outcome. The Paramedics immediately immobilized the patient, thus ensuring no further damage to the spine or nervous system. They also inserted an airway to ensure uninterrupted breathing and an IV was inserted.”

A soft murmur went through the group; Bette nodded her head gratefully at the absent paramedics although she didn’t really understand the procedure they had done. All that mattered was they had acted promptly to save her son.

Dr Bannon proceeded. “Once Patrick arrived at the ER, a very mild sedative was administered to prevent additional movement should he awake to an agitated state. Now, while prolonged unconsciousness is usually a sign of something serious, in this case I believe the patient actually benefitted from the extra rest.”

The Surgeon paused to allow this information to sink in. No one moved; all were unwilling to relax and apparently waiting for more, so he pressed onward.

“Because head injuries can be life threatening, even people with apparently slight injuries require close observation to assess for worsening symptoms. Some may be associated with a neck injury such as bruising or neck pain, or even pain radiating to the arms which can be a sign of cervical spine injury. However, the neurological exam has revealed that this is not the case here and that’s very reassuring.”

Hugh’s fingers tightened around Kyler’s. Their eyes met briefly in a shared moment of hope, and then they turned their attention back to the neurosurgeon.

“Why hasn’t he awakened?” Doug asked, his voice suddenly gruff. The anxiety was finally taking its toll on him. “Is there something else you haven’t told us?”

“I was just coming to that, Mr Dean. Due to the length of time Patrick was unconscious, I ordered he be given a MRI because it can show more detail than a CT-scan and can add information about expected outcome in the long-term. The good news is we see nothing for concern showing up in the MRI, but like many patients with moderate to severe injuries we have to be careful and watchful. Patrick has been moved to a private room in our neurological unit. Treatment will depend on the recovery stage of the patient. At this stage, our primary aim is to stabilize the patient and focus on preventing further injury.”

“So you are saying we can’t know for sure?” Doug let out a sigh of frustration.

“At this stage, while we remain optimistic, we want to be vigilant and to consider all possibilities. We are just being cautious, sir.”

“Is Patrick going to be okay?” Kyler warily asked what all were wondering.

Dr Bannon paused, obviously to consider, before he repeated his cautious opinion. “We are optimistic for a complete recovery, but it may take a bit of time.”

Kyler turned to Hugh and leaned his head on Hugh’s shoulder. It was exasperating when there were so many possibilities and the doctor was being so guarded. Hugh planted a quick kiss on Kyler’s head and spoke for the first time.

“Has Patrick awoken at all?”

Dr Bannon allowed a small smile to escape. “Yes, he is presently awake but he is still groggy and tired. It is to be expected; the sedation would do that to him.”

This time a collective sigh of relief went through the group, and hugs and exclamations were hurriedly exchanged. Bette clasped her hands together in a quick prayer while Kyler almost jumped into Hugh’s arms.

“When can we see him?” Kyler asked, his eyes bright.

“I will allow visitors as long as you promise to keep it quiet and not excite him. May I suggest no more than two visitors go in at any one time?”

“Of course,” Hugh replied. “We’ll be careful not to impede his progress for recovery.” He turned to Kyler and smiled.

“When do you think he will be ready to go home?” Bette inquired. She and Doug were sitting on a sofa, holding hands.

“That will depend on the progress he makes over the next day or two; but most mild trauma head injuries often take up to three weeks to be completely resolved. In addition, patients will more often than not develop post-concussion syndrome, which may include memory problems, dizziness, tiredness, sickness, pain and possibly depression.”

Dr Bannon saw the gloom once again descend on the faces in front of him and hastened to add. “All of which can be alleviated with proper care and medication. I understand this must be difficult for you. I’m sorry – but I want to make sure you understand and be prepared.”

Hugh nodded. “Thank you Dr Bannon. We do appreciate your time and detailed explanations. It helps to know what we will be dealing with.”

“Thursday is Christmas Eve. Will Patrick be ready to leave the hospital by then?” Kyler inquired expectantly.

“It may be best if you do not get your hopes up for him being home before Christmas.” The good doctor’s regret at having to make this suggestion was obvious. “That said I have every confidence that your loved one will be restored to full health and vigour by the New Year.”

“But it won’t be Christmas without him,” Kyler hastily pointed out, looking to Hugh for support.

“As long as Patrick is able to make a complete recovery, we will be thankful,” Hugh said as he held out a hand to the doctor. “Thanks again, Dr Bannon.”

Dr. Bannon then shook hands with everyone and took his leave.

The ER doctor, who had been a silent observer so far, informed them that a nurse would be along shortly to take them to Patrick’s new room.


“I guess he’s looking a bit better?” Kyler muttered with a note of doubt in his voice. Kyler wondered if it was really so or merely wishful thinking on his part.

“Um …” someone muttered back, muted enough to be difficult to discern who had made the noise. Everyone’s mood was sombre after having visited Patrick; no one even tried to be upbeat about it. They had all taken turns to visit with Patrick and were back at the waiting area.

Kyler looked around the group and felt an unreasonable anger shoot through him. Why was everyone so calm? Was he the only one who had noticed it? He had found Patrick not only weak and distant, but also not very responsive. There was a somewhat vacant expression in his face and when Kyler had tried to ask him what had happened Patrick had been totally unable to tell him. At that moment, Kyler had wished he was some place else. He couldn’t bear to see Patrick like that.

“Kyler, remember what Dr Bannon said – it’s to be expected that Patrick would be a bit woozy, maybe even confused from time to time.” Hugh rubbed Kyler on the back, hoping to soothe his young partner.

Kyler nodded, and felt himself calming down at Hugh’s words and touch.

“That’s right sweetie,” Bette said from the sofa opposite. “Don’t rush him. Give him a bit of time to come back to us. I’m just – so glad ...” Her voice shook and Clarissa touched her hand sympathetically.

Doug came in at that moment, holding two cups of cocoa. “Here you are dear. And this is yours, Clarissa.” He handed one to his wife and the other to Clarissa. They tried not to drink coffee after five. It kept them awake all night. “What were you talking about?”

“Patrick, and us being patient,” Kyler spoke quietly as he nestled closer to Hugh. “But it’s getting so hard; all this waiting and worrying.”

Clarissa smiled sadly at her son. She would have loved to hold him in her arms like she had when he was a small boy, but knew that as much as he’d be comforted by it, he would also be embarrassed. Besides, the comfort she would offer him was being more than adequately supplied by Hugh; just as it should be.

“Well, it looks like Patrick is going to need some rest, and I think you all do too,” Hugh said, addressing the three parents. “You guys have been here since morning and I know you must be tired. I suggest you all go home now, and let Kyler and me remain behind.”

“I think that is a very good idea,” Clarissa agreed. She saw Kyler trying unsuccessfully to hide a yawn and with a nod of her head, sent an unspoken signal to Hugh.

“Kyler and I plan to spend the rest of the evening here, and then we’ll drive back to Jade Heights. I’m thinking we won’t spend another night at the motel, will we Kyler?”

“No. We’ll get a better sleep in our own bed.”

Kyler got to his feet and helped his mother on with her coat while Doug helped Bette. Kissing the elderly couple and Clarissa goodbye, Hugh and Kyler walked them to their car, promising to call them in the morning.


Hugh and Kyler left the hospital after Patrick had been given his last dose of sedative for the night and began to fall asleep. Kissing him on the cheek, Hugh and Kyler bid him good-night.

“We’ll be back tomorrow, darling,” Hugh said softly, his breath warm on Patrick’s face. “Sleep tight. I love you.”

Patrick smiled but his eyes were already closing and he didn’t respond.

Kyler blinked as he felt his eyes tear up. He hated leaving his partner even though Patrick appeared to be resting comfortably. Going home as a couple instead of a threesome wasn’t how things were supposed to be and it made Kyler feel incomplete; a part of himself missing.

It was much later that evening that a very tired and stressed Brat finally relaxed as he gave himself up to the care of his Top. Kyler closed his eyes and braced himself on the shower wall, enjoying the feel of Hugh’s big soapy hands moving over his body.

Hugh massaged the taut muscles slowly, standing close enough to help support Kyler. He was concerned at how silent Kyler had become. He usually had something to say about everything – it was not normal to have him so quiet.

‘He’s going to be all right, ok?” Hugh whispered. “There’s nothing to worry about.”

“That’s what everyone keeps saying, I just hope they’re right.” Kyler made one more attempt to shrug off the negative sentiments plaguing him.

Hugh kissed Kyler lightly on the head and face, and finally rinsed him off. Then he quickly dried them both and tugged Kyler into the bedroom. Not bothering with any clothes, he put Kyler to bed and got in with him. He wrapped his body around Kyler, spooning him, wanting to offer contact and warmth and comfort.

Kyler nestled as close to Hugh as possible and pulled Patrick’s pillow into his arms. His legs were intertwined with Hugh’s, he could feel the bigger man’s chest hair rubbing against his back when he moved, and a slight hint of Patrick prevailed when he pressed his face into the pillow.

As tired as he was, it took Kyler a while to fall asleep. Thoughts of Patrick and what had happened repeatedly played in his head. It was Hugh’s rhythmic snoring that finally did the trick and Kyler nodded off.


Sunday dawned bright and sunny with a light snow falling. Hugh got up early and called the hospital; Patrick’s condition remained stable, not much had changed overnight. Satisfied, he cooked breakfast. He made Kyler’s favourite of sausages with pancakes smothered in syrup. After a leisurely breakfast together and several strong cups of coffee, Hugh then called Patrick’s parents, reassuring them Patrick was mending well and wanting to be sure they had a ride in to the hospital.
Bette and Doug informed him of Clarissa’s plans to pick them up so the three of them could visit for a couple of hours after dinner. They would see the boys shortly after two in the afternoon.

While Hugh was engaged on the phone, Kyler wandered into the living room and decided to work on decorating the tree. He needed to keep busy. He could hear Hugh’s voice from the kitchen and he heard enough to make out that Patrick was doing well. A sudden image of Patrick lying unconscious on the ground came unbidden into Kyler’s mind. It was as sudden as it was unwelcome. Kyler sucked in his breath, feeling as if he had been punched in the gut. He quickly put on some Christmas music. Then he picked up a string of decorative lights which had been neatly laid out just two nights ago. He recalled placing them there, waiting for Patrick to come back so they could all decorate the tree together. His chest tightened at the memory. Plugging the lights rather viciously into the wall socket, he was angry to discover that they weren’t working.

This was the last straw and he lost it. He yanked the lights out of the socket and threw them across the room. His chest heaving, he stomped over to the DVD player and jabbed blindly at the ‘Off’ button. When the silence hit him, he backed against the wall and slid down to the floor. Kyler wrapped his arms around his knees, put his head down and sobbed.

This was where Hugh found him.

Hugh had been putting things away and getting ready to leave for the hospital. He came looking for Kyler and stopped short when he saw the huddled figure. With a quick stride he was at Kyler’s side. Without a word, he sat down on the floor next to Kyler and put an arm around Kyler’s shoulder. They sat like that for a long time, neither saying a thing.

“I can’t get the image of Patrick hurt out of my mind,” Kyler finally whimpered.

Hugh squeezed Kyler’s shoulder and said in a gruff voice. “Hey, you wanna hear a secret? Me too.”

Kyler looked at him, uncertain. “Really?”

“Yeah.” Hugh shook his head as if trying to dislodge some image from his mind.

“It’s hard to get rid of, huh?”

“I know it’s difficult but what we have to focus on now is Patrick getting well. Don’t think about what has happened. Just on how we can get Patrick better.”

“It’s my fault, Hugh,” a distraught Kyler muttered. “I don’t know why no one has stated the obvious.”

“What?” Hugh looked down at Kyler in surprise. “How can it be your fault, honey?”

“Mom says it only happened because he was in the wrong place and the wrong time. But he wouldn’t have been if I hadn’t been complaining about him being held up again.”

“Oh babe.” Hugh turned Kyler’s face around so he could look at him. He saw the hint of tears on those blue eyes and felt a stab of pain. “Stop.”

“It’s true! He was getting us a treat to make up for keeping us waiting.”

“What happened was something beyond our control! A very unfortunate incident that had nothing to do with you wanting ice-cream! So stop blaming yourself.”

“I can’t; don’t you get it? I am to blame!” Kyler wailed and hid his face against Hugh’s chest.

“Kyler, this is ridiculous. I don’t want you fretting like this.”

“But you should be blaming me too, Hugh. Patrick probably will when he remembers it all.”

Hugh gave Kyler a little shake. “Listen to me Kyler. It is not your fault, and no one blames you. Not even Patrick. Do you understand?”

“How do you know that?”

“Because I know Patrick, and I know he will never blame you for something you have no control over. Now are you going to stop stressing yourself out like this?”

Kyler reluctantly nodded his head in concurrence with Hugh’s declaration, even though he himself didn’t really accept it. He allowed Hugh to pull him to his feet and together they went to get ready to leave. They packed some clothes for Patrick, put a couple of books and CDs into the bag and added a pair of bedroom slippers as well - they had forgotten those the previous day.

They reached the hospital in good time and discovered little change in their partner’s condition. Although they were pleased to see Patrick’s memory improving, they were quite distressed to discover he was suffering from such a horrendous headache that he vomited several times. Hugh insisted they notify the doctor immediately to get a prescription and eventually gravel and morphine were administered via Patrick’s IV; that seemed to grant him a bit of relief.

It was another long, tiring day and as it progressed Kyler’s inclination to blame himself increased. He was looking out the window of Patrick’s room when the irresistible urge to take off hit him. He quietly slipped out of the room and then the building without informing anyone of his intentions, probably because he didn’t actually have any plan in mind. He was merely following his impulses.

He spent the next hour or so running along the pathways that wound through the forest area surrounding the hospital. When he finally returned from the invigorating fresh air, he felt somewhat lighter as if the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders. He had also talked himself into a sunnier mood.

'Hugh was right,’ he smiled to himself. ‘Had Patrick not wanted to get us a treat, no amount of complaining on my part would have induced him to do so. It was no one’s fault that he was at that store at that particular time. It just happened; that’s all.’ The relief he felt had him turning in circles with his arms held wide and grinning up at the sum peeping through the bare tree tops.

He was stepping off the elevator when a thought suddenly hit him. He’d been gone quite some time and no one knew of his whereabouts. He wondered if Hugh would consider his taking off like this a form of throwing a temper tantrum, albeit without any slamming of doors and stomping of feet.

His slowed as he approached Patrick’s room. Taking a deep breath, he opened the door and entered as inconspicuously as possible to stand at one side in the shadows. He chewed on his lip, feeling ashamed at having needlessly worried a man who already had enough on his plate.

“Hi, babe,” Hugh said as soon as Kyler entered the room. “Where have you been?”

“Just getting a breath of air; it is really refreshing outside. Sorry I didn’t let you know before taking off.” He took off his jacket and tossed it on the chair in the corner.

Hugh was sitting on the side of Patrick’s bed, one hand resting lightly on Patrick’s arm. He smiled when he saw the pink flush on Kyler’s cheeks and signalled for him to come nearer. “Patrick’s awake and has been asking for you.”

“That’s great!” Kyler exclaimed moving over to stand beside the bed. His eyes lit up with unbridled joy, mingled with a touch of relief.

Hugh held out a hand and pulled Kyler closer, so that his other hand held Kyler round the waist.

“It’s about time you woke up, Patrick,” Kyler teasingly admonished as he relaxed against Hugh’s broad chest.

“Hi,” Patrick murmured. His voice was weak but his eyes lightened up when he looked up at Kyler. “Miss me?”

“You wanna belief it. It is so good to have you back with us.”

Patrick smiled. “I’ve missed you guys too.”

Hugh took Patrick’s hand and held it firmly in his. “Don’t you ever scare us like this again, Patrick.”

Patrick made a face. “Sorry!”

“Hey, it wasn’t your fault, Patrick!” Kyler was adamant in assuring his partner didn’t assume any blame.

“I think we should consider ourselves lucky, considering what else could have gone wrong,” Hugh said, shaking his head at his two partners. Turning to Kyler, he decided to change the subject. “Had a good run, babe? You look much better now. I like the colour in your cheeks. You should change into one of the spare shirts if you’ve been sweating.”

"Good idea. I’ll wash up first,” Kyler commented, grabbing up the overnight bag and walking towards the small private en suite.

He reappeared a few minutes later. “Where are Bette, Doug and my Mom? Are they here yet?” he inquired. His voice was muffled due to him pulling a clean sweat shirt over his head.

“They went to the cafeteria for some tea. Do you want to go join them?”

“No, I’d rather spend the time here; just the three of us.” He smiled contentedly at the thought of having his partners all to himself. “Any chance that the doctor’s been in while I was gone? Is he going to let Patrick come home soon?”

Learning of the decision to keep Patrick in a while longer for further observation didn’t exactly go over too well with the young man, and Kyler didn’t shy away from letting his disappointment be known.

“Geesh, Patrick, you’re a doctor. Can’t you sign yourself out?”

“Kyler,” Hugh said with a chuckle. “Patrick’s the patient this time, not a doctor.”

“But he can still tell if he’s feeling well enough to come home.”

“Well, he should not be moved about too much at the moment – you heard the doctor tell us that. He needs to keep still and rest. He’ll be home with us soon enough.”

“In time for Christmas, maybe?” Kyler was ever the optimist.

“What day’s today?” Patrick asked.

“Sunday, December the twentieth.”

“Well, I don’t see any reason why I cannot be home in time for Christmas,” Patrick murmured. “Don’t give up on me yet, babe, ok?”

“Never, man! I’d never give up on either of you guys.”

Tired out, Patrick sighed softly and ran a tongue over dry lips. Hugh saw that and immediately picked up the small plastic tumbler at the side of the bed and held a teaspoon to Patrick’s lips.

“Drink some water honey,” Hugh said.

Kyler smiled at his older partner’s thoughtfulness and watched as Patrick swallowed some of the offered water.

“Thanks,” Patrick whispered. His face had turned pale with the effort of lifting his head to drink. Suddenly, without any warning, his headache returned with a vengeance.

“You okay, darling?” Hugh asked, noticing the change.

“Yeah, yeah. Just a bit groggy. I think I will take a nap, guys.” Patrick’s eyelids started to droop.

Kyler felt dismayed at just how weak his partner still was. At Hugh’s suggestion, the young man quietly accompanied him to the cafeteria for a bite to eat and to meet up with the rest of the family. Sometime later, Bette, Doug and Carissa visited with Patrick for a brief spell before heading back to Jade Heights.

Hugh and Kyler stayed as late as possible before the nurse on duty came in to say it was time to leave. Even though Patrick mostly slept, they felt better for being around him. They took turns playing nurse; feeding him and fluffing his pillows and generally fussing around Patrick as quietly as they could manage. The hospital would have allowed one of them to stay overnight since it was a private room, but not two. Knowing the hospital rules quite well, Patrick had insisted they both went home for a proper night’s sleep and his partners had agreed so as not to agitate him.

After planting a loving kiss on Patrick, Hugh and Kyler once again left a peacefully sleeping partner to drive home with plans to return the next day.


It was in the very early hours of Monday morning when a call from the hospital informed Hugh there had been a bit of a setback. Patrick’s condition was deteriorating due to pressure building at the site of the injury on the back of his head.

Hugh immediately alerted Kyler and silently they got ready to leave for the hospital, each reluctant for once to share their private thoughts. Before leaving the house, Hugh made a quick call to Bette and Doug. He hated to wake the old folks up at such an early hour but he felt they needed to be told. Once notified, Patrick’s parents desperately wanted to return to the hospital with Hugh and Kyler, so Hugh agreed and picked them up on the way to Kelowna.

They arrived on the neurological wing only to learn that Patrick was not there. He was in surgery. All four of them felt the shock run through them. What did that mean? No one seemed to be able to tell them precisely what the problem was – all they could do was wait for news.

The next hour was the most nerve-wracking since this whole incident began three nights ago. The group retreated glumly to the waiting area outside the surgery, hardly saying a word. Bette leaned her head on Doug’s shoulder and prayed. Hugh and Kyler took to pacing the waiting room, narrowly avoiding bumping into each other several times. Just when they thought they’d not be able to wait a moment longer, Dr. Bannon stepped off the elevator and walked towards them.

Kyler paled when he saw the neurosurgeon still wearing his OR greens, a few spots of Patrick’s blood still obvious.

“Please, let’s sit down,” the good doctor invited. He smiled tiredly as he lowered himself into a large armchair. “First and foremost, I want each of you to be assured that Patrick is going to be fine. He will have a somewhat longer recuperation period than we were originally anticipating, but he will make a full recovery.”

Bette positively sagged with relief and even Doug wiped a tear from his eye. “Thank God!” Bette said, crying a little.

Hugh was holding Kyler around the shoulders, the two of them leaning against one another for support and bracing for the worst. At the doctor’s words, Hugh mumbled something unintelligible and bent to kiss Kyler fiercely, almost suffocating his young partner. He didn’t know how he would have taken any other news. But this was good, very good indeed. He found himself beaming as he listened to the doctor.

Kyler tightened his grip on Hugh’s shirt in an effort to still his shaking limbs. Had he not been holding on to his partner, he was sure his knees would have buckled at the relief he felt on hearing all was well…or was going to be.

Understanding and recognizing the family’s reactions, Dr. Bannon gave them a moment to gather themselves. He also understood their need to know everything, so he continued. “Early this morning, Patrick’s symptoms worsened; the pain intensified as did his dizziness and disorientation. I was called in and we ran additional tests and discovered a subdural hematoma. That means there was bleeding into the lining of the brain and it had to be drained. Although these kinds of injuries can cause some long-term effects, we were fortunate in that this bleed wasn’t too bad and we caught it in time.”

“Thank you so much doctor!” Bette said gratefully. “Patrick is lucky to have you attend to him so promptly. Thank you, thank you!”

“I am only too pleased to care for him. He is a good man.”

“Is he out of all danger then?” Hugh wanted to know.

Dr Bannon turned to Hugh. “While there are no guarantees, I do believe the worst is over.”

Kyler nodded and smiled his gratitude. “So he’ll be coming home soon,” he whispered more for Hugh’s hearing than anyone else’s.

“Now, if Patrick doesn't suffer from any further neurological problems, he could probably be discharged in seven to eight days.” Doctor Bannon went on to inform the family.

Kyler’s head jerked up. ‘But that will be after Christmas!’ he thought to himself, but he kept his mouth shut. He didn’t want to sound as if he wasn’t grateful for Patrick’s recovery. He was terribly relieved that Patrick was not in any kind of danger but he was also secretly hopeful that they’d all be together at home celebrating the holidays. He looked doubtfully at the doctor, wanting to disbelief him when he pronounced the unlikelihood of that happening with all that Patrick had been through.

Hugh gave Kyler a squeeze, and nudged him with his hip. “There’ll be many other Christmases, babe,” he whispered into Kyler’s ears.

Kyler looked up at Hugh, appreciating the understanding and reassurance. “I know. We’ll just spend most of the holidays right here with Patrick, won’t we, Hugh?”

“You bet, we will do just that!” Hugh smiled at his young partner, glad the earlier trembling was gone.

Dr Bannon patiently answered a few other questions, and then took his leave. He told them they would be able to see Patrick once he was out of the observation unit and back in his room, but he also warned them that Patrick would be heavily sedated and mostly unresponsive.

The family spent the rest of the morning doing nothing except wait. They went to the now familiar cafeteria for lunch though none of them could quite remember what they ate afterwards. After lunch, they were told Patrick was back in his room and once the medical staff had given permission to do so the rest of the day was spent taking turns visiting with him. But as Dr Bannon had cautioned, Patrick was barely awake and his visitors had to content themselves with just looking and touching him gingerly in order not to disturb any of the tubes and beeping equipment hooked to him.

Seeing the exhaustion on Bette and Doug’s faces, Hugh decided to leave shortly after the evening meal. He could see Patrick was left in good hands; the team of nurses who routinely checked in on him were obviously not only adept and efficient but also fond of him. They spoke warmly of Patrick as one of their favourite surgeons.

Besides, Patrick looked like what he needed most was sleep.

Hugh drove and everyone else eventually drifted to sleep during the two-hour ride back to Jade Heights. They discussed Patrick’s condition for a while, repeating their profound appreciation of Dr. Bannon’s life-saving intervention, but for the most part Hugh and Kyler kept additional thoughts to themselves. They both were silently trying to work through the countless emotions they had undergone over the last few days.

As usual, Hugh was coming to grips with everything a lot better than was Kyler.


Kyler was getting restless. As much as he wanted to be with Patrick, he still felt himself giving under the pressure of the hospital walls closing in on him.

Sunday had been physically as well as emotionally draining for everyone. So much so that the following Monday it was decided that only Kyler and Hugh would be visiting Patrick. Bette and Doug were finding the daily trips into the city too tiring. They also decided the three men needed to be on their own for a while.

The best part of the day was Patrick’s speedy recovery. The night of uninterrupted slumber following the emergency surgery seemed to have done a world of good and he was steadily feeling better and regaining his strength. He had even been able to enjoy a light meal with them at noon. Then he was back down for an afternoon nap, during which time Kyler convinced Hugh to go for a walk and some badly needed fresh air.

However, the downside to it being just the three of them was when Kyler couldn’t find a diversion while his partners were engrossed in a discussion that held little interest for him. Instead, he solitarily wandered the halls, gazing at the decorations that were a constant reminder of just how close Christmas was and how all his plans were now awry.

Kyler missed not decorating their own tree and listening to their own choice of music. He missed not being able to prepare and enjoy the special menu he’d planned. He even missed the image he had formed in his mind - of him and his partners sitting in front of the tree and shaking the presents, trying to guess what was in each beautifully wrapped parcel. That wasn’t likely to happen now. Neither would there be any whispering of secrets as they shared what they had purchased for each other’s stockings. As far as he knew, Patrick hadn’t even done his Christmas shopping yet!

In a rather glum mood, he kissed Patrick goodbye and let Hugh tow him into the car park. The drive home proved even quieter than the one of the previous evening. Kyler didn’t want to talk and after several attempts, Hugh gave up trying to keep up a one-sided conversation.

Walking into the cold and empty house did nothing to improve Kyler’s mood. He kicked his boots off in the porch without turning on the light and strolled through the kitchen, leaving his jacket draped over the back of a chair. Hugh silently picked up Kyler’s discarded jacket, and followed the young man through the house. He could already detect the warning signs of an oncoming brat attack and he was racking his brains to try to divert Kyler before he landed himself in trouble.

Hugh caught up with Kyler just as they reached the living room and that was where they found the surprise. According to the note on the coffee table, while they were at the hospital Clarissa had picked up Bette and Doug, and together they had not only decorated the tree, but had left an abundance of baked goodies conspicuously on the coffee table. Three colourful stockings hung over their fireplace – waiting to be filled. It was an incredibly thoughtful gesture, done with love and care. It was also just the one thing that was needed to set Kyler off.

‘What the hell!’ Kyler stood stock still, his mouth open as he glanced around the room. He couldn’t decide if he should be pleased or pissed.

Hugh went over to the Christmas tree and stared at it. “Well, that saved us doing the job,” he said mildly.

Kyler spun around. “But it was our job; yours, Patrick’s and mine!” Appreciation was obviously not something Kyler was feeling at the moment.

“I know sweetheart, but I’m sure they meant well.” Hugh gestured to the coffee table, speaking in a calm voice which he hoped would settle the young man. “And look at all these cookies and tarts. You like those little ones, don’t you darling?”

“Much good it will do now that we are not having a Christmas party! Patrick’s not even here to enjoy them.” Kyler seemed bound and determined to find fault with whatever he could.

Hugh refused to be daunted by Kyler’s response. “I cannot see any reason why we can’t pack them and bring them to Patrick – he would enjoy them. We could bring them to the hospital on Christmas Eve and have a little party of our own in the room.”

“But it’s not the same!” Kyler yelled. He wondered why Hugh just wasn’t getting it. Things were so very different this year and none of it in a good way.

“Lower your voice! There is no need to shout.”

“I can’t help it; I’m just too royally ticked-off.” Kyler was trying hard get a grip of his temper but the fact that Christmas was only three days away was making him unreasonably angry. He didn’t understand why he felt that way and that only served to make him even more upset.

“If you don’t stop Kyler, you are going to whip yourself up into a frenzy,” warned Hugh, and then his eyes softened. He said, “come here,” and held his arms wide open.

There was no logical reason for Kyler to get angry at the sweet gesture, but angry he did get. In one blazing moment of bewilderment, he seemed to lose all control over rational thought or behaviour. “I’m going to get something to eat,” he snapped, turning on his heel and stomping back down the hall towards the kitchen.

Hugh watched Kyler disappear and debated whether to follow him or not. In the end he decided Kyler needed some time alone to cool off. He hoped food and solitude would be able to soothe Kyler’s jagged nerves. Hell, his own nerves were equally jagged and he suddenly thought longingly of soaking in a hot bath.

“Kyler, I’m heading upstairs for a bath. Come join me later if you want.” Not waiting for an answer, he went up the stairs.

Kyler ignored Hugh and huffed and puffed his way through making sandwiches, grumbling under his breath in order to fuel his ire no matter how unjustified.

He washed down the snack with a glass of cold milk. Neither helped him feel better. In fact, the nagging ache in the pit of his stomach only burned more intensely. On top of his anger, he now felt guilt for treating Hugh so badly. Four days of being afraid for someone he dearly loved had taken it’s’ toll and left him feeling insecure and in fear of his life drastically changing for the worse. Kyler felt like he was about to explode.

Totally at wits ends and not knowing how to deal with his feelings, Kyler slipped his boots back on and grabbed up a heavy jacket on his way out the back door. He didn’t give the mess he’d left behind a second’s thought; he just took himself downtown for a drink at the lounge. A change of scenery might not help, but it couldn’t hinder either.

An hour later, Kyler was still sitting at the bar and nursing the only beer he had ordered. His short conversation with Cameron had consisted mostly of shrugs and grunts on his part, and resulted in his friend going off to talk to another patron.

When it finally hit him that this was not where he wanted to be, Kyler pushed the unfinished beer to the back of the bar, waved goodbye and walked out. Huddling into his jacket to ward off the cold, he slowly trudged home. He was only now beginning to wonder what sort of reception awaited him.

The back porch light was on, as was the one in the downstairs hall. Kyler took the time to neatly place his wet boots on the rack and hang his jacket on the hook behind the door. He grimaced when he noticed the kitchen had been put to rights during his absence.

Switching off the lights as he passed, Kyler steadily made his way upstairs to the master bedroom where he found Hugh stretched out on their bed and reading.

“Ah, I’m home, Hugh,” he unnecessarily announced. He avoided looking directly at his partner, suddenly ashamed of having taken off once again without informing the older man of his whereabouts.

“Hey,” the older man responded, putting down his book. “Where did you go?” Hugh’s voice was neither angry nor warm.

“Went downtown to the lounge; watched a few guys playing pool, talked a bit with Cameron and had a beer. Not too much going on, so I came home.” Kyler fought off the urge to fling himself on Hugh. The thought of unloading his feelings to his solid and sometimes stern partner was suddenly very appealing, but something held him back.

Hugh didn’t react; he just watched Kyler move restlessly around the room. After stripping down to his t-shirt and boxers, Kyler sat down on the end of the bed and then dropped backwards so he was lying down with his feet still on the floor. “Thanks for cleaning up in the kitchen, Hugh. You didn’t have to, you know, because I would have done it when I got home.” He had one arm bent to cover his eyes, shielding them from the light. He was wrung out.

“Go and shower, Kyler.”

“I don’t feel like showering right now. I’ll do it in the morning.” Kyler was more than comfortable right where he was.

Hugh’s voice sharpened. “That was not a request. Go shower. Now please.” That tone was clipped and definitely no longer to be ignored.

Kyler’s heart leaped. He lifted his arm enough to glare at his partner for a moment or two. Seeing the look on Hugh’s face, he rolled his eyes and pulled himself up off the bed with an elaborate show of reluctance. He took his time getting clean sleepwear out of the dresser before eventually making his way into their en suite and slamming the door closed behind him.

Hugh raised his brow and sighed, one finger absent-mindedly tapping the side table.

In all likelihood Kyler broke his own record for the fastest shower ever, just barely rinsing away soap and shampoo. After a half-hearted clean-up of the room and a haphazard job of patting himself dry, he pulled on flannel pants and yanked a clean t-shirt over his still wet hair.

“All done!” he declared upon his return to the master bedroom.

Hugh looked him over appraisingly.

“You want to check to make sure I didn’t miss anything?” Kyler sassily inquired while glaring down at Hugh, who was sitting up and leaning against the headboard. He could see Kyler was set on a self-destruction path and was determined to push all the way to the inevitable conclusion.

Swinging his legs off the bed Hugh patted the bed next to him. “Sit.”

Kyler knew he was pushing it, but could no more stop himself than he could a speeding bullet. He plonked himself down where Hugh indicated and waited. There was a long silence as they sat next to one another.

Finally Hugh spoke. “Wanna tell me what’s going through your head?” Hugh asked so gently Kyler suddenly wanted to weep.

“I don’t know if I can explain it when I don’t even have a grip on it myself.” Kyler sighed deeply and leaned his head on Hugh’s broad shoulder. “I’ve just been so damn scared, Hugh.”

Hugh’s eyes were kind and understanding but his voice was firm. “I know how sacred you were. Still are probably, still afraid Patrick may not come back. And despite what we discussed yesterday, you are still blaming yourself for what happened. Isn’t that right?”

Kyler only shrugged, knowing that what Hugh said was right, that any fault of his in what happened to Patrick was minimal. And yet he couldn’t stop feeling like shit about the whole thing. His nerves were stretched taut, he felt like punching something or someone with his bare fist just to feel the physical pain, which might then perhaps replace the ache inside. He just wasn’t able to put his jumbled thoughts of fear and disappointment into words.

Hugh sighed. “Honey, only you alone can do this. Stop beating yourself up.” He put an arm around Kyler’s shoulders and held him close. “No one’s to blame. And no one is blaming you, except yourself.”

“But don’t you get it?” Kyler asked belligerently, glaring up at his partner. “I don’t know how to stop!” His annoyance was more than apparent by the manner in which he addressed his Top. “It’s not like something fell out of the sky and hit Patrick on the head. He was attacked! More than the person who hurt him is to blame!” His voice rising, he shrugged Hugh’s hand off and moved to get off the bed but found himself being hauled back.

“I’m not finished ...” Hugh said sharply.

Kyler lowered his butt back onto the bed, his body language shouting rebellion.

Hugh’s eyes were stern as he looked at his Brat. “I’ve said it enough times and I am not going to say it again. But I can and will help you to stop the guilt trip. You know full well you have earned yourself enough points to be in serious trouble with me. Just because I have not said anything the last few days doesn’t mean I have not noticed. It stops right here Kyler, this behaviour of yours stops tonight. I will not have you behaving as if you are the only person in the equation.”

Kyler was shocked and ashamed at Hugh’s spin on things. Is that really how the older man saw his inability to remain stalwart in his efforts to control the negative emotions overwhelming him? Did Hugh and maybe others see him as narcissistic and shallow? Deeply hurt, Kyler wilted under the accusation and hung his head as tears burned his eyes. He struggled to find the words to defend himself. “I’ve never once thought of it as being only me involved; I’m not that selfish or petty.”

Hugh saw the raw emotions and pushed on. He understood the weight Kyler had been labouring under the last few days and he sympathised with the young man, but it was time to put a stop to it. Kyler was being too stubbornly stoic, trying to bottle up all his fears and emotions inside.

“No one is calling you selfish. But you are shutting me out. You are taking all the blame for Patrick’s attack, which is ludicrous. You lash out at a kind and generous gesture from our parents. You are making yourself miserable and you show it very clearly that you prefer to suffer in silence. How do you think that makes me feel, especially when we are supposed to be life partners? What do you call that?”

Hugh knew he was being harsh but if he intended to knock Kyler off his cruel pedestal, he needed to do this.

“You are not a selfish person, Kyler. You are a sweet and beautiful person and I love you dearly; as does Patrick. I know what you’ve been through – what we all went through. All of us are equally scared and worried, just like you. That does not make us selfish any more than it does you.”

Kyler’s throat was constricted, making it difficult for him to speak coherently. “I know we are all upset. I guess some of us can just handle it better than others. I should have told you sooner that I was having trouble,” he managed to mumble.

“I agree; you should have. But that’s not what I am going to punish you for. You tell me why you are going to be spanked!” Hugh said.

“Cause I’ve been taking my frustrations out on you.”

“Yes, anything else?”

“I’ve been disrespectful, unappreciative and ...” Kyler gave his answer a moment’s thought, “distant?’ That was the best way he could describe his overall actions of the past few of days.

Hugh nodded. “Good start. What is the rule about disappearance?”

Kyler hesitated. This was such an old grievance. They had been over this time and again and he felt suddenly embarrassed that they were back at this place. But he managed to recite the much discussed rule, and eventually replied in a low voice. “I’m not supposed to. I am to let you know where I’m going and when I will be back.” Kyler shifted uncomfortably and picked at a loose thread he found on the bedspread.

Hugh let the words sink in before he said, “All right, stand up and lower your pants.”

Kyler reluctantly obeyed. He had brought this on himself and had no one else to blame for his present predicament. Besides, as much as he hated being spanked, he recognized the effectiveness it would have over getting him back on track and feeling securely settled once again.

Hugh took Kyler’s arm once the flannel sleep pants had reached mid-thigh. Without further ceremony, Hugh pulled the young man over his lap, allowing him to re-arrange himself more comfortably.

“Being sassy to your Top is not something you want to be doing again in the future,” Hugh said as he landed the first swat. “It’s unacceptable!” The second swat rang out, a hard palm on naked flesh.

Kyler grunted and bit his lower lip while clutching handfuls of bedcovering so tightly in preparation for what was to come, his knuckles turned white.

“Throwing a tantrum no matter how creatively is also not allowed.” Another swat followed.

“Owww!” Kyler cried out, bravely resisting the urge to reach behind and block the next swat.

Hugh pulled Kyler closer and raised his hand yet again. “Disappearing is an existing rule in this household. Isn’t it?”

“I know; I know it is!” Kyler wailed.

“Right! YOU DO NOT DISAPPEAR! Every time you do it, you will be spanked. Do you understand?”

“Yes sir, I-I understand.” Kyler’s voice cracked. “I-I’m sorry.”

It took a full minute for Kyler to realize the huge hand that had been painfully punishing his backside was now rubbing comforting circles on his back. He had stayed in place the whole time with as little kicking and squirming as possible, while bitterly sobbing out all the sorrow, fear, confusion and guilt he’d piled up on himself since the weekend. The chastisement had only lasted a couple of minutes, but Kyler was willing to attest to the fact that it took ten times longer than it had.

He allowed himself to be helped off his partner’s lap and onto the bed, to be cuddled while Hugh’s deep tenor voice washed over him. He lay in a dazed state with his head rising and falling rhythmically on the older man’s chest as Hugh breathed deeply in and out.

For the first time since learning of the attack on Patrick, Kyler was at peace despite his burning bottom and his breathing which was irregular and interspersed with shuddering hitches. He unconsciously raked his fingers through Hugh’s chest hair before eventually drifting off to sleep, secure in his lover’s arms.


Wednesday dawned bright; snow bright. Upon learning of the sudden blizzard that had blown in over night, resulting in a lot of impassable roads, Hugh called the hospital. The news was good on that front. Patrick had slept through and woke experiencing very little discomfort and only a minimal amount of disorientation which quickly vanished. He was presently eating his breakfast and they would let him know Hugh had called.

So Hugh and Kyler remained entwined under the sheets, listening to the weather report and closure announcements on the radio.

“Good thing yesterday was the last school day until the New Year,” Kyler mused. The morning was somehow in keeping with his feelings. The falling of snow somehow muted all sounds, showering a feeling of calmness over the world. The spanking the previous night had been a tough one but it left him feeling peaceful and calm. “The little kids wouldn’t have been too impressed about missing their class parties and gift exchanges. I know I sure would have been disappointed.”

Hugh cracked open an eye and mumbled, “Hmm ... the police will be asking people to stay off the roads as much as possible ... to allow for the snow removal crews ...” He flung an arm over Kyler and closed his eyes, trying to catch another few minutes of sleep.

“Well there will sure be less on the roads with the mine having closed last Friday for the winter,” Kyler commented. He turned to Hugh with a worried expression on his face and tapped the snoozing man’s cheek. “But we might not be able to get into the hospital and visit with Patrick? And even though the nurse on duty said he’s doing fine, I’d rather see for myself.”

Hugh groaned and then sighed. “The roads will probably be cleared by noon and we can drive to Kelowna after lunch. We have at least another hour before we need to get up, so come lie down Kyler.”

Kyler smiled at the suggestion and nestled against the slightly bigger man. “But just in case we don’t get out, I know how I can make the most of the day. It will be the perfect time to get some of my accounting up-to-date. Uncle Kipper has helped me out by doing the books for the lounge and the last bit for this mine, but I still have to do DQ’s, Stewart’s bakery, and Omega’s Electricians and Plumbers Company. Of course that can always wait a bit as I figure three or four hours should cover enough for now and I can finish up the rest next week. ” He merrily chattered on about his plans for the day should they end up snow-stayed.

Hugh slipped his hand into Kyler’s sleep pants and gently fondled his butt. “How are you feeling, babe? Sore?”

“A bit tender still,” Kyler grimaced but nevertheless pushed his bottom into the hand caressing it.

“Why don’t I try to get your mind off it then? Hmm?”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” Kyler smirked, getting turned on by the offer.

Hugh’s hand began a slow exploration. With minimal effort, he turned Kyler onto his back and then pinned him down with his own body weight. He felt comfortingly heavy and Kyler immediately wrapped his arms around his neck.

They kissed for a while until Kyler got impatient and began moving things along.

He began by tickling Hugh which resulted in the older man rolling over. Next he wiggled his way out of his t-shirt and sleep pants before divesting Hugh of his boxers. Only then did Kyler straddle his partner’s thighs and reach for the lube.

Rubbing a generous handful onto Hugh’s growing erection, Kyler efficiently prepared and positioned himself, and slowly lowered his body onto his lover’s pulsing shaft, pausing momentarily to adjust to the fullness. He rhythmically ground his hips against Hugh’s while teasing the big man’s nipples into hard nubs.

Picking up the pace, he rocked back and forth as he watched the man under him writhe and moan. Kyler loved the control this position gave him; he controlled the speed and the angle of the thrusts, and was in charge of bringing his Top to sexual heights of fulfilment.

Kyler knew Hugh was nearing his climax and felt his lover’s large hand engulf his own leaking penis. They matched rhythms and in minutes, both were crashing over the precipice. Kyler fell forward, landing in a boneless mass on Hugh’s chest. They lay there dazed and panting heavily until their breathing and heartbeats return to normal.

“I love you, Hugh,” Kyler declared in a soft voice filled with love and adoration. Not receiving a reply, he lifted his head and smirked when he saw Hugh in such a relaxed state, the older man was starting to nod off.

Kyler got off the bed as smoothly as possible so as not to disturb his partner and headed for the en suite. Once he’d showered, shaved and dressed, he returned and gently cleaned his slumbering Top’s abdomen of the signs of their love-making. Then he tucked the blankets around Hugh and quietly left the room.

As was often the case, sex left Kyler energized, but the fact that Hugh was still sleeping was proof of his exhaustion brought on by this week’s trauma.

Downstairs, Kyler turned on the tree lights and took a closer look at it. “They did a great job of it,” he mused to himself with a soft smile.

While waiting for the pot of coffee to brew, he called first his mom and then Patrick’s parents, bringing them up to date on Patrick’s condition and thanking them for their thoughtfulness in all they’d done yesterday. Next he made himself a light breakfast of cereal and toast. Settling down with a second cup of coffee, he turned on his laptop to get some book work done.

He had just finished the paperwork for the bakery when the phone rang. He snatched it up at the first ring, hoping it hadn’t woken Hugh. He grinned broadly at the sound of Patrick’s voice.

Apparently Patrick was well enough this morning to be bored and making phone calls. It was an encouraging sign.

“Hey, remembering your home phone number must be a good sign,” Kyler teased. He was practically bouncing with happiness. He told Patrick about the tree being decorated in their absence and about the treats left for them. “We’ll be bringing you some when we come to visit later today. Keep your fingers crossed that the roads are cleared before the day is over.”

Kyler glanced up when Hugh entered the kitchen and grinned. “Guess who’s finally up? I’ll let you talk to him. Bye for now. Love ya!” He blew a kiss into the mouthpiece.

“It’s Patrick!” he announced as he handed the older man the phone. Hugh was unshaved and his hair was standing up on end, but he still looked gorgeous to his young partner.

While his two Tops conversed, Kyler handed Hugh a mug of hot coffee and began preparing him some bacon and eggs. Hugh smiled his thanks at his busy Brat and sipped the scalding liquid. He chatted with Patrick for a while more and then ended the call with a promise to make it over to the hospital later that day.

It was going on four in the afternoon by the time Hugh and Kyler were able to leave for Kelowna . After Kyler completed all he’d felt had to be done for his clients, the car had to be shovelled out. This job ended up in a snowball fight with both men enjoying the opportunity to get some exercise and have a bit of carefree fun.

They picked up Patrick’s parents on the way out of town and arrived at the hospital shortly after five-thirty, just as Patrick was finishing supper. The improvement in Patrick was remarkable – and all were happy to learn that their loved one was feeling much better than yesterday. The IV had been removed and his pain medication had been changed from morphine to Tylenol III, with was less debilitating. He was more alert and all disorientation seemed to have disappeared.

Their visit lasted well into the evening, with Hugh finally declaring it was time to leave. As much as Patrick enjoyed seeing his family, the prolonged visit was draining what little energy he had and Hugh was clueing in to the signs of his lover’s fatigue.

“You’re looking tired, babe,” Hugh said as he leaned down to plant a kiss on Patrick’s forehead. He didn’t usually call him that endearment – which somehow both men reserved mostly for Kyler – but Hugh was feeling particularly protective.

“I know, I’m sorry,” Patrick mumbled, smiling up at Hugh. He sighed, longing to be held in those strong arms.

Hugh leaned closer. “One more sorry out of you and I may have to turn you over my lap and give you exactly what Kyler got this morning!” Hugh’s mouth was next to Patrick’s ear and his voice was low enough to make that comment private.

Patrick half grinned and half looked anxious. “Oh no, did he get himself in trouble? I was worried yesterday when I saw him prancing around. You took care of it?”

“Yes, don’t you worry, darling. I will always take care of him and you as well. And don’t you ever forget that!”

Patrick’s eyes gleamed and he smiled again, content to feel Hugh’s presence hovering over him, his warmth like a soft blanket. He raised one finger and touched Hugh’s hand and stroked it gently. “Can’t wait to be home ...”

Kyler’s voice cut into their conversation. “Hello, you two. Are you forgetting you’re not alone?”

Hugh grinned and straightened up, quirking an eyebrow. “Yes Kyler, we are fully aware you guys are still in the room, and no Kyler, we are not ignoring the rest of you. Sorry Mom, Dad, I just wanted Patrick to know all’s well at home.”

“Oh for heaven’s sake,” Bette said from the sofa at the end of the room, “don’t you listen to Kyler. He’s just teasing! Naughty boy!” she admonished with mock sternness.

Kyler’s smile widened to show that Bette had been right on; he had only been trying to get a rise out of his partners.

Doug got up and walked over to his son’s bedside. “Well, we should be going I guess. You look like you need to get some rest, son. This visit has been good but we shouldn’t over-do it.”

Bette started gathering her things and Kyler helped her on with her coat, held her hat while she did up the buttons and then handed it to her. Next he helped Doug into his heave down jacket.

“Thanks guys,” Patrick raised a hand and waved, his lips curling into a smile. “Tomorrow’s Christmas eve isn’t it?” He sounded wistful.

“Yes! And we’ll be back tomorrow morning, Patrick,” Kyler promised as he kissed his partner goodbye. “And we’re bringing Christmas with us!”

Patrick’s eyes opened wider and he turned to Hugh, who just shrugged. Both were in the dark about what their Brat had up his sleeve. Hugh had no intentions of rocking the boat though. He was too relieved knowing the younger man had finally resigned himself to the fact that Patrick would in all likelihood not be released from the hospital for another couple of days.

“Dad and I will be in to see you on Christmas Day, honey.” Bette gently wiped the lipstick from her son’s cheek after having just kissed it, and stepped out of the way so Doug could say goodnight.

“Get some rest, sweetheart,” Hugh whispered and then bent down once again to place a soft but lingering kiss on Patrick’s lips. “I think you’re going to need it because it sounds like Kyler has big plans for tomorrow.” He winked and with a pat on Patrick’s shoulder, followed the others out of the room.

Walking into their darkened kitchen over an hour later, Kyler was in a much better mood than he had been the past few evenings. Although still a little saddened that they won’t be celebrating Christmas in their home, he was content and grateful that they at least could celebrate the season together. Things could have been so much worse. Pushing all such unhealthy thoughts away, he quickly drifted off to sleep with visions of all the festive preparations waiting to be done in order to carry out his plan.


Although it was only eight o’clock, Hugh was alone in their bed when he awoke the next morning. He showered and dressed, then went downstairs to discover a note on the refrigerator door.

Running last minute errands; back ASAP.
Love, Kyler.

Flicking the note in his hand, Hugh shook his head and looked ruefully around the kitchen. It was too quiet with both his partners absent. Mildly wondering where Kyler had disappeared to and what the young imp had in mind, he hummed a tune and set about making coffee. True to his word, the young man arrived home with his arms full before Hugh had a chance to down his first cup.

“I’ll have everything ready to go in about an hour, Hugh.” Kyler’s eyes were sparkling with excitement as he rushed around gathering up what he intended to take to the hospital.

Hugh watched the growing pile of boxes and bags being carried out to the car. Unable to curtail his curiosity any longer, he asked Kyler for an itemized list.

“Well first there’s the small artificial tree with lights and ornaments for it. Then there is a wreath. We need to decorate Patrick’s room; ‘cause although the corridors are decked out, the individual rooms aren’t. I packed the portable CD player and a pile of seasonal music; stuff we all like. I got a couple of bags filled with the gifts that should be under our tree and our stockings. We’ll have to finish stuffing them as best we can. This is the last box to go and it contains all the treats my Mom and Patrick’s parents left us the other night.” Kyler paused to go over the list in his head. “Can you think of anything I’ve forgotten?”

Hugh threw his head back and pretended to ponder seriously. “I don’t think so. I’d say you have everything covered.”

“Then let’s get going. This is Christmas Eve day and we’re going to make-merry!” Kyler declared, picking up the last carton and heading out the door.

It was well before noon when Kyler strolled into Patrick’s room; a small Christmas tree under one arm, his CD player under the other, a wreath around his neck and a large bag hanging from either hand. His sudden halt had Hugh, who was equally laden down, bumping into him.

Both could only stare at the man sitting on the side of the bed. Patrick was grinning ear-to-ear and fully dressed.

“It’s about time you guys got here,” he merrily stated. “I’m ready to go home and you’ve kept me waiting.” He laughed at the shocked expressions on their faces.

Hugh pushed Kyler further into the room and put his boxes down. “What?”

Before Patrick’s announcement could register, Dr. Bannon entered the room, smiling. “I see you fellows are finally here to relieve us of the most impatient patient on this floor. I might not be so anxious to do so if I were you. You do know that doctors make horrible patients. They are notorious for self-diagnosis and treatment and for not following other doctor’s advice.”

Patrick tutted at his colleague and laughed. “David, you know I have been most docile and obedient! And there is really no reason why I cannot rest at home as well as I can here.”

Dr Bannon rolled his eyes. “Patrick here has managed to brow-beat me into releasing him today, but I have a long list of instructions which I expect to be followed to the letter. And I better not see him back at work for at least two weeks. Are we all clear on that?” He glared pointedly at Patrick.

Patrick grinned and saluted, while Hugh replied, “Give me the list Dr Bannon, and I will make sure your orders are followed. Are you really saying we can take him home with us? Today?” he sounded disbelieving.

“YES!” Kyler whooped, relieving himself of his cumbersomeness packages. “Don’t ask questions in case someone changes their minds. Let’s just get out of here!”

Hugh looked from one face to the other, and finally said with much reluctance. “Much as I want you home, Patrick, if Dr Bannon thinks you should stay longer ...”

“I know how I feel!” Patrick protested. “And I feel fine!”

“The only reason why I allowed myself to be persuaded,” Dr Bannon said as he walked over to his patient, “is that I do believe you know what’s best Patrick. There’s no finer doctor than you and if you promise me to get the required rest there really is no reason why you can’t be home. It’s Christmas after all!”

“Thanks David,” Patrick said as he held out a hand and grasped David’s. “I’m lucky to have you attending. You made some great calls and I appreciate all you’ve done!”

Dr Bannon acknowledged the credit graciously, and bid them Merry Christmas before leaving the three men alone.

“So, are we outta here or what?” Kyler bounced excitedly.

“Yep, we can go the minute the nurse comes with my wheel-chair. Standard procedure, Ky. Ah ... here she is ... ” Patrick slowly stood up and smiled at the nurse.

“Here let me help you, Patrick,” Kyler offered, slipping a supportive hand under one of his partner’s arms.

Hugh picked up his boxes again. “You can stay with Patrick, Kyler, while I go back to the car and bring it to the entrance.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Patrick said as he lowered himself gently into the wheelchair. “Do you have my meds, nurse?”

“Yes, doctor. Everything is ready, including Dr Bannon’s list.”

Patrick groaned loudly and made everyone laugh. The mood was definitely up-beat as the group left the room. Kyler asked for and received permission to propel the chair, feeling a little awed by it. Once Patrick was seated, Kyler placed the CD player and the small tree on the patient’s lap, hung the two bags he had brought in with him on the chair’s handles, and with the wreath still around his neck, began to steer the wheelchair out of the room and down the wide corridor.

The progress was slow and long as Patrick was repeatedly stopped and greeted by a lot of the staff, all wanting to wish him luck and happy holidays. Eventually the group came to the main entrance and Hugh jumped out of the car to help load all the boxes and packages, before finally assisting Patrick into the passenger seat.

Kyler slammed the trunk door shut and jumped into the back seat. Doing up his seat belt, he called out teasingly, “Home, James, and don’t spare the horses!” His voice rang with glee and caused the two older men to grin happily as they got caught up in the excitement of the moment.

“I can’t wait to be home, babe,” Patrick said with a sigh as the car slowly left the hospital grounds. He leaned back and closed his eyes. “It feels so good to know we will soon be home.”

Hugh glanced into the rear mirror, and felt contented. He was taking his partners home with him.

Kyler wasn’t listening. He was checking all the messages on Patrick’s cell phone, as the recovering man hadn’t quite been up to it. “Wahoo; wait ‘til you guys hear this. It’s gonna blow your minds. You got a message from Chief Chandi Barrett, Patrick. They located your BMW and towed it to the compound in Jade Heights. It’s none the worse for wear, but totally out of gas. You’ll get all the particulars when you pick it up at your convenience. There is no mention of either the creeps who stole it or the whereabouts of your medical bag. Guess you’ll find out later. But is this great news or what?”

Patrick, who had been dozing, raised his head and looked at Kyler. “Really? They found my car? That’s a Christmas present!”

Hugh was nodding enthusiastically as well. “Wonderful news. I didn’t think they’d find it so fast, if at all. I can go pick it up tomorrow if you want, Patrick.”

“Thanks,” Patrick said. “Any more good news Kyler?”

Kyler quickly checked through the messages once again. “Nay, just same old, same old. Some of these folks call us when they couldn’t reach you. Word got around about you being hurt and they wanted to know how you were doing.”

“Why don’t you try to get some sleep Patrick? I won’t be driving fast and it will be at least another hour before we get home. Kyler, pass that cushion to Patrick, will ya?”

Locating the pillow Hugh was referring to, Kyler gently pushed Patrick’s head forward enough to slip the soft cushion behind his partner’s neck.

“Hmm, this is nice,” Patrick leaned back into the cushion, and looked at Kyler busily arranging things around the two of them. “You got music too, Ky?”

Picking out a CD, Kyler shoved it into the portable player on the seat beside him and pushed the play button. The soft strains of the first musical piece filled the car and without warning, tears of joy filled Kyler’s eyes and a lump lodged in his throat. The lyrics were so apt. Somehow he managed to choke out loud enough for Hugh and Patrick to hear, “It doesn’t get any better than this and this song says it perfectly.”

No one else spoke but they all felt the connection. The feeling of peace and togetherness was strong and powerful as the three men revelled in it. Kyler rested his head on the back of his seat, smiling contentedly as they all let the beautiful refrain flow over them.

“I’ll be home for Christmas…….”

The End