*** Chapter 2 ***
Brad alternated pacing in the Emergency Room and sitting nervously, as Sergeant Jones spoke to the officer in charge. Robert was still in emergency surgery, and no information was available yet. Eventually, he felt a firm hand on his shoulder.
“Bradley, they don’t know how bad it is, just that it is bad. He was t-boned by a drunk driver who blew through a red light at the intersection of Foster and Niles. Witnesses say he could have sped up and maybe gotten out of the way, but slammed on his brakes instead, as there was a group of children in the crosswalk and his truck was all that stood between them and the drunk. His truck and the other drivers’ car were totaled.”
Brad stood, not knowing what to do, not able to process everything. “But, he’ll be ok, right?” He couldn’t keep the tremble out of his voice, but didn’t care. Instead of answering, Sergeant Jones just pulled him into a hug, standing silently as Brad sobbed onto his shoulder.
What seemed like an eternity later, but was rather a few hours, a weary looking doctor came out to the Emergency Room, and headed towards Sergeant Jones.
“Sir, I’m told you’re the emergency contact for Mr. Ariforte?”
“Yeah, I’m the one you called. This is his partner, Bradley Cenau. You should talk to him.”
“Mr. Cenau? You’re his business partner?”
“No, his partner. We’re, uh, together.”
The doctor blushed a bit. “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have assumed otherwise. Look, I just wanted to say that Mr. Ariforte is out of surgery, but still in critical condition. He’s got multiple broken bones, including a rib, which collapsed his lung. The other internal organs appear to be bruised but not permanently damaged. There are severe lacerations from the glass shards, a probable concussion, and substantial blood loss. I can’t say more until he wakes up.” Just then, the primary ER nurse walked up to the doctor with a chart, and he excused himself and hurried away.
“Can I see him now? Be with him? Where is he?” Brad asked.
“I’m sorry Sir, but only spouses and next of kin are allowed except during normal visiting hours.”
“You don’t understand, he means everything to me, and …”
“Truly, I am sorry, but there’s nothing I can do.”
“Look, ma’am, Bradley here is his partner,” interjected Sergeant Jones.
“I’m sorry, really, but I can’t change state law and hospital policy.”
“But when can I see him?”
“I’m afraid not until he wakes up, if he does, and is in a regular room.”
“IF? Please, you have to let me.”
“Ma’am, there has to be some way.”
“Officer, you know as well as I do ….”
“Wait, wait,” Brad interjected. “I remember, Robert had us do an Advance Directive, does that help?”
“If it has a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care and a Hospital Visitation Form, then yes. Do you have it with you?”
“No, no. Is there some online listing?”
“I’m afraid not. Did you file it here at the hospital?”
“I don’t think so. But we have notarized copies in both cars’ glove boxes.”
“It’ll be at least 30 more minutes before he gets transferred from recovery. If you get the forms, come back here and I can get you to him after that.”
“Oh, thank you, thank you so much,” said Brad to the nurse, as she headed back to her station.
“Bradley, is your car at work? I can drive you there to get the papers.”
“Yes, thank you Sergeant, I don’t know what I’d do without you.”
Sergeant Jones not only drove Brad back to get his car, where they checked to be sure the papers were indeed all in the glove compartment, but followed him back to the hospital to make sure the obviously distraught man made it safely. Shaking hands in the parking lot, the police officer made Brad promise to call when he had news, swapped personal cell phone numbers, and then took his leave.
The nurse was as good as her word, and ushered Brad into the Critical Care Unit where Robert was now recovering, giving his shoulder a reassuring squeeze at the door before heading back to the ER. Initially, Brad could do nothing but look at the heavily bandaged body of the man he loved, IVs connected, both arms in casts, so very still in the bed; then the sounds of the room penetrated, the steady beeping of the heart monitor, the hissing and humming made by the respirator, the footsteps echoing in the austere hallway behind him. With a single tear running down his cheek, he moved to the side of the bed and loosely held the hand that he could, afraid to do more.
“Oh, Robert, why? I didn’t tell you I loved you earlier, I should have told you, I need to tell you that. I know you did the right thing, you probably saved those kids, but I need you. Come back to me. Get better. Please.” But there was no response. Brad was left regretting what had been said and what had not; worried that this time, they wouldn’t get a chance to work out their differences and focus again on what was important.
A long night passed in the hospital room, Brad slumped in an uncomfortable chair by Robert’s bedside, leaving only for necessary bathroom visits. He had refused the light dinner the nurses had offered, and his stomach was queasy from hunger and nerves. He tried to sleep, but only managed fitful bursts, gaining no real rest, but unwilling not to be awake when Robert’s eyes finally opened. Because they had to, they would, he knew it. He had asked the nurses multiple times during the night why they were letting Robert sleep if he might have a concussion, only to be told that sleep and rest was indicated for someone with a concussion, that it was a myth that someone with a concussion shouldn’t sleep, as long as they were monitored for no further symptoms, which they had been doing. He had asked if perhaps Robert had been given too much anesthesia and that was why he wasn’t waking up, only to be told that Robert’s body needed the rest in order to heal, but he wasn’t being forced to rest, that the dose had been right. He asked about how Robert would eat, how he would talk with the ventilator, only to be assured that the IV could give him all the nutrition he needed for now, and that breathing was more important than talking. The longer the night lasted, the more questions he had, and the more he afterwards thought they were silly, but the staff answered patiently and helpfully.
Finally, morning arrived, as did the doctor. Brad rose to shake his hand, then let the doctor review Robert’s chart. After a quick examination of vitals for himself, the doctor looked over to Brad.
“Good morning, Mr. Cenau. You should have asked for a cot, you need rest as well.”
“I can’t rest, doctor, not until I know something. If I close my eyes, my imagination goes out of control, I can’t stop it. If I look at him, I can think he’ll get better. And he has to get better.”
“Please, sit down. Let’s talk.”
“Sit down? Why, is it bad news? Please, it can’t be …”
“Mr. Cenau, sit down. It isn’t because of bad news, it’s because you look like you’ll fall over any second. And falling on top of Mr. Ariforte won’t do him any good,” said the doctor with a slight smile. “That’s better. Now then, let me say that Mr. Ariforte is fortunate that the collision was at the rear door of the truck, not the driver’s door, otherwise the damage would have been much more severe. His left arm was cleanly broken as the side air bag deployed; his right has both a fractured ulna and radius due to how tightly he was gripping the steering wheel at the time. The impact also cracked ribs on his left side, which in turn collapsed his lung. The EMS crew prevented a lot of long term damage by getting a chest tube inserted on scene and re-inflating the lung, but he’ll be on the ventilator for a couple of days. We’re going to take him down for a CT scan later this morning to assess the severity of his concussion, the forward impact against the deploying air bag certainly knocked him around. That accounts for the black eyes and broken nose. He has a lot of stitches, we need to watch for infection, and he needed a large amount of blood. There were no spine or neck injuries evident, which is a good thing.”
“The way you say that, it sounds like you think he’ll be alright?”
“Given how he has progressed overnight, yes, I think he will pull through. But it will be a slow recovery. I’ll know more once he wakes up.”
“Thank you, thank you for all you’ve done …” Brad exclaimed, this good news flooding adrenaline through his system, but he was stopped by a soft rustling sound from the bed, as Robert’s fingers moved slowly across the sheet. As they both turned their heads, they saw the patient’s eyes slowly flutter open, then close again. The doctor quickly moved to his side, opening Robert’s eye to examine the pupil as he checked Robert’s pulse with his other hand, then letting it fall closed again.
“Mr. Ariforte, can you hear me?”
“Mr. Ariforte, this is Dr. Jacobs. You’re at the Metro Hospital. You had an accident, and there’s a ventilator in place. Open your eyes if you can hear me.”
Still, there was no response.
Softly, Brad spoke. “Robert, it’s me, Bradley. I’m here. Let the doctor know you’re awake. Please.”
At the sound of Brad’s voice, Robert’s eyes once again groggily opened. Just barely, but enough to be sure there had been a response. Moving to the side of the bed opposite Dr. Jacobs, Brad took Robert’s free hand and held it as the doctor buzzed for a nurse and began a more thorough examination.
The first days at the hospital passed in a drug induced fog for Robert, as the controlled doses of painkillers kept him groggy. Brad was in a fog to, refusing to leave the room other than for necessities, eating there, having a cot brought in. Dr. Jacobs was finally able to convince him on the third afternoon to go home and shower and get changes of clothing, as Robert would need clothing eventually too. While he was gone, the respirator was removed.
Brad’s heart leapt seeing this upon his return, another sign of Robert’s recovery. Still under the influence of the painkillers, Robert could but smile at him as he drifted back towards sleep, feeling all the better as Brad leaned over to softly bring their lips together in a gentle kiss.
However, as the dose of painkillers was reduced and Robert’s frustration over his condition increased, the quiet tender moments seemed to be harder to find. Brad tried to insist on spending every moment at his side, but Robert had grown more and more irritable with him, and insisted that he go to work, which Brad reluctantly agreed to, rushing back as soon as the day was done. Brad had to admit that the break was helpful, it allowed him to be more cheerful and patient when at the hospital, which despite efforts to brighten the place (including a collection of bright “thank you” drawings from the children that had been in the intersection) was still rather institutional. A few days later, when Robert was moved to a regular room, he insisted that the cot not be brought.
“You need your rest. You should sleep at home in the bed. That way you won’t wake up every time the nurses come in.”
“Robert, I’d rather sleep here.”
“Bradley, that is considerate of you, but you don’t need to. You’ve already put yourself out enough. I’ll be fine.”
“I know, you worry that something will happen, but Dr. Jacobs says the worst is over, it is just recovery time.”
“I want to be with you.”
“Bradley, I love that you do. I want you here as well. But you have to work, and you need rest. I’ll be home soon, wait and see. Do I have to get out of this bed and drag ya home, Cub?” Robert said, coughing as he deepened his voice, his throat still rough from the ventilator. Brad quickly offered him a sip of water, and smiled despite his worry.
“Well, as much as I’d like you to drag me off to bed, you big ol’ bear, I suppose I shouldn’t force you to make the effort yet. I’ll sleep at home, and go to work, but I will be here before work and all evening.”
“Hey, I am compromising here, take it or leave it. Otherwise I’ll sleep on the floor if I have to.”
“Ok, fine,” Robert said with a grumble but slight smile “we’ll do it your way, seeing as you are so reasonable and everything.”
As Robert had more and more alert but inactive time, he become more depressed at Bradley seeing him so weak, and frustrated with his own inabilities. His first attempt to get out of bed by himself was an abject failure, causing nurses to rush in and a stern admonition from Dr. Jacobs – but at least Bradley hadn’t been there to see him collapse and yank the monitor cords out. He made every effort to cooperate with the staff after that, in hopes of speeding his recovery and release, but the loss of control made him all the more depressed.
Soon enough, however, he was out of bed walking the hallways, even if the two cast-encased arms meant he needed help getting out of bed and left him unsteady on his feet (as if his stiff, bruised aching leg muscles weren’t enough). Knowing that Bradley got out of work very regularly now, he timed his second walk to leave him on the far side of the elevator doors and awaited his mates’ arrival.
“Hey, sexy, my cub went to work, want some hot action?” he said in a loud deep whisper as Bradley exited the elevator and headed the other way.
“Huh, what … ?” a shocked Brad exclaimed, spinning around quickly and breaking into a big stupid grin at the sight of Robert standing there. He rushed over to hug him tight.
“Oooofff” grunted Robert. “Careful there, Bradley, I’m not so steady yet.” As Brad looked panicked and started to draw away, Robert leaned his head down for a soft kiss, easing the tension.
Finally stepping back, the smile back on his face, Brad softly said “I’m so happy to see you up and about, Robert.” Without further words, they began to slowly walk back to Robert’s room, not needing to say more, just needing each other. Once there, however, Robert looked sheepishly at the bathroom door, then at his arms. “Guess it’ll be some time before I can do that myself. I hate that bedpan.”
“I’m here now, love. Let’s go” said Brad, opening the door.
“You don’t have to, Bradley …”
“Sssshhh, just move that sexy ass, big fella, don’t think I’ve not caught a glimpse or two of it as we walked. Those hospital gowns have some benefits.”
Grinning but still embarrassed over needing help with such a basic function, Robert shuffled into the bathroom, which was easily big enough for the two, being wheelchair accessible. Brad closed the door behind them. Coming up behind Robert, he stood close, letting Robert lean into him a bit, supporting him, and brought his right arm around Robert’s stomach, hiking up the front of the gown then holding him tightly enough to steady him yet loosely enough not to press upon the tightly bandaged ribs. Peaking around Robert, he brought his left hand around and gently grasped Robert’s flaccid cock, aiming it at the toilet bowl.
“Ok, let ‘er rip, big boy, I have you.”
Slowly at first, then relaxing, Robert let his stream flow, the sound of urine hitting water loud in the closed room. It was a long heavy one, not worrying about the bedpan and spilling or splashing, trusting Brad. He sighed deeply as the stream tapered off.
“Thank you Bradley, what a relief. Sometimes the little things make such a difference.”
“Robert, there are little things, and I’m happy to do them. And not so little things, if you know what I mean” Brad murmured, giving Robert’s cock a gentle squeeze. The feel of Brad’s hand on it was good, Robert hadn’t even thought of sex, but even the mild innuendo caused his erection to grow, and rapidly.
Without saying another word, Brad slowly and gently stroked Robert, enjoying the feeling of hardness yet the silky soft skin. As it become harder, the blood flow made Robert’s cock feel warmer, and Brad felt the throbbing of both Robert’s heartbeat and rising excitement. As it did in many religions and beliefs, it symbolized a return to life, to vitality, one that Brad still was thankful for every minute of every day. Even with the smell of disinfectants around them, holding him close Brad could catch the scent of his man again, a clean arousing musky aroma that let him know things were getting better and would be all right.
Roberts’ quiet grunts and growls were all Brad needed to let him know things were going well. He gently kissed Roberts’ upper back through the gap in the hospital gown, slowly picking up the pace of his stroking as pre-cum added a natural lubrication.
While he wanted the time to last forever, he knew they wouldn't have privacy for long, that a nurse would eventually be by to check and see how the walking went and get everything hooked back up. So Brad picked up the pace, rubbing his finger under the lower edge of the head of Roberts’ cock with every upstroke, then twisting his hand on the down stroke. He played and teased, it was lovemaking, not sex, and Robert moaned out his name, slowly moving his hips in rhythm with the stroking, rubbing his bare ass against the bulge very clearly evident at the front of Brad’s slacks.
“Bradley, oh Bradley, oh gawd just like that, don’t stop …”
“Yeah big man, that’s it, show me what you got, let me work your big cock, you sexy bear.”
“Uh, uh, oh yeah, Cub, Bradley, love …”
“Come on, you can do it, give me that bear seed…”
No sooner did Brad ask, when with a shudder, Robert did exactly that, his orgasm causing his body to tremble heavily, his cum flying out into the toilet bowl, erupting all over Brad’s hand, creamy and thick. As Robert growled out his satisfaction, Brad smiled with joy. Both men had found relief.
Robert found it hard to catch his wind, his normal post sex heavy breathing not possible due to the cracked and bruised ribs, he just couldn’t draw a deep breath. The shuddering didn’t stop when the orgasm did either, and carried down to Robert’s legs, causing him to sag into Brad’s grip. As Brad held him tighter in an automatic response, pain flooded through the ribs, and breathing became even harder. Robert saw stars, gasping out “my ribs, can’t breathe”.
Knowing he couldn’t hold him up like this any longer, Brad responded the only way he could, leaning rapidly against the door, bashing his head against a towel holder but managing to loosen his grip around Robert’s stomach, letting Robert lean against him from the upper back level.
“Robert, calm down, don’t try to breathe deep. Shallow breaths, pant for me. Quick shallow breaths. It’s OK. You’re alright.” Brad quietly and calmly murmured. As much as he wanted to panic, to scream for the nurse, he knew action was needed now, and that the issue could be controlled. He kept up the low reassurance, directing Robert’s breathing, calming him, re-grounding him.
Slowly, Robert regained his equilibrium, and was able to stand on his own, even if unsteadily. Brad cleaned them both with a washcloth from the sink, being careful to be in a supportive position at all times.
“I knew you left me weak at the knees, Bradley, but I always thought that was a figurative statement, not a literal one” Robert said with a smile, knowing that despite his outward calm Brad needed some reassurance that all was well.
“And don’t you forget it, big man, don’t you forget it” Brad said as he turned to unlock the door, then helping the much weaker seeming Robert to his bed. Just as they were settled in, the nurse arrived.
“Good evening Mr. Cenau. How is everything Mr. Ariforte?” asked the nurse.
“It’s good ma’am. I got more exercise than I intended though” Robert said, winking at Brad, who turned beet red and was happy the nurse didn’t even glance his way, working on getting all the monitors back in place.
“Why yes, your pulse still is high. And you worked up a sweat. It’s a good sign that you could do that much, it’ll get you released to rehab all the sooner. But don’t overdo it.”
“I’m not going into the VA rehab center. I’m going home.”
“Now Mr. Ariforte, Dr. Jacobs has talked to you about this. You will need therapy if you want to get better.”
“I think I’ll get better faster at home. Leave the rehab center for the vets who need it more than me.”
“It won’t be as easy as you think. I’ll check with Dr. Jacobs about getting a counselor to talk to you about it.”
Sensing what was to come, Brad quickly interjected. “Don’t worry, Nurse. I’ll be there to help, and I’m sure we can get home visits with both the physical and occupational therapists.”
“It is a lot of work, Mr. Cenau. And a lot of strain” the nurse added with a knowing look.
“He’s worth it, don’t worry.”
“Yes, I can see that” the nurse said with a smile, as she bustled about recording the readings on the reconnected monitors. “Well, if your mind is set, you’ll need instructions too. It will still be a while anyway, so there’s time.” After asking about dinner, she left the now exhausted and thoughtful couple to themselves.