Ezra was getting better every day. I hated leaving him each evening but my back was about to break in those hospital chairs and that dinky cot they finally let me set up. His toes were moving better and he could feel my hands when I massaged up his legs. Nathan was real good at massage and I learned a lot from him. Some days, he'd work on one leg while I copied him on Ezra's other leg.
I was determined that he'd be back on his feet by spring. That was April 21st according to my calendar and we had our work cut out for us. Chris had dropped by with Chinese takeout towards the end of the third week and the three of us had a serious talk about our options. Ezra was on disability leave but I was out of comp time and I didn't want to take any vacation because I wanted to be home when he finally got out of the hospital.
Chris suggested that I come back to work but only half days for a week then start back on a full schedule on March 15th. Ezra nodded real slow-like and I could see him agree. Our eyes met and I could see the regret in his gaze. It would be hard to be apart but he would be starting physical therapy every morning and I knew that he wanted to do that on his own.
That would be really hard for me to miss but I already knew that I wouldn't be able to watch some guy hurt Ezra, even if it was for his own good. So, I agreed and told Chris that I'd be at work on Monday. He smiled, leaving us alone with our lemon chicken and Mongolian beef. I fed Ezra each bite while he fed me with kind of a shaky hand. He was slowly but surely working on exercising different parts.
I had to stop from doing everything for him so he could get used to doing it instead. I held my tongue and my offer of help until he got too tired. Then I would finish the chore while he took deep breaths and let go of the strain. I'd have been nuts by now but he just seemed to cope no matter what happened. I finally asked him how he did it and he smiled at me.
"One of the things that I learned in the Orient was a form of meditation along with my martial arts." He was tired but still trying to stake awake for me. I leaned closer and stroked his hair, making him smile and relax a little more. "When the pain gets too bad, I go into whatever hurts and rest there until some of the pain subsides."
"Inside the pain?" I couldn't see how that would help.
"Hm-m-m, it's usually a muscle or ligament that's been stressed so going inside of the muscle means that part of the strain is gone. It takes energy to hurt so I relieve some of that energy by slipping onto the other side of the pain." His eyes were almost shut now, just a gleam of green under his dark lashes. It kind of made sense to me but I was still wondering how he did it when he yawned real big. "Love you, angel-Vin."
"I love you too, Ezra. Sweet dreams." I kept on stroking his hair until I knew he was sound asleep. He was getting better and that was all that mattered. But I was so tired and I was scared that I wouldn't be strong enough for him while he was healing. There was so little that I could do for him.
He was the one in pain, the one who couldn't walk ... might never walk again. I rested my head on my arm and felt like crying, wishing that I could get onto the other side of this pain. A hand on my shoulder like to scared me to death but it was just Buck. I could see J.D. hovering in the doorway and I decided right there and then to resolve that situation.
Getting up, I gently kissed Ezra's temple and motioned them out ahead of me. Shutting the door behind us, I smiled at Terry, the night nurse on duty. "He's asleep, Terry."
"Best thing for him, Vin. Gentlemen." She grinned at the three of us and went on her way. She was a real sweetie and had taken good care of me when I was still sitting up with him. I don't know if she knew we were lovers or not but if she did, it sure didn't affect her care of both of us.
"Buck, there's something I need to have you and J.D. do for us." I sighed and led them around the corner to a little waiting room at the end of the hall. "I hate to ask you but Ezra's real worried about it and I don't want him to worry about anything but getting well."
"Sure, Vin. Just tell me and I'll do it." He looked real serious and J.D. nodded too.
"Good, that's a real relief." I sighed again and ran a shaky hand through my hair. That reminded me of Ezra's first request to me when he came out of that coma that had scared me so. He really liked the shampoo I used and I hated to tell him that I used it because it was cheap.
"Vin, it's okay. You can ask us anything." Buck looked serious and J.D. nodded firmly.
"I know but it's kind of personal." I acted real hesitant and put my left arm around J.D. then looped my right arm around Buck. "Ezra told me to tell you, Buck." I took a deep breath and brought them together, chest to chest. "Quit foolin' around and just love each other."
You could have heard a pin drop while J.D. looked up at his roommate with such yearning that it brought tears to my eyes. And finally, Buck saw what Ezra had seen so long ago. He lifted a hand to J.D.'s cheek and our computer expert lifted a hand to bring him down to his level. Their first kiss was slow and light, kind of like Ezra's and my first kiss.
Buck looked shell-shocked when he raised his head but J.D. was glowing brighter than the hall light. "I've loved you for a long time, Buck. But I didn't think that you'd ever see me as anything more than a kid."
"You are a kid." He sighed but didn't let go of him. "Compared to me, anyway. But I didn't want to take advantage of you so I played it safe with the ladies."
J.D.'s grin went sultry and he tugged Buck down again. "Then I guess I'll have to take advantage of you."
That kiss was powerful and real good to see. I walked around them and watched the hall so they didn't get interrupted. More than anything, I wished that I had Ezra home. It seemed like forever since I'd been able to hold him the way those two were holding each other. Even though I'd gotten them together, I was jealous of them, too.
"Thanks, Vin." Buck had an arm around J.D. and still looked kind of shocked but I figured that was a good look for him.
J.D. agreed with me. "We'll thank Ezra tomorrow. Right now, I'm going to take Buck home and molest him."
I tried to sound serious. "Be gentle with him, J.D. You know that older men need real careful treatment so you don't break them."
"Hey!" Buck protested but J.D. and I were too busy laughing. He finally grinned sheepishly and I waved goodbye to them when they disappeared down the back stairs.
I wished them luck with all my heart and I took one last peek in at Ezra before I headed home to sleep.
A week later, Ezra was tired and hurting. The physical therapist was real regimental and harsh although he never once complained. I could feel the pain he tried to hide from me. He'd flinch from my touch at first but when I brushed his skin with just the tips of my fingers, he'd finally relax. I'd talk about work and slowly let my touch grow more massaging.
I'd had a flash of intuition and brought along some of that oil that smelled of magnolias. Just the scent would sometimes start him relaxing and soon he'd be a little puddle in the bed while I tenderly soothed his spasming muscles. I'd spoken to Nathan but he'd told me that the guy was the best. I held my tongue but I started reading up on it to see if I could find an alternative.
Friday afternoon, I was pouring him a cup of chrysanthemum tea that Miss Clover had left earlier when the door swung open and I saw a real surprised look on his face. Turning, I saw a short guy wearing a nice suit and green sunglasses along with a guy who looked like a leftover hippie from the sixties.
"Griffin?" Ezra sounded happy so I smiled at them.
"In the flesh, Ace. I heard through the grapevine that you forgot to duck." The man in the sunglasses waved the other man to Ezra's other side. "I brought my father-in-law to help you heal a little faster. Ezra Standish meet Kwai Chang Caine."
"You're a Shaolin." Ezra's eyes were looking at a jade disk that hung around the other guy's neck.
"Correct. Kermit and Peter were coming out for a police conference and I ..." he shrugged gracefully, "hitched a ride with them. I see a disturbance in your chi. Would you permit me to help you balance the energy within you?"
Ezra sighed and I could see him relax all over. "Please. I can't read myself any longer."
I didn't know what that meant but the Shaolin seemed to. "The drugs do not help. But I see that your friend has the right idea." He pointed to the small teapot and the cup of tea I'd just poured.
"Vin, meet Kermit Griffin, a ... gentleman whom I met over a card table in Guatemala. Kermit, this is Vin Tanner, my partner." Ezra introduced us and we all bowed to each other. "Caine, I would very much appreciate what help you can give."
"You have over-stressed your muscles." The Shaolin's hands were slowly shaping Ezra's body from two inches away. I'd never seen anything like it but by the time he got down to his feet, I could have sworn that I saw a golden haze around Ezra's body again, like I had in the dream.
Ezra's face had smoothed out, only then showing what a strain he'd been under. "The physical therapist believes in taking it to the point of pain before stopping."
"They ... often ... do." Caine brought his hands back up his body again and ended over Ezra's forehead. "But I think we can help your body learn the way again without such pain. Perhaps Vin," those wise eyes looked deep into mine as if he could read my mind and heart, "would be willing to help me?"
"Anything, if it helps Ezra."
"Congratulations, Ace, it looks like you picked a winner." Griffin smiled at both of us. "I'll go back to the hotel, Caine. Vin can drop you off when you get finished. I don't trust Peter alone with those pool side floozies."
Caine's grin surprised me. "I believe it is the pool side Adonis who was eyeing him when we left."
"Oh, yeah." Griffin returned the smile and tossed a wave over his shoulder before leaving us alone.
"How long have those two been together?" Ezra asked the question I was thinking.
"Two years now as lovers and committed partners, although Kermit has retired from the police force and is now writing novels." Caine took another pass over Ezra's body before shaking his hands to one side. "Now, we will drink a cup of tea and then we shall begin."
The next two hours ranked right up there with kissing Ezra for the first time. I learned things about the human body that I'd never known before. Caine explained 'chi' to me and how the nerves sometimes war against themselves when conflicting messages confuse them. Everything was interconnected and Ezra's chi had been confused by all the different signals that started with getting shot and really got bad when the physical therapy started.
I'd had a hunch all along that something was wrong but like too many people, I trusted the medical people to know what was best. Caine showed me how to use friction to warm an entire muscle group after first getting permission from the nerves that bordered them. The doctors might say that it was all mumbo jumbo but it felt right to me and Ezra was practically purring when we finished.
The sleepy contented look in his eyes had been missing for too long. Caine left us alone for our good-byes and we kissed tenderly until we were breathless. I promised him that I'd be back early the next morning with a croissant fresh from the bakery. Just as I was leaving, I met Josiah coming in with dinner for us. I told him that I had an errand and I'd really appreciate it if he'd stay and eat with Ezra.
He lit up like a Christmas tree and agreed eagerly. The others didn't like to break into our 'together' time but Ezra always enjoyed being with Josiah. I joined Caine near the elevators and we rode down together in contented silence. When we were in the Jag, I turned to him before starting the car.
"Can you stay for a few days and show me some more about helping Ezra?"
"Certainly. The bullet that remains needs to be coaxed into a safer position. Together, we can accomplish that." He spoke so calmly that at first I didn't understand what he was saying.
"You can do that?" I wanted to believe that, I really did.
"Yes. His body will work with us since the metal is a foreign body. By the time Monday arrives, he will be much improved." He smiled that little half smile that I was beginning to recognize. "The doctors will be amazed."
I couldn't say a word. He was offering everything I could have possibly wanted short of getting that damn bullet totally out of Ezra. I had to clench my jaw and close my eyes hard to keep from breaking down totally in front of this man I'd just met but already trusted more than I did some of the men I'd known for years. His calm finally reached me and I started to relax again.
"I think I will ask you to pick out a restaurant for our first dinner here in Denver." He said calmly and I started to laugh.
"I'd be glad to ... um, what should I call you?" I started the car.
"Caine is fine."
That evening ranks right up there with my first meal with Ezra, because I chose Miss Daisy's and she fed us until we like to burst. She asked after Ezra and when I told her about the hospital, she gasped and scolded me for not telling her sooner. Josiah had picked up some of her food for us on several occasions but hadn't known to tell her who it was for. I think she was planning meals for Ez' before she bustled away to get our cornbread.
If anything could tempt him to eat, it was her cooking.
Peter Caine was a tall, intense man who was probably a real good cop but I could see a duel going on inside of him. I'd have to know more about him but I was willing to bet that the path of the Shaolin was calling. Hell, I could hear it myself. To be able to heal instead of wound, even for a man who loves guns and shooting, that was a real seductive call. Especially now, when I was so sick of violence and the pain it brings.
Kermit Griffin radiated contentment with his writing and his lover. It was real good to see that his dad accepted the two of them so well. I still had no idea what Maude would say since we couldn't find her to tell her about Ezra and me. The lawyer, Mr. Kennedy, had been beating the bushes for her but she was nowhere to be found. We'd left messages at all the usual haunts of the rich and famous but as far as I knew, she still didn't even know about Ezra's getting shot.
And I wasn't looking forward to telling her that I was his significant other. He'd surprised the hell out of me by putting my name with his on the property deed. The lawyer had informed me of that when it came time to okay some of the medical procedures. Ezra had named me as his medical power of attorney but hadn't told me ahead of time.
That still amazed me ... the trust he had in me.
The others noticed my abstraction and let me alone until I could put those thoughts aside and finish my meal. We made an appointment to meet at Ezra's room at 0900 and they drove back to the hotel while I drove back to the apartment. I changed Ezra's pillow every day so I always had one with his scent on it to sleep with. I'd gone back to showers because hot baths weren't any fun without Ezra in them.
And that night I dreamed again.
Ezra was sitting in my old rocking chair under the pergola while I got my hands dirty potting a rose bush. It was a beautiful plant with one red and one white rose just blooming. The sun was hot on the back of my neck and when the shadow hit me, it felt good. Ezra stroked his fingers across my sweaty neck before kneeling and licking behind my ear.
His hands ran down my naked back into the back of my ragged denim shorts. I arched into him with my hands still full of plant and earth. "Angel-Vin, I believe that we need to fertilize that lovely rose bush. Hold still while I coax out a little moisture."
I was unzipped in a heartbeat and those clever fingers of his had my cock out, stroking it with just enough pressure to bring me to aching hardness. "Ezra!"
"Yes, angel?" He kissed the back of my neck. I shivered although we were surrounded by heat and light. "Just relax, Vin and let me take care of you."
"Always." I promised him. "But you need to let me take care of you too."
"Indeed yes, my love." Those elegant fingers of his tightened a little more around me and the friction began to burn all my nerve endings. "I love touching you, feeling your beautiful cock harden for me." His other hand rolled my balls and I arched into him. "That's right, Vin, show me how much you like this."
"Love you, Ezra. Always and all ways." Turning my head a little, I got his lips on mine, his tongue tracing my mouth before dipping inside.
He was heat and lightning and love.
Twining my tongue around his, I tasted tea and croissants. And something that was just Ezra. The cry of a hawk overhead came to me at the same moment I burst and watered the roses with my seed. When I went boneless, Ezra held me tight against him. "I'll always love you, Vin, in all ways."
And I rested in his arms, content to love and be loved.
The next morning, I awoke refreshed as I hadn't been since the last time we had shared a dream. I could hardly wait to see what he had dreamed. Cleaning up, I headed for the bakery on the way to the hospital. Ezra surely did like their croissants. At the hospital, I smiled at Nancy, the morning nurse on his ward. She told me that he'd had a peaceful night and that was good news.
When I knocked and entered, he was just finishing shaving himself with the electric razor. His smile was bright and he kissed me with fervor, telling me of his dream with a gleam in his eye. I just laughed and started feeding him his breakfast. He ate it all then told me to take the covers off of him.
And that's when he surprised the hell out of me.
He raised his whole left leg off the bed a good inch. Laying it down, he repeated it with his right leg. Then he wiggled all his toes and flexed both feet for me. He was beaming the whole time and I couldn't see any of the strain that such a movement would have cost him two days before.
I hugged him close and silently thanked his goddess, Kwan Yin, for giving me back my Ezra. For the first time since this whole mess had started, I really thought that he'd get completely well. And Caine had said that we could move that damn bullet away from the danger zone of his spine. That was something that I would work hard for.
After all, we had a garden to plant.
End part twenty