"Dr. Johnson, Mr. Johnson. Dan is out of surgery. We got the broken knife and were able to take care of his internal bleeding. It went better than anticipated. I'm certain we got everything. That's good because I don't want to have to open him up again any time soon. He's lost a lot of blood and is very weak. None of his other wounds are severe. We'll set the bones. They'll heal. He may look bad but he'll look better in a couple of days. The one thing we have to worry about is infection. That knife was pretty nasty. That coupled with the loss of blood and his surgery makes it a real possibility."
"Barring an infection will he be okay Doctor?"
"I'm optimistic. The next twenty-four to forty-eight hours will give us a better idea. Right now he's sleeping. We're going to keep him sedated for the next twenty-four hours. He's young and in good health but rest is the best thing for him now. We're giving him antibiotics to fight off any potential infection. He's stable right now but still in serious condition."
"Can we see him?"
"Yes, but not everyone can go in at one time and then only for a few minutes. Are these boys family?"
"They're his brothers."
"Are you okay son? You have blood all over you. Were you involved in the fight?"
"I'm fine. I was with Dan when Phil knifed him."
"Is that the other boy they brought in? He's in worse shape. Did you do that?"
"He was defending his brother, Doctor. Josh didn't do anything wrong."
"My concern is your son. Dr. Edwards is treating the other boy. I want to prepare you for what you'll see. You may not recognize him. His face is pretty bandaged. You won't see them because he's in bed but he has a lot of bruises on his chest and abdomen. You might not want to let the little guy see him like that."
"I want to see him. He's my brother."
"That's up to your parents. You all need to remember, he's hurt very badly. You need to be prepared."
"Kevin? Why don't you take Scott in first? Josh and I will wait here."
"Follow me," said Dr. Kelly.
"Thank you Mrs. J. You know I'm going to cry when I see him."
"It's okay Josh. I know how you feel. I'll make sure you have some alone time with him too."
"You're welcome dear. We can talk when we get home. You've had a busy afternoon."
"I'll be okay. I just want Dan to be okay."
"You can only stay a few minutes Mr. Johnson. He probably won't know you're here and it's important he get his rest."
"Son, I don't know if you can hear me. Scott is here too. We love you Dan. You're going to be okay."
"Danny, please get better. I don't like you hooked up to all these machines."
"We can't stay son. The Doctor says you need your rest. You're mother will be right in."
I woke up looking into Aaron's eyes. "How long have you been watching me?"
"Not long Dan. Only a few minutes. Go back to sleep."
"Oh God, Mrs. J, I can't look at him like that. It hurts too much."
"Josh, he needs to know you're okay. You can help him. If he can hear anyone then it'll be you. Talk to him. Let him know that you're here and you're okay."
It hurt seeing Dan lying there like that. His face was almost completely bandaged. I didn't even want to think about other parts of his body. I had to be strong though. Mrs. J. was there with tears in her eyes, talking to him. She was telling him to rest, that he'd get better soon. I guess it was typical stuff someone would say in a situation like that, especially a mother.
I couldn't do it because I didn't know if he is going to get better. The Doctor says he's in serious condition. Maybe I'm a pessimist but that sounds not only like he could die but that there was a good chance of it. I don't know what I'd do without him. He just has a way of making me feel good. I can't get enough of him.
Mrs. J. nodded at me and stepped back to talk to the Doctor. I think it was more to distract him. I nodded and moved closer to Dan, taking his hand in mine. I really didn't care if the Doctor heard or not.
I held his hand and leaned in close. "Hi Dan, it's me. I'm okay so you can stop worrying. I guess something you taught got through, Phil is in the hospital. Maybe you can be roomies when you get out of intensive care. I'd prefer you have a private room though. I plan to take real good care of you."
"I love you Dan. You better get better or I'm going to be really upset. I doubt I'd be as lucky moving 1500 miles and finding someone who looks like you. With my luck I'd find him and he'd be straight. I don't want anyone else anyway. I want you. The Doctor says you can't hear me but if you can I want you to remember that I love you. You're the best friend a guy could have."
"I need to leave soon. The Doctor says you need your rest. It's going to feel strange not having you hold me tonight. I hope it's okay if I still sleep in your bed. I hope I still feel your presence."
"The Doctor is giving me a funny look Dan. I don't think your mother can distract him much longer. I'll come back as soon as they let me. I promise."
I looked back as Mrs. J. who was still talking to the Doctor. 'Fuck him,' I thought and leaned in and gave Dan a gentle kiss on the lips. "I love you Dan. Please get well."
As soon as I kissed him I heard one of his monitors start beeping faster. It wasn't much but his heart rate spiked a little. I smiled and looked at Mrs. J. She was still talking to the Doctor and they hadn't seemed to notice. Maybe it was my imagination.
I leaned in and kissed him again and whispered. "Dan, if you can hear me then move your finger. It's in my hand."
It wasn't much but I felt his finger move against my hand. Mrs. J. saw it too. The Doctor said not to read too much into it, that it was probably just an involuntary movement but I knew otherwise. "He's going to be alright Mrs. J."
The doctor told us we had to leave. Actually he told Mrs. J. that she and Dan's 'brother' had to leave. He obviously wasn't fooled but he wasn't mad either. He smiled and put his hand on my back as we walked out. "I'll take good care of him."
"Thank you Doctor."
I woke up with a start. Aaron was looking at me and smiling. "Josh?" I looked at him. "Did you just kiss me?"
"No, do you want me to?"
"Someone did. I think it was Josh. He's alright. He was talking to me and holding my hand. I felt him kiss me."
"You used to get this excited when I kissed you."
"That's different Aaron. You know that."
"I know. I'm just giving you a hard time. I'm glad you're with Josh. I want you to be happy and he's a good kid."
"Yeah, he is but how do you know that?"
"I've been watching you, remember? Besides, I think he's kind of cute."
"Yeah, there is something about him," I smiled. "How closely have you been watching?" I asked with a smile.
"Don't worry, I can't perve on you. It's more of a feeling. I'm just glad you two got together."
"You are? I thought you'd think I was betraying you."
"Don't be stupid. I'm dead Dan. You can't live your life worrying about how a dead guy feels. Besides, I want you to be happy. You should move on. I know you won't forget me."
Aaron just smiled when I told him how much Josh reminded me of him.
"Just remember he's not me."
"I know that. It took me a while. He may look like you. He even has some of the same mannerisms but he isn't you. I hope he really is okay. I heard someone talking to me but I don't know if I was dreaming, hallucinating or dead."
"I told you, you're not dead."
"I'll take your word for it. How about you? Have you met anyone? There must be a cute gay guy in heaven."
"What makes you think I went to heaven? Didn't we always hear God hates fags?"
"I never believed that. He doesn't, does he?"
"I don't know. I've never met him. I just woke up here the day it happened. I saw you holding my body but it was like I was a bystander. It hurt that you were crying. I stayed with you but I know you didn't know. I don't know if I can explain how things are now. Just know that I'm at peace. There are a lot of good people where I am."
"You won't be upset?"
"Of course not. I know we can't be together. I wish we could but we can't. Actually I'm not even sure I wish that any more. Don't get me wrong. If you hadn't died I'm sure we'd be together. You're all I ever wanted but you died and I've met Josh. He's great."
"Plus he looks like me. That could get kinky."
"It's not like that. I'm actually able to see him as him and not you. I wouldn't want to do anything with him and pretend it's you. He'd probably do it but I can't do that. Do you know if he's okay? Do you know what happened?"
"I can't tell you Dan. It'll affect how you do. Either way it will affect things and that's against the rules. You'll have to wait until you wake up. I'm sorry. ...Are you hungry? I'm starved."
"Yeah, a little. Don't tell me you have fast food here."
"No, we'll have to go somewhere else. You can meet Matt."
"Who is Matt?"
"He's a friend," Aaron said with his impish smile.
"Ohhh, I get it," I smiled. "Tell me about him."
"He's fun. It's different than with you. We just have a good time together. It's not the passionate love you and I had."
I grimaced when he said 'had'.
"You know what I mean Dan. You know I still love you, more than anything. Do you know how hard it was not to rip your clothes off while you were sleeping. I wanted to suck your cock so bad I could taste it."
I smiled. "I've been lying here thinking the same thing. Josh is circumcised you know. The thought of playing with your foreskin with my tongue like I used to is really turning me on."
"You better watch it. If you get hard here then you're hard there too. Someone in the hospital might see."
"Oh yeah? What if I cum all over your hot body?"
"We can't do that you know."
"I know. No matter how much I want to we can't. I can't cheat on Josh. He'd probably understand and even forgive me but I'd still feel like shit. It wouldn't be the same."
"Don't worry, one of us has will-power," Aaron smiled while kissing me on the cheek. You love Josh don't you?"
I smiled. "I didn't think I could ever love anyone again but I do, he's great. I was so worried I'd be betraying you for so long."
"I tried to tell you Dan. Didn't I tell you to be nice to him."
"Yeah, it was so hard at first."
"Let's go get something to eat. Even dead teenagers get hungry you know."
Mr. J. and I went back to the school to pick up Josh's jeep. Lieutenant Henderson had been at the hospital and said we could get it any time. It felt strange going back there. There was a cop walking around. He said he had to take some more pictures and wanted to keep an eye on the jeep. Everyone else had left. Seeing the blood stains on the tar brought back memories of what had happened. I cringed when I saw the blood where Dan had been.
"Dan is going to be okay Josh. He'll come back to you."
"I hope so Mr. J."
"You saved him Josh. I'll always owe you for that."
"Thanks Mr. J. I still can't believe I did that."
"Josh, you know I never wanted Dan to be gay but I know he is. I'm just happy he found someone like you. You're part of our family. Even when you go to live with your aunt you will still be part of our family. Diane, Scott and I all love you very much."
"Thank you sir. That means a lot to me."
"You know, 'sir' and 'Mr. J.' don't quite do it for me. I know I'm not your father and I'm not trying to replace him but I do think of you as a son. I plan to make sure you will have the same opportunities that I can give Dan and Scott. That includes college."
"What??? Really?? You don't have to do that."
He laughed. "I want to. Besides, I know Dan. He'll want to be with you. I want to make sure that is at the best school possible."
"Thank you sir. I can't believe this. I wish you were my father. I envy Dan and Scott."
"You're more then welcome to think of me that way if you want. I'd be proud to be your father."
I couldn't help it. I started crying right there in the school parking lot. "Do you want me to call you 'Dad'"?
"I'd be honored but not necessarily. Only do that if it's what you want. I don't want to make you uncomfortable. I just want you to know I think of you as a son."
"I'd like that ...Dad."
"Me too ...Son. Now let's get your brother's jeep home. I'll stop and pick up some pizzas on the way. We'll celebrate the new addition to our family."
"Mrs. J. is okay with this?"
"We've already talked about it. We just didn't know how to bring it up."
It wasn't a real celebration. Everyone was subdued thinking about Dan. We all wanted to go back to the hospital but the doctor told us Dan couldn't have any visitors. They were keeping him sedated so he'd sleep and not move around.
Mrs. J. came over and gave me a hug before we sat down. "Josh, I want to thank you. You saved my son's life."
"To be honest I don't really remember doing it. I remember Dan telling me to run but I couldn't. I wouldn't be able to live with myself if I had run away. I really don't remember doing that to Phil though. ...Mr. J.? About what the cop said. Do you think the DA will charge me with anything?"
"What???" asked Mrs. J. "That's ridiculous. You saved Dan's life."
"Diane, it depends on whether the DA wants to push things. Yes, Josh had just cause to do what he did but the DA could say he should have stopped once Phil was down. That's a judgment call. I don't think he'd have much luck if he did try to charge him with something however. Phil Clayton had just attacked his friend. Josh didn't know whether he would get up again or not. He didn't want Clayton getting up when he was distracted helping Dan. Any good defense attorney could raise all kinds of reasonable doubt. Besides, Josh would be a very sympathetic defendant. I don't think there is anything to worry about. I think Lieutenant Henderson saw it that way too. He just couldn't really say it."
"I hope so," I said. "I just wish we could do the last four hours over again."
"Don't worry Josh. Everything will be okay."
After supper I called Chris and Ryan to tell them what happened. They hadn't heard a thing since they had been at the hospital visiting Kyle and then just drove around. They couldn't believe Dan got hurt. They said they knew he and Phil would probably fight sooner or later but they just assumed Dan would kick his ass. They didn't think Phil would stab him from behind.
They were just as concerned about me and wanted to come over. I'm sure it would have been okay to invite them but I still felt weird doing it despite what Mr. J. had said. Besides, Scott was upset too and I wanted to spend some time with him. I thanked them but said I had to try to do homework and them wanted to see how Dan's brother was doing.
I also IM'd Jason. I hadn't met him, at least for real, but he seemed like a good guy when Dan and I talked to him online. At first he thought I was Dan since I used his account. Dan had given me his password. He said he wanted me to have it. He also gave me the passwords to his encrypted drives that had all his videos of him and Aaron. I hadn't watched them. I didn't really want to. I had only seen the one Dan showed me a couple weeks ago. Seeing Dan with someone else, even knowing it was Aaron, was hard. I don't think Dan has been watching them either. He said there was no point but he also said he couldn't bring himself to delete them. Instead he gave me all his passwords. He said he didn't want any secrets. Of course I gave him mine too.
Jason was really upset. After asking all the details he said he'd be on the first flight he could get. He was also glad Phil ended up in the hospital too and if I hadn't put him there then he would when he got here. It was obvious he really cared about Dan. I told him it wouldn't be a problem for him to stay with us if he was really coming. He said there was no way he wouldn't get here.
After talking with Jason I went to check on Scott. He wasn't in his room so I went downstairs to look for him. He was lying on the love seat watching TV with his parents or maybe I should say our parents. He didn't look like he was paying much attention to what was on TV. He had obviously been crying. When he saw me he sat up so I could sit as well. When I did he took my arm and put it over his shoulder and leaned against me. I gave him a kiss on the top of the head and we sat like that for the next hour trying to watch TV.
When it was time for him to go to bed he didn't want to go. "I don't want to be upstairs by myself."
"I'm going upstairs too. I'll be in my room."
"Aren't you sleeping in Dan's room like you usually do?"
"I don't know Scott. Maybe I should sleep in my room."
"Why?? You always sleep in Dan's room."
"Josh, you don't have to do that. You know Dan won't mind. We kind of think of it as your room too," Mrs. J. said trying not to smile too much.
"Can I sleep with you?" asked Scott. "I don't want to sleep alone."
There was no way I could say no the way he was looking at me. I kind of liked the idea, not in a sexual way of course but because I loved Scott and didn't really want to sleep alone either. I just didn't know how they'd feel about their young son sleeping with their gay son's boyfriend.
"If it's okay with Mom and Dad then it's okay with me."
They just smiled. "Josh, you worry too much. We told you, we love you like a son. Scott slept with Dan a few times right after Aaron died. I think it helped both of them so there is nothing wrong with him sleeping with his new brother now."
I smiled as Scott ran upstairs to get ready. It was almost like he forgot about Dan he was so excited. I know he hadn't but at least it gave him a couple of minutes to think about something else.
"Thanks," I said.
"Oh Josh," Mr. J. said as I stood up. "You might want to wear more clothes than you probably do when you sleep with Dan."
I obviously had planned to but he caught me by surprise and I didn't know whether he was trying to tell me something or not. Then he laughed. "Gotcha," he said.
I couldn't help it. I laughed too. It felt good that he could joke with me like that.
"Yeah, I was planning to. I just hope I remember which brother I'm with in the middle of the night."
I smiled when I saw the look on his face. I don't think he expected me to give it back to him.
"Gotcha" I smiled.
"And we thought you were a good kid. Dan is rubbing off on you, especially his sense of humor."
"If that's true then it's a good thing, at least I think so."
"We think you're good for each other Josh. He'll be okay. You'll see. He'll wake up tomorrow and will be home before you know it."
"I hope so."
"I'm going to call the hospital," Mrs. J. said. "I want to see if there is any change."
I went upstairs to get ready for bed. I took a quick shower. It felt strange without Dan. Then I went into Dan's room to get dressed. I took a pair of gym pants from his bureau along with a t-shirt. Normally I just slept in my boxer-briefs, or less since I've been sleeping with Dan, but didn't think that was appropriate.
Scott and I went downstairs to say good-night. Mrs. J. was just hanging up when we walked in.
"No change," she said. "He's still sleeping. She says he's resting 'comfortably'. He has a slight fever and they're worried about an infection but they've been giving him antibiotics to preempt it. We should know more in the morning. Depending on how his night goes they'll ween him off some meds. For now they want to keep him sedated."
"Is it okay if I don't go to school tomorrow?"
"That's probably a good idea. Why don't you both sleep in. It's been a long day. We'll go out for breakfast and then go to the hospital. Doctors do their rounds early so we should know more then."
I had expected Scott to sleep on one side of the bed and me to sleep on the other. Evidently that is not what he wanted. As soon as we got in bed he scooted across and laid against me. His head was on my shoulder and I could feel the dampness from his tears.
I put my arm around him and held him close. It felt good. There was nothing sexual about it, just a big brother comforting a little brother. I didn't have a little brother so this was a new experience for me. It was a nice experience too.
"Don't worry Scott. Dan will be okay."
As soon as the words came out of my mouth I regretted them. I didn't know if Dan was going to be okay or not. Even if he lived would he be the same? Would he recover from all his injuries? I certainly hoped so but I didn't know. Telling Scott he'd be okay were just words that came out by instinct. When he looked at me I knew he didn't believe me.
"I'm sorry Scott. I don't know if he'll be okay or not. We can only hope. He's getting good care at the hospital. Mom and Dad are making sure of that. What I do know is that he wouldn't want us to be sad. He'll need our support if he's going to get better. Tomorrow we'll go to the hospital to see him. He'll still be all bandaged and hooked up to those monitors but a good night sleep should help him. You heard Mom. She said the Doctors are keeping him asleep. They're letting him heal. When he does wake up he is going to want to see your face with a smile, not with tears. Can you do that?"
"I'll try but he can't see me now. I don't want him to die Josh. What if he wants to go be with Aaron?" Tears were flowing down his cheeks.
I didn't know what to say. The thought of Dan not wanting to get better hadn't occurred to me. I told him I needed him to come back to me at the hospital but I don't know if he heard me. Would that be enough? If he could make that choice then what would he choose? Shit, I couldn't allow myself to think about that.
"Scott, we can't think like that. We have to believe he's not going to die. We also have to believe he wants to come back to us. I don't know how all this life and death stuff works. We'll just have to wait and see. I do know this. He's an idiot if he doesn't want to come back to you."
"He's a double idiot if he doesn't want to come back to you too. I'm going to tell him that."
"I love you little guy. You're the best new little brother a guy could have."
"I love you too Josh. I'm glad I have you as a big brother too."
We didn't say anything else. I gave Scott a kiss on the top of his head and laid back closing my eyes. He snuggled closer and within a few minutes I could feel his breathing change and knew he was asleep. I kept laying there as still as possible since I didn't want to wake him up. The warmth of his body was like a little furnace.
"Please come back to me Dan."
Aaron took me to a small cabin and told me to sit down. "I have hamburger and hot dogs," he said. "I stopped eating that healthy stuff. I figure I'm dead already. What difference does it make?"
I had to laugh. "You're dead and you eat hamburgers. Wait until I tell my mother that. She'll never let me stop going to counseling."
"You haven't lived until you've tasted my Tex-Mex burger grilled over an open flame."
I couldn't help it. "Neither have you," I laughed.
He looked at me and smiled. "Good point," he said. "They taste pretty good anyway."
He was right. They were good. Maybe it was just because I was hungry. It was fun being with him and talking like old times. He asked about our old friends.
"You don't watch them too?"
"Can't," he said. "You and I had something special so I'm able to keep an eye on you."
I flinched when he said that thinking of some of the things Josh and I had done. You sure you can't watch too close?" I asked.
"Don't worry," he laughed. "I can't keep that close an eye. It's more like a feeling. We're connected Dan. We always have been and we always will be. That's not going to change. I know you feel my presence too. Not like now obviously but I know you do. Right?"
I smiled. "Yeah, I do. You sure you can't see me?"
He laughed. "No Dan. You can relax. I can't see you. What you and Josh do together is between the two of you. I'm not watching."
"Good," I smiled.
"You horndog," he laughed. "I bet you'd enjoy having me watch."
"Nope, but it might be fun if you wanted to join in."
"Stop talking like that. You're going to make me forget we can't do anything."
"It looks like that bulge in your shorts has already forgotten. I'm glad dead guys can still get it up. Come here," I said reaching out and pulling him against me. My cock was hard as a rock. I remembered what he had said about getting hard here and getting hard there at the same time but I didn't care.
"I've missed you so much Aaron," I said as I wrapped my arms around him and pressed my lips against his.
"Me too," he moaned returning my kiss. "Nobody else can make me feel like you."
I smiled. "Just how many others have you tried to get that to happen with."
He playfully pushed me away. "Just Matt. It's not the same though. I thought he was going to be here. He must have gone off somewhere. We're not exclusive or anything. Is it the same with you and Josh as it was with us?"
"The same? No. ...Just as good? I think so. At least we're getting there. Is that okay?"
"No Dan. I want you to be miserable for the rest of your life. I want you to sit in your bedroom and think about me and only me. Of course it's okay idiot. That's what I love about you."
"What's that, that I'm such a stud?"
"Well, there is that but that's not it. You always put my feelings ahead of your own. As far back as I remember. Remember that toy we both wanted for Christmas when we were about five years old? The one that you got and I didn't because they were all sold out. You loved that toy but I still remember the look on your face when you tried to give me yours. That's how you've always been Dan. If I asked you to sit in your room and only think about me I'm sure you'd do it but that's not what I want. I want you to be happy."
I smiled. "You were always the same way you know."
"I know. That's what made things so good between us."
"You're okay with Matt screwing around with other people?" I'm not sure I liked that. I was glad he wasn't there. I probably would have said something.
"Relax Dan. I can see it in your eyes. It's fine. It doesn't bother me. It's not like he can give me anything that would kill me. We're just friends. We have sex. It's good sex but it's just sex. We don't love each other. Certainly not like you and me."
"Are you happy?"
"I'm not unhappy. Someday I'll meet someone here, just like you did."
I hugged him tight and gave him another kiss. It felt good but it wasn't the same as I remembered. My cock seemed to enjoy it though. It was pressing against him.
He smiled. "Let's throw a Frisbee around before we do something we'd both regret."
I smiled. "So close yet so far."
We spent the rest of the afternoon together. I knew I would have enjoyed doing other things besides Frisbee but knew we couldn't or at least shouldn't. It was tempting however.
I woke up to the sound of a knock on the door and "Mom" standing in the doorway. I had made a point of leaving the door open. She saw Scott sleeping with his head on my shoulder and smiled. I don't think he moved all night.
"He loves you. You know that, right?"
I smiled. "I know. That's what Dan said. At first he tried to act like he was jealous but said that Scott has plenty of love to go around. I think he liked being the only big brother."
She smiled. "They became really close after Aaron died. Scott has that effect on people."
"What effect?" he asked rubbing his eyes.
"The Scott effect" she laughed.
When Scott went to the bathroom Mrs. J. asked how he's doing. "He's doing okay. I hope I didn't raise his expectations about what we'll learn today too much. I told him we had to be positive. Dan is going to need our support."
"We all need to be positive."
"Have you talked to the hospital yet?"
"He's still sleeping. His temperature is up a little but his blood pressure is better. They said the Doctor was doing his rounds so I couldn't talk with him. We'll have to wait until we get there. They did say he could have visitors but want to limit it to family."
My heart sank. "Does that mean they won't let me in?"
"The nurse said it's marked on his chart that his parents and brothers, plural, are allowed to visit. You mind being Josh Johnson for a while?"
I smiled. "Just that it's only for a while."
"Josh, we told you that you're part of this family. It doesn't matter what your last name is."
"Thanks, Mrs. ..., ah, Mom."
"You're welcome ...son."
Scott gave me a hug. "Now I've got two big brothers for real. ...Can we eat now? I'm hungry."
"Alright guys, you get ready. Your father is on the phone with Mr. Kinkaid. We'll go to Cracker Barrel and then go to the hospital as soon as he's done."
"Aaron, I'm tired and I hurt. I think I'll lie down."
"That's good Dan. That means you're getting more in touch with life on your side of the 'in-between'. You're still there you know. You're going to be in a lot of pain when you wake up."
"Then I'll be able to find out what happened to Josh."
"I thought you said he talked to you. Didn't he say he's okay?"
"I don't know. I thought he did but when I woke up you were there. Maybe I was dreaming. Can you dream when you're sleeping inside a dream?"
"Lie down Dan. You look tired."
"Will you stay with me?"
"As long as I can buddy. You know I'm here for you."
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