George Martin and Mike Foster have been best friends since childhood, but recent events have brought them even closer together: Mike has moved into George’s house now that George’s unfaithful boyfriend has been kicked out. It puts Mike in a pinch, because he’s always loved George -- maybe more than a best friend should.
George doesn’t suspect Mike’s feelings, being wrapped up in his job as the youngest lieutenant in the Jacksonville sheriff’s office and investigating a series of murders. But it will all come to a head when George is stalked by a psycho and Mike steps in front of a bullet meant for George. George then realizes there’s much more to their relationship than he thought.
“You’ve had quite an evening,” she said.
“Tell me about it. I’ve also had an epiphany of sorts.”
“Remember telling me that you were certain Mike was in love with me?”
“When I saw him lying in that hospital bed just now with tubes and wires running everywhere, I realized something.”
“You love him too, don’t you?”
“Are you going to tell him?”
“As soon as he’s awake.”
“Good. I’ve always thought the two of you made a great couple.”
“Deb, how could I have been so blind all these years and not seen what was right there under my nose?”
“Don’t ask me, ask a Freudian.”
“I’m thirsty,” she said. “Want a drink?”
“Sure. Coke or Sprite, whichever you can find. Need some money?”
“Got it handled,” she said, and left the waiting room. She returned a few minutes later and handed me a familiar green can and a package of peanut butter and cheese crackers.
The crackers weren’t especially appealing, but I took a sip of the Sprite and leaned back against the back of the sofa until my head touched the wall. I must have dozed off, because the next thing I knew, Deborah was shaking me, saying, “Wake up, George.”
I became instantly awake. “What’s happening?”
“Mike’s been moved to a room.”
She told me, and I said, “Let’s go.”
We found our way to the room, but not without difficulty. St. Vincent’s was a sprawling complex that had been expanded again and again over the years and was, therefore, not laid out according to any sensible master plan. I pushed the door of the room open, and we went inside. Mike looked the same way he had in recovery, except that the only visible tubes and wires were an IV drip hanging from a pole on the other side of the bed and a monitor displaying his pulse and blood pressure. A nurse came into the room just as we sat down in the chairs.
“How’s he doing?” I said.
“Quite well, considering. He should be waking up any time now. When he does, you can talk to him for a few minutes before we give him something to keep him comfortable through the night.”
“Thanks,” Deborah said.
The nurse moved around the bed checking readings on the machine and making notes on her clipboard. Eventually, she left, and we sat quietly to wait. We waited and waited until I wasn’t sure I could stand it. I sensed, rather than saw, movement on the hospital bed, so I stepped over to the side of the bed and took Mike’s hand. He was getting restless in his sleep, if that’s the right term. I guessed that meant he was coming out of it, so I squeezed his hand and said, “Time to wake up for a few minutes, big guy.”
His eyes fluttered for a second and then opened. “Thirsty,” he said.
“I’ll get it,” Deb said. She found a glass and one of those flexible straws and went to the bathroom for water. A minute later, she handed me the glass, and I put the straw to Mike’s lips.
He took a few sips and sighed. “Good.”
I set the glass on the nightstand. “Deb, can you give me a couple of minutes alone with this guy?”
“Sure. I’ll be right outside.”
When the door closed behind her, I looked at him. “Don’t ever scare me like this again, Mike,” I said. “I couldn’t take it.”
“You were lucky, because the bullet didn’t hit anything vital. You’re going to be sore for a few weeks, but otherwise all right.”
“And for what it’s worth, Mike, this whole episode has made me realize something very important.”
“I love you, and I’m not talking about brotherly love.”
“Good,” he said, “because I love you too.”
“Deb figured it out a long time ago and recently told me.”
“She’s pretty sharp ... for a fag hag.”
“Shh,” I said. “Not now.”
“I’ll be nice.”
I leaned over and kissed him. “You get better quick so I can take you home and show you how much I love you.”
“Something to look forward to.”