Chapter 19

I can't remember the last time a morning shower felt so refreshing. Not only did it scrub me clean of a long night's worth of caked on sweat and 'liquor stank', but I think the steam helped to open up my sinuses a bit and soothe my building headache before it reached its full, agonizing, potential. Thank goodness for small miracles, right?

I let the warm water run over my face for a bit, and washed my hair with the sweet smelling shampoo I found on the side of the tub. Every muscle relaxed, my worried mind calming its frantic inner monologue down to an acceptable roar. I barely remember what I told Jack last night. Well, not word for word, anyway. But the emotions still lingered, and I hope I didn't make too much of a fool out of myself. I know what I have to do now. It might seem a little bit scary, but I'm going to truly regret not visiting Dustin in the hospital before he gets discharged, or whatever. I know that he's going to live, and that they basically just held him for observation purposes...but I should be there. It's what any stand up boyfriend would do for the boy of is dreams. My sweetie should expect no less of me. Not ever.

I had to put some of Jack's toothpaste on my index finger and brush my teeth as best I could, rinsing twice with the mouthwash on the sink. Fixed my hair, and then put my same clothes on from last night. What? It's not like I brought a spare set of clothes to change into! I just need to keep from being naked until I can get home and put on something fresh. I'm pretty sure that driving naked is a whole different kind of police problem. Hehehe!

I took Jack's extra key, and a single green apple off of his kitchen table before walking out of his apartment. I even remembered to clean out the bathtub. Far be it from me to be a dirty houseguest. I was extremely thankful for Jack's help last night. A friendly and understanding ear is precisely what I needed to keep from feeling like such a creep about this whole situation. It makes me feel so guilty sometimes. And then I start feeling guilty about feeling guilty. And then I realize that it's not fair to Dustin to torture myself this way...and I start feeling guilty about feeling guilty about feeling guilty...and down the rabbit hole I go until I'm almost driven MAD by the never-ending drop into confusion and despair. The only thing that saves me is the fact that my feelings for my blond angel...are real. I'm not just manufacturing fake infatuations for him, justified by the fact that he's one of the hottest boys I've ever seen before in my life. I care about him. Enough to put myself in a potentially dangerous situation just to make him smile. How crazy is that?

The more I think about it, the more I realize it to be true. Love can be greedy, but it's never selfish. Love can be frustrating, but it's never without its reward. If I was going to simply think about myself and worry only about my own feelings, I might have run away from this crazy ordeal and hide in the bushes somewhere until this whole nightmare was over. I could have dropped Dustin off at the hospital and honked the horn for some well-meaning staff nurse to come out and grab him. Or I could have, as the receptionist said...tried to fix the problem myself at home. But I didn't. I didn't go down that road because that boy means everything to me, and him being hurt meant more to me than any trouble 'getting caught' could bring my way. More than my insecurities. More than my freedom. And the more I realized just how raw and how true my feelings for Dustin were...the more I began to feel better about it. Because our being together meant something. It was real. And if they throw me in the darkest, dirtiest, prison on Earth tomorrow for the amazing times we've both shared as partners...they'll never be able to take that love away from me. Not ever.

I think that helped me to walk a little taller than I did before. Strange, right?

I got into my car and started up the engine, grinning to myself as the first song I heard on the radio was Cheap Trick's 'I Want You To Want Me', which got me feeling all gooey inside. Heh, I know it was just a random coincidence, but being human...you sometimes wonder why that particular song was playing on that particular station at that particular moment. It creates this weird feeling of destiny, practically assaulting your common sense. And yet, you allow it because it tickles the senses. It gives your life that extra touch of 'meaning' that you've been searching for. It makes you feel like everything might just be alright after all.

That feeling has been running through me nonstop since the first time Dustin's lips touched mine. It's gotten to the point that I can't imagine what I'd do without it.

I was driving back to my house when I came to a red light, tapping my thumbs on the steering wheel. I wasn't far from my old high school, and I drive past this street all the time without really thinking much about it...but today...

I happened to see a giant cluster of teenage boys jogging up to the street corner. There had to be at least 15 to 20 of them, possibly from the track tream, judging by their slender build, all dressed in my high school's colors...burgundy red shorts and glaring white t-shirts...all bunched up in the same spot. It was instinct alone that caused me to suddenly gasp and hold my breath at the mere sight of them. So many times, I've been working in the mall...and I've seen a group of boys all crowded together like that. My heartbeat would start pounding, my temperature would rise, and I'd do my best to keep my erection from swelling to an obscenely visibly degree. I half expected to experience the same thing at that stop light.

Soooooo many cute boys! Blonds, brunettes, red heads...all with their smooth, coltish, legs exposed for me to gawk at. Their 'melt away' babyfat showing off their sensual cheekbones, soft lips parted with boyish breath as their morning run had caused their soft skin to be flushed with a tint of dark pink. Damp with perspiration, I watched the entire squad run in front of my car...those energetic shafts of sexually adolescent meat bouncing playfully behind the thin fabric shielding their manhood from my eyes. Floppy mops of boyish haircuts bouncing in time with the sensual jiggle of the bubbled, teen cheeks behind them. It was a breathtaking sight to behold. There was a time when such a sight would have given me enough hardcore sexual fantasies to last me the next few weeks. God knows they were gorgeous! Every last ONE of them! If granted the power of mind control, I'd have every last one of them over to my house for an orgy of epic proportions. Oh my...the very TASTE of them would be divine! They could take turns feeding me the sopping wet offering that I was craving from them...and not just once, either. Hehehe!

At least...that's what I would have been thinking...if I wasn't on my way to see the most beautiful boy of them all.

What the hell is wrong with me? What one boy could be so damned important that I could practically ignore an entire herd of healthy young track stars being paraded past the windshield of my car without a second look. Well...I definitely gave them a FIRST look, because...I'm a certified pervert! Hehehe! But...yeah...they ceased to matter outside of merely capturing my attention at first glance. I mean...who are they? What makes them laugh? What makes them special? Would they sit on a couch and watch 'Sharknado' with me, or suddenly stop in the middle of a crowded grocery store so I accidentally bumped into their tight little butts from behind? Hehehe, I don't know. I think I'm actually loosing it here. If I don't end up in jail, I'm probably going to end up in an asylum somewhere. It's almost guaranteed.

When I got home, I immediately changed into a clean pair of sneakers, put on a pair of black jeans, and then started going through my closet to look for a specific shirt to wear. I had actually gone through my wardrobe for nearly five minutes before I realized that I was purposely looking for something that Dustin would like on me...you know, instead of simply dressing myself like an ADULT! Hahaha! I haven't done this since I was even younger than Dustin is now. I'm being goofy. His favorite color is blue. I'll wear blue.

Did I have the jitters driving back to that hospital? Oh GOD, yes! I was shivering to the point of nearly making myself SICK, and prayed that nobody that was there when I checked Dustin in would be working today. Hell, I half expected a photo of me to be plastered all of the walls of the hospital, saying, 'If you see this man, report to the authorities immediately!' But I didn't turn around. I couldn't. If anything, I became even more determined to leap over every obstacle between us. Love makes you do crazy things sometimes.

When I found a spot in the hospital parking lot...I turned the engine off...and I sat there for a moment.

I don't know if it was a moment to simply collect myself...or if some inner wisdom was searching for legitimate reasons for me to abandon this foolish pursuit, turn around, and go back home. But after a few nervous breaths...I took the keys out of the ignition and opened the door.

As I walked toward the hospital entrance, I couldn't help but to notice the 'black globe' parking lot cameras all around me. Recording the fact that I was even there. But despite my paranoid stage fright...I just kept walking.

I bypassed the check in desk, fearing that I'd make eye contact with someone familiar, and I continued to the elevators so I could go up to the third floor where Dustin was. Even in the elevator, I had to close my eyes and tune out that voice in my head that kept telling me, 'Walk away, Eric. It's not too late. Just enjoy the time you had together...and walk away.' But when those elevator doors opened up, I stepped out and found myself more excited to see my sweetheart than ever before. There was a kind lady that asked me to sign in and inquired about who I was coming to visit. "Dustin Hunter. Room 316." I said.

The woman smiled. "Ok. He's a handful, that one."

"Tell me about it." I replied without thinking. Shut up, Eric! Shhhh! Geez! Still...I was a little proud of the fact that Dustin has as much of an effect on the nursing staff as he does on me. To some degree, anyway.

"Alright, you're all set. Go right in."

"Thanks." I said, and felt my heart already beginning to race as I approached his hospital room. This is it. Here we go.

I got to his door, and knocked lightly before opening it.

My heart skipped a beat as I heard Dustin's cute little voice say, "You can come in..."

I opened the door and peeked in to catch the first sight of my blond angel since the accident. His head still lightly bandaged, he didn't look quite as bad as he did before. He was concentrating on some gaming app on his ipod when I stepped into the room, not looking up right away. Probably expecting a nurse or doctor to be checking up on him, instead of his...'boyfriend'.

But whatever game he was playing before, it got completely ignored as his head tilted up and he saw me standing there! His big, neon blue, eyes got soooooo wide, the rose colored lips struggling to smile as his jaw dropped open and he gasped in delight! "Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh my God! HI, ERIC!!!" He giggled, already beginning to blush with surprise.

He immediately tossed his ipod aside and attempted to swing his legs around to get out of bed. I put up both hands, "No no no no....what are you doing? Relax..." I said, but as usual...Dustin does whatever he wants to do. He ran over to me on bare feet, dressed in nothing but a hospital gown and a pair of navy blue briefs...and he hugged me so tight around the stomach. "Ooof! Hey, hehehe..."

He smashed his cute face against my chest, and I was scared that he might hurt the bruise on his forehead. I don't think he cared though. "Dude! You didn't have to come back here. But I'm glad you did." Then he suddenly loosened his death grip on me, and without thinking, he craned his neck up to kiss me on the lips.

I immediately broke the boyish peck and said, "Whoah! Hey..." I started looking around the room to make sure there weren't cameras in there as well.

"Don't be weird! Gimmee a kiss already. Hehehe, I missed you!" He said.

"Why don't we worry about getting you back in bed first, huh?" I said, but he jumped up and gave me another surprise kiss on the lips anyway. "STOP THAT!" I told him, unable to hold back a few giggles of my own. "BED, mister! Now. Let's go."

He sighed with a giant smile. "You're sexy when you boss me around. You know that?" I gave him a look. Even with an uncontrollable grin on my face, he knew I wasn't playing around. "Alright, alright already. Geez! Hehehe!" The way he playfully hopped back into bed, bouncing with his renewed energy, you wouldn't think he was ever injured at all. "I'm SO glad you came! This place is a major snooze. God, I miss YouTube! TV is sooooo boring!" As I moved to sit next to Dustin's bed, he just started talking. Hehehe, telling me about the hospital and the doctors and the nurses and his mom staying there with him once a day, and the movies he saw while laying in bed at night...wow...I just sat there and smiled. It was like my part of the conversation wasn't necessary at all. I just loved to hear him talk. Everything about him was beautiful. Soooo beautiful. "Wait, am I talking too much? I'm sorry."

"No. Keep going."

"Let me know if I'm bothering you, k? I've just been so bored in here. This place is ridiculous. They don't let me do anything. I can't even have my phone. My mom took my phone away. I'm all like, 'why'd you do that?' And she's all like, 'You need your rest.' Who needs rest? All I DO in here is rest! Ugh! It's BORING! And the food is so bland. They brought up this weird Salisbury Steak thing last night, but it tasted like a wet sponge. I think they literally soaked the meat in dishwater for an hour before they put it on my plate! Then they're just like, 'here, eat this'. What the hell, man? You know what I want? I want one of those giant jalapeno bacon burgers from the food court, right now! You know the place I'm talking about? The one by the Panda Express? It's soooo good! Can you smuggle me one of those in here? I need a burger fix, I'm not even foolin'!"

Hahaha, you see what I mean? I could listen to my baby talk for hours and never say a word. He was SO damn unique. In every conceivable way imaginable. Being able to see his pretty face, expressive eyes, and animated gestures, made me feel so good inside. He can seemingly get so excited about the simplest of things. It only lasts for a brief moment, and then he's over it like it never happened. But to see that spark...that tiny burst of joy...it's so temporary that it makes you truly appreciate the beauty of youth. The moment flashes by so quickly, and then it's gone...only to be followed up by another explosive moment a few seconds later. I had forgotten what it was like to see the world that way. Dustin's presence in my life not only reminds me of how adventurous those moments can be...but he actually sucks me right back into them in a way that I can experience that joy again for myself. As if for the first time. It is the most invigorating and unmercifully attractive part of being with him. Wow...I am SO in love!

"I'm sorry, I'm gabbing away over silly stuff now. So what's been up? Dude, talk to me!" He said. I really wish that my life was HALF as interesting as he was expecting it to be. Hehehe, but he clings to every word, regardless. All other things aside, conversationally...Dustin and I were always the perfect fit.

"So, did they tell you when they were going to let you go home yet?" I asked.

"I don't know. Maybe tomorrow. I don't know half of what they're talking 'bout in this place. I, seriously, just want to climb out of the window and escape this place." He said. "If I become a fugitive, can I live with you?"

"Hahaha! Why not? I'm already, technically, a criminal!" I said.

"Well, you've totally stolen my heart, that's for sure." He smiled. It was absolutely adorable how he attempted to say it with such romantic confidence...but his bashful grin, hushed voice, and the diverting of his eyes to a random corner of the room, gave him away. Hehehe, he tried though. He gets some serious credit for that.

Shrugging off some of my paranoid bullshit, and step over to his bed and see him smile widely as I lean in to give him a kiss on the cheek. "Hehehe, I love you." I said.

He melts instantly. "Omigod, I love you TOO!!!" Dustin wraps his arms around my neck, and even thought I worry about being caught like this, I can't deny him the kiss that he's demanding at the moment. His lips are sooooo soft. Unnaturally soft. Just like the rest of him. "You owe me a decent fingering now!" He said out of the blue.

"HAHAHA!!!Where the fuck did THAT come from???"

He whined, "Awwww, come ON! Please? I've been so fucking HORNY in here! Besides, you let me get hurt. Pay up!"

"I don't remember us discussing the terms of this deal ahead of time..."

"Well...fair is fair. Hehehe!" He giggled. Sighhhh...my baby.

"I think we should get you all healed up before we think about..."

"TOTALLY healed! Hehehe! Seriously! Does that mean you're gonna do it! We can find some slippery stuff around here, I'm sure of it. Or I could just suck on your finger..."

"DUSTIN!!! Hahaha!" I said, blushing as I tried to get him to lower his voice. "I'm not..." Whispering..."...Fingering you in a hospital. So...chill."

Dustin laughed to himself. "And here I had my quivering boy hole all ready for some penetration. You suck."

Giggling, I said, "You'll have plenty of opportunities to me persuade me when you get out of here. K? Right now, I just want you to get better." I said, and Dustin reached out to hold my hand. "You gave me a serious scare there, Dustin. I hate to see you hurting."

"I'm not hurting. I'm fine." He said. "Ok? Do you believe me? Please, believe me."

"I do. I believe you. Just..." I shook my head in disbelief. Smirking to myself.

"Just what?" He asked.

"Just...I still have trouble figuring out while you'd want me as your boyfriend. It simply doesn't register sometimes." I said, looking down at my shoes.

Dustin's brow wrinkled up, and he says, "What the fuck are you talking about? You're AWESOME! I had to work up a butt load of courage to even ask you for an application the first time I ever laid eyes on you."

"Hehehe, yeah right. Whatever." I said.

"I'm not kidding." He said. In a serious tone, even with a smile. "The only reason I went into the store across the hall was because I had to get myself together before saying hi to you." He looked me in the eyes, and he said, "What? Do you really think I just randomly walked up to the hottest guy in the whole mall and just started talking to him out of the blue? What, are you mental?"

"So you wanted me? Even then?" I asked.

"Then...now...prolly forever. Yeah." Dustin seemed confused as to why a statement would completely blow my mind. Did he really not know? Is he still in the dark about what an incrediblehuman being he is. And that's on TOP of being insanely gorgeous. Then, his blush deepened slightly as he lowered his head, his private curtain of light blond hair cascading forward in an attempt to veil his sheepish grin from me. "But, you know...I want you to want me too. Things are just cooler that way." He said.

"Wait...what?" My ears perked up.

He giggled before repeating it. "I said, I want you to want me too. That's all." I paused for a moment, then chuckled to myself. Immediately becoming self conscious about it, Dustin brushed his hair back again, and said, "Oh, yeah. I guess that sounds pretty dumb to you, huh?"

"No! Hehehe, it's not that. It's just...I was listening to this song on the way over here, and you just...nevermind. It's weird."

"What song?" He asked.

"Believe it or not, that was the name of it. 'I Want You To Want Me' by this group, Cheap Trick. It's just a crazy coincidence that you would say those exact words to me just now."

"Oh. Cool." He said softly. "Is that, like...'old people' music or something?"

I gave Dustin a look, and even though he tried to maintain a straight face, he cracked the biggest smile and started snickering under his breath. "Oh, fuck off, dude!" I laughed.

"Hehehe, omigod, you're face! You looked so hurt that I didn't like your Chop Truck song!"

"It's Cheap Trick, and I just want to remind you that you're going to be older than your average pair of socks one day too!" I said, reaching out to poke him lightly in the side.

Dustin laughed out loud and squirmed a little as the both of us shared another one of our cherished moments together. Well, that bump on the head certainly didn't keep him down for long. Yeah, he's going to be back to his old self by the end of the day. I'm sure of it.

We heard a light knock at the door, and lowered our voices...just in case one of his nurses decided to tell us to quiet down in here.

However, Dustin's flurry of giggles were cut short as a nicely dressed lady came into the room. He sat up in his bed, and said a single word that nearly drained all the blood out of my face.

"Mom?" I felt like my oxygen supply had suddenly been cut off without warning, and a violent chill ran through me, causing me to tremble. "Mom, I thought you had to work all day?"

"Mr. Paul's giving me an extended break for lunch. He sends his regards and hopes you get better soon." When her eyes glanced over at me, the strange man sitting at her son's bedside, I had to fight the urge to dive out of the hospital window. Terror can take you over so quickly when you're not expecting it. Still, if I don't say anything and just sit here looking guilty as hell...she's going to know something's up. "And you are?" She asked with a polite smile.

Remembering my manners, I stood up and walked over to shake her hand. "Hi, I'm...Eric."

"Karen. How are you?" She seemed nice enough, but I could barely look her in the eye. I was getting more and more nervous by the second. Can she see it? Can she read my mind? Can she read Dustin's? What do I do now? What do I say?

Can I just up and leave without it looking suspicious? Can I stay for a bit and talk without giving something away? Dustin and I have so much fun when we're together that I never really put much thought into what Dustin might have told her about me. Who am I? What part am I playing in his life? What the hell am I doing here, visiting him in the hospital??? I hope Dustin's got his story together...because I just had the floor ripped out from me!

Freefall. Total freefall.