Grouch
By:
Jess Mercer
( copyright 2009 by the author)
 

  The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent. Comments are appreciated at...


 

He sat up straight in the wheelchair and scowled down at what was left of his right leg. 'Hell of a thing to look at, even when covered by my jeans,' he thought. 'Be damn good to get out of here. Wish that quack would come on.'

 

"There you are," a voice said.

 

He looked up to see the doctor. "Where the hell did you think Id be?" He snapped back. "I want out. Now."

 

"I see you have your bag and crutches, so you can go as soon as I have a word with you. Are you certain you don't wish to reconsider and go to a rehabilitation facility for a few days?"

 

"For what? I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself."

 

"But living alone "

 

"You got my leg, or most of it. What more do you want?" He asked bitterly.

 

The doctor shook his head. "I want to make it as easy for you as I can."

 

"Not going to be easy no matter where I am, so I might as well find out what life's gonna be like now. Home is the best place for that."

 

The doctor shook his head and shrugged. "Have it your own way. Just be damn careful until you're completely steady on your crutches."

 

"I'm always careful! An engineer learns that first."

 

"Very well. You have a way home?"

 

"My car's in the parking lot, if some bastard hasn't stolen it."

 

"I don't think you should attempt to drive just yet."

 

"Why not? It's automatic, so I only use one leg when I'm driving."

 

"The right one which you no longer have."

 

"I sometimes switch on long trips, so using the one I've got left won't be all that strange."

 

"Be careful."

 

"With some of the idiots on the road this day and time, I usually am."

 

"I'll have my receptionist call to remind you of your appointments with me."

 

"Do that." Without waiting for an orderly, he wheeled himself to the lift and savagely punched the down button.

 

He unlocked his car and dropped his small bag and the forearm crutches on the passenger side, slid onto the seat, and started the motor. His irritation and tension diminished as he drove out of the parking lot. 'Damn, I'm glad it's a nice day, the fresh air smells wonderful after that place.'

 

After a day and a half of dropping items he tried to carry, plenteous swearing, and a burned dinner, he opened the door in response to the buzzer and scowled at the young man standing there.

 

"Kevin Westbrook?"

 

"Yeah. What you want?"

 

"I'm Brian Macalvie. Doctor Adams asked me to drop by."

 

"For what? I saw him day before yesterday and he didn't say anything about you."

 

Brian smiled. "He called me last night when I got in from work. He said you are quite bitter about your leg, and thought I could help."

 

"What the fuck would you know about it?"

 

"If I may come in, I might surprise you."

 

"Oh, very well." Kevin swung around on his crutches enough to let the young man pass.

 

Once they were seated, Brian said, "You asked what I know. This." He bent and pulled up his left jeans leg to reveal a hi-tech leg.

 

Kevin shrugged. "Okay, so you've lost one, too. Big deal."

 

Brian smiled. "It was to me. I was a professional soccer player."

 

"You want pity? Forget it!"

 

"Look, I don't want your pity or anyone else's, and I'm not giving you any. I had to make a hell of a lot of adjustments in my lifestyle and find a job I could do, but it wasn't the end of the world. I get along fine and so can you."

 

"Don't be so damn sure."

 

"Geez, guy, you have got an attitude. I'd like to help you adjust and show you ways to do things easier while you're on crutches, but I can't be much help unless you're willing to listen. I'll leave my number; you can call anytime after five."

 

"Fat chance."

 

Brian stood. "I hope you'll change your mind. The help I got from another amp was invaluable." He walked over to Kevin and extended his hand which Kevin ignored. Brian only smiled. "I felt the same, but I got over it and I'm glad I did. Give me a call if you need help or just want to talk."

 

Kevin sat and watched Brian leave. "Asshole," he muttered.

 

Half an hour later he was cursing himself. 'You've never been so rude before, and the guy just wanted to help. Damn, he's good looking. Bet he was awesome on the field. But why did he look so familiar?' He thought about it for some time, but failed to recollect where he'd seen him.

 

A few days after he returned to work, Kevin received a phone call from his boss. "Kevin, I'm glad to have you back so soon. I know you're working on a project that has a lot of potential, but the annual audit is coming up. I am sending a project estimator over to spend the day with you tomorrow so you can fill him in on your progress and what you're going to need in the way of time and financing."

 

'Just what I need, wasting time on some idiot that won't have the faintest idea of what I try to tell him, as if I haven't lost enough time already,' Kevin thought as he hung up.

 

At home that evening, he pulled up his files of pictures of amputees gathered from all over the web. Though he had now joined their ranks, he still enjoyed looking at several of his favorites. When he opened a series of pictures of young LAK's, he stopped at the 23rd picture, his favorite of them all. He blinked, it couldn't be, but there was no mistake, it was Brian. 'Damn! How many times have I wished I could meet this guy and when he was really here I treated him like shit.' He shrugged. 'If they had one, I'd sure make the hall of fame for fuck-ups.'

 

He turned on the water in the shower, happy now that the builder of his house had put in a stall with a built-in seat, though he had protested at the time. He reached for one of the plastic bags and pulled it over his stump to prevent wetting the bandage, taping it tightly in place. When he got in the shower and sat down, he looked at the result 'God, what a phallic symbol. Looks like a giant penis in a condom.' He grimaced and started to bathe.

 

Lying in bed, his thoughts turned to Brian again. 'I'll call him and invite him for a drink, so I can apologize properly. Nah, forget it, what could he see in a grouch like me.'.'

 

He was finishing up some detail work on one phase of his project when there was a knock on his office door and it opened. Kevin's mouth dropped open; he stared at the man unbelievingly. "You're the project estimator I'm supposed to see today?"

 

Brian smiled. "That's me."

 

"How is it we've never met before?"

 

"My office is in the building on the boulevard." 

 

"No wonder. You people might as well be on the moon as far as those of us in research are concerned."

 

"Same for us. I'm going to suggest to the boss we have a company cook-out or something, so we can meet the other half."

 

"Coffee's over there." Kevin pointed to the maker on the low storage cabinet, then held out his mug. "Mind getting me one, too?"

 

"Brian," he began once Brian was seated, "I apologize for being a complete ass the other night. You went out of your way to offer help to a total stranger. You didn't deserve to have me throw that offer back in your face the way I did. I'm terribly sorry."

 

"Apology accepted, but don't sweat it. I thought my life had come to an end, and I didn't make any progress until I got past my attitude. Now I'm almost as happy as I was before."

 

"What is it you're missing? Soccer?"

 

"That's the other thing. I'll always miss the guys and playing, but I took a year to finish college, then got a job here."

 

"Well, let's get to it. You know anything about electronics?"

 

"Enough that I'll be able to follow you, I think."

 

"Good. Now, ." Kevin kept up the explanation of his project through lunch and into the afternoon, Brian asking occasional questions and taking copious notes.

 

About three, Kevin looked at him. "That's about it. You follow me all the way?"

 

Brian nodded. "Pretty much. I'll call if I run into any problems later on, but I think I have everything I need to set up a time/cost report."

 

"Good. It was damn nice not to have to spend a day teaching you basics before I got down to the nitty-gritty."

 

Brian grinned. "I may have been a jock, but I'm not stupid."

 

Kevin felt his face flame. "I didn't mean to imply that. It's just that the last idiot they sent in here didn't have the foggiest idea what I was talking about."

 

"So I'm just the latest idiot?"

 

Kevin's face turned redder. "No! I Damn it, why do my words come out wrong when you're around? I insulted you when you came to my flat, and now I've done it again. I'm sorry, Bri, I "

 

Brian placed his hand on Kevin's shoulder; Kevin felt a shock go through him at his touch. "I'm teasing, Kev. Your explanation was clear and concise, considering the magnitude of what you're proposing. That will show in my report."

 

"Thanks. Are you busy tonight? If not, I'd like to take you to dinner by way of an apology."

 

"Not necessary, and I do have an appointment tonight. I'd sure like a rain check though. I'm free tomorrow."

 

Kevin raised an eyebrow. "On a Friday night?"

 

Brian nodded. "I try to save weekends for the things I really want to do."

 

"Tomorrow, then. I'm looking forward to it. Say seven?"

 

"Perfect. Shall I drop by your place?"

 

"Do. We can have a drink before we go to eat."

 

"Oh, God, if only ," Kevin sighed as he turned back to his work.

 

He worked in cheerful anticipation all the next day, shocking his lab assistant who expected a tirade of abuse when he screwed up a set of calculations while entering them in the computer.

 

Kevin showered and dressed with care, wanting to look his best for Brian, thinking of his stump only when he reached down to pin the empty slacks leg up neatly.

 

The knock on his door came at seven. Kevin opened the door with a smile, admiring the promptness. "Come in."

 

"Wow! You certainly look different tonight."  Having his own lab and seldom seeing people, Kevin usually wore jeans.

 

"So do you. You look a lot better in something other than a suit and tie." 

 

Brian grinned. "Feel a lot more comfortable, too, but at work I've got to keep the top brass happy. Now what about that drink, guy? You left my head spinning yesterday."

 

Kevin laughed. "You're the one said he understood what I was saying."

 

"I did, but what a pile of notes to sort through! It's going to take me three days to put that report together."

 

"Just making certain you earn your keep. Drinks are on the sideboard. Help yourself. I can't manage to carry a drink and use crutches at the same time just yet. I'm going to need help in the kitchen in a few minutes, too."

 

"You're making real progress, Kev."

 

"What do you mean?"

 

"You asked me to help. I think that was the hardest thing I had to learn."

 

"Guess we've both got a lot of pride."

 

"It can get in the way at times. What're you having?"

 

"Vodka collins and easy on the vodka, I'm driving."

 

"Got it."

 

A few minutes later, Kevin called Brian to take the plate of miniature crab quiches to the living room, and followed.

 

"Umm, great," Brian commented after popping one in his mouth.

 

"Glad you like them." Kevin turned serious. "Bri, I well, I wish we had met a lot earlier and under different circumstances, because I've admired you for over a year now."

 

"How, when you didn't know me?"

 

"That picture of you on the Amp/Dev site."

 

Brian laughed. "My former lover's revenge. He thought I'd be pissed off about it, and I was at first, but I met a couple of nice guys because of it."

 

"How? I mean you aren't identified in any way."

 

"One of the guys I work with is a devotee. He asked me how my picture got up there, so I told him."

 

"Oh. You said former. I take it that means you and your lover are no longer together?"

 

Brain shook his head. "That's what I've missed most. He couldn't take my being, as he said, a cripple, so he split."

 

"What about the guy at work?"

 

"It might have come to something, but, despite being a dev, he's straight, so ." Brian spread his hands.

 

"You've no other prospects?"

 

"Maybe one, but I haven't known him long enough to know whether he's interested, or even gay for that matter. Not all devotees are, you know."

 

Kevin closed his eyes for a moment. 'Maybe not, but this one sure is. But no way he could be talking about me. What have I got to offer a guy like Brian?'

 

"You've got a great apartment here, Kev. I like it."

 

"Thanks. It's a little big for one person. When I first moved here I thought about possibly finding a roommate, but after I got no response to the note I posted at the office, I never bothered again."

 

"Then somebody is sure missing out." He swallowed the last of his drink. "If I have one more of those quiches, I won't need dinner. Where do you want me to put them?"

 

"In the fridge. And you're right. If we don't get going, we'll miss our reservation."

 

Dinner was excellent and relaxed. Brian drew Kevin out as no one had succeeded in doing before, finding that Kevin had no family or social life. In turn, Brian told him how his success as a jock had thrilled his father then, when he appeared at home with a lover, the abuse he suffered before being thrown out. How he faced the amputation of his leg without the comfort of any friends, his lover having moved out the afternoon before the operation, leaving behind a note saying he couldn't take living with a man's whose body was mutilated.

 

On hearing this, Kevin reached across the table and took Brian's hand in his. "I wish I had been there to help."

 

"I wish you had, too. That's why Doc Adams asked me to visit you. He knew you were in much the same situation."

 

"And I behaved so much worse. I'm sorry, Bri."

 

"I understood completely, that's why it was so easy for me to overlook it."

 

"Friends?"

 

"Of course."

 

Kevin grinned. "Good, but don't think that's going to make me any easier to live with at work."

 

"Ha! I'll probably never see you there again. Well, maybe at the next audit."

 

"True. Let's go back to the flat and have another drink."

 

The door to Kevin's flat had barely closed when Kevin felt himself caught in a hug and kissed. He returned the kiss as avidly as it had been given.

 

"I wanted to do that when you opened the door that first night," Brian said softly.

 

Kevin looked into his eyes. "You don't know how often I've looked at your picture and dreamed it would be like this, but never thought it would happen."

 

"You think I acted on impulse?"

 

"I sure hope not. You're so beautiful, Bri."

 

"You are, too, Kev. Especially now."

 

"How?"

 

"You look so perfect on your crutches, I want to stroke your stump and make love to you."

 

"I thought I was the devotee." Kevin teased.

 

"Forget that! I'm one, too. When I woke up and saw my stump, I realized I was a want-to-be who had finally gotten his wish. That's why I'm so comfortable with who I am. When I was a kid, I found an old pair of crutches in the attic, so I used to pretend a lot, then I sort of outgrew it. But there was a guy with one leg who used to come to a lot of our games. I was captivated, so I followed him around as much as I could, just watching him. I lost interest when he showed up with his girl friend."

 

"I wish you had used your crutches tonight."

 

"I don't need 'em. Let me get this leg off."

 

He took off his slacks and shirt, folded them neatly, then stood, balancing on his muscular leg. "Well?"

 

Kevin simply stared at the taut muscled body. "Unbelievable! You must work out regularly."

 

"Nah. Hasn't been that long, so I never lost it. But a few more meals like tonight and I'm doomed."

 

Kevin took one step on his crutches and flung his arms around Brian in a hug, stroking Brian's back. Brian held his stump out. "This, too."

 

Kevin looked down. "It's as beautiful as the guy it belongs to. I hope mine looks as good."

 

"I wish I could touch yours, Kev. When it's healed, I want to stroke it like you're doing mine. It's an incredible feeling."

 

"Spend the night?" Kevin whispered.

 

"Yes. Oh, yes!"

 

Kevin awoke first, propped up on his elbow and looked at Brian. How could I be so lucky, he asked himself. He reached up and brushed back a heavy lock of blond hair that had fallen across Brian's forehead. He looked down at his bandaged stump, then at Brian's. I hope he teaches me how to be as happy with mine as he is with his. It's beautiful. He stroked the scar with his thumb.

 

"That's the way I like to be awakened," Brian said, kissing Kevin. "Specially after last night. Was it good for you, too?"

 

"I never thought it would happen, especially with a beautiful stud like you." He returned the kiss. "Bri, I'm in love with you."

 

Brian sat up. "After just one night?"

 

"I never believed in love at first sight, but now I believe in love after one night. You've been in my dreams ever since I found your picture, and you've got an awful lot to teach me about this." He stroked Brian's stump again, suddenly lifting it with his hands and kissing it on the end.

 

"Oh, Kev, I wish I could touch yours. When you kiss it like that, it's the most incredible thing I've ever felt. I can't wait for yours to heal. Let's make a life together."

 

"You saying you love me?"

 

"Yes, my beautiful, Kev, yes. I was afraid to rush you, but I want you more than anything. Like you told me, you're perfect now. I'll teach you how to live on crutches, because if I move in, I'm asking one thing."

 

"Anything for you, love."

 

"I know you'll get a leg as soon as possible, but when we're home together, I want you on crutches."

 

"Only if you do the same."

 

"I will, and I want you to wear shorts, so I can see your stump."

 

Kev shook his head. "After what yours led to last night, we may never get anything else done around here."

 

Bri gently stroked the part of Kev's stump above the bandage. "Never deny the attractiveness of perfection, Kev. Yours is going to be a beauty, and I want it for myself."

 

"Just as I want yours." Kevin kissed Brian again. "I'm starving, let's see if two one legged guys can fix some breakfast without breaking anything."

 

Bri grinned. "Gotta break the eggs, love."

 

Posted: 04/03/09