Everybody’s Wounded


Chapter 16



I awoke slowly to a room that was deeply grey, the pale morning just beginning to push back the night from the wall of windows overlooking the ocean.  Fatigue still clawed at me; my mind felt drenched in fog.


More real than the room was the warmth of Josh’s body, pressed against mine.  Sometime during the early morning hours he had moved back up the bed, and now his back was pressed against my chest, and his head rested on my bicep.  His knees were bent and mine were bent behind them, so that his thighs rested on top of mine and the curve of his ass pressed against my morning hardness.


There was awe at the simple beauty of awakening beside him, and for a few blissful moments, nothing else permeated my foggy brain.  I rolled my shoulders slowly, then pulled him closer to press my face against the warm, perfect line that was the back of his neck, breathing him in.  He alone seemed real to me, the sound of his breath, the heat of his flesh, the scent of his skin.    


I moved my head a little to kiss his shoulder, slowly, languidly, flicking my tongue out to taste it, just a little, the way you do.  But as I was suffused with the beauty of it, I was aware, too, of a sense of sadness that seemed to be hovering around us, just there, close but somehow just out of reach.


I glided my lips over the warm skin of his shoulder thinking – I’m falling in love with this man.  I’m falling totally in love him –


And then I remembered.


With the sudden clarity of a light coming on, there was a sudden pain at the back of my throat, and the sound of my breath was harsh in my own ears. 


For a moment, I did the only thing that made any sense to me: I pulled closer to Josh.  He mumbled sleepily, then turned in my arms and nestled against me, the top of his head just under my chin, one arm reaching across my hip.  Each time he exhaled, his breath blew hot and slow just under my collarbone, at once soothing and almost unbearably erotic.  I lay still as long as I could, listening as the rhythms of his breathing settled back into the slow, steady pulse of sleep.  I felt so highly sensitized, so aware of his presence, and of Luc’s absence. And aware, too, that there was something I needed to do, something just out of reach.


And, finally, I remembered that, too.




I needed to call Luc’s brother, Robert.


Slowly, carefully, so as not to disturb Josh, I removed his arm from where it rested on my hip and eased myself out of bed.  My clothes were draped over a chair in the corner, and I padded over to them, fishing Luc’s cell phone out of the pocket of my jeans, and took it through to the living room, and the second wall of windows looking out over the ocean.  Josh always left one of the small lower windows open an inch or so, just enough to let in the sound of the surf and the smell of salt and wind and wave – and an icy draft just about knee level.  I stood there ignoring it.


Dawn had broken through, the fog was gone, and the sky was that pale grey blue of winter and the North Atlantic.  The ocean looked deceptively calm, the waves deceptively tame, and I stared out at it for a long time.  I was naked, and the vicious little draft from the open window made me shiver.  Though I knew what I had to do, I felt lost, as if I had someone I had to find out there, but no idea where to look.


A quick scan of Luc’s address book and call history, and I had the information I needed: Robert’s home and cell numbers, and confirmation that Luc had called the former just a few minutes before he’d called me.  The call had lasted five minutes and 32 seconds.  God alone knew what he’d said, but if it was anything like the message he’d left me…


Should I call Robert? 


Did I have the right?


I’d promised Luc I wouldn’t tell his parents.  Did he mean that promise to include his family, as well? 


As much as I didn’t want to betray Luc’s trust, it didn’t take long for me to decide that I really didn’t have a choice.  I didn’t know Robert, but that didn’t matter.  As painful as the news of Luc’s suicide attempt would be, it would be nothing compared to the pain of coming home to a message that suggested Luc had succeeded.  I couldn’t let that happen, not when I knew Luc was alive and recovering. 


But still I was reluctant.  I toyed with waiting longer, until I had more concrete news about Luc’s hand.  I weighed that against the fact that I’d no idea what time Robert was expected back in Halifax.  All I did know was what Luc had said in his message, that Robert was expected back before I was, some time that day.  And, I realized, it could be any time.  Robert was a med student, and med students kept strange hours.  For all I knew, he could be on his way back right then…


On the other hand he could be sleeping…


I knew I was only making excuses, delaying the inevitable. 


I tried the home number first, but it clicked to call answer after six rings: a woman’s voice, I’d reached Robert and Angie, and would I please leave a message which they would return as soon as they could.  I didn’t.  I tried the cell.  Four rings this time, and the same soft woman’s voice, though this time it was slurred with sleep.


“Hello,” I said.  “May I, um, speak with Robert Bedard?”


“Who is this?”


“It’s— I’m a friend his brother’s.” I said. “His younger brother, Luc.  Is Robert there?  I’m sorry to call so early, but it’s very important.”


“Oh, dear.” Her voice sounded suddenly awake.  “Hold on a moment.”  Then, more muffled.  “Wake up, baby.  It’s someone calling about your brother.  I think something’s happened to Luc—”


“Hello?  Who is this?”


The voice was disturbingly like Luc’s.


“Hello, Robert, my name’s Scott Ferguson.  I’m—"


“What’s Luc done?” he demanded.  “Where is he?  Is he all right?”


“Yes,” I said.  “Yes.  He’s all right.  He had— there’s been—”   


Shit.  I had no idea how to say this. 


I heard a sound behind me, and turned my head to see Josh coming out of the bedroom.  He wore a dark blue terry robe, and carried another, pale blue, in his hands.  As I tried to think of how to explain to Robert what had happened to Luc, Josh came up behind me, holding up the robe.  He helped me into it, wrapped it around me from behind, pulling it closed, knotting the belt around my hips.  


“What?” came Robert’s voice over the phone.  “Where is my brother?”


I closed my eyes and leaned back into Josh, grateful for his warmth.  “He’s hurt,” I said to Robert.   “He’s in the hospital, but he’s going to be fine.” 


“What hospital?  What happened?”


Josh put his hands on my shoulders and began to knead at the tension there.  I took a deep breath.  “He’s in the local hospital,” I said into Luc's cell.  “He— he tried to…to. …“


There was an uncomfortable silence, one I didn’t know how to fill.  Finally, Robert spoke.


“Scott, did you say?”




“What did Luc do?” he asked quietly. 


Between the reassuring pressure of Josh’s hands and the calmness of Robert’s voice, I was able to explain, although I did not, initially, register how oddly Robert had put the question.


“He took a lot of pills,” I said.  “Tylenol.  Fortunately, I got his message in time, and we were able to get him to hospital.  They aren’t expecting any lasting effects.”


“I see,” came the voice on the phone.


“Yeah.  And, um, that wasn’t all.  He… he also cut his wrists.”


Tabernacle.”  The Quebecois equivalent of fuck.  But it was said softly, sadly. 


In the background, I could hear the soft voice of the woman, no longer sleepy.  “What is it, baby?  Is Luc ok?” 


Then Robert’s voice, lower, and not loud enough for me to make out what he was saying.  And then he was back on the phone.  “How bad is it?”  


It was only then that it finally began to dawn on me that, while Luc’s brother sounded desperately worried, he did not sound at all surprised. 


I took a deep breath, and leaned back against Josh, who still stood behind me, his hands kneading my shoulders.  “There’s a lot of damage to his left wrist,” I told him.  “They’ve got a plastic surgeon coming in to look at it sometime this morning.”


“Good.  Have you— were you able to talk to him?”


“Yes,” I told him.  “They let me see him after… after they’d finished with him.  He was in Intensive Care as a precaution, but they let me sit with him for a few minutes.”


“How was he?  How did he seem to you?”


“He seemed—”  I turned away from the window then, and looked at Josh, searching his face.  His green eyes held mine calmly. 


“He seemed sad,” I said finally.  “Scared.”


Josh took my free hand in his.  In my ear, Robert sighed softly.  “Did he ask you to call me?” 


“No,” I said, and explained about the voice message Luc had left me, and how there was a similar one waiting for him on his home phone – one that maybe he should delete without hearing.  “I know I can’t stop you from listening to it,” I said, “but there may be things in it that right now he’d rather you didn’t know.


He said nothing.


“Look, I can’t stop you from listening to it.  If I were you, I’d probably want to.  But one thing I know.  He begged me not to tell your parents.  It’s just about the only thing he would say to me.  So please, whatever it is he said to you, please don’t tell them.  Not yet.”


But Robert made no promises.  “I’ll meet you at the hospital,” he said.  “Keep this cell turned on so I can reach you.”


He hung up, and I turned back to the window and stared out at the ocean, Josh still beside me, our fingers entwined.  


A few minutes later, Luc's cell rang.


“I listened to the message,” he said, not bothering to introduce himself. 


I didn’t know what to say.


“Look,” he said.  “I don’t know you.  I don’t know what you are to Luc.  What I do know is that he’s wrong, ok?  I’ve known my kid brother was gay for a long time.  We all have – and we don’t give a fuck, ok?  And we don’t blame him for what happened.  We never have.  We just can’t seem to convince him of that.  And Scott—”




“Believe him when he says this isn’t your fault, ok?  Because this isn’t the first time.”


I was stunned.  “Not— not the first time?”


“No.  It’s the third.  And it’s not your fault. Ok?”


“The third?”   


“We should be there by noon.  And Scott—”




“I won’t tell my parents until I’ve talked to Luc.  Ok?”


I flipped the phone closed and turned to Josh, who just watched me, his normally calm, unreadable face warm with concern.


I stood there, shaking my head.  “Twice before,” I said, knowing I must have sounded dazed.  “He’s done this twice before.”


Josh took the phone from my hand and set it on a table.  Then he reached up, took my head in both his hands, and pulled me gently down towards him, offering me his mouth.     


We’d only really kissed in a sexual context before, that night when he’d wanted me to take him so brutally and I had refused and taken him instead on my own, more careful, terms, and then again the next morning, in his car in front of my residence.  Our kisses both times had been a kind of erotic battle, thrust and counter thrust, metaphorical penetration, a kind of echo of what was happening or would be happening or had happened elsewhere.  Hard, hungry kisses that had left both of us with mouths a little bruised, a little swollen. 


But this kiss… this kiss... 


It wasn’t like that.


When he opened his mouth to mine, my first reaction was hard and fast, and I thrust in.  But though I took his mouth deeply, his tongue stayed soft and sweet beneath mine, and he sucked me gently, sweetly, until my kiss gentled and sweetened, too, and we stood, holding each other, rocking gently before the huge glass window looking out over sky and rock and water.  It was a moment that burned into my soul.  When I finally released his mouth, I was almost sobbing with the beauty of it.  I rested my forehead against his for a moment, and felt the tension ease in both of us.


He stepped back a little and looked up at me.


“I love you,” he said, and the words made my breath catch in my throat.


I looked down into those green eyes, and raised my hand to his jaw, still morning-rough beneath my palm. 


I couldn’t say it.  Not yet.  I didn’t want it to be a “me, too” statement.  When I said it, I wanted it to be the same earth-shattering gift to him that it had been when he first gave it to me.


But though I didn’t say it, in that instant, I did know it. 


I cupped his jaw in my hand, and I held his eyes with mine, and I willed him to understand, for the feeling to pass straight from my heart into his.  Then I bent my head and kissed him with all the love and tenderness I possessed.


He opened to me like he knew.




Josh called the hospital when I was in the shower, and it turned out there was no point in us going to the hospital until after lunch.  The plastic surgeon was expected around 11, but they’d moved Luc out of intensive care and onto a ward, and visiting hours didn’t start until two.  I called Robert and arranged to meet him at the hospital.  Then Josh and I decided to head over to my room so I could get some clean clothes, then go out for breakfast.  


I had just pulled on a fresh pair of boxers, and Josh was sitting on my bed studying the photo of me with my David and my uncles, when there was a knock on the door.


“Yeah?” I called out.


And with no further warning, the door flung open and an angry fireplug burst into the room.  The fury in his voice preceded him into the room


“And just where the fuck were you last night?” he demanded.  And then he saw Josh, and his head moved from the guy on my bed to me standing there with nothing on but a pair of boxers, and he just kind of froze.  I would have laughed, except the look he gave Josh was definitely not funny.


I introduced them, curious about Bran’s barely contained hostility to Josh.  I didn’t understand it.  Bran was such a sweet guy, and I’d told him how I felt about Josh, that I really thought I was falling in love with him.  Though now that I thought about it, his reaction to that had been surprisingly restrained.


As I fished through my drawers for a clean sweater, Bran pointedly turned his back on Josh.  “I left the party early to see how you were doing,” he said to me.  “I thought you might need some company.  You said you didn’t want to party with the team because of your uncles—”


“Oh, fuck,” I said softly, dropping the sweater in my hand.  “I haven’t called Ry since I got back last night.”  I slumped onto the end of my bed, feeling horribly guilty.  Everything that had happened with Luc had driven Ry’s father’s death from my mind.


I looked up at Bran, who was glaring at me accusingly.  Over his shoulder I could see that Laura had come into the room, as well, and was leaning against the closed door, her face intensely serious as her gaze slipped from face to face, uncharacteristically silent as she watched the three of us.


It was Josh who broke the silence.


“We were at the hospital most of the night,” he said calmly. 


“Why?” Brandon demanded.  “You didn’t say anything about being hurt in the game yesterday.”


“Not me,” I said.  “It was Luc.  He—” Fuck.  What was I supposed to say?  Laura knew Luc.  I knew she could be trusted, but I also wanted to respect his privacy.


Laura spoke for the first time.  “What happened to Luc, Scott?” she asked softly.


I looked up and my eyes met Josh’s.  “He left me a voice message,” I said, nodding towards the phone on my desk.  “It was a kind of suicide note.  Josh lives in the same building, so I called him, and he went to Luc’s place while I went over in a cab.”


“Oh, God,” said Laura softly.  “Is he all right?”


I nodded.


“We got there in time,” said Josh.


The tension in the room eased after that, and while I pulled on some clothes, we told them the bare bones of Luc’s condition without mentioning what his brother had told me, that it was Luc’s third suicide attempt.  I also told Josh and Laura about Ry’s Dad.  The only thing that surprised me was Brandon’s reaction to Josh; for some reason he continued to shoot uneasy looks at him. 


We asked them to join us for breakfast, but they’d already eaten. As we were leaving, Josh suddenly turned Bran.


“Kozinsky,” he said.  “Are you related to Matt?”


The look that Bran shot Josh was cold as ice.  “Yeah.  He’s my older brother.”  


Josh nodded.  “Let’s see… he was a sophomore the year I graduated, so he must have graduated last year. What’s he up to? ” 


“He should have graduated,” said Bran, with an edge of bitterness that surprised me.  “But he left after first semester last year.  He’s thinking about coming back in January to finish.”


I looked at Bran in surprise.  I knew he had an older brother, but he’d never mentioned to me that Matt had been a student here, or that he might be back in January.


“How is he doing?”  There was real concern in Josh’s voice.   


“He’s all right,” said Brandon coldly.  “He’s gonna be all right.”


As we were all heading out a few moments later, Bran pulled me back into my room and closed the door a second.


“Don’t you think he’s a little old for you?”


I looked at Bran curiously, wondering at his sudden concern about the difference between Josh’s age and mine.  “He’s a little older,” I conceded.  “But I think we’re gonna be ok.”


To my surprise, Bran looked really worried.  “Look,” he said slowly.  “Maybe I shouldn’t interfere…  But I didn’t recognize him before.  And I don’t think you told me his last name, or if you did, it didn’t register.  You know, he— he used to be with an artist, a much older guy—.”


I nodded in surprise, wondering how the hell Bran knew that.  I mean, St G’s was a small university, but Bran was in sciences and Josh economics, and Bran would have been a freshman in Josh’s final year as an undergraduate.  It seemed unlikely their paths would have crossed.  


"They broke up two years ago,” I said slowly.  “He hasn’t been with anyone since.”


“You sure about that?”


I could only stare at him. 


 “Just be careful Scott,” he said, opening the door again.  “From what I’ve heard, Josh Templeton is a pretty… complicated guy.”   




“What the fuck was that all about?” I ask Josh a few minutes later as we drove off to breakfast. 


“How well do you know Brandon?” Josh asked me.


“Pretty well, I thought.  He’s the captain of the rugby team, and he and Laura are my best friends here.  My best straight friends, anyway.” 


Josh was concentrating on driving, but he shot a quick glance at me.  “I knew his brother,” he said slowly.


 “How?” I asked.


"His brother’s gay.  Didn’t you know that?”