“Have you seen Jack?” Dr. Victor Ehrlich’s words were quiet, measured, and reluctant – it wasn’t a topic he wanted to bring up, but after all, somebody should – shouldn’t they?
“No, man,” his colleague, Wayne Fiscus, replied, “I’d like to, but… I wouldn’t know what to say, I mean… y’know? If what they’re saying is true.” Ehrlich sighed.
“We could bring him a card or something?”
Fiscus snorted wryly.
“Don’t think they really have a ‘Sorry you got raped’ card.” Ehrlich rolled his eyes, flushing.
“I just meant a general ‘Get Well’ card,” he retorted. “I think he’d appreciate the thought.”
“Don’t know if he’d really want to see any of us – I’m not going with you. But if you bring me a card, I’ll sign it.” With that, Fiscus turned and walked off in the direction of the E.R.
The next day, Ehrlich walked in with the brightest and shiniest – if a bit gawky, really, and a rather random furry cat on the front – “Get Well” card; by the end of the day he’d gotten signatures from Westphall, Auschlander, Fiscus, Armstrong, Chandler, half the Nursing staff (Shirley Daniels had given him a kiss on the cheek and drawn a big heart next to her name), and even an aggrieved Dr. Craig, who signed it with a flourish before adding, “It’s a damn shame, Ehrlich. And you’re assisting on this bypass at 4PM, aren’t you? Don’t be late.”
After assisting on the bypass at 4PM, during which Craig only called him a moron three times, Ehrlich set off for the street he knew Morrison lived on.
It was a little white house, with a set of concrete steps leading up to a big glass door that showed off a little indoor porch. Ehrlich approached the front and rang the doorbell, swallowing as he shoved his hands in his pockets.
Shouldn’t he just let Jack lick his wounds by himself? Something like this, someone doesn’t really want a whole bunch of people commenting, do they?
But he didn’t have time to rethink it, because Morrison appeared at the door, looking very much worse for wear. His jaw had been wired shut at one side, and his face was bandaged heavily – he looked like a caricature for the lawyer ads on the subway.
Ehrlich stood staring for the longest, shallowest moment, before he forced an awkward, cheeky smile.
“Hi, Jack, I just wanted to stop by and see how you’re doing. If it’s a bad time…”
“No, no, it’s fine,” Morrison replied, his voice acquiring a certain slur due to his jaw. He opened the door a little further, and Ehrlich stepped inside.
“Everyone signed a card,” Ehrlich told him, taking the envelope out of his jacket and handing it over. Morrison’s eyes emitted a dim light, and he gave a nod and as much of a smile, it seemed, as was possible.
“Y’even got Craig,” Morrison pointed out. Ehrlich laughed.
“Yeah, he signed it and then reminded me that I was going to be assisting.”
“Wastes no time, does he?” Morrison replied, moving to sit on the couch. “Pete’s at my parents’. So make yourself at home. Something to drink?”
“Nah, I’m fine, Jack.” Ehrlich swallowed. “How have you been holding up?”
“Well enough, I guess,” Morrison replied, “They have me pretty doped up, I feel kinda like – well, y’know. Floaty.” Ehrlich slowly reached out and placed his hand over his colleague’s.
“That’s good. Ride the high,” he teased, then tipped his head up a little, felt himself breathing that little bit faster. Could it be like before, after, after this? Maybe it had all been in his head – those accidental touches on rounds, those quick smiles in the halls? There was only one way to know, but this was the worst time, the worst possible time and –
Ehrlich leaned in and placed his lips against Morrison’s, ever so slightly, and then pulled away. Morrison looked shocked, but not upset or angry.
“Wow… okay,” Morrison said, his voice quietly raspy.
“I… sorry,” Ehrlich stammered, “I don’t know where that came from. Was that upsetting? Terribly inappropriate? I should just, uh, leave?”
“Nah, Victor,” Morrison replied, “Stay – just don’t make me respond to that right away? I’m going… home to Seattle for a while. Let me think on this while I’m there? If… that means what I think it did?”
“Yeah,” Ehrlich whispered simply, dragging a hand over his face. “Sure… Think as long as you need to.”
Morrison leaned in and gave Ehrlich a tight, gentle hug.
“No matter what, we’re always going to be friends, Victor. I just… need time, okay?”
“As much time as you need,” Ehrlich echoed. “I’m not going anywhere.”
Ehrlich didn’t go anywhere, but he spent the months that Morrison was in Seattle staring at the door every so often, glancing over his shoulder and hoping he’d hear Morrison’s tapping, rushing footsteps and look over to see Jack with his stethoscope draped over his shoulders… back to normal.
He had stopped thinking about it, at least at the forefront of his mind, when he was approached by Shirley Daniels, with a tentative smile across her face.
“They said Jack is coming back,” she told him. “I think you’ll be glad to hear that.” She gave a short smile and a wink, and Ehrlich had to wonder, as she glided off to her work, just how much she knew about him and Morrison. He and Daniels had dated, after all, if only briefly, and she’d also dated Fiscus… maybe he had mentioned something?
But Ehrlich couldn’t think about it for long, because he was cut off by Craig yelling his name: “Ehrlich!”
“Yes, Dr. Craig?” Ehrlich called back, rushing over.
“Stop standing around and help me over here!”
Thoughts of Jack Morrison would have to wait for now.
Ehrlich noticed the footsteps first. Those undeniably Jack footsteps that he’d hallucinated and wished so many times in the past few months.
“Jack!” The gasp escaped from his mouth as he saw him appear in the group of doctors making rounds, looking as if nothing had happened at all. Like a mirage.
“Hi, Victor,” Morrison replied, a shy smile creeping across his face. At Westphall’s appearance, however, he snapped around and quickly answered a question about a diagnosis.
“Welcome back,” Westphall told him, nodding proudly at Morrison before continuing down the hall to his office. As the group making rounds headed down the hall after him, Morrison caught Ehrlich’s arm.
“We should talk,” he said quietly.
“Are you ready?” Ehrlich asked. Part of him simply wanted to run his fingers over the other man’s skin, to make the illusion real that the scars were really gone, instead of simply covered up and scabbed over.
“Yeah,” Morrison replied, reaching up to take Ehrlich’s hand before leading him into an unoccupied corner. Before Ehrlich could speak, Morrison pressed his lips against the blonde’s, pushing him against the wall. When he broke the kiss, he smiled shyly. “Missed you. Thought about you a lot in Seattle.”
“Thought about you a lot too,” Ehrlich stammered out, shocked. “Are you sure you want to do this? I mean…”
“I’m totally sure. Victor… I realized when I was in Seattle that… Bad things happen. A lot of them. But you can’t let it kill you. You can’t hide in the corner waiting for the next bad thing. And you and me, I think, I think we’d be a good thing. And I need that right now.”
“So do I,” Ehrlich whispered, and leaned up to kiss Morrison gently on the lips.
“For crying out loud, Ehrlich!” a voice exclaimed behind them. The two residents whirled around to see Dr. Craig watching them, his eyes wide and lips curled downward in some mix of horror and just general disapproval. “Residents these days.” He paused and made a brushing motion with his unbandaged hand. “Oh, carry on, Ehrlich, I guess there’s nothing you can do to him that’s worse than what’s been done to him already.” He made a tsk-sound and continued to walk away.
Morrison looked at Ehrlich, who had turned the color of a cherry.
“Guess that’s a ringing endorsement,” Morrison said with a grin.
“Welcome back, Jack.”
Morrison looped his arm under Ehrlich’s.
“It’s good to be home.”