One More Day
This is the first of three updates today. I've decided to space them out by a couple of hours because sometimes when I post more than one chapter at a time, a few readers miss the previous ones and read only the last. It's probably disappointing, but I'm sticking with the tradition of a slow-developing plot. But do not fret my Lucaine fans. The coming chapters will be more to your liking.
The mornings have grown oddly quiet. It’s weird now for Lucas not to wake up to someone hovering over his bed, ready to help him get up and start his day. His life had been modified to that type of routine for so long, he’d grown disaccustomed to privacy. He’d hated it be sure and can’t say that he’ll miss any part of recovery -- not even the extra-special treatment he’d been subjected to -- but it’s still strange to open his eyes and not find a body and what he’s convinced had always been patronizing smiles standing over him.
These days, he gets out of bed on his own. Completes his stretches on his own. And he can go about most of the rituals that had governed his mornings for years, prior to the shooting as if it had never happened. The rest, like a lung-burning workout, drinking coffee, or, making love to Alaine until he thinks his heart and body are going to give out, have to wait until he sees Dion today.
The thought of discussing his sex life so openly with his brother just makes his skin crawl just as it’s done every other time he’s had to.
Lucas pinches the bridge of his nose and lets loose a frustrated groan.
“Just one more day,” he mutters, trying to encourage himself to attend the check-up in the first place.
He could always just skip it. He’s a grown man. It’s his prerogative. And yet he knows that doing so won’t go over well for him. His family still has trouble with boundaries and that’s only worsened since he’d had to open his apartment to them. Now, they feel as if they have the run of this place and his life and he can just imagine Dion telling Shanice that he’d missed his appointment, her telling his father and the shit it’s going to stir up for him before the end of the day.
The best thing to do is get it over with.
"One more day,” he reminds himself again.
He sits up in bed and places his feet on the hardwood floor without having to heft heavy, uncooperative legs over the side of the bed with his hands. Then he stands smoothly, grabs his phone off the nightstand, and pads across to the large window to get a good glimpse of Manhattan around him.
The leaves have started to glow with yellow, orange, and red hues.
Had it not been for his obvious displeasure with having to divulge his personal affairs with a man who’s seen him naked a few times too many-- one who’d been so carefree commenting his surprise on the size of his junk and how well he’d been endowed -- Lucas would have been in excellent spirit.
Beyond today, though, the future looks radiant.
It’s been a while since he’s woken up with such a positive outlook. It’s been a while since he’s enjoyed waking up in the morning, for that matter. Somehow, he just knows that it’s going to be a good day -- Dion aside of course. He’s been given new lenses to look at the world with and this new lease he’s been granted on life, he has no plans of squandering.
In keeping with his renewed tradition, he scrolls through his notifications, searching for a word from Alaine. He doesn’t expect one since she would have started training with Tawny at around five in the morning, so he’s not too disappointed when he finds that she hasn’t texted.
Lucas: Morning, beautiful. Don’t forget, I’ve got plans for you.
When he’s done, he walks away from the view of the city and into his bathroom. He’s been doing that for a couple of weeks now -- getting around without extra assistance -- but it never ceases to amaze him how good it feels to be independent. He’d missed it. He’d missed having confidence in the integrity of his body. Those six months he’d spent molding his form back to what it had been before had felt like a lifetime.
When Lucas is done, he walks downstairs on his own two feet without the use of his cane or having to grip the railing for support.
Jackie’s face lifts into a smile when she sees him walking across the living room towards the kitchen. Every morning since the first day he’d managed the stairs on his own, her eyes mist over and she has to dab the tears away with the sleeve of her shirt.
“Good morning, sir,” she greets with her exuberant smile still in place.
“I’ve told you to stop calling me that,” Lucas chides.
“Oh, I know,” she says dismissively. “But, I prayed for you and I don’t want to jinx it. I prayed for you and made a few promises to the big man upstairs, including that I would not meddle, I’d be the picture of professionalism and a few other things if he’d just make you well again. And here you are, well again. I have to keep my end of the bargain.”
Lucas snorts with laughter. “Gee,” he says blandly. “I wouldn’t want to disrupt your mojo and who’s to say that it was your prayers that God listened to anyway.”
“Do you want me to gamble with that?” she asks.
Enjoying the silly conversation, he says, “Somehow, I don’t think that God does backsies, Jackie,” and makes the point to stress on her name. “Does that mean I’m required to call you Mrs. Horowtiz? Because it’s not going to happen.”
She chuckles and busies herself with preparing his breakfast. “I hadn’t thought to include that in the deal I brokered. Too bad too.”
While Jackie goes on chattering about this and that -- so much for professionalism -- Lucas glares longingly at the coffee machine. There’s still a half pot left which means, she’s already had one cup for which he begrudges his housekeeper. It’s been six months since he’s had a sip of the aromatic dark brew - a little pick me up he’d always indulged in to help kick-start his day. Unfortunately, it had been stricken from the list of things he’d been allowed to consume. Hopefully, this will be the last day he has to adhere to such a strict regimen.
Briefly, he considers that he can deviate from his approved diet just a little to have a few sips of coffee.
Then he thinks about Alaine. Of how disappointed and probably irate she will be once she finds out. He doesn’t trust Jackie’s resolution not to meddle one bit, even if she fears being smitten by God himself. He won’t give in to the temptation, but drinking a cup or three of coffee is on his list of top five things to do once Dion gives him the all-clear.
Jackie places a bowl before him and Lucas could just groan. Granola and yogurt with blueberries, a side of more fruit, and a glass of water. He’s all for eating healthy but his tastebuds are dying to sample meat products.
Absent from the tray she sets in front of him, however, is the little plastic container that dispensed his daily doses of meds. Usually, it would be sitting right there beside his meal, taunting him. Not having to swallow a palmful of drugs provides just enough happiness to lift him out of his glum over not being allowed to eat whatever the hell he likes for so long.
Lucas smiles at that. He can’t say that he’ll be missing those either.
Now that the moment of weakness has passed, he lifts his spoon, digs into the bowl, and then carries it to his mouth. It’s still marveling that he can do so without a tremor in his hand, without making a mess, without needing help with hand-eye coordination.
“Thanks, Jackie,” he says.
“You’re welcome, sweet...I mean, sir,” she corrects.
Lucas grins at her again. “You know this isn’t going to last,” he says around a mouthful of cereal.
After that, they fall into a familiar rhythm. She putters around him for a while, asking if he’s okay and if he needs anything. It’s clear that even if she’s ecstatic with his progress, Jackie is having some difficulty giving up her role fussing over him.
“I’m fine, Jackie,” Lucas tells her over and over only to have her come back a short while later to ask the same thing -- “Can I get you anything?”
When he’s done wading through breakfast, he runs up the stairs just to enjoy the burst of energy and freedom doing so provides. Lucas smiles. He does that a lot these days - grin for no apparent reason.
The clock on his bedside table flashes after seven in the morning. It’s too early for his appointment with Dion but there are other things that he wants to do today, anyway.
He picks up his phone hoping to find a message from Alaine. Again, there’s nothing but he’s still not too disappointed. She’s probably just wrapped up her sparring session with Tawny and must now be scrambling to get ready for work on time.
He sits on the bed to scroll through the hundred-plus email notifications on his phone. There’s always a small number of them from media houses wanting an exclusive interview to tell his and Alaine’s story to the public. So far, they’ve really been spinning all sorts of ridiculous conjecture to rack up the ratings. As he’s had his assistant respond to a million and one invitations already, he’s not interested in sharing his story with the world. He's even less so now than before. Let them think whatever they want.
A few important emails grab his attention. When he’s done with them, he rattles off a long list of instructions to send to Mrs. Sheffeild. She’s a bit whacky if he has to be honest, but also a godsend. Had it not been for her quick thinking, begging, and then ordering the team of medics up to his office after he and Seth had been shot, he would not be alive today.
Plus, despite her eccentricities, she’s a thorough assistant. Her master’s degree in business management and finance meant that she was over-qualified for that position but, according to her, it’s what she wants.
“The hours are less crazy,” she’d told him when he’d asked her about that decision. “The pay and benefits are still good and I get to see my children grow up and take care of her family.”
She’d taken his multibillion-dollar company in hand during his absence but, according to her, she’s ready to hand over the reins. He, on the other hand, is not yet ready to return to the office. When he’d told Alaine that he has plans for them, he’d been thinking both short and long-term. Going back to work doesn’t exactly feature on the list. At least, not right away. He’s earned himself some proper time off.
He wiles away the hours. They creep by slowly. While regretting that he hadn’t scheduled the appointment for early in the morning, he’s still glad that he hadn’t. It’s not like he would have been able to spend the time with Alaine anyway. She’s at work...with Ian Gaines.
Ian Gaines, who daily tries to poach Alaine out of his hands. If he has anything to say about it, she won’t be at AeroTech for much longer. All it will take is the right set of words to convince her to quit to make way for something much better and words are one of his specialties.
When the times comes, he readies himself brusquely -- except for grooming his hair. It’s thick and overgrown so he has no idea what to do with it -- which is a good reminder that he should schedule an appointment with his barber for today ahead of seeing Alaine. Once he gets his clean bill of health, he wants her to see him as she used to.
The elevator doors open at 2 p.m. on the nose. Seth doesn’t bother stepping out of the carriage because Lucas is already standing right there. He joins his driver and together the two of them make the trip to the private clinic where Dion works.
“Security update,” Lucas says while Seth navigates the heavy afternoon traffic.
Seth rattles off the latest improvements and inclusions. These days, they take no chances, especially not with Alaine and with Angus’ partner still not in hand.
“We’ve always got a tail on her,” Seth says. “I don’t think she knows but she hasn’t been anywhere near, Alaine. She has never tried to make contact with her. Honestly, I don’t think he clued her in on all the details of his plans. He might have left out some crucial aspects like wanting you dead.”
“That doesn’t absolve her of anything. It just makes her stupid, not innocent,” Lucas growls in response.
“I don’t disagree,” Seth replies.
“Has she been to see him?” Lucas questions. “Made any kind of contact?”
Seth shakes his head. “I thought for sure that he’d have ratted her out.”
“It’s weird that he hasn’t,” Lucas mumbles thoughtfully.
“We’ll get her,” Seth promises, his tone fierce with loyalty and determination. “We’ve already tugged on the loose ends. It will all unravel.”
“Sooner rather than later, I hope,” Lucas responds.
The SUV follows the curve, off the main road, and glides onto the Clinic’s property. Seth pulls to a stop at the entrance and one of the new hires is already standing there waiting to open the door for Lucas. Thrilled to be given his old job back, Seth steps outside and the man takes his place behind the wheel.
“Stay with the car until I call you,” he says.
All of these new security protocols make Lucas queasy whenever he has to leave his apartment. They’re necessary, he knows, but still fill him with anxiety. Especially when he thinks that Angus might just be sitting in jail, biding his time while his accomplice plans another attack.
They watch the car as it rolls away and as it disappears from view, Seth climbs the steps to the front door. He greets a man who Lucas remembers is one of the men they’d added to his and Alaine’s security detail. Their job is to scout ahead and provide back up for Seth or Tawny should they need it. After so long, Lucas would have thought that he’d have grown accustomed to them by now.
The new man pushes the door open, allowing them to into the waiting area. Seth assumes his usual seat every time they come here -- once that gives him a view of every angle as far as his eye can see, while Lucas walks up to the counter.
“Mr. Bright,” the middle-aged receptionist greets. “Dr. is already waiting for you,” she explains and tips her head in the direction of the examination room.
After thanking her, he follows the direction to Dion’s office. At the door, Lucas gives a heavy sigh and shakes his head.
He really isn’t looking forward to sharing this. As a matter of fact, he might just prefer to sit through an hour-long television interview rather than endure the next twenty or so minutes.
“Hey, bro,” Dion greets as soon as he enters.
Lucas shuts the door behind him and grunts a reply. They go through what has become a typical exam. When Dion is done, Lucas pulls on his shirt, slips back into his jacket to show that he’s ready to get out of there.
They won’t be done though, not until after a series of questions.
“So, everything looks good,” Dion says and pulls a pair of spectacles off his face.
First, he inquires about Lucas’ sleep patterns and recurring nightmares.
“They’re more infrequent,” Lucas mumbles because as they move down the line, he knows the questions are going to become far more invasive and uncomfortable.
“Did you use any visual stimulation as I suggested?” Dion asks eventually.
“You mean did I follow your advice to watch porn? No, I didn’t,” Lucas tells him.
“Lucas,” Dion starts to say in his scientific tone. “There’s nothing physically wrong with you that you shouldn’t be able to...”
“I didn’t need it,” Lucas says, his gruff tone reflecting his irritation.
His brother regards him with a bland expression. “You’re going to have to be a little more specific than that.”
“I had a dream,” Lucas mumbles.
For a second, Dion looks puzzled then his features brighten with understanding and Lucas can just tell that he’s fighting his instincts to laugh.
“What kind of dre...”
“What kind of dream do you think?” Lucas snaps. Then he huffs a resigned sigh. “Alaine and I were...”
“You had an erotic dream about your girlfriend?” Dion asks, incredulous. “That’s a waste. You’re really a goner for that girl, you know that? Wet dreams are about the only place that you can cheat, guilt-free.”
“Then you wonder why you’re single,” Lucas mutters.
“So in this dream...”
“I’m not giving you details,” he snaps, cutting Dion off.
“I don’t want them. What happened, did you simply get an erection or were you able to ejaculate?”
“Jesus Christ,” Lucas complains. “Does this not make you even a little bit uncomfortable?”
“I’m a doctor, Lucas,” Dion replies, fitting him with a bland expression. “This is the job. I’ve had patients shit themselves in my office. I do prostate exams. You’re my brother, so, you’re right this is a little weird but I have to ask these questions, otherwise, I’m doing a shitty job. So was that a yay or a nay on ejaculation?”
“Yes,” Lucas pushes out the response beyond the tightness in his throat.
Dion hums thoughtfully. “How long ago was this? How many times have you...”
“You’re enjoying this aren’t you?” Lucas gripes, shifting uncomfortably in his seat.
At this, Dion laughs. “I know you think that I’m doing this to invade your privacy or have a laugh at your expense, but I do not need to hide behind my credentials to do either of those things,” he teases. “I can do that any day of the week. Plus, I’m trying not to but you’re making it too easy. Answer the questions and you’ll get out of here.”
“All you need to know is that stuff works right, okay?” Lucas states.
Dion sighs. “It’s not that simple Lucas. I’d like to run a few more tests...”
When Lucas opens his mouth to object, Dion stops him.
“What if you want to have kids?” he asks. “In some cases, injuries like yours can affect sperm quality. Let’s dot our I’s and cross our T’s now so you won’t have to go through this again any time soon.”
This time, it’s Lucas who sighs. He drops his head into his hands but nods his compliance.
“It’s almost over, Luc,” Dion promises. "You're doing good."
Sitting there clenching his jaws, Lucas watches as he scribbles something and checks boxes on a laboratory test form. Dion puts down his pen and pushes the paper across his desk to him.
“Hand this to the nurse at the front desk. We'll take care of those tests before you leave and I'll call you with the results. If I don't need you to come in, then that will be it. And on the Bright side, I see no reason why you can’t make your dreams a reality. And...” he interjects when Lucas immediately hops out of the seat.
“Just because I said that your injury could have affected sperm quality doesn’t mean you can’t get her pregnant. If you’re not yet ready to be a father, I suggest you use contraceptives,” he continues.
“Right,” Lucas states as he rushes toward the door.
“And,” Dion calls, halting his retreat. “Pace yourself,” he cautions when Lucas turns around. "I know that you probably want to charge back into life, but it's better if you ease back into things."
He comes around the desk and holds out a hand to Lucas. "Congratulations," he says.
Lucas accepts the handshake but Dion pulls him forward into a hug. "I'm glad you're alright, man," he says. "You're gonna be alright."