doc featherstones return

 

Sometimes the ones you love the most are the hardest to save.

 

Ever since Hawk Shifter Ash suffered near fatal wounds in a Raven attack, he has slumped into a deep depression. Now unable to walk, let alone shift, he has lost his spark for life. His friends and loved ones fear they will lose him forever.

Desperate, they think that the only one who can give him the will to live is Doc Featherstone, the one man that Ash has ever shown any interest in.

The problem is Doc Featherstone has returned to his family to recover from his own wounds from the attack.

Bobcat shifter Joshua Featherstone has harbored a secret attraction for the spunky Hawk shifter for a long time. But he has kept his distance, afraid that their age difference would be too big to overcome. Although once he hears that Ash is in dire need of his help, Joshua rushes back to the coalition. Will he make it in time? Or has Ash turned to the darkness forever?

 

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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

 

Doc Featherstone’s Return

Copyright © 2013 Stephani Hecht

ISBN: 978-1-77111-515-5

Cover art by Angela Waters

 

All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the written permission of the publisher.

 

Published by eXtasy Books

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Doc Featherstone’s Return

Lost Shifters Book

 

By

 

Stephani Hecht

 

To everybody who asked for Doc Featherstone’s story.

Here it is. I hope you like it.

Chapter One

seless pieces of shit,” Ash muttered as he “U looked down at his own legs.

It was the first words he’d uttered in days and probably the last he would say for days to come.

Once a notorious chatterbox, Ash had now become sullen and known to lapse into long spells of silence sometimes lasting for weeks.

“Did you just say something?” Jacyn, one of the medics from the coalition’s infirmary, anxiously asked him.

In response, Ash turned his wheelchair around and gave the Jaguar shifter his back. Ash knew it was a dick move on his part, but if he interacted with Jacyn in any way, then they would just start pushing. Pushing him to go to physical therapy.

Pushing him to fight. Pushing him to take part in his recovery.

Ash knew it was all futile. He was never going to get better again. He was never going to walk again. Never going to shift to Hawk form. Never going to fly. So, why should he pretend
otherwise? He was nothing. A waste of space.

Useless. Other coalitions or casts of Hawks would have had mercy on him and culled him by now.

But not this one. No, they believed it would be immoral to do so. So instead they kept him around and decided to try to make him
better
. Ash let out a bitter laugh. Like they could do that when he had not one but two bullets lodged so close to his spine that no doc would dare operate.

Jacyn moved around so he was standing in front of the chair. “This silent treatment is getting old, Ash. You need to knock it off or you’re never going to get better.”

Ash answered him by flipping him off.

Jacyn cocked a brow. “Is that the best you have?

You need to remember that Carson is my brother-in-law. I get that kind of greeting at the breakfast table every morning. You’re going to have to do better if you want to impress me.”

Okay, fair enough. Ash lifted his other middle finger and gave him a double decker.

Jacyn let out a sigh and pinched the bridge of his nose. “It’s not what I hoped for, but it’s a start.”

“Okay then, how about a fuck you?” Ash said, his voice raw from being unused.

“At least I got something verbal. So I take it that’s a no to physical therapy then?”

“Why bother? It won’t help, and we both know 2

Doc Featherstone’s Return

 

it.”

“You don’t know unless you give it a shot.”

“Just do us all a favor and have Mitchell cull me,” Ash said between clenched teeth.

“If you’re so eager to have it done, why don’t you ask Daniel to do it? After all, he is the leader of your cast?” Jacyn asked shrewdly.

Ash shoved angrily at his wheelchair. “Fuck it!

I already did, and he said no. You know that.”

“Then you know better than to go above him and ask Mitchell to do it. Besides, even if it weren’t against protocol, he wouldn’t. This coalition doesn’t cull its members just because they’re injured or disabled in some way. That’s not how it works here. You, of all people, should know that. Isn’t that one of the reasons why you picked to move to this cast and coalition in the first place?”

Damn it! This is what Ash got for talking. He should have gone with his original plan and just kept his trap shut. But no, he just had to rise to Jacyn’s bait. Now Jacyn had him by the short and curlies, and he knew it. There was no way that Ash could answer that question without losing the argument.

Ash looked down at the ground and pressed his lips together into a tight line. “I’m such a loser.

The sad thing is I got into all this by protecting some guy who didn’t even give a damn about me.
In fact, he’s so disgusted by me that the first chance he got, he left.”

Jacyn knelt down so he was face-to-face with Ash. “Doc Featherstone didn’t leave because of you. He went home to be with his own family while he healed. He’s not disgusted with you at all.”

Ash snorted. “Please. You don’t need to lie to me to save my poor, hurt feelings. We all know he’s hated me since I got here. He never did give me my
F
or my
L
. I was never Flash, just Ash, because I was never good enough for him. Hell, he wouldn’t even let me work in the infirmary because he couldn’t stand the sight of me. I had to be a field medic instead.”

“Don’t take it bad, the doc was hard on everybody. Not just you.”

Ash gave him a sideways glare. “He never treated you or the others that bad, and we both know it. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to not talking again. Things are much easier for me that way.”

With that, Ash turned his chair around to face the wall. He expected Jacyn to continue to argue with him, but instead the medic gave up with a sigh and walked away.

Ash knew he’d probably hurt Jacyn’s feelings, and a huge part of him felt bad for that. Jacyn had been nothing but good to him. Not just since he’d
been injured, but since he’d come to live at HQ. So Ash realized he should have handled that situation better.

But damn, he was sick of people telling him to fight to get better and he was sick of people sticking up for the doc. If it weren’t for the doc, then Ash would have never been in this damn situation to begin with. But nooooooooo, they continued to act like the doc was a god.

Ash, snorted, like he was one to judge. Despite the way Featherstone had treated him, Ash, the stupid ass that he was, had developed an infatuation with the man. One so great that when he saw the doc was in the line of fire, Ash had dived in front of him and taken most of the bullets.

How does the doc thank him for that? By going and deserting him when Ash needed him the most. Sure, the doc was wounded, but thanks to Ash, he wasn’t injured nearly as badly as Ash. He should have healed up a long time ago. So there could only be one reason why he wasn’t coming back. He didn’t want to have to face Ash and have to treat him.

Ash clenched his hands together in tight fists.

Fuck Doc Featherstone. He didn’t need him. He didn’t need to walk again. He didn’t need to shift again. He could just stay in this chair and slowly rot away.
After all, it’s what he deserved for what he’d done to his last cast.

Jacyn walked from the infirmary and went straight to Mitchell’s office. Even though they were brothers, he still paid his leader due respect and knocked on the door instead of barging in.

Once Mitchell called for him to come in, Jacyn entered.

For once, his brother’s office wasn’t a mess, and he immediately saw why. Mitchell’s mate, Dean, was there, cleaning up. He would do that every so often even though Mitchell would just wreck the place again. It showed how patient and loving Dean could be.

“Hey, Dean,” Jacyn said.

“Hi,” Dean called back, before he sneezed. As a Wolf shifter, his nose was particularly sensitive, and the dust had to be killing him. Yet he kept on going, without uttering a word of complaint.

“Mitchell,” Jacyn nodded respectfully.

“What can I do for you? Or did you just come to gab?” Mitchell asked.

“Actually, it’s a professional visit. I’m here about Ash. I’m worried about him.”

Mitchell ran a hand through his hair. “Let me guess. He’s still refusing to talk, eat, and cooperate
with his treatment.”

“Yes, it’s almost like he thinks he deserves what happened to him. Which is ridiculous. He got his wounds saving somebody else’s life. He should be considered a hero.”

Mitchell gave him a knowing stare. “Yes, but you know what happened at his last cast.”

It was something that Mitchell had confided to him, not even Ash knew that Jacyn was privy to the information. They both felt it was better that way.

Jacyn felt a brief flash of irritation. “That was a long time ago, when he was practically a kid. I don’t see how anybody could hold that against him.”

“But they did.”

“They sound like a bunch of assholes to me.”

Dean let out a snort. “Hawks, by nature, usually are. We just happen to get a few good ones in our bunch.”

Mitchell gave a slow nod. “Dean is right.

Hawks have the tendency to be arrogant and mean. Why do you think they used to be in an alliance with the Ravens? They thought they could control them. It was only when it was too late and the Ravens turned on them that they realized what a big mistake that was.”

“Do you trust the cast that’s with us now?”

Jacyn asked, his heart pounding with fear.
With the way they were talking now, for the first time ever, Jacyn felt doubts about their allies.

Allies that were currently living in their HQ and had access to all their secrets and weaknesses.

“I trust Daniel and Colin, that’s enough for me.”

“I also trust a few of the others like Ash, Garrett, and Gage,” Dean added. “And believe it or not, I also trust Tatum and Ackley. I think they would give their lives for this coalition. As for the others, I think they’re just following orders and doing what Colin and Daniel tell them to. They could give two shits about us.”

“The sad part is none of them are coming to visit Ash. Maybe they could help rally around him and give him a reason to fight. Instead, he just sits in that chair all day by himself,” Jacyn bit out angrily.

Dean got a sad look on his face. “Nobody comes to visit him?”

“He has Shane, Ackley, Gregg and Isaac, but other than that, not too many others. And even when they do come, Ash hardly says a word to them, he just stares off into space. It’s like the TV

is on, but nothing is on the screen. I just don’t know how to get through to him.”

“You need to bring back Doc Featherstone,”

Dean cut in.

Jacyn looked over at him in shock. “Have you
sneezed away your brains? Those two hate each other. The last thing Ash needs right now is that kind of confrontation. It could set him back even further.”

Dean shook his head. “I don’t think they hate each other at all. In fact, I’d be willing to bet the opposite is true.”

“What do you mean? Doc was always yelling at Ash,” Jacyn said, more confused than ever.

“Didn’t you tell me that Ash was one of your best medics?” Dean asked.

Wondering where this conversation was heading, Jacyn still decided to play along. “Sure, I did.”

“Yet Featherstone still put him out in the field where he wouldn’t have to see him every day.”

“Yeah, but he said he did that because he couldn’t stand the sight of Ash. Call me crazy, but that doesn’t exactly sound like he has the warm and fuzzies for him,” Jacyn said.

“Unless Doc felt like his attraction was inappropriate, and he was trying to distance himself from Ash as much as possible. The same could be with why he was giving Ash such a hard time. If Ash hated him, then there was never any danger of Ash returning his feelings,” Dean pointed out.

“I don’t know. I think that’s a long stretch there,” Jacyn said.
“Do you have any better idea?” Mitchell asked, leaning back in his chair.

“Well, no, but I don’t think this will work. They hate each other.”

“Has anything else worked?” Mitchell pressed.

“Well, no,” Jacyn admitted.

“Then we have nothing to lose, do we?”

“I guess not. I just hope this doesn’t end up blowing up in our faces,” Jacyn said.

“So, are we going to call the doc and ask him to come back?” Dean asked.

Mitchell shook his head. “I think he’s going to need some persuasion to come back.”

“So what are you going to do?” Dean asked.

Mitchell got a huge grin on his face.

“Oh, no,” Dean exclaimed.

“Oh, no…what?” Jacyn asked, alarmed.

“It’s never good when he gets that look on his face.”

“Why?”

“It can only mean one thing.”

“What?”

“Trouble.”

Mitchell leaned forward on his desk. “I think we’ll send Shane to the doc’s to convince him to see things our way.”

Both Jacyn and Dean said, “Oh, shit!”

Chapter Two
oshua Featherstone poured himself another

J glass of whiskey before he took a seat in front of the fire and stared into the flames. As always, the flickering flames reminded him of one thing— Ash.

It was funny that he correlated fire with a Hawk shifter of all things, but somehow over the time that he’d gotten to know Ash, he had. Maybe it was the way that the man was always full of energy. Maybe it was the way he always seemed to brighten the room. Or perhaps it was the spark he had for life. Whatever it was, he was a fireball of energy, and damned if Joshua didn’t want a taste of it.

But Joshua had a good ten years on Ash, not only that, but Ash was a Hawk. While it wasn’t unheard of for felines to mate with Hawks in the coalition, it was within his family. If Joshua were to claim Ash as his, he would have to sever all ties
to his kin. Something that he wasn’t sure he was ready to do just yet, no matter how strong of an attraction he had to Ash.

Joshua sighed and took another drink. He didn’t even want to think about the fact that it was his third of the night. Or the fact that it was mixed with the illegal kind that made shifters drunk. All he wanted to do was forget. Forget about what waited for him back home. Forget about a certain Hawk with sexy brown eyes and slightly messy brown hair. Forget about how that Hawk almost died to save his life. Shit…Joshua just wanted to forget, period.

He only felt the slightest shift in the air before the familiar scent of Shane filled the room. Taking another drink of whiskey, Joshua then let out a grunt and asked, “Don’t you ever just knock on the front door and walk in like a normal shifter?”

Shane walked out of the shadows. He had his assassin cloak pulled over his brown hair, but his doe-like eyes were clearly visible along with his baby-like face. All of which were deceiving since Shane was the most dangerous shifter out there.

He could kill quicker than most could sneeze, and he rarely felt sorry for it either. As a Leopard shifter, it was part of his genetic makeup, but Shane had taken it one step further and honed it to a fine art. It was a good thing that he and Joshua were good friends, or else Joshua would have
been pissing in his pants right then. While he wasn’t a coward by any means, a visit from Shane usually wasn’t a good thing, unless he liked you.

“What brings you here?” Joshua asked.

Shane tilted his head to the side. Something he did whenever he was trying to figure out every day common matters. Shane had been raised to kill, not to interact with others. “Maybe I just came to say hello to an old friend?”

The fact that the comment came out as a question rather than a statement was both amusing and telling. While Shane’s interaction skills were getting better since he’d taken a mate, he still had a long way to go.

“You could have just called for that,” Joshua pointed out.

Shane looked around the house and let out a low whistle. “Wow, Doc. You never told me you came from money.”

“What did you expect, a teepee or something?”

Joshua asked, knowing that Shane was deliberately changing the subject.

Shane jerked around and gave him a dirty look.

“No, I’m not into stereotyping people. You should know I would be the last one who would do that kind of shit. I just never thought a doctor who came from this kind of money would work at a coalition. Don’t you guys usually go into private practice or work for other richy people?”
“Yes, but much to my parents’ disappointment, I wanted to make a real difference in the war against the Ravens, so I joined up with the coalition as soon as I graduated. This is their house, by the way.”

Shane ran one gloved hand over the mantel of the fireplace. “So, why did you come back here to heal?”

Because I couldn’t stand the guilt of watching him
suffer in pain. Knowing that it was all because of me.

Since Joshua couldn’t say that part aloud, he only went with half the truth. “Because it was too hard to be there after the massacre. I lost a lot of good people that day.”

“There are a lot who are still injured, too.”

Joshua desperately wanted to ask about Ash, but knew that would be too telling. Shane was nothing if not shrewd, and he would pick up on that instantly. “Yes, I know there are.”

“How are you doing?”

“Better. Or rather, I should say as good as I’m going to get. My hand grip strength is never going to be the same as it was, and I’m going to walk with a limp for the rest of my life. I’ll still be able to be a doctor, but my operating days are over.”

That stung badly, too. Joshua had loved surgery most of all. But he would learn to live without it.

At least he hadn’t died that day, like so many of his staff members had.
“Have they been able to find replacements for the staff we lost?”

“Yeah. You remember Kallen?”

“The half-breed Hyena that’s related to Gage?

What about him?” Joshua frowned.

“Turned out he has some mad medic skills.

He’s working in the infirmary now.”

“Tell me you’re shitting me.”

They did not have a Hyena loose in his infirmary. There was just no way it could be possible.

Shane rolled his eyes. “He’s under heavy security, and he’s being a good boy. It’s supposed to help reform him and help him become a good doggy. So far, he’s been doing a great job. He gave me some stitches the other day and did fantastic.

He even apologized when he gave me a shot.”

“Probably because he’s terrified of you,” Joshua muttered.

“So, Doc, how long are you going to wait until you ask me how Ash is doing?”

Joshua winced. He hadn’t realized he’d been that transparent, but then again he was dealing with Shane, and that little bastard never missed a damn thing.

“How is he?”

“Do you want the bad news or the terrible news?”

Joshua felt like he’d been kicked in the stomach.
“Is it that awful?”

“He can’t walk or shift. Well, he possibly could if he were to work at it, but he refuses to leave his bed or wheelchair. It’s like he’s checked out or something.”

“That doesn’t sound like Ash at all.”

Shane sat down on the arm of the couch. “Yeah, well, he’s changed a lot since the attack. He sometimes goes for days at a time without talking.

He’s refusing to eat. He’s asked both Mitchell and Daniel to cull him.”

“Are you shitting me?” Joshua cried, alarmed and terrified.

“Don’t worry, they both turned him down. As did I, when he asked me to kill him.”

Joshua brought a shaking hand up to his mouth. “He wants to die?”

“He thinks he has no reason to live anymore.”

Shane shrugged.

“But, if he walks again…”

“For some reason, he doesn’t believe that. He thinks he’s going to be in that chair forever,”

Shane interrupted.

“Well, you guys have to find a way to prove to him otherwise. Give him a reason to hope.”

Joshua grabbed the glass to take another drink, but Shane took it from him and tossed it across the room. Getting right into Joshua’s face, Shane said, “Why do you think I’m here?”
Now Joshua was confused and drinkless.

“What in the hell are you talking about?”

“For some reason, Dean seems to think that you’re the only one who can get through to Ash.”

Joshua pointed to himself. “Me? In case you didn’t get the memo, he hates me.”

“Which is why he threw himself in front of you and took six bullets for you? Boy, for somebody who’s so smart, you can be fucking stupid sometimes. Ash worships the ground you walk on. You’re just too dense to see it. Or maybe you just don’t
want
to see it.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Joshua demanded.

“That maybe you don’t hate Ash as much as you claim you do, and the reason you’ve been hiding out here is out of guilt. Because you know that you can’t or won’t give him back what he needs.”

“Exactly what are you trying to say?” Joshua began to feel a bit frustrated and angry. Both of which were not new emotions as far as Ash were concerned.

Shane gestured to all the family portraits hanging on the wall. “I would bet my best gun that all of these are felines. I’d go even further and say that they’re all Bobcats like you. Am I right?”

“Yes,” Joshua admitted, his stomach sinking.

“So, if you were to become mated to a male
Hawk, they wouldn’t be too happy, would they?”

Damn it, but Shane had caught on sooner than Joshua had expected. “No, they’d disown me.”

“So, instead of owning up to your feelings, you did everything in your power to push the kid away.”

“It’s more than that, Shane. He’s ten years younger than me. Even you have to admit that’s a huge age gap.”

Shane cocked his head to the side. “It sounds to me like you’re just looking for more excuses.”

“That’s not fair.”

“Neither is abandoning him when he needs you the most. Now, are you going to get into the car or do I physically have to drag you there? Because either way, you’re going back to him.”

Joshua sighed. He would go back. He knew he had to the moment Shane told him how bad Ash was doing. In fact, the Bobcat in him was screaming to go rescue Ash. To go soothe the poor Hawk. To somehow make him better.

All of the sudden, Joshua wanted to kick himself for staying away for so long. Granted, he hadn’t known how bad Ash had been doing, but he could have at least called to find out. Instead, he’d played the coward’s role and stayed away.

“Just let me pack my bag.”

 

They drove through the night and arrived at
HQ just as the sun was beginning to rise. As soon as they parked and entered, the first place Joshua headed was the infirmary. He wanted to see for himself the condition that Ash was in. As he walked in and got his first view of the Hawk, Joshua swayed and had to grab the wall for support.

Ash was so thin that he looked emaciated. His skin was so pale that it resembled rice paper that would shred if touched. His eyes were overly large, ringed in black, and his lips were chapped from dehydration.

He sat in a wheelchair, facing a window, but he didn’t appear to be really looking at anything. His gaze was vacant and almost dead. His once lustrous brown hair, now hung in his face without any care to it.

Various IVs ran into his thin hands, and he had a blanket draped over his legs. Legs that no longer worked. To think of the once boisterous, bouncy medic reduced to this nearly brought Joshua to tears.

Jacyn saw Joshua and came up. “At least he’s keeping the IVs in today. Usually, he rips them out. So maybe we can get some fluids in him.”

“How much weight has he lost?”

“Thirty pounds.”

Joshua muttered a curse. Ash had been thin to begin with, so he didn’t have ten to spare, let
alone thirty. At this point he would starve himself to death before anybody would have a chance to cull him or not.

“Our next step is going to be to force a feeding tube on him,” Jacyn said.

“He’ll hate you for that,” Joshua stated with firmly.

Jacyn shrugged. “He already hates me for not letting him die. So I have nothing to lose at this point.”

Jacyn turned to Joshua, a look of surprise on his face that was obviously fake. “Hey, when did you get back here? Nobody told us you were coming.”

“Shane came to fetch me because of Ash, but you already knew that, didn’t you?”

Jacyn shrugged away the question. “Good luck.

Maybe you can get through to him. We sure as hell can’t.”

“I don’t know if I can be of much more help, but I’m willing to try. We can’t just let him waste away like this,” Joshua said firmly.

He walked over to where Ash was sitting and knelt down by the chair. “Hey, Ash. How are things going?”

Ash’s gaze flickered his way ever-so-briefly before going back to the window. Not exactly a stellar start, but Joshua would take it. It was better than no reaction at all.

“Why aren’t you eating? You know what’s
going to happen if this keeps up? We’re going to have to strap you to the bed and force a feeding tube down your throat. You don’t want that, do you?” Joshua pressed, hoping to get through.

“Fuck you,” Ash finally bit out.

Well, that was two words. Not the ones Joshua would have chosen, but it was a something.

“Then stop with the pity party and eat something.”

“Why should I? Just because you decide to show up and tell me to? Well, I don’t have to listen to a damn thing you say. You came and saw that I didn’t die saving your life, so you don’t have to feel guilty anymore, so you can go back home and keep on ignoring me again. I don’t need you. I have another doctor who is taking care of me.”

The venom in Ash’s voice was so strong that it was nearly a physical blow to Joshua. Especially when the words were accompanied with a glare of pure hatred. It was so raw that had Ash had a weapon in his hands at that moment, Joshua would have been looking for cover.

“Ash, you know I was hurt, too. I didn’t leave because I wanted to. I had to go heal myself. With the staff already overwhelmed here, I thought it was better if I went home and was treated there.

I’m here now, that’s all that matters. What you need to focus on is getting out of that chair and getting better.”
Ash gave a bitter laugh. “They keep saying that.

I even believed them at first. But I know it’s a lie.

No matter how hard I tried, I never felt a damn thing in my legs. Face it, Doc, I’m broken, and there is no fixing me. Now, why don’t you do us all a favor and just OD me on some drugs and put us all out of my misery. Then you can all move on with your lives and forget about me.”

“I am not letting you die!” Joshua yelled.

When everybody in the infirmary stopped to look at them, Joshua realized how loudly he’d said that. He didn’t care, though, he’d do all the yelling and screaming in the world if that’s what it took to get through to Ash. He wasn’t going to lose the Hawk.

“Since when did you care what happened to me?” Ash scoffed. “You hate me, remember?”

Since the moment I first saw you.

“I owe you, after all, you did save my life.

Besides, I always care for my staff. You included,”

Joshua said, not daring to tell the truth.

You are such a coward. Shane was right to call you
out on it.

Ash made a big show of rolling his eyes. “Yeah, you cared so much for me. Everybody knows how much you hate me. You’re probably disappointed that I didn’t get killed.”

Joshua was appalled with himself that he’d left that impression on Ash. That had never been his
intent. “I never would have wanted that.”

“Why don’t you just go away and leave me alone?” Ash said.

He started to turn back to the window, but Joshua grabbed him by the chin and forced him to lock gazes. Ash’s nostrils flared with anger and that hatred was back in his eyes, but he didn’t say anything.

“Get this in your head, kid, I’m not going anywhere. Your days of sitting around and feeling sorry for yourself are over. I’m back now, and you will be up and walking again. Even if I have to chase and bite your ass every step of the way,”

Joshua said in a perfectly calm voice.

“You wanna bet?” Ash challenged.

“I never take a bet when I already know the outcome is going to be in my favor,” Joshua shot back.

“You’re wrong. I’m useless and I’m going to stay that way.”

“No, Ash, you’re the one who’s wrong. You will walk again. Because until you do, I’m going to become your one-on-one doctor.”

Chapter Three

sh stared up at Doc Featherstone. How A somebody could still look so fantastic while losing their marbles was a mystery to him. While he still wanted to hate the doc, and Ash was still plenty angry at him, he had to admit he was as hot as ever.

With his long ebony hair, golden skin, and deep brown eyes, he was the image that had been haunting Ash’s dreams ever since he’d come to the coalition. The fact that he also had an amazing body, high cheekbones, and full lips didn’t hurt either. In short, he was everything that Ash liked in his men and then some.

The doc let go of his face and walked away, finally leaving Ash alone with his thoughts and boy did Ash have a lot of those to go through.

After having so many days of nothing but the mundane, all of the sudden, his life had been tipped over on its head and Ash didn’t know his
asshole from his armpit anymore.

If only the doc wasn’t such a damn asshole.

Then things would be perfect. But nooooo…Ash had to go and fall for a jerk. Something he seemed to excel in. He couldn’t be attracted to a nice guy for once. That would make his life too easy.

It was thanks to his first boyfriend that he’d almost got his childhood coalition destroyed, and he was exiled. Now, thanks to his infatuation with the doc, Ash had taken six bullets and found himself unable to walk or shift. And what did he get in return for both of those? A big fat nothing.

Now he was disowned and half the man he used to be. He should have gone into the priesthood, except he wasn’t Catholic, so that wouldn’t have worked out, either.

Ash glanced over at the doc, who was going over his chart. As usual, he was wearing a big frown on his face. Nothing new there. The doc rarely smiled. Or at least he didn’t when Ash was around. He probably even frowned in his sleep.

Out of boredom, Ash began to pick at his IVs.

He hated the damn things. Not only did the tape irritate him, but he hated being tethered down to the machines. If he wanted to take a piss, it was hard enough already without having to drag the machine with him, too.

“Knock it off, Ash. You take out one more IV, I’ll put in a central line, and trust me when I say
you won’t like it,” Doc said, never looking up from the chart.

Ash paused, wondering how the doc had seen that. Did he have an extra set of eyes hidden in all that hair of his or something? Letting out a muttered curse, Ash left the tape alone.

“It itches,” he bitched.

The doc came over and looked at it.

“Hmmm…you may be allergic to this tape. Let me try another type and see if that bothers you less.”

The doc grabbed some supplies from a nearby cart and re-taped the IV sites himself. When he was done, Ash was surprised to find that they were a lot more comfortable.

“Does that feel better?” Featherstone asked.

“Yes, thank you,” Ash nodded.

“Does that mean you’ll eat something for me?”

“No.” Ash wasn’t that grateful.

“It’s either that or the feeding tube, Ash, take your pick.”

Ash let out an irritated sigh. “Since when did you ever give a damn what happened to me?”

The doc hesitated for a long time as if weighing what he was going to say. He finally said, “Since you saved my life.”

Featherstone muttered something to Kallen. A few moments later, Kallen came back with a tray of food. It wasn’t much, just some broth and red
Jello
, but the sight of it still turned Ash’s stomach.
The doc set it on a table and put it in front of Ash. Being the bitch that he was, Ash went to do what he did with every other tray that had been put in front of him. He brought back his arm and went to sweep it out of the way.

Featherstone, still a bastard, must have seen it coming because he moved the tray out of the way just in time. He then put it back down. Reaching out, he grabbed Ash by the chin and forced him to lock gazes again. A trend that seemed to be new lately.

“You will eat this, even if I have to jam the spoon down your throat myself. Is that clear?”

“Fuck you,” Ash bit out angrily. Something that had become a new trend with him.

Featherstone leaned down until his lips were just inches from Ash’s ear. “Not now, but you put on a few pounds and at least try to learn to walk again and I just may do that.”

Ash was so shocked by the doc’s words that his mouth parted. Featherstone used that to his advantage in shoving a spoonful of broth in. At first, Ash considered spitting it back out, just to spite him, but his hungry stomach took over and forced him to swallow. Then it growled in demand for more.

Since he knew it was futile to argue with the doc, Ash let him feed him the rest of the broth. He even let him feed most of the
Jello
before Ash put
up a hand. “I’m full. I swear it. I really can’t eat another bite.”

Featherstone put down the spoon. “That’s understandable. Your stomach is going to be weak for a while. We’ll have to slowly build it back up.

Don’t worry, you’ll be back to eating burgers, pizza, and all that other disgusting food soon enough.”

Doc handed the tray off to Kallen with a
thanks
.

Ash smiled. “I thought you were going to freak out when you found out he was working here.”

“I’ll admit I was a bit surprised.”

“He’s nice, and he does a great job. He’s one of the few around here that puts up with my shit. He never complains about it. He just does his job and doesn’t say a word.”

“Then perhaps you owe him an apology.”

“Maybe I do.”

They lapsed into a brief silence before Ash admitted, “I missed you. Even though you always yelled at me.”

“I missed you, too.”

“Did you really, or are you just saying that to make me feel better?” Ash knew he was coming off as pathetic, but what the hell? It wasn’t like he could sink any lower at this point. He’d pretty much hit rock bottom, and there wasn’t any lower that he could go.

Doc ran his fingers through Ash’s hair in a
surprisingly gentle gesture. “I thought of you every day that I was gone.”

“I’m sure you did. You were probably wondering why I was crazy enough to take those bullets for you.”

“No, it wasn’t just that. Believe it or not, I missed my little fireball of energy, and now I come home to find out that he’s burned out on me.”

Ash felt a lump build up in his throat. “What do you want from me? My Hawk might be gone forever. What reason do I have to live now?”

“A lot of people care about you, Ash. We’d miss you if you left us.”

“I’m so scared that I’ll be stuck like this forever,” Ash admitted for the first time ever.

“I’ll be honest. I can’t promise you any miracles, but I do know one thing. If you don’t start fighting, you will be in this chair for the rest of your life. You need to start trying. You can’t continue to sit there and just mope. Most of all, you need to stop this talk about dying. Promise me that.”

Had anybody else said that to him, Ash would have thrown the words back in their faces. But since they came from the doc, the one person who Ash respected most of all, he nodded. “Okay, I promise.”

“And I promise not to leave again. I’ll be here with you every step of the way.”
Ash pulled at the hospital gown. “So, when can I get some real clothes? I’m sick of wearing this shit.”

Featherstone sighed. “You always did have a way with words. If you swear to start drinking and we get you hydrated again, I’ll have Isaac grab something from your living quarters for you to wear. Would that make you happy?”

Feeling as if he’d won a great victory, Ash nodded, “It would make my day.”

“You’ll have to agree to go to physical therapy, though.”

Ash groaned. “I hate it there. I always feel like a piece of meat that’s being thrown around. Plus, it hurts.”

“You want your clothes, don’t you?”

“Fine,” Ash sighed. “But you do realize that you made me promise two things for the clothes.”

“Hey, I have to work hard to get you to cooperate. I’ll have somebody call Isaac right now.”

“Fine, I’ll do it. Does that make you happy?”

“Immensely.”

By the time Isaac came with his clothes, Ash was practically bouncing with excitement. Finally, he was going to get out of the gross-looking gowns. He didn’t even mind that Kallen had to help him get dressed, because Ash couldn’t even do that basic function by himself anymore. All that
mattered that was Ash was finally getting a piece of his old self back, even if was just his clothes.