Hope Among the Deserted


"To Michael," Lucas said, and they drank. And drank some more.

It was after midnight when Lucas stood, with difficulty, and pushed aside the empty bottle of Jack Daniels that they had resorted to when getting up to mix drinks required too much concentration.

"Time for bed, soldier," he slurred, and Will stirred slightly, but was nowhere near conscious. "Crap," Lucas muttered.

He rolled Will into the house, which began spinning so fast that he knew it would only stop if it landed on the Wicked Witch of the East--or if he crawled on all fours. As neither was an option, he pushed Will's chair as best he could, mostly missing the furniture along the way. He got as far as the first room along the hallway, his, and he knew he could go no further. He turned in, and stopped when Will's feet hit the bed frame. Lucas lifted Will out of the chair--a task made easier by Will's reduced weight, and made harder by Lucas's reduced sobriety. They fell onto the bed, and then Lucas positioned Will with his head on a pillow. He covered him, and then stumbled around to the other side of the bed and climbed in. He lay there for no more than a minute, willing the room to stop spinning. Then he passed out.

* * *

Bright and early in the morning, the birds chirped and sputtered outside the window, and they slept. Then the morning light flooded the room, a blinding beam slashing across the head of the bed, and still they slept. It wasn't until Pebbles arrived much later to lodge a grievance about food service that they were jolted awake; she landed on the bed between them and howled mournfully. Their eyes flew open, startled and unfocused. Each turned toward the noise, and each saw the other.

Oh, fuck, he thought.

Lucas bolted up out of bed, and Will's instinct was to do the same. His instinct, though, called upon modes of action that his body no longer had access to; he flailed his arms and rolled out of bed, landing on the floor with a crash.

What did I do to him when I was out of it? What horrible thing don't I remember? He's probably freaked out and doesn't want to be anywhere near me. The best friend I've got now, and I fucked it up.

Each thought this, to himself, on opposite sides of the bed. Then Lucas's training kicked in and he ran around the bed to pick up Will.

"Will, I--"

"No! Stay away from me!" shouted Will, pushing Lucas away.

"But Will, nothing happened! I swear!" Lucas replied, also shouting.

"I can't do this. How did I end up here? Why were you and I--"

"I can explain. I was just too drunk to get you into the other bedroom. I'm so sorry, Will! It won't happen again. Can you forgive me?"

Will looked at him, unsure.

"For what? I'm the one who should be asking you that."

"What? Why would you say that?" Lucas was in a complete fog of confusion. What were they talking about?

"Look, I can explain, and then you'll see why we can't do this," Will said.

Lucas took a deep breath.

"Okay, okay. Let's just calm down. I'll go make some coffee, and we'll talk it out, okay?" Lucas escaped to the kitchen, overwhelmed and still hung over.

Shit, now I've ruined it with him, each one thought.

A few minutes later Will rolled into the kitchen, the smell of coffee drawing him in. He had brushed his teeth and washed up a bit, and was feeling more human now. He hadn't seen Lucas's kitchen the night before, and took it in as he sipped from the mug that Lucas handed him. It was original to the mid-1940s house, with painted cupboards and a huge gas range; copper pots hung above the low butcher block island in the middle. It was like something on one of those home makeover shows Juliet was always watching.

Lucas pulled up a chair to the island, which had been designed to accommodate a wheelchair. Will rolled up to it and rubbed his eyes.

How do I explain this, each one thought.

"Look," Lucas started, having taken a deep breath and prepared himself for what he was going to say.

"No, wait. Let me explain. Please?"

Lucas, surprised, nodded.

"When I was packing up last night to come here, I found some emails that Juliet had sent to her sister, and some of her friends. She was completely freaked out by me. She was worried that I had PTSD and was going to murder her in her sleep or something. And she said I was wasting away, and getting depressed, and now I see why she left."

He took a deep breath, and Lucas started to say something, but he put up a hand and stopped him.

"And so that's why I was so panicked this morning. I can't be around anyone right now, especially when I'm sleeping--that was when Juliet was most worried about me. I could have killed you, Lucas! There's some kind of monster inside me that I can't control. Can you just take me back to my house today? I need to be alone--it'll be better for everyone if I'm alone."

Lucas sipped his coffee and regarded Will. He saw tears forming in his friend's eyes, and his heart broke. He couldn't add to his burden, so he decided not to say anything about why he too had leapt out of bed this morning.

"Look," Lucas said, putting his hand on Will's arm, "I can take care of myself. I was in the service too, you know. I'm a big boy, and I can handle it. You don't need to worry."

"But I can't control it!"

"Control what? You passed out last night, just like I did. You woke up this morning, just like I did. No harm done. Except that I have a hangover and you appear to be just fine, which I hate you for."

Will chuckled. "I can be a cheap drunk, but I bounce back pretty good."

"Now, let's have no more of this 'I'm not fit for human company' bullshit, okay? I'm going to make breakfast, and then we'll figure out what to do today."

"Don't you have to go to work?" Will asked.

"Nah. I called in sick, started the weekend early. How do you like your eggs?"

"Cooked by someone other than me."

"Very funny. Now you just sit tight and I'll get something going."

Lucas worked away in the kitchen, pleased to have someone to cook for. The fact that he hadn't been completely honest with Will weighed on him slightly, but he would fix that soon. Or soon-ish.

They went for a run, and then Lucas dug out his catalogs of adaptive devices so that they could plan for modifications to Will's house. Everything they found needed to be customized and installed, though, so it became clear pretty quickly that Will wouldn't be going home tonight. This troubled him. It delighted Lucas.

After dinner, they retired to the back porch again, though this time they skipped the alcohol.

"That was amazing," Will said. "What did you say that was again?"

"Pot-au-feu," Lucas answered. "Just a simple one from the Julia Child book."

Will shook his head.

"What?" Lucas asked.

"I don't get you," Will replied.

"What don't you get?"

"You cook like a fucking chef, you have this beautiful house, you take care of people like you're on a mission from god--"

"Flattery will get you everywhere. Please continue."

"What I can't figure out is why you're not married. How has some completely hot woman not lured you down the aisle?"

"Not the marrying kind," Lucas said simply. He wished he had one of those whiskey sours right about now.

"Heh. Who is? I kinda wish I hadn't been. Would've made things simpler for me."

"No, Will. I mean I'm--really--not the marrying kind."

Will's mouth opened, and then shut, and then opened again.

"Really? No shit?"

"No shit."

"Huh. Okay."

Lucas looked out over the backyard, wishing for some distraction. None appeared. He looked back over at Will.

"So, um, are you--" he began, not sure where he was going with that sentence.

"Oh, it's no big deal. I served with a bunch of gay guys. Matter of fact, Donnelly, one of the guys who got pasted in the explosion, was. Good guy--the kind you'd want on your team when the shit started flying. Fuckin' shame, that was."

Lucas got up and poured a couple of whiskeys.

"His partner asked me on the phone what it was like for him at the end, and I didn't know what to tell him. I didn't see what happened to him. I just saw the pieces."

Lucas poured more whiskey into each glass.

"I told him that he went quickly, and wasn't in pain, and that he died doing what was most important to him. So basically I lied. What was really most important to him was being back home with his partner of ten years and living the happy fucking life he wanted to live. Getting turned into shredded beef in Afghanistan was never in his plan. At all."

Lucas handed Will a glass. They touched the rims together.

"To Donnelly," Lucas said, and took a big gulp of the raw alcohol.

"To Donnelly," Will repeated, and drained his glass.

"So you're really okay with the gay thing?" Lucas asked.

"Psssh. Yeah. Why wouldn't I be?"

"Well, we ended up in bed together last night, and--"

"Lucas, you may not have noticed this, but I'm not exactly in full working order when it comes to sex. So I know that's not what you're after."

Lucas, knowing this was not true, nodded anyway. Will, suspecting the same, nodded too. Better to pretend it was settled.

"Now, before it gets too late and we get too blotto, we should turn in," Will said. "I didn't sleep all that well last night."

"Yeah, me either. Why don't you go ahead and shower, and I'll get in after you."

"Did I see a bathtub in there? With a door?"

"Yeah, Michael loved to take baths. It gave him a feeling of weightlessness that he really seemed to enjoy. Would you like to take a bath?"

"That would be awesome. I haven't taken one since I got home--our tub was just too deep for me to manage."

"Well, try it out and see if you want to get one like it."

They rolled into the bathroom, and Lucas helped Will take off his clothes and get into the tub. He watched the look of bliss on Will's face as the warm water rose up to surround his body. He looked so comfortable and happy. Lucas was less comfortable, mainly because seeing Will naked and wet had given him a tremendous boner. He was beautiful--two kinds of beautiful. From the waist up he was strong and muscled and sinewy, and then below his legs were delicate and pale and laced over with dark, soft hair. The paralysis had wasted much of the muscle in his legs, but they were still beautifully formed. It was the part in the middle that took Lucas's breath away; Will's cock was a work of art. As it lay, at leisure, atop his egg-sized balls, waving back and forth slightly in the running water, Lucas wished more than anything that his touch could bring it back to life. A waste of such fine flesh, he thought.

"What?" Will asked, jarring him out of his reverie.

"What what?" Lucas replied, looking up to meet his eyes.

"Dude, you were totally checking me out!"

"I was not!"

Will smiled broadly and laughed. "You were too! Do I have to remind you that nothing below the waist works any more? I wouldn't want you to waste your time."

Lucas wasn't sure how to respond to this, so he decided to be clinical.

"Will, you know that there's still a chance that sexual function could return."

"Yeah, I know. But I don't really hold out much hope for that anymore. Seems like it would have happened by now."

"Have they tested you for nocturnal erections?"


"They can test to see if you get erections when you sleep. Happens to just about all of us throughout the night, and especially in the morning. You know, like when you wake up with a boner, and you want it to go down so that you can get in the shower and not have every one in the unit looking at your--well, unit."

Will chuckled. "How do they test that?"

"They fit you with a pressure band--around the base of your penis--and a probe goes up your butt to record some internal readings. Then in the morning, they download the data and find out if you're boning up at night."

"Why do these things always involve something going up the butt? I swear, you VA guys are all alike. If we just let you at the butt all our dreams can come true."

Lucas laughed, trying hard not to think about Will's butt, which was, like everything else on him, sculptural.

"So, no, I don't think that I'll be sticking a probe up my ass to see if my dick gets hard," Will concluded, and then closed his eyes to soak in the warmth of the bath.

"But if you are getting hard during the night, you'll know that the nerves and vessels are intact, and you can work on getting back to normal sexual function."

"I don't think I'm up for it right now, if you get my meaning," Will said.

"Well, there's an easier way."

Will's eyes flew open. "I knew it! You want to give it a crank, don't you?"

Will laughed as he said this, which Lucas was relieved about but completely befuddled by. Oh, how he did want that, but he wouldn't. Couldn't.

"No. Amazing as it seems, I don't want to jump you." He did, but not unless Will wanted it too. "What I was thinking is that tonight I could check to see whether you, um, firm up as you sleep. Then you'll know, without anything having to go up your butt."

It was a risky suggestion, but Lucas had blurted it out anyway. Now he held his breath.

Will considered this idea, then squinted at Lucas. "In the interest of science only, right?"


Will thought for a moment more.

"Okay, I'm in."

* * *

Lucas couldn't believe what was happening. The man he had been helping for months, whom he had fallen pretty hard for, was in his home, and would be in his bed, naked, with him tonight.

After Will's bath, and Lucas's shower, they went to the bedroom and stopped, somewhat awkwardly, before the bed.

"Ready?" Lucas asked.

Will nodded. "Ready."

Lucas picked up Will and placed him back on the bed--his side of the bed, as Lucas shocked himself by thinking--and took off his t-shirt. He then slid his shorts off down his legs, and marveled at the beauty of this man who would be sleeping next to him tonight.

"Are you sure that you're going to be able to wake up through the night to check on me?" asked Will.

"Are you kidding me? I won't be able to sleep a wink knowing that you're there all naked and helpless. I'll be trying hard to control myself." Lucas meant to be funny, and also completely truthful.

"Yeah, right," Will replied, swatting at Lucas with a pillow. "Now get in."

Lucas went around to the other side of the bed, and pulled back the sheets.

"Uh-uh, wait a minute there, chief. If I'm going to be naked, you gotta be naked too. Fair's fair."

Lucas willed his cock not to respond to this provocation; he was completely unsuccessful. Nevertheless, he stripped off and climbed into bed. Will caught a glimpse of his erect cock as he pulled the covers over.

"Whoa. Even when mine worked it didn't get that big."

"Er, thanks?" Lucas was unsure of the polite way to respond to compliments from a straight man about one's penis size. "Yours is pretty hefty too." No, that probably wasn't the right thing to say.

Will chuckled. "Here's something I've always wondered. What do you see in guy's stuff that is so great? I mean, I like mine and all, and I certainly spent a good part of my teenage years giving it all the attention I could, but I've never really gotten what the attraction is."

Were they really going to have this conversation now? In bed? Naked?

"It's not the 'stuff,' really," replied Lucas. "At least it never has been for me. It has to be attached to someone I'm attracted to, not just in the way he looks, but in his personality, his character. If someone has an awesome personality, the way his dick looks makes no difference at all. I would love it because I love him."

Will considered this for a moment, then nodded.

"I think I get it. It's like how straight guys think about tits. You know, if the tits are great, then you'll find a way to love her personality."

"Yeah, that's not really the same thing. At all."

"I know, I'm just yankin' your chain."

"Heh, good one," Lucas replied. This was going to be harder than he thought. Why did Will have to be so fucking charming?

"Well, good night," Will said, with a yawn. "Let me know if something comes up in the night, okay?"

Lucas laughed. "I will. Now go dream about supermodels or something."

"You have now idea how straight guys work, do you?"

"Nope. Not a straight bone in my body."

"I find it hard to believe you've never had a straight bone in your body. You talked me out of my clothes and into your bed lickety-split. I think you could get anyone you wanted, straight or gay."

Lucas tried to breathe.

"And Lucas?"


"Thanks, buddy. You're awesome to do this."

"My pleasure. Seriously."

"I know," giggled Will, who was asleep within seconds. An important skill on deployment, Lucas knew, to grab sleep when you could.

Lucas kept a close eye on Will throughout the night, checking for signs of stirring under the thin sheet that covered him. There was no motion at all, though Lucas had plenty to look at: the way that Will's eyelids flicked when he dreamed, the tensing of his abs as he breathed deeply, the way his collarbone stood out in high relief as his muscles tensed in response to something in his dream.

As dawn crept into the room, Lucas was blinking long, slow nods and fighting to stay awake. This would be the most crucial point, as the pre-waking erection is the most reliable indicator. He watched Will's crotch closely, hoping to see some movement. Desperate, he slowly lifted the sheet off Will's slumbering body so that he could get a closer look. He moved gently until his face was less than a foot away from Will's crotch, close enough to see the pubic hair curling around the base of his sleeping cock, close enough to see the balls moving slightly in their sac. Lucas pleaded in his mind for Will's penis to come to life, to give him some sign of hope. The room was fully light now, and still no movement. Shit.

Just as Lucas was about to pull the covers back up, he saw it. A slight, throbbing movement in Will's cock--just a gentle rocking back and forth in time with the beating of his heart. Then it began to move, to stretch upward. It lengthened, slowly at first, and then more quickly as the flowing blood filled and stiffened it. Lucas was thrilled, and he had to stop himself from laughing in surprise and excitement. He didn't wake Will, because that would likely stop the growing erection; he wanted to see how hard it would get. It continued to grow, to a length that surprised Lucas; clearly Will's compliment on his own erection was given from a position of strength. Lucas was certain that Will's was longer than his, if slightly thinner. It was beautiful. And it was hard, which was the best news ever. He could hardly wait to tell Will.

He replaced the covers, and settled back on the pillow to get a little sleep. It would be a good morning.

Pebbles woke them again, registering her displeasure with all of this sleeping in. Lucas lifted her off the bed and would have dropped her out the window if he could have reached it. But Will was awake now too, and he turned to Lucas.

"So, did I have a hard night?"

Lucas smiled. "No, but you did have a hard morning."

Will was elated, at first. "Whoo hoo! I can get a hard-on! When I'm asleep!" He considered this further. "When there's nothing at all I can do with it. Yay..." He trailed off.

"Oh, ease up on yourself. The fact that you can get an erection means that the function is there. Now you just have to work on making it happen when you're awake."

"Yeah, but what if I can get it up but I can't shoot? Fat lot of good a stiffy does me if I can't come."

"Well, we don't know that part yet. You might be able to ejaculate--we won't know that until you try."

"But I have tried! For the first few weeks I tried every day--sometimes several times a day. I tried stroking it, I used Juliet's massager thing on it, I did everything I could think of. No dice."

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