Miles Sutherland, Carter (Gil) Gillespie
5th February, Rapatoka Island
Miles stared at Gil’s sleeping form in the hospital bed. A lone beam of moonlight shone in through the open window, caressing his face, allowing Miles to see him clearly. Neither of them had haircuts since leaving Haven Falls, and Gil’s was now much longer than it had been. A lock of hair had fallen over his eyes. Miles’ fingers itched to smooth it away, but he knew that if he did, he wouldn’t be able to stop there, he’d want to touch Gil all over. Make love to him again, but this time, slower and more carefully. I should leave him to sleep, Miles thought, go to bed myself. At last everyone else had, and the hospital for once was quiet. No Caroline issuing instructions, no Lucas chattering ten to the dozen.
A week had passed since their late night whispered discussion when Gil told him he saw Darren or Darren’s ghost and Miles hadn’t had a chance to talk to Gil since; not properly, not privately. Now that Caroline was well on the way to recovery, she started to assert her presence in the island hospital again. It wasn’t that she meant to interfere, but she was one of those nurses that had eyes in the back of her head and ears tuned for the slightest signal that her patients needed care and attention.
Whenever Gil needed something, she sent Lucas to help. Even if they were mundane things like assisting him to the toilet or fixing a cup of tea. To her, these were far too trivial for a doctor to attend to, even though Miles would happily perform those services for Gil. Anything that gave him an excuse to be close to the young man.
Already Gil had become her patient, not his. As soon as she discovered what happened on the operating table, her face betrayed she knew more than she was willing to disclose about the poison. He was lucky to be alive she said. The unspoken words being others weren’t.
Miles questioned her about who could have set the trap, but she didn’t know or wouldn’t tell him. Judging by the worried expression on her face when she gave her reluctant replies, he suspected the former.
Hopefully, whoever set the trap was gone now.
Gil stirred in his sleep, his bare chest rising softly as he took a deeper breath. His eyelids fluttered. Miles started, he didn’t want to be caught staring, but lately he couldn’t take his eyes off the young man. Gil’s tale about seeing Darren startled him, not so much because they brought up memories of Darren, but because his first reaction was: I hope Darren’s tale didn’t just make Gil feel sorry for me. He didn’t want to be another of Gil’s ‘projects’.
Miles couldn’t resist it any longer, he lent over and carefully brushed the lock of hair away.
Something tickled his face. His bloody hair was growing too long, but where the fuck was he going to find someone to cut it here? Damn it, it had taken him long enough to fall asleep.The Islanders were so bloody noisy and too bloody cheerful all day long. Then when peace finally descended as the sun went down, Gil found that sleep was elusive, despite Caroline fussing about him getting enough rest.
Caroline, like nurses everywhere, was beginning to get on his nerves. Lucas… Lucas, bless him, was trying to help. Caroline and Miles had the boy acting as next best thing to a hospital orderly, helping with Gil’s every need. Something in the way he looked at Gil, in the way he stayed within Gil’s personal space a fraction longer than needful, made Gil feel uncomfortable, though.
Gil tried, unsuccessfully, to brush whatever was tickling him away and his hand came up against someone else’s. He opened his eyes and blinked sleepily, focusing on a familiar face above him.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you.” Miles tried to draw his hand away, but Gil reached up and grabbed it.
“Ow.” Gil couldn’t stop his soft protest as his injured hand dropped onto the cover. His fingers were not yet functioning properly and the nerves had twinged as if to remind him things were far from healed. They may never be, some part of his brain reminded him. It quite destroyed any joy he may have had on seeing the man standing next to him.
“Is your arm still sore? Do you want me to get you something for the pain?”
Gil was touched by Miles’ concern and shook his head. “No, just took me by surprise…” He reached out with his good hand and captured Miles’ fingers, holding slightly tighter than necessary. “Just asking it to do too much too soon I guess.” His voice dropped to a husky whisper. “It’s late, why are you not asleep?”
“Could ask you the same…” Miles tried to pull his hand out of Gil’s grasp, but the fingers didn’t release their pressure. How could he confess he just liked looking at Gil, liked touching him, and if he had a choice he’d be right there in bed with him? “Not tired.” Gil seemed to accept that and just nodded. “Are you sure you’re alright? I could get something else if you like. A cup of hot chocolate?” Miles tried to pull away again. Gil’s firm touch had sent a wave of energy coursing through his body. If he’d been tired before, he definitely wasn’t now. He’d probably need a lot more than a cup of chocolate himself to get to sleep.
“I’m okay, really.” Gil knew he didn’t sound convincing, even to his own ears.
On impulse, Miles leaned back in and brushed his lips against Gil’s, gently at first, but the heat searing through his body from the touch of Gil’s hand and the taste of his mouth made him press harder. Miles groaned. Big mistake. Now he couldn’t stop.
For a moment, Gil wanted to capitulate, to sink into the comfort and warmth the kiss offered, to surrender to the pressure of Miles’ mouth on his, but something stopped him. His hand came up, pressing into Miles’ chest, pushing him back. For a moment, the hurt in the doctor’s eyes was almost too much, but they needed to talk, or rather Gil needed to give voice to his feelings. It would be so damned easy to fall headlong into the distraction Miles was offering, but there were unsaid things between them, and Gil didn’t know where he stood.
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have done that.” Miles swallowed back the hurt that welled up in his chest at Gil’s rejection.
“Christ, Miles! Will you stop apologising!” Gil wasn’t in the mood for Miles’ self-flagellation. “We…I need to talk. I need to know…things…” he finished lamely.
Miles frowned and sat on the edge of the bed, taking care not to crowd Gil. “What do you need to know?”
An exasperated mutter came from the far end of the room. “If you two want to have a chat, how about waiting until morning or taking it outside. A gal has to get her beauty sleep.”
Both men glanced at each other and grinned guiltily. Caroline’s sleepy voice had reminded them that they were not alone. “What do you say, Gil? There’s a full moon, and it’s warm outside.”
“Are you…asking me out on a date here?” Amusement colored Gil’s tone.
“Well, I didn’t bring any wine or roses, but I could make a couple of cups of hot chocolate if you like.” Miles stood and stepped away from the bed. He glanced uncertainly at the door then back at Gil. “But we could wait until morning if it’s not important.”
“Why wait? I’m sick of being stuck in here…” For answer, Gil flung back the covers before Miles could change his mind and swung his legs out of bed. His ankle hardly bothered him; it was almost healed. If he could lean on Miles and take it slow, he knew he would be fine.
“Careful.” Miles drew Gil’s good arm up so it rested around his shoulder. With Lucas’ aid Gil had ventured out of bed a few times mainly to use the bathroom and have a shower, but he still hadn’t regained full mobility. “There’s a seat down near the water’s edge if you can walk that far.”
“I’ll give it a go.” Gil happily leaned into Miles’ support. Being close to the doctor made his heart miss a beat or two. The air was balmy outside. One of those nights where it was actually cooler outside than in. A slight breeze played off the water, carrying the tang of salt. He had to remind himself of the change of seasons here. This was the height of summer. Before he’d fallen down the hole, he’d found the oppressive heat hard to take after the cool of Haven Falls and England. Yet another reminder of how far he was away from home. He allowed the warmth of Miles’ body next to his to distract him from such thoughts and tried to concentrate on what the doctor was saying.
“You haven’t even seen anything of the island yet, have you?”
“So this is it, huh? This is Rapatoka? Bigger than it looks from the other side of the water…” Gil had seen some of the island from the hospital window, so he knew that building was part of a group that must constitute their concept of a town. Just a jumble of traditional island-style dwellings with high thatched roofs and basic shuttered windows and doors. No glass to be broken when cyclones hit and walls that were easily replaced should they be shredded by high winds.
“Yeah. Hard to imagine, but there are three hundred people living here. Most of these huts have an extended family living in them, all bedding down in one room. Lots of young kids. They run around like wild things, but what can you expect when there isn’t even a proper school.”
The fine grains of sand under Gil’s bare feet squished up through his toes. The quiet was so different from the usual sound of laughing children and women’s voices as they sat under a shelter and did their daily chores; some weaving, some washing in tubs.
Most of the vegetation was similar to that on Mystery Island. Pandanus trees with their wide overhanging fleshy leaves and the occasional palm tree. Miles led him down to a wooden table set up under the shade of one only a few feet from the waves that lapped softly over the pure white sand. Gil allowed himself a smile. He would never look at coconuts in the same way again.
The moon’s glow glinted off shards of broken shell and coral that had been washed up on the pale sand. Small waves susurated up the beach, lapping gently toward them. A soft breeze whispered through the palm fronds, a counterpoint to the sound of the sea. There was a path of moonlight across the lagoon, and when he looked up, without the light pollution he was used to, the sky above was pinpricked by thousands of points of light. For a moment, Gil forgot to breathe it was so beautiful. It was idyllic, unreal.
The hard benches that served as seats didn’t look very comfortable and were built low to the ground. Miles perched on top of the table, indicating that Gil should sit beside him. Gil wasn’t sure how close he was meant to sit. He chose to sit a little apart and twisted to face Miles.
“This was the only place open at this time of night. I’m glad they reserved us a table.” Miles rubbed his beard. In his native dress and untrimmed facial fuzz, he felt like the wild man from Borneo again. Worrying about Gil had killed his appetite, so it was just as well he didn’t have his gear with him. Most of his jeans would fall off him now. “Lucky there’s no dress code.” The sight of the young man’s body just covered in shiny white satin boxers adorned with a red rose made his mouth dry. “Though I see you did bring flowers, well, one flower anyway.”
“What?” For a moment Gil was flummoxed until Miles indicated his underwear. He chuckled. “You mean you don’t recognise the England rugby squad badge? Miles, I’m ashamed of you…” He got up again and turned. One rose strategically adorned each side. “A mate had them made for me…”
Miles tried to swallow again as the young man beside him turned around displaying a rose on each butt cheek. As he turned back, Miles couldn’t miss the bulge that the loose material failed to hide completely either. “A thorn between two roses, hey?”
Gil groaned at that one. “Oh, that was bad, Miles…”
“Well, at least it didn’t suck.” That earned him a look he couldn’t interpret. Gil sat back down, not close enough but turned slightly in order to be able to face him. Damn, it would be much easier to talk and think if he didn’t have those big brown eyes staring at him. He would also have to keep his gaze up and not let it drift down.
“Miles, I…have to admit, I don’t know where to start.” Gil let his gaze wander. He was finding it difficult to meet Miles’ eyes even though he chose this position in the first place. He was also resisting the urge to sit closer. He missed the warmth of Miles’ body against his, but he needed to stay focused.
At first, Miles was tempted to make another flippant comment like singing the first bars of: “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.” but something in Gil’s eyes stopped him. The time for jokes was over. Talk wasn’t what he wanted to do though. Those lips he touched only moments ago were so close, all he had to do was lean forward and claim them again. The moon, the stars, the warm night air and the memory of how good Gil looked and felt that one memorable night back at Haven Falls made it difficult for Miles to think of anything else.
“What happened the other night… I have no idea what it was, dream, hallucination, real…” Gil glanced up to gauge Miles’ reaction. “but there is something between us, Miles, and you need to decide what you want. You left me… alone… you walked off alone. Darren said… you were kidnapped, taken off Mystery without your consent?”
Miles turned to face the water. His mind filled with a jumble of thoughts that he couldn’t untangle faced by Gil’s unwavering stare. The young paramedic did it all the time. Scraped away all the layers he hid behind, forcing him to confront the truth. The trouble was could Miles handle the truth? Could Gil? Before he could answer, Gil resumed speaking.
“Miles, I…this is complicated. I know that, for both of us. But unless we start somewhere, we can kiss any future we have together goodbye right now….”