Does it count as alcoholism if you only drink once every couple of months, but when you do, you drink till you black out? This was the thought sluggishly creeping across Griff Rieckert's mind as he clawed his way back to consciousness. His head was pounding in time with his pulse, and nausea churned his stomach. Please let me die, his brain suggested. Just opening his eyes was a monumental task.
Ceiling. Unfamiliar ceiling. He managed to turn his head just enough to glance at his surroundings through slitted eyes. He was in a bed. More precisely, someone else's bed. And so was the someone else. A mop of long, beautiful blond curls lay on the pillow beside him, the face turned away from him. Griff raised his hands and scrubbed them down over his face. This was going to be embarrassing.
The body beside him rolled over. Beneath all those gorgeous blond curls were dark lashes, full lips, and a neatly trimmed blond moustache and goatee. The blond man's eyes opened slowly, and embarrassment didn't even come close to cutting it. Griff scrambled up against the headboard with an intake of breath and immediately regretted it. He choked down the first wave of nausea threatening to overwhelm him, and didn't manage the second one.
Hanging off the edge of the bed, he vomited into the trashcan that some fore-thinking soul had put beside the bed. Someone held his head and prevented him from sliding face first off the edge. Gasping, eyes tearing, spitting the acrid taste from his mouth, he finally slumped back against the mattress.
"Figured you were gonna need that," said the man holding him. "Come on, let's get you up and into the shower. It'll help." Griff stared as he was dragged to his feet. The man looked young, desperately young. All those blond curls brushing his shoulders, broad shoulders and narrow hips, long torso and muscular legs, wearing nothing more than a skimpy pair of black bikini briefs.
A second look, however, made him reassess. There was a seriousness in those blue eyes that spoke of more years than the face seemed to imply.
The blond man picked up an elbow crutch from the floor and handed it to Griff. Griff took it reluctantly; judging from the stiffness and the intensity of the pain in his leg, he needed it badly. But the other man didn't let go. He pulled Griff's opposite arm over his shoulders and guided them carefully in the direction of the bathroom, snagging a pair of round, wire-framed glasses along the way.
In the bathroom, Griff leaned against the sink and glanced at himself in the mirror while the other man turned on the shower. Every single one of his thirty-eight years seemed to be etched into his face. A trace of gray showed in his short black hair, his eyes were horrendously bloodshot, and he obviously hadn't shaved in a couple of days.
"No offense," Griff croaked, "but who the hell are you?"
"Sean Avery. I'm guessing you don't remember last night. I'm not surprised. Here." Sean pressed several Advil into his hand and set a glass of water on the side of the sink. Griff took them and gulped down the water, hoping to wash some of the nasty taste from his mouth. "If you think you can manage to get undressed by yourself, I'll be back in sec."
Sean turned on the shower and walked out of the bathroom. Griff looked down at himself. He was still mostly dressed--boxers, socks, T-shirt, but no jeans. The maze of scars starting on his right thigh and winding down to his calf was plainly evident. If he was still mostly dressed, what exactly had gone on last night? Although he was bisexual, the number of guys he had been with was far outweighed by women. There hadn't been anyone at all in the past year. The FBI wasn't exactly accepting of alternative lifestyles.
Not that he was FBI anymore ... A car going more than fifty miles an hour through a parking lot had broken his knee in 23 places when it struck him. The damage had been so bad there had been initial talk of amputation. Some days he thanked God for brilliant orthopedic surgeons, and other days he wished the driver had finished the job and just flat-out killed him.
He managed to strip the rest of the way and left his clothes piled on the floor. Sean came back in carrying a big plastic cooler. Griff squinted at him, holding his head. What the hell was that for? Sean flipped it upside down and set it in the shower under the spray.
"Don't want you to fall," Sean commented, and Griff finally managed to realize it was for him to sit on. He appreciated the thought, and wondered just exactly who this guy was.
Sean helped him to his feet and into the shower. The nausea was surging again, and Griff turned his face into the spray, letting it flow down across him. It helped somewhat. Sean settled him on the upturned cooler and handed him a bottle of soap and a washcloth.
"I'm going to go get you some Gatorade. Give me a shout when you're done," Sean said as he left the bathroom again.
Letting the water cascade over him, Griff slowly bathed. The Advil was blunting the pain in his head a bit, but did nothing for his leg. Nothing short of Percocet would touch that, but he was used to the constant pain at this point. Seven frustrating, bitter months later, he had grudgingly adapted to using the crutch, having a handicapped tag for his truck, and going to physical therapy twice a week.
Sean. There was a flicker of memory. Chit-chat with Sean about the University of Maryland basketball team while he was at physical therapy. Griff had been in a sour mood, and the S&M nature of physical therapy hadn't improved it, but Sean had been friendly and laid back and had drawn Griff into a conversation. They had gone out for a drink with plans to watching the game. Griff had started knocking back tequila, intent on masking the agony in his leg. End of memory.
What was the old adage? One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor. That must have been just about the way it went.