Chapter Ten: Ashe
Nurse Rosalind had handed over Kino’s remains. Someone had thoughtfully tied a bright yellow ribbon around it. So much for dignity in death.
“Thank you,” he said, managing not to burst into tears. “How much do I owe the hospital? I don’t have much—”
She stopped him. “I’ve filed your case under the indigent client code,” she said, her hand resting lightly on his shoulder. “You don’t need to pay a thing.”
He threw his arms around her, overwhelmed by the simple kindness, the urn pressing into his chest between them. “Thank you,” he whispered.
She nodded, and squeezed him tightly before letting him go.
He looked around once more at the place that had unexpectedly become his father’s last nest, and sighed. He was truly alone now.
He turned to Jaxx. “I need to get out of here.”
Jaxx nodded. “I’ll take you back to the motel to get your stuff, then you can come to my place.”
“I’ll take my bike.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea right now?” His tone was that of a father to a recalcitrant child.
Ashe’s anger flared, but he pushed it back down. “I don’t want to leave my bike here. I don’t ever want to come back to this place.”
Jaxx studied him, his big brown eyes narrowed in concern. “Are you sure you’re ok to drive?”
He’s just worried about me. Ashe nodded. “I’ll be okay.”
“I’ll follow you back then. I can take the urn, if you want.”
Ashe considered. “All right,” he said at last, relinquishing it. “But be careful with it. I want to scatter his ashes tonight up on “A” Mountain. I think he would have liked that.”
Ashe and Jaxx knew “A” Mountain well. It had been one of their favorite places to hang out when they had been in school together.
Jaxx nodded. “I’ll be right behind you.”
* * * * *
Ashe rode his bike the short distance back to the motel, aware that Jaxx was following in his little red hatchback close behind. Ashe was still working out how he felt about having him back in his life again, but that whole emotional mess had been pushed aside by his father’s death.
So now, he was supposed to go back to Jaxx’s place and… what? Would they sleep together, reaffirming the power of life and all that bullshit?
Or worse, would they stay up talking about all of his feelings until the sun rose the next morning? He wasn’t in the mood for either.
Ashe parked his bike and climbed the stairs to his room two at a time, not waiting for Jaxx. He knew he was acting irrationally, but he didn’t care.
He was ripped in two, and he couldn’t spare much thought for anyone else’s feelings.
He unlocked the door and let it slam behind him, and dropped into the old upholstered saguaro-green chair that sat by the window, faded across the top where the sun had bleached it. He put his head in his hands, wishing he could just cease to exist, evaporating like a monsoon puddle and emptying all his pain and anguish into the dry desert air.
There was a tap at the door.
“Come in,” he growled.
Jaxx pushed it open and looked into the dimly lit room. He stepped in, blinking as his eyes adjusted. “I brought this up with me… I didn’t want to leave it in the car.” He held out the urn.
Ashe looked up. “Leave it on the dresser.”
Jaxx set it down and turned to stare at him. “Are you… ready to go?” he asked, looking around at the unpacked clothes and belongings.
Ashe knew pity when he saw it. “I want to be left alone, Jaxx.” He didn’t need anyone’s charity.
“You can be alone at my place. You’ll have your own room and everything—”
Ashe felt the warning signs, but he had lost his filter. The goose bumps spread up his arms, and his anger kindled from a hard red core inside him into open flame in an instant. “I don’t…. want… to go… to your place. I just want to be fucking left alone!” He jumped up as his arms came alight, still conscious enough of the danger to keep from burning the place down. That would have been a fitting tribute to his father.
He saw fear on Jaxx’s face, but the satyr held his ground. “Let go of the anger. This isn’t you,” he whispered. “Ashe, this isn’t what you are.”
Seeing the fright on Jaxx’s face doused Ashe’s flames like a bucket of cold water. To cause of such fear in someone he had loved, just like his father had done to him… Oh god, my father. Ashe sank to his knees, shaking. Kino was lost to him, irrevocably gone. “What am I going to do now? What the fuck am I going to do?”
He half expected Jaxx to run, to get away from the crazy phoenix as fast as he could.
But instead, he sank down onto the carpet text to Ashe. With his back against the old stained mattress, he pulled Ashe in next to him. Jaxx’s chest was warm, and his hairy arms encircled Ashe.
Ashe closed his eyes and cried for the second time that day, deep, wrenching sobs that hollowed him out inside. His pain flowed out of him, not into thin air, but into Jaxx’s arms.
After a long while, he exhausted his anguish, and fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.
* * * * *
He woke to find himself still in Jaxx’s arms, his body cramped from the strange position he’d fallen asleep in. He carefully pulled away from Jaxx, checking to make sure the satyr was still asleep.
It was dark outside now, and only the light of the street lamps in the parking lot shown through the gap in the curtains.
Jaxx was sound asleep. Ashe looked down at him, silently thanking him for being there at the moment when he had least wanted someone, but had most needed them.
He didn’t want to involve Jaxx in this any deeper than he already had. So he quietly gathered his things, along with his father’s makeshift urn, and packed them into the old army duffel bag. He left enough coin on the dresser to pay the bill.
Then, with one last glance at Jaxx’s sleeping form, he left the room, pulling the door closed behind him without a sound.