Chapter Thirty-Four: Ashe
Bury the Hatchet
He was in a bright white place. The light hurt.
Is this heaven? Or Purgatory? ”Jaxx?"
"He's awake!" Jaxx’s face appeared above him, lined with worry, his ears drooping. "You okay, handsome?” Jaxx’s eye twitched.
"Heaven?" Ashe croaked.
Jaxx laughed. "No, you beautiful oaf. Hospital. Say it slowly for me so I know you’re all in there. Hos-pit-al."
Ashe wanted to slap the grin off his face. “I’m not an idiot," he snarled.
"There's the Ashe I know." Jaxx’s annoying grin broadened.
“What about Cooper?" Ashe yawned, suddenly tired. There was something wrapped around his head. He reached up to touch it. A bandage.
"Akemi's men have him in custody.” He squeezed Ashe’s hand. “It's over, Ashe. We won."
We won. That had a nice sound to it. Ashe yawned again. "I'm tired. I think I might sleep some more.”
Jaxx kissed his forehead. “Go ahead. I'll be here when you wake up again."
Ashe nodded. Sleep sounded like the most wonderful idea in the world.
He closed his eyes and drifted off into blissful dreams of sun and sky and flight.
Akemi met Jaxx just outside Ashe’s room as he returned from the coffee kiosk. “How is he doing?”
Jaxx shrugged. “He’s hard headed. He sustained a concussion in the fight with Cooper, but he’ll be all right. He got off pretty lightly, compared to some of the folks here.” He closed his eyes, still seeing their guard, Felipe’s inert form after the attack. The man had given his life to defend theirs. Aegeus and Tibo had both been shot, and Nootau wasn’t much better off.
The fine lines around Akemi’s eyes were the only outward sign of her tightly controlled anger. “It never should have happened. I promised your party safe passage, but I was betrayed.” Her gaze could have burned through Mal’s leathers.
Jaxx shivered. He was glad he wasn’t on Akemi’s enemies list. “In the end, Ashe got what he needed.” He nodded at the door to Ashe’s room.
“I’m glad to hear that.”
“What will happen to Cooper?”
She grinned, the grin of a feral fox. “He will be taken care of.” She pulled something out of her pocket. “Please give this to Ashe for me.”
It was the dragon-hide journal Ashe had stolen from the castle library.
“This must be valuable. Are you sure?”
“Yes. It’s nothing compared to the service he did for us. That you all did for us. I thought… well, just give it to him, if you would.”
“Thank you. I will.”
“We’ve prepared transportation home for the two of you, when you’re ready.”
“That’s a relief.” Jaxx had been trying to figure out how they were going to manage the trip. They’d blown most of their cash, and he wasn’t sure his credit card had much room left either.
She squeezed his shoulder and started to turn away.
Her eyes narrowed. “Yes?”
“Thank you. I… it’s good to know there are still people in the world who try to do what’s right. I’m sorry we didn’t get to spend more time together.”
She grinned again. “Oh, I don’t think we’re done with each other yet, my adorable horny friend.”
She laughed, and for just a second, he saw her vulpine side.
Then she turned and walked away.
“Strange fox, that one,” he said to himself, and went inside to check on Ashe.
Ashe lay on his side on the hospital bed, the blanket pulled up around his shoulders.
His head was still wrapped in bandages. He had a headache, a low throbbing ache.
The fight was over. He should be happy.
He stared out of the small window next to his bedroom. There was a tree outside, bare of leaves. It had been mercilessly trimmed back, probably every winter for thirty years, becoming deformed with stunted limbs as its life was suppressed and pushed down at every turn.
He’d lived his own life the same way, always afraid of becoming like his father. Always afraid of letting go, of loosing his anger on the world.
He was emotionally stunted.
Jaxx had shown him that. Jaxx had taught him how to let it all out, to channel his anger and pain into something meaningful and worthwhile. To stop letting it deform him.
He wasn’t the only one in their group who lived that way.
He needed to go see Tibo.
The door swung open. Jaxx smiled at him, and held out a cup of coffee.
Ashe took it greedily. “Oh my god, this tastes good.”
“‘Welcome. How are you feeling?”
“Head still hurts, but I’m alive.”
“I see that. Scoot over.”
Ashe did as he was told, and Jaxx crawled into bed next to him. “This mattress isn’t half bad. Think it could take a good pounding?”
Ashe laughed in spite of himself. “You can’t be desperate yet. It hasn’t been that long.”
“Long enough.” Jaxx leaned in for a kiss.
Ashe returned it, and his headache lessened, just a little.
When they separated, Jaxx handed him something.
“What’s this?” Then he recognized the journal.
“Akemi wanted you to have it.”
There was a thin strip of paper inserted about halfway through. He flipped the book open. It was a handwritten note.
Something your mother touched. I thought you’d like to have it. —A
Ashe closed his eyes and held the book to his chest for a long moment.
When he opened them, He whispered “I need your help.”
“To bury the hatchet once and for all.”
Jaxx wheeled him down the hall. One of the shift nurses had told them where to find the goblin rock star.
Jaxx knocked on the room door.
“Come in,” Rolly’s voice called.
Jaxx pulled open the door and pushed Ashe’s wheelchair inside.
“Hey there,” Ashe said. He stood to give Rolly a hug. “How is he doing?”
“He’ll live. Took a fuck-tonne of a beating, but he’s a tough little thing.”
Ashe laughed. “Yes he is. Can I talk to him?”
“Don’t reckon’ it would do any harm.” Rolly stepped away to give them some space.
Ashe put his hand on Tibo’s, tanned skin on green. “I figured something out, Glent,” he whispered. He’d rehearsed it in his head, but now it all just came pouring out. “The people who love us—we have to let them in. We have to let ourselves out, too.” He squeezed Tibo’s hand. “You and I, we’re the same. Both bottled up, both so sure of ourselves that we never make room for anyone else.”
Jaxx squeezed his shoulder.
He leaned in to whisper in Tibo’s ear. “Let him into your heart, Tiborishandelac Glent. It’s the only way to redemption.”
Ashe felt Tibo’s grip tighten, just for an instant. It was enough. “I’m tired, Jaxx.” He turned away from the bed. “Can you take me back to my room?”
“Of course.” Jaxx turned Ashe’s wheelchair around. “We’ll see you two again?”
“He’s not ready to leave yet. But we’ll come find each other before we go.”
Jaxx gave Rolly a hug and wheeled Ashe back out into the hall. “What brought that on?”
Ashe shrugged. “It’s time for me to start living my life for myself. For us. It’s time to be done with my father’s shadow.”