Patrick wasn’t allowed to drive anymore. He was perfectly capable, even passed the eye exam the last time he renewed his license (the same of which could not be said of his husband). But Charlotte Mullens is her mother’s daughter, and like her grandmère before. Now that she and her husband were (officially, legally, on paper) in charge of Rose Apothecary, they seemed to believe they were also in charge of Patrick’s life.
“You didn’t have to do this,” he said, slumped in the passenger seat. He wasn’t even allowed to carry his gift—a bushel of brand new apples, a crispy mottled red skin apple that Patrick was going to name Ruby Rose. Eight-year-old Jonathan was carrying the basket in his lap because 73-year-old Patrick was too old, apparently.
“Everyone wanted to see Uncle David, right everyone?”
They all cheered from the back seat. Patrick grumped. Ted got to drive his own car, and Patrick was younger than him.
David had only been in the hospital overnight, but today was their anniversary. It was the worst timing.
It wasn’t serious, Patrick reminded himself. It was a broken leg, and they were only keeping him because he was 77. The bone had been set and braced. Rehab would be hard and long, but Patrick knew his husband. He would do whatever he needed to get back to work.
“Today is our anniversary,” Patrick reminded them, as if they didn't already know.
“Cake!” Rosalie clapped in her car seat.
Aman was sitting behind Patrick, because Patrick needed less leg room than his niece, who was driving. He reached forward and squeezed Patrick’s shoulder.
“We won’t hang around long,” Aman promised.
“We’ll say hello, eat some cake, open the presents,” Charlotte said, “then we’ll leave you two alone, and go take Mom and Dad and hang out at the mall for a few hours.”
“Pizza!” Rosalie yelled. For a five-year-old, she was following the conversation better than Patrick.
He needed to see David. He had felt out of sorts since the accident, and they were only in the middle of it all. They still didn’t know if David would be allowed to come home today.
“We’ll talk to the doctors,” Charlotte said. All the Roses could read his mind, even if their last name was Mullens. “Mom will take care of it. You worry too much, Uncle Patrick.”
But worrying made him feel good. It meant he still had a husband to worry about.
Ted and Alexis had beat them to the hospital, but only by a few minutes. While Charlotte paid for parking, Alexis waved them across the lot. Patrick held Rosalie’s hand, while Aman and Jonathan carried the presents and cake.
“Hello, my bébés!” Alexis cooed, waving her fingers at her grandchildren. While Ted lead them inside to find a place to sit and wait, she opened her arms and pulled Patrick into a hug.
“How are you doing this morning?”
“I’d be doing better if I was allowed to drive my own car.” He was still grumpy, even knowing his husband was just a few floors away.
“Don’t be mad at Charlotte,” Alexis said, leading him through the doors and straight to the elevator. She seemed to know exactly where to go, and Patrick was momentarily grateful for his sister-in-law’s practicality. “I told her to pick you up.”
“You played dirty.”
She grinned with sparkling eyes over the glittering rims of her glasses. “I know all your weak points.”
Patrick shoved his hands into his pockets as they waited for the elevator. He offered the curve of his elbow to Alexis, who switched her purse to the other shoulder and tucked her arm in his.
“He’s going to be fine,” she said, quietly. Patrick knew the words were as much for herself as for him.
“Of course he is.” Patrick clasped his hand on top of hers. “He’s David Rose.”
He was David Rose, and he was awake when Patrick and Alexis arrived on the third floor. He was sitting up in bed, as much as his leg would allow, fixing his silver hair in the reflection of a bedpan, and shooing the nurses away.
“Hi, hello,” David was saying to the woman trying to fix his pillows. “I broke my leg, not my arms. I can do this myself, thank you.”
She was a different nurse than yesterday, but Patrick still took a moment to say sorry as he stepped into the room. Alexis was at the front desk, and finally, he had a moment alone with his husband.
“Honey, hi, oh my god, where have you been?”
David held his hands out in front of him, reaching for Patrick before he was barely in the room. They grabbed hold of each other, and David pulled Patrick as close as the bed and tubes and machines would allow.
“They kicked me out at midnight,” Patrick explained. “Apparently sleeping in a chair is another thing I’m not allowed to do anymore.”
He leaned over to kiss David’s lips, jaw, neck. They hugged until Patrick’s back started to hurt and he had to pull away.
“I can go home now, right?” David asked, face tight and ready to beg.
“Your sister’s talking to the nurses.”
He huffed. “Oh, so we’ll never be able to leave then.”
Patrick had to let go of his husband to find a place to sit. The one chair in the room was pushed into the far corner. He dragged it across the floor and positioned it as close to David as possible. Their hands met again, fingers threaded together, resting on the bed.
“They took off my rings for the surgery, and I can’t find them anywhere,” David told him, pouting.
“I’ve got them, baby.” Patrick dug into his front pocket and held out his hand. All four rings, shining like the first time Patrick picked them up at the jeweller’s. David held out his left hand and let Patrick slide each ring onto each finger where it fit. He turned David’s hand over and kissed his palm.
“I half expected you to show up here with something new. A ruby, perhaps?” David’s smile was coy and teasing. Forty years now, and Patrick would never get tired of his husband’s face.
“No jewellery,” Patrick said. “But I do have a ruby for you. Ted and Charlotte and Aman and the kids are downstairs. I wasn’t allowed to carry my present.”
David laughed, grabbing Patrick’s face between both hands and leaning over to kiss his forehead. “My poor old man.”
Patrick reached up and wrapped his arms around David. He rested his head in David’s lap, on his good leg. Yesterday was by far the scariest day in his life, how close he had come to losing David. But they weren’t going to think about that today.
“I talked to Stevie this morning,” David said. His hand rubbed up and down Patrick’s back. “She and Angie were stuck in customs hell at the airport, but they should be getting into town soon. I told her to text you because the nurses also stole my phone.”
Patrick didn’t hear the rest of David’s story of his night in the hospital. He was already on his way back to sleep, in his husband’s lap, by his husband’s side, this place where he would always belong.