They had driven to Seattle from the Olympic Peninsula that morning
before the birds were awake—or so Luki had complained. Even after years
of Sonny’s influence, he hadn’t become a morning person, had no desire
to do so, knew he never would. They had taken Luki’s ice-blue Mercedes,
aged by now, but still in good shape, because it helped Luki maintain the
chilly facade that used to be his trademark when he was a full-time
working detective. Now he only detected occasionally and ran his security
business mostly en absentia. Usually he could still call up the chill factor
when needed, but this morning it had been elusive at best.
They stood in the bow of the ferry while they crossed the Puget
Sound, then drove south over the familiar stretch from Edmonds and
arrived at the Cancer Center in Seattle twenty-five minutes before Luki’s
appointment time. It took twenty of those minutes for Sonny to convince
Luki to go in—mostly using a technique Luki had come to think of as
meaningful silence. Sonny was very good at it.
Now, in the car again after leaving the doctor’s office in discord…
utter discord, Luki felt the significance of Sonny’s silence aimed at him
like a drawn and loaded bow. It felt ugly, but he couldn’t give Sonny what
he wanted. Not yet. In an effort to ignore the facts, he asked, “Are you
“No, I’m not hungry! I’m flabbergasted that you didn’t answer that
doctor. I’m too upset to be thinking about food.”
“Well, Sonny, I’m fucking hungry!” It felt kind of good to lash out,
but that wasn’t enough to quell his own fear, his own anger, or his guilt for
not acknowledging that Sonny felt those things too. He looked around,
taking in the lay of the land to figure out where they were in relation to the
places in Seattle he knew. “Let’s go to the Metro. It’s right around the
A mostly gay club, The Metro served classy beer and good food—
ordinary things like hamburgers and steaks, but quality that justified the
upscale prices. Still early in the day, the dim interior was sparsely
populated, which was part of the appeal for Luki at that moment. Luki was
recognized as soon as he walked in. As did everyone but a select few in
his life, the staff at the Metro referred to him by his last name.
“Mr. Vasquez,” the bearded man at the door said. “We haven’t seen
you for a while.”
He didn’t say a word to Sonny. This happened regularly, at the
Metro, and though it didn’t bother Sonny at all, it ruffled Luki’s feathers.
Seriously. Every time in the last six years that he’d been to the Metro,
Sonny had been with him. They knew his name, knew he and Luki were
married, that they lived together, loved together. And anyone with their
eyelids halfway past their pupils could see that Luki and Sonny needed
each other like clouds need sun—to exist. He supposed Sonny was
probably right when he said it was because he blended, purposely, into the
background, but Luki didn’t care about that. Although he’d never been the
kind of person to use his martial skills if not necessary for survival, his or
someone else’s, at that moment in the Metro’s entryway, it was only to
spare Sonny from mortification that he resisted the temptation to split the
cheeky man’s lip.
All that aside, the Metro was as good a place as any, and if by some
miracle he and Sonny stopped their mostly silent fight and wanted to
touch, no one would get ugly about it.
They ordered burgers and fries—or rather Luki did, because Sonny
sat in silence… meaningful silence, except for slamming down his
silverware and glaring loudly. That should have at least got him noticed by
the waiter, a man young enough for Luki to think of him as a boy and
swishy enough for Luki to think Sonny was watching his ass. Which was
completely stupid, but it gave Luki another reason to seethe.
Their food came, and brown bottles of Full Sail Amber Ale, which
Luki had ordered, when Sonny refused to speak, because it was Sonny’s
favorite. But Sonny didn’t eat or drink, and after two bites of burger and
the foam off the top of the ale, Luki couldn’t either. His stomach felt like
there was a hot stone in it, growing with Sonny’s every movement and
Suddenly—or so it seemed—he could take no more. “Fuck, Sonny!
Fuck!” His outburst turned every eye in the place toward him. Except
Sonny’s. Defeated, but only a little quieter, he said, “Stop, please. Of
course I’m going to do the fucking treatment. I just wanted an hour, just a
little time to pretend it wasn’t happening. Why couldn’t you let me have
Sonny blushed the color of fresh-dug beets and stormed back toward
the restrooms. Really stormed… righteously stormed. Like he’s pulling
thunder and lightning along behind him. Luki’s humor always bubbled up
at the most inappropriate times, and this was no different. He struggled not
to laugh. Or not to cry. He wasn’t sure which, but he refused to do either
because all eyes remained tuned to him, like they didn’t even notice
Sonny, who was six-two and beautiful and right in front of their faces.
Luki wanted to throw his beer glass at them, but instead he tried to drink.
He couldn’t. He coughed. He couldn’t stop.
People rushed him, wanting to help or wanting to get in on the
action. He tried to swing at them, and he was eminently qualified to kick
every ass in the place at one time. But he couldn’t even blindly bat them
away. With Sonny’s long legs, he made it back across the room in maybe
five strides, and then he did the batting away for Luki—not at all gently.
“Luki. Here, honey.” He dug a bottle out of his coat pocket, the cough
medicine Luki’s doctor had given him at that first appointment, that day—
not even a week ago?—when Luki admitted he was sick. Sonny had been
thinking ahead, preparing for Luki’s needs, while Luki himself hadn’t
given it a thought. Now, he sat down next to Luki and gathered him in
close to his body. Distantly, Luki felt grateful for the comfort and the
protection from selfish eyes. Not so distantly, he felt fiercely enraged with
all of them—with Sonny, too, but mostly with his own diseased,
dangerous, treasonous lung.