Lessons In Recovery

This is the fourth fic in the Lessons In... Series. Following Lessons In Dealing With Ones Enemies. I dunno if there will be more in this series or not. Who knows? Uh, so, yeah. The boys aren't mine, as always. Enjoy!

Jason rolls over in the mass of sheets and blankets tangled around him, trying fruitlessly to escape the obnoxious snarl of fabric. Not surprising, really. Rarely do any sheets or blankets remain in place once Spinelli joins him in bed. Even under normal circumstances – just sleeping – they end up a mess. He reaches out in blind search of the computer hacker who has become a permanent bedmate –despite his rather mobile sleeping habits – but finds no purchase amongst the disarray of blankets.

One crystal blue eye opens, suspiciously scanning the darkness of their room for any signs of foul play or any trace of his absconding bedmate. None. He shifts, fully alert now, both eyes trying to adjust to the dark, early morning light, but still no clues as to Spinelli's current locale are revealed.

"Spinelli?" He calls out, one arm cradling against his chest subconsciously, to ease the pain of moving with a still healing gunshot wound.

No answer comes to his inquiry, so he finds himself padding into the hallway, a feeling of panic pushing at his chest with very step he takes. He doesn't have his gun, so he absently tugs at his grey t-shirt and old, baggy, pajama pants to ensure that if a fight arises, he won't be tripping over himself, and he slowly makes his way down to the living room. Jason notes the slightly ajar door leading out onto the balcony and follows suit.

"Greetings, Stone Cold." Spinelli hums, leaning against the brick wall just to the side of the door. It's cold out, unseasonably so, and Spinelli's hands are shoved deep in the pockets of his hooded sweatshirt. "The Jackal didn't wake you, did he?"

"No," Jason answers, moving forward to rest his elbows on the railing. "Couldn't sleep, either?"

Spinelli nods, which Jason can't see from his vantage point overlooking the mostly still city beneath them. "Affirmative." Spinelli adds, stepping up to stand beside Jason.

Jason, with some difficulty, raises an arm and urges Spinelli closer, until the younger man is tucked securely against his side – both parties weary of the still healing wound in Jason's chest. "Nightmares again?"

Another nod, and this one Jason feels more than anything. Neither needs to mention what those nightmares are about. Stemming from the bullet wound that nearly stole Jason's life just over a week ago; they both know exactly what's causing those nightmares.

The elder sighs, dragging his fingers lazily through Spinelli's bed-head.

"You were dead again." Spinelli finally says, specifying which particular brand of torture he'd had to endure this time. There are several variations. Sometimes the gun jams. Sometimes it's Jason being held captive at Sonny's gunpoint the whole time. And still others, Spinelli will shoot at Sonny and the laughing figure abruptly turns into a blood-covered, betrayed Jason, killed at Spinelli's hands. All of them are terrible, and this is hardly the first time they've ended up awake half the night. Jason can't even imagine what it's like for Spinelli to suffer through those dreams.

"We'll get through this." Jason says, which is really all he can promise. He squeezes a little tighter, holds Spinelli a little closer. But, he has a plan.

"You really should hire better help, Jason." Maxie says, as she waltzes brazenly right into his office in the back of the rebuilt coffee shop, a rather annoyed looking guard behind her.

"Sorry, boss." He sighs, glaring at the girl.

Jason waves him away, and focuses on getting this message through to Maxie instead. "You can't just come barging in here whenever you feel like it." He sighs. "What if I was discussing something confidential with someone?"

She sits down across from him. "You mean your top secret mob stuff? Please . Like I care." She rolls her eyes, complete with a dismissive wave of her hand. "And besides, you let Spinelli come in whenever he wants."

"Spinelli works for me. You do not." He reminds her. "See my reasoning here?"

"Speaking of Spinelli," Maxie continues, disregarding his sarcastic question. "You know he was planning something big for you on your birthday, right?"

Jason nods in reply. He never had found out what that had been about.

"Well, since those plans were… interrupted, and Spinelli's been kind of down and out ever since then, I was thinking maybe you could go through with it."

"What was it?"

"He was going to convince you to go out of town for a bit. So you could go out without Max and Milo breathing down your necks. Movie, dinner, hotel. You know, just normal couple stuff. I helped him plan it."

Jason hums, deep in thought. "How do you expect me to talk him into it? He's barely left the penthouse since Sonny died." A fact Jason has tried hard to alter, with little success, aside from trips to the coffee house for business and dinner's at Kelly's.

Maxie stands, taking a step toward the door. "He'll do it. If you ask him." She assures him, as she turns to go.

"Hey, Maxie?" He calls, and she looks back at him with a curious glance. "Knock next time, okay?"

She grins. "Fine."

The living room is ablaze with the light of the morning sun, but is otherwise vacant when Spinelli wakes up at just after ten in the morning. He and Jason had spent a long while out on the balcony. Not talking, not doing anything, really, except standing there in companionable silence. When Jason had finally convinced his lover to return to the warmth of the inside, Spinelli had agreed, and they had fallen asleep together on the couch.

And that is where Spinelli finds himself late the next morning. Alone. Tucked comfortably under the blanket, but still very much alone.

So where is Jason now?

"Stone Cold?" He calls out, not really worried. Jason could be in the kitchen taking his pain medication. Or in the bedroom, sound asleep, the couch can't be a good place for the recovering man to be sleeping, anyway. Or maybe even trying to take a shower.

However, as Spinelli discovers upon his exploration of the apparently abandoned penthouse, Jason is nowhere to be found and not one of his theories proved true. He finds only a dark and vacant kitchen. And their room is totally void of anything more than a thoroughly unmade bed. He calls Jason's cell phone and finds it charging on the desk by the front door. He's about half a second away from totally freaking out when he hears the sound of keys in the door.

He lets out a sigh of relief and quickly makes his way out of the kitchen. "Stone Cold?" He repeats, not for the first time, just as the door opens and subsequently closes. And indeed it is Jason standing in front of him when he rounds the corner.

The man in question has a large brown paper bag tucked under one arm. "D'you sleep okay?" He asks, oblivious to his lover's near-panic.

Spinelli nods, because he'd been in an exhausted dreamless state of sleep by the time they'd passed out down here. "If you can call it that." He adds, but then reverts to the topic at hand. "Was there business to attend to at such an early hour?"

Jason had promised he'd do as told by the medically inclined ones at General Hospital. Whether it be taking any and all prescribed medications without much of a fight or taking it easy on work, he'd been obeying the rules fairly well, for Spinelli's sake. He'd only gone to the coffee shop for a few hours at a time, and just to do paperwork and talk with Cody and the others about maintaining the business while he was out of commission.

"I, ugh, no. I just went to the store to pick up a few things, that's all."

Spinelli frowns. "The Jackal would have gladly accompanied you, Stone Cold."

Jason is well aware of that, but surprises are notoriously difficult to pull off when the person you're trying to surprise is present. "I thought you could do with the sleep." Which isn't a lie, Spinelli does need the rest.

Spinelli has more or less perfected the art of reading Jason's usually difficult to decipher emotions, and he can tell that there is more to this early morning errand run than is being let on. He also knows that he's not going to get anything more out of Jason on the subject until the older man is good and ready to tell him. "Fair enough." The younger relents, with a sigh. "You recall that you have an appointment with Doctor Hunter in an hour, correct?"

Jason, while less than thrilled with the prospect of being poked and prodded, hasn't forgotten, and as such, nods in agreement. He quickly – as quickly as he can while injured – retreats to the kitchen to stow the components of his surprise for Spinelli. "Care to help me take a shower first?" He adds as a distraction, when he catches sight of Spinelli's curious looks.

The black suit is laid out on the bed, its presence daunting for both of them.

It's Jason's second day home from the hospital. And also the day of Sonny's funeral. Only one of them is dressed.

"I'm not going." Jason tells his lover with a note of finality that is quite alarming. The elder man slowly moves his way into the room, sitting idly on the edge of the bed, his chest on fire.

Spinelli had clearly not been expecting that. "Wha- But- Stone Cold, are you positive that's a good idea?"

Jason lets out a deep shrug, meant to be dismissive and noncommittal. It ends up being quite painful. And as much as he hates to admit it… "I'm not in good enough shape to be going anywhere right now. Even if I was, I still wouldn't be going." Carly wouldn't want them there, anyway.

"Granted that the Late Mr. Sir was the erroneous foe to both the Jackal and to Stone Cold, he was previously Stone Cold's mentor and beloved comrade." Spinelli presses. "And while you may not feel the entirety of the loss as of yet, perhaps one day you will, and you might regret not going to the funeral."

"No, I won't." He falls back against the massive mountain of pillows on the bed. Then he tugs at the sleeve of Spinelli's suit until his lover is lying beside him. "He tried to kill you. He tried to kill me. And… the way things turned out weren't exactly… ideal, but they weren't a surprise either, with the way Sonny'd been acting since he found out about us." He shifts, and Spinelli rests his head against Jason's shoulder. "Things between me and Sonny have been through for a long time. And I honestly don't want anything else to do with him."

"If you're sure, Stone Cold." Spinelli relents. The Jackal is secretly grateful for the reprieve as well. Sonny's funeral is not somewhere he'd really wanted to be – though he would have gone for Jason. And he doubts anyone would appreciate the attendance of Sonny's killer anyhow.

Jason nods. "I'm sure."

The wound on the right side of Jason's chest is still very much a gunshot wound when Spinelli peels away the dressing. Jason hates this. He hates that he can barely get his own shirt over his head without help. He hates that the bandage itches and the pain medications they have him on make him sleepy. This part though, he thinks, as he steps into the shower a few moments after Spinelli, this part isn't so bad at all.

"Perhaps Doctor Hunter will prescribe you some less potent pain meds this time." Spinelli hopefully supplies, the bottle of shampoo in hand, having already quickly showered himself.

"Maybe." Jason agrees, as he falls to his knees, mostly out of the spray of the water. This is the easiest way for Spinelli to reach his hair.

Fingers lather shampoo through Jason's hair, massaging his scalp as they work. He groans in easy contentment and leans into the touch, his head tilted back and his eyes closed. He owes Spinelli so many massages and whatever else he wants on top of those for all the help he's been with all of this. It's even worse that Jason isn't up to doing anything more than holding onto Spinelli at night. Even kissing for too long exhausts Jason. Fractured ribs and a collapsed lung have that effect, apparently.

"You've been amazing through all of this, you know that, right?" Jason inquires, blue eyes opening long enough to peer up at his thoroughly soaked lover.

Spinelli smiles in response and grabs the detachable shower head. "Close your eyes." He prompts and rinses the soap from Jason's hair. What seems like only seconds later, Spinelli is helping him to his feet again, and the younger's eyes fixate on the healing hole in Jason's chest.

It's the first time since they've been together that Jason's really been any kind of seriously injured. Sure, he's been shot before, and it never exactly gets easier, but the wounds, so long as they're not fatal, don't bother Jason much. He has scars everywhere from being stabbed and shot at and from various car crashes and other incidents.

"You okay?" Jason asks, when he realizes Spinelli has frozen in place in front of him, a soapy washcloth paused in mid-air. He gets no response and reaches out, a hand settling on Spinelli's shoulder.

That proves enough to drag Spinelli back to the present. "Oh, affirmative. The Jackal was just momentarily taken aback by Stone Cold's characteristic stoicness concerning the…" He gestures to the gunshot wound, which is a rather unconvincing lie, but Jason doesn't press him.

Instead, he tries to channel that mentioned stoicness when Spinelli nears the injury with the washcloth. It does hurt, but Spinelli is careful and the hardest part of this whole procedure ends smoothly and with no unnecessary pain. For a while, Jason claims the washcloth and does as much as he can by himself before his chest starts hurting again, and then Spinelli takes over again, pressing kisses to Jason's back as he rinses the soap away.

"All finished." Spinelli declares, as he shuts off the water.

Jason stops Spinelli before he can step out of the shower, and presses him against the tile. "Thanks." He says. "For all this." Presses his lips softly against Spinelli's in a brief kiss.

Green eyes alight with Spinelli's seldom seen as of late smile are his reward.

"I can walk." Jason insists, not for the first time. He glares intently at the wheelchair some student nurse brought up for him to use on his way out of the hospital. After a week, one whole, long, week, he finally gets to go home.

At least as soon as he convinces the doctors that he doesn't need all of this stuff. Dr. Hunter is his biggest challenge. The man in question folds his arms over his chest and raises an incredulous eyebrow. "I'd recommend you try that out and see how it goes, but if I let you walk around I'll probably end up having you as a patient even longer. I don't think anyone wants that. So humor me, and sit down, before I call Spinelli and tell him you're not listening to me." He threatens, and Jason has no doubts that he will. Now that Spinelli has spread the word of Jason's cooperation in all things medical, everyone on staff, it seems, has been using it against him.

Jason would be sorely tempted to argue, but Matt does have a point. Just changing back into the street clothes Spinelli had brought him from the penthouse earlier had been enough to sap away most of his energy. "Fine." He huffs, and he aims his scornful glare on Dr. Hunter as he sits in the wheelchair.

The elevator dings in announcement of its arrival on the floor and the doors open to reveal Spinelli, whose bouncing slightly in place. He's clearly just as eager to have Jason safely out of the hospital as Jason is to be going home. He has a barely noticeable spring in his step as he approaches Jason and Matt on the other side of the nurse's station. "Stone Cold is more than ready to be going home, I take it?"

Jason wheels himself a few feet closer to his nearing lover, but stops abruptly when his sore chest protests the movements. "More than ready." He corrects. He despises being stuck in the hospital.

Spinelli bids a fond farewell to Doctor Hunter, as well as to the nearby Nurse Nadine before he wheels Jason back toward the elevator. Matt's already gone over all the can and can't do's of Jason's release, and all either man wants to do at this point is get back to the Penthouse.

"You doing okay?" Jason questions, once they're in the descending elevator.

"As well as can be expected." Spinelli admits honestly, with a deep sigh. "The Jackal is in very high spirits for your much awaited homecoming, as it were."

"Yeah." Jason agrees. "I can't wait to be home."

Matt is waiting for them at the nurse's station when they step off the elevator, and if Jason is leaning a little on Spinelli no one really minds.

"You showed up." The doctor says, approaching his patient. "I'm surprised." He also owes Robin twenty dollars now.

"I promised I would." Jason says, with one arm slung over Spinelli's shoulder for support.

Dr. Hunter points them down the hall and the three of them end up in one of many exam rooms. Spinelli helps Jason out of his shirt for the second time today, and Matt begins his follow up on the gunshot wound.

"It's looking good." Matt comments, examining the wound closely. "How's the pain?"

"Nothing I can't handle." He answers with a glare, hoping Matt gets the hint, because Jason really, really wants off of the meds.

Dr. Hunter looks skeptical at best. "Uh huh. Really?" He inquires, coincidentally putting pressure over what he has already identified as a sore portion of skin and muscle near the wound. Jason winces but grits his teeth.

"I have been shot before." He reminds the doctor, and his scar covered chest is proof enough of that."Can you at least put me on a milder medication if you won't take me off altogether?" Jason asks, and Spinelli seems mollified by that request.

Matt shrugs and pokes experimentally around the edges of the stitched wound, for another moment before he answers. "I suppose. Same meds, we'll cut your dosage in half."

Jason nods in agreement. It's something.

"Keep changing the dressing, keep it clean. Limit physical activity. No running, no heavy lifting, and in your case, don't get shot again. Same rules still apply." Matt summarizes for them again, and it's the same instructions they got the last time. "Come back next week."

"We'll be here." Spinelli assures the doctor, much to Jason's own displeasure.

The PA system crackles into life just then. "Paging Dr. Hunter to OR3, paging Dr. Hunter to OR3."

Matt writes Jason a new prescription for the lower dosage of medicine and then excuses himself to answer the page – which he already knows is a consult with Patrick.

"That went well." Spinelli says, as he gathers up Jason's shirt again.

Jason's just fallen asleep when the door to his room bursts open and a very, very, very upset and irate Carly comes barging into his hospital room, with clear intent to rant.

"How could you do this to me, Jason? How could you do this to the boys? Michael… Morgan… Kristina, too!" She starts, seemingly ignorant of the fact that he has a tube in chest for a collapsed lung and that breathing hurts from the ribs the bullet shattered.

He shifts, tries to sit up straighter. "Carly," He tries to interrupt but she's just ranting and raving at him as if there's no tomorrow. "Carly. Carly!"

She wheels to glare at him. "What? Don't even try to defend what you did tonight. You could have defused the situation, Jason, you always c an. You've always been able to reign Sonny in. Why not this time?"

"He had Spinelli at gunpoint, Carly." Jason says simply. And that would probably be enough to convince anyone else that Sonny's death was the result of self-defense.

"So you shoot him somewhere not fatal!" Her anomalous request proves just how unclear her thinking currently is.

"I did. And then Sonny shot me." He growls, despite how much he had wanted to end Sonny every time he hurt Spinelli. "And then Spinelli shot him."

"Sp- Spinelli? Spinelli killed Sonny?" Her eyes are wide, and she stares at him in something beyond shock. "Spinelli, the kid who can't even hold a gun without shooting himself in the foot?"

"Spinelli fired to save me." He amends, even though it had a little more to do with revenge and a little less to do with heroics. "Ever since he found out that Spinelli and I are together… He was a whole new level of unwound. And he grabbed Spinelli on the docks, said that he was going to take Spinelli away from me since he keeps losing everyone he cares about."

Carly's is an unsympathetic ear, though. She doesn't care what Jason's reasoning is for Sonny's death. And Jason can't blame her. If it weren't for the fact that he and Spinelli were immediately responsible for the man's demise, Jason probably would have been out hunting for whoever had caused it.

"What am I supposed to tell Morgan? What am I supposed to tell Michael if he ever wakes up?" She demands, venom in her voice as she speaks.

"I… don't know." He answers, honestly.

Another glare. "I don't want you seeing the boy's anymore. Not when you're the reason their father is dead."

Jason hadn't been expecting that, but he bows his head in resignation and hopes she'll just leave him alone. "If that's what you want."

Luckily, the door to his room opens again, interrupting whatever else Carly was intending on saying. Spinelli steps in, eyes wide with terror when he spots Carly, but he moves to Jason's side defensively. "What's going on here?" He asks cautiously, eyes on Carly, and his hand searching out Jason's.

Carly says nothing more, just stares in disgust and contempt at Spinelli and quickly takes her leave from the room.

"Is Stone Cold alright?" Spinelli inquires, taking in his lover's crushed expression.

Jason drags his free hand over his face. "That didn't go well."

But thoughts of Carly's last visit with him are the furthest thing from Jason's mind for a change by the time they return to the Penthouse.

"Maxie told me about what you two had planned before… all this." He says, when they're standing in the elevator on the way back up to their floor.

Spinelli sighs somewhat resignedly. "Those plans were effectively quashed by the unfortunate events that unfolded." He says, as they arrive on their floor, the doors opening to reveal nothing out of the ordinary, just a hallway. They step inside, and the penthouse is dark, just as they left it.

But, if Jason's plan has gone to form, and Maxie has been by to aid him in the set-up for this idea, then when Jason flips the lights on...

"Whoa." Spinelli blinks, staring at the array of decorations. And, okay, Maxie went just a little overboard.

"Surprise." Jason tells him, and he owes Maxie so much for all this. She picked up dinner for them from a restaurant Crimson works with sometimes. Very high end, and she also stopped and rented them a ton of movies, clearly unsure as to what they'd want to watch. The pile on the coffee table ranges from horror movie like Dead Silence to action flicks like Shooter to comedy's and romances.

The only deviation they really have to take from Spinelli's original plan – aside from the location – is that Jason still isn't up to anything more than holding Spinelli, but even that seems like a great idea tonight.

"Whoa." Spinelli repeats. "Is this… was… this is what you were out conspiring over this morning then, I take it?"

"Mhm. Maxie helped out with the details and the actual setting up part." Jason tosses his keys down on the desk and steps into the room, turning to face Spinelli. "Once this has all calmed down and Matt says I'm okay to travel, you and I can go out of town for real." Jason promises. "For now, though, I hope this is okay."

Spinelli is grinning like Jason hasn't seen since two weeks ago when he came barreling into the coffee shop babbling about secrets and surprises of his own. "More than okay, Stone Cold." The younger man answers enthusiastically. "The Jackal cannot believe his eyes. Maximista really went all out for us, did she not?"

Jason nods in agreement and leads Spinelli over to their candle-lit coffee table, where their food awaits them in fancy take-out containers with elegant lettering on the front.

"What would Stone Cold like to watch?" Spinelli inquires, shuffling through the large stack of DVD cases. Most are new releases, but there are some random other titles are mixed in amongst them as well.

"The surprise is for you, so you get to decide." The elder insists, and he tales careful note of the fact that Spinelli foregoes all horror movies and several more violent action flicks before finally settling on one.

"Is Iron Man acceptable?"

Jason hums in silent agreement and slowly makes his way to the kitchen to fetch them as few orange sodas and water bottles – as alcohol is another thing Jason can't have while on the pain medication. The meds are another reason the dinner and movie aspects of Spinelli's original plan are being combined, they tend to make Jason sleepier than he would like to be, and he doubts even the lower dosage is going to significantly lessen that effect.

Spinelli has dimmed the lights and flown through the DVD menu screen by the time Jason returns, offering the younger man a drink as he sits down beside him. AC?DC music makes up the opening title sequence of the movie just before Robert Downey Jr. appears on screen as Tony Stark, and by then Spinelli has burrowed against Jason's chest as much as he can without hurting him, and the two sit in content silence as they enjoy their meal as well as each other's company.

"This is nice." Spinelli comments, his head resting slightly on Jason's shoulder.

"It is." Jason agrees. There's no way he could have kept going if Sonny had taken Spinelli from him. Not a chance in the world.