Rating: NC-17 for language, bloodshed and my very first ever M/M sex scene!
Plot: Challenge–Steve's a hands-on kinda guy, especially during investigations. And if Dave's spoken the words once if he's spoken them a hundred times: "Steve, don't! … You're gonna touch something one day, man, and you're gonna get really, really hurt." What would happen if, God forbid, this actually came to pass?
*Author's Note: The place TAPS is investigating in this story is real and reputed to be haunted.*
Legal stuff: I am doing this for fun. Yes, the people are real, but the events in this story are not. I make no money off this and, being unemployed; have no money for a settlement in court. You can have my bamboo plant if you really want to press the issue.
"This was a movie theater?" Dave Tango stood at the front row of the mezzanine adjusting a camera towards the back balcony.
"Better believe it," the voice of Steve Gonsalves came through the tiny speaker of his radio. "This is why they called them movie palaces. Little more to the left, dude."
TAPS had been called in to investigate the Ohio Theatre in Columbus, Ohio and Tango was having trouble believing the amazingly ornate theatre used to just show movies.
"That chandelier in the middle is better than they got at the Waldorf Astoria in New York City!"
Tango heard Steve's chuckle over the little speaker. "Yeah, it is pretty amazing. You see those chairs in the upper lobby? Okay, that's perfect; lock it in and come on back."
Tango walked slowly back to the van, stopping by the chairs Steve had mentioned. Ornately carved gold armchairs covered with beautifully embroidered flowers. Tango sat on one of the chairs and was surprised to find it rather comfortable. He then turned his attention to the ring of half-naked female statues surrounding the drinking fountain.
"Unbelievable," he muttered as he copped a feel on one of the statues before heading back down to the rest of the crew.
"Okay, here's what we've got," Jason Hawes, TAPS lead investigator told his team. "This place has been around since the late 20's and was used as a movie theatre through the 60's, when they started using it as a live theatre venue. There are rumors of three ghosts. There's a little kid in the basement level, an old woman in the upper balcony and then there's Charlie."
"Charlie?" Tango asked for the benefit of the cameras filming the exchange. Steve had already filled him in on the details.
Grant Wilson, Jason's partner spoke up, "Charlie was the stage manager until he died in the 70's. He's been known to get the elevator for ladies and supposedly once blew out a light bulb when someone questioned his existence."
"Sounds like a matter of coincidental timing to me," Steve said with a shrug.
Tango gave Steve a brief wink as he said, "Yeah. Just good timing, isn't it?"
Jason shrugged, "It could be, but we have to check it out. Besides, it's a gorgeous building anyway, ought to be fun."
"Okay Tango, you and Steve check out the stage area, see if you can find Charlie. Kris, you and Amy take the old woman in the upper balcony – see if Charlie will get the elevator for you too, while you're at it and Grant and I will take the kid in the basement to start with. Okay?"
"You got it," Tango said as he grabbed a digital recorder and headed back into the theatre to start turning the off the lights.
Tango rolled his eyes as Steve roamed through the prop room like a kid in a toy store; trying on a Carmen Miranda fruit-laden hat one minute and tossing a bridal bouquet over his shoulder then next.
When he picked up a jewel-encrusted dagger, Tango spoke up, "Would you quit fooling around? Put that thing down, you're gonna hurt yourself."
"Oh come on, Tango," Steve answered as he pushed on the blade with his finger. "Haven't you ever seen one of these? It's fake. The blade retracts into the handle."
Sure enough, Tango watched the blade slide upwards with the pressure Steve placed on it. He shook his head as he sat down.
"Well, while you're messing around, I'm gonna do some EVP work. Feel free to chime in whenever." Tango took out his digital recorder. "This is Steve and Tango at the Ohio Theatre in the prop room."
Steve grinned as he continued playing with the dagger, occasionally stabbing the table and watching the blade retract and snap back.
Tango rolled his eyes yet again, "Charlie? If you're here, can you let us know? Did you love this theatre so much you didn't want to leave?"
"Can't say I blame you," Steve added as he stabbed himself in the leg with the dagger, laughing as it bounced back. "Do you get the elevator for ladies in the lobby or blow out light bulbs because someone didn't believe you were here?"
"Can you tell my friend here to stop messing with that dagger before he seriously hurts himself?"
"Can you tell my friend to stop being such a worry-wart?" Steve stabbed his other leg to prove his point. "See, Tango? Fake dagger. Not dangerous. Deal with it."
"Man, why do I love you when you gotta be so obnoxious?"
"I'm a great lay," Steve answered with a grin.
"God, I hope there's no EVP caught with that little exchange," Tango snickered. "Can you imagine Jay and Grant's reaction to that? Their reaction to having to play it for the client?"
"We would be SO fired," Steve laughed. "Not the most professional of conversations."
"Meantime, would you PLEASE put that damned knife down? You are seriously making me nervous."
Tango was not sure if he was hearing things when he thought he heard a voice say, "sticks."
"You hear that? I thought I heard something."
Both men froze and listened for a moment. There was silence. Tango looked around, moving the thermal camera around the room, yet not seeing anything in the darkness or on the tiny monitor. After a moment or two more, he shrugged and returned to his seat to find Steve about to stab himself in the chest with the dagger.
"Fake or not, don't even think about it!"
"Oh come on, would you quit worrying?" Steve said as he plunged the dagger into his chest.
"Sticks," the word once again floated across Tango's consciousness and he looked over as Steve pulled the now bloody knife out of his chest.
"Steve?" Tango stood up as Steve looked at him with a shocked expression on his face. "You okay?"
"The blade…stuck," Steve said in a strained whisper. "I…I…"
"Steve!" Tango moved forward to catch Steve as he tumbled headlong out of the chair. As he lowered Steve carefully to the ground, he tossed his cell phone to the cameraman. "Call 911, man! NOW! Toby!" he yelled at the sound man. "There's the fuse box in the back of this room. Get the lights on!"
"Steve?" Tango closed his eyes briefly as the room was suddenly flooded with light. "Come on, man…stay with me."
Steve was gasping for breath, a slight tinge of blue around his mouth. "Can't…breathe…Tango…help me…please…"
"EMT's are on their way," Jack, the cameraman said. "They'll be here in like 3 minutes."
"Toby! Go out front and let 'em in, okay? If you run into Jay or Grant, tell 'em what happened," Tango said in a slightly frantic tone. He then turned back to Steve who was still gasping for breath. He took his sweatshirt off and pressed it against the hole in his lover's chest. All the while muttering, "Ohjesusnoohpleasesjesusnoohgodohgodohpleaseno…"
"Tango?" Steve's voice was high, weak and scared. "Hurts…help?"
"I'm here, man," Tango curled up next to Steve, one hand holding pressure on the wound and the other one carding through Steve's hair and ghosting over his face. "Just hang in there. Paramedics are on their way. Hang in there."
"S-s-sorry," Steve was starting to shiver as he struggled to breathe.
"Sorry for what?" Tango tried to sound upbeat, but it was difficult to speak over the lump in his throat. He blinked rapidly as he felt the tears stinging his eyes. "For not listening to me? Dude, you are gonna get the biggest 'I told you so' when you're better."
"NO! There is no IF here," Tango found himself shouting in his panic. "You ARE going to get better and I AM going to say I told you so. Do you hear me? You are NOT allowed to leave me like this."
Tango threw his hat off and moved his forehead down to touch Steve's, not caring that Jack was filming everything. "Please don't leave me like this," he whispered. "Please…love you…please…"
He allowed himself to be pulled back as the paramedics swarmed the scene. He stood up and watched as one paramedic took a frighteningly large syringe with an even larger needle and inserted it into Steve's chest. Steve jerked briefly and then lay still as the paramedic began pulling air out of the wounded man's chest cavity. The other medic, who had just finished inserting an IV line into Steve's left hand, pulled the now-unconscious man's chin back and carefully inserted an airway.
So intent on the tableau before him that Tango jumped when he felt a large hand on his shoulder. He turned around to see Jason standing there looking at him with a mixture of irritation and fear.
"What the hell happened?"
Tango wiped the tears from his face and tried to collect himself. "Uh…he…well, he was messing with this prop knife. The blade was s'posed to go back into the handle when you stab someone with it…but he…but it stuck and…he stabbed himself…and…I told him to quit messing with it and…oh God…he couldn't breathe and he was scared and I was scared and…and…I gotta sit down or something…"
"Okay, Dave," Jason said in a calming voice. "It's okay, the medics are here and they're taking care of him. Let's just sit down for a minute, okay?"
Tango allowed himself to be led to a chair and pushed gently into it.
"I think Charlie tried to warn me," Tango said. "When Steve was playing with the dagger, I thought I heard a voice say 'sticks.' I told Steve I thought I heard something, but I didn't say what I heard. If I had mentioned…"
"If you had mentioned it, he would've thought you were messing with him to get him to put the knife down," Jason finished for him. "You know that. When Steve decides to be stupid, there's little anyone can do to talk him out of it."
At that point, the paramedics had moved Steve to a stretcher and were starting to move out.
"We'll be taking him to Grant Hospital. It's about five minutes from here. Because of his current condition, we can't take anyone with us, but you can try to follow us if you like."
Tango got up and moved to follow, only to be stopped by Jason. He turned to say something when Jason answered, "We'll get directions from the theatre manager. Go take care of him. We'll be there soon."
"Jay, what the hell?" Tango turned on his boss angrily.
"Dave, calm down," Jason answered. "You know if I let you follow him, you'd just be sitting in the waiting room quietly panicking. Not that you're in any condition to drive, anyway. This way, we'll kill some time cleaning up and you'll have time to collect yourself. It'll be a while before they know anything anyway. "
"No," Jason said firmly. "We'll be done and out of here in an hour or less. Grant and the girls are already clearing stuff out. You need to work off some adrenaline anyway, so start picking shit up."
Tango sighed deeply, knowing that Jason was right, and began collecting their equipment.
"Thanks anyway, Charlie," he muttered quietly as he worked.
He felt a gentle, cold touch on his cheek and knew that he had been heard and answered.
Two hours later, Tango was tucked firmly into a corner of a loveseat in Grant Hospital's surgical waiting room, knees pulled up to his chest, eyes fixed firmly on the door that a doctor was expected to walk through at some point with a progress report.
After two hours of filming the TAPS crew in various states of waiting, Jack and Toby put their stuff down until such time as something interesting happened; only filming the clock every 10 minutes to record the passage of time. That was when Tango noticed…
"Hey, where's Mark and Larry?" he asked, referring to the other cameramen that had accompanied the team to Ohio.
Jack shrugged, "Oh, Larry had an in with the hospital's PR department. They're filming the surgery."
"They're WHAT?" Tango leapt off the couch, eyes wide. "Why the hell are they filming someone being operated on? They can't do that, can they? They wouldn't put that in the show? I mean…I…"
Tango flopped back into the seat, defeated. "What if Steve dies? The last anyone sees of him is the doctors pulling a sheet over his face…"
Grant sat down next to Tango, put a comforting hand on his shoulder and said, "Hey, relax. He's not gonna die. You can't think like that. And we have the final say as to what goes into the show when it comes to something like this."
Jason chimed in, "Yeah. They can't show it without Steve's consent."
"But what if…"
Grant sighed and squeezed Tango's shoulder gently. "What part of 'he's not gonna die' did you not understand? And, worst case scenario, his family would decide."
Tango suddenly sat up, "Oh God! His family! Has anyone called his folks yet?"
As if on cue, Tango's cell phone rang. He pulled it out of his pocket and looked at the caller ID.
"Speak of the devil," he muttered before flipping the phone open to answer it. "Hello?"
"Dave? What's going on? Why did a hospital in Ohio just call me to tell me my son was stabbed?"
"Uh…hi, Mr. Gonsalves," Tango said tentatively, noticing Jack turning the camera on its tripod to face him. "Yeah…um…he's in surgery now."
"Well, what the hell happened? Were you guys attacked or something?"
Tango sighed deeply and tried to think of the most diplomatic way of telling this man that his son was being a careless dumbass.
"No sir. Uh…we were in a theater and he was playing with this prop dagger…the blade was supposed to retract into the handle when he stabbed himself. Well…it kinda stuck and he really stabbed himself."
"Wait…are you telling me that Steve did this to himself?"
"Uh…yes sir. It was an accident. He wasn't expecting the blade to stick like it did."
There was a long pause before an even longer sigh. "Right. I'm gonna call and get tickets for us to come out there. I'll call you when I get the details. You call me as soon as you know anything, okay?"
"Definitely. Um…I guess we'll see you soon."
"Yes, I guess so."
Tango hung up the phone with a sigh. "His folks are coming out here."
Jason nodded. "I'll call the hotel and set up a room for them."
Just then, the door to the waiting room opened and in walked Mark, wearing a set of scrubs and carrying his camera, which was still encased in a sterile wrap. He looked decidedly shaken.
"Mark?" Grant said as both he and Tango rose from the loveseat at the same time. "What's the story, brother?"
Tango took one look at the cameraman's pale face and came to one conclusion, "He's dead, isn't he?"
Mark shook his head. "No, he's alive. But, man…they almost lost him on the table a couple times. It was scary. I mean, I used to do shoots like this for Discovery Channel, but you never realize how different it is when it's your friend on the table instead of a random stranger."
"Where's Larry?" Jason asked.
"He's following up the post-op move to recovery thing. He doesn't know Steve as well, so he wasn't quite as rattled as me. The doc'll probably be in here in another half hour or so to give the official update."
Tango wasn't listening by this point. He was still stuck on 'he's alive,' and that was good enough for now. He fell back onto the loveseat and threw his head back with his eyes closed. Muttering over and over, "He's alive…thank God…he's alive."
It was closer to an hour and a half before a man in scrubs and a lab coat entered. "You're all waiting for information about Mr. Gonsalves?"
The entire TAPS team jumped up and Jason stepped forward, "Yes, I'm Jason Hawes, how's he doing?"
"I'm Dr. Shell, Steve Shell. He's doing alright, all things considered. I understand he stabbed himself with a prop knife?"
"Yeah," Tango answered. "The blade got stuck and didn't retract like it was s'posed to."
Dr. Shell nodded. "I see. Well, he managed to get between his ribs straight into his right lung. If he had hit one of his ribs, probably the worst we'd be looking at would be a few stitches and a tetanus shot."
"But he didn't," Tango said, stepping forward to stand next to Jason. "So, how is he?"
"Well, as I'm sure you're probably aware, his right lung collapsed when he removed the knife. We inserted a chest tube to remove the air from around the lung so it would re-inflate properly. We repaired the lung and stitched him up. We've got him on a respirator while his lung heals."
"Mark was saying you almost lost him on the table?" Grant asked, putting a supportive hand on Tango's shoulder as he did.
Dr. Shell shot a look at the cameraman in scrubs before answering, "It was touch and go for a while, but he's stable now. At the risk of sounding incredibly cliché, the next 48 hours will be critical. We'll be watching for infection, which is his biggest enemy now."
"When can we see him?" Tango asked eagerly.
"Not for a while yet. He's going to be in recovery for several hours yet. Why don't you go on back to your hotel and get some rest. We'll call you if there's any change. By the time you come back tomorrow we'll have him in a room in intensive care and you can see him then."
"But…" Tango started to protest.
"No, Dave," Jason said quietly. "Let's just get some rest. You look ready to drop anyway. The doctor says he's stable and I believe him. On our way out, you can call his dad and fill him in and we'll come back tomorrow."
Tango sighed, wanting to stay, but also wanting to pass out. The thought of an actual bed instead of lumpy loveseat did sound really good. He pulled out his cell phone as he allowed himself to be led to the elevators.
The next day, after a brief visit with Steve, Amy, Kris and most of the camera crew were taken to the airport by Jason as they needed to get home for various other commitments. Mark stayed in Ohio to film any interesting things that may or may not happen. Grant and Tango in the meantime, headed to the hospital.
As they reached the door of hospital room 343, Grant put his hand on Tango's shoulder, "Why don't you go on in and get some one-on-one time with him and I'll get us some coffee?"
Tango gave him a grateful look, "Thanks, man."
As Grant moved off, Tango entered the room slowly, shuddering as he got his first glimpse of Steve since the medics had taken him away.
Steve was barely recognizable as he lay in the narrow hospital bed. There were tubes and wires coming out of various spots on his arms, legs and head. A respirator tube taped to his mouth obscured the handsome features and the tattoos on his arms added a freakish bit of color to the sterile white hospital palate.
Tango sat on a chair next to the bed and gingerly took one of Steve's hands in his own.
"Hey, Steve," he said softly. "I'm here, man. I ain't leavin' until they throw me out."
Steve chose not to answer.
"Your folks are coming in. Jay's pickin' them up at the airport. I think Holly's coming too. Man, if you thought the 'I told you so' I was planning was gonna be bad, just wait 'til your dad gets hold of you. He is NOT a happy camper, dude."
If Steve was worried about this turn of events, it didn't show.
"Man, you gotta get better! You scared the hell outta me last night and you owe me big for that!"
Steve continued to lie quietly.
"I love you," he whispered. "You are not allowed to leave me like this, do you understand me?"
Just then, the hand in Tango's twitched.
The hand twitched again.
"You awake dude?"
Suddenly, the twitching hand became a death grip as Steve violently convulsed on the bed. The respirator alarm shrieked mercilessly while the heart monitor began beeping rapidly.
"Steve?" Tango managed to release his hand as he ran for the door. "Hang on, man; I'll get you some help!"
Just as he got to the door, he was nearly flattened by a nurse who came running in. She took one look at the situation and hit a button on the wall. Almost immediately, a voice rang through the halls, "Crash cart to room 343. Crash cart to room 343."
"What's going on?" Tango asked weakly.
The nurse ignored him as she adjusted the angle of the bed, disconnected the respirator from the airway and replaced it with a bag, which she used to help Steve breathe.
Before he had a chance to say another word, the room filled with medical personnel. Another nurse turned to him and said, "You need to leave. NOW."
Tango just stared with wide eyes. He didn't move. The nurse grabbed him by the arm and pushed him out the door. "You need to wait out there; out of the way."
She gave him a slight smile, and said in a more gentle tone, "We'll take care of him, okay?"
"Yeah," Tango whispered as he moved to the wall opposite the door and sank to the floor, which is how Grant found him a few minutes later.
"Tango? What's goin' on, dude? They giving him a sponge bath or something?" Grant said with a smile as he reached down to hand Tango his coffee. His expression shifted as Tango ignored the cup and looked up at him with a scared expression that made him look like a frightened child. "What's going on? What happened?"
"He…uh…he went into convulsions. They threw me out of the room…I don't know what's going on. I…"
"Oh hell," Grant said as he shifted to sit on the ground next to Tango, he put an arm around the frightened young man and pulled him into a comforting embrace. "I'm sure he's gonna be fine. This is just a minor setback, I'm sure."
Tango grinned ruefully as he leaned on Grant, "Yeah, sure. It's just…I love him so much, man. What do I do if I lose him?"
"You're not going to lose him," Grant answered firmly. "Steve knows better than to try to leave you. You gotta stay positive here."
"I'm trying, but after seein' him convulsing like that…it's hard."
Grant sighed and briefly tightened his hold. The two men then sat and waited.
It was about ten minutes later the door opened and medical personnel began filing out of the room, one of whom was pushing the crash cart. Tango and Grant both stood up and cornered the doctor.
"How is he Dr.," Grant leaned in to read the resident's name tag. "Larsen?"
"He's stable," Larsen said. "This sort of thing sometimes happens in comatose patients. We gave him Valium to stop the convulsions and I've prescribed an anti-seizure medication to be added to his IV to prevent this sort of thing happening again. "It doesn't look like he damaged his stitches, but I'm going to schedule an x-ray to make sure there's no internal damage, but it looks okay so far."
"Thank you," Tango shook the doctor's hand. "Really, thanks a lot."
As the two TAPS team members went to check on the third, Grant said quietly, "I don't think his family needs to worry about this little incident, do you?"
Tango nodded, "Long as it don't happen again, I'll go along with it."
"By the way, did you still want that coffee?"
The next few days passed in a blur of monotonous routine. Tango spent morning until end of visiting hours at Steve's bedside, leaving only to go to the restroom or get something to eat at the hospital cafeteria. He would read the paper to Steve, concentrating on the sports pages, movie reviews and comics. He would talk to Steve, complaining that Columbus was a cow town that rolled up the sidewalks at six every night.
"I mean, I ain't looking for a bar or club here. Is a Starbucks that's open past six too much to ask?" he found himself repeating with annoying frequency.
Steve's parents and sister also spent a lot of time in the room with them; sitting next to and opposite Tango by Steve's bed. They pulled chairs in from unoccupied rooms and made sure to stay out of the way when the nurses came in to take vitals. Mostly they talked about extended family, hometown goings on and how they were gonna kill him when he woke up.
Jason and Grant stopped by frequently as well. Both men had other responsibilities in dealing with Syfy channel bigwigs and Ohio Theatre staff and attorneys, but they spent as much time as possible visiting Steve and, along with Steve's family, giving Tango the moral support he so desperately needed.
Mark also stopped by with some regularity. Partly to visit Steve and partly to change out the tape in the camera that was placed discretely in a corner aimed at capturing the brilliant moment when Steve awoke.
After the third day, Tango couldn't contain his curiosity any more. He looked up at Jason, who had just walked in for his daily visit. "Hey, Jay, why do you suppose they let us ignore the two person visitor limit here? There's always a whole crowd in here, not to mention the camera."
Jason stood for a moment in thought before answering. "Well, I figure it's one or more of the following," he began ticking reasons off on his hand. "One, they're such great fans of our show that they're willing to overlook the visitor rule."
Tango nodded. Three nurses had already been reprimanded for stopping in to ask for his autograph and/or photograph.
"Two," Jason continued. "We behave. We're relatively quiet and can get out of the way quickly if the need arises."
At this, Tango shuddered; remembering how he was thrown out of the room when Steve had his seizure.
"Three, and I think this might be the most likely; we bring donuts for the staff every morning."
Tango grinned. The donuts were from a small bakery on the east side of town that one of the nurses was raving about. Real yeast donuts that were head and shoulders above the Tim Horton's and Dunkin Donuts the crew was used to. Once the donuts started showing up, the hospital staff began overlooking little things like too many visitors in a room.
"Yeah, that's probably it," Tango answered with a grin. "We're gonna have to pick up some of those for us on our way outta town."
"Better believe it," Jason answered. "I tried to snitch one from the staff room and barely escaped with my life."
Tango laughed out loud at that; the image of Jason fleeing in terror from an angry mob of nurses firmly fixed in his head.
"It's good to hear you laugh," Jason said. "I was really starting to worry about you."
Tango sighed. "I know man. Sorry."
"No need to be sorry, but I'll be happy to have the old Dave Tango back again."
"You'll get him back when I get Steve back," Tango answered with a rueful smile.
"That's an improvement," Steve's sister Holly piped up from where she was sitting next to her father.
"How so?" Jason asked.
"He's been saying IF he gets Steve back. He said 'when' this time."
Tango shrugged, "Hey, Doc says he's improving. I'll go with that."
Suddenly, an alarm on the respirator sounded. Tango jumped and turned to Steve on the bed. The alarm was different from the one that sounded when Steve had his seizure, but still; an alarm was an alarm.
Tango was out of his seat in an instant, watching Steve intently, muttering all the while, "Oh Jesus, not again. Please not again."
As he said that, everyone in the room looked at him curiously.
"Not again?" Steve's father asked. "This happened before?"
Before Tango could answer, a nurse entered the room. She was a lot calmer as she took in the situation. She shut off the alarm and leaned down to look at Steve intently.
"What's goin' on?" Tango asked worriedly. "He having trouble breathing? Why aren't you doing anything?"
The nurse ignored him and began speaking to Steve. "Mr. Gonsalves? It's okay. You're okay. You're on a respirator. Don't worry, just relax as best you can and let the machine do the work, okay?"
"He's awake?" Jason asked incredulously.
"He's coming out of it," the nurse answered quietly. "He's not completely awake yet, but he's starting to move, which is what set off the alarm on the respirator. I need everyone to leave now. We're going to see about getting him off the machine, but we can't have him getting excited by a whole crowd. It's bad enough waking up with a tube down your throat and the more excited he gets, the harder it's going to be getting it out without hurting him."
"Why would it hurt him?" Tango asked as the others began to file out of the room.
"Most people tend to panic when they wake up with a respirator shoved down their throats. They're usually disoriented and frightened and will sometimes struggle against both us and the machine."
Just then, the respirator alarm sounded again and Tango noticed Steve's eyes were open. He leaned into Steve's field of vision. "Hey, Steve, it's okay man. I'm right here. You're gonna be fine, but you gotta relax here."
Silent tears rolled down Steve's face and Tango gently brushed them away. Steve was starting to struggle against the rhythm set up by the machine. "You gotta relax, man. I'm here and I ain't leaving. Just relax and don't fight it. You're gonna be fine. They're getting the doctor to get that thing outta your throat. The more you fight, the harder it's gonna be. Come on, relax. Just relax, I'm here. It's okay."
Tango continued the litany of calming words, using a tone often reserved to calm an angry dog. He was doing his level best to keep the panic out of his voice, knowing that it would upset Steve even more than he was already.
Steve was still struggling against the machine when the doctor entered and leaned into his field of vision. "Okay, Mr. Gonsalves, I'm going to get this thing out of your throat, how does that sound?"
Without waiting for a response, he said, "Okay, this is going to be a bit uncomfortable, but I need you to cough as hard as you can."
Steve did as he was told and the offending tube was pulled from his throat. Steve gasped once, took an experimental breath and then sighed in relief.
"I'm sure that feels better, doesn't it, Mr. Gonsalves?" Dr. Larsen asked.
"You have no idea," Steve croaked in a raspy whisper.
"Your throat's probably pretty sore after having that tube down your throat for the last four days. We'll get you some ice chips to help with that."
"Four days?" Steve rasped.
"Yeah," Tango answered as he brushed the hair back from Steve's forehead. "You've been unconscious for four days. And if you EVER, and I do mean EVER do anything that stupid again, I'll kill you myself, understand?"
Steve had the grace to look chastised, "Sorry man."
"Not as sorry as you're gonna be. You're parents are here. They are NOT happy with you right now."
Steve just groaned.
"And Holly has also promised to rip you a new one if there's anything left after your folks get done with you."
"Holly's here too?" Steve whispered in a pained voice.
Tango nodded just as a nurse came in with a cup of ice chips and a spoon.
After accepting a few spoonfuls of ice, Steve laid his head back and closed his eyes.
"You get some sleep, okay?" Tango said gently. "I'm gonna go let everyone know what's going on, okay?"
"'Kay," Steve said softly. "Love you."
"Love you too," Tango answered with a grin as he quietly left the room.
"He was awake for a couple minutes," Tango said to the small group gathered in the hallway. "They took the tube outta his throat and he went back to sleep."
"So he's breathing on his own?" Jason asked anxiously.
"Yeah, I think he's gonna be okay," Tango said with a smile. "He seemed to know what was goin' on. He ain't looking forward to you guys beating him up for this."
"Well, he should've thought of that before he went and did something so ridiculously bone-headed," Holly answered. "I say he deserves it."
"I ain't disagreeing with you," Tango said with an even wider grin. "I already told him if he ever did anything so stupid again, I'd kill him myself."
"You'd have to get in line," Steve's dad said grimly. "By the way, what did you mean in there when you said, 'not again'? What happened before?"
Tango's grin faded. He realized trying to keep a Steve's seizure a secret might have been harder than he thought. He took a deep breath and told everyone what had happened just a few days before. He heard his own voice shaking as he described Steve convulsing on the bed; muscles pulled so tightly that bones should've snapped under the pressure. The shriek of the ventilator alarm and being thrown out of the room while the medical staff worked frantically at stopping the seizure before it became fatal.
By the time he finished his recital, Steve's mother was sniffling softly and his father and sister were staring in horrified fascination. Jason had put a supportive hand on Tango's shoulder as he realized what a toll it had taken on the younger man to recall such a horrific scene.
"Why the hell didn't you tell us about this?" Steve's father demanded.
"Uh, we didn't want to upset you guys any more than you already were," Tango answered quietly, eyes firmly fixed on his shoes.
"Uh, yeah, Grant was here too."
"Grant didn't mention it to me," Jason said in an annoyed voice. "Where was I when all this went down?"
"You were takin' the rest of the guys to the airport," Tango answered, still fascinated by his sneakers. "I guess he didn't wanna worry you either."
"Yeah, well, I think Grant and I are gonna have a little talk," Jason said crossly.
"Talk about what?" Grant said as he walked up to the group. "And why are we all standing in the hallway? Steve okay?"
"Yeah," Jason said. "He woke up and they took him off the respirator. He didn't have a seizure this time."
"Uh…you heard about that?" Grant asked with a guilty start.
"Yeah," Jason said with a glare at his partner. "Respirator alarm went off when he woke up and…"
"…and I panicked," Tango finished with a shamefaced grin. "Sorry, man."
Grant chuckled ruefully as he briefly put a brotherly arm around Tango's shoulders. "Understandable. Look, it happened and he came through fine. We just didn't want to worry anyone about something that wasn't gonna be an issue in the long run."
Steve's dad looked annoyed at this. "I don't appreciate the fact that you didn't tell me everything about Steve's condition. I realize you were trying to protect us, but when it comes to my son, I'd like to know exactly what's going on."
"Oh, good, you're all here," Dr. Larsen approached the group.
"How is he?" Holly asked.
"Overall, he's not doing too badly," Larsen said, shoving his hands into his lab coat pockets. "He does have a slight fever, but I've prescribed antibiotics to take care of that. As I'm sure you're aware, we've taken him off the respirator, but we're going to leave the chest tube in for a few more days until we're sure the lung isn't going to collapse again."
Tango felt hope well up in his heart. "So, he's gonna be okay?"
Larsen shrugged as he said, "Well, there's still plenty that could happen, but I'm cautiously optimistic about his chances. He's young, strong and healthy otherwise. He's obviously got a great support system in you all as well. At this point, there's more in his favor than against."
"Well, there might not be by the time we're done with him," Holly said, hands on her hips as she glared at her brother's hospital room door.
Larsen chuckled at that. "Well, if you're going to beat him up for doing something so stupid as to stab himself, don't do it on my shift, huh?"
"I suppose we can wait until he's up and around," Jason answered. "Give him a bit of a head start?"
After debating for a few moments the merits of giving Steve a head start versus holding him down to be wailed upon, the group gave up and asked directions to the nearest restaurant that didn't close at six with the rest of Downtown Columbus for a celebration of epic proportions. In terms of punishing Steve for being stupid, the fact that he couldn't attend the party in his honor made it that much better.
A week later found Steve, sans chest tube, sitting up in bed with Tango curled up in a chair with the local paper's crossword puzzle.
"Hey dude, what's a 5-letter word for 'poltergeist'?"
Steve looked at him as though he had grown another head. "You're kidding, right?"
"What?" Tango looked at him with a confused expression before it dawned on him and he wrote G-H-O-S-T in the relevant blanks. "Okay, I'm taking that as proof I haven't had enough sleep lately."
Steve chuckled, "Well, because I was the cause for your lack of sleep, I shall be magnanimous and not rag you for missing a clue that any three year-old with half a brain could've gotten."
"You're too kind," Tango said with a rather large hint of sarcasm.
Before Steve could respond, a nurse's aide entered with the lunch tray. As she left, Tango grabbed the menu card and without looking at it, put it face-down on the counter next to the window.
"Ready?" he asked as he reached for the lid. "As always, pre-packaged, labeled food don't count."
"Ready," Steve answered with a slight grimace. "Go!"
Tango lifted the lid and the game of 'What's For Lunch?' began.
"Uh…is that roast beef?"
"Looks like Salisbury steak to me…with that gravy."
"You've got a point. Maybe pot roast? A pork chop?"
"I vote Salisbury Steak. What's that stuff next to it? Looks like mashed potatoes to me."
"Okay, I'll agree with that one. What about the vegetable? I think green beans."
"Could be peas."
"Hmm…okay, now I'm not sure. I'll go with an either/or situation on that one."
"Agreed. And of course, we have the chocolate pudding cup and can of 7-Up to round out today's selection."
"Okay, let's see what's for lunch!"
Tango went over and retrieved the menu card. He spent several moments looking between the tray and card and feeling very bewildered.
"Well?" Steve asked impatiently. "What did they give me?"
"Uh," Slightly nauseous, Tango said weakly, "According to this, it's grilled chicken with 'home-style'," at the phrase home-style, Tango made quote marks in the air with his fingers. "Gravy."
"You're fucking kidding!" Steve exclaimed in a surprised tone. "No way is that chicken!"
"It gets better. That's creamed corn and broccoli." Tango pointed to the white and green mounds on the tray respectively.
"That's it, I am NOT eating that!" Steve's voice then took on a whining quality that reminded Tango of a five year old asking for a puppy. "If you love me at all, you'll go downstairs to that Wendy's on the first floor and get me a double cheeseburger."
"You're lucky I do love you and that you're on an unrestricted diet," Tango said as he leaned in for a quick kiss. "I'll be back in a few."
"You're a prince among men," Steve called after him.
Tango made his way towards Steve's room with a bag of wonderful-smelling food and a drinks tray holding two small Frosties. As he got to the door, he heard angry voices coming from within the room. He identified Jason and Grant's voices as well as Steve's. He paused to eavesdrop.
"What the flying fuck were you thinking?" Jason yelled. "Do you know how much footage I've seen in the past few years with Tango telling you to quit touching stuff? And yet you still do and this time it almost cost your life!"
"Jay, man, I'm sorry," Steve said. "What do you want me to say? I fucked up. Believe me, I taught myself a lesson."
"I would think so," Grant said. "Because of your stupidity, you're gonna have to miss the next two or three investigations at least. Man, I don't care how popular you are with the fans of our show, you're not indispensible. You do anything this freakin' stupid again, you're gone."
Tango had to restrain himself from going in and hitting Grant; knowing Steve needed this whether he liked it or not. He took a deep breath and continued to listen.
"Grant, come on dude. You can't mean that," Steve's voice had a slightly panicked edge to it.
"He does," Jason answered for him. "And so do I. TAPS existed long before the Syfy show and it will continue long after – with or without you."
"I am sorry," Steve said quietly. "You have no idea how much."
"Me too," Jason said in a disappointed tone. "I'm not gonna make you promise never to do something like that again. I know you won't be able to keep it. You'll continue to touch stuff you shouldn't and Tango will continue to tell you to stop. Could you at least avoid touching the dangerous stuff?"
"It was a fake dagger!"
"What Jay means," Grant said in an amusedly annoyed tone. "Avoid the things with pointy edges, huh?"
Steve chuckled ruefully, "yeah, sure."
Sensing the chewing-out session was at an end, Tango bounded into the room with a grin. "Lunch! Oh, hey guys. How's it going?"
"Hey," Grant said with a wave.
"You doin' okay Dave?" Jason asked.
"Never better, man," Tango answered, not letting on that he had heard them yelling.
"Wendy's?" Grant asked as he lifted the lid of the hospital food tray. "You allowed that sort of thing, Steve? You don't want this…um…Salisbury steak?"
"It's chicken," Steve answered. "And yes, I am allowed. A Frosty? Dave Tango, you are a wonderful human being."
"Chicken? You sure?"
"That's what the menu thingy said," Steve said as he reached eagerly into the white bag Tango had handed him. "Only a small fry? You want me to starve to death or what?"
"Hey, you're lucky you got fries at all. I could've left you with the creamed corn and broccoli."
Grant looked at the lunch tray again with a confused look on his face. Tango was amused as he saw both Jason and Grant look at each other and then back to the stuff pretending to be food on the bedside table. Grant picked up a fork and poked tentatively at the corn. When it didn't poke back, he moved on to the broccoli. He tossed it around gently in its compartment on the tray. It steadfastly refused to look like broccoli. Jason then picked up a knife, took the fork from Grant and, with considerable difficulty, cut into the leathery mystery meat. The two men exchanged surprised looks when the white meat of a chicken breast was revealed.
"Disgusting, isn't it?" Steve asked with his mouth full.
"So is talking with your mouth full," Tango said as he shoved a spoonful of Frosty into his mouth.
Steve very maturely opened his mouth to show Tango what a half-chewed cheeseburger looked like. Tango rolled his eyes and dabbed Steve's nose with a bit of chocolate Frosty.
"Children," Grant said with a strong fatherly tone as he moved to derail the food fight that was brewing. "Let's behave a bit, huh?"
"Yeah," Jason said. "You don't want to piss off the people who have to clean up after you. Remember they can make the rest of your stay here very unpleasant."
Tango chuckled as Steve shivered. "Yeah, he asked a nurse when her baby was due."
Grant grinned, "Let me guess, she wasn't pregnant?"
"Nope," Steve answered. "I was just trying to make conversation! She didn't HAVE to use ice water for the sponge bath!"
The other three men in the room laughed out loud while Steve harrumphed and went back to eating his lunch.
"Tonight on Ghost Hunters: The TAPS team travels to Columbus, Ohio to investigate a historic former movie theatre where the late stage manager never left. And one team member may not survive the encounter."
Tango reached for the remote as a clip of him yelling "Call 911, man! NOW!" played before the opening credits of the show began.
"Hey, I was watching that!" Steve exclaimed as the TV was turned off.
"Well, I don't wanna watch it," Tango responded, knowing he wouldn't be able to watch the show without completely losing it.
"Oh come on," Steve said as he grabbed for the remote. "You know it has a happy ending. Besides, I haven't seen any of it."
"You were lucky. You slept through it," Tango answered, remembering everything that he didn't sleep through. "Look, if you're so determined to watch it, go ahead. You probably should see it. I just can't watch it again, okay? I'll be in the other room."
Tango was aware of Steve's eyes on his back as he retreated to the bedroom. He heard Steve turn the TV back on just as the bedroom door snapped shut. He turned on the stereo with the volume low – just loud enough to drown out the show playing in the next room. Then he changed into a pair of ratty, grey sweats and a black TAPS t-shirt, curled up on the bed and did his best not to think about the Ohio Theatre.
An hour later, a very subdued Steve Gonsalves entered the bedroom and immediately spooned up behind Tango on the bed. Tango felt something break inside him and moved so that he was laying in Steve's arms with his head on his chest. He felt Steve shaking slightly beneath him and felt the slight sting of tears in his eyes.
"I had no idea," Steve whispered. "Dave, I am so sorry for putting you through that."
Tango wiped the tears before they could fall and asked, "How much did they show?"
Steve chuckled ruefully and said, "Let's put it this way, if it were a scripted show, this is what they would call 'a very special episode'. I think the whole investigation and reveal took maybe 20 minutes of the show – if that."
"And how much of the other stuff did they show?"
Steve tightened his hold on Tango as he said, "more than enough. I've seen people have seizures before. I don't think I really needed to see myself have one."
"Oh God," Tango buried his face in Steve's chest. "I don't think I've ever been so scared like I was when you convulsed like that."
"I know," Steve said as he stroked Tango's back gently. "They seriously played up the 'bromance' angle of our relationship and really stressed your reaction to stuff. I actually hurt for you while watching that."
"I bet our fan mail gets interesting over the next couple weeks," Tango said with a chuckle as he moved to divest Steve of his t-shirt.
"I'm sure it will," Steve said as he assisted Tango with the removal of his shirt.
Tango ran his hands over the planes of Steve's chest, lingering gently over the still-fresh scar. Steve moaned softly as Tango's lips followed his hands. Tango sighed softly as he felt Steve's hands caressing his back through his t-shirt. He sat up, removed his t-shirt and with his sexiest grin swung a leg over Steve's hips. In this new position, he leaned down skin against skin and kissed Steve; a hot, hungry kiss that showed his lover just how happy he was to still have him in his life and how much he wanted him right at that moment.
Before he knew what was happening, Tango found himself on his back with Steve removing his sweatpants for him. Never one to take without giving, he reached up to undo the fastenings of Steve's jeans.
Once both men were naked, Tango moaned loudly as Steve's hot mouth descended upon him. He reached down and put his hands on Steve's head to guide him as he tried to thrust up into the wet heat surrounding him. Steve pulled back slightly and moved his hands to hold Tango's hips firmly on the bed, while he continued to perform magic with his talented mouth and tongue.
Tango was lost in a sea of pleasure as Steve fellated him. He moaned as Steve did that thing with his tongue that…oh God…he was going to come. But this wasn't the way he wanted it. Before he passed the point of no return, he reluctantly pulled Steve off and up to his mouth for a searing kiss, tasting himself in his lover's mouth.
"Want you," Tango murmured between kisses. "Need to feel you in me."
"God," Steve groaned as he rolled off Tango in search of lube in the nightstand. As he pulled the tube of KY from the drawer, he said breathlessly, "roll over."
Tango shook his head. "No. This way. I want to see you. Love you. Need to see…please."
Steve nodded and moved up the bed to grab a pillow that he put under the younger man's hips. Tango cried out as the first finger penetrated him.
"Good," he moaned as Steve added a second finger. "So good."
By the time Steve was up to three fingers, Tango was nearly incoherent. It was almost too much.
"Now, I need you in me now!" he gasped.
Steve removed his hand and positioned himself, pulling Tango's legs up over his arms. He slowly entered him, inch by inch until he was all the way in.
"Love you," Steve muttered as he pulled almost all the way out and thrust back in and the dance began.
A rhythm was quickly established and Tango was in heaven as Steve angled himself to hit his sweet spot on every thrust. It was too good. Tango wanted it to last forever, but couldn't wait for the end. He felt his orgasm approaching and didn't fight it this time. He let it wash over him like a tidal wave, screaming out his ecstasy and gasping for air as it seemed to go on forever. Somewhere far away, he thought he heard a moan to answer him.
Gradually, Tango returned to awareness with the feel of Steve collapsed on top of him; breath hot on his neck. He put his arms around the man who meant so much to him and gently stroked his back. Eventually, Steve rolled off of him and took him in his arms.
"I love you," Tango whispered.
"Love you too," Steve slurred, already sliding into sleep.
"But if you ever do anything as stupid as you did in Ohio, I will kill you." Tango said as he gently kissed Steve's chest before allowing sleep to claim him as well.