The Painful Truth by L.M. Brown
A male/male short story
“Shit!” Craig swore and closed his eyes against the renewed pain in his wrist that his sudden movement had caused.
“What is it?” Gregory asked with concern. “Did you knock it again?”
Craig shook his head and cradled his wrist against his chest. “I just realised it’s Saturday.”
“Sunday actually,” Gregory corrected. “It’s nearly one o’clock now.”
“It doesn’t make any difference whether it’s after midnight, Carl’s shift doesn’t finish for hours.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Carl’s working in the X-Ray Department tonight,” Craig explained.
“Well, that’s good, isn’t it? At least you can rest assured your brother knows what he’s doing while he’s checking your wrist.”
Craig scowled. “We need to get our stories straight before I’m sent down to X-Rays.”
“We already told the nurse at Admissions what happened.”
“We told her I fell and that was enough for her, but Carl will want all the details.”
“Yeah, oh. Do you want to be the one to explain what happened?”
“How about we tell him it was a bar fight? It would explain your black eye as well.”
Gregory looked rather panicked and quickly nodded his agreement. “Where do we say we were?”
“Anywhere that isn’t a gay bar.”
“I thought he was okay with you being gay.”
“He is, but I spent months convincing him how great the gay club scene is because of the lack of trouble. It was the only way I could persuade him not to tag along as a chaperone. Can you imagine Carl in a gay bar?”
Gregory scrunched up his nose. “I’d rather not. So, how about we tell him we were at The Square, that place is known for trouble.”
Craig shook his head. “It’s known for ignorant pricks beating on gay men. Carl knows I avoid the place. What about O’Hart’s?”
“Okay. That’ll work. What do we say happened?”
“How about you got jealous when some guy started hitting on me?”
“Since when am I the jealous type?”
“I got jealous of some bloke hitting on you then.”
“And you picked a fight with someone twice your size,” Gregory teased. “My hero.”
Craig’s automatic reaction was to poke Gregory in the gut and he howled when he moved his arm in that direction without thinking.
Gregory wrapped his arms around him and held him close as Craig tried to fight back the tears of pain. Across the waiting area a couple of guys who looked like they really had been in a bar fight smirked in their direction. “Got a problem?” Gregory snarled.
“Queers,” the burly man on the left sneered.
“Well, duh,” Gregory replied. “Tell us something we don’t know or piss off.”
“Don’t,” Craig said as he sat back and put some distance between them. “Just ignore them.”
Gregory pulled Craig back against him and glared across the room. “If you’re going to tell me to ignore them, you need to do the same, which means not moving away from me because they’re staring like we’re some kind of freak show.”
“You are a freak show,” burly called back to them. “So, what really happened to you? Someone decide to teach you a lesson?”
“Fuck off,” Gregory replied.
Craig sighed and nodded to a newly vacated pair of seats across the room near the water cooler. Gregory stood up and let Craig lead the way across the waiting room to claim the seats before someone else did.
“Bloody queers,” one of the men said as they walked away.
Craig sat down while Gregory went to the water cooler only to find there were no cups left. “You thirsty?” he asked. “I think I saw a vending machine on the way in.”
Gregory sat down. “Nah. Unless you want something?”
“I’m okay. How long do you think we’re going to be waiting here?”
“It’s a Saturday night,” Gregory reminded him. “It’s pretty busy so I’m guessing at least another hour, if not longer.”
“Long enough to get our story straight then.”
Gregory closed his eyes and groaned. “So far you’ve flown into a jealous rage in O’Hart’s and what? Swung at the other guy and punched me by mistake?”
“Oooh, yeah. I like that idea. But what about my wrist? It’s not like your face is made of steel.”
“You already told the nurse you’d fallen so just say when you swung you spilt some beer and slipped on it. Keep it simple or he’ll know you’re lying right away.”
Craig nodded his agreement.
* * * *
An hour later they finally made their way into the x-ray room and came face to face with Carl, who looked more than a little annoyed to see his younger brother in front of him. “What the fuck did you do this time?” he asked as he pointed his brother towards the high bench in the centre of the room.
“Got in a bit of trouble in town,” Craig answered vaguely.
“A bit of trouble is finding you missed the last bus, not winding up at A&E at midnight. What happened?”
“Got into a fight.”
“You didn’t go to The Square, did you?” Carl asked. “You know that place is full of arseholes looking for a fight.”
Craig shot Gregory a smug look over his shoulder. “No, not The Square. We went for a quick pint in O’Hart’s.”
Carl looked at his brother’s wrist intently as he carefully guided it in place for the x-ray. “I thought you were staying in this weekend because you were both broke?”
“We won a tenner on the lottery and decided to go out.”
Carl raised a sceptical eyebrow. “You don’t play the lottery.”
“I do sometimes,” Gregory interrupted and Craig gave him a grateful look.
“No wonder you’re both broke all the time. Now, tell me about this fight.”
“Not much to tell really.”
Carl wasn’t buying it. “You’ve got a suspected broken wrist, so try again. Has anyone been arrested?”
“No, it wasn’t that bad.”
“Someone busted your wrist. In my book that’s very bad.”
“I hurt it when I slipped on some beer I’d spilled.”
“Well, that at least sounds more like something you’d do, rather than getting into a fight. That doesn’t explain your boyfriend’s black eye though.”
“I did that.”
Carl sat back and shook his head. “Are you telling me the two of you had a fight? I thought you meant you’d been fighting with other people.”
“We were, sort of.”
“Craig hit me by mistake when he was aiming for someone else,” Gregory interrupted.
“Again, that sounds quite believable for my brother, but would one of you care to explain to me how it is you’re sporting a wonderful shiner while my brother’s knuckles don’t have a mark on them.”
“I must have healed fast,” Craig said.
“And why can’t I smell any alcohol on the pair of you if you’ve spent the night at the pub?”
“We had soft drinks,” Gregory replied.
“Craig just told me he spilt his beer.”
“Now, how about we cut the crap and start again, this time with the truth. What happened?”
Craig looked at Gregory, who looked back silently.
“Some time tonight would be good,” Carl prompted. “I do have other patients to see besides you.”
Gregory gave a small shrug. “It was an accident.”
“What sort of accident?”
Craig leaned his head on his upper arm and buried his face. “Can’t you just x-ray my damn wrist and let us go home?”
“What sort of brother would I be if I did that?”
“One who doesn’t want to embarrass his little brother by asking impertinent questions about his sex life.”
“I never said a word about your sex life, I only asked… oh.” Carl grinned widely. “Ooooh. Well, you can either tell me what happened now, or I’ll ask again over Sunday lunch at Mum and Dad’s. And you know they’ll want to know the whole story. At least if I know the truth I’ll be able to help you cover.”
Craig gave him a dirty look. “You mean you’ll drop dozens of innuendos into the conversation to embarrass me.”
“It was an accident,” Craig said.
“I thought we’d already established that. Care to elaborate?”
“We were… er… you know… doing it.”
“Doing what?” Carl asked with faked confusion.
“You know bloody well what,” Craig snapped.
“I’m not sure I do. I mean, you told me you were at O’Hart’s, so are you telling me you were ‘doing it’ there?”
Craig used his good arm to thump Carl on the shoulder. “Git! You know damn well we were at home.”
Carl chuckled. “Okay, carry on with this tale of woe then.”
“We slipped off the edge of the bed, okay? We were fucking like crazy and didn’t realise we were that close to the edge. Gregory caught his face on the bedside table before falling on top of me, which is when I hurt my wrist.”
“And you couldn’t just tell me that in the first place?” Carl asked. Muttering under his breath, Carl got to work quickly taking the x-rays. When they were done he steered Craig and Gregory towards the door. “See you both tomorrow.”
“You aren’t going to tell Mum and Dad what happened, are you?” Craig asked.
Carl rolled his eyes and sighed. “Craig, you’ve been living with Gregory for six months now. Mum and Dad know you’re a couple and they know you have sex. Does it matter if they know you fell off the bed like the clumsy idiot they already know you are?”
“I guess not.”
“Then get out of here and go get some sleep. I promise I’ll not tease the pair of you at lunch.”
“Well, maybe just a little. But I won’t tell them anything about Gregory here being cuffed.”
Gregory looked down at his own right wrist in horror. Sure enough, just visible beneath his jacket were the handcuffs they had thought he had stuffed out of sight. “Shit!”
Craig wanted the floor to open up and swallow him. “I told you we should have looked for the key before we left the house,” he hissed.
Carl laughed. “Just one thing, little brother… at least get your story straight before you ask Dad to fix whatever piece of furniture Gregory was cuffed to. I’m going to take a shot in the dark and guess it was one of the wooden railings on the headboard.”
“Yeah,” Gregory admitted. “Bloody thing snapped in two right before we fell off the bed.”
“You should have gone for the iron one instead of the cheap alternative,” Carl advised with a wink. “Now, get out of here so I can finish up my shift in peace.”
“Well, that wasn’t so bad,” Gregory said as they walked back towards the waiting area to see the doctor again. “It could have been worse.”
Craig snorted. “Tell me that again after Sunday lunch is out of the way.”
To read all of this week's Silver Shorts please visit the Silver Publishing website here where you can download the collection for free. You can also read the edited/professionally proofread version of this story in the collection since it isn't here at the time of posting.