He filled his hand with the clear gel, and then rubbed it up and down his crack. Pressing against his hole with each pass, he started moaning from the sensations.
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19 | Part 20 | Part 21 | Part 22 | Part 23 | Part 24
Josh eased his eyes open until a slit of light was shimmering through them. He wasn’t sure where he was or what was going on. He felt surrounded by a heavy fog. Was he dead? Was this heaven? If it was, his parents were going to shit a brick, because Josh should be headed the other way according to them. He chuckled and in his ears it sounded like gravel being poured out of an old tin bucket. But it did serve to clear some of the haze from his mind.
Josh forced open his eyes again and saw a hazy shape at the side of his bed. “Darrin?”
Josh heard happy voices in the distance. He realized his mouth was dry when he tried to moisten his tongue, and it stuck to his lips. “Thirsty.”
Almost instantly, Josh felt a spoon pressed against his lips. He eased open his mouth and felt a few kernels of ice fall inside. Josh enjoyed the sensation of the cold liquid melting like few things before. He swallowed, feeling the cool liquid slide down his throat. Josh rested a few moments then the whole action was repeated again. He stared at Darrin as he gave him spoon after spoon of ice chips.
Josh woke with the room in the dim of early evening. His eyes still closed he heard a soft murmur of conversation and tried to focus on it. After a few moments, he was able to pull together the conversation he was overhearing.
“How bad are his breaks?”
“The doctor said the left leg was broken in a couple of places. They pinned it together, and his right ankle was smashed up pretty good, but they said he’d be back to one hundred percent in a few months. The arm wasn’t as bad, but It’s going to be six months of physical therapy at least. He’s going to need someone with him all the time for the next couple of months at minimum.”
“Yeah, but he might not want me around.”
“It’s been hard on him. I think your stunt about killed him.”
“I know. I fucked up, again.”
“I don’t know that he’ll ever forgive you.”
Poor bastard, he sounds like he’s in bad shape – thought Josh as he drifted back asleep.
“When will they let him out?” asked Trent.
“The doc thinks tomorrow. They wanted to make sure there were no lasting effects from the concussion. That section of roof hit him pretty hard.” Mitch smiled slightly. “But not so much that he hasn’t already been quizzing us about how all the animals were. He was glad to hear that they were OK.”
“I’m glad he was at least doing that, but what happens after he’s released?”
“We take him home. I’ve already made arrangements for an ambulance to bring him to the house.”
“He knows he’s going to need help?”
“Yeah, we’ve talked about it, and he’s not happy about any of it. You know how he is about his privacy. We’ll get a hospital bed to make it easier, but taking care of Josh isn’t going to be fun.” A frown settled onto Mitch’s face.
Trent chuckled, “Yeah, I don’t think he’s going to deal with a bedpan very well. He still was closing the door to take a dump when we were together.”
“Ah crap, I hadn’t even thought of that.”
“I’ll take care of him,” said Trent.
“He doesn’t trust you. He may not want you anywhere close to him.”
“He’s not going to have a choice. Darrin is still teaching, and you need to run the ranch.”
“What’s he not going to have a choice about?” came a gravelly voice from the bed.
Mitch walked beside Josh’s bed and rubbed his hand over one of the few spots that wasn’t black and blue, or covered with tubes and wires. “You’re going to need some help for awhile, Josh. We were just talking about who was going to stay with you.”
“You or Darrin?”
“No. Trent’s here and he’s willing to stay with you.”
Josh tried to lunge off the bed, but screamed in pain as he moved parts of his body that had lost a battle with a barn roof. With a groan, he settled back into the bed and tried to look around.
“Where?” said Josh.
“I’m right here, Josh.”
“Come on, Josh. Just let me help you.”
“Get away from me! Get out! I hate you! Goddamn it! Get out!” Josh collapsed onto the bed and groaned.
Mitch ushered Trent into the hallway. He could see the warring emotions and furtive eyes on the man’s face. “Decide now, and I mean it. Either leave Josh for good, or decide it’s worth the fight. I’m going back in and will try to calm him down. But so help me god, I’ll kick your ass if you hurt him any more. He never got over you leaving.”
Trent nodded and stood without saying a word. Mitch watched him for a minute and then walked back into the room.
“Get out! I said get out!”
“Josh. It’s Mitch.”
Mitch could see Josh shaking from the stress, his body having just healed enough for him to regain consciousness. But Mitch knew they had to find someone to take care of Josh; he and Darrin just couldn’t do it. He was going to need around the clock care for the next month or so, and help even afterward. As many broken bones as he had would not heal quickly, even with all the screws and pins they put into Josh. Mitch sat on the edge of the bed to talk with him.
“Josh, you know someone is going to need to take care of you. Pretty much full time for the next few months.”
“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me.”
Mitch almost laughed, there were limits to how macho even he was willing to be. In his book, multiple broken bones meant you were out of business for a while. He vividly remembered his fall down the creek embankment, and how fortunate he had been to have Darrin to care for him. How do I explain to a broken-hearted boy that the best person to take care of him, is the person who broke his heart? Yeah, that shouldn’t be a problem at all. Mitch shook his head.
“Josh, do you want a twenty-four-seven nurse? You can’t do anything without help right now.” Mitch caught Josh’s eyes with his own and held them. “Not anything…”
Josh started to argue, and then looked around. Most of his body was either in braces, casts or was stitched and under traction. He knew he was shy, and didn’t want some strange woman, or man, helping him take care of the most personal things. He hated Trent right now. But it wasn’t like Trent hadn’t seen everything he had already. Somewhere deep inside, Josh was a little happy that Trent would be dealing with the nastiest job Josh could imagine – his bedpan.
“We’re never going to be together again. Never! I don’t even want to be friends with him. But I guess he’d be better than some stranger helping me take a crap.”
Mitch chuckled and shook his head, knowing that Josh was considering part of the unpleasant tasks Trent would be doing to be vengeance. He refocused on Josh as he turned with a hard look at Mitch.
“What’s to keep him running again? Cause this sure isn’t going to be fun for either of us. And I have no intention of being nice to him.”
“I told him if he ran again I’d hunt him down this time, and he wouldn’t like the results,” said Mitch as he crossed his arms over his chest.
Josh laid his arm across his face, covering his eyes as he let out a long breath. “Make sure you do.”
Trent heard the bell ringing again and gritted his teeth. He knew Josh would be mad at him, but Trent didn’t realize he really hated him. He thought it would get better, but Josh was becoming meaner, and less like the person he loved, with each passing day. Trent understood Josh was being vengeful, but he hoped it would get better at some point. As he picked up Josh’s tray, the bell started pealing again, and his name was screeched from the other room.
“I’m coming, Josh.”
Trent walked toward the room, with hesitation at first but then with renewed vigor. At least he was back at the ranch. His belief that he was somehow the cause of all the problems around him obviously wasn’t correct. Leaving had not kept this disaster from hitting the ranch and hurting his family. His mind was still running through his ill-conceived beliefs when he walked through the door, and a thrown metal bell barely missed his head.
“You know, if you kill me Mitch promised to get you the biggest, meanest nurse that he could find to take care of you – and her name will be Brunhilda!”
“Damn it! Don’t fuck with me. I hate this, I hate you, and I hate being helpless,” screamed Josh.
“You know, I love you.”
Josh froze in mid-tirade, stopped as he prepared to go into yet another infantile rant. Trent watched him pause for several long seconds and then explode in new levels of hysteria.
“No! Fuck’n No! You don’t get to say that! Never! I. Hate. You!”
Trent sat the tray down with a sigh. “No, you don’t hate me. You probably do hate what I did, and I can’t really blame you for that. But I don’t really think you hate me; otherwise Brunhilda would look good compared to me. I made a mistake, based on my life so far. I was wrong, and I don’t blame you for being angry.”
“Angry? Angry! Angry doesn’t touch it! It felt like you ripped out my heart. I’m furious, I’m incendiary, I’m about to go super nova. You made me hurt worse than anyone ever before, even my crazy parents who tried to beat me to death. That’s how much you hurt me!” screeched Josh.
Trent looked down, tears starting to flow. When he looked back at Josh, they continued to run down his face. “I thought about you the whole time I was gone. I wanted to call a hundred times. I stood in front of a pay phone almost every day and wanted to call and beg you to take me back.”
“And how many guys did you fuck while you were gone? I’m sure you were on your knees again as soon as you were away from here.” Josh lashed out in his pain.
Trent paused and took a deep breath, telling himself Josh was just trying to hurt him because he was hurting.
“No one, Josh. I didn’t turn tricks. Not once.”
Josh wiped his face with his arm and seemed to calm a little. “Why not?”
“I’d saved money from here. And I was working the midnight shift at a convenience store when I found out about the tornado.”
“Why’d you come back?”
“Because I thought I was needed, because I was afraid one of you were hurt, because that damn Indian was right, this is the only place I feel right in my own skin.”
“Yeah, he told me once that this country gets into you and then you can’t live anywhere else. I told him it was redman mumbo jumbo, but I guess he was right.”
Josh smiled for the first time Trent could remember since he’d come back. “He does have a disturbing tendency to be right doesn’t he?”
Trent wiped his face with his hand, and smiled at Josh. “So are you going to stop busting my balls?”
“Hell no! I’m fuck’n helpless, I poop in a pan, and I’m itching like crazy under these damn casts,” said Josh with a note of melodrama in his voice.
“Well since I’m the one taking care of the pan, and cleaning your butt, let’s at least try to be friends. OK?” said Trent.
“OK, we can work on friends. But I don’t know if it can ever be more than that.”
“I’ll take it. If it just keeps bells from being chunked at me, it’ll be an improvement.”
“At least I’m a bad shot.”
“Well, there is that.”
Darrin walked onto the porch and stood beside Mitch. He looked at the concrete slabs where a little more than a month ago had been a complex of buildings and barns. Most of their equipment had been strewn over a ten-square-mile area and in pieces that were barely recognizable. The insurance would eventually replace most of it, but it would take months.
They had been fortunate that most of what had been destroyed was insured, but not everything. They were on the list with several contractors, but there was a lot of damage in the area, and it wasn’t going to be repaired in a day, or even a handful of months. He rested his hand on Mitch’s shoulder.
“It’s going to be fine. Josh was the only one with serious injuries, and all of the animals got through it without a scratch. I’m glad they finally got all the debris hauled away though. Piles of our barns everywhere was kind of depressing,” said Darrin.
“Anne came by,” said Mitch without a prelude.
“Yup, she’s getting out of ranching, says she’s too old. Doug doesn’t want to expand. After the divorce, he hasn’t wanted to do much.”
“OK, what does that mean to us?”
“She’s offering to sell to us. We can even rent for a few years first if we want.”
“Oh. Crap,” said Darrin, shocked with the revelation.
“She’s selling the house with it,” said Mitch, as a smile tugged at his lips.
“But I like this house.”
“Not for us, for Josh and Trent.”
“Babe, I think that’s a lost cause.”
“They had a talk today. Well more like Josh screamed, and Trent worked on not being too insulted.”
“They’re going to try to be friends. It helped when Trent told Josh that he hadn’t been working the oldest profession again.”
“I had wondered, but I figured it wasn’t my business,” said Darrin.
“Yeah, me too,” said Mitch. “But anyway, the boys could live in Anne’s house. I think Josh would especially appreciate it.”
Mitch looked at him with a puzzled expression for a few seconds and then understanding spread across his face. “I forgot, you’ve never been there. Her house is built into a hill, the whole house is basically a tornado shelter.”
“Oh,” said Darrin, his eyebrows shooting almost to his hairline.
“Come on, you need to do ten more,” said Trent.
“I don’t care! I’m tired, and I’ve done enough of the stupid exercises for one day. I’m sore already.”
“The physical therapist said if you want your full range of motion back that you needed to do these exercises. Come on Josh, just do the last few.” Trent pleaded.
He’s still here, thought Josh. That’s saying something. I know I’ve been hard to live with these last months. Even though now I can waddle into the bathroom, Trent is still sleeping on a cot in the room with me in case I need something. We’ve had a couple of arguments, but the last ones were just because I’m in such a foul mood.
“Come on. Do the last exercises and I’ll drive you to Sonic.”
“I don’t like Sonic,” said Josh sullenly.
Trent chuckled. “I know you’re lying when you tell me you don’t like Sonic. You are addicted.”
Josh stared at Trent, looking sullen before finally shaking his head and one side of his mouth flicking up. “OK, but I need onion rings, and I want to take a bath before I go and soak for about an hour.”
“Deal, they said you could take a bath now. All the incisions are healed, and your casts are off.”
“Fine, what’s the next of these god-forsaken exercises?”
Trent looked down at the paper, more to hide his smile than anything else. Josh was getting back to his old self. A cranky version, but most of that was directed at his injuries, not at Trent.
“How are things going at home?” asked Emma.
Darrin leaned back in his chair as she walked in his office. He looked at Emma and withheld his first, waspish, response. She had been so supportive of his family, all of his family, and he knew it was from genuine concern that she asked. But his submission for tenure was due in a little more than a month. This was the make it or break it point for Darrin’s career, and the stress was starting to get to him. He let out a long breath and calmed himself.
“As good as can be expected. Josh is still doing PT, but he’s back in his classes with Trent’s help. Mitch is making do without half the equipment we had last year, and a ranch bordering ours is going on the market. The owner wants to know if we’re interested in buying it.
And I’m having a meltdown trying to get my tenure packet together.
Otherwise things are great.”
Emma sat there for several moments, the silence building. She then started to chuckle. “So it’s pretty much normal?”
Darrin thought about his litany of problems, and realized she was right. He chuckled and shook his head. “Yes, I guess you’re right. There’s always some crisis between the four of us.”
“So Josh is being a typical guy and being bitchy when he isn’t healing instantly. Nothing new there. Men are so high-maintenance,” said Emma, “So tell me about this additional acreage.”
“It’s Anne’s, the woman who was at Mitch’s birthday party, she’s retiring from ranching, and her son has all the land he wants to deal with already. She’s moving into a trailer next to his house, so she’s selling the home place too. Mitch is thinking it could be Trent and Josh’s house instead of rebuilding the little house we had.”
“So the boys are back together?”
“Not exactly, but apparently Josh has stopped screaming how much he hates Trent.”
“Hate, love, it’s such a fine line sometimes,” said Emma with a grin.
“Well, Josh was devastated when Trent left.”
“I know, I remember. I guess I shouldn’t joke. But it sounds like their relationship is on the mend.”
“Mitch seems to think so too. I hope the two of you are right. They seemed like such a great couple, and I hope Trent is over his issues now.”
“The problems Trent has may be there his whole life. It would be a positive step if he’s at the point where he doesn’t run when things seem to be going badly.”
Darrin shook his head, his mouth puckered as if he’d just eaten something sour. “I suppose you’re right. I just hate to see them go through all the peaks and valleys of a relationship.”
“You mean like the rest of us?”
Darrin chuckled and then shrugged. “OK, OK. I give up. No relationship is perfect. Lord knows Mitch and I have had a few rough spots.”
“Everyone does, and sometimes the relationship ends because of the problems. But more times than not, working out the issue makes the relationship bond stronger.”
Darrin threw up his hands in surrender. “OK. You’re right.” Darrin cocked his eyebrow at the woman. “How about my tenure packet?”
Emma grinned at Darrin. “If you’re asking someone to proof it, I’m your Girl Friday.”
Darrin smiled back at his friend and then started showing her everything he had at this point.
Trent sat on the bench and ran his boots through the worn spot in the soil below him. He contemplated the whirls of powdered soil that puffed across his dark boots, trying to distract himself from the issues they were having, while he waited for Josh to get out of class. Things were better. Josh didn’t intentionally try to hurt him anymore, but Trent had hoped they would be closer to repairing their relationship. He wanted back what they had before he ran, but he knew Josh was still hurting. Everyone knew Josh had been wounded. But when was he going to get past it?
“Young man, do you mind if I sit here?”
Trent looked up to see an elderly woman with long braids standing at the other end of the bench.
“Oh. No ma’am. Please have a seat.”
“Thank you, Khee khoat.”
Trent shot her a quizzical look, to which she smiled. “Khee khoat just means you are a man. It’s Kiowa, but then you aren’t Kiowa, are you. You’re that Hiada boy my grandson has been telling me about?”
“My dad was Hiada, but I don’t know much about them. But who’s your grandson?”
“He’s the sheriff. Jimmy White Cloud is his name.”
Trent couldn’t hold in a chuckle. He felt sure that no one but this gentle woman called him Jimmy. But the next time the sheriff was hassling him, it might just be worth it to drop it on him. He looked closer at the woman, and thought maybe she was the one whose ire he didn’t want. If there was such a thing as a Native American matriarch, she would be it. Her hair was divided in two thick, salt and pepper braids, and while she moved slowly, it somehow was the epitome of dignity.
As Trent looked closer, he noticed there was more to her appearance than what one would first notice. Her simple blouse was decorated with lines of beadwork, and the small purse she was carrying was a work of art. Her shoes were soft moccasins that extended to her knees and another accent of beadwork ran along the bottom of her conservative skirt. Trent wasn’t sure he could have brought it all together to describe it. But it was a fitting frame for a woman that he certainly wouldn’t want to tangle with. As their eyes met, he saw she was smiling at him.