Learning to Shoot and Moving On
Sunday night Alex slept like a baby as did Josh. Both had come back from the mountains feeling good, but Alex was tired. Since it was the end of the weekend, most of those living at Vic House were back after a weekend at home, partying or whatever. Three years ago, Gertrude had decided she had done enough cooking and now just rented rooms. The students could sign up for the kitchen and several pretty much fixed dinner there every night, but Gertrude had reserved six to seven for herself. Of course, she was often invited to eat with a few students and enjoyed it, but it was not a regular thing. When she decided she'd no longer board students, she had set aside the formal dining room for their use and she used a cozy breakfast nook for herself and anyone eating with her. When they came in from the mountains, Alex told her he and Josh would order takeout and invited her to join them, which she did.
"When's your dad coming?" she asked as she sat down with the two men. "When he called he said it was up to you."
"When I talked with him earlier, Josh and I weren't sure about North Carolina, but after Friday, we decided it would be best to wait until weekend after next. He'll be here tomorrow night. Paula will be with him. I don't know whether I'm ready for that or not. Have you met her?"
"Five or six times. They have come out about once a year. She's nice. Not the kind of woman I would have expected Harv to marry, but then I guess he wanted to get as far away from your mother as he could. To my knowledge she still has not been on a horse and definitely is not the outdoor type. She was raised Roman Catholic and rebelled when she was in her teens. She likes entertaining, plays, cruises, very much the city girl, but she adores your dad and I think he deserves that."
"Well, it really doesn't matter a great deal," Alex said. "If Dad's half-way happy, I'm happy for him. He sure lived in misery long enough. Dad is having a hard time finding a place to stay. Said you told him our room was taken even when we were both gone."
"Just a grandmother's whim, I guess, but I never gave up hope that you'd be back and I wanted it ready for you and for that hot stud you sleep with." Josh blushed. "So what's on the docket for tomorrow?"
"Has Helen called?" Josh asked. "Alex and I were both supposed to meet with Shawn and Shawn said Henry wanted to see me while he sees Shawn tomorrow, so there's a conflict."
"Well, Helen's supposed to keep track of that, so she'll have to work it out," Alex said. "And you're tied up tomorrow afternoon."
"Probably no more than an hour and a half, certainly no more than two hours. I guess we need to prepare for the meeting with Shawn. We could have done that this afternoon."
"I know getting me well is a top priority," Alex said, "but the therapy part of that can't be our whole lives, besides we'd never know that 'Dogs is better than girls' to kiss."
"Even if they don't taste good."
Alex and Josh were laughing and Gertrude looked puzzled. They told her about Curtis and his thoughts on kissing
They had finished eating and were having coffee on the veranda when the phone rang. Gertrude picked it up, looked at the caller ID and handed it to Alex. It was Helen. "Alex, seems we have a conflict. You and Josh were to see Shawn together at noon, Henry wanted to see Josh about being able to take care of situations like Friday while you were with Shawn. I understand Josh is busy tomorrow afternoon."
"Could I speak to Josh?"
"Sure. Josh, Helen."
"Josh, it appears we have an appointment problem tomorrow. Henry wants to see you for about an hour to go over some drugs and procedures to take care of situations like Friday's. So long as you are in Boulder, it could be handled as that one was but, frankly, flashbacks can occur anytime and for a very long time after the causing situation is past. With good care, maybe Alex will never have another one, but the odds are he will and more than one. Friday's was probably as severe as he will ever have and such severe ones are less likely to happen as time goes on, but if you are prepared to deal with them, you'll have a greater degree of freedom and less worry. Henry is booked pretty solid tomorrow. He and Shawn have talked and have two possibilities. Henry said he was willing to come in early and see you at eight or if you and Alex could postpone your joint session, he has a cancellation at noon."
"I really think eight is out. The meeting I have is very important and I'd like to be as rested as I can be before it. Since Alex's dad is coming before he thought, maybe he could best use the hour without me. Besides, we really haven't talked about the guilt issue which is what we were going to do. Talk to Alex and see what he thinks, but it seems to me, my getting together with Henry is more important than issues over the past are."
"I can see that, but let me talk to Alex."
Helen explained the situation to Alex and he agreed the meeting with Henry should take precedence over discussing Josh and his having sex with another man when there was no reason to think they'd ever see each other again. It sounded foolish when he thought about it. "Fine. You will see Shawn and Josh will see Henry tomorrow at noon," Helen said.
Even though they had had a very relaxed day, Josh and Alex went up early. They did the bathroom thing and went back up to their room, got undressed and climbed into bed. The moon was exceptionally bright and moonlight poured through their windows. Josh lay on his back and Alex lay facing him. "Josh, when I was talking to Helen it occurred to me our feeling of guilt because we had sex with someone was a bit of bull. I mean, sure we had pledged our love to each other and we remained true to that even when, on the face of it, it was utterly foolish. To be honest, we knew the possibility of ever seeing each other again was practically nil. We were horny young males and the opportunity presented itself. Truthfully, I don't regret at all giving Dek a few minutes of pleasure in that hellhole. Nor for that matter, do I regret receiving fleeting moments of pleasure from Dek. If I am honest, I felt guilty for betraying a romantic memory, but I never betrayed you. For seven years I dreamed of holding you again, of loving you again and that never changed. I fucked a guy. That wasn't a betrayal of you or our love, it was fucking. Now that I know you are alive, I couldn't fuck a guy and I'll never fuck you. One day I will make mad, passionate love to you in every way I can, but I will never fuck you any more than you will fuck me and I know you won't. You will make love to me."
"Barefoot Boy, I can't even begin to imagine living in the hell of New Beginnings. To be a prisoner, to know inside you would probably never be able to leave, to enjoy a normal life, no, I can't imagine the horror of that. That you snatched a few minutes of pleasure and gave another human being a few minutes of pleasure in hours, days and weeks of misery is not something you should feel guilty about. There is absolutely no question in my mind that you never betrayed our love but, Alex, my situation was different. When I moved in with Kelly, everything was going my way. I had landed a dream job that should have taken me years to reach. I had more money than I could spend and, let's be honest, we are both very attractive males and I could have had any man I wanted, but there was a hollow place inside that only you could fill. I tried to fill it with work and with sex. I was dating and then living with the boss's son. I'll not deny it, the sex was good. It got me off, but neither it nor work filled that empty space."
We talked for two more hours about what had happened to us in the seven years we had been separated. Finally, Alex said, "Ok, Josh, we're beating a dead horse. If there is any guilt left, and I don't think I feel any, it is something for us to deal individually. We know how the other feels about our having a sense of guilt. There is no way you can deal with any guilt I feel or me with yours." Josh nodded. "Ok, tell me about your meeting tomorrow. I know it has something to do with Blankenship LLLP, but that's all I know. I mean, I know you're a 'big shot,' and have made a lot of money, but really, how you got there and all, I only have a very vague idea of it. So tell me about you and Blankenship LLLP. I know you told me, maybe everything, while I was in the hospital in Provo, but I guess I was more out of it than either of us thought."
"Sorry, Barefoot, I guess I have been so concerned about everything and, frankly, didn't consider Blankenship and my life with Blankenship too important , which I know is foolish. I want to know everything about you, but haven't told you very much about what has pretty much occupied my life since I finished UC-B." Josh began with his staying on in Boulder after his last year in the program, the summer he expected to be with Alex, completing his degree and immediately being hired by Blankenship Ltd. And told him of his years rising and falling and rising in Blankenship and finally talked about his meeting tomorrow. "Unless Luc comes up with some very, very good reasons, I will be come a non-participating partner tomorrow and leave Blankenship LLLP in his very capable hands. If we do live in North Carolina -- and, babe, I really mean that -- if we do live in North Carolina, I'll be the back-up to handle problems east of the Mississippi, but only problems the top field people can't handle."
Josh had talked for well over an hour. They both were very relaxed, having handled a major problem that wasn't, and Alex finally understood that they didn't have to worry about money. He snuggled against Josh and said, "Trick rider, business tycoon, rescuer of men in distress. I think I'll keep you."
"What makes you think you have a choice?" Josh asked and kissed Alex. Alex's mouth opened and his tongue snaked into Josh's mouth and their kiss became very passionate. "Think we better turn the heat down, Barefoot Boy."
"Don't want to!" Alex said, but after an especially sexy kiss, sighed and broke off the making out.
Monday morning, the two went to the gym early and Josh was pleased at how Alex's strength and stamina had increased since he came out of New Beginnings. As they left the gym, Josh commented on his progress and Alex said, "I wish my progress in overcoming my conditioning was as easy" and Josh agreed.
They had three hours before their appointments with Henry and Shawn so Josh suggested they go back to Vic House since he needed to call Mr. T'an. He talked with the head of the Taiwan operation for almost an hour and made notes as he talked. After he ended the conversation, Josh said, "I wish I knew the secret of giving people confidence in their skills and abilities. Mr. T'an is fully capable of running the Taiwan operation in his sleep, but doubts himself, especially in this crisis."
"Which is?" Alex asked.
"You can put that in the past tense," Josh said, "as he has handled it and handled it well. He had recommended Mr. Sun, his nephew, for a position at Blankenship LLLP. Mr. Sun suspected there was an industrial spy in the engineering department and since he had actually selected some of the new hires in that department, Mr. T'an thought the spy might be one of those and to his mind, that would cast doubt on his nephew's integrity and threrefore on his. Having two family members' integrity questioned would bring great dishonor on the T'an family. I assured him that the honor of the two were above question and suggested he and the nephew ferret out the spy.
"The nephew 'accidentally' left a notebook at the suspected spy's house when the Geeks' Poker Club met there Friday for an extraordinary session. The club actually does not play poker, but pairs of players solve engineering questions. Winners are determined by a formula only engineers could understand. Each month all players put money in the pot and at the end of the month, it is divided among the winners. If there are none, it rolls over. The notebook contained a proposal for a new control which was not real, but sounded like a major winner. When he got ready to leave, the notebook was not where he left it, but was 'found' later. Its pages were on light-sensitive paper, several of which had been flashed, indicating it had been photocopied. A detective trailed the fellow Sunday afternoon and took photos of his meeting with a known agent of a rival Chinese company. Mr. T'an called the spy today and ordered him to Taiwan. Case closed, but no doubt Luc and I will likely discuss it. By the way, would you like to have lunch with us? Then you and Cândido can leave while Luc and I discuss Blankenship LLLP or stay if you like."
"Yeah, I like to have lunch with you, but I'll duck out of the business meeting. It would all be Greek to me."
"I'm sure Cândido will as well. He's a fascinating man. His mother is Bororo, an indigenous people of Brazil. His father was Portuguese. By any chance did you hear of Claude Levi-Strauss at the University?"
"I don't think so."
"A French anthropologist who studied the Bororo and wrote a text about them. Cândido is not exactly fond of him. He, by the way, is also an anthropologist. Ready to go to our appointments?" Alex nodded.
When Josh arrived at Henry's office, Henry went over Alex's meds with him and said, "I doubt you'll have to do anything about those as Alex can handle his own meds. I did make sure you knew the side effects so you can spot anything amiss which he might miss. What I really wanted to talk to you about were episodes like last Friday's.
"First of all, I want to apologize for the whole team. There was nothing we could have done to predict when such an episode would occur or its severity. We should have warned both of you that such could happen and somehow or other, we slipped up. Fortunately, you were there and help was available. I do want both of you to be aware of the fact that such attacks may occur in the future and probably will. As time passes, they should decrease in frequency and severity. In fact, there may never be another of that severity, but I want you to be prepared. I will give you prescriptions for two medicines. One is a tablet and if Alex is conscious and can swallow, give him one and a glass of water. It may take a few minutes for it to control the attack, but it will do it. I am giving you a prescription for five. If for some unforeseen reason, Alex should take them all at once, he would certainly sleep for hours and it would not be a good thing, but no permanent damage would be done and it definitely would not be a fatal dose. The second is for the same medicine he was given Friday night. There will be a vial and five hypodermics. While there are more than five doses in the vial, I don't think anyone could stay conscious long enough to self-administer enough to be fatal.
"Now, I need to make sure you know how to give Alex an injection." For the next fifteen minutes, Henry had Josh practice on an orange. Finally, he took out a fresh needle and had Josh open the package, draw the same amount of saline into the hypodermic as a dose of Alex's medicine and administer a shot to his hip. "Good job," he said after observing Josh. "The major question is do you feel comfortable with it?" Josh said he did.
The lunch went well. Alex hit it off immediately with Cândido and the two left, still in lively conversation. Josh had the use of a small private dining room for lunch and all afternoon if needed. After lunch, they went over the overall condition of Blankenship LLLP. It had never been in better shape. When the Old Man was in charge it had done as well until the period of unfettered expansion which came to an end at the Hawaii meeting. "Recalling the mess expansion into areas we knew little about created, I hesitate to suggest we do add a small division," Luc said. "You know you asked the Geeks' Poker Club to come up with a communications system for Sentinel Mountain and they did. I okayed the building of the equipment, installation, testing and payment of the engineers for their outside work and Mr. VanWinkle authorized payment from your account. From the reports I have received, it does a bang-up job.
"Everything that could be is patented, the equipment field tested and there are many areas in the world which could use such a system. Now, I certainly don't want us to get involved with the manufacture and installation of such systems. Blankenship Ltd taught a lesson about that. The engineers' poker game will go on, but it's a lot more fun when they can use our development labs and field testing to try out their ideas. Unless it has to do with controls, there is no benefit to us or them. However, if we take an idea they come up with through development, prototype and field testing, if the project proves viable, we could license others to do the manufacture and installation. Our engineers would have an advantage over those who do not have facilities to try out their own ideas or an incentive to explore and be creative. Ours will have, especially if we split the licensing profits with them. It would also benefit us by adding to the bottom line with very little overhead and in our being able to attract and keep the cream of the crop."
"Excellent!" Josh said. "It's that kind of thinking which will keep Blankenship LLLP on top and, Luc, remember it's your thinking that came up with that. Blankenship is definitely in good hands. I'm turning it all over to you. If I live on Sentinel Mountain ...."
"I have two questions about that. The first is I have heard you and the people there refer to living on Sentinel Mountain when, in fact, everyone except Louise lives in the valley."
Josh laughed and said, "I asked the same question the first time I was there and was told that's just what they have always called it and never thought about it."
"Second question, what do you mean 'If I live on Sentinel Mountain.' Is there any question about that?"
"Surprisingly, there is." He then told Luc about his having made all the decisions about that, dreaming of living there with Alex, without Alex being in on it. "May be a warning in that for you, Luc. We are leaders and tend to lead and expect others to follow. Only way it will work in business, I suppose, but not the way to have a meaningful relationship. I tend to dominate and Alex, especially after years being dominated and held prisoner by his mother, tends to let that happen. The first biggie was when he questioned whether or not he'd like living on Sentinel Mountain. So until we can spend at least a long weekend there, I am trying not to influence him, not just influence, but lead him to think it's the Mountain or me."
"Josh, I don't think there's any question that he will love it, especially if you get those horses there. Senhor D'Cruz tells me he is as crazy, or crazier, about horses as you are, although he said he didn't think even he loved Meu Rei any more than you loved Prince."
"Well, if all goes well, we'll spend a long weekend there weekend after next and, of course, Prince and Princess will still be here."
"But don't you have others? Won't they be there regardless of where you live? You have two weeks to get some horses there. Do it, man!"
"See, that's why I am not concerned about Blankenship LLLP," Josh said and meant it. "So how has the weekend been?"
"Wonderful! Full of surprises such as you walking around the corner at my sister's place and finding Senhor D'Cruz here."
"By the way, how did you find him?"
"Dita mentioned your Portuguese and Shawn said you had studied with a retired professor, Senhor D'Cruz. Cândido knew him and we called on him."
"So, you had a wonderful weekend?"
"We did and in spite of being married for some time, I have a sore ass and so does Cândido." Luc blushed and grinned.
"That's a reminder you haven't been spending enough time with your man. I'll warn you again, Blankenship LLLP can be all-consuming if you let it. You are a pretty wealthy man and could probably live well if you never set foot in the office except you would probably be bored out of your skull. Unless I am wrong, you don't get up Monday hating that another week at the office has begun, but you will if your relationship suffers. You have, I'm sure, found a way to get and keep the best engineers available, do the same with executives. Free up time to spend with Cândido."
"You are coming through loud and clear, Josh. This weekend has made me realize that."
Josh then told him about the situation with the spy and how Mr. Sun had handled it here and Mr. T'an would take care of the other end.
"From what I understand, the engineer will not be treated kindly when he returns," Luc said.
It was mid-afternoon when the two emerged. Luc called Cândido and found he and Alex had gone for a drive and he would be back in an hour or so. Josh asked if he'd like to come with him to Vic House, but he chose to go back to the Rose Briar.
It was closer to two and a half hours when Cândido dropped Alex off at Vic House. When he came in there was a definite change in him, but Josh couldn't put his finger on it. He grabbed the peanut butter, animal crackers and juice. Josh had a beer and pretzels. Alex was forbidden all alcohol because of his medicines, but didn't drink much anyway.
"You enjoy the afternoon with Cândido?"
"More than enjoy. Did you know he was a shaman?"
"I didn't, but now that I think about it, Luc says he sees things we don't and he once told me that I would be happy ... " Josh caught himself before he said, "on Sentinel Mountain ..." "when I never thought I would be happy because I thought you were gone from my life forever."
"Well, we had a most interesting afternoon," Alex said and settled down with his perennial snack.
Jesse and Scott
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