Blessing and Endings
After dinner, Alex put a DVD in the player and an hour and a half later, they had seen the general collection of photos. The presentation, which ran an hour, took over an hour and a half with the frequent 'stop’ and ‘stop and backup' requests and questions from Mavis and Gertrude.
“It looks like a wonderful place to live and great people.”
“It is and they are,” Alex said, “and it's home.”
Later, when the two were in bed, Alex said, “Josh, does this still seem like 'our room' the way it did?”
“What do you mean, Alex?”
“I mean, this always seemed like our very special place and it always will be because this is where we fell in love. Rather, I guess, acknowledged our love for each other 'cause I'm sure I have been in love with you almost since the first time I saw you, but it used to be more than that. It was our place where we were safe and could make love, it was our home, our real home, but it doesn't feel that way anymore.”
“Babe, we can love each other anywhere, but yeah, I guess I always thought of this as our place, our home, but you are right, it's not that any more. Our place, our home is on the Mountain.”
“Yeah, that's what I mean, but we can still make love here,” and they did.
After being so busy on the Mountain breaking horses, getting houses ready and all, waking up with nothing that really had to be done felt strange. Of course, there were things which needed doing. Alex needed to call Helen and double check on appointments with Shawn and Henry. He had asked for the appointments, but did not know when they were scheduled for Monday as there had been some tentativeness about when he would actually be in Boulder. He and Josh, as soon as possible, needed to visit Senhor D’Cruz. Josh probably had to spend time talking to Luc about what was going on with Kelly. When Josh would go to San Francisco and whether or not Alex would go with him would depend on his time with Shawn and Henry Monday, but after today, the weekend was more or less one for doing nothing.
They went to see Senhor D'Cruz midafternoon. When they rang the bell, Mr. Pervis, the RN on duty, let them in and said he had tried to get Senhor D'Cruz to stay in bed and he had absolutely refused. He also could not keep him from showering and getting dressed, “but, I guess,” he said, “that's more important than being safe. As he asked me, 'At ninety I should be miserable so I may live a month or two longer? I think not.' I have to agree with him.”
They found Senhor sitting in his comfortable recliner, reading, when they walked into his library. He was, of course, immaculately dressed. “I am delighted to see you!” He reached out his frail arms to embrace each of them and said, “Tell me how you are doing.”
“We are both fine,”Josh said, “as are your beautiful horses. You wouldn't be interested in seeing some photographs, I suppose.”
“Of course not!” he laughed. “Where are they?” Alex went to the DVD player and inserted a disc.
“We have pictures of each horse, of their pasture and the stables as well as a few around the place. The first ones I'm sure are the ones you want to see.” The photos started with a picture of the van arriving and there was a photo of each horse coming down the ramp being led by Sally and Brenda.
“Two wonderful young women. You are lucky to have them Josh.”
“Indeed, but I won't have them much longer. I am working on a deal so they can purchased the ranch in Wellsburg. I never want to have to go there again.”
“I can understand, but you mustn't allow the past to rule your future and that is easy to do.”
“How well I know,” Josh said.
“How well we both know.” Alex agreed.
After the pictures of the unloading, there were photos of the stable, the stalls , the pastures, individual horses and finally, a few of the House, the mountains and the valley. Senhor D'Cruz was nodding and smiling, and saying “Sim, sim.” When the photos ended, he said, “My children must think they are in paradise. Such a beautiful place, Josh, Alex.”
“Indeed it is, Senhor. It is our home now. I will be doing very little with Blankenship and selling the ranch in Utah. Alex will be finished in Boulder soon and we will go home. Maybe as important as the estate are the people living there. We are a part of their family and they indeed see themselves as an extended family.” Senhor asked if he could see the pictures again and when it finished, Josh said, “Senhor, you are getting overly tired. We will go.”
“I'm sorry, but I am tired. Thanks for the pictures.”
“The DVD is yours Senhor and I have another one of the people and more of the place. It is narrated so you won't have to guess what you are seeing. Enjoy them.”
“I will. Would you allow an old man to give you his blessing?”
“We would be honored,” Alex said. He and Josh knelt before the old man who placed his hands on their heads and blessed them in Portuguese. He then lay back in his chair and closed his eyes.
They went to Mavis' and saddled Prince and Princess and rode for an hour before returning to Vic House. After the had showered and dressed in clean clothes, Alex lay down for a nap and Josh called Rob and found the Mason's house was much further along than anyone would have dreamed. “I'd hate to go up against Winston in any negotiating situation. I have always heard people talk about someone being dumb like a fox, I now have some idea of what that means,” he laughed.
“The man saved Blankenship hundreds of thousands and came close to putting some in the purchasing department behind bars,” Josh said. “Rob, a couple people here have asked if Boys' Camp would still be called Boys Camp. I told them we were considering a name change and they asked shouldn't it be given a new name honoring Elijah. I want to be very clear on this. I think that would be a good idea, but as I was once told about the Old Man when I first hired in at Blankenship, everyone gets one vote except the Old Man and he gets ten. The people at Sentinel Mountain who were there before I showed up have absolute say in the matter. I'd like for you all to bounce it around among yourselves and we'll talk about it later. When you do, put Alex and my suggestion in the hopper. We both like calling it Elijah's Camp or the House of Elijah and the kids Elijah's Sons or Sons of Elijah. Alex, by the way, has aligned himself with Louise in thinking after we get the boys’ place going, we should add a girls' campus, but first things first. Think you can get the question tossed around among you all?”
“Sure,” Rob said, “as a matter of fact, Janie raised that very question when she first heard Boys' Camp would reopen and as you might know, we have been talking about it.”
“Rob, I know it will take awhile for me to really be a part of the Mountain, but if ideas come up, they need to be talked about.”
Monday Alex had appointments with both Shawn and Henry, Shawn's early in the morning and Henry's just before noon. Henry asked Alex to bring Josh with him since they would be discussing Alex's medicine and he wanted to find out from Josh how Alex was doing from his standpoint and to alert him to possible reactions to the changes he might make in his medicine.
When the two arrived for the appointment, Henry was reading a report from Shawn. “I don't think I am revealing secrets when I say you two have been enjoying yourselves in bed as elsewhere and in just about all the ways possible,” he chuckled.
“I think you would be on safe ground to say that,” Alex grinned.
“And, Josh, there has been very little in terms of adverse reactions?”
“Nothing major. I was afraid there would be when Alex seemed to be headed in that direction when we first arrived, but he came out of it or rather, shifted into perfectly normal sleep. He does have nightmares and one particularly violent one when he got wound in a sheet.”
“I seem to recall his having reacted to being restrained at other times. Well, I guess you can cross sex with restraints off the list.”
“No reason why I can't take Josh, spread eagle,' Alex laughed.
“Well, I guess not,” Henry joined in the laughter.”I'd say so long as Alex in restraints is off the table, feel fairly safe to go at it, anywhere, anytime, anyway, you please, but don't call me if you decide to do it at noon Sunday on the lawn of the First True Church of Jesus! Any questions about that?”
“How soon can Alex abandon a condom when I am . . . when I am giving him head?”
“So far as I am concerned, there is little danger of contracting HIV/AIDS from giving or receiving head so long as the one receiving fellatio has no breaks in his mouth and the giver doesn't ejaculate in the receiver's mouth. Contracting other STDs is far more likely and you two know Alex is free of those. Alex, you want to avoid ejaculating in Josh’s mouth and Josh, you should be careful about having breaks in your mouth, but I think you’re pretty safe without the condom.
“That’s what I thought,” Josh said.
“Helen might feel otherwise and you can check with her if you want a second opinion. Returning to the particularly strong reaction you had when you were bound in the sheet, Alex, I suspect being restrained will produce a negative reaction for a very long time, maybe for your lifetime. Clearly being restrained caused a flashback to New Beginnings. The nightmares are another question all together. They may be a result of your time in New Beginnings, but one of the two drugs you are taking may be contributing to or even causing them. I'm going to have you taper off of it as soon as possible and then taper off the second one as soon as you are settled for two or three days. It has side effects, of course, all drugs do, but none as severe as the one I believe is at least contributing to your nightmares, but there will surely be some reaction to the decreasing dose. How long will you be here?”
“We plan on leaving tomorrow for San Francisco and will be there through the weekend, at least,” Josh said.
“Will Alex be alone?”
“At times. I have to see what is going on with a lawsuit lodged against Blankenship.”
“Then I'll not start the taper, Alex. You will need someone with you for the first few—two or three days—to gauge and respond to your reaction. You are almost certain to become depressed--some times patients become extremely depressed. While I suspect Josh will be busy much of the day, you certainly want to enjoy San Francisco when he is not and maybe on your own.”
“How long will the taper take?” Josh asked. “I don't want Alex suffering any longer than he has to and he definitely suffers from the nightmares, reliving the unimaginable terror of New Beginnings. Blankenship can take a backseat to getting him well.”
“If started today, you should be completely off the drug by Thursday, depending on how you react. I think I could safely say you would be ready for San Francisco by Friday.”
“Then start today,” Josh said. “We'll wait until next week to go to San Francisco or longer if needs be.”
“Alex, it's the rather large yellow tablet. You are presently taking two tabs three times a day. Beginning at lunch today, take only one, then eliminate the lunch tab tomorrow, the morning tab Wednesday and take none afterward. Josh, I'll depend on you as well as Alex to report his reaction to the withdrawal. Alex, I'm going to ask Josh to administer the tabs to make sure you don't forget to take one or take one when you're not supposed to. You're both probably in for rough week. A slower taper would make it easier, of course, but it would also mean you would have to endure the nightmares longer and the reaction to coming off the drug would be the same, just spread out. If I wasn't confident you two couldn't handle it, I wouldn't suggest it.”
“Exactly what can we expect?” Alex asked.
“Reactions vary. In all cases, there is a slide into depression, sometimes deep depression weeping and feelings of worthlessness are very common. Suicidal thoughts and, frankly, attempts to act on those are not unknown. Hallucinations are common and often involve being attacked with the patient responding violently. As I said, you are in for a rough few days, but the value of the drug previously outweighed the side effects, but the sooner you are off of it, Alex, the sooner, I suspect, your nightmares will decrease and, I hope, end.”
They had lunch downtown and sat in the park afterward while Josh called Luc and told him they were being delayed and why. “I hope I am not needed in San Francisco for a week. Again, as I told you before, Alex comes first.”
“I fully understand. I don't know what you would do here anyway. When I talked with Mr. VanWinkle, he said this was a lawyer's game and we had some good ones. He called back just this morning to say we had a new ally, James Davis. Davis feels Mrs. Blankenship's best interests lie in honoring the agreement. She is unable to go see Kelly now, so he can't get her all riled up over how unjustly he has been treated. Also, she doesn't really know she’s in this world as she has some kind of rapidly developing dementia as well as she keeps having small strokes. Basically, you and I let the lawyers do what lawyers are paid to do. He also said he had the company lawyers send a letter to Kelly stating that since he was disavowing the contract, all payments to him were being placed in escrow awaiting disposition of the case. Basically, we would all like to see you, but take your time.”
“That's good news. I still need to come to San Francisco to see what I need to pack and send to NC and what I need to get rid of. I guess I may as well close the apartment.”
Monday night, Josh could see no change in Alex and he had only half the previous dose of his medicine. Their lovemaking was beyond passionate, as though they knew things would be different the rest of the week, and they were. Josh could almost watch Alex sliding into depression Tuesday afternoon and the crying started just before supper. He refused to eat. Josh thought missing one meal wasn't a problem, but called Henry Wednesday morning. “Did he eat breakfast?” Henry asked.
“Just a slice of toast and a glass of juice.”
“If he drinks enough fluids so he doesn't become dehydrated and eats anything at all today and tomorrow, that's ok. Otherwise, how's he doing?”
“Weeping, sleeping. He doesn't want to get out of bed. Alex, who thinks a shower cures everything, wouldn't take a shower until I physically put him in one and bathed him. He's almost zombie-like except for the weeping.”
“Hang in there. Today and tomorrow, be prepared for hallucinations. Just let him ride them out, but make sure he doesn't hurt himself or anyone else when he attacks his monsters.”
Wednesday late afternoon, Alex was curled up in bed after almost an hour of sobbing and shaking. Josh had to answer a call of nature and went to the bathroom, which was on the second floor. When he came back upstairs, Alex was standing in a corner, a lamp in his hands, and said, “Keep back or I'll kill you. I'll kill you.” He started swinging the lamp violently then suddenly threw it at Josh, who managed to dodge, barely. Alex then crouched in the corner on all fours and started growling, deep in his throat like a wild animal making warning sounds. “You want to hurt me, but I'll kill you first.” Suddenly he sprang at Josh, hitting him full force, much harder than Josh thought him capable. He grabbed Josh around the throat and started choking him. Since Alex had been taken out of New Beginnings, he had regained much of his weight and strength, so he was well on his way to being as strong as Josh. Additionally, Alex was fighting a monster who threatened him and Josh was trying to keep from being strangled by the man he loved.
When Alex released the grip on Josh’s throat a bit, Josh managed to throw him off and roll him on his back. He grabbed his wrists and pinned them to the floor, a big mistake. Too late Josh remembered one of Alex’s terrors was being restrained. Alex’s reaction was swift and unexpected; he curled into a ball and wept quietly. Josh took him in his arms and carried him to the bed where he curled into a tighter ball as he had done when the two started making out when they first got to Boulder from New Beginnings. Stroking Alex’s arm, Josh pressed the intercom button and when Gertrude answered said, “Gertrude, I need you.” She came up the stairs much faster than she should have and Josh was much relieved to see her. “Please come and sit with Alex. I need to call the team.”
Henry answered and Josh described what had happened. “His hallucinations are to be expected and to some extent, his defending himself against them. The violence was more than I might have expected, but not unknown. I am more concerned about his reaction to your restraining him. Restraint is definitely a trigger for a flashback to his New Beginnings experience and will likely to be for heaven knows how long. How is he now?”
“He's curled into a tight ball in a fetal position.”
“Go ahead and give him a shot so he'll relax. As before, he will sleep for six to eight hours, if not more. He has taken the last of the drug and I don't want to start it again. If he's not significantly better tomorrow, I will consider something else, but since he is off that one, I sure don't want you two to have to go through this again.”
Josh swabbed a spot on Alex's beautiful butt with an alcohol swab and gave him the injection. Within minutes, he uncurled and was sleeping normally.
Gertrude kissed him on the forehead and said, “My poor beautiful baby. You know, Josh, I am a pretty peaceful, nonviolent person, but I think if I could get my hands on Maria Crimshaw I would strangle the bitch!”
“Believe me, Gertrude, I know the feeling.”
Thursday morning Alex was sleeping so soundly when Josh awoke that he wasn’t hesitant about going downstairs to shower and shave. When he came back up to get dressed, Alex was still sleeping soundly. Josh switched the intercom on in case he awoke and went downstairs for breakfast. When he returned, Alex was still asleep and looked peaceful. He slept until almost eleven and was lethargic when he finally got out of bed. He did, however, shower, shave and get dressed. “Beloved, I feel like I could go back to bed and sleep a week,” he said as he sat on the edge of the bed pulling on his shoes.
“How about a ride instead? I'm afraid we have been neglecting the Royal Couple.”
“I think I might handle that. I do need to talk to Shawn first, and I don't know how long that will take.”
“Leave a message and give him my cell phone number and you can talk to him when he has time. Do you have another appointment with him?”
“That's one thing I wanted to talk to him about. I guess I need to call Helen since I'm sure Henry will want to talk with me as well maybe both at the same time. I guess I've been giving you a hard time for the last few days. I'm sorry, Beloved, maybe one of these days I'll be normal again.”
“Barefoot Boy, I don't much like that kind of talk. First of all, you’re normal. If how you are responding wasn't normal you'd be nuts after what you've gone through. And there's nothing to apologize for. After all, you had nothing to do with events which have resulted in a near emotional and mental collapse. This week has been the result of the side effects of drugs. Any drug we put in our bodies has undesirable as well as desirable consequences. Unfortunately, the consequences of the drug you been taking are pretty severe, but also it, in combination with other things, has advanced you far beyond what your therapists thought would happened. So no apologies, Beautiful Boy.”
“Beloved, I love you so much.” The two men embraced and exchanged a tender kiss. Alex had tears in his eyes, then, holding hands, the two walked downstairs. They told Gertrude they were going for a ride and she asked Alex if he thought he could ride a bicycle and still be able to ride. “Maybe not,” he answered.
“Then I'll drive you out. I have nothing to do and I'm sure Mavis and I can find something to occupy our time.”
Needless to say, Prince and Princess were delighted to see Alex and Josh. When they were saddled, they were ready for more than an easy ride. Josh was hesitant, but Alex was ready to let the horses have their head. He seemed to come alive as the horses broke into a full gallop toward the back of the pasture. Once they were there, they slowed down to a trot and after circling the pasture once, settled down to a leisurely walk. Josh and Alex rode at that pace for half an hour.
As they headed back to the stables, an ambulance went screaming by. A few minutes later while they were grooming the horses, it returned, sirens and lights on. “That ambulance couldn't have gone far,” Josh said, “as a matter of fact, I bet it was at Senhor D'Cruz'.”
Josh was proven right when Mr. Pervis called Mavis to say Senhor D’Crus didn’t make it to the hospital. “In fact, I’m sure he was dead by the time the ambulance arrived. I’m positive he had another heart attack, this one major.”
Friday, Alex seemed fine, was fine.
Saturday, Mavis got a call from a lawyer who was, no doubt, unhappy at having to give up his Saturday golf game, but Senhor D’Cruz’s will was to be read the day of his visitation and before the funeral mass. No one seemed to know why he made that strange requirement, but he had done so. He asked Mavis if she knew a Joshua Elijah Taylor and she said she did, he asked if she would contact him as he should be present, if possible. When the will was read, Senhor D'Cruz left his place to Mavis in return for her taking care of Meu Rei until his death. Josh was left the horses, 'free and clear' and the lawyer gave Josh a new bill of sale marked, “Paid in full.” He also left Josh his gaucho outfit, with instructions to 'go Brazilian cowboy riding occasionally and remember our times together.' Later, Josh was quite surprised when he found it fit. His housekeeper for many years was left a very generous bequest and the three nurses a small gift of a thousand dollars each. The balance of his estate was to be given to Sentinel Mountain's Boys' Camp. Josh was very pleased by that bequest and staggered when the lawyer said, it amounted to some million to a million and a half dollars. He would see to the transfer of the fund, stocks and bonds within a month.
Saturday afternoon, after a two hour ride, Josh told Alex he was taking him to the outfitter where Mavis had helped them purchase cowboy outfits before they rode in the Fourth of July parade. They drove to the tack store and got Alex fitted in a very fancy black cowboy outfit, complete from boots to hat. The boots had silver tips, the chaps had silver decorations as did the belt and hat. Josh also insisted on silver spurs although both knew they would not be put to use, but they completed the outfit.
Sunday after breakfast, Josh suggested they pack a lunch and spend the day riding, picnicking and just enjoying the mountains. They loaded Prince and Princess into a trailer and drove into the mountains, parked the outfit and a cowboy and a gaucho rode until they found a choice spot with grass and water for the horses and spread a bedroll in the sun. Alex asked Josh about Senhor D'Cruz and Josh talked, at length, about his time with the man and in doing so, was surprised to discover at how much influence he actually had on his life.
Monday morning Alex commented that there had been no nightmare, so apparently the drug causing them and the effects of being withdrawn from it were a thing of the past. Alex and Josh saw Henry and Shawn early Monday morning and were surprised that Helen was with them. All three said they thought Alex was ready to do whatever he wanted.
“You’ll likely have flashbacks from time to time, especially if you feel your are being restrained,” Shawn told him, “but probably none as debilitating as the ones you have had.”
“An if you If you do, Josh knows what to do,' Henry said.
“I do, however, hope you two will keep in contact with us, not just because we’ll have to make a report from time to time concerning the long term affects of New Beginnings on you as we have to make reports to the court since it decreed treatment for the victims of New Beginnings was to be paid from the assets of New Beginnings and New Beginnings Clinic, but also the three of us have come to appreciate you and Josh,” Helen said. “In other words, Alex, you are being discharged and to be honest, long before we anticipated.”
“Is there a problem? About the bills, I mean?” Josh asked.
“Not at all,” Shawn replied.
“Well, be assured money is never to be a problem.”
“It wouldn't be.”
Helen hugged the two, Henry shook their hands and they left. So, what are your immediate plans?” Shawn asked.
“I guess we fly to San Francisco tomorrow, I'll pack what I want to take to North Carolina, close the apartment and we'll fly home.”
“Interested in sub-leasing the apartment? Luc says it is very nice and well located.”
“You know Luc?” Alex asked, incredulously.
Shawn and Josh both laughed. “He's my brother-in-law,' Shawn said. “I am married to his sister. Josh will tell you about a bind the two of you put me in later. Back to the apartment. . . .”
“It is both, I think, very nice and in a good location. Lease it? I don't see why not, although I thought about selling it. Sure. You have someone in mind?”
“As a matter of fact, I do. My college roommate Gary Carson and his wife Judy have joined a practice there and he and his wife are looking for a place. Presently they are staying in an extended stay motel.”
“I'll be happy to get with them when we're in San Francisco.” Shawn gave Josh the Carson’s phone number and said he’d give Josh’s number to them.
After lunch, the two biked to Mavis' and rode for an hour. While they were grooming the horses, Alex said, “Josh, when are Prince and Princess going to the Mountain?”
“I guess as soon as we finish in San Francisco. Maybe one of us can follow the truck this time.”
“That means you would fly alone since the plane needs to go.”
“Walt's here and needs to dig up a co-pilot. Maybe he came come up with someone to fly the small plane as well. I'll check on that.”
Josh and Alex said good night to Gertrude and went upstairs. They had a leisurely shower because, as Alex said, they loved horses, but didn’t like smelling like one. After they had dried each other, they went upstairs and crawled into bed. Josh said he needed to call Walt and did so and found he had taken a commercial flight to Oakland and was in the process of getting his house ready to put on the market. He had lined up an agent and in a couple more days, he would be ready to fly the turbo to Sentinel Mountain as soon as Josh was ready for it to go. He was sure he could get both planes to the valley one way or another and reminded Josh that was his job and in doing so, reminded Josh he did not need to micromanage. He asked Josh to give him a call when he got to San Francisco.
Alex's and Josh's lovemaking, as their shower, was long and leisurely. After final soft kiss, they drifted off to sleep
Jesse and Scott
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