Shortly after Mrs. Goforth left, Dr. Avery came back to tell Alex he was still working on scheduling his examination. As he was preparing to leave, a solidly built, very attractive woman, probably in her late thirties, early forties, came in carrying a covered tray. "Dr. Avery, glad you're here. I met Mrs. Goforth on her way to the chemist's and told her I would take over and she could go. Had a bit of a discussion, shall we say, with the chemist's assistant who prepared the tray. I've been volunteering at the Women's Clinic. For people who don't believe in premarital sex, we are dealing with a lot of unmarried women with STDs. Anyway, I have kept up with CDC recommendations and I believe the drugs on this tray may work, but if the young man has antimicrobial resistance Neisseria gonorrhoeae, what she was giving me won't do the job. Oh, I'm Sister Agnes, sorry to be rude, but this is important."
Dr. Avery asked "Were you not given cephalosporins?"
"Indeed not! She gave me penicillin and said it was hospital policy to dispense the least expensive drug available."
Dr. Avery grabbed the phone, pushed a button and said in a very angry voice, "Get me the pharmacy!" He waited a minute and pushed another button. "Get someone to the pharmacy now and call this room… Just do it!" he said as he slammed the phone down. A technician changed a doctor's prescription? I can't believe it. Where was the pharmacist?"
"I asked, but got no answer."
"Sorry, Alex. I'm sure the shot wouldn't do you any harm unless you, as many people, are allergic to penicillin, but it might have done no good." The phone rang. "Are you the pharmacist on duty?… Then why didn't you answer the phone?… Anyway, where is the pharmacist?… Never mind. You get my order out… Dr. Avery… and send someone up here with the correct drugs now… That is not my problem." He hung up the phone and said, "'The pharmacist has stepped away from his desk." I want to know what's going on down there. I know you do, Sister, but double-check everything that comes in this room."
In a few minutes a young woman came in the door carrying a covered tray. Sister Agnes took it and checked its contents, nodded and waved her hand at the woman as though she was shooing away chickens.
Dr. Avery said, "We'll get to the bottom of this, Alex. Josh, I can assure you of that. So where were we?"
"I believe we were about to get to the bottom of Mr. Bledsoe's problems with STDs," Sister Agnes laughed. "On your knees, arse in the air, Mr. Bledsoe."
Of course when Alex got on his knees, his ass was in the air, covered by nothing since he was wearing a hospital gown. "Nice arse, Mr. Bledsoe," Josh chuckled, "but not quite the bubble butt I remember."
"Just cut the wisecracks, smart-ass! Ugh, that's cold."
"Sorry, laddie," Sister Agnes said, as she started swabbing his other cheek with alcohol. "Mr. Bled…"
"Alex, I am not promising there will be no discomfort with the shots as I'll be injecting a pretty large dose, but if everything works as it should, this will take care of your diseases and no unprotected sex."
"Sister," Dr. Avery said, "I hope you're not under the impression Alex was infected through unprotected sex."
"Sorry. Of course I knew he had been in that hellhole raided south of here. I guess I was in automatic mode. You swab the arse; you take out the drugs; you tell the patient it will hurt; you say 'no unprotected sex'; you give the shot and wait for the next patient. I apologize, Alex."
"By the way, I know you have been dehydrated and malnourished, but that cute sixth-grader in the school photo developed into a very handsome man with, I might add, a very handsome partner who is obviously not malnourished."
"Are you suggesting I am…"
"Oooooh. If that was discomfort, I'd hate to feel pain," Alex said as Sister Agnes pushed the plunger on the needle in his butt.
"Oh, foot in mouth again," Sister said. "No, I am not suggesting you are fat, just well-fed and you have put it where it was needed and shaped it well, Mr. Taylor. In that junior year photo you looked very sad."
"I was, and it's Josh."
"Alex, when did you last eat or drink?" Dr. Avery asked.
"I had breakfast half an hour or so ago. I'd say around seven."
"That would mean we couldn't do the examination until seven tonight," Dr. Avery said. "We'll wait and do it in the morning. Eat well at noon, liquid for supper and nothing after midnight. Enema at six, sorry about that, and if all that happens, we'll do the examination at seven or eight. Well, I think you are good to go for now. You should get a packet of special soap tonight to cut down skin bacteria. It's routine before any procedure in the operating room. Josh, there'll be one for you as well. You can shower here if you like. In the morning shower and get dressed here. Sister will help you with that. Now I have some business with the administrator."
After he had gone Sister said, "Dr. Avery is a pretty easy-going man, but do something that is not good for one of his patients and watch out. I have seen him get physical once. He picked up a male orderly, half again his size, and tossed him out of the room when he heard him tell an African-American to "turn your black ass over," gave him a shot and said, "Now keep your dirty black cock out of white pussy!" He had assumed a woman, who was being treated for STDs, had been infected by him—may have been, only heaven knows—regardless, what he said was totally out of place. So if there is a boom and the building shakes, ignore it. Dr. Avery will have just thrown the pharmacist against the wall."
With the drama out of the way, Alex said, "Sister, what are the cute sixth-grader and sad junior photos about?"
"Apparently some reporter went to Wellsburg and did some snooping around. Most folks just turned their backs and walked away when they heard your names."
"I knew there were advantages to being shunned," Josh said.
"I guess the reporter was able to locate a couple of old school year books and those were the only photos they've been able to get. There were pictures of your two ranches and a lot of speculation, but most of it was just that. The fact that Josh Taylor was a business sensation before all of this was also a big part of what I watched. I didn't realize you were a business tycoon who, by the way, is probably going to have more money than he can spend before he's thirty. I'm sure you know about the Brazilian contract and there are rumors of a similar contract in Taiwan."
Josh pumped his fist in the air and said, "Go, Luc, go."
An orderly appeared at the door with a wheelchair and announced he was to take Mr. Bledsoe to the lab for tests. When Josh looked up he saw the man was wearing a white uniform. He jumped out of his chair, shoved the wheelchair and the man out the door and pinned the man against the wall. The security man hired to guard Alex jumped up and asked what was going on. Josh didn't answer. He held the man against the wall and got right in his face, "Are you too dumb or too careless to read? What the fuck do you mean coming here dressed like that?" Josh had grabbed the collar of his uniform and he calmed down enough to look and something was strange about it. Then it hit him, the buttons were on the wrong side! It was a woman's uniform! The name tag he was wearing read "Ida Freeman." Suddenly he realized there was something under it and literally ripped the uniform top open to reveal a dress shirt. "Guard, handcuff this son-of-a-bitch and call the head of security up here."
The guard did as he was ordered and in five minutes a uniformed man with more decorations than a general came puffing from the elevator. "What's going on here?" he asked as he approached. "Who is this man?"
"That's what I'd like to know. Do you know Ida Freeman? That's the nametag he's wearing."
"She works in housekeeping. Who are you?"
"You have no right! I demand to be turned loose!"
"Demand all you want, you asshole. Mr…" Josh looked at the security chief's nametag. "Adams is charging you with trespassing after we find out what happened to Ida Freeman."
"Taylor, Josh Taylor."
Mr. Adams looked as if he had swallowed an elephant ass first. "Err, yes." He spoke into his mike, then told the man in handcuffs, "You come with me." Josh later learned he was a reporter for one of the tabloids who had paid Ida Freeman for use of her uniform and name tag. She was in the break room having a cup of coffee when the head of housekeeping found and fired her.
Dr. Avery stuck his head in the door and said, "Alex, you are scheduled for seven in the morning. Eat a good lunch because it's a liquid supper and then nothing until probably noon. Nothing by mouth after midnight. Sister, shouldn't be any problem, but double-check any medicine coming in. See you in the morning, Alex."
"I plan to be there."
After the doctor left, Sister said, "Well, he sure took care of Mary Beth's plans for dinner, so it'll have to be lunch. I hope you like beef, Alex. You wouldn't happen to be fond of liver would you?"
"I expected as much. You're anemic and liver would be good for you, but nothing's good if you don't eat it. So what today, now that it's going to be lunch?"
"Something with lots of beef."
"Goulash, real Hungarian goulash," Josh said. "It has lots of beef and is so good. Know where that might be had?"
"As a matter of fact I do. Think you could handle that, Alex? How's the stomach?"
"Empty. Breakfast wasn't much. I've never had it, but if it's not too spicy or too full of garlic, bring it on."
"I know you'll love it," Josh said.
Sister Agnes went to place the order. Josh and Alex were left alone. As she left, Sister told the guard, "Mr. Bledsoe is not to be disturbed. If it's Dr. Avery or Dr. Glasgow, knock softly and Mr. Taylor will let the doctor in."
Alex said, "Josh, I do want a kiss from you, but…"
"Sweet, tender and hold the passion, maybe."
"Sorry. Is that ok?"
"Alex, I'll take any kind of kiss you care to give me. I've waited for seven years and a peck on the cheek would make me happy." The kiss was soft, tender, mouths slightly open, but no tongue and brief, but Josh was drunk with joy and love when they broke the kiss; they gazed into each other's eyes, their faces covered by smiles. Even the short tender kiss had Josh hard and he could feel the precum wetness in his briefs.
The two were so absorbed in each other that they had not seen Sister Agnes return. She had waited until she felt breaking in was ok and said, "Ok, soup's on and will be here at noon."
"I need to call Bull and Mr. VanWinkle," Josh said. "I was planning on flying them to San Francisco today, but I'm afraid I'd not get back in time for your exam, lover boy. I'll see what they want to do."
"Josh, we owe them big time."
"I know and I'll do what they want, but I need to be with you."
"I could say I'd be fine without you, but I'd be lying."
Dr. Glasgow came in at ten, introduced himself and asked if he could speak with Alex privately.
"Sure," Josh replied. "I need to make some phone calls anyway. I'll be back in an hour or so." He kissed Alex on the cheek and he and Sister left the room.
She said, "I'm going to the hospital garden to wait. It's also a good place from which to make cell phone calls. Usually pretty private as well since few people use it. It's really quite lovely." As they walked she said, "Josh, I don't mean to pry, but are you and Alex sure you aren't trying to relive something that is gone forever? I mean, after all, it's been over seven years."
"Bull warned me about that but, Sister, when I look into that man's eyes, it is a man's love I see shining there, not the love of a fourteen-, fifteen-year-old. Sure, those were happy years, no, happy summers with a few happy hours scattered through the rest of the year, but I'm sure. I'm even more sure every day."
"I wanted to ask because what I have seen so far appears to be a love that is very rare, almost too perfect."
"Oh, I can assure you, we'll have our moments in the years ahead." Josh stopped, looked very puzzled and finally said, "You know, it's very strange, but even as hormone-ridden thirteen-, fourteen-year-olds, we never had a fight and that in spite of the fact that at Boulder we were together practically 24/7."
"I'm stopping here by the pond," Sister said and sat on a bench. Josh walked to a bench on the other side of the pond.
He called the hotel, but got no answer. He then called Mr. VanWinkle's cell and when he answered, Josh said, "Good. I called the hotel and there was no answer."
"That's because we're not there, my boy."
"Where are you?"
"In the VIP lounge at the airport, waiting for our flight. We left you a voice mail. Look, Josh, you've got money—and more today than yesterday and even more tomorrow—but flying us here and coming back was not only going to cost a hell of a lot more than a couple of first-class tickets, but also you'd be gone a lot of hours and neither you nor Alex need that right now. Even if you threw in some clothes, this costs a lot less. Bull and I discussed it when we got up, called and got tickets and we're on our way in half an hour. We'll see you when you get back to San Francisco or when we meet on Sentinel Mountain."
"Sorry I didn't keep my end of the bargain," Josh responded.
"Your bargain is to make Alex Bledsoe number one. Two old friends understand that well. My best to him."
"By the way, how's the media treating you and Bull?"
"That's another reason we're leaving. The media finally found out we were involved in the raid on New Beginnings, dug up some history on us both and we can't take a shit without checking the bowl first to make sure there's not a midget hiding there to get a picture of our ass. We get back, my own security will take care of mine and the Marinos will take care of Bull's. You take care of Alex."
After talking with Mr. VanWinkle, Josh called Dick. "Dick, Josh."
"How's the boy?"
"Doing very well. The nurse is ordering lunch—goulash. It's the last real meal he'll have until after a rectal and genital examination in the morning. When Dr. Avery told him one was necessary and acknowledged it would be traumatic for Alex, he asked if he could be put to sleep for it and if I could be present. How's the media behaving?"
"Maybe better than usual, although there is a constant clamor for access to the 'New Beginnings Heroes'. I was going to call you later and see if you, Bull and June would join the two sheriffs and me for a news conference with the understanding that would be it. We'd get signed contracts that said anyone who wanted to be there would agree not to contact you again. By the way, a judge has issued an injunction against anyone who discloses or uses the admission sheets to contact victims. I think the news got around because the first two who tried to contact a victim are cooling their heels awaiting a hearing, which will be slow coming."
"I'll do whatever the others want to do."
"Do you know how to contact Bull and June? I've tried, but got no answer."
"As of now, they are in the friendly skies headed for Oakland. Give them a call in a couple hours. Let me know what's decided. I will be here for several days, probably most of the coming month."
Back upstairs, Alex said, "I don't like Dr. Glasgow. He doesn't listen and already had his mind made up. He decided I was a victim of rape and had contracted STDs that way. He thought I needed to be heavily drugged while we worked to overcome my trauma. When I tried to tell him what really happened, he kept saying, "Terrible, terrible, rape is always traumatic. I understand."
"Then that's the last time you will see him," Josh said.
There was a gentle knock on the door and Sister Agnes opened it and took a thermos and a large bag from the man standing there. Josh tipped the man and as soon as he left Sister said, "Don't try to tell me Mary Beth Hoover has been here and there are no table and chairs."
"No, she thought Alex wasn't up to it, so she got an additional tray table and we ate sitting on Alex's bed."
Sister Agnes left and came back pushing a tray table. She opened the bag and took a paper tablecloth from it and arranged it on the tables, then said, "Need to go to the cafeteria." Minutes later, she came back carrying a bag with flatware, bowls, plastic 'glasses' and a large plastic plate. She also had a large plastic container of ice. She placed the plate on the table, took a round loaf of bread from the bag and put it on the plate. She filled the three glasses with ice and water then filled three bowls with thick, chunky Hungarian goulash. "Does that look good, Alex?"
"After my diet for the past few years, dog food would look good. That looks delicious."
When they were all seated, Josh and Sister Agnes watched as Alex took a bite of the goulash. As he did, a smile spread across his face and he said, "Oh, man, that is fine!" They all three dug in and when they had emptied their bowls, Alex had another.
After lunch, Alex asked Josh to tell him about what had happened since they had been separated, "from the last time we were together." By the time Josh had told everything that had happened before he left for the summer program, Alex's eyes were heavy. Josh stood, kissed him on the cheek and Alex's smile didn't fade as he drifted off to sleep.
Editors: Jesse and Scott.
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