The two drove downtown and from store to store, starting at a shoe store, otherwise, Josh was afraid Alex would become too tired. As they walked in, Alex, who still wore the hospital booties, said to the approaching clerk, "Don't ask!" They ended up with three pairs of athletic shoes, two of sandals, two of dress shoes and two of hiking boots. As they walked out of the store, Alex said, "Josh, you worry me. You are spending a lot of money and I know you don't have to pay the credit card all at once, but it does have to be paid."
"Alex, one day we'll have time to talk about me and what I can afford but, let me say, I could have bought every pair of shoes in the place and still had money. Money is the least of our worries."
Josh was ready to outfit Alex as he was outfitted, but when he started, Alex said, "Josh remember, I am not all here," laughed, and added "and I could say that again, but I mean I have some pounds and muscle to put on, so go easy."
"Smart, No-longer-barefoot Boy," Josh said.
They bought him several shirts—sport, polo and tees, all a size larger than he actually needed, knowing that all would still fit even after he was nearly to his weight and definition goals—and three pairs of jeans, three of chinos and a nice pair of slacks.
They went to a sports store and both selected two workout outfits and jock straps, and then Alex asked, "Think there are bikes at Vic House?"
"We'll buy a couple," Josh said, so they went to a bike shop and bought bike outfits including gloves and helmets. Looking around the shop, they realized they needed serious help. Josh motioned to a young man, maybe a bit older than they were. He walked over to them, grinned and said, "You two still needing help?" They both looked at him with a puzzled expression and he said, "Albolene." All three cracked up. Josh was amazed when Alex said, "If you can help us with a bike at the same level, you're about to make a sale."
"What price did you have in mind?"
"I have no idea," Alex said. "I have no idea what a good bike costs, but I guess if Josh can afford a shoe store, he can afford what we need."
"Josh Taylor. Blankenship. You were in the news. Luca Soares and a Mr. Ri T'an announced Blankenship had just signed a huge contract with the Taiwanese government. He said you were on extended leave and could not be reached for comment.
"So, which bike do we need? Don't worry about the cost. Remember Albolene costs more, but does a better job than petroleum jelly.
"Josh, my name's Art."
"Well, guys, there no such thing as the 'best' bike. There's the best bike for this and the best bike for that. Where will you be riding?"
"Mostly between Vic House and the riding school," Alex answered.
They talked a while longer and Art recommended a bike, but said he only had one in stock. "If you can wait, I'll have another sent from Denver this afternoon. It will be here, ready, by nine in the morning."
"Sounds good," Alex said, then looked at Josh, who nodded.
Fortunately, they had driven, as Alex was definitely drooping and they were loaded with packages.
When they reached Vic House, they took the packages inside and Josh took them upstairs while Gertrude prepared icy juice for Alex and a beer for Josh. Alex had animal crackers and peanut butter with his and Josh had cheese and crackers.
Through dinner and as the two showered, Josh had worried about sleeping with Alex. Given a situation he had dreamed about, Alex teetered between being overjoyed and weeping. On the one hand overjoyed knowing he was with Josh and no longer a prisoner and on the other hand, believing he was only imagining the situation and was still in New Beginnings. What would happen each time he woke with Josh beside him? He need not have given it a thought. As soon as the two were in bed, Josh wrapped Alex in his arms and legs and kissed him gently and Alex was asleep with a smile on his face a minute later.
Next morning after they had showered and dressed—each time Josh saw Alex's naked body he became very angry at how he had been physically mistreated at New Beginnings—they had breakfast with Gertrude and she took Alex to his first appointment. When they left, Josh called Rob and asked how things were on the Mountain and specifically about the horse station.
"We'll be ready for horses in less than a week," he said. "Actually, everything is ready now, but we are doing a final inspection and then a vet and an expert on pastures and grass will inspect everything. We'll have everything except horses."
"In that case, they should be arriving in a couple weeks, or three at the most. Winston will be accompanying them and I hope Sally who runs the ranch in Utah. She'll be arriving here in Boulder tomorrow afternoon with Prince and Princess. I think Princess will have as important a part in Alex's healing as the doctors."
"We're all hoping you and Alex can at least come for a visit soon," Rob said.
"I hope so. He's meeting with his treatment team today and should have an outline of a program to get him well. Physically that should go quickly. Even though he's in pitiful physical shape, he's young and determined. Emotionally and mentally, I just don't know. Maybe a long weekend within four to six weeks. I've got to get back, not that the place won't run well without me, but there are provisions in the will that are already being stretched."
Josh called Luc's office and asked Prue to check Luc's schedule and see if there was a time they could have a long talk.
"Josh, this company is a smooth-running machine and Luc could take off some time and needs to do that. Elizabeth, Cândido and I have all been telling him that and he says, 'I'll give it some thought'."
"Could I assume you have their home number and Cândido's cell number, if he has one?"
"He does." She then gave Josh the two numbers and he called the house first, but didn't leave a message when there was no answer, and instead dialed Cândido's cell. He got no answer and left a message for Cândido to call him. Thirty minutes later, his cell rang and he saw it was Cândido. "Cândido, how are you?"
"I'm fine. Teaching a full load and I'm only supposed to be a part-time adjunct. How's Alex?"
"I guess better than expected. We're in Boulder and he is meeting with a treatment team as we speak. Look, I talked to Prue and she says Luc needs a break and refuses to take one. I'm going to be personal. I'm not sure a real relationship could have survived my time at Blankenship. Kelly and I were fuck buddies. Neither of us would have claimed to be lovers in a real sense, so that doesn't count, besides it didn't last, did it? I'm trying to put this delicately…"
"But how're things with me and Luc? Josh, I may be wrong, but I think if I went missing, Luc would be as you were with Alex, so it's not a question of the relationship being in danger in the sense of being at the point of breaking. It is under a great deal of stress and I understood that when the two of you were trying to save the company, but now it is running smoothly—that's obvious even from the news—so I don't see why he can't stop running and take a breather."
"What's on this weekend? Make that Friday through Monday?"
"A couple classes for me, which I can cancel. He did promise we'd have Sunday."
"I think I still outrank him. Get the two of you packed for a long weekend in Colorado. I want to sit down with Luc for a couple hours and talk business but, aside from that, there's hiking, biking, and horseback riding. I think I can even manage a pair of Mangalarga Marchadors. Plan on leaving Thursday at five. Think you can manage that?"
"In a heartbeat. Think you can manage to pry Luc loose?"
"I'll tell him no sex for six weeks."
Cândido chuckled and said, "Six days would be a death sentence for Luc. Besides, why am I being punished?"
Josh called Luc's office and asked if Luc was in.
"As a matter of fact, he is and not on the phone," Prue said.
"You and Elizabeth decide who gets Friday off and who has Monday as Luc will not—and you can underscore that—will not be in the office or in phone contact with the office. Any emergency that can't be handled by others comes to me and it better damn well be an emergency. Put me through."
"Luca Soares," Luc said. Josh had asked Prue just to put him through without announcing him.
"Senhor Soares, I have been authorized to tell you you are going to be without sex for six weeks unless you do exactly as I say," Josh said in Portuguese.
Luc laughed and asked, "Josh, where are you?" Try as hard as he would, Josh's accent invariably revealed who he was when he spoke Portuguese.
"That's beside the point," Josh said in as stern a voice as possible, "I am speaking to you as CEO of Blankenship LLLP. You will, and I mean you will, be packed and ready to leave Thursday afternoon. Walt will fly you and Cândido to a location in Colorado where you will spend five fabulous nights and four days. You will have hiking, biking, horseback riding and other activities available. This fabulous weekend escape is yours for the simple investment of two hours with the CEO of Blankenship LLLP. Should you turn down this fabulous weekend, it will go to Senhor Cândido Rondon and a bed partner of his choice."
Luc was practically hysterical. When he regained some control, Luc said, "Sounds like an order from my superior."
"Kidding aside, Luc, it is that. As much as it has taken to get Alex back in my arms, I would be a damn fool to let you fuck up your relationship with Cândido."
"He does, but you who do not understand. Take it from one who knows, Blankenship LLLP is not worth what you have with Cândido Rondon. He tolerates, but what he, Elizabeth, Prue and I understand is that you are not needed on hand 24/7 anymore. If you are, we haven't done our job and I need to come back and we start over." Luc finally got the point and the two talked about the weekend. When he asked if they would meet Alex, Josh said, "I hope so, but right now it's a minute-by-minute thing with him."
When he hung up, he called his office and got Prue. "Where's Elizabeth?" Josh asked.
"She just stepped out for a few minutes. May I take a message?"
"You'll do. Is the company plane available this weekend?"
"I keep forgetting that the big one is yours. Let me check. Josh, it hasn't been used in months. Walt had it outfitted so he could use it as an instructor and offered free instructions, but had no takers."
"Sign it out to Walt. I'll confirm that later."
Josh called Walt and they chatted a bit before Josh asked, "Walt, can you be away Thursday night through Monday morning?"
"I hope I can Josh, but I'll have to find a babysitter."
"A babysitter?" Josh asked in an incredulous voice. "Since when do you need a babysitter?"
"Since six weeks ago. My daughter died last year and left her husband Charlie with a fifteen-year-old son. Six weeks ago, Charlie was tried for his second major drug offense and the judge gave him five years. Cam, the grandson, had no place to go and before I let him go into foster care, I took him. He's sixteen now, but had pretty much been on his own since his mother died and hung with some pretty rough kids. I dare not leave him alone for any time at all."
"Bring him along. I need you to fly Luc and Cândido to Boulder Thursday at five and back Tuesday morning early. You'll gain an hour coming back, so you could leave around six thirty or seven."
"That would mean flying without a co-pilot and I'm not sure I want to do that over the mountains."
"Don't know that Cândido has FAA certification, but I know he has flown some. Check that out and let me know. By the way, I want to bounce some ideas off you while you are in Boulder."
Walt found out Cândido had been a certified pilot in Brazil and invited him to fly with him and the grandson the next afternoon so Cândido could check out the plane and Walt could check out Cândido.
Everything was arranged except for accommodations. When Mavis came—Gertrude was accompanying Alex—Josh asked her for recommendations for Luc and Cândido and Walt and his grandson. "You'll be lucky if there's a vacancy, but start with Rose Briar B&B while I think."
Josh had to dial a second time because of a busy line. When he finally did get an answer, he identified himself as Josh Taylor and told the owner he was looking for a nice place for two friends Senhor Luca Soares and his husband Senhor Cândido Rondon for a romantic weekend Thursday night through Monday night. "Mr. Taylor, I have been owner of the Rose Briar for fifteen years and never have I had a vacancy this close to a weekend until today. I just got off the phone with a man who canceled his booking for two connecting rooms. You can have either of the rooms or, as a matter of fact, a bird in hand, you know, both with the second at half price."
"Both if the bed can be moved from one and it set up as a sitting room."
"Both with the second at half price and a twenty-five dollar charge for moving the furniture. I'll have to pay the grandson that much to get him to do it."
"Done if there's fresh flowers in both rooms."
"Obviously you found the Rose Briar other than through the website. There are always fresh flowers in the rooms."
"You made yourself a deal. If I had champagne sent over, could you see that it was cold?"
"Of course. If you like, just call me with what you want and I'll take care of it."
When Josh told him what to order, he said, "They must be very special friends."
The innkeeper, Ken Barbie, laughed when he told Josh his name and said, "That's really my name," took Josh's credit card information and said the rooms would be ready Thursday after five.
Finding a place for Walt and his grandson wasn't as easy. Josh wanted it to be a good experience for both and finally found a place outside Boulder which seemed right as it had bike trails, a heated pool and a suite with two bedrooms and a sitting room.
He had just finished his calls and was thinking about dozing off when he heard the front door open, announcing the arrival of Alex and Gertrude. They joined him on the enclosed veranda which went across the back of the house and Mavis, who was preparing lunch, brought juice and joined them.
Josh was dying to hear how the appointments had gone, but Alex's face revealed nothing. Finally he said, "It's been a long morning. There were ten thousand questions and no answers yet. Well, the nutritionist and personal trainer did lay out a diet and exercise program. The nutritionist needed educating about animal crackers and peanut butter, but as soon as he learned any decent diet has to include those we were ok, although how I can eat all he put in the menus, I'll never know. The rest of the team is meeting this afternoon at 1:30 and we go back to discuss their recommendations at 3:00. Mavis, you and Josh go with Gertrude and me. Right now I am ready for lunch." That obviously was intended to close the conversation.
After lunch, Alex suggested a nap and Josh agreed. They headed for their room and after the first flight of stairs, Josh was practically carrying Alex. When they reached the room it was very warm and Alex said, "Let's get naked. It's cooler and I like to feel your skin against mine. Can you do that? I know it'll be hard…" he laughed, "well, I hope it is but I doubt mine will be. Josh, I have wet dreams, but I can't get hard if I am awake. In my heart, I want us to make love, but my screwed up head disagrees."
"That will change one day, Barefoot Boy, and I can wait," Josh said. They undressed each other; Alex was right about it being hard. He glanced at Josh's cock and quickly looked away as though he had done something terribly wrong. Josh's hard-on deflated like a punctured balloon. They lay down and Josh wrapped Alex in his arms and legs and Alex kissed him softly, lay his head on Josh's shoulder and was soon asleep. It was a while before Josh dozed off.
They both were asleep when Gertrude called Josh on his cell. "We've got to do something," she said. "I've managed to get in fair shape, but that didn't give me young knees and those stairs are killers, but it's two and I was afraid you might be asleep."
"We were. When we finish with the doctors, I'll check on intercoms." Alex and Josh dressed and went downstairs, where Alex grabbed another glass of juice. Josh thought, "If I tried to keep up with his eating, I'd soon weigh four hundred pounds."
Gertrude suggested they bike, as it was only ten or so blocks from Vic House, if Alex was up to it. Josh thought it was a bad idea as he didn't think Gertrude had seen how really weak Alex was but, before he could object, Alex said, "Gertrude, I couldn't make it three blocks. Yesterday's shopping did me in and we only walked from the car to a store and rode to the next store."
"That reminds me," Mavis said, "A guy named Art called and said the bikes had arrived and would be waiting for you."
"The rack's on the car so we can pick them up on the way back," Gertrude said.
They arrived at the doctors' office shortly before three and were shown into a conference room. A few minutes later a man dressed in jeans and polo shirt arrived and introduced himself as Shawn Hicks, Josh's psychologist. He was followed by Henry Epstein, psychiatrist, who was dressed in chinos and button-down shirt. Finally, Helen Denney introduced herself as Josh's medical doctor. She was also dressed in chinos and button-down shirt. Helen opened with, "If it's agreeable, we'll go by first names here." Everyone nodded. "There are several ways we can handle this, but I suspect you want to know the whole program we propose before we discuss it rather than doing it piece at a time."
"Thank you," Alex and Josh said almost together.
"Alex was given an exercise program and diet this morning and I see no reason to go over them unless there are questions. I would add that the exercise program will be supervised by Janice Higgins, Alex's personal trainer at the gym. That does not mean he should limit himself to exercise at the gym which, let's face it, is pretty dull for most of us. I seem to recall you two riding in a parade several years ago and if you still ride, go to it. Biking is also good."
"We're picking up our new bikes on the way home," Alex said.
"Good. Did you make the selection yourself?"
"No, we don't know that much about bikes. Art at Pedal to Glory helped us select them."
"Then you're set," Shawn said. "He's the best." Henry nodded agreement. Josh had decided not to tell Alex about the horses and saw no reason to change that.
"Fine. Now, after looking over the files from Dr. Avery in Provo and speaking with Alex this morning, we have set some goals and have some suggested means of reaching them," Helen said.
"Our first goal is physical health and that includes restoring muscle, stamina and strength. The physical training and diet are aimed at that. Additionally, there's the question of disease. Dr. Avery took a very direct approach to the bacterial diseases, Alex."
"He certainly did! He went right to the seat of the problem," Alex said, patting his sweet butt.
"Indeed," Helen chuckled. "Right now, I am going on the assumption that the antibiotics have done their job, but I have reserved a room in a clinic for an overnight at which time I'll do another physical examination and a battery of tests, and take cultures to make sure of Dr. Avery's findings. I do not doubt them in the least. He certainly seems to have done an excellent job, but rechecking never hurts where it is easy to do."
"Ok, I won't hear another word unless I get an answer here. Will there be another rectal examination?"
"I had assumed so. Is that a problem?"
"Did you read Dr. Avery's report carefully?"
"I assure you I did."
"Did anything strike you about the rectal examination?"
"You mean other than the fact that you were put to sleep?"
"No, I mean just that."
"As a matter of fact, I was a bit surprised that Dr. Avery put you to sleep. Many doctors would have refused saying the risks far outweighed the benefits, especially male doctors, I might add. What that tells me is they haven't been traumatized as you were, or treated many who have been. It would never have occurred to me not to put you to sleep given what you endured."
"So long as we are clear on that."
"We are very clear on that," Helen said. "Aside from that, I will do a weekly check on your progress and take cultures every two weeks to be absolutely sure you are disease-free. Of course, that doesn't apply to HIV/AIDS, but the negative results from Provo will be reconfirmed and we'll do tests at three months and at the end of a year just to make sure."
"Now, any questions about my part in this?"
"How do you fit in the overall picture?"Josh asked.
"Good question and one that reminds me how easy it is to make unhelpful assumptions. In addition to handling the physical aspect of Alex's healing, I will be working closely with Henry and Shawn monitoring Alex medications. Additionally, I will serve as coordinator of services to make sure, for example, I haven't scheduled lab tests, Shawn psychological tests and Henry a session at the same time, even the same day, at least after the next seven days are over. They will be fun-filled," she smiled. "Any other questions? Good. Shawn."
"Alex, over the next few days I will be giving you a battery of tests. While I think none of them stand on their own, they are helpful in aiding me in avoiding my own blind spots, pointing out directions and providing valuable information quickly. Additionally, while we have some family history, I will be gathering more."
"Question," Alex said. "Do you mean like how nutty my grandmother was, or what happened to me?"
"This will be the relative nuttiness of the grandmother kind of family history and probably your own recollections up until you met Josh."
"After seven days or so, you will be having sessions with me, maybe with others, maybe by yourself. How things go the next seven or so days will determine the frequency of those sessions, but gradually they will be spread out. What these sessions involve will be determined pretty much by you, but I will definitely push you into areas you might not want to go if I think that's where healing and health lies. Your healing and return to health is our goal, our sole goal. Questions?"
"Alex, I will prescribe and monitor your medication related to your mental and emotional state as well as spend time with you in talk sessions. I believe in the power of medicines, but also in limiting use. If I think a medicine will enable your progress, I will not hesitate to use it, but I will not allow medicine to become a crutch. That's pretty much my role here. Questions?"
"You're not going to dope me up so I'm a zombie are you?"
"No. I will, if I deem it necessary, give you something for the emotional and mental pain when it becomes so much you are near collapse, but not for long and just enough to lessen the pain, but not eliminate it. I'm afraid the pain of your experience has to be dealt with and it can't be if you can't feel it, but there are limits."
"Ok, we are in a bit of a sensitive area here," Josh said, and told them about his mother and her accidental or intentional death from a drug overdose. "I don't know and can't imagine Alex's suffering at the hands of those bastards, but if he's going to relive it, I can see where he might need medicine to help deal with it, but under no circumstance should something like that happen to him."
"You can rest assured about that," Henry said. "First of all, I would never prescribe enough for that to happen since, fortunately and unlike your mother's doctor, Helen and/or I will be available should you need attention, Alex, 24/7. Secondly, I will always use the safest drug that will accomplish the job."
`"If there are no other questions, we'll move on. Shawn."
"Ok, as I said, I will take your family history and I admit, mostly because psychologists do that. I don't think the relative nuttiness of your grandmother has a great deal to do with the situation at hand. Obviously, had you not met Josh or had you two not been separated and New Beginnings not happened, we would not be here or at least not under the present circumstances. But you did meet Josh, you were separated and New Beginnings did happen. That means, Alex, painful as it is going to be, you will have to tell your story."
"Alex and the team discussed that at some length this morning," Helen said to the three with Alex. "We suggested that he might like to talk with just one of us at a time, all three together or just one of us and depend on that member of the team communicating with the other two. He immediately rejected the idea of telling the story three times. He also wanted all three to be working with the same data."
"It's not that I don't trust you, but you cannot tell another person's story without leaving out some, maybe adding some and possibly coloring what you heard. It's just the way humans are," Alex said.
"I agree," Helen said. "In fact, we all agree on that point. So does that mean we all three will hear your story at the same time?"
"It does, but there's more."
"Oh?" Henry said.
"Yes. I know I'll have to work through the story, reliving parts of it, but I don't want to have to tell it over and over. Sure, all three of you can hear it at once, but Josh, Gertrude and Mavis need to hear it as well. Well, maybe they don't, but I need them to hear it. Why can't they hear it at the same time you do?"
"It's simply not done," Shawn said.
"There's the question of confidentiality," Henry added.
"It's unprofessional," Helen contributed.
"Who's the patient here?" Alex asked. "Why shouldn't that be my decision?"
"Alex, I am sure some embarrassing questions may come up that you would rather not answer in front of others," Helen said.
"We are not talking about others. We are talking about the man with whom I been in love since before I knew what that meant. There is nothing I would be embarrassed to answer or say in front of him. He has witnessed some of what I have been through and nothing I have to say is worse than what he saw. What question could you ask that Gertrude and Mavis couldn't make a decent stab at? Gertrude knew my wet dreams were about Josh before he did. Mavis has known about us since we were thirteen. Not a valid reason, Doctors."
"Alex, we'll have to discuss this, but I think I can tell you the answer will be no," Helen said.
"I'll also have to think about this," Alex said.
Josh was both shocked and pleased at Alex's stance, even if he would have to back down. He saw some of the old spirit in Alex who, until now, had been beaten down. Now he was standing on his own rights.
"Then I guess we will see you tomorrow at nine," Helen said—obviously a bit pissed at being challenged—as the three picked up their papers and walked out of the room.
Editors: Jesse and Scott.
As always, I own the copyright, so no use beyond personal copy, without permission. If you are too young or whatever to read literature which may describe explicit sex, don't or take any consequences.
All persons and places are fictional and any similarity to persons or places living or dead is coincidental. Again, it's fiction, folks.