The two dressed quickly when the morning sun awoke them before six thirty and went downstairs where all was quiet. As they entered the kitchen, Alex said, "I'm starved, but I want food, not cattle feed with milk."
Josh, his head in the fridge chuckled and asked, "Do you think you can handle bacon, or sausage, eggs and hash browns?"
"Dozen eggs, pound of sausage, two quarts of hash browns, a dozen biscuits, yeah, that sounds like a light breakfast I could handle."
Josh took a bottle from the fridge and poured two glasses of juice. "Are you sure your sexy tummy can handle sausage and eggs?"
"Sure I'm sure. What do you want me to do?"
The two soon had breakfast cooking and just as Alex was taking the biscuits from the oven, Gertrude walked in and said, "You two are up awfully early. Could you throw in a couple more eggs, Josh?"
"Just watch me make this disappear," Alex said as Josh placed a loaded plate in front of him.
Since it was Saturday, they didn't go to the gym and Alex suggested they bike to Mavis's place.
"Your ass up to riding?" Josh laughed.
Alex looked behind himself and said, "What's left of it seems in good shape."
"Better shape in a few weeks," Josh said, and slapped him on the butt, "but I have a better suggestion. How about we drive out, saving your ass and energy for the horses? I'd like to ride down the road a bit and introduce you to one of my teachers who was important to my getting a job at Blankenship Ltd."
"Fine, but what if Gertrude needs the car."
"As a matter of fact, I do, but I can drive you out and come pick you up."
"Looks like we will be here for at least two more weeks," Josh said, "and maybe Alex even longer after that. Drop us off at the car rental place and…"
"That's not necessary," Gertrude said.
"Ah, but it is if you want to rent a car."
"Come to think of it, one of them will bring it to you and it's as cheap as the others," Gertrude said and when she finally remembered the name and looked it up, she gave Josh the number. Twenty minutes later a young man drove up. Of course, they had to drive him back to the rental agency, but at least they didn't have to bother Gertrude.
They drove to the riding school, spoke to Mavis and went to the pasture. Josh gave a shrill whistle and Alex did likewise and Princess and Prince came thundering from the back of the pasture, shaking their heads. As they approached the gate to the stable, Prince really started showing off, rearing up on his hind legs, whinnying and making all sorts of horse noises. Princess was putting on a good show for Alex, but in a more ladylike manner. The two were beautiful, coats shining. Princess had fully recovered from being mistreated before Jack found her. The two brushed the horses and saddled them. Josh stood by to help Alex, but it was amazing what a week's food and exercise had done for him, although he still had a long way to go. The horses saddled, they set off down the road toward Senhor D'Cruz's place. As they rode at a slow walk, Josh told Alex about having a crash course in Brazilian Portuguese and how it helped him get his job at Blankenship Ltd.
"By the way, you'll want to see Senhor's horses. They are Mangalarga Marchadors, some call them the national horse of Brazil. They, too, trace their blood back to horses of the conquistadors. Beautiful animals. I hope to breed some at the Mountain." As soon as the words were out of his mouth, he regretted saying them. He was afraid Alex might feel he was pressuring him about living in NC.
Alex laughed, "Their name sounds as if you are about to burst into song. So you speak Portuguese?"
"You took Spanish in high school, right?"
"I did and that was a waste of time. When I started Spanish here, I had almost as much to unlearn as I had to learn." They talked about language and the fact that it was very easy for Josh to learn a language. Alex said it was not easy for him.
When they reached Senhor D'Cruz's place, they found Mavis had told him they were coming. The intervening years since he was Josh's teacher had taken a toll, but he was still straight and was full of energy as always. He and Josh greeted each other with kisses on the cheek and Senhor D'Cruz said, in Portuguese, "Joshua, hero of New Beginnings." Josh replied that there were many heroes of New Beginnings. He switched to English and introduced Alex. "Ah, the famous Alex, welcome, welcome, a friend of Josh's has to be a fine man. He looked at Josh and asked, in Portuguese, "Your lover?" Josh blushed and nodded. Still in Portuguese, he asked, "He was in that horrible place at New Beginnings?" Josh nodded. He looked at Alex and said, "I hope, Alex, you don't think I am always so rude. I understand that beautiful animal you were riding belongs to you?"
"She does," then he stopped, "well, she did." Neither he nor Josh had thought about the fact that, in truth, she belonged to Josh, no longer to Alex.
"She does, Senhor. When Alex was kidnapped by his mother, she was sold and badly treated until her original owner recognized her and bought her. He nursed her back to health and sold her to me. By the way, she and Prince are parents. I had always assumed they were brother and sister…"
"They're not?" Alex looked incredulous. Josh then told him they had actually been captured from herds hundreds of miles apart. "And they are parents?"
"Princess dropped twins sired by Prince. They will…" Josh caught himself before he said, 'be going to the Mountain' "…be two soon."
They walked to the pasture and looked at Senhor D'Cruz's horses. As they watched, Josh counted six, a stallion and five mares. "Sadly, I will have to let them go soon except for Meu Rei. He has been with me twenty-five years and he will stay with me. I can no longer care for my children and finding someone who understands and loves the animals becomes more and more difficult. It will be a sad day, but it must come soon."
"Promise me you will not sell them for six months and I will pay for their keep. Mavis has half a dozen college students taking lessons, so they must love the animals. She can find someone to shovel manure—anyone can do that…"
"Maybe one of the younger professors since they quickly gain experience in that," Senhor D'Cruz laughed. "Very well, Josh, if you wish, I can do that."
"I wish it very much. After all, Senhor, had it not been for you, I would not have had the money to make the offer."
"Then you have done well, meu filho?"
"Very well indeed. If I never made another cent, I'd likely have money when I die, but already some is being put to good use." Josh then told him about Boys' Camp and added, "All who leave will be riding."
"Horses and boys are a good combination," Senhor said, with a nod. "Horses can help make bad boys good."
"True," Alex grinned, "just look at us!"
They watched the horses a while longer, then Senhor D'Cruz said, "Mavis told me you were coming so, Josh, as usual we shall have a meal together." As usual, it was excellent.
In the afternoon, Josh and Alex drove a few miles outside Estes Park to Shawn's home, which was of an architecture you would expect in the Rockies with two decks, on three sides of the house, all providing outstanding views. Shawn stood on a first-level deck and called to them, "Come on up."
When they reached the deck, he said, "Alex, Josh, welcome. Alex, I suggest we go inside. Josh, sorry to be a poor host, but Alex comes first. My weekend guests are having drinks and snacks on the next deck and you are welcome to join them. This way Alex."
Josh took the stairs to the second-level deck and could hear voices and laughter around the corner. He wasn't sure he should intrude, but he had been invited and the idea of sitting in the car did not appeal at all. As he turned the corner, he saw five people sitting around a table. He walked toward it and suddenly one of them started laughing and pointing at Josh. It was Cândido!
Luc stood, turned to face Josh and said, "There is no escape!"
"None," Josh replied. "The world is too small."
Luc grabbed him in a bear hug as did Cândido, then Luc turned to the others and said, "Obviously Cândido and I know this fellow. My boss and CEO of Blankenship LLLP, Josh Taylor. Josh, this beautiful lady is Senhora Luzica Benedita Fellcian Soares Hicks, my sister and Shawn's wife."
"Senhora, honrado," Josh responded.
"And this lovely lady, is Sara, Shawn's sister and her husband Ralph Kinsolving. Shawn told us he had a patient he needed to see this afternoon but, of course, named no names."
"Yes, he made what is, I hope, a rare exception, to see Alex who had a very bad episode last evening."
"It is an exception and, by the way, Luc was showing off, just call me Dita."
"I believe I know enough to know this is a most awkward situation for Shawn now."
"I can alert Shawn and you can go around and meet Alex. He need not, and probably would prefer not to, meet us in this situation."
Fifteen minutes before Alex's time with Shawn was over, Josh walked around the house and sat in a chair, appreciating the incredible view. He heard Alex approaching and stood. When Alex reached him, he grabbed Josh and held him close. Josh wrapped him in his arms and kissed his head as Alex shed silent tears for a few minutes. When he stopped, he looked at Josh and covered his mouth with his own for a passionate kiss. When he broke the kiss, he looked into Josh's eyes and said, "I can never tell you how very, very much I love you."
"Nor I you," Josh replied.
For the first half hour of the drive back to Boulder, Alex was silent, then he said, "Josh, Shawn told me he didn't like to name conditions because putting a name on it could lead to self-fulfilling prophesies and rigid ideas about what can and cannot be changed. 'The past cannot be changed, Alex,' he said, 'but how we deal with the consequences, within bounds, is within our power.' He said I had suffered a flashback. I had been conditioned to an erection resulting in pain and suffering, not pleasure. 'I'll be honest,' he said. 'It may, and probably will, happen again. Your response may be as intense as last night's, or it may not. I can tell you when you are tired, stressed or in emotional turmoil, it is more likely to happen. Josh knows what can happen and he handled it well last night. When Henry and I talked, we agreed that Josh should be instructed in how to respond and given what he needs to do so. Unless he hears otherwise, Henry will meet with Josh while I meet with you Monday.'" Alex reported.
Sunday Josh suggested he and Alex have a picnic basket made up and go for a drive in the mountains. Alex was all for it. Josh called a catering place that did picnic baskets and had one made up. "Food for three people, but there will be only two of us." They picked up the basket and drove to Rocky Mountain National Park. It was a pretty day, so many others had the same idea. Since all at Vic House had slept in, it was midafternoon before they started looking for a picnic spot. They found one at the edge of an alpine meadow. Fortunately, there were only a few people there and they got as far away from them as possible, spread a blanket and lay down on it, Alex's head on Josh's chest.
Alex turned over to face Josh, placed his hands on either side of Josh's face and brought his lips to Josh's. They started tongue wrestling and then Josh broke the kiss. "Barefoot Boy," he said, "I can go as far as you think safe, but I do not want a repeat of the other night."
Alex sighed and said, "Neither do I, but I want to make love to you so badly."
"I know the feeling," Josh said with a smile.
Alex once again lay on his back, his head on Josh's chest and asked, "Josh, is this anything like Sentinel Mountain?"
"Well, the house overlooks a long meadow—really long—with a stream running through it but, no, the Rockies are young mountains, sharp, stony, high. The Appalachians are old, worn down, gentle. Flying into the Mountain, you fly over gently-rolling, tree-covered mountains… no, they are not like this at all. The meadow is lush. It is cut for hay several times a year. There are pastures where cattle are raised, but enough about that."
"Josh, are you afraid to talk about it?"
"Honesty is the best policy," he thought and said, "I am, Alex. I'm afraid you will not be honest about our living there. I do love it, but I will not force it on you."
"If I promise to be honest when I see it, will you tell me about it?"
"Can you wait for ten days? Unless the team thinks it is very unwise, we'll be there and you can see it first-hand."
"I can, but I don't want to. What are we going to do about the horses?"
"Well, I haven't talked to you since Sally and I talked. She and Brenda capture Mustangs and Jack says they are better at it than he is. Anyway, they had two good captures and the herd now has sixty Mustangs. My share would be thirty horses, but I don't want or need that many. She'll pick out a dozen mares and a stallion which she, Brenda and Winston will accompany cross country. There will also be half a dozen ponies. Rob and the folk at the Mountain have a horse station ready for them."
"Yeah, there's already a cattle station. See my great-uncle Joshua Elijah Taylor, for whom I am named, hated Utah so much that he refused to call anything a ranch. Sentinel Mountain is certainly not a farm, so he chose an Aussie term, station. They have had a cattle operation for years and it has always been called the cattle station. Now that there will be horses, it will be a horse station."
"Did you know your Uncle Josh?"
"No, I didn't even know he existed until I got a call from a lawyer and learned he had kinda left Sentinel Mountain to me." The two lay, Alex's head on Josh's chest while Josh told Alex Elijah's story.
When he finished Alex said, "Wow. Kinda like us, huh."
"Yeah, but what about food?"
Alex grinned and said, "I'm all for it."
They opened the picnic basket, spread the tablecloth from the basket and placed the food on it—sandwiches and fruit and, no surprise, PB and animal crackers done up in a fancy package of paper lace. There was a thermos of still-icy juice. When he saw them, Alex got a sheepish grin on his face and said, "You didn't have to, but I'm glad you did."
When they finished and had packed away the remains, they once again lay down as before and, in minutes, Alex was sleeping. Josh stroked his beloved's hair, his heart overflowing with love for the man he had dreamed of for years. Contented, he too drifted off to sleep.
Alex woke first, rolled over and raised himself on his elbows and looked into Josh's face. He knew that there was no way he was going to let a place come between them. "Besides," he thought, "there is something mystical about Josh's uncle reaching out from the grave and saving Josh and, come to think of it, me too. Now Josh is mine forever." He leaned forward and touched his lips to Josh's. Josh awoke, looked up into Alex's eyes and pulled his lips to his own. "I think it's time we started home," Alex said as he stood. Josh got up, folded the blanket and handed it to Alex, picked up the basket, slipped his arm around Alex's waist and they started toward the car.
As they drew near the car, a young child—three or four—pointed to them and said, "I saw them kissing." A man and a woman were each holding one of his hands. They looked at Alex and Josh, obviously embarrassed, and smiled sheepishly.
Josh laughed and asked, "Don't you like to kiss?"
"No! People don't taste good."
"Sorry. Maybe you can find someone that tastes good to kiss."
"Maybe," he said, looking doubtful.
"Well, I hope so," Josh laughed, "kissing can be fun."
The child put his finger beside his mouth, wrinkled his forehead and said, "I'll have to do that."
The couple were both red, but the child was carrying on an important conversation and wasn't budging. Josh and Alex walked up to them and extended their hands, "Josh Taylor, my partner Alex Bledsoe. You have a charming son."
"Thank you, I hope you weren't offended," the woman said.
"Of course not. Delighted in fact."
"I'm Steve Ellis, my wife Denise and loudmouth is Curtis."
Josh squatted down to Curtis's level and extended his hand and said, "I'm Josh and just how much kissing have you done, Curtis?"
"Lots, Marvin kisses me all the time. He's a dog."
"Well, I guess his kisses could be pretty bad."
"Ugh, they are."
When Josh stood, Steve looked at him and said, "Why do you look familiar?"
Denise put her hand over her mouth and said, "You're Josh Taylor!"
Ok, what could he say? Right now there was Josh Taylor of Blankenship LLLP in the news and Josh Taylor New Beginnings raider. She helped him out when she said, "Thank God you raided that hellhole New Beginnings. My parents put my brother in one of those places when he was eighteen. Steve and some friends got him out."
"How's he doing now?" Alex asked, squeezing Josh's hand.
"Fine. He got excellent help from a team in Boulder. Took a few months and he had flashbacks for a couple of years, but his lover was and is a great guy and they are very happy. They live on a ranch in Montana. Oh!" She looked at Alex and they could see the light dawn. "You were… I mean…" She was looking at Alex and turning all shades of red.
"Thanks for telling us that," Alex said. "I was in New Beginnings and am working with a team in Boulder as well. It's good to know there is hope."
"Oh, there is," Steve said. "Maybe Regeneration wasn't as bad as New Beginnings, but I think it was. Phillip has made it and is a very happy gay man. You will make it. Good luck."
Alex squatted to Curtis's level and said, "Curtis, maybe you need to be kissing girls."
"Ugh," Curtis said, "Dogs is better than girls!"
"Maybe so," Alex laughed.
When they got back to Vic House, there was a call from Alex's dad. When Alex returned the call, his dad told him he was back in New York after his company agreed that the proposal made to it was maybe legal, but shaky morally and financially. "Then at dinner last evening, one of their officials drank too much and spilled the milk. I left the dinner, called New York and was told to come home. I managed to get an early morning flight and got back a short while ago. I am free until next weekend. How do things stand with you?"
Alex told him he had a setback and he and Josh had postponed their trip to NC until the weekend after next. "Then Paula and I will be in Boulder sometime tomorrow. How are you doing right now?"
"Fine. It's just that things trigger flashbacks."
"Hang in there. Tell Gertrude I'm looking forward to spending time with her and Mavis. How is Mavis? I assume you have seen her."
"Yesterday. Josh and I went riding. Prince and Princess are here."
"Oh, I'm surprised you still have her. Your mother allowed that?"
"Not exactly. I'll tell you the whole story next week."
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.