The following story is fiction. Although some of the events depicted are based on actual happenings they are only incidental to the story and do not constitute a basis in reality.
The story is copyright, the reader may download a copy for his/her own use, but republishing or archiving on other websites or newsgroups without the author's permission is strictly prohibited. All rights are reserved.
The following story contains references to two men having strong emotional and physical feelings for each other. You shouldn't read it if you're below the age of consent in your community or if said community doesn't allow you to access such material.
The author would like to thank Drew Hunt for his inspiration in the writing of this story. Without his love, friendship and editorial help the author would never have had the courage to even try to write a story such as this. Thanks go to Tim Mead as well. His editorial help and encouragement have been invaluable. T. O'Reilly 12/9/05.
One Night in December
“Well, are you going to do it or not?”
“Oh, I don't know, Andy. It's been over fifteen years since I did any theater,” I replied to my lover as he opened the bedroom windows before coming to bed.
“Rick said he needed to know by today. You haven't called him, so you haven't completely decided against it, have you?”
It was more a statement than a question.
“That seems to indicate to me that it is something you really want to do but are just a bit. . . cluck, cluck, cluck.”
I threw a pillow at him. Sometimes it amazed me that men our ages could act like such adolescents. Neoteny the animal behaviorists call it: the persistence of juvenile or infantile traits into adulthood. Dogs are very neotanous. Apparently so are humans.
“Come on, David,” Andy cajoled. “I've never seen you do any acting except for the staff thing you do at Christmas at school, and that isn't exactly acting. Pretty please. For me.”
He was on the bed now and kissing my feet and ankles as he made his request for me to return to the footlights. By the time he had reached my knees and thighs I was weakening. By the time he engulfed me I was helplessly saying I would do anything he asked.
My climax was stellar, one of those that starts out slow and then builds until you think you're going to go nuts if the pleasure gets any more intense. Andy had learned a lot over our seven years together. He now lay on his side next to me. I brought him to his orgasm manually. He erupted all over our stomachs, warm moistness causing me to become hard again. Just as we were sharing our after climax kiss, the phone rang.
I tried to say 'ignore it' but Andy reached out and took it off the cradle. He's always worrying about his clients and their animals.
“Dr. Barnes. Oh, hi Rick. Yes, he's here. Just a minute.”
I shook my head at him and took the phone.
“Hi, Rick. . . No, Andy is not out of breath. No, we weren't. . . well okay. . . yes, we were. . . no you can't come over and join the fun.” I rolled my eyes and Andy, bless him, went down on me again which made it very hard to concentrate on what Rick was saying. But, I wasn't going to miss any chance I had to be with my man.
“Yes, Rick, I've been thinking about it. . . Well, thanks for saying that. . . it feels good to know that your talents are recognized.” At which point Andy bit me and I grunted.
“No, Rick. . . the dog just walked on my stomach.” I pulled Andy's hair and he sucked harder.
“Listen, Rick I'm in the middle of something here. . .God, okay yes, you're right. Okay. Andy is giving me a blow job, if you must know and I would like to get the most out of it. . . Okay, yes, damn it. You have your Algernon. Good bye.”
No sooner had I said good bye when my balls contracted and Andy was treated to his second serving of the night. Not something that he gets to enjoy often, being stuck with a senior citizen for a partner.
He politely gave me a minute to catch my breath and said, “ Before I fuck you, did you agree to take the part.”
“Ah! that is clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them.” I said quoting a line from the play. “Yes, I'm going to do the part. Now fuck me.”
“God, I hate cucumber sandwiches,” I said to Rick during a rehearsal. “Why the hell do you have to be so exact? Can't we have bologna? The audience would never know.”
Rick just looked at me with those damn 'I am a professional eyes' and I knew it was a lost cause. I'd have to eat my way through those wretched finger sandwiches so that the plate would be empty on cue. The audience would roar with laughter when Algernon accuses his butler of not providing them for his very particular aunt, the Lady Bracknell. Well, I could handle a half-dozen of them without gagging.
Other than the issue of the cucumber sandwiches the rehearsals seemed to be going well. I was actually enjoying being part of the civic theater again. I was still on guard, however. The theater was the perfect place for closeted gay men to meet and greet others of the same situation: married and horny for a man.
My co-star (oh my God that sounds so pretentious) was a young man from a near-by suburb. His name was Jorge and he was gorgeous. He was Latino, thirty and married. And I was pretty sure he was on our side of the fence. Try as I might I couldn't repress the attraction I felt for him. His wonderful good looks weren't lost on Rick either and he lost no time in letting Mr. Jack Worthing (Jorge's character) know that he would be more than willing to give him some private direction. I remembered those private direction sessions well.
Jorge, on the other hand, seemed to be more interested in me than in Rick. This became clear one night at rehearsal. Jorge, Alan Berk, and I were rehearsing the first act of the play:
As Algernon, I said, “Bring me that cigarette case Mr. Worthing left in the smoking-room the last time he dined here.”
“Yes, sir,” Alan as Lane, said.
“Do you mean to say you have had my cigarette case all this time? I wish to goodness uh um. I wish to. . . Damn I forgot the line. Cue please,” Jorge said.
The script girl read the line. “Do you mean to say you have had my cigarette case all this time? I wish to goodness you had let me know. I have been writing frantic letters to Scotland Yard about it. I was very nearly offering a large reward.”
Jorge went over and looked at the script, repeated the line several times then came back to me.
“Do you mean to say you have had my cigarette case all this time? I wish to goodness you had let me know. I have been writing frantic letters to Scotland Yard about it. I was very nearly offering a large reward.”
“Well, I wish you would offer one. I happen to be more than usually hard up.”
“There is no good offering a large reward now that the thing is found.”
Alan as the butler entered carrying the cigarette case on a silver tray. I took it.
“I think that is rather mean of you, Ernest, I must say.” I opened the case and examined it. “However, it makes no matter, for, now that I look at the inscription inside, I find that the thing isn't yours after all.”
“Of course it's mine. . . Shit. . . . Give me the line please.” He ran his fingers through his luxurious dark hair and my dick twitched.
I involuntarily looked at Rick, who merely smiled that knowing smile and winked.
“Of course it's mine. You have seen me with it a hundred times, and you have no right whatsoever to read what is written inside. It is a very ungentlemanly thing to read a private cigarette case,” read the cue girl.
Jorge tried again. “Of course it's mine. You have seen me with it a hundred times, and you have. . . Hell.”
Rick stepped in. “Jorge, you need to get those lines down. We only have two more weeks here. Let's take a break for now. David, can you and Jorge get together and do some extra read overs?”
Jorge took that cue real fast. “That's a great idea. There's no rehearsal tomorrow since its Friday. We could catch dinner and then go back to your place???” His eagerness caused Rick to snicker.
“Ah.” I was caught off guard. I scrambled to think of some way I could wiggle out of this. Not that I didn't think Jorge needed extra practice but, I was already feeling tingles every time I looked at him and the thought of his being alone with me. . . I couldn't remember if Andy was going to be home tomorrow or not. With spring shots and foals being born he was getting home late almost every night.
“Ah, sure, that'd be great. How about you Rick? You gonna join us?” I hoped he would, that way. . . well. . . what was I thinking? Rick would love to do some extra, “extra” rehearsing.
“No,” Rick replied wiggling his eyebrows suggestively, “I have a date.” He winked and added, “Dave you know the play well enough to give Jorge all the help he needs.” He winked again and once more the eyebrows were in motion.
“It's all set then,” Jorge came over and wrapped an arm around my shoulder. “How about I meet you at T.G. Friday's off Ann Arbor-Saline about six?”
“Okay,” I managed to get out. His arm seemed to be radiating more heat than the furnace in the auditorium.
“You guys have fun,” said Rick.
'Yeah, fun, right,' I thought.
I was already in bed when Andy came in.
“What time is it?” I asked.
“A little after one. I'm dead on my feet: three foals and a breech calf. Why these beasts have to wait until night to have trouble giving birth. . . ” Andy sat on the bed and pulled off his boots.
'Shit,' I was hoping to empty my balls with my man as a hedge against temptation tomorrow night. Maybe it would still work out. I sat up and leaned forward, about to put my hands on his shoulders. He got up and I nearly fell on my face.
“I have to take a shower. Be right back,” Andy slurred this out behind a big yawn.
This wasn't looking too good.
The shower ran and ran. I got up to check on Andy. The bathroom was steamy and hot. I pulled back the shower curtain. There he stood his head against one wall, his feet braced against the base of the opposite wall, his arms dangling in front of him. The water spraying on his broad back and shoulders ran over his abdomen and dripped off his cock like he was taking a piss. He was sound asleep.
I shrugged my shoulders. I guess I would just have to choke the chicken myself. I turned off the shower and took a soggy Andy to bed.
Friday evening at five forty-five I arrived at the restaurant. I have no idea why I have this compulsion to be early. It often gets me into trouble. It would be so tonight. I had almost pleaded with Andy to be home early. To the point where I was afraid he might become suspicious of my motive: not to be alone with Jorge. I had jerked off twice hoping it would squelch my libido. It seemed to have worked. But, then I undid that by ordering a drink. Alcohol might be a sex drive diminisher for most guys. . . but not for me. As soon as it was delivered to my table I knew it was a mistake. I immediately felt sexy even though I hadn't even sipped it. Oh well, I'd paid for it.
Then Jorge came in. He was wearing a black leather jacket. He removed that and despite the fact it was early spring he had a tank top on that fit like a glove. It showed off his well muscled but slender body to perfection right down to the curls of black hair that wound their way out above the neckline. There was a one-inch gap between his belt and the bottom of the shirt revealing a fantastic hair pattern.
“Don't you look appetizing.” It was out and on its way to the target before I'd realized what I'd said. 'Shit!'
Jorge smiled and made some remark about my looking good as well but I was too busy trying to find a way to undo any damage my ill spoken remark may have done to notice.
I lamely said something about meaning it looked like Jorge could use an appetizer but he merely laughed, sat down and squeezed my knee. Things were not going well.
We ordered and I made a determined effort to get things back on an even keel. I brought up his marriage. I figured that might douse the fire in the ember stage. Wrong again. It turned out that he'd told his wife before they married about his sexual orientation and they had an agreement. Wonderful, they had an agreement.
Andy, I would talk about Andy.
“Yes,” I was saying, “after my wife died I never thought I would be this happy again but Andy and I have been together seven years now, and. . . ” Jorge reached out and scratched my nose.
I was completely caught off guard. “What?”
“Just scratching your seven year itch.” He smiled.
We arrived back at the house. The dogs were enthusiastic in their greeting of a new friend. Jorge enjoyed their welcome and then asked to use the bathroom. In his absence I made a quick call to Andy's cell phone.
“Sorry, Babe,” he said, “but I have three more barn calls to make tonight. We're running really late.”
Curses, foiled again.
I said good-bye just as Jorge immerged from the hallway. “I could use a beer, got one?”
“Sure,” I replied and got us each one from the fridge. Once more I realized I had acted without thinking. “Um. . . I better not,” and turned to replace the bottle.
“Relax, Dave,” Jorge laughed, “I ain't gonna bite.”
I wasn't too sure about that.
We went into the family room.
“Let's take it from your entrance in Act one,” I said, switching to the British accent my character would use.
I began with, “How are you, my dear Ernest? What brings you up to town?”
“Oh, pleasure, pleasure! What else should bring one anywhere? Eating as usual, I see, Algy!”
“I believe it is customary in good society to take some slight refreshment at five o'clock. Where have you been since last Thursday?”
“In the country.”
“We have to be more lively,” I said. “The scene is extremely funny but can die if we lag on each others lines. Take it from where we left off”
“In the country.”
“What on earth do you do there?” I replied.
“When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people. It is excessively boring.”
“And who are the people you amuse?”
“Oh, neighbours, neighbours.”
“Got nice neighbours in your part of Shropshire?”
“Perfectly horrid! Never speak to one of them.”
“How immensely you must amuse them! By the way, Shropshire is your county, is it not?”
“Eh? Shropshire? Yes, of course. Hallo! Why all these cups? Why cucumber sandwiches? Why such reckless extravagance in one so young? Who is coming to tea?”
Back in my normal speaking voice, I said, “Okay that's better, but now you're stepping on my lines. Timing is everything in this play. Go.”
Going back into character. “Oh! merely Aunt Augusta and Gwendolen.”
“How perfectly delightful!”
“Did you know Oscar Wilde was gay?” Jorge interjected.
“Uh, yes I did,” I said, trying to go on to the next line.
Jorge walked up and stood in front of me. “I think it shows in the lines don't you?”
“Uh, well, they're English, they say things funny over there. I wouldn't say it sounds gay.”
He walked a bit closer. “Do you think I sound gay?”
“No, I . . . ”
He reached out and took both my hands in his. “I don't think you look or act gay either, in fact you are one of the most masculine men I have ever known.” He leaned forward and I realized he was going to kiss me.
For one brief second I thought I would give in to the impulse to kiss him, for only one second, I swear.
“Whoa, time out!” I dropped his hands, put mine on his shoulders and pushed him back
“Look, I'd be a liar if I told you I don't find you very hot. I'm flattered that a young stud like you would want to fool around with someone my age.” (I refused to say 'Old guy like me,' just for the sake of literary style.) But, I really am committed to a monogamous relationship with Andy.
“Can't fault a guy for trying,” Jorge said with a smile.
“No, you can't.” I smiled back.
A working understanding was formed, and we were able to continue our rehearsing with a new respect for one another.
Jorge left. We even hugged at the door. As he was leaving Andy came up the walk. They stopped and talked for a minute.
“So, that's your co-star. He's a real cutie. How do you manage to keep your hands off him.”
“Because I have my hands full with you, Buster.” I pulled him into my arms, kicked the door shut with my foot and proceeded to let out the pent up lust and horniness of the last few days right there in the entry hall.
“Another opening, another show,” sang Andy, off key as usual. “Are you nervous?”
“A little,” I confessed, “it's been a while since I did stuff like this.
It was the afternoon of the first performance. Andy had made sure he was off that day so he could come to the opening and I was getting ready to leave for the theater.
Brad and Hank came in.
“Hey. Glad you guys could make it.”
“Wouldn't miss it for the world,” said Hank. “Good luck.”
“Whoa Cowboy!” Everyone shouted at once. “Don't say, “good luck,” that's bad luck for an actor on opening night,” Brad explained.
“Well, then what do you say?” Hank asked.
“Break a leg.”
“Oh okay, well, bust a gut Mr. B.”
“Thanks Hank. I will.” I smiled and left for the auditorium.
I spent the rest of the early evening putting on my make-up, joking with the stage crew, trying to calm Rick, who was in a state of nervous collapse, and wondering why several of the cast got the giggles when I wished them “Break a Leg.”
I could hear the audience beyond the curtain. I felt that old familiar tightness in my gut. 'Bust a gut, Mr. B' floated through my mind. I knew that the minute I walked on stage and said my first line the butterflies would be gone. Just like a football player when he takes his first hit in a game.
The cast backstage exchanged 'thumbs up' as the curtain rose on the morning-room of Algernon's flat in Half-Moon Street. The room was luxuriously and artistically furnished. The sound of a piano was heard in the adjoining room. Lane was arranging afternoon tea on the table, the music ceased, that was my cue. I made my entrance.
I heard hooting and cat calls from the audience. Hank! That boy needed to work on his theater etiquette. But, I loved it.
“Did you hear what I was playing, Lane?” As expected the butterflies vanished.
“I didn't think it polite to listen, sir.”
“I'm sorry for that, for your sake. I don't play accurately - any one can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life.”
“And, speaking of the science of Life, have you got the cucumber sandwiches cut for Lady Bracknell?”
As Lane handed me the salver, I let out a gasp and looked up to see the cast and crew stifling laughter in the wings. The salver was piled with at least three dozen cucumber sandwiches, all of which I was, as Algernon, supposed to consume before Lady Bracknell made her entrance. I panicked.
“Is there a problem, sir,” Lane ad libbed with an effort not to laugh.
“Not at all, Lane, not at all. Would you care for a sandwich?” I said thrusting the tray at him.
“Oh, no, sir. That would be highly improper.”
With that Alan turned on his heel and exited stage right to join the off stage saboteurs in silent laughter.
I began eating the fuckin' sandwiches. I ate two or three at a time. I stuffed them in my pockets, I offered them to Jorge when he made his entrance as Jack three times as many times as was called in the script for throwing him off his cadence and lines. I stuffed them in the cushions of the couch. I crammed the last four in my mouth just as Lady Bracknell made her entrance, thus the joke of blaming Lane for not having prepared cucumber sandwiches was preserved. Oscar would have been proud.
At home that night I asked Andy, “So, it didn't seem strange that I was stuffing my face with those damned sandwiches half of the first act?”
“No, babe it was fine. You covered it well. I had no idea that you were doing anything out of the ordinary.”
“Come and see the next performance and you'll see how it should run.”
Andy took me in his arms and kissed me. “I nominate you for the Toni for best performance by an actor in a revival.”
“How about the best performance by an actor in bed?”
“And why not?”
“Cuz you wouldn't be acting.”
The production behind us, we turned to the activities of late spring: horse shows and football practice. Hank was a frequent visitor to the house when Brad was home on weekends from school: weekends that is when Hank and I, sometimes accompanied by our boyfriends, weren't off showing horses.
“Are you guys coming to the intra squad scrimmage in two weeks?” Brad asked us as we drove home late one Sunday Night from a show in Mount Pleasant.
“Wouldn't miss it,” Hank mumbled as he dozed with his head on Brad's shoulder, his arms around his waist, in the back of the super cab that pulled the horse trailer with Snazzy and one of Hank's horses inside.
“I'll be there,” I agreed. Just last year I had gone down to that scrimmage to confront Brad on the issues surrounding his orientation, and now he was cuddling with this 'to die for stud' in the back seat of our truck. I smiled at the memory and thanked whatever gods there be that things had worked out so smoothly.
We dropped Hank and his horse off at his barn in Lansing and drove to Hawthorn Ridge where I kept Snazzy. Brad slept most of the way. Andy met us at the barn to take a sleepy Brad back to Toledo while I put Snazzy away for the night and tacked his ribbons on his door. Had to brag to these Hunter-Jumper people just a little.
“You want me to wait up,” I asked as I snaked my arms around Andy's waist beside the truck in the glow of the farm's yard light. It always gave me a thrill to express my love for him in a public way. Even though the only witnesses were the horses that hung their heads out of the Dutch doors to the stalls. A jealous Snazzy nickered.
“You better. It's been a week and I have needs, my man.”
With that he pressed his lips on mine and his tongue demanded permission to visit mine. I opened myself to him and was carried away by the sensation that traveled from my mouth to my groin. The feeling of becoming sexually aroused is such a wonder after you haven't had sex in a while. I could feel my cock protesting against the confines of my jeans, as well as feeling Andy's responding. I felt the pre-cum being released into my boxers and down my leg. I loved it.
“Uh, maybe we should just take a few minutes to take care of your needs here in the office or in the hay shed,” I suggested as we ground our dicks together through the fabric.
“Knock it off you horny bastards, I gotta get back to Toledo. Just cool off until he gets home, Mr. B,” came Brad's sleep tinged voice from the back of the truck. His statement was followed by a chuckle.
I blushed. I could feel it.
Andy laughed and kissed me on the nose. “Be back before you know it.”
It didn't quite work out that way.
I was dreaming. Even during the dream I knew I was dreaming. I knew it cause I would never make love to Andy with Brad and Hank watching and cheering us on. I forced myself to wake up. I rolled over and looked at the clock. Three A. M. Not like Andy to be late and not call. I crawled over the trundle with the sleeping dogs and made my way to the bathroom. I was so hard that I had to stand there a few minutes before I could piss. Of course it didn't help matters that I was stroking myself thinking of Andy's homecoming. Just as I was shaking the last drops off the old dick head the phone rang.
'About time,' I thought.
I grabbed the phone and without checking the caller ID, I said, “Where the Hell are you? I can't keep it hard all night waiting for you.” Then I chuckled to let him know I was only kidding.
“Mr. Bennett?” Came a deep male voice at the other end.
'Shit, outed again.'
“Yes, this is David Bennett. Who is this.?”
“I'm state trooper Jackson.”
My gut clenched.
“I'm sorry to inform you. . . ”
'No,' I thought frantically. 'They come to the house when they've been killed. They don't do it on the phone.'
“that your . . . uh. . . friend, Dr. Barnes, and your ward, Brad Sturgis have been in a serious accident.
I stood riveted to the spot.
“Yes, I'm still here.”
“We found your name listed as the emergency contact. Is that correct?”
I was still dreaming, that was it. This wasn't happening. I was still asleep just like before when Hank and Brad were watching us make it on the bales of hay in the shed.
The voice went on.
“A semi lost its load on 23 just north of Dundee. It caused a multi car pile up.”
“Are they. . .? ”
He had anticipated this question.
“Yes, they're alive.”
I repressed a sob of relief.
“They're being air lifted to University Hospital in Ann Arbor. I suggest you get there as soon as possible.”
'As soon as possible!'
Suddenly it was as if the whole world went into slow motion. I was calm. I was rational.
“Thank you very much officer. I'll do that. Can you give any more information regarding their condition?” I couldn't believe my own calm, in control demeanor.
“No, I'm sorry I can't. They're in the air right now.”
“Thank you, good-bye.”
I immediately disconnected and pushed the memory dial for Hank's apartment.
“Hank, this is David. . . . Hank, just listen. Brad and Andy have been in some sort of accident. . . they're being taken to University Hospital. Meet me there. . . Hang in there son. . . . I don't know any more than I've told you. . . It will be fine. Bye. . . Hank. . . drive carefully, I don't need to have you check in there too.
I'd already decided that I wouldn't call Bertha Sturgis, Brad's grandmother, until after I had more details.
I took care of the dogs and left for the hospital.
The emergency room was a mad house. Nurses, doctors, patients, family were everywhere. The accident had involved 13 cars. Most of the injured were being brought here or to St. Joe's.
I made my way to the information desk and identified myself.
“Are you family?” The clerk behind the desk asked.
“Dr. Barnes is my husband.”
'Fuck!' “Dr. Barnes is my domestic partner.”
“Then he isn't a relative?”
'Of course he is you twit!'
“I just said he is my husband. We were legally married in Massachusetts and since the president can't get his act together to pass that amendment of his, we are married.”
I was hoping this political discussion wasn't going far enough for her to discover our marriage had no standing in Michigan.
“I am Brad Sturgis' legal guardian as well.”
“Just have a seat Mr. Bennett. I'll call you when you can see them.”
I was just about to tell her that this was unacceptable when Dr. Berk, the man who had played Lane, the Butler in the play walked by.
“Alan! Alan they just brought Andy and Brad in. They won't let me see them.”
“David?” He looked at me. He turned to the clerk at the desk, asked a few questions and turned back to me.
“Follow me,” he said.
We walked past the triage desk, through the double doors to the treatment area. It was even more chaotic back there. Dr. Berk stopped a few nurses and orderlies and then led the way to two adjoining, curtained treatment areas.
Alan turned to me, put his hands on my shoulders and asked. “David, are you ready?”
I swallowed hard. “Yes.”
He pulled back the curtain. We walked in.
The calm and control I had functioned with since the phone call vanished. On one gurney was my life, my love his head totally bandaged with tubes sticking in and out of his body everywhere. On the other was my boy, legs and arms in splints, two black eyes and yards of tape obscuring his magnificent chest. My legs gave way. Dr. Berk steadied me.
One of the attending physicians turned and walked over to us. He did not look pleased that I had been brought here, he seemed even less pleased when my relationship to Andy was explained, but was polite none the less.
Andy was considered in critical condition with a guarded prognosis. Brad was in serious but stable condition. He informed us that both Andy and Brad would be going into surgery soon: Andy to relieve the pressure of a possibly life threatening sub dural hematoma and Brad to try to repair the multiple fractures he had sustained in the accident.
I was torn but as Brad was conscious and about to be taken to the O.R. I went to him first.
“Hi, Mr. B,” he muttered through clenched teeth. “Guess I won't make the scrimmage.”
I bent over and put my arms gently around him. I tried to talk but was afraid I would start sobbing. I just gave him the thumbs up. He nodded and closed his eyes. The pre-op drug was taking over. They wheeled him out.
“I have to go, David. You gonna be okay?” Alan asked.
If anything happened to take either of my men away I would never be okay again.
“Yeah, I'll be fine.”
Alan left and I walked slowly to Andy's side. He was on a ventilator. There were IV's running. The heart monitor beeped in the background. I took his hand and bent to kiss him. When I straightened up I noticed his ring was gone.
“His ring. Where's his ring?”
The doctor who had been opposed to my presence turned to me with a disgusted look on his face. A nurse came up to me and put an envelope in my hand.
“We take off all jewelry for surgery,” she said simply and put her hand on my shoulder. “He's going up now.”
I walked with him to the exit door holding his hand. When the doors closed I stood staring after him through the round windows. I shuddered.
“The Hell I'm not! You just try to stop me.”
I recognized Hank's voice at once. I hurried out to reception before the volatile cowboy had a chance to go into high gear.
“Mr. B, they won't let me go see Brad! And that bitch won't tell me nothin'”
“I know they gave me the same run around. Both Brad and Andy have gone to surgery. all we can do now is wait.”
After getting directions from the bitch Hank and I walked to the surgical waiting area. I filled him in on the way.
“But, they're gonna be okay, right?”
“I hope so Hank, I hope so.
As soon as we got to the waiting area I called Bertha Sturgis. She was shocked but composed. She'd be on the next available flight. She would make her own way to the hospital. I hung up with her and called Andy's father, Nelson, and Norman his partner. The voice mail said that they had left on a vacation to Europe and wouldn't be back for a month. I would deal with contacting them later. I called my children, then called the barn office. I left a message for the secretary to call me when she opened in the morning. God, I looked at my watch. It was morning.
Hank alternatively paced and sat. He switched on the TV and then channel hopped until I thought I would go crazy. He needed to be doing something and these were the only options he had so I held my peace.
Finally the doors opened and the surgeon who had taken care of Andy came in.
“David, good to see you. You seem to be doing fine.”
Dr. Graham had been my doctor when I had fallen and injured my neck. Now he was taking care of Andy. I felt a wave of relief.
“We were able to relieve the cranial pressure. He is strong and healthy and responded well to the procedure. We can't assess the extent of any damage he may have sustained until after he regains consciousness. That may be a while.
'A while? An hour, a day?'
“It could be as much as a week or two. Or it may be in an hour. It's hard to tell. His brain has had a serious insult.”
“But, I mean,” I was fumbling, afraid to ask the one question I knew the answer to which would spell disaster for me., “he will wake up, right?”
Dr. Graham took a deep breath. “We have every reason to believe he will. But, he has sustained a damaging injury. We'll be able to tell more in about 24 hours.”
Dr. Graham left. Dr. Winston, the orthopedic surgeon, replaced him. He gave us the report on Brad. He would heal. He would be fine. But, he would never play football again.
Hank sat staring at the floor. “How can he say he'll be fine when he won't be playin' football again? That was his life.” He sighed. I moved to his side.
“We both are going to need to be there for our guys. They'll need us to be strong for them, to love them through this.”
Then we put our arms around each other and cried.
“Why won't they let us see them?” Hank was complaining as we got settled into our room at family hospice at the hospital.
We had been able to see Andy and Brad briefly after they were taken to their rooms from recovery. Then we were told that due to the nature of the prognosis for either man we would need to see the family counselor before we began regular visits. We were assured that that would take place before either of them were fully awake and ready for visitors. Doctors Graham and Winston were instrumental in overcoming hospital policies regarding “family” only in the hospice, and managed to secure a room for us. Bertha would have no trouble getting a room if she desired it. Janet and Ben would take the dogs to the barn. Jester and Jake would love that.
Responding to his question about the delay, “I don't know, Hank,” I said wearily. “I don't know,”
The phone rang.
“Hello,” Hank answered.
“Yeah, sure. Thanks. Some chick name of Carbury wants us in her office in a half hour.”
Dr. Carbury turned out to be one of the family counselors. Her job was to make sure the mental health needs of the family and the patient were taken care of during convalescence or . . . well that unspeakable other alternative.
“Gentlemen, please sit down.” Dr. Carbury was a portly woman in her thirties. She had a kindly face and a ready smile. I liked her at once.
I felt the need to explain. “Dr. Carbury,” I began, “before we get started I want you to be sure to understand the nature of my relationship to Andy and that of Brad to. . . ”
Before I finished the sentence she turned a framed photo that was sitting on her desk toward us. It was of her and another very pretty young woman.
“This is my partner, Sherry. 'nough said?” She smiled.
“Well, dang,” Hank contributed. “Ain't this somethin'”
We talked for about an hour. During the conversation it was pointed out that we should be careful not to bring up to Brad that most likely he wouldn't be able to play football again. His broken limbs would heal but the slight fracture to his neck would make him vulnerable to life threatening injury. If he asked us directly we were to refer that question to her. She would be counseling him.
She then turned to Andy's situation. Andy had not regained consciousness. He was breathing well on his own. His vital signs were good. They would do a cat scan as soon as the incision healed enough to remove the bandages. He was responding to stimulation of his limbs. It appeared that he would make it without paralysis.
I broke down at this point and she came and sat next to me.
“I'm sorry,” I said, embarrassed at my lack of control.
“No need to be. Relief often triggers the tears we were afraid to shed when we were frightened of the worst.”
I got my act together.
“When Andy regains consciousness,” she continued, “he may be confused and disoriented. Neither he nor Brad may have any recollection of the accident. Just give them both time to re-orient and answer their questions as best you can. Just remember questions from Brad about football should be referred to me.”
Her phone rang.
“Mrs. Sturgis has arrived. Reception is sending her here. I'll go over with her what I've discussed with you.”
My first reaction was that I would be glad to have Bertha here. My second reaction was 'Holy Fuck'. Sitting next to me was her grandson's boyfriend. I put my hands on my head.
“Anything wrong?” The doctor queried.
I had a flashback to the year Brad's folks had died and the confrontation over Brad's staying with us. Was she still as homophobic as she was then? She had apparently accepted Andy and I but had refused the invitation to our wedding. Oh, well the door was opening.
We hugged, shed a few tears and I introduced Dr. Carbury.
Then I turned to Hank who was standing looking a bit embarrassed but also the fuckin' stud he was. He was a beautiful man.
“Bertha this is. . . ”
“I know who this is,” she said. Her eyes narrowed. She appraised him with a sweeping glance.
“This is MY grandson's boyfriend!”
I looked at Dr. Carbury in panic. I opened my mouth like a trout on the bank of a river. I looked at Hank. He weakly smiled. “Howdy, Mrs. Sturgis.”
“Well, don't just stand there. Come give your grandmother-in-law a hug.”
Over the next few weeks things settled into a pattern. After three weeks Brad was ready to be discharged. He would return to our house with his grandmother. Hank had to return to work at his parent's barn and to the horse show circuit. But he would spend every spare moment he could with Brad. As soon as the casts came off Brad's legs and arm he would begin therapy. He had a home health worker who came to the house to help with his hygiene and care. Hank made sure he was there as often as he could when Brad had his bath. The worker was a cutie. Never once had Brad mentioned football.
I spent most of my time in Andy's room at the hospital. I slept in a chair most of the time. I only left his side to shower in my hospice room. I wanted to be there when he opened those beautiful blue eyes that I had fallen in love with seven years ago.
He had still not regained consciousness. At Dr. Carbury's instruction I talked with him ceaselessly. I talked about everything and anything. I rubbed his arms, legs, chest and shoulders. I did the passive exercises prescribed by the physical therapist. I kissed his hands, eyes, cheeks and lips. I would have my man back if it took a hundred years.
One day, six weeks since the accident, I was massaging his upper thighs. He tented the sheets! I grabbed the erection and shouted, “Yes”. I kissed it through the sheets and pressed the call button above the bed.
“Can I help you?” came the nurse's voice.
“Andy is responding to me,” I sang out joyously still grasping his rigid cock in my hand.
“Wonderful,” the nurse said. “I'll call Dr. Graham. How is he responding? Talking, squeezing your hand?
“Shit, how do I get myself into these situations!'
“Ah. . . just responding. . . ah. . . . just responding.”
“I'll call the doctor.”
Dr. Graham finished his examination. “Yes, David, that is a good sign. But, it's just a reflex. It's not a volitional squeeze or utterance, but, yes, a good sign.”
Nine weeks passed. I was fighting discouragement. I had used most of my accumulated sick time from school. I had to petition the school board even to get to use it as Andy wasn't legally family. But in the end those with a conscience won out over the bigots and they voted 4 to 3 to allow me to use it as a family benefit. Ted had graduated in April from vet school and was working Andy's practice. So, the practical aspects of our lives were taken care of.
Brad stopped by on his way to physical therapy. His casts had been removed and he was looking pretty good.
I rose from the chair in which I was dozing and greeted him with a hug.
“How's he doin'?”
“'Bout the same.”
Brad walked stiffly over to the bed. He took Andy's hand in his. He kissed it.
“Hey, Dr. B. How's it going?”
Brad went on to tell the silent Andy about his therapy and Hank. Then he said something that about knocked me off my chair.
“I guess my football career is over.”
I started and began to get up, but Brad was continuing as if Andy were the only one in the room.
“Yeah, I know, I thought you'd say that, but it doesn't look like my neck can stand the constant pounding.”
He was talking to Andy as if he could hear him, still holding his hand.
“I love Hank too much to take a chance on leaving him that way. So, I'm gonna hang up the cleats. I wouldn't have been able to play this year anyways so it's only giving up one year really.”
I had tears in my eyes.
“Here's the plan. I'm gonna transfer to State. Yeah, I'm gonna be a Spartan like you. I know Mr. B's gonna shit!”
He turned and looked at me. There were tears in his eyes.
“Hank and I will get a place together and we'll figure out what the future's gonna hold: maybe a horse business of some kind. I think I'll ask him to marry me, too, like you guys did in Boston.”
I was smiling through my tears.
“Hank doesn't know yet so don't tell 'im okay?”
I was crying without shame.
“Well, I gotta go. They don't like it when I show up late.”
He bent and kissed Andy on the cheek. He turned to me.
“That okay with you Mr. Go Blue!”
I crossed the space between us in a stride.
“That's okay with me Sparty. Except the third Saturday in October.”
I hugged this wonderful human being to my chest. He was as much mine now as Peter, Mike, Meg or Cathy.
“Will you be my best man|? That is if Hank says yes.”
“Yes sir. And he will say yes. If he doesn't I'll personally kick his cute little ass from here to State and back.”
“I love you, Mr. B.”
“I love you, too, son.”
It was almost dusk. The light coming in through the window let me know that. I had dozed off in the chair. I was still thinking of the conversation Brad had had with Andy. I smiled at the recollection of it. I became aware that Andy was moving on his bed. He was moaning. I jumped from my chair. His head was thrashing back and forth as if he was fighting to wake up. I grabbed his hands in mine. He gasped. He gasped again. I was about to push the call button. His eyes opened. He was breathing heavily. He looked frantically around the room.
“Where am I?”
I still held his hands in mine.
“You're in a hospital. You're safe. Just try to relax.”
I was crying. Andy had come back to me. My joy was boundless.
“Where's Julie? Who are you? Are you my doctor?”
I sat in Dr. Carbury's office.
“David, he's lost his recent memory. We store memories on different levels.”
Dr Carbury was trying to explain to me what was going on.
“We have short term memory of things that have just happened. We have long term memory of things in our past and we have recent memory, things that happened within the last few days or years. That's the segment he's lost.”
“So, for how long?” I sat on the chair with my legs crossed sagging to one side.
“ I can't answer that. It could be a week. It could be forever.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“Spend time with him. Talk with him. Don't try to bring back memories. Just let them happen when they will.”
I was so tired. I just wanted this to be over and done with. But, I had to go on. I had to find a way to get Andy back.
I took up my post in Andy's room. I was there daily. I went with him to therapy. We talked, we even laughed. I did all the therapist told me. Brad and Hank visited too. He still didn't know us. No matter what we brought up, Andy only remembered the time before I picked him up on the road that one night in December. He cried when Dr. Carbury lead him through the fact that he had divorced his wife. He was glad he was still a vet and had a practice. He was happy that Brad and Hank were going to his Alma Mater.
My children all wanted to come and visit. I told them that Dr. Carbury said it would be a good idea. So, they came, all of them but they didn't bring the grandkids. Dr. C. didn't think that Andy would be up to being called grandpa. That was one important piece to the puzzle that hadn't been approached.
Sometimes Andy would look at me with knitted brow as if he were willing himself to see how I fit into the puzzle. He would ask questions about our friendship. He didn't seem to make the connection between our living situation and our personal relationship. Dr. Carbury had told me to tread very lightly in that area.
Then one fateful day it happened.
“So, you still don't remember us at all,” Hank was saying. “Not me, not Brad, not Mr. B?”
“No, I'm sorry, I don't.”
“So, you don't remember that you and Mr. B. are lovers, are married?”
Andy looked from Hank to me and back to Hank.
Dr. C. had warned us this may be a hard reality for Andy to face.
'Oh my God!' Dear, sweet, clumsy Hank. 'What have you done?'
“What?!” Andy said with a panicky look on his face. You're telling me I'm queer?”
Hank was caught off guard. He sputtered, coughed, and said, “No, not queer, just . . . well you were . . . I mean.”
“Get out!” Andy said to me. “Get out! I never want to see you again.”
I rose and walked toward him.
“No, no go away! Get out!” He raised his hands as if to protect himself.
I backed off. I looked from Andy to Hank. I was hyperventilating. I felt faint.
“I'm so sorry Mr. B. I didn't realize that . . . I'm just so sorry.”
I walked over to Hank. I took him in my arms.
“You didn't know. I didn't know. Don't beat yourself up. You were just trying to help.”
The next weeks I went to visit Andy everyday. Everyday I was turned away at the desk He refused to see me.
Finally he was to be discharged. There was no physical reason for him to be in the hospital. Since he had nowhere else to go he was to come to our home. I went to see Dr. Carbury the day before he was to leave.
“What am I gonna do? He won't see me at the hospital. He won't see Hank. He will talk with Brad. Oh shit, this is such a mess.”
“David,” the counselor said, “one small thing can trigger the repair of the missing memories. Once that happens. . . ”
“Once that happens, or IF that happens,” I said defensively.
“Once or if, that happens, he will almost immediately be back to the person you knew before the accident.”
Once or if. . . I wasn't too encouraged.
Andy came home. He related to Brad and Bertha. He avoided Hank and me. He slept in the downstairs bedroom. He ate early and used the TV in the living room when we were in the family room and the family room when Hank and I were not in the house. I was at the end of my rope.
One night in late summer I came into the family room as the soft summer night was falling. I sat on the couch. I slowly twisted the horseshoe ring I still wore on my right hand. I laid my head back on the couch and sighed.
“This isn't easy for you is it?” came a voice from the dark corner of the room. I hadn't noticed anyone was there.
“No,” I said simply. I held my breath.
Andy got up and came and sat on the love seat opposite me. He held an envelope in his hand.
“Brad gave this to me. Do you know what I found in it?”
“Yes.” I recognized the envelope the nurse had given me just before Andy went up to surgery.
He opened it slowly and extracted its contents. He held in his hand a gold horseshoe ring. He got up off the love seat and came and sat on the couch next to me.
“You've got one, too. They match,” He said as he held his ring next to mine.
“Yes, they do.”
He wrinkled his brow. “I gave this to you didn't I?”
“Yes,” I said willing myself to stay calm, not to react.
He sat for a long time, then he said, “I, Andrew take thee David to be my wedded husband. To honor, love and cherish, for richer for poorer, in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, till death do us part.”
“I said that to you didn't I?”
“I said that to you on a beach in Massachusetts?”
“Then you said?”
“I said, I David take you Andrew to love for the rest of my life. I will rejoice with you in good times. I will take care of you if you are sick as you have done for me. I will stay with you no matter what happens in our lives. You brought me back to life when I thought I was already dead. I promise now to live my life in support of yours. And, until death takes either one of us, I will be steadfast in my love and faithfulness to you.
Tears were now falling from my eyes. He put the ring in my palm.
“Put it on, please.”
I put the ring on his finger. He looked at it for a long time.
“David, I remember, I remember.” He said this quietly, softly. He took me in his arms and kissed me. Kissed me as if it were the night of the accident and he had just come back from taking Brad to school.
We sat on the couch until it was totally dark. We didn't speak, we just held each other. Finally, he got up and walked to the door. I sat there not sure of what to do.
“Aren't you coming?”
“Yes, coming upstairs to bed. We've got some lost time to make up for Mr. Barnes-Bennett.”
I rose from the couch, put my arm around his waist and together we mounted the stairs, Jester running ahead. Jake following behind.
This wasn't my idea of the best way to start the New Year: alone. I just couldn't believe that Andy wasn't here. The last seven years had been so happy so full of life and love. The memories of those happy years were making this New Year's Day without him even harder to take. The house seemed so empty, so quiet. I pulled Jake up off the trundle just to have a warm body next to me. Jester, not too be left out, crawled up on the bed, too. I remembered the days that followed Patti's death. Those feelings were crowding in on me now. I hated those desperate lonely days: days when I didn't know what to do or where to go. The thought of going through that again was overwhelming. I buried my face in Jake's warm fur. I was being silly. There was no need for this. But, I couldn't stop the feelings that crowded in on me.
“Andy why did you leave me? Andy?”
“Hey, any room for me?”
I heard that familiar voice as if it were a mile away. I turned my head and looked up.
I jumped up. Jake slipped off the bed and landed on top of Jester who was dozing on the trundle. He jumped to the floor and began to run around in circles, barking. I grabbed Andy around the waist and pulled him into bed with me, kissing him wildly, furiously.
“David, I've only been gone since this morning.” He laughed out loud and I reveled in that deep rich baritone.
“Since this morning?” Then I realized I had been dreaming, dreaming that Andy was gone and I was alone. An emergency farm call had taken Andy away during the Rose Parade telecast and I had been feeling lonely and sad. I had moped around all day and had gone to bed feeling very sorry for myself. It must have triggered unconscious memories of those first days after my wife had died which lead to some weird dream that Andy was gone, too. Those were the fears I had fought during those dark days in the hospital waiting for him to regain consciousness: when the doctors couldn't tell me if he would make it or not. It didn't matter now. He was here and I was going to take full advantage of it.
I hadn't bothered to get undressed when I lay down earlier that evening. Andy was still in his barn coveralls, coated with who knows what. It didn't take us long to remedy that situation. Clothing was thrown in a pile on the floor into which Jester snuggled, relishing the god-awful smells that only a puppy can appreciate.
“I really should take a shower,” he murmured in such a way that I knew he didn't really want that at all.
“We'll take care of that in a bit,” I said, remembering that first shower he took here and the awful smelling rags he'd had for clothes. Jester would have loved them, too.
Right now I just wanted to hold him in my arms, to be aware of the strength of his body, the feel of his skin and hair, touch him as he became fully aroused.
“Happy New Year, Mr. Andrew Barnes-Bennett,” I said with a kiss.
“Happy New Year, David”, he replied.
Author's note: One Night in December is dedicated to the memory of Mark Allen. I never met Mark Allen. He was a homeless man who stood at the bottom of the exit ramp of the interstate holding a sign asking for help. He slept in a tent behind the interstate next to a cemetery. He was the inspiration for this story. I wish I had met Mark. I wish I had had the courage to do in reality what David did in the story. Mark died of exposure in February of 2006. His tragic death was reported in the local news with a plea for the community to do more to help others in his situation. I read the article, bowed my head, prayed and asked for forgiveness.