This story concerns adult and teenage gay males who may be involved in sexual situations. If it is illegal for you to read such stories, or if you do not like to read such stories, please leave now.

This story is copyright 2006 by the author who retains all rights.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

This is my third submission to Nifty. My previous submissions can be found in the High School section under Kiel’s Story. Any comments or questions are welcome at:

A warm thank you goes out to all who write. I appreciate knowing someone is actually reading this stuff, whether you like it or not. I try to answer all emails, even flames. (I’m a writer, I live for rejection.) Although sometimes it takes a little time to get back to you, I do try to answer. If I'm remiss in replying to yours, I apologize.

The Pastel Cowboy

by Carl Holiday

Chapter 10 – Recovery and Return

“Morning Sunshine, how’re you doing this fine morning?”

Zach looked up with his one good eye and saw a short, skinny woman, with straight, shoulder length blonde hair and hardly any breasts, but with the warmest smile he’d seen in a long, long while. Her name tag said, “Margo Ledbetter, LPN.” He waited a moment as the events of the previous night flooded through his mind and he silently took inventory of his body. There was the cast on his right arm, the bandage over his left eye, and an incredible pain throughout his body. It didn’t seem to be in any particular place, but everywhere at the same time and same intensity. He looked at the IV in his arm and the push button switch that had fallen out of his bruised left hand. He picked it up and depressed the button.

“Good, you remembered,” Nurse Ledbetter said. “Still in a lot of pain, Sunshine?”

Zach nodded. He wasn’t certain if he was awake or if this was only some weird dream. Maybe he was still out in that alley. He felt a chill on his skin and felt blood trickling down his leg. Had he been knifed? He didn’t remember seeing Conan with a knife, but he was definitely bleeding. He tried to turn himself in bed. He had to get away from Conan. Blood was squirting out of a knife wound in his upper right thigh.

Slowly, he became aware of a hand pressing against his left shoulder, and looked up into the nurse’s soft, gray eyes. Up close, she was a lot older, probably someone’s momma. A brief thought passed through his mind as he wondered if her boy was cute and his age. He looked behind her and was surprised to see Conan coming at him with the knife.

“What is it Sunshine?” Nurse Ledbetter asked, pulling at his dressing gown.

“No!” Zach screamed as the knife sunk into his chest.

Zach vigorously shook his head and immediately wished he hadn’t as pain exploded through his head. He fell back onto the pillow gasping for air. He saw Conan move back, away from him, his blood dripping off the knife. He looked down at the blood spurting from his heart. He was dying.

“Come on, calm down, I don’t want to have to give you something,” Nurse Ledbetter said.

Zach tried to smile at the way she said it, like he really didn’t want her to give him something. He had to do this on his own and then he remembered words being whispered in his ear, “Don’t even think of telling who I am.” Was that Conan? Or, someone else from another time. He was so out of it, he couldn’t remember when, or how, the words came to him.

Suddenly, he felt it coming on again. He looked up into the nurse’s eyes as his breathing began to quicken. He felt his body tighten as muscles contracted. He had to get out of the hospital. He was in danger. He began to struggle against her tightening grip.

“I need a little help in here,” Nurse Ledbetter called out.

Zach looked around the room with his uncovered eye. A movement of blue material caught his eye and he felt another set of hands push down on him.

“Zach, honey, calm down, come on, Sunshine, calm down,” Nurse Ledbetter’s voice felt strange as it filtered in through his panic.

He felt a burning sensation in his right hip and looked over into the eyes of an older, grandmotherly, face. She was smiling, but it was a determined, forced smile, as if he was six years old and she’d caught him fiddling with his dick in the bathtub. And, then everything kind of went blurry.

“He had a little incident earlier this morning,” a voice said as Zach’s awareness slowly came out of the fog of induced unconsciousness. “It’s understandable in cases such as his. He’s been through a lot in a short time. He had a reaction to the pain medication and was hallucinating, which caused a panic attack. We had to give him something to calm him down so he’ll be a little groggy for a few hours.”

“Will he be alright?” Paul asked.

Zach opened his good eye even though it wasn’t focusing properly, he watched the two men discuss his situation. He wasn’t certain he wanted to face Paul. They’d told him to be careful, but he ignored both of them and the police.

“He’ll probably nod off on you,” the doctor said, but Zach felt more awake than earlier. “I’d rather you didn’t tire him too much. The police have already been here. At least they caught the bastard.”

“Yeah, but it doesn’t sound like much will happen.”

“Oh, he’ll get it this time. All those earlier incidents are going to come back and haunt him. Daddy isn’t going to be able to save his dear baby’s ass this time around. Daddy has too much to lose if he’s spread across every paper between here and Houston.”

“I don’t know, he’s got a lot of connections from what I hear,” Paul said looking over and catching Zach’s eye. He stared for a moment then turned back to the doctor.

“You’d be surprised how quickly connections can be broken when it gets out that this isn’t the first time Daddy’s tried to use his connections to save his bastard’s ass. This isn’t Houston and the people up here won’t put up with that kind of shit.”

“Well, I’ll be happy if Zach comes out of this with just a little more sense than when he went in,” Paul said looking back over at Zach. He gave the boy a stern look, but Zach simply stared back at him.

“What was it Einstein said about common sense? Your protégé doesn’t have much time left before it’s too late for him.”

“Yeah, I’m beginning to think he hasn’t been listening for a long time. Well, doctor, I think Zach has returned to the land of the living. I’ll step out for a few minutes, if you need him first. I think I could use a cup of coffee.”

Zach watched Paul leave as the doctor walked over to the bed. He was young, probably not even thirty by the youthful look of his face, which was long with deep set hazel eyes under thin black brows. His short, curly, black hair was receding into a hairpiece commercial, but his smile was pleasant and inviting. The nametag over a pocket full of pens and stainless steel tools said, “Robert E. Lee, MD.”

“How’s my patient?” Doctor Lee said.

“Edwin or Edward?” Zach asked.

“Edgar, for my paternal grandfather.”

“The other is for your other grandfather?”

“No, my father,” Doctor Lee said. “You seem awfully chipper for someone who’s been beaten unconscious and then drugged senseless.”

“I’m trying really hard to stay awake,” Zach said. He smiled as he tried to hold back a chuckle.

“Well, kiddo, hold on because I’m going to make you hurt,” Doctor Lee said as he pulled back the bedcovers. “Um, this looks interesting. You’d expect a lot more bruising down here, but this appears to have come through this without any damage at all. Yes, this is nice, isn’t it? Um, this needs a little closer examination.”

Zach watched as long as he could as the doctor’s fingers went to work on his rapidly swelling dick. When the doctor’s mouth took him in, Zach lay back on his pillow and stared at a small spot of discolored paint on the ceiling. This was a man who knew what he was doing, only Zach couldn’t quite understand what the doctor was doing. This wasn’t supposed to be happening. Doctors weren’t supposed to give their patients blowjobs.

When Zach felt a fingertip pressing against his pucker he spread his legs and shut his eyes, taking pleasure in the warm, moist sensations over the length of his engorged member and, now, the probing finger was vigorously seeking that nubbin of excitement inside.

Zach’s fingers sought out Doctor Lee’s head and began to luxuriate themselves in the soft texture of tight curls. He pressed his hand down on the back of the doctor’s head bringing himself added excitement as his orgasm neared. The good doctor was taking all of him and when Zach felt the finger reach the object of its desire his eyes flew open.

Cracked ribs sang out as air was drawn into the boy’s expanding chest, then quickly forced back out. He couldn’t imagine anything hurting so much and wanted to scream in agony, but rapturous delight forced unintelligible words from his mouth. He’d heard of speaking in tongues, but was certain it wasn’t meant to be like this.

His hips were bucking nearly uncontrollably against the increasing rhythm of Doctor Lee’s manipulating lips, tongue, and a finger that was giving him a prostate exam only an expert could give. The end was so near and Zach didn’t want to do anything to delay the inevitable. A stream of meaningless vocalizations gurgled out of his throat as he felt himself surge down the doctor’s throat.

Zach’s one good hand flew onto the bed and grabbed a handful of sheets as his body stiffened against an overwhelming orgasm of ecstasy. Gobs of pleasure spewed out of him in a never ending chain frenzied delight. His drug numbed body reverberated as pleasurable sensations flooded away from the wonderful manipulations of the young doctor.

Soon, Zach could only lie still as his sated body relaxed in a wondrous afterglow of warmth and happiness. He looked up into the good doctor’s eyes as full, moist lips descended onto his own. Two fingers painfully tweaked his right nipple and he wanted so much to roll over and give himself to this beautiful person.

“I think you’re going to be okay,” Doctor Lee whispered. “Of course, you won’t be returning any favors for a few weeks, but I’m certain you know other ways to please.”

“If we had time,” Zach whispered, “you could have me, now.”

“I think we’d better let your body recover a little more before we go that far,” Doctor Lee said. He softly rubbed his hands over Zach’s body, pausing at each patch of discolored skin. “Any complaints?”

“My ribs,” Zach said. He watched the young doctor slender fingers softly poke and prod him, wincing when they touched a painful spot, and then squirming when they zeroed in on a sensitive area. Doctor Lee seemed to be looking for ticklish spots more than painful ones and Zach was having trouble not laughing out loud.

“You shouldn’t excite yourself so much,” Doctor Lee said when he poked up into Zach’s left armpit and hit the one spot Zach never told anyone about.

“You were the one who’s exciting me,” Zach said, squirming under the doctor.

“Yes, but I am the doctor and I know what I’m doing,” Doctor Lee said as he bent down and gently pressed his lips onto the boy’s mouth.

“You do it very well,” Zach said when the doctor rose again. “Will I see you again?”

“I don’t think that’d be advisable. We’ll keep you for another night in case you have another panic attack. You’re lucky to be alive, you know that? If the police weren’t close and hadn’t heard you call out, you’d be wrapped in plastic in the basement of the Public Safety Building right now. If you hadn’t moved your face to take the boot in the cheekbone, it would’ve plowed into the side of your skull. That’s not a good place to be kicked.”

Zach watched the doctor quietly pull the gown down over him and the bedcovers up in the opposite direction. He shut his eyes for a moment and smiled at the thought of the doctor lying next to him on the bed after the incredible mutual orgasm they were certain to have. He wanted that feeling, again. That feeling Jeremy gave him.

His eyes snapped open as a shiver swept through his body. Why had he thought of Jeremy at a time like this? What was going on within him that he couldn’t stop thinking about the boy’s wonderful smile, the touch of his fingers, and the smell of the skin just under the boy’s ear? Zach stared up at the ceiling as a little tear trickled down his cheek. He tried to brush it away with his right hand before suddenly realizing only his left hand was usable for such work.

He looked around the room and realized he was alone, again; alone to suffer his pain and anguish. He hurt and he missed Jeremy. He was a fool, a stupid fool. All he wanted last night was having sex with someone, anyone other than Jeremy, and he didn’t know why he felt like that.

A few hours later, Paul came in with Franny in tow. Zach had been waiting, thinking Paul had gone for coffee and would be back soon after Doctor Lee left him, but the longer he waited the longer it seemed Paul was going to show up. Eventually, Zach simply went back to sleep whether of his own volition or from the aftereffects of the earlier hypo he wasn’t certain, not that he really cared.

He watched Paul warily, expecting some foul comment on the previous night’s activities. With Franny there, he wasn’t all that certain Paul would hold his tongue, but Zach wasn’t in any mood to talk, either.

“Are you going to die?” Franny asked at the side of Zach’s bed. He looked scared.

“No, I don’t think so,” Zach said. He didn’t want to sound flippant, but suspected Franny was a lot more scared than he appeared.

“Is he going to die?” Franny asked, turning to Paul.

“He probably wishes he was, but Zach’s got a lot of life yet to live,” Paul said.

“But, he’s in the hospital,” Franny said. “My grampy died in a hospital.”

“I’m not going to die,” Zach said. He wanted to get out of the bed and comfort the little boy, but that wasn’t going to be. “How old was your grampy?”

“A hundred three,” Franny said. He was pulling at the blanket on Zach’s bed with nervous fingers. “He was Daddy’s grampy. He was old.”

“Maybe it was his time to go,” Paul said, kneeling down beside Franny.

“That’s what Mommy said.”

“Well, I’m not that old,” Zach said.

“But, you’re in the hospital,” Franny said.

“I came here because I was beaten up.”

“Uncle David says you’re here ’cuz you’re stupid,” Franny said. He looked up at Zach with teary eyes.

“Yeah, well, maybe I am.”

Zach looked at Paul, but there didn’t seem to be any sympathy there. He didn’t expect sympathy anyway. Paul told him he thought with his dick and he had. This was all his fault, his need to be with another man had gotten the best of him until Conan gave him the worst he had to give. He looked down at Franny and felt something warm his heart. He cared. He felt he had hope.

“Come up here and lay with me,” Zach said.

Franny looked at Paul, who only shrugged his shoulders. The little boy scrambled up onto the bed and got onto Zach’s left side where he lay on his right side close to the older boy.

Zach put his left arm around the boy and whispered in his ear, “You have to be very quiet or the nurse will make you leave. Can you be quiet?”

“Yes,” Franny whispered.


Zach stared at Paul with the uncovered eye and wondered if he was still going to be able to get down to the studio. If there was too much scarring, especially around the face, maybe Paul wouldn’t want to paint him. Strangely, though, this didn’t seem to bother him. He felt miserable for being so foolish. He thought he was better than that.

“How’s it going?” Paul asked. He sat down in the chair beside the bed. “The doctor said you had a panic attack this morning. Are you okay?”

“Kind of groggy from the shot they gave me,” Zach said.

“I suspected as much, since you were sound asleep when I came back from the cafeteria.”

“I was?” Zach asked. His mind raced back to just after Doctor Lee left him, but there weren’t enough events for him to recall being asleep that soon. He remembered being awake when Paul wasn’t there and then nodding off, but he couldn’t remember waking and then falling back to sleep. Maybe it was the aftereffects of the drug they shot into his butt.

Everything was always the same here and he hadn’t been watching the television. All he could recall was lying in the bed waiting for Paul to come in and then waking just before Paul and Franny just came in. He couldn’t even remember relieving himself, but was certain that must have occurred at least once or his bladder would be screaming at his inattention to its needs.



“Wake up. Come on, can you at least wake up to say goodbye to Franny?”


“We’re going to get some lunch and we’ll be back in a couple hours.”

Zach looked over at Paul, who was now standing beside the bed. Franny was looking out the window. He tried to smile.



“Are you coming back?” Zach asked. He felt an overwhelming sense of sadness come upon him. It was almost enough to make him feel like crying.

“I gotta ’cuz I didn’t go with Uncle David,” Franny said. He was still looking out the window. Zach could tell the little boy was still nervous about being in the hospital.

“Too bad you can’t take him out to that ranch we were at yesterday,” Zach said. “He seemed to enjoy playing with Brent and Chantelle.”

“Yeah, well, that’s not going to happen,” Paul said. “Come on, Franny, let’s go get a burger.”

“Bye, Zach,” Franny said with a little wave.

“Bye,” Zach said.

Unfortunately, Paul and Franny didn’t come back after lunch. Zach lay in his bed mostly feeling sorry for being in his current situation and bored out of his mind with nothing to read, nothing to watch on the television, no one to talk to, and nothing to do except keep nodding off and waking up realizing nothing about his situation improved to the slightest degree.

Sometime in the afternoon, a nurse came in and got Zach out of bed. He figured she was just checking to see if he was going to pass out. When he didn’t, she handed him a flimsy robe to put over his gown and pointed him toward the hall.

“Take a walk,” she said. “Out the door turn right and once around the nurse’s station.”

Since it was something to do, he didn’t complain. Why he decided to go slow, he wasn’t certain, but as he made his way along the hall, Zach started looking into the other rooms. After three rooms, he figured he was on a pediatric floor because there were only kids in the rooms; and, as best he could figure, a lot of them were worse off than him.

When he made his first circuit, he began to pay closer attention to his neighbors. There was a little girl in the first room. She couldn’t have been much more than six and was wired and plumbed; and, she was very much asleep. A woman—Zach guessed her mother—was also asleep in the chair beside the bed. A constant beep from the heart monitor filled the room with its obnoxious tone.

The next room had a boy, maybe twelve, with casts on both his legs and his left arm. Zach looked down over his clothed body then, again, at the boy whose face was turned toward the window where a young man, maybe an older brother, was sitting. They were softly talking.

The boy in the next room was alone. He reminded Zach of Franny. Skinny, small, long dirty blonde hair with an unruly bang hanging over his eyes, but it was the empty eyes staring back at him that froze Zach’s feet to the floor. This little boy was very, very alone, he said to himself.

“Hi,” Zach said at the door. “Doing anything special?”

“No,” the boy said in a barely audible whisper.

“Mind if I come in?”

The boy didn’t say anything as Zach walked into the room. A red light on the IV monitor was slowly blinking and the television was on, but there wasn’t any sound. There was a cast on the boy’s right leg from his toes almost to his groin. Another covered his right hand and arm up to his shoulder. As far as Zach could tell, the boy was alone. The chair was over by the window and looked as if it had been moved there to be out of the way. Zach pulled it over to the bed and sat down.

“My name’s Zach.”

The boy stared at him, but didn’t say anything. Up close the eyes were pale blue, but there didn’t seem to be too much awareness behind them. It was as if a boy’s body simply existed in this place. If it hadn’t been for the initial whispered response, Zach might have suspected the boy couldn’t talk at all.

“Do you have a name?”

“Kenny,” the boy said with an airless whisper.

“That’s a nice name,” Zach said. “I’ve never met a Kenny before. Are you from Sommersville?”

“No,” Kenny whispered. A couple tears welled up in his eyes. He turned away from Zach and began a whimpering cry.

Zach stood up and placed his hand on the boy’s shoulder and whispered. “Hey, Kenny, what’s wrong?”

“Oh, there you are,” said the nurse who got him out of bed. “You’re supposed to be walking.”

“He looked alone,” Zach said as he continued to softly caress the boy’s shoulder.

“He is and you need to be walking,” the nurse said. “You can talk to him later.”

“I’ll be back in a little bit,” Zach said softly patting Kenny’s shoulder. “Okay?”

“Uh, huh,” Kenny whispered through faint sobs.


When he got into the hall, Zach stopped and looked at the nurse.

“His parents were involved in an accident out on I-35,” the nurse said. “His father didn’t make it. His mother is in ICU. She may not make it, either. His grandparents are coming down from Des Moines. They’ll be here tonight.”

“Sounds like he needs a friend,” Zach said.

“That would be nice, but you need to walk. Do three more circuits then you can talk to him for an hour or so. I’ll come and get you when it’s time to walk, again. Okay?”


By suppertime, Zach had Kenny laughing at nothing in particular. He had his meal in Kenny’s room and made a big show of being able to put food in his mouth and swallow. He was doing everything he could think of to make the little boy laugh. Even going so far as sticking two carrots sticks up his nostrils, which is what he was doing when to older adults walked into the room.

Kenny was in a deep giggling fit, but instantly became quiet when he saw the adults. The man was tall and fit with a little gray in his sideburns. He was wearing a gray suit, a white shirt with a dark tie, and dress shoes that squeaked on the tile floor. The woman was a foot or so behind the man. She was grayer and puffier with ample flesh. Zach immediately recognized her as a grandmother. He wasn’t certain what the man was.

“Kenneth, how are you?” the man asked.

“Grandpa John! You came!” Kenny shouted and held his arms up while his grandmother hugged him.

“We need to pray Sheila,” the man said. “Almighty father we come to you begging forgiveness for the horrible sins this boy has committed. You smote him and he suffers regret for straying away from your welcoming bosom. . . .”

Zach knew his presence was not welcome, so he pulled the carrots from his nose, put the tray on the stand, and stood up. Kenny’s face was covered by his grandfather’s hand while his grandmother knelt on the floor whispering something Zach couldn’t quiet hear. He picked up the tray with his left hand, tried to balance it so the plates would slide to one side, and headed toward the door. Then he heard the grandmother’s soft voice.

“Beezona femma sooly gawan . . . .”

Zach stared at the woman kneeling beside Kenny’s bed and felt nauseous at the sound of the unintelligible words sliding out between her bright red lips. He looked at the bed and saw one of Kenny’s eyes between his grandfather’s fingers. He looked scared, again. These people didn’t come to comfort the boy.

“. . . this lost lamb, deevanab swoona beesomt . . .”

Zach’s attention snapped toward the man as incomprehensible words come out of his mouth, too. Kenny’s was trying to say something, but the man’s face blocked the words coming from the boy’s mouth. His eyes told Zach he was very, very scared, but Zach knew there was nothing he could do. This was family and he walked out into the hall concentrating on the tray of half eaten food.

When Paul and Franny arrived the next morning, Zach was sitting in the chair in his robe and gown. He looked up at Paul then smiled at his little friend.

“Morning Franny,” Zach said, holding out his arms. The boy ran into Zach’s enveloping embrace.

“I missed you,” Franny whispered, “and Uncle David is mad at you.”

“That’s okay,” Zach said.

“Ready to go, kiddo?” Paul asked.

“I don’t think I can get out of here in this,” Zach said, pulling at the robe. “My jeans were cut off me. My t-shirt is shreds.”

“I’ll be back in a minute,” Paul said. “Keep Franny occupied, okay?”

Zach watched Paul leave and suspected something wasn’t quite right. His mind seemed to imagine Paul had Zach’s bag down in the Explorer and would be back in only a minute. Franny was still wrapped in his arms and he was reluctant to let the boy go. It was like holding on to a teddy bear, a bit of needed comfort in a barren place lacking emotional support.

“Want to watch some television?” Zach asked.

“Okay,” Franny whispered as he pulled away from Zach. He was looking at the floor as if embarrassed about something.

“What’s wrong?” Zach asked. He wasn’t certain he wanted to know the answer, but felt he had to ask what was troubling Franny.

“Uncle David is mad at you,” Franny said.

“You said that.”

“He yelled at Uncle Paul,” Franny said as a tear trickled down his cheek. “I was scared.”

“Hey, I’m sure it’s okay, now.”

“Uncle David called you a name. He said you were a horse.”

“A horse?”

“Uh, huh, a dirty horse. I don’t understand why he said that.”

“Well, he didn’t exactly call me a horse, it was something a little worse than that.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, I’m sure. Don’t worry about it, okay?”


Zach turned on the TV and got on the bed. Franny climbed up and lay down beside him. A whore? Is that what David called him? It sounded like something David would say. A filthy whore, yeah, that’s what he was. Just like Steven, he’d sold himself for nothing other than a few extra dollars.

In a few minutes, Paul walked back in the room carrying Zach’s bag. Zach looked up and saw the face of disappointment.

“That didn’t take long,” Zach said. “It’s almost as if I’m not going back to the motor home.”

“David doesn’t want you around the boys,” Paul said.

“Other than Franny, that is.”

“Franny’s too young to fully grasp the situation.”

“He said David called me a dirty horse.”

“See, he doesn’t understand.”

“He said David yelled at you. Did you try to defend me?”

“No, I was trying to reason with him. We’re a long way from home to be denying you transportation home.”

“So what’s the plan?”

“I’ve got you a motel room for tonight. Tomorrow morning I’ll take you to the airport and put you on a plane to Seattle. A friend of mine will pick you up at the airport and take you out to the McDonald house until we get back. Hopefully, by that time I’ll have convinced David to let you stay with us.”

“How did you know about the McDonalds?”

“Bud McDonald and I go way back and he’s bought a few of my more innocent works. I hear his grandson and you are friends.”

“Yeah, something like that.”

“They’re good people, Zach.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“I want you to know I was reluctant to let you stay with us,” Bud said as he zipped out of the SeaTac parking garage. “Your history with Jeremy isn’t what I’d call fantastic.”

“I’m sorry,” Zach said. “I’ve been stupid. I thought he’d be happy with someone his own age.”

“You’re only a year older.”

“Yeah, and two years further along in school.”

“Is that such a big deal?”

“I thought it was,” Zach said. He looked out his window at a minivan they were passing. Printing under the windows said, “North Park Tabernacle of Joyous Praise,” and he thought of Kenny’s grandparents speaking in tongues as they tried to exorcise evil spirits out of their six year old grandson. He wondered what Kenny had done to antagonize them or if he had simply gone blindly along with his parents, not knowing he was living a sinful life. He felt sorry for the boy, but there wasn’t anything he could’ve done. On the other hand, there was something he could do about his situation.

“I can’t stop thinking about him,” Zach said. “Whatever I do, wherever I go, something reminds me of Jeremy and what he meant to me. I only wish he’ll at least accept me as a friend.”

“He’ll do more than that, but I will not have you two sleeping together under my roof,” Bud said as he merged onto I-5 and notched the coupe up towards eighty. Zach tried not watching as they began to weave in and out of lanes, almost as if they were in the back of the pack on a racetrack and Bud was intent on getting into the lead, no matter what.

Zach wasn’t certain he wanted to sleep with Jeremy, even though he’d already done it. He wanted to start over, reset their friendship to the beginning, to some time before that night, that birthday night when he was the birthday present, a whore with a willing ass. He wanted to be a normal seventeen year old boy who just happened to be gay and in love with another boy. Jeremy being sixteen didn’t seem to matter to him anymore.

But, what was he going to do about Steven? Could he just abandon Steven? He hadn’t heard anything since Steven’s aunt told him to stay away and get on with his life. Could he do that, or did he need to go to the hospital and try to see the man who he thought meant so much to him that he’d give up a beautiful person like Jeremy?

“I don’t want that either,” Zach said.

“I wish I could believe you,” Bud said. “But, I promised Paul I’d give you a place to stay until he and David get back.”

“I won’t do anything,” Zach said. “All I want to do is, what?”


“I don’t know what I want. Is that right?”

“I think you need to see someone.”

“What? A shrink?”


“Lock me up in Fir Grove?”

“No, nothing that drastic, but you’ve been through an awful lot in the past year. I think it might help if you had someone to talk to.”

Zach look out his window at the cars they were passing and wondered what he’d say to someone he didn’t know. He’d never considered going to any kind of counselor. Even at home no one suggested he should go to someone who might talk him out of being gay. Everyone, including his parents, simply assumed he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, change.

He felt a tear dribble down his cheek as he thought about being so close to home only a few days ago. At that moment, as Bud sped north on I-5, Zach knew he should be at home planning what he was going to take with him to Stillwater. Oklahoma State had been his first choice, if he could get in there. Aim high, that’s what he’d always heard about setting goals. Go for the gold. And, then, they took it all away from him because his former friends made up a bunch of stories.

Maybe talking to someone wasn’t such a bad idea.

“Isn’t this the room Jerry was in?” Zach asked as he followed Bud into a bedroom suite on the second floor of the house.

“He’s living with a couple I know in New York,” Bud said. “He needs a lot of help and they live close to the best care he can get. He’s a nice boy and I want to help him all I can. Since you’re not going to be here permanently, this should suit you.”

“I want to thank you for what you’re doing,” Zach said as he set his bag on the floor.

“Jeremy is taking his driving test right now, Sara took him. Paul is in Switzerland with his mother. Do you need anything?”

“No, not right now, unless you know someone who I can talk to.”

“I’ll take care of it,” Bud said. “Remember, Zach, no trouble. None!”

“No, no trouble,” Zach said. He sat down on the bed, then fell back when Bud walked out the door. He stared up at the ceiling as he thought about what was going to happen when Jeremy came home.

“I told you not to tell anyone,” Conan said as he slowly shoved the nine inch kitchen knife into Zach’s stomach. Green slime oozed out and Zach vomited.

“I didn’t say anything,” Zach said into the microphone. The lights in the interrogation room were hurting his eyes, but the green slime oozing out of the wound in his stomach spread a bright green and orange stain across his tightly bound thighs. “I didn’t say anything.”

“Then who told them?” Conan asked, bringing the knife close to Zach’s face. “You were the only one there.”

“Zach! Wake up!”

“Damn!” Conan exclaimed as he pushed the blade into Zach’s mouth.


Zach’s unbandaged eye flashed open, but light in the room was too subdued for him to immediately figure out where he was. A girl was looking down at him. It was Sara. She looked concerned.

“You were screaming,” she said.

“A bad dream,” Zach said.


Zach turned his head slightly and looked into Jeremy’s concerned face. Not unexpectedly, Bud suddenly appeared in the room.

“What’s wrong?” Bud asked.

“He was having a nightmare,” Jeremy said.

“Are you okay?” Sara asked.

“Yeah, I guess I fell asleep,” Zach said.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” Bud asked.

“I’m fine, a little hungry and a little sore, but I’ll be okay.”

“What happened to you?” Jeremy asked.

“Did you pass your driving test?” Zach asked.

“I asked you first,” Jeremy said as he sat down next to Zach.

“If you’re hungry, there’s food in the kitchen,” Bud said. “I’ll be in the library if anyone needs me.”

“He failed the written test for the third time,” Sara said.

“After three times you should have the test figured out,” Zach said.

“What happened to you?” Jeremy asked.

“I was beaten up,” Zach said.

“Why? Because you’re gay?” Jeremy asked.


“How many were there,” Sara asked.

“One with good boots,” Zach said. “You know, I am hungry and I have to take a pain pill.”

“Come on, I’ll make you a sandwich,” Jeremy said.

“Don’t let him, Zach,” Sara said. “He’s a terrible cook.”

“Like you’re any better,” Jeremy said.

“I can do crêpes,” Sara said.

Zach followed the brother and sister out of the room as memory of the nightmare slowly faded from his awareness. Except, Zach was convinced he needed to talk to someone. He didn’t want anymore of these dreams. It was bad enough what Conan did to him, but to have him linger on was not a good thing.

“Our mother can’t do crêpes,” Jeremy said.

“Who do you think taught me,” Sara said.

“But she can’t boil water without burning it,” Jeremy said.

“But she can do crêpes,” Sara said.

“Tell her you want me to make you a sandwich,” Jeremy said.

“I’m not getting between the two of you,” Zach said. “I’m the guest here. Oh, damn, I forgot my bottle of pills.”

“I’ll go get it,” Jeremy said.

“It’s in my bag,” Zach said.

“Don’t let her make crêpes,” Jeremy said as hurried ran back up the stairs.

“Come on, I’ll get out the stuff for sandwiches,” Sara said.

“You like arguing with him,” Zach said.

“He’s my brother, that’s what I’m supposed to do.”

Zach was lying on the bed looking up into Jeremy’s brown eyes, which were as he remembered them on that first night not so many months ago. They had just kissed, a lingering, meaningful kiss, but lacking enough passion to get them further than having Jeremy fully clothed, sitting on the edge of the bed with Zach under the covers.

“I want you,” Jeremy said as his finger traced along the bandage over Zach’s eye.

“I don’t want to do anything until I’m better,” Zach said. “Jeremy?”


“Can we go back?”

“Back where?”

“To before we met?”

“What do you mean?”

“Can I get to know you better this time?”

“I don’t understand.”

“I love you, but I don’t know you. Can I get to know you before we have sex? Will you do that for me?”

“Yeah, I guess.”

“Good, thank you. Come on, kiss me good night.”

Jeremy leaned down and placed his lips over his lover’s. Zach thought back to a happier time in his life when a younger boy rode his favorite cow pony in a pasture full of steers not really doing anything other than relishing the hot sun on his bare back and arms and the feel of the galloping horse under him as it wheeled and weaved around the steers, but barely spooking them as they were too used to having the boy and his horse out with them on hot summer days. He wanted Jeremy so much, but he wanted to feel like a kid, again.