Chapters 26 - 30
Copyright © 2009 by the author under the pseudonym Gee Whillickers. All rights reserved.
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** 26 **
"God damn it Stu!" Patrick yelled, his face red and expression strained, "It's been two days since the treatment finished. Why the hell is he still suffering like this?!"
Dr. Stuart Mills was just as emotional, mostly frustration on his part. "If I knew don't you think I would tell you?! Damn it Pat. You know I'm doing what I can here!" He stopped and wiped his brow with his sleeve, as was his habit when stressed or upset.
Eduardo interrupted the men, both of his hands raised. "Gentlemen. We are all, every one of us, at the very very end of our very frayed ropes. Take a breath please. Now, Doctor, you were saying."
Half of Ray's support team was in the lounge, standing or sitting and listening to the exchange. Dennis and Karen were on shift, sitting with Ray. The rest of the supports were at home, sleeping. It had been two weeks and two days.
Despite this exchange, the group had changed. They were different. They talked more, about themselves and with others. The ongoing need to support each other and Ray forced them to open up. Most of them didn't feel their problems in life amounted to much anymore, not when they were trying to get through this. They revealed hopes, dreams, and secrets to each other that they thought they never would. Eduardo's failed relationships, Fred's dream of someone to love as Patrick did with Ray, and how his own attractions seemed to cause his life to stall, Kate and Jerry's angst at not being able to have a child, Brenda and Tim's difficulty at dealing with the sudden revelation of their son's sexuality, and their subsequent quick acceptance of it. Somehow nothing seemed so significant anymore, as significant as the boy suffering thirty feet away. They had formed a bond. No matter what happened, they knew, they were all connected. For life. This group very much included Dr. Mills who seemed to take personal responsibility for the suffering Ray was continuing to endure.
Dr. Mills closed his eyes for a moment, before opening them again and saying, his voice now calm, "We think it might be testosterone. Testosterone in males and Estrogen in females. We think when the treatment is finished it interacts with the residue. Ray, well, Ray is pre-pubertal. His testosterone levels are extremely low. The treatment is actually pushing them lower, we're not sure when they will return to normal levels. Puberty may even be delayed by some margin."
"Well damn it then, give him a shot of testosterone for god's sake!" said Patrick.
Dr. Mills closed his eyes again before answering. "I wish it were that simple. You see..."
There was a loud commotion from next door. Dennis burst through into the lounge, his face red and his eyes wild. "The EEG! His readouts! The pain! It's receding! He's getting better!" He then ran back without another word.
Ray's support group, all of them that were present, ran into Ray's room. Cell phones were out, calls were being made. The entire group was on its way.
Ray was coughing. He hadn't said anything coherent for over a week. The nursing staff was beginning to wonder if he ever would again.
A nurse, with great care, helped Ray take a tiny sip of water from a thin straw. Ray looked around the room with unfocused eyes, coughed again, and lay his head back down on the pillow. Patrick moved in close. "Ray? Ray, kiddo, I'm here. We're all here, every one of us. We love you."
Ray looked around again, his eyes hollow and empty. Then his eyes closed once again and he slipped into a deep sleep, the first normal sleep in over two weeks.
"Come on people, come on. What did you expect? Applause? A hearty thank-you? Leave the poor boy be. He doesn't need this much commotion," said Eduardo.
The group shuffled next door, into the lounge. For the first time in two weeks, the only one at Ray's bedside was the nurse watching his monitor. Nobody knew what to do with themselves, but nobody was willing to leave. It was still utterly uncertain what would happen. Ray was healthy, physically anyway, aside from the ravages to his body caused by his pain. But those would heal. The treatment had worked and Ray was cured. The question, of course, was psychological. Emotional. Was there any Ray left in Ray?
* * *
Fully fourteen hours later as Patrick sat beside Ray holding his hand and Dennis sat sleeping in a chair nearby, he began to awaken.
Ray slowly opened his eyes. He immediately and unconcsiously checked his barriers, as he had become used to doing at the moment of awakening, the barriers he had perfected over the past two weeks, ready to do battle with the constant torment. Nothing. He felt nothing. No pain. No pain, no joy, no anxiety, no excitement, no worry, no depression, no humor, no love. Nothing. He felt dead inside. Like a shell. A breathing shell of a boy. Not feeling particularly worried about this, after all, he couldn't, he once again drifted off to sleep.
Patrick had observed his awakening. The emptiness. The hollow look, the lack of any expression or emotion of any kind, even as his eyes drifted across and off of Patrick, and then his gradual drifting back to sleep.
Much later, Ray awoke again, and once again, as was his unconscious routine, carefully checked his barriers for leaks. Looking around, he could see Patrick beside him. He had no real thoughts about that one way or another, he was no more interesting than the light switch on the wall. Eduardo's face appeared in front of his eyes. A microscopic glimmer of feeling arose now. What was that again? Oh yes. Hate. That was hate. If he had been capable of curiosity, he might have wondered why. Ray stared at the man.
Eduardo spoke. Quietly and insistently. "Raymond Thomas Huntley. You come out of there right now. You think you hate me. Fine. I think you're scared. I think you won't lift your shield because you would rather be a house plant than a boy. Sitting in the corner doing nothing. Staying Safe. Fine. Prove me wrong. Use that hint of hate and prove me wrong. Lift your shield Ray. I double dare you."
Ray found Eduardo's constant droning just ever so slightly annoying. The way you find a fly buzzing around your legs annoying on a lazy summer afternoon. Whatever. He wasn't scared. He didn't know how to be. He really wasn't much of anything. It didn't matter. Like lazily waving at a fly, for no particular reason, he decided to lift his barrier, just a teensy bit, to chase away the fly. To chase away Eduardo. Ready for the onslaught of pain, ready to slam his barrier down again, Ray pulled it up, just the tiniest crack. No pain. That's...almost interesting. Eduardo again. Damn him. Who the hell does he think he is? Just to shut him up, we'll try this. So there! He raised it a bit more. The lights in the room seemed brighter. He saw his parents. Dennis. Patrick. The Group. He felt something. Something. How peculiar. Something. Not nothing. Up a touch more. He saw Patrick's eyes watching him. Oh my. Those eyes. Not quite so like a light switch any more. He saw his parents. Memories. A toddler, growing up, hugs, scraped knees, giggles, a bee sting, ice cream. He saw Dennis. Games, wrestling, building models, more hugs...a shower. He raised the barrier more, almost halfway now, ever so slowly. Fascinating. Feelings. Oh wow. Glimmers of joy, happiness, anger, disappointment, even....Love?
Ray looked over at Patrick and struggled to raise a finger and beckon him over. Patrick moved his ear down in front of Ray's lips. Ray whispered, "That was intense....Now. I think you have a promise to keep."
Patrick gently hugged his boy and unashamedly wept out loud, tears of joy falling freely onto Ray's pillow below him.
** 27 **
Recovery was difficult, and took much longer than Ray would have liked. Physical therapy was an incredible amount of work. His body had been through such an arduous experience. Visits from nutritionists, eating all of the time, specialists poking and prodding, graduate students asking endless questions, Eduardo's constant sessions, and on and on.
He was gaining weight and starting to look like the Ray he was used to seeing in the mirror. He was glad for the breaks when visitors came calling. Visits from his parents, enjoying each other's company. His mom was completely back to normal as well as his dad. Better than normal. They were able to talk again, about anything. Visits from Kimberley, who was glad to have her brother back. Visits from Dennis, with shared hugs, talking, gentle tickling, playing games, and showing Dennis the fun of kissing, much to Tim's amusement. Visits from Patrick. Oh wow, visits from Patrick. Cuddles, and shared time, and talking, and games, and gentle groping, and love. Always love. One memorable visit from Fred. Ray, feeling daring, climbed into his lap and they cuddled. At the end, saying good-bye, he gave Fred a quick kiss on the lips. Fred was shell-shocked. That was fun. Visits from every group member. Everybody had been changed by the experience. Everyone seemed to listen more, work harder to understand, try harder to make each other feel positive, feel good. They were all, now and forever more, his family.
Three weeks went by. This stupid recovery was taking longer than the treatment. Finally, finally, he was out of the hospital.
"Where are you taking me? This isn't the way home?" asked Ray, holding Patrick's hand.
Patrick completed his lane change and turned to look at Ray, with the lopsided grin Ray could look at all day. "My place. But first, we need to stop at the drugstore. For supplies."
Ray just grinned like a fool, staring out of the windshield.
** 28 **
Going back to school was odd. Despite his recovery, he had changed. He wasn't the same boy that had left school a little over a month ago. Ray had always been gregarious, but it was different now. He still talked to everyone, but now he listened more. The conversations that involved Ray were often more serious, more introspective, as much as was possible in the halls of an elementary school. He became the boy other kids talked to when they were worried, or upset, or anxious. Somehow they sensed he would understand. One Friday at lunch time, shortly after returning to school, he could be seen talking with a boy a grade younger, sitting in the courtyard. The entire lunch period they talked, their hands gesturing, making strong points, seemingly forgetting about their lunches beside them. Then the bell rang, and they separated and returned to their respective classrooms.
Friday's final bell had rung and the students shuffled out. Fred Dorian wiped down his blackboard with an eraser, chalk dust flying. He was exhausted, but was still glad to be back at work after Ray's ordeal. He felt he still hadn't recovered fully yet and was looking forward to doing nothing on the weekend. He was also looking forward to the group getting together for the barbeque in Patrick's back yard late next week. His social calendar was pretty much empty aside from that. He heard a knock on his door frame and turned to see Ray's head sticking around the corner.
"Mr. Dorian, can I talk to you for a minute?" asked Ray, quickly looking around the room.
"Ray! Of course you can, come on in."
Ray entered the room, followed by a slightly younger boy in his wake, the one he had been talking to the entire lunch period. Fred didn't recognize him and raised his eyebrows in question at Ray.
"Fred," said Ray with a very large shit eating grin, "This is Donny. Donny, this is Fred." Ray turned and walked out, the grin plastered across his face. Fred and Donny stood staring at each other, then back at Ray's receding form.
** 29 **
The barbeque was winding down. Most of the group were heading home, saying their goodbyes amid much hugging and joking around. The group had grown slightly. Eduardo proudly showing off his new boyfriend to everyone, a quiet man in his mid thirties, with a slight paunch, apparently from the university's geology department, dressed as plainly as Eduardo was flamboyantly. Donny had been there too, with Fred. He hung back for much of the first half hour until starting to relax after Dennis and Ray drew him into the activities.
Patrick looked around his yard as he began to clean up some of the debris, thinking to himself how much his life had changed since his beautiful Ray of sunshine had entered it.
The last of the guests were leaving. Ray and Dennis sat in the porch swing, giggling and whispering to each other while crafting some nefarious plot. Tim and Brenda approached Patrick.
"Thanks again Patrick. Next week it's at our place. I hope we're not leaving you with too much of a mess to clean up?"
"No, no problem. I'll light a fire under Ray and Dennis' butts shortly and get them to help."
"Are you sure you don't mind having Dennis for the night? If it's too much trouble he can come home with us. Or Ray can come too if you need some quiet time for a change."
Ray looked over at the giggling boys. "No, of course I don't mind. I'll drop Dennis off sometime tomorrow afternoon, just before I drop off Ray."
With a last hug and a goodbye, Brenda and Tim headed home.
Patrick turned and began picking up discarded paper plates. "Come on guys, don't let an old guy do all the work here."
"Umm, Patrick, come over here for a second. Please?"
Patrick looked at Ray, all wide eyed innocence, and then at Dennis, giggling madly, almost falling off of the porch swing. He sighed and walked in their direction, knowing he was about to be the fall guy in their little plot.
Ray stood up. "Patrick, we have an experimental treatment we need to administer. Come this way please." Ray and Dennis each grabbed one of Patrick's hands and pulled him inside, towards Patrick's bedroom.
Oh my, thought Patrick, as they entered his bedroom and he looked at the boys, suddenly somehow now almost naked.
** 30 **
The three of them lay in Patrick's bed sometime later, talking quietly.
"Don't you tell me that was intense," grinned Patrick, kissing the end of Ray's nose, his other hand gently massaging Dennis' smooth butt.
"Ok, no, but it was..." began Ray.
"Incredible!" interrupted Dennis, his eyes wide.
Patrick and Ray looked at him with equal grins, and began tickling him mercilessly.
"You know Patrick, you have to agree on something here," said Ray more seriously, his voice containing a touch of the fear and seriousness he experienced before his treatment. "I need to know. I love you, but I love Dennis too. Just different. I need to know, is that ok? Can we, me and Dennis, still, um, be together too?
"Of course," answered Patrick simply, kissing his boy on the cheek. "You have my consent."