Cody heard the rattle of the wagon wheels and the thudding of horse's hooves before Jase. Patting the injured man lightly on the arm, Cody smiled, "Here comes the cavalry."
Davy yelled out clearly, "Whoa up," set the brake and jumped off the wagon to run to his father. "Daddy! Daddy! You okay?" fear vibrating in his voice.
"Yeah, Davy Boy, I'm fine," Jase smiled, keeping the pain out of his reply. "Thanks for getting here so fast."
Davy looked at Cody, questions in his eyes. Cody grinned and praised him. "That was quick, Davy. I'm gonna need some more of your help. We need to get your dad into the wagon bed without bumping his leg."
They managed to hoist Jase into the wagon bed and Davy sat in the back with his dad, his brown eyes full of fear. Jase glanced down, saw the torn blood soaked jeans and smiled at Davy. "It's okay, son. It's not anywhere near as bad as it looks." He ruffled Davy's hair and felt the boy's hand rest on his arm. "I'll be right as rain come tomorrow."
Reining up the horses in the barn yard, Cody jumped off and helped Jase climb awkwardly down. Davy ran ahead to open the screen door and then stood quietly, eyes wide while Cody tried to make his dad go lie on his bed.
"I don't need to go to bed. I cut my damn leg is all. No big deal."
"You had a tetanus shot lately?" Cody asked patiently.
Jase frowned. Cody could tell he hadn't.
"You work around animals and you don't keep your tetanus shots up?" he asked, shaking his head.
"No.......MOM!! I guess I forgot," Jase shot back crossly.
Cody bristled. "Okay........just get sick. Make Davy worry. Your choice."
Jase sighed. He knew when he'd lost. "Davy, call Dr. Granger and tell him what happened. Maybe you could go in and get the medicine."
Davy ran to the phone and they could hear him excitedly explaining. Three minutes later, he ran back. "I'm gonna go get it. I'll be right back, Daddy. Don't get sick while I'm gone." He patted Jase's arm and looked at Cody.
"He'll be okay till you get back, Davy," Cody smiled as the boy raced out the door to grab his bike.
"It's not that big a deal," Jase groaned.
"You know that and I know that, but your son wants to help and you do need that shot, so let him do this for you."
"You behave or I'll give you the shot myself," Cody laughed, "And believe me, it won't be pleasant. Ever had a tetanus shot in the butt? Now, let's get you cleaned up." He reached for Jase's arm and was pleased when Jase didn't jerk it away.
Jase's leg was throbbing and his head felt swimmy but he didn't want Cody to know. He grabbed lightly for the back of the kitchen chair and swayed.
"Okay, big fella," Cody said quietly, "To the bed."
Any other time, Jase would have rolled his eyes but his head hurt too much and besides, bed sounded kinda perfect right now. Cody held his arm tightly and they walked awkwardly down the hall.
Practically falling onto the bed, Jase lay back and closed his eyes to let the ceiling stop spinning. "I feel like I'm half crocked."
"Well, stop fighting it and relax. I'm gonna get you cleaned up and then Davy will be here with some medicine. I'm gonna just go get some hot water and cloths. Lay still. Don't let it start bleeding again."
Cody watched Jase close his eyes and when he heard him let out a long breath, he walked quietly out of the room, heading for the phone. Davy had scribbled the doctor's number on the notepad and Cody punched it in quickly.
"Hi. This is Cody Taylor. I'm staying at Jase McBride's ranch."
"Yes. Is Davy there yet?"
Cody lowered his voice to a whisper.
"Can you send something for infection and pain?"
"Yeah. He is."
He laughed. "That's the truth."
He found a pan, filled it with hot water and, along with soap and cloths, he carried everything back to the bedroom. Setting it all down on the little table by the bed, he maneuvered a towel under Jase's legs and then reached for the button on his jeans.
Jase was just drifting, his stomach turning somersaults, when he felt cool fingers at his waist. His eyes popped open. "Whoaaaa."
"I'm just gonna clean the wound," Cody soothed. "Lay back and relax."
Jase tried to wriggle away from the fingers but he felt the button go and then heard the snick of the zipper. "Cody, really.......don't," he tried to argue. "Just cut the jeans." His hands went up but Cody slapped them away.
"Don't be stupid, Jase. I just want to...................," Cody's voice faltered as he began to pull the tattered jeans down.
"I don't have on....................,"
Cody's face flamed. "I can see that." They both froze for an instant, then Jase felt Cody continue to tug the ruined jeans down.
"You either need to let me or I need to take you to town," Cody said softly.
Jase let out a puff of breath and sank back into the bed, his eyes closed. "Do it then," he sighed.
Cody bit his bottom lip to keep from giggling, then turned back to his job, his hands reaching for the soap and the warm water.
He was NOT going to look. He was being a nurse. He was NOT going to drool over an injured man. Jase was hurt and he was simply gonna clean the wound and.................Oh......My........God!! His breath caught in his throat. His hands froze and Jase's eyes opened.
Cody choked, his eyes twinkling, his face transparent. "Nothing. Just getting set here."
Jase snorted. "Yeah? Why am I not believing that?" He tried to look stern but failed miserably.
Cody felt another giggle rise in his throat. "You have to. I'm the nurse, remember?" He reached for the soap and lathered his hand.
Jase felt something break loose inside him. All the years of mourning and crying inside. Just hearing Cody trying to choke back the giggles, seeing the desire in his eyes, hearing the laughter in his voice.
"Okay then nurse, get on with this bath," he smiled.
Cody stared into Jase's eyes and saw nothing but smiles. He grinned back and slowly eased his soapy hand over the torn flesh, causing the smiles to disappear and stinging pain to bring out a string of curses all beginning with Fuck Me!
"Hold on, Jase. Let me get the blood off," he soothed. "Hold on."
The rip was over three inches long and quite deep. Cody knew what he needed to say and got ready to argue.
"You need stitches. We need to go to the doctor, Jase."
Jase looked down at his leg. "Yeah, I do. The stitches, I mean. I can do that myself."
"You are so not gonna sew your own self up," Cody groaned.
"I'm a vet. I do it all the time. Just make sure it's clean."
The spectacular view forgotten for the moment, Cody soaped the wound and then poured peroxide into the tear. "It's clean, Jase."
"Go over to the dresser and look in the second drawer down. There's a box with some thread and needles."
Cody knew what was in the top drawer. He felt a flicker of guilt and then pulled out the next drawer and reached for the small plastic box. "What color?" he asked, nervously.
Jase laughed, coughing a little at the end. "You pick."
Cody, feeling like he'd stepped into surreal world, chose a blue the color of Charity's ribbon.
"Thread it and bring it here."
He stepped back over to the edge of the bed and saw that Jase had covered himself with the corner of the sheet. His eyes moved up and caught the older man's. Jase raised his eyebrow, a tiny smirk on his face. "Another time."
Cody breathed in. "Yeah?"
"Oh yeah," Jase growled, "And next time, I won't be hurt and you won't be dressed."
The tension crackling, Cody handed Jase the thread and he tried to raise himself up into a sitting position. His head still swimmy, he flopped back on the pillow. "This isn't gonna happen right now," he admitted.
"We need to get it closed," Cody worried. "Can we go to the doctor?"
"Not now," Jase groaned. "I'll do it later."
Cody looked at Jase. He looked at the rip in his beautiful flesh. "I can sew," he amazed himself by saying.
Jase smiled. Somehow, he'd known this was coming. Everything that was happening was inevitable. "Then do it, Cody. Fix me."
"I wish it was that easy," Cody murmured. He took a deep breath and licked his lips. Jase watched every movement. Cody eased his fingers over the clean wound and glanced up at Jase one last time. "I can do this," he whispered, more to himself than to the injured man. "I can fix you."
"I hope you can," Jase sighed, "I think I want you to." Both men knew they were talking about much more than the barbed wire.
Cody pushed the needle in and out, closing the gap and trying not to think that he was puncturing this beautiful skin. He knotted the final stitch and cut the thread. "It will leave a scar," he said sadly.
Jase pulled Cody up against his chest and held him close, looking into his eyes. "Any scar you make on me will be welcome. This scar, I hope, just means you care."
Cody sighed. "You know I do. I already care too much."
"There isn't any too much," Jase replied, pulling Cody towards his mouth.
The slamming of the screen door brought them back from wherever it was they'd gone for a moment. Cody slid off Jase's chest and his feet hit the floor.
"Daddy?" Davy whispered. "I got the medicine."
"Great, Davy Boy. I better get that shot in me."
Cody reached for the pill bottle and the syringe. "I can give you the shot. I give myself allergy shots." He took the syringe, tapped it for bubbles and shot a bit out. "Tetanus hurts. Which arm you want it in? Davy, get the alcohol and rub his arm."
Jase watched Cody take charge and wanted to get angry but he felt the worry shooting from Davy, from Cody. He wanted them both to care much more than he wanted the old anger. He raised his left arm.
"Here's a pill to make you sleep and one to make sure there's no infection," Cody said as he offered the purple pill and the little white one along with some water.
"Where did these come from?" Jase asked, holding the pills in the palm of his hand.
"Magic genie, I guess," Cody smiled and reached to push Jase's hair out of his eyes. "Go on to sleep. We'll be all right. Just relax."
Jase closed his eyes and listened as Cody cleaned up the mess and answered Davy's questions.
"Will Daddy be okay?"
"Did he sew up his own self?"
"You did it? Wow, Cody!"
'Wow, is right,' Jase thought as the meds took over and the sounds of his son and his...................his whatever Cody was, faded out.
Jase woke later hearing music coming from the front room. He opened his eyes and the room was steady. Moving his hand down to his thigh, he felt the ridge of the first stitch and knew this hadn't been just a bad dream. But, as he lay there listening to the soft music and the murmur of two voices, he couldn't say it had been all bad. He and Cody still needed to talk about the land but he'd seen more of his beautiful brown eyed...........
Whoaaa! Jase stopped the train of thought. That train was on the wrong track. Cody wasn't his anything. He was beautiful....the brown eyes a given but he didn't belong here, not in this house. Why would anyone want to be here....except for Davy. He heard a peal of Davy's laughter and smiled. It was good to hear it again.
The door opened a crack and two faces peeked in; two dark skinned faces, both beautiful, both worried about him. Jase knew the fight was almost over. He knew he couldn't win. "I'm awake," he announced.
Cody and Davy walked quietly into the room and stood beside the bed. "You feeling better?"
"Yeah, my head's not gonna spin off, I guess."
"How about your leg?" Cody touched the skin near the stitches and Jase sucked in a quick breath.
"Oh, sorry," he gasped and yanked his hand back.
Jase lowered his eyes. "It wasn't pain that bothered me," he sighed.
"Oh?" Cody whispered.
"You doing better, Daddy?" Davy whispered.
"You don't have to whisper, son. I'm fine. As a matter of fact, I need to get up," he said as he struggled to raise himself up on his elbows. "I need some clean jeans, Davy. Will you go get me a pair from the dryer?"
Davy dashed out the door and Jase grinned, "I need some underwear too. Third drawer down."
You're enjoying this, aren't you?" Cody laughed.
"Yep. Kinda. Not everyday I have a cute slave."
"Slave, is it?" Cody walked over to the dresser, pulled out a pair of briefs and slung them in the general direction of the bed. He watched as Jase struggled to pull them up his good leg.
"Oh for God's sake," he groaned, "Here." He grabbed the cotton and tugged them back down. "Throw the damn sheet off."
He was immediately sorry for that command as he had to work keeping his eyes on Jase's knees.
"I won't bite," Jase said quietly.
Cody stopped. This was so stupid. Two grown men, and here he couldn't look at Jase naked. Really wasn't couldn't. It was totally shouldn't. If he did, he'd never stop. If he did, he'd never be able to leave.
"Here, Daddy. They're still warm," Davy laughed, the jeans pressed to his cheek.
Cody exhaled loudly, and swiftly jerked Jase's briefs up and helped him to the edge of the bed to ease into his jeans.
"Do you have to get up right now?" Cody asked. "Davy and I could take care of things."
"Yeah. If I lay there, I'll stiff up," Jase answered.
Cody snorted out a laugh, "Well, we don't want you layin' there stiffin' up on us. Come on, Davy. Let's start supper." They left Jase sitting on the edge of the bed knowing he'd lost another round.
Supper that night was quiet, Jase trying to fight the meds, Davy still worried and Cody spinning a million questions around in his mind.
The dishes washed, Davy set up in the living room with his math homework, Cody set a steaming cup of coffee on the table in front of Jase. "We need to talk."
"Yeah, I know." He cringed as he stood to put his weight on his hurt leg. "I'm going out to the porch."
Cody watched him struggle not to show any pain across his face then stood to follow him, carrying the two cups.
They sat for a few minutes watching the sun settle its last rays in for the night, listening to the coyotes begin their search for supper. Finally, Jase cleared his throat. "The land."
"I want you to use it however you need to," Cody said carefully. "I'll be going back to New York and there's no reason you shouldn't use the water and the grazing land."
He missed the flicker of emotion in Jase's eyes as the words ' back to New York' echoed in the night air. Jase would never ask, would never promise things he couldn't give. He only knew he didn't want Cody to leave. He wasn't thinking beyond that.
"I'll only agree if you take half the profits from the sale of cattle and know that the land does belong to you. I'd never claim it."
"I trust you, Jase."
Jase stared straight ahead, his body so aware of the younger man sitting next to him in the old rocker. "I don't know why. I've tried so hard to make you leave."
This time Cody heard the hidden sigh behind the words. "You just didn't try hard enough, I guess. I can be a stubborn fool sometimes."
Cody knew this was the moment. "Tell me about Tommy."
Jase stopped rocking. He gripped the handle of the cup, his jaw clenched. His eyes locked on a rock formation far in the distance, then his voice spoke softly. "I won't ask how you know his name."
"Don't," Cody whispered, "Just tell me so I can understand."
Jase sighed. He knew it was time and he somehow knew this was the right person. Climbing way back in his mind, he found the first time he had seen Tommy. "I went to school that day just like it was any other day. I had my friends. I had soccer. I had Charity. I didn't know then. I truly didn't know."
Cody could hear the yearning in Jase's voice; knew he could stop him now. Knew he could stand up and walk away. Knew if he didn't, he never would.
"Go on," he murmured, wanting to reach for Jase's hand but gripping the hand rails of the rocker tightly.
"He transferred from Window Rock. They had come to live with his Grandmother on the reservation but his parents wanted him to come to the town school. He was angry and hostile and I....I fell in love with him the minute I saw him."
"Where is he now, Jase?"
"I don't know. I loved him with everything I had to give. He loved me too. I know he did." It was like a huge wall had crumbled and Jase couldn't stop the flood of words. "I loved him. He wanted to be with me. He promised he did but, in the end, he couldn't."
"Did Charity know about Tommy? How you felt?" Cody was so confused. She had to have known.
"Of course she did. Charity was my best friend. She knew from the first minute I saw him. She was sitting right beside me when he took my breath away. We were all fifteen. He walked into math class and stood in front of the room, his hair plaited and his eyes angry. I wanted to get up and go stand beside him so he wouldn't be alone."
"He was angry that he had to go to your school?"
"God yes. The white kids can be so cruel to an Indian boy. There are prejudices heaped upon prejudices out here. He didn't belong in town in the school."
Cody was thankful to his parents for moving them away. He had never experienced this brand of intolerance.
"It was Charity that finally made him see that she and I didn't hate him; that we wanted to be friends. Charity could charm the birds form the trees," he smiled, remembering.
"Daddy, Cody, I've finished my homework," Davy said as he walked out onto the porch. He sat down on the top step and leaned back gently against his Daddy's good leg.
Jase shook his head as if to clear it of old memories.
"This isn't over," Cody said quietly.
"I know." He shoved at Davy with the toe of his boot. "Get your old man an Eskimo Pie. I know you don't want one."
Davy laughed, "I do too. You want one, Cody?"
"Sure thing. I want the biggest one."
They sat out on the porch, Cody telling stories about growing up in New England, making the two McBride men laugh at the tales of an Indian boy amongst all the Pilgrims.
"They never had any trouble finding just the right kid to play Squanto in the Thanksgiving play," Cody laughed. "I had to stand up there on the stage holding my hand up going "How!" It was so lame."
"Did you hate it?" Davy asked.
"Nah, I've always been proud of who I am," Cody replied. "I never let my mom cut my hair and I always had plenty of girls flirting with me cause I was different." He laughed and glanced over at Jase. "Didn't work though."
Davy showered and climbed into his bed. "Night, Daddy. Night, Cody." He gave each man a hug and Cody pushed his hair back from his forehead to kiss him goodnight.
"Sweet dreams, little man."
"Daddy, I'm glad you're okay."
"Me too, son. Thanks for being such a big help today," Jase smiled and was rewarded with Davy's glowing smile and happy face. He ruffled his son's hair and turned out the light.
Cody saw the grimace of pain as Jase caught his leg on the edge of the hall table. "Let's get you to bed too, little man," he grinned. "You've had a big day."
Jase had to admit that he was totally exhausted. The pain, combined with the meds, was dancing the macarana inside his head. He wanted to talk to Cody. He wanted to finish what they started earlier that day but he was too tired. "I think I need a shower and bed."
"You hop in the shower. I'll change the sheets on your bed."
"You don't need to do that."
"Yeah," Cody smiled, "I do. Go on." He teasingly shoved at Jase's arm and turned away.
"Thank you too for today," Jase murmured.
Cody stopped, his back to the older man. "You're welcome. Anytime."
Jase limped toward the bathroom, a ridiculous grin plastered across his face. Cody pulled the sheets off the bed unable to keep himself from inhaling the aroma that was just Jase.
Cody was dreaming of planting corn but every time the stalk got big enough, there wasn't corn on the tassle, there was pepperoni. He was pulling the pepperonis off and feeding them to a giant alligator that had a bucket on his head. He heard the corn stalk making weird noises and he tried to understand what it was saying.
"No...........not that. Don't say that."
'Say what?' Cody wondered, in his dream.
"I can't stop you......."
Cody recognized that voice. He stuggled up from deep in the corn dream and realized that Jase was calling out. Tumbling off the sofa, he ran down the hall and found Jase, his face flushed, babbling in his sleep.
"Shhhh, Jase, I'm here. I've got you," he murmured, stroking the warm forehead.
Jase opened his eyes. "Cody?"
"Yeah, you were having a bad dream. You feel a little warm too." He went for a cold cloth and bathed Jase's face and neck. "It's really hot in here."
"I guess I forgot to open the window," Jase sighed. Cody pushed it open and the night breeze wafted in, bringing jasmine and cool desert air.
"That's better," Cody said quietly. "Now maybe you can get to sleep." He stood by the window, the moonlight surrounding him.
Jase gave up. In that one moment, the last of the wall fell down. He couldn't stop what was happening. He didn't even want to. He wanted to love this man. He wanted it so that he could feel alive again.
Cody walked over to the bed and leaned against the edge. "Um Hmm?" he couldn't keep his hands from straightening the sheet and easing the damp hair from Jase's face.
In the dark, behind the veil of night, Cody smiled. He slid onto the bed and curled up along Jase's side.
"I'm not Tommy," he whispered.
He felt Jase's body stiffen for a second but then he heard him say softly,
"No, you are Dakota. I know exactly who you are."
"Tell me," he asked again.
"I know you're good and kind and beautiful and you brought happiness into my world, into my son's world. I'll never make the mistake of not knowing exactly who you are."
"You'd lose me if you did," Cody whispered.
Running his hand lightly across Jase's chest, Cody asked again. "Tell me about Tommy."
"He disappeared right after Charity and I graduated from college. We were all so happy, I thought. I was going to be a vet, the best vet in the southwest. Charity was going to teach in a reservation school and Tommy was riding cows for the Big Double R Ranch."
"Why didn't Tommy go to college with you?"
"Scholarships? I know he could have gotten a minority scholarship."
Jase sighed. "See, that's where Tommy's anger got the better of him. He wouldn't take any scholarships. He said they were demeaning and just because he was an Indian, no one owed him anything....the color of his skin wasn't gonna be his ticket to school."
"Jase, that was wrong," Cody said softly.
"Yeah, I know. I tried to talk him into it but he was stubborn."
"So, you and Charity graduated and Tommy was there." Cody took a deep breath. "What happened, Jase?"
Jase rolled on his side and pulled Cody close to his body. "This is the bad part."
"I've got you," Cody eased his arms around Jase's back and willed his body to behave.
"I thought Tommy and I would just be together. We'd build a ranch that he would run and I could work my vet practice and we'd live happily ever after."
"Charity told me she was pregnant and Tommy disappeared."
"Oh damn, Jase. Tommy and Charity?"
"That's the thing. She never would tell me. She said it was better if I never heard it." Cody could feel the ripples of emotion running through Jase's body. "One day, I was on top of the world and the next, I was in hell."
"I have no idea where he is. I cannot believe he'd get Charity pregnant and run away. We could have worked it out. We could have. The two people I loved more than anyone in the world. We could have worked it out."
"So, you married Charity?" Cody shook his head at the unselfishness of this man.
"I didn't know what else to do. I loved Charity. She was so scared and stubborn. She wanted the baby. She never would tell me who the father was, but I knew and I wanted Tommy's child." It was then that Cody heard the tears. Jase McBride, sobbing slowly, tears running, choking him. "As much as I hated it all, I wanted that child. If I couldn't have Tommy, at least I'd be able to take care of the baby."
"Have you ever looked for Tommy? Ever heard anything?"
"God yes, I looked. I drove to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, anywhere and everywhere but I couldn't leave Charity for too long. He's not around here. I'd have heard."
"So, Davy is Tommy's child?"
"He must be. There is no other explanation."
Cody rubbed small circles in the taut muscles bunched in Jase's shoulders. "You need to get some sleep. Tomorrow we can sort this all out. I'm here now and I'm not going anywhere..........at least until you're better and we have things settled."
Jase sank into Cody's warm arms. "I want............,"
"Yeah. Me too. But tonight's not the right time. I want you 100% with me when we make love and tonight you're with Tommy."
Jase made a protesting sound low in his throat.
"Shhh. You know I'm right. I don't want a quick fuck from you, Jase McBride. I want everything you have to give and I'll wait. I won't be someone's ghost."
"Will you stay?"
Cody pulled the tie from his hair and rolled over, nestling his back to Jase's chest. "Yes."
Jase sighed, wrapped his arms around the smaller man cuddled in front of him and laid his cheek on the soft black hair. "I need you."
"I know. Tomorrow's a new day. We'll work this out and then we'll work on us."
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