Kaiser's Pack - Next Gen

by Bensiamin

Chapter 7

Over dinner that night Jerrod filled David and Jackson in on their time with Matt and Nate. David listened and then said, "It sounds like he's telling you pretty much all the subjects we discussed, which is a positive sign. He's not trying to hide anything. Sharing with you, Roger and Nate what I told him about bullying gay kids to compensate for what happened to him isn't an easy thing to do."

Jerrod nodded, and they talked about how child sexual abuse can manifest in a variety of behaviors later on. Then Jerrod said, "Matt also told us that you were concerned that he was emotionally numb. Can you help me understand what that means?"

"He is being candid! The short answer is that as a result of an experienced trauma, the person dials back their level of emotional engagement. Think of it as a protective measure. By not getting emotionally involved with other people, they're less likely to get hurt again."

"That makes sense."

"It does, but it comes at a cost. Most people can't selectively decide to be emotionally engaged with this bunch of people but be emotionally distant from all the rest. So, it tends to become an overall behavior. The cost is that humans by nature engage and interact with one another. When a person doesn't then that means they miss out on a lot of socialization generally, and specifically they fail to build close relationships. That frequently means few, if any friends, and fewer still, if any, romantic relationships."

"That's a big price to pay."

"It is," Jackson said. "It's what Gary went through when he was getting abused. I was young enough I saw it but didn't understand what was happening. He'd pulled back from all his friends, quit sports, just withdrew. It took his Dad's removal to make change possible, and then his life situation changed when David convinced him to go to community college, and then after Mom died all three of us lived together. He slowly came out of his shell, and his confidence improved, and then he got really lucky. He met Lois and they both fell for each other."

Jerrod slowly smiled and then said, "So, you're saying that Matt needs a girlfriend?"

"I'm saying that would help, but he'll have to work out some stuff to get there. Then, let's hope he meets someone that he clicks with."

"Maybe I should ask him who he's inviting to the Prom?"

"Maybe you should go slow. If David just started talking to him about this stuff, let him process it and start sorting some things out. He's not dumb. He's just got to sort it out in his head."

Jerrod nodded, then grinned at him. "Does that mean he's in the state of being 'comfortably numb?' You know, like the Pink Floyd song you told me about?"

"I think Pink Floyd had a different kind of trauma in mind, but you could say so. The point is just that people can get used to their misery and the emotional withdrawal they have going on and come to think of that condition as normal."

"I'll try to talk to him about it, without being pushy. Just seeing how far he wants to go with it. Oh, I asked his mom, and his dad worked as a project manager for Behlen Construction in Portland. They're a big commercial construction company."

Jackson nodded and said, "I'll check them out tomorrow and see what I can find out from their HR department."

"Talking to him about being numb," David added, "in general terms, is an okay approach because he told you about it. Let him talk when he's ready, though. Also, you should call your parents before it's too late back east."

"Thanks. I will, and then I've got to call Sam 'cause we said we'd touch base this evening."

The conversation with Jerrod's parents was pleasant, and he filled them in on the week's events and assured them he was keeping his GPA high, and that it felt like the quarter was under control. When his mom asked about summer plans, he realized he actually hadn't thought about it much, and told her that he had to get on it.

Sam answered the phone and he told their about the time with Matt and Nate after she was there. She said she didn't really have any new information yet. She said she'd placed a couple of phone calls and thought she'd know something after the Board meeting in the next couple of days.

"Cool. I found out about the company their dad worked for, and Jackson is going to talk to their HR department tomorrow and see what he can find out. Oh, and when Dieter and Robert were here last night, they told us that Robert is taking them to Baja to celebrate their twentieth anniversary, so they're letting us stay at their beach house for the long weekend, and we're going to see if Matt and Nate can go with us. I didn't know about that teacher development day. Do you have to go? Is your school off that Friday, too?"

"Yes, our school is off that day, but all the teachers have to attend. It's a statewide requirement for a new type of educational certification. It's really neat you're going to ask those boys along. It'll be a great change for Nate, and he should have a few weeks of PT under his belt by then and be pretty well recovered and more mobile. And it'll be a fresh and uplifting experience for Matt."

"You were pretty sly taking Eric and Kim with you this morning. I told Matt and Nate they were probably acting out and it was some kind of punishment."

"Jerrod! How could you possible think such a thing?" She laughed. "Actually, they were getting on our nerves and Will wanted some dad time with Susan. I told them they needed to perform their good deed for the week. Seems like they all got along decently."

Jerrod confirmed that and they agreed to talk again in a couple of days. David and Jackson had cleaned up after dinner and he filled them in on his call. David said he was going to call Laurie and ask about her sons being part of the beach weekend.

Matt met them at the curb the next morning, and jumped into the Cherokee smiling and excited.

Jerrod grinned at him. "Good morning, so far?"

"Well, yeah. Nate and I can't believe you guys are asking us to go along with you to the beach next month. That is so cool."

"Haven't you been to the Oregon coast before?"

"Once or twice, but that's not the point. You guys and David and Jackson are going and you're asking us. Nate is flipped out."

Roger grinned at Matt and said, "Well, we figured the ocean air and being on the beach would be good therapy for Nate. You know, help him heal and recover faster and stuff. But then we realized we'd have to bring you along to handle the toilet duties."

"Yeah, right! You guys are too much."

"It'll be fun," Roger replied, settling back in his seat. "Your mom's cool with it?"

"She thinks it's great. She obviously trusts David and Jackson, but she thinks it'll be good for both of us, too."

Jerrod pulled into the parking spot at the back of the lot and said, "We do, too. You know, change of scene and all. We'll figure out how to make it fun. I've only been to the coast once, so it'll be new to me, too."

Over lunch all Nate could talk about was the beach weekend. "I'm going to have to figure out how to walk on the beach though."

"Slow down, tiger. You haven't even had your check up or started PT yet. Don't get too far ahead of yourself. Let's get past the checkup, see when PT starts and how much strength you've got in your legs. Don't worry though, it'll be fun no matter what. Did Michael call you last night?"

Nate grinned and raised his eyebrows.

"He didn't call me," Jerrod said, "and I had a couple of phone calls to make last night plus homework, so I didn't call him. Somehow I think he's more interested in calling you than he is in calling me."

"Well, you know! We've gotten pretty close. I wish we lived closer so we could see each other. The phone's okay, but you know, it's only the phone."

Roger caught Matt's eye, raised his eyebrows and grinned, and then said casually, "Sounds like phone sex to me."

Matt almost spit out his mouthful of sandwich as he started laughing. Nate said, "Give me a break," and tried to be cool, but he was blushing slightly.

"Hey, man, it's cool. Jerrod bought some new base layer long underwear during ski season, and also got me a pair. He gave them to me in the bag and made me promise not to open it till he called that evening. Then when he did, he was already in his and made me strip and describe each step as I put them on. You know, how they felt, and all."

Nate's embarrassment had faded fast as he listened to Roger, and his face broke into a wide smile, his eyes flashing. "So, how'd they feel?" he asked.

Roger grinned at him. "They felt sexy, and Jerrod knew it, and kept teasing me along and asking me if I felt sexy yet. You can imagine the rest."

Nate was glancing back and forth between Roger and Jerrod and barely controlling his laughter. "I can imagine the clean up afterwards, on both ends!"

Roger just smiled and said, "You have to imagine the outcome, because we don't want to embarrass your big brother."

"Yeah," Jerrod said, "be careful or you'll make us seem like pervs to Matt."

Matt was now smiling softly and said, "No, not pervs. It's probably not my game plan, but I get it. If it worked for you guys, then fine." He turned to Nate. "You and Michael aren't jacking off when you're on the phone together, are you?"

Nate smiled smugly. "That's for me to know, and you to wonder about…"

"Maybe you should ask him if he wants to come down for a weekend? Jerrod interjected. "He's pretty competent on riding the train alone. We can pick him up at the station on Friday and take him back on Sunday, if it works."

"That's a cool idea. Why didn't I think of that?"

"Don't know, man. I guess that's why we're called a therapy team."

Tennis practice went by fast after Jerrod had dropped Matt of at his house, and he and Roger agreed the homework assignments were loading up as they moved toward the middle of the quarter.

Matt was quiet on the drive the next morning. "You okay back there?" Roger finally asked.

"Yeah, I guess. I've been thinking about what David was telling me about being emotionally numb. It's on top of the scholarship thing. What do I do about that?"

"I think he told you that you're already doing stuff about it by opening up with new friends, right?"

"True. I've told you guys more about me than I've ever told anyone. I guess I'm still trying to understand it."

"I think most of it is feeling instead of thinking," Jerrod said. "Have you got any Pink Floyd albums?"

"Nope, I never got into psychedelic rock. Why?"

"I'm not a fan, really, but Jackson has played me some of their music. They've got a song called Comfortably Numb . I'll loan you the CD tomorrow, then we can talk."

Jerrod handed Matt the CD the next morning, and when they got to school, he and Matt arranged with the coaching staff to skip their last period PE class to take Nate to Doernbecher for his checkup. Roger caught a ride home with Eric, and on the drive Matt and Jerrod discussed how they'd transport him.

"Well, the first question is what he wears, since he's going out in public."

Matt looked at him blankly. "Yeah, what's wrong with the robe he's been wearing?"

"How much does it cover, really?"

Matt smiled, "Truth? Not that much. The cast is big enough that the robe barely wraps around it. And his junk would be swinging in the wind, and all it would take is one little prob and the robe would open up and he'd be on display. I see what you're saying. What do we do?"

"Have you got any old sweatpants you're willing to sacrifice?"


"Because none of his are going to fit over the cast, but I'm betting an old pair of yours will. We cut the legs off to make shorts, and I'm thinking the leg and waist will be big enough to slide up over the cast. What'a ya think?"

"I think I'm glad you're along, 'cause I never would have thought about it and Nate would probably end up really embarrassed."

The cut down sweatpants worked, and after carefully slipping them on, they helped him down to the Cherokee on his walker. They had to work out a kind of lift and slide routine to get him into the rear cargo area. But they'd padded it with cushions from patio and lounge chairs. He got himself comfortable as they drove home to get Kaiser.

When they pulled into the designated parking for the therapy dog owners, Jerrod said, "This probably isn't totally cool, but the dog teams don't work this late. That's why the parking spaces are open. Plus, with Kaiser wearing his vest, everyone will think he's on duty. We may have to play the role a little if we get asked, but no one should hassle us about parking here so close to the elevator."

They checked in with the Ortho department and after waiting a few minutes, Nate was taken in to see his surgeon. Matt went with him and Jerrod stayed with Kaiser, chatting with the receptionist. Ten minutes later they were headed to the elevator and down to radiology for an MRI of Nate's hip.

The radiology tech told them it would take almost forty-five minutes to do a complete pelvic scan, and Jerrod turned to Matt and said, "Want to go with me and Kaiser and see some patients?"

Matt's eyes widened in disbelief, but then he smiled and nodded. Jerrod gave the tech one of his Team Kaiser business cards and said, "We'll aim to be back here in thirty or thirty-five minutes. If you get done sooner, the number on here is my mobile, just call me, okay?"

They headed to the Ortho floor and Jerrod introduced Matt to the nurse supervisor, and when they told her they'd hoped to visit a few patients while Nate got his scan, she remembered the boy with Perthes disease and encouraged their plan. She suggested three patients who as usual were very pleased to have the visit and meet a new therapy dog.

After thirty two minutes, Jerrod's phone rang and it was the tech informing him that they were running ahead of schedule and just finishing up. "He'll be out in two or three minutes."

"We're on our way. Thanks for letting me know."

In the elevator Jerrod asked Matt what he thought about visiting patients?

"It's cool. It's different when you're on the other end. I thought I'd have to worry about what to say and stuff, but once they get comfortable with Kaiser, it just happens, doesn't it?"

"Yeah, that's the magic part about the right dog. His doggy friend Rufus is the same way. The kids and the dog make a connection, and it's almost like we can get out of the way. Remember the connection Kaiser made with you and Nate that day?"

Matt swallowed, then smiled, and said softly, "I'll never forget it. It kinda changed my life, you know."

Before they left, the tech explained that the scan would be read overnight by a radiologist, and the report would go to Nate's surgeon the next morning, and he should expect a call with results during the day.

Thursday at lunch the main question was about the call from the surgeon, but it hadn't happened yet. After school they zipped home to handle Nate's bathroom run, and then headed to the park to meet Sean and his Mom. When they got back, Matt asked Jerrod and Roger if they could come in for a few. "That surgeon has to have called by now."

Nate was sitting in his bed smiling brightly.

"It must be good news, right, bro? Matt asked as soon as they walked in the room.

Nate grinned. "It is. He says I'm healing really well. I told him about you carrying me to the toilet and stuff, and he was impressed and said that helped a lot 'cause it means I've done very little weight bearing for the first month, and that lets the bone bond and grow without being disturbed. Basically, he said I'm doing as good as he hoped I would, and I can start PT in two weeks. Then, if the progress continues, he might be able to take the cast off in another two weeks. Isn't that cool."

"That's good news," Jerrod said. "Then what?"

"Well, the walker is for around the house and stuff. It's still no real weight bearing, but I can start going out in a wheelchair."

"That's cool," Matt said.

"Well, yeah, but being in a wheelchair will suck. Still, he said it should only be four weeks in the wheelchair, then another month with crutches, and then…"

"Then, what?"

"Then if there are no complications I can walk without the crutches, but it'll be a year for full healing."

"And then you can play ball again?"

"That's what he said… if there are no complications."

"Hey, man," Jerrod said, "that's a great prognosis. You know that's what they call it, right? He's telling you to do it right, don't fuck it up, and in a couple of months you'll be up and moving around like a normal person. Don't even think about that 'can't play ball for a year' stuff. Think about the next two months, that's key."

He looked at Matt and Roger and said, "Two months is the middle of June when school gets out for summer. Our job is to get him there with no complications, right?"

They both nodded and Jerrod raised a hand in a high five, and each of theirs joined his. "Right!"

They looked at Nate and Roger slyly said, "So, buddy, our job is to make sure you don't fuck up. Got it?"

Nate felt his mood swing from trepidation to strongly hopeful knowing who he had working for him to achieve full recovery. He reached down and stroked Kaiser's head and said, "Team Kaiser got me this far, so I know you'll get me through the rest of it, too."

After Jerrod filled David and Jackson in on Nate's checkup and prognosis over dinner, Jackson said he'd reached one of the Behlen Construction HR specialists, and she confirmed that they did have some educational programs in addition to those designed to help current employees with continuing or additional technical education. "She said she wasn't really familiar with them because they are part of the company's nonprofit arm and that she spent most of her time helping employees get funding and credit for continuing education. But she said she'd mail me the information. Maybe it'll be here on Saturday."

Jerrod was working on his homework when Jackson leaned into his room and said, "Phone. It's Sam"

She first wanted to know how Nate's checkup had gone, and was thrilled that it was so positive and the prognosis so good. Jerrod described what the surgeon had said about the next two months, and her comment was, "It all sounds great, but make sure he doesn't go wild and crazy down at the beach."

"I've already thought about that. We'll probably have to tie him down!"

"Okay, now, over to Matt. I think I've found a couple of possibilities. It turns out that the State High School Athletic Coaches Association has a scholarship fund for athletes. It's mainly focused on hardship cases, meaning notable athletes facing financial hardship. Our Executive Director is sending me the information and the criteria, but I got the impression that Matt might qualify. She did say 'it's not full ride or anything like that,' but that's not what we were expecting. Anyway, it's hopeful that he might qualify for a partial scholarship of some sort!"

"Wow! That's great news. Jackson found out about some possibilities at the construction company that Matt's dad worked for. This just might come together. Thanks, Sam. You're the best."

"We'll see about that. I think the best approach is not to say anything to Matt yet. We need to get the facts and the requirements straight before we get his hopes up."

"For sure. Jackson said the same thing."

Friday morning, Matt was quiet, and listened to Jerrod and Roger talking in the front seats about the coming weekend and the first tennis tournament the following week. Finally, he said, "Sorry I'm so quiet, guys. I've been thinking a lot. And I've listened to that Pink Floyd song a couple of times. I'm trying to figure out what it means to me."

Jerrod sensed not to push, and simply said, "We're here to talk whenever you want to."

"I know, and I've got a meeting with David on Sunday, too."

Saturday was a warm day with high clouds, and Roger and Jerrod both had chores to do after they played tennis with Eric and Kim. Jerrod dropped him off and said, "I'll be back around five or so, after I mow the lawn. What are we doing tonight?"

Roger grinned slyly. "I'm mowing this afternoon, too. Maybe between tennis and mowing we'll be too tired after dinner to do anything but go fuck like rabbits."

Jerrod grinned. "You've been listening to Nate too much. You may be right though, a quiet and sexy evening in your room sounds pretty cool… if your parents will leave us alone that is!"

When he got home, he was pleased to learn David and Jackson had done the laundry, gone grocery shopping and walked Kaiser at Oaks Bottom Park. Jackson was holding a pamphlet in his hand and said, "This is the info from Behlen Construction. In addition to the programs for current employees, they have a few scholarship programs for children of retirees."

"What?" Jerrod was crestfallen. "Only for retirees? How's that fair."

Jackson grinned at him, "Well, it's only fair because the program was created for qualified children of retirees, but it also extends to children of former employees in certain circumstances. An example is a retiree who is deceased. I have a strong suspicion, though, that we can make the case that it should apply to children of employees who died on the job."


"Yeah. David and I have been talking about it because he deals with lots of scholarship programs and foundations. Employees dying on the job is not the kind of thing that's usually part of the planning for putting together an educational program like this, but it makes sense, doesn't it?"

Jerrod nodded, looking hopeful.

"It might take a little pressure, maybe even a little embarrassment, but can you think of a better team to do that than David and me?" He was grinning.

"No, but… you'd do that? You'd go to bat like that for Matt."

"Damn straight. Monday I'm setting up a meeting with the VP of Human Resources. Tonight, while you and Roger are sliding around between the sheets at his house, or tomorrow, I'll talk to Laurie and fill her in and get as much info as I can about her husband. I'm pretty certain she has no idea that programs like this even exist."

"That is so cool. Thanks. Now, I've got to go mow and stuff. I told Roger I'd be at his house around five o'clock."

Jerrod and Roger swung by the house at nine thirty the next morning to pick up Kaiser and head to the hospital. Jackson was in the kitchen, sitting at the table with Kaiser laying underneath with his chin on one foot. Jackson gave them a widening smile as they walked in and said, "How was the sliding between the sheets?"

Roger grinned back, nonperturbed. "It was great, actually, and thanks for asking. We were both tired enough after the tennis and mowing that not long after dinner we bowed out. Mom and Dad were cool and let us go, so we just watched some TV and you know… what did you call it… slid around between the sheets, and then we got a good night's sleep. I assume you and David did as well?"

"Well, yeah. But, at our age, we probably did less sliding around than you two did. By the way, David took Matt to Burgerville for lunch and their meeting. Are you going to see Matt and Nate after the hospital?"

They nodded and Jerrod said, "I'll drop Roger off at home afterwards, and probably be home around five o'clock. Is that okay? I'll help with dinner."

"It's a deal. See you then."

When they checked in with the dog therapy coordinator, Suzanne and Rufus were there getting ready for their shift. They let both dogs loose to play for a few minutes, and after catching up, Suzanne asked what they were doing for the summer?

"You know, my mom asked me that a week ago, and I said I hadn't thought about it." He looked at Roger, who shrugged his shoulders.

"Aren't you guys running down summer jobs?"

"I guess we're both lucky that way. Last summer I did a couple of ski race camps and then after I met Roger, we trained Kaiser and stuff. Maybe we should be looking for jobs."

"Oh, don't get me wrong. I'm not telling you both to go find jobs pumping gas or some such thing. I was mainly finding out if you were already committed. It sounds as if that's not the case, correct?"

Roger and Jerrod looked at each other again, acknowledging the fact, and then confirmed to Suzanne that was the case.

"Okay, here's why I'm inquiring. Dog therapy teams are essentially all volunteer, like us here, right? But here's the situation. Lot's of people go on vacation in the summer, and that includes volunteers and their dogs. So, it's not uncommon that there's not enough teams to meet the demand. The Therapy Dog Association has a program with a small stipend to secure two or three dog therapy teams that can work at the major hospitals here in Portland during the summer. What do you think?"

"You mean, get paid to do this?" Roger asked.

The boys glanced at each other and grinned. "You know that saying about what bears do in the woods," Jerrod said.

Suzanne grinned back at them. "I do, indeed. It's a small stipend. Meaning for adults with household expenses and a family it doesn't pay a lot. But my guess is that compared to what you'd earn in the typical summer job, it's probably close. More importantly, all three of you would be doing what you love. Kaiser would be kept busy and active. You'd both not only be expanding your experience, but you'd be doing so in a wider hospital setting, which is a good thing. What do you think?"

The boys looked at each other again and Roger said, "It sound like a great idea. We'll have to talk to our parents and stuff, though. How does it work? Is there an application process or interviews?"

"Yes, to both. Neither are that complicated though, and I can tell you that there aren't enough interested dog therapy teams… hint, hint! You'll also get a great recommendation from me and Rufus. Let's do this. You talk to your folks and I'll have the paperwork for you next Sunday if you decide you want to pursue it."

They agreed, and had to go separate Rufus and Kaiser, so they could start seeing patients.

Laurie met them at the door in the afternoon, let them in, and told them that she and Matt were about to leave. "I need to do the grocery shopping as well as stop by the nursery, and I need him to help me carry bags and stuff." She paused, then smiled. "I have to tell you boys that in the last few weeks he's become so much more helpful. I think taking care of Nate has rubbed off on him. That, and having you two in his life. Also, Jackson called me and asked about my late husband's employment. Apparently, there might be some scholarship opportunity?"

"Yeah," Jerrod said, "but we don't have the details yet, so we decided not saying anything was best til we're sure."

Laurie nodded and smiled. "He said the same thing and I agree. It's very encouraging."

They high-fived Matt as they passed in the hall and agreed to catch up on the drive to school in the morning.

Nate was his enthusiastic self, and after Kaiser hopped up on his bed and received a thorough belly scratch, he filled them in on the week's schoolwork and his two calls with Michael.

"Sounds like you guys are getting close?"

"Yeah, but I think a lot of it is 'cause we're both pretty much alone and lonely."

"Has he said anything about how he's doing with GSA?"

"Just that he says it's going well, meaning no confrontations about it or being out. He said to tell you he'd call you guys in the next day or two."

"Good. I haven't talked to him for over ten days. Did you talk to him about coming down to visit you some weekend?"

"Yeah, and he'd like to, but it's hard with it being spring on the ranch. I hadn't thought about that. I mean, we live in the city, so the weekend is pretty much a few little chores and then the rest of the time is chill out or whatever. He's got work to do all weekend, and I mean more than chores."

"Yeah. He's a busy boy," Roger added. "And he knows his stuff. You should have seen him with the calving. He knew just what to do and when. We were impressed."

"I told him about you guys inviting me and Matt to go to the beach that weekend next month. He thought that was really great. I don't think he's ever been to the coast. I guess that makes sense, him living in eastern Oregon and all."

They talked generally and then Jerrod slyly asked, "So, have you two graduated to phone sex yet?"

"Well, yeah, if you mean talking about stuff to get each other hot, we kind of got into it Friday night. I told him I can't jack off with the cast and he understood. He thought it was so cool that you guys are taking care of me."

"I think it's cool you felt good about telling him that," Jerrod said. "I think most kids would be embarrassed. I mean you're still kind of sorting out your sexual identity, right? Did he tell you we helped him out a couple of times, too?"

"He did. He said he's gotten closer to that kid, Stewart in GSA, but still not as close as we are already… even though we just talk on the phone. See how good you guys are at getting people together."

"Can I say something?"

"Sure, anything."

"You're sounding more bi, and like you're maybe really liking this boy. Have you thought about that. I mean it's one thing when you're lonely and stuff. But are you thinking about what it means?"

"Yeah, I have. I've thought I was bi since we all started talking about this stuff. I used to be embarrassed about it, but with you guys, and now even with Matt, it's not a big deal."

"That means you're in the perfect place to try stuff, you know, to experiment," Roger said. "That's one thing that most kids don't get encouraged to do. Even though my parents were open and accepting about me being gay, I never felt like I could go experiment or anything. It was always like having to wait for the right person."

"Is that bad?"

"No. I'm just saying you should consider yourself lucky. You've got friends around you that are totally cool with it, and you can go with your feelings with no hang ups."

Jerrod turned the conversation to Matt, asking how he'd been the last few days. "He was quiet on the school drives on Friday."

"He's still pretty down about not getting the scholarships, but he's trying to be positive. You know, he's trying not to let it rule his life and stuff."

"Your Mom just told us he's changed, as in being a lot more help for her since he's been taking care of you. That's cool."

"It is, and he's become a really cool big brother. Anything happening with the things you guys said you were looking into?"



"Okay. We've got a couple of prospects that may work. Meaning Jackson and Coach Sam are running down some possibilities that might have partial scholarships. We just don't know yet 'cause it's early. We agreed not to tell Matt till we knew more and were sure he qualified and stuff. Just know there's some possibilities, okay, but mums the word."

"Got it. No worries on me talking. I don't want to see him do a crash and burn again."

Jerrod glanced at Roger who wiggled his eyebrows, and he turned back to Nate and said, "We've got to get going before too long. So, tell us, when you were doing the phone sex thing with Michael the other night, how long did it take you to get hard?"

"Oh, not long, trust me. But I had to deal with the cast. He told me he was in bed stroking himself, and how sexy I sounded, and how hard he was, and well… you know how it goes."

"Let's see how long it takes you with some real fingers involved."

On the drive home Jerrod reached over and stroked Roger's cheek and said, "You know you're the best boyfriend ever, don't you?"

"Well, I like to think so. But what makes you say that?"

"You're so cool, like nothing gets you upset. It's like we think alike and almost finish each other's sentences, and are on the same page all the time."

"It is pretty outrageous. My mom said something about it the other day."

"And you don't think we're going too far still jacking Nate off?"

"Ahh, now we're getting to the issue." Roger giggled. "Actually, no. If we were, I think Matt would say something. He's very protective of Nate. Like you told him, we took care of Michael a couple of times, and for Nate, he's trapped in that cast. So, it's different."

Jerrod glanced at him, and said, "For sure. Okay, then come next Sunday, it's your turn and then we alternate."

Roger nodded and then slyly asked, "So, do you like the way his cock feels?"

Jerrod grinned back at him. "Ahh, now I see what's on your mind. He's got a nice cock. But, guess what? It's not your cock. It's smaller, and he's cut. As far as I'm concerned, there isn't a more beautiful cock in the world than yours. I can pop a hard on just thinking what it looks like when the head slips out of your foreskin… know what I mean?"

"Yeah, I do," Roger giggled. He adjusted his crotch. "And I can feel the results where you're talking about me that way." He kissed his fingertips and placed them on Jerrod's lips.

"I also think it's cool that he and Michael are getting so open with each other. It'll help them both."

"You know what else I'm thinking?" Jerrod asked. Roger shook his head.

"Nate didn't say anything about it, but don't you think he has to be wishing Michael could be part of the beach weekend?"

"Yeah, but how would that happen? He lives in Pendleton, and it's spring on the ranch and all."

"True, but remember, his Mom's a teacher so she'll be involved in that credentialing program and he'll be off from school that Friday too."

"So, you're saying what?"

"I'm just thinking out loud! Wouldn't it be cool if it could happen?"

Roger nodded. "It'd be fabulous for both of them, but it sounds like a stretch."

"Do you think it would be uncool if I asked David and Jackson about it?"

"No, I think that'd be just fine. They'll tell you if they think it's cool or not, or tell you it's too big of an ask if they think so."

After dropping Roger off, Jerrod fed Kaiser when they got home, and Jackson put him right to work helping with dinner prep.

They had roasted potatoes to accompany grilled pork chops, and as they ate, Jerrod told them about Suzanne's information about the possibility of summer work doing dog therapy at different Portland hospitals. Both David and Jackson thought it was a terrific opportunity. They talked about the pros and cons, and then Jackson said, "You know what I think you should do? You should call you parents and tell them about it and ask them what they think and what they recommend. I'm betting I know the answer already, but I think it would be a very positive way for you to involve them in making the decision."

Jerrod glanced at David who was nodding his head, and he said, "I like that idea. I'll call after we clean up."

They talked about the week and Matt's situation, and all agreed that the prospects sounded hopeful, but also that they were running very close on time. There had to be applications and evaluation times before decisions would be made, and if that took two months, then school would end, graduation would take place, and Matt would still be in limbo.

David looked at Jerrod and said, "You did a good thing giving Matt the Pink Floyd album and telling him to listen to Comfortably Numb ."

"Really? Can you tell me any of it? He told me he'd been listening to it and that it's gotten him thinking a lot, but that's all he said."

"He needs to give you the details, but he did say he appreciated you doing it, and that it's helped him understand some things."

"That's good, I guess."

"He's struggling to understand how he could have become emotionally numb. So, we talked about the ways people compensate for trauma and how it can shut down your emotions. Things like that. You know enough about the song and where it fits in The Wall to know that what the song was specifically written about, a musician with stomach cramps, getting a shot of sedative so he could go on and play, how wild and crazy it felt… and all of that, doesn't apply. But what got Matt's attention and helped him start to understand his situation is the last verse."


"You remember, it starts out with the lines

There is no pain you are receding
A distant ship, smoke on the horizon
You are only coming through in waves
Your lips move but I can't hear what you're saying.

I think that gave him a visual image of what the separation could be like, and that you drift away from people, can't hear what they're saying. Does that make sense?"

Jerrod nodded. "Yeah, it really does. It's great if he's understanding that."

"That's what I thought. After we talked about that stuff, though, what really impressed me was the way he was beginning to understand the last lines in that final verse. Specifically, about how they could very well apply to him. Remember how it ends?

When I was a child
I caught a fleeting glimpse
Out of the corner of my eye
I turned to look but it was gone
I cannot put my finger on it now

The child is grown
The dream is gone
I have become comfortably numb

I think that language is beginning to help him understand that it's not just some kind of mental thing that happens, meaning the emotional numbness. But, rather, that the numbness is part of a whole set of things that happen, and those last lines describe a loss of innocence, a kind of lost childhood. I think that's what he's beginning to understand, that he didn't just get sexually abused, but the result of it was that he lost something important. He lost part of his childhood. He lost part of himself."

"Wow! That's heavy. I can relate a little bit with what happened to me, but it was nothing like what happened to Matt."

"That's why I'm telling you this. It's a big deal and a lot for him to process, a major realization to come to. So, it's important that you don't push him, don't rush him. He's getting there. You've just got to let it all come together in his head, and when it does, he'll tell you. You can be absolutely certain of that."

"Why do you say it that way?"

"Because even though he just thinks of me as your guardian and Jackson's boyfriend, I'm his therapist, and he can do the work of sorting this stuff out with me. He doesn't have to do the work with you and Roger. Do you understand the difference?"

Jerrod nodded, and Jackson softly said, "It looks to me like Matt has figured out you and Roger are his best friends, and you're already doing all this other stuff for Nate and helping him too, and he probably feels like he can't dump all this stuff on you two as well. And he doesn't need to in as much as he has a therapist." He looked over at David. "Is it something like that?"

"It is. He not only thinks of you both as his best friends but also that you're all working together on Nate's therapy team… him and Kaiser included, of course. There's a difference between being totally honest with your friends and baring your soul or turning out your dirty laundry. You know what I mean?"

"Yeah. I guess I should be impressed that he thinks our friendship is so important. To me it's just part of our life, what we're doing. I mean I think it's important and value it, but still. Does that make sense? Do you know what I mean?"

"I do. But understand, right now the friendship he has with you and Roger is probably the most important thing in his life. He's sorting out one of the two most difficult things that's ever happened to him, and you guys saw him for who he was. You said yourself that you saw a brain and a heart in him. You and Roger accepted him, helped him, loved him even. I don't think he's ever felt that before. So, just know it's not only really important to him, but he's in a pretty delicate place right now. Just be sensitive… you know, like you'd be with a patient up at the hospital."

Jerrod was quiet as they washed the dishes and cleaned up.

"I didn't put too much on you, did I?" David asked.

"No, not really. It just made me realize that some of this is serious business, isn't it? I mean like if we do something wrong or fuck up it could hurt him bad?"

"That's true. But don't over-think it. Think of it like when Dieter recommend you take the defensive driving course. You already knew driving could be dangerous, but taking the course put it in context for you and also gave you tools to deal with it."

Jerrod smiled and hugged him. "I think I should go call my parents before it's too late and engage them in a consultation about this summer's work prospects. But can I ask you guys a question, something for you to think about?"

David nodded, and Jerrod could see Jackson's eyebrows go up. "Nate is totally over the top about going to the beach. He and Michael are getting really close, even if it is by phone. Michael's got the Friday for the long weekend off too. Wouldn't it be totally cool for both of them if Michael could come down and be a part of it?"

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