Thru the Storm

by Bensiamin

Chapter 2

Liam and Troy had plenty to think about on the drive back the next day. So did Peter and Cheryl, for that matter, but they lived in different cities and would have to work out if a long-distance relationship was in the mix. Liam and Troy, however, didn't both just live in Portland and work at the same hospital, but they were in the same program.

Liam left Troy's room early, and it was a heartfelt, if simple goodbye, as if they were both aware that maybe something was happening. They had an early departure, so he was out of the shower when Peter came in. As they packed, Liam asked if Peter and Cheryl were an item. "Well, you know, truth is stranger than fiction. We live in different states, but she's a special person. We've agreed to stay in touch and see if the flame continues to burn bright and hot. How about you and Troy?"

"Well, you know me. I don't have much of a record for long term relationships, but I like your model about how the flame continues to burn. It'll be different for us, though, more intense, 'cause we're in the same program at the hospital and he's my supervisor."

Peter's eyebrows went up. "Yeah, that could be a challenge of its own special sort. You guys seem to like each other, but don't forget what I told you after your last break up. The problem seems to me to be the commitment."

"Says he who's about to embark on a long-distance relationship!"

Peter grinned. "I said we agreed to stay in touch and see if it works. We're not close to the commitment stage yet. You have been before and that's when it went tits up. Remember?"

Liam nodded and smiled wryly as he closed his bag. "Let's get some breakfast so we can get on the road. We can talk about this stuff later when the relationships come together… or don't."

With the early departure to drive to the Portland airport for Liam's friends to catch their flights out, it was no surprise that they didn't see Troy's family while they were eating breakfast.

An hour into the drive, as they headed north toward Hood River, the conversation about the trip and what was ahead lulled. It was pretty much straight highway for the next hour till they reached I-84 and turned west to Portland. Liam adjusted himself in the seat and set the cruise control. His thoughts went back to Troy and the night before. For the second time Troy had followed his lead when it came to their time together, so maybe he wasn't such a control freak after all.

The sex had been soft and pleasurable, and when they had gotten to the fucking part, Troy had been more responsive and sensuous than Liam expected. Making sure he was relaxed and stretched. His cock fit really nicely—the feeling of full but not too much. And Troy had gone slow, he hadn't just banged away to get his rocks off like so many tough guy types do. Liam had done his part, working to make it as pleasurable as possible for Troy, and based on his facial expressions and gasps of pleasure he'd been successful. It was pleasurable for him throughout, Liam thought, especially when the bloom of heat appeared in his prostate and then blossomed within his abdomen before he came.

Troy had asked him to stay, to sleep with him—no repeat of the 'got to go' stuff from the first night, and they'd fallen asleep spooned together.

Liam acknowledged to himself that it had been awhile since he'd woken in the morning leaning against a warm chest, with an arm over his waist and a semi-hard cock pressed against his butt, and he had to admit he missed it. Of course, missing it tied back to the fact that he'd been unable to commit to his relationship, just like Peter had said. He'd rolled over and Troy hadn't been standoffish, as Liam had almost feared, but had pulled him in for a hug.

"Penny for your thoughts," jarred him back into the present, and he looked at Peter.

"They don't go for a penny anymore. Ten bucks, minimum!"

"Yeah, right! In your dreams."

"You're just riding me because I'm driving all you have to do is think about Cheryl."

"So you're telling me you're not thinking about Troy?"

"I won't deny it, but you know, we're each allowed our own lives, right?"

From the back seat they heard one of their friends say, "We don't need to hear your sexual conquest stories, thank you very much. We're trying to get some more sleep back here."

Liam gave Peter a 'so there!' expression and turned his mind back to the driving.

It was different in the rear seats of the Escalade. Troy's father was driving, of course. The big SUV meant there was lots of room, in fact it was so big there was a spatial separation between the front and rear seats, and that was just fine by Troy. Cheryl was clearly thinking her own thoughts about her time with Peter, and they'd have the chance to talk about it in Eugene before he left for Portland, or later by phone. It certainly wasn't going to happen with his parents in the front seat.

His mind wandered back to just how open and candid Liam was about sex. He'd never thought of himself as closed minded, but he knew it just wasn't in him to talk about sex like that. He'd grown up in a traditional household where it just wasn't talked about, and had been thrown for a loop when Liam asked what he was into. Then he found himself embarrassed when he said he was a top… as if that was all there was for him and he wasn't just missing out on something important, but came off in a way that reinforced the 'in control' behavior that Liam had been kidding him about.

Cheryl had always told him he was kind of a control freak, but he took it with a grain of salt. In fact, with a shaker of salt, because he was nothing close to his father. But then Liam had pointed out the 'sins of the fathers' quote, and he could see the pattern. He'd been happy, though, that Liam was into a good time and liked him and was willing to lead. Meaning, to tell him what he wanted, even when where it had been going last night was him fucking Liam.

He'd made him go slow. He'd spent time kissing and stroking Troy and he found himself responding so he was doing the same to Liam. He'd made clear that they were going to spend the time making love, not just getting their rocks off, and that led to the most erotic sixty-nine that Troy had ever experienced. When they'd rested afterwards they'd talked a little about themselves and their lives and experiences. Nothing in depth, but again it had been nice. Then he'd realized that Liam was stroking his thighs, and then his cock, and was getting him hard again. He'd told Troy that he was going to suck him to get him ready and then Troy was going to suck him to get him ready too. That wasn't the way he normally went, but Liam made it seem so normal and natural that before he knew it a warm and wet mouth was on his cock and that tongue of his was working overtime. He gasped when Liam wet his fingers and was stroking his hole, which was amazingly hot, but he didn't say anything and went with the flow.

In no time it seemed like he was close again, but Liam had been paying attention and pulled off, saying softly with a kiss, "Now you're ready to go again, your job is to make me feel as good as you're going to." He said it with such an innocent smile, the light from the fireplace gleaming off his blue eyes, that it was almost hypnotic. He'd done just that, trying to give Liam the best blow job, wetting his fingers to open his hole and stroke his prostate, which took Liam almost off the bed. When Liam said, "Stop now or I'm going to cum," he did, and then lubed his fingers to open Liam further. He appreciated how Liam's eyes rolled in his head and he made soft little gasps as he'd worked his fingers in, and then how after he'd put on a condom, Liam had coached him through entering him.

He saw that Liam had softened a little, but was still standing proud as he raised his ankles to his shoulders. In fact, Liam was smiling, his head lolled back, waiting. He pushed against his hole and felt it responding, and Liam mouthed the word "slowly" and looked at him in a way that made the first passage erotic in itself, and then more and more sensuous as he'd pushed into him.

He'd always been a top, but never with a guy that seemed to take such delight in receiving, and who knew how to bottom so effectively that it almost seemed Troy didn't have to do anything. That somehow Liam was pulling his cock into him, using his abdominal muscles to work his cock and take him places he hadn't gone before. It didn't take long to establish a rhythm and to his amazement, Liam stayed hard. They were clearly fucking each other, and it made Troy think of a T-shirt he'd seen recently that said, 'I would bottom you so hard!' At the time he thought it was a bad joke, but not anymore. When his breathing had turned into a pant, Liam started to stroke himself, and when his breathing turned to gasps of pure pleasure, Liam sped up, so he came shortly after Troy had.

They'd collapsed together, sharing sweet nothings for some minutes before they needed to clean up. He'd gone to the bathroom to take care of the condom and came back with a wet warm towel to wipe Liam's belly. When he was done he looked down at Liam and smiled, and much to his pleasure Liam had stroked the side of his face, and then to his surprise he'd heard himself ask Liam to stay, to sleep with him.

He felt the poke in the ribs, and then heard the whisper from Cheryl. "Not you too!"

He looked at her and blushed, then grinned. "Was it that good for you too?" Her eyes were boring into his like some kind of Star Trek traction beam as she asked the question. The grin widened and he quietly said, "Later. When we get home."

The plan was that Troy's mom would cook them all dinner that they'd eat in the early afternoon and then he'd drive back to Portland, so he had time to do laundry and be ready for an early morning at the hospital. Cheryl was flying out the next day. So, when they pulled into their parents' home he got busy loading his bags into his car, and then helped bring in the rest of the luggage, taking Cheryl's to her room for her. She was right behind him.

After putting her bags on the bed, he turned and said, "We're not going to share war stories like we're in high school, okay!"

Cheryl grinned in response. "The whole drive back you looked totally drained. What did you two do, get it on all night?"

"I said we're not swapping war stories."

"I know. I'm asking about your health. I don't think I've ever seen you so subdued. Are you alright? You're not coming down with something are you?"

"Ha ha! You seem pretty subdued yourself. Was Peter enough for you?"

"Now, brother mine, don't get crass. He's nicely endowed and it was just fine, thank you very much. We'll have to see where it goes with me at Stanford and him in Denver. You know you've got it easier with Liam in the same city."

Troy paused, knowing that statement was forcing him to suddenly get real about something he'd been able to put off all day. "I'm not sure it's easier at all. I'm the Chief Resident and I'm his supervisor and there's a no fraternization policy and hospitals are cesspools of rumor. This is not going to be fun or easy."

"What does that mean?"

"Just that you and Peter can pick up the phone tonight right where you left off last night… or this morning… or whatever. We can't. Tomorrow we're back to work and have to follow all the rules and regs and protocols."

"Troy, I get the rules and regs part because I'm a Teaching Assistant. They have them in universities, as I'm sure you remember. You're not telling me you can't be civil are you? Or worse yet, be human? The rules don't bar you from falling for someone. This wasn't just a ski trip tumble in the hay was it? Because it didn't look that way to me."

"Are you worried that if that's all it was for me, then that's what it has to mean for you too?"

"No, but that is an uncomfortable thought."

Troy was tiring of the discussion. "Look, I haven't figured it out yet, but I've got a lot to think about. I've got a position and responsibilities that come into play here in a way you don't. You didn't just spend the weekend getting it on with one of your students. All I know is that I have to sort it out by 0700 tomorrow morning when I meet with my residents to start the day."

By the time he got home and was caught up on things, Troy had decided he needed to get out in front of the situation that would present itself in the morning.

He texted Liam:

It was a great weekend. Remember, we're back at work tomorrow.

A few minutes later he received the reply.

It was a great weekend, especially the time with you! I'm already bracing for tomorrow. 😜

The morning began with the usual mechanical greetings in the Residents' Lounge as they all trooped in holding cups of coffee and sat down at the small desks alongside the night shift residents and went through sign-out where the night residents reviewed and then turned over the patients they'd been caring for. Troy sat with the Senior Resident who led the night shift resident team. They were on six week cycles, and he and Liam were on the day shift cycle together, then they'd rotate to nights.

After the night shift residents left, they all turned to the electronic medical records to review the status of the patients they now had to care for. Troy had pulled the printout of patients with their status and the new admissions numbers got his attention and said aloud, "In addition to the new admissions, it looks like we've had an increase in RSV patients over the weekend, and we're still struggling with nurse shortages. Be sensitive to that when you see your patients.

They reconvened at nine o'clock for rounds with Dr. Burgoyne, and the new cases of Respiratory syncytial virus were on his mind as they made rounds. What they learned was that there had been three new admissions of former patients who had recently been discharged, two after chemo and one after surgery. In addition, there were two children that had been scheduled for discharge that were still in-patients, now with RSV.

After rounds, Troy had a short meeting with Dr. Burgoyne to catch up and review cases while the residents turned to updating patient records and ordering tests as needed and otherwise planning patient care for the day. When he commented on the RSV cases, Jerrod said, "You were lucky you scheduled the time off when you did. State-wide RSV cases have been going down since their peak last month, but there's a bit of a rebound, and it looks like much of it is pediatric and we got our share in the last few days."

"Besides former patients with it, what do you make of the two patients that are still here and have it?'

"My initial take is that the three that were discharged contracted it the usual way, in the community via friends or family. They've been discharged for two or three weeks. After three years of the Covid pandemic, we're got a large pediatric population that haven't been exposed to it, haven't developed natural immunity and are more susceptible. The bigger concern is the two who contracted it here in the hospital. Nosocomial infections are not a good thing, even if it's just RSV and not the antibiotic resistant infections the media covers so colorfully. You know as well as I do that patients who are immune compromised or with underlying conditions can get really sick from RSV, and hospital acquired infections are bad PR no matter what."

"So, what do we do?"

"You saw on rounds that all the RSV patients are quasi-isolated. All our beds are full so we can't create an isolation ward and the nurses are slammed, but they're either together in a double or in a single room, non-nursing staff are on infection control protocol and are minimizing contact with them, and we're trying to discourage family visits while using all infection control measures. Up to and including no dog therapy visits."

"Sounds like you've got a good plan. Let me know if you want me to do anything different."

"I will. We need to watch all the other patients on the oncology and surgery floors, so we catch any new infections quickly. Tell your team to stay on alert, that's what we need right now."

"Will do," Troy replied. He nodded at Jerrod as he stood and got ready to leave, and heard him say, "I'll come find you this afternoon, and we can compare notes on daily progress or changes." He paused and then went on, "Now tell me how the trip went. You went skiing with your family, didn't you?"

"Yeah, we went to Mt. Bachelor. It was a short trip, but the snow was good, and as it turned out I ran into Liam Fitzgerald. He was there with three college friends."

"Did you guys get to ski together?"

"No, I was with my parents and sister. It was a family ski trip, and he was with friends that do a snowboarding trip every winter."


"What do you mean?"

"You know what I mean. You're gay and he's cute even if I don't know whether he's gay or not. You told me he was there too. I don't need to haul Roger in here to be informed of a Freudian slip. I can recognize one when it happens in front of me. You just happened to mention to me that you ran into one of our residents on your ski trip!"

Troy tried to hold back the smile. "Okay. He's gay and we spent some time together, and got to know each other. He's a nice guy and he's out. Unlike me. The only person who knows about me is you. But now the weekend's over and we're back at the hospital. Back to the usual... well, based on what we just discussed, I guess it's back to the unusual."

"Troy. Did you hear what you just said?"

"Yeah. It's back to work. I'm the Chief Resident and have my responsibilities and I can't let that get in the way of anything else. I appreciate you covering for me, I really do, but you don't have to worry that what might have happened at Mt. Bachelor will have any impact on the day-to-day patient care operation here."

"I won't claim to understand why you're saying what you're saying, because it almost sounds like you're denying something happened, but if that's your position then I won't argue with you. Now, let's turn to more important matters. We need to nip this RSV thing in the bud. Get your residents primed because we need to be on alert, extra vigilant. We need to catch any new infections early and be aggressive on our treatment protocols so we get kids as healthy as fast as we can and then get them discharged.

"Got it, Jerrod. That's my top priority and soon it will be for all the residents too."

Troy was walking back to the Residents' Lounge when he saw Liam coming out of the restroom and waved him over to a quiet area in front of some large windows that looked out to the east, down the hill and out over the Willamette River and east Portland.

Liam tried to keep his expression neutral, even though his emotions were in turmoil. "Thanks for the text last night, but I thought it was pretty cold after the time we'd had together."

"Well, I thought I was just stating the obvious. I said it was a great time."

"The great time part didn't have to be stated at all. We both knew that. It was like you laid down the law about reverting back to how things were before." Liam's expression had shifted to something between hurt and challenging.

"Well, we're back here now. We agreed that what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas."

Liam was shocked. "What? You think we agreed to that? You said it like it was some throwaway line, then we spent time together and had affectionate sex and now that's all you can say?"

"Liam, we've got to deal with reality."

"No, Troy, we don't have to deal with reality. At least not the reality you're talking about. Maybe you have to deal with that reality, as abstract and fucked up as it is, but I don't. I cherished our time together, and now you're dropping this line on me that it's all about back to business as usual."

Troy swallowed, trying to stay calm and not get emotional. "I wasn't saying it was all about business as usual. I was just trying to say we can't be here what we were there. We've both got jobs to do and roles and responsibilities."

"Oh, yeah," Liam replied. "Roles and responsibilities. Let's also not forget image and what people might say while we're at it. You do remember that it's 2023, don't you?"

"Liam, it doesn't have to be that way. Let's just do our jobs and see how it plays out. We've got a potential nosocomial RSV infection wave on our hands. Remember the two patients still here that became symptomatic over the weekend? In addition to the three readmissions, the two newest cases are nosocomial and because the readmissions went to the Oncology and Surgery floors, and those wards are in semi-isolation. You saw that on rounds. We're short nurses, and Dr. Burgoyne wants us all extra vigilant. Isn't getting this under control the most important thing?"

Liam didn't answer right away, and Troy could see the emotions playing on his face. Finally, he said, "For the patients and for work, yeah, it is the most important thing. But what about us? What if right now I want to touch you? Stroke your cheek. Let you know that I've missed you for the last twenty-four hours."

"You know we have to be careful. No fraternization with staff and all that. And for the record, like I said, I know it's 2023. I also know we work in a medical institution."

"What about when we're not working, when it's our personal time?"

"Liam, I'd like to touch you, to hold you too. We've got this reality to deal with, so let's go with it and see what happens."

A wry smile appeared on Liam's face. "If you insist, but that feels kind like a cop out to me, and a conversation we'll continue later."

"First things first. We need a resident's meeting. Will you help me round them up?"

"Three were in the lounge when I left, I bet the other two are in the cafeteria. Want me to go see?"

"Please. Residents' Lounge in ten minutes."

When they'd all assembled, Troy walked them all through the latest info he'd received from Dr. Burgoyne. All the residents were in agreement, that it would help to try and see their patients a couple of more times than usual in the afternoon. Troy said he'd pass the info along to the Senior Resident during sign-out. He also walked them through the obvious infection control protocols: head covers, masks and gloves when with patients. Frequent hand washing, change scrubs if slightest risk of contamination. "It'll be just like when we're in surgery."

One of the other first year residents asked, half joking, "Why not haz-mat suits?"

Troy responded by saying, "They probably wouldn't be that much more effective than what we'll be doing. Also, scaring the patients and their families half to death isn't in the cards. This isn't chemical warfare!"

The next morning after sign-out, and as the residents settled in to start their day, Troy was able to say "We've only had one new infection in the last twenty four hours, so that's progress." He looked around his group and grinned, then they all turned back to the medical record terminals and prepared to visit their patients. With the increased infections and pressure, it was a busy day.

The following morning began the same way, but Troy let them all know that there had again been a new RSV infection, so it wasn't under control. As the residents headed out to see patients, Liam was the last one heading for the door, and Troy watched him stretch.

"You don't look like you got much sleep last night."

"Not much. I slept in here."

"Why? I mean, I appreciate the commitment, but why?"

"You want to know the truth? So that I could check on Rachel, one of the oncology patients with RSV, a couple of times during the night."


"Well, you know. It's much quieter during the night, fewer staff, patients can go a long time and not be seen. I just felt better doing that."

"Were you checking on the other RSV patients as well?"

"Of course. I wouldn't give her special treatment. And it made me think, this heightened alert approach is good, but maybe if the residents came in to see patients when they were off shift, kind of like help the shift residents who are doing admin and ordering tests and all that. Seeing more patients, spending more time with them. Maybe that would help."

"You mean more patient visits, more eyes on the patients?"

"Yeah. We're still getting a new infection every day. Doesn't seem like we're doing enough. We've only got six residents per shift. Well, seven with you, but don't you think more hands on deck would help?"

"I do. It's a good idea. Basic, not high tech, but a lot of patient care is basic. I should have thought about it," Troy said. "Now what is it about Rachel? If I may ask."

"She reminds me of my sister."

"Sister! I didn't know you had a sister."

"That's just it. I had a sister. She died when she was eight in the same car accident with my dad."

"What? Oh my god, Liam. I had no idea. And Rachel reminds you of her? I can see part of it, I guess. The blue eyes. Did your sister have black hair too?"

Liam nodded and swallowed hard. "She did though Rachel's eyes are a much softer blue than hers were, and it's hard to tell about the black hair because she's lost most of it from the chemo. But she's got a similar look and personality. Anyway, I just figured they all needed extra attention during the night."

"That's commendable, and it's a good idea. We all know RSV patients that are sick enough to be hospitalized can suffer lung damage, and preventing them from developing pneumonia is really important. I'll talk to the other residents this afternoon and put together a schedule so we rotate, and clear it with the Senior Resident for the night shift crew. They may not be so excited about coming in after working nights, but there's more staff here during the day. We've got two couches in here, so maybe we do two per night and share the burden and get more done."

Liam nodded, and Troy looked directly at him, "That includes me. No special treatment or getting off because of my position." He watched Liam leave and after rounds followed Dr. Burgoyne back to his office.

Jerrod sat down and Troy said, "You know we've only had one new infection in the last twenty four hours? But that's the same rate as the day before."

Jerrod smiled back. "Sure do. No more readmissions so that says the community infection rate is continuing to decline. So, we're left dealing with nosocomial infections. We're making progress and your resident vigilance may be helping."

"We're thinking we should take it up a notch."

"Really? What do you mean?"

"Well, it was Liam's idea. That the residents that are off shift stay over. He slept in the lounge last night so he could check on the RSV patients. You know how it goes, after rounds, patients can go a long time without seeing a doc, and that's especially the case at night. Maybe we won't get another infection by tomorrow, but we've still got patients with RSV at risk of respiratory damage or pneumonia. I just think we should be doing all we can to prevent that, especially with the nursing shortage. Do you think it'll help?"

"You know, I do," Jerrod replied, "We all know that the incubation period is two to eight days; and it's four to six days in most patients. That says the two that became sick last weekend probably contracted it after they had their procedures. The two since then contracted it early on from other patients. So far none of the patients have developed severe bronchial problems, let alone pneumonia, so that's another big win and a commentary on them being closely monitored and receiving great staff care. That's why I think it's a good idea."

He paused and when Troy didn't say anything, went on. "So, I think extra sets of rounds will help. Tell me about the nighttime care part."

"Well, it wasn't planned. It just kind of happened. It turns out that Dr. Fitzgerald was worried that they might not get continuous attention overnight, so he's slept in the resident's lounge and checked on all of them twice during the night."

Jerrod grinned. "I had a couple of nurses ask about what was happening with the extra resident. He did this of his own volition?"

"Yeah. I only found out this morning and he said he was concerned because one of the patients reminded him of his sister who died when she was eight. Anyway, I'm going to talk to the residents this morning about all of us doubling up so two stay overnight and we continue at least a few more days. Then we'll see what we can work out during the day shift. Does that make sense to you?"

"It sure does, especially with the nursing shortage. Day shift is probably less important. With a max eight day incubation period, if your resident team does that for four more nights we should be out of the woods. No new infections means our infection control protocol is working, and no respiratory complications or pneumonia means our patient care is working. Your residents have helped us maintain the semi-isolation by taking pressure off the nursing staff. If we can keep this up for four more days I think we'll have prevailed."

Troy nodded and rose to leave, and Jerrod added, "And Troy, great job on your part. Good initiative and leadership to get your team to one hundred percent participate. Oh, and for the record, I'm more and more impressed with your friend, Liam."

At the door, Troy turned and asked, "What do you mean?"

"Well, you like him and apparently, he likes you, based on what you told me about you two spending some time together last weekend. And on top of that he appears to be caring and compassionate above and beyond the call of duty."

Troy knew Jerrod well enough that he understood the comment came from the heart, it wasn't just lip service, and almost without thinking he replied, "He is caring and compassionate, in a lot of ways."

"Well then," Jerrod said, as he turned to a stack of folders on his desk, "it appears you are a lucky man. And for the record, you do know that we staff physicians aren't totally clueless. We see how residents look at one another, among other things!"

The words resonated in Troy's head as he walked back to the lounge.

There were six residents on the day shift and all agreed, and at two per night they should be able to execute the plan and make progress. Two of the readmissions had been discharged and if there were no new cases among hospital patients by the next day… well, that would be a good sign. They marched through the next day executing the plan.

On the following morning during sign-out, all the residents, especially those on night shift, gave a shout of relief when Troy announced they had no new infections. "We're almost there. One more day of extra rounds, and one more night on site with no patient complications, and we'll be there,"

Liam raised his hand and said, "It's my turn tonight, and Steve here is a little under the weather. I'm pretty sure he won't say anything and will try and tough it out, but he looks hammered already." Steve looked at him in a very unhappy way.

Liam grinned at him as he said, "What? We're only supposed to care for patients?"

Troy stepped in and said, "I'll cover for Steve. And thanks to everyone for stepping up. He then looked at Liam and added, "I see Rachel is scheduled for discharge tomorrow."

Liam smiled. "Yeah, she's doing really well. Let's hope we get through today and tonight and she's out of here tomorrow."

Troy looked at the rest of his residents and said, "So, there's a living example that this worked. She got RSV here, but got through it and her only complication was an extended stay. Being here tonight should be the capstone and after tonight the crisis is over."

He heard positive comments and was surprised to see Liam look at him with a strained smile. But then he and the rest of the residents were off for pre-rounds, followed by rounds and the noon conference. It was another busy day. With the RSV infection problem pretty well under control, more surgeries and procedures were being scheduled, and more patients were being discharged, and the day shift residents all had long sign-out sessions when the night shift residents came in.

Midafternoon, Dr. Burgoyne stepped into the lounge to tell the residents personally what a tremendous job they'd done, emphasized how they'd stepped up and put in extra time and effort to make sure they didn't have patient complications to deal with on top of the RSV outbreak. He looked them all over and then added, "So, you all look like you need to catch up on some sleep, but assuming you do that, and assuming that by this time tomorrow we still have no new infections on our hand, you're all invited to my place on Sunday for a celebratory evening. You may think that somehow this was just stepping up a little to do what was necessary, but the fact that we avoided what could have been a major hospital outbreak is a big deal. I've explained that to the Medical Director, and he's equally impressed. Dr. Slawson and the Senior Resident are doing the same thing for the night shift crew."

With that he handed all of them an invitation card with time and address and added, "One more day, and we celebrate," and left the room. Troy had been caught completely off guard since Jerrod had mentioned nothing about a celebration party to him, but he smiled gamely and stood up saying, "You heard the man, last day. Let's be extra vigilant and not miss a thing."

Troy and Liam were the last residents left at seven o'clock, and Troy suggested they get something to eat in the cafeteria. As they ate they talked about the week and the crazy schedule, even though it seemed to have brought success with it.

Troy saw a soft smirk on Liam's face and said, "Did I miss something?"

"I was just wondering if what you said about staying tonight was more about the capstone than it was about being here with me."

"What? I never even thought about…" Troy's denial died in his throat. Liam's smirk grew and then Troy said, "I'm sorry. That was a callous thing to say. That's not what I meant, not to you anyway. I also wanted to be here with you."

Liam just looked at him, saying nothing. Finally, Troy said, "Are we okay?"

"Yes. I'm mainly giving you shit, but I do think it was kind of Freudian. Anyway, I was just thinking that the week has been crazy enough we haven't had time to continue our discussion from Monday morning. And I haven't had the time or the energy to work on you about coming over to your place one evening just to, you know, spend some time together and have our talk."

"If we get through tonight and tomorrow, then we can get some sleep tomorrow night, a few of us have Sunday off, and then we have an unplanned party at Dr. Burgoyne's place."

"It looked to me like you knew nothing about it."

"I didn't. He didn't say anything to me, not that he has to. I think it says a lot about the man. He's a good guy and so's his husband. I've only met Roger a few times, but he's great." Troy paused, then went on, "He's a psychologist, and guess what? They have two adopted children."


"Yeah. Goes to show that truth is stranger than fiction."

"Meaning," Liam responded, "that it's possible to be out and proud and a successful professional in the healthcare community?"

Troy blinked and then said, "I set myself up for that, didn't I?"

"You did indeed. If this crazy week does end tomorrow, you know we have some unresolved things to sort out, don't you?"

"I do. I know it's an open item, trust me."

"Okay, I can do that."

They cleared their dishes and headed back to the lounge. Troy had paper work to finish up for the day, and Liam checked messages and email on his phone. About nine o'clock Troy stood and turned off the desk light. "We go at eleven, right?"

Liam nodded, and put away his phone. "Let's get a couple hours of sleep then," Troy said and they moved to the couches in the rear of the lounge, where Troy turned off the table lamps.

It was only a few minutes later when Liam, who was curled up on one of the couches, facing towards the back, woke to the feeling of a warm body lying next to him. Groggily he said, "Is that you?"

"Who else would it be?"

"I don't know, but I don't want it to be anyone else."

Troy whispered, "Is this okay?"

"God, yes. I've been wanting to touch you all day. I was about to take your hand at dinner, but that would have been too public."

"I almost did too. I've been so impressed with you this week. I don't mean Liam Fitzgerald the guy I spent the weekend with, though I've missed that. I mean Liam Fitzgerald the first-year resident who put together one of the key pieces of our RSV control routine and basically led the charge."

"Don't get carried away with all the accolades. Is it okay if I roll over and kiss you, or is that off limits in the Residents' Lounge."

"God, you're making this difficult."

"Not trying to. I just want a kiss, that's all. I know we can't get carried away or have sex. Just a kiss and then I'll roll back over and face the back of this very uncomfortable couch."

"Okay, one kiss… which I want too. Then I'll go back to that other very uncomfortable couch till we go see patients."

Liam rolled over as Troy leaned back and made room for him, and his arms immediately went around Troy's waist. He leaned in, at first tentative, then as Troy opened his lips for him, with more desire and passion. Troy returned it. It wasn't long before they were both hard and Troy said, "we've got to stop or I'm going to shoot in my scrubs. We can't go see patients like that."

Liam gave him one more quick kiss, and then said, "I've got the alarm on my phone set for eleven o'clock," then he turned over to face the back of the couch. The sensations of Troy's kisses wafted through his brain as he quickly fell asleep.

When the alarm went off, he tried to reach down to silence the phone in the pocket of his scrub pants, but found he couldn't move his arm. That's when he realized that it was because Troy's arm was laying over his, and that Troy had also fallen asleep and never moved to the other couch. He slowly lifted Troy's arm, pulled his phone out and canceled the alarm and then rolled over to wake Troy.

He gave him a quick hug and a kiss and then said, "We've got to get up." In a couple of seconds, Troy's eyes partially opened, then as they saw Liam right in front of him, went wide as saucers.

"Yep, that's what happened," Liam said sleepily. "The Chief Resident slept with me in the Residents' Lounge."

"Shut up!" Troy was starting to sit up. "What happened?"

"It looks like you fell asleep and didn't move to the other couch, Sherlock."

"Okay, I get that. My bad. Did anyone come in here?"

"Troy, chill out, okay. It's the back of Residents' Lounge so most likely nobody else came back here."

"Okay, good."

"By the way, Troy, and for the record, it was great to get some sleep with you next to me. Intentional or not."

"Let's not go there right now, okay. We've got patients to see."

All the RSV patients were stable, and they spent a little time talking to the night shift oncology and surgery nurses who wanted to know if this was a new residents' program that they could count on in the coming weeks and months. They tried to let the nurses down softly, and then all laughed together when the nurses told them they'd been busting their chops.

When they got back to the lounge, Liam tried to lock the door, only to find there was no lock.

Troy was grinning at him. "It's not a private room, you know."

"I know, but I was kind of hoping…"

"Like you said, the couches are in the back behind all the desks. It's kind of private back there. Come on." He pulled Liam by the hand, and they shared an intense make out session before Troy said, "Okay, Liam, bedtime. Have you got your alarm set for 0300?"

The three o'clock patient visits were uneventful, and then Troy and Liam got some more sleep and were in the lounge with coffee in their hands as the other residents came in a little bit before 0700 to start their day with sign-out. Troy updated them all on the overnight nonevents and that they'd closed out another day with no new cases. He was just wrapping up when the door opened and Dr. Burgoyne leaned in and said, "May we join you?" He came right through the doorway, closely followed by the Medical Director.

"Dr. Welch and I just wanted to say a few words before some of you start your morning rounds and the rest of you head off." He turned to the Medical Director, who said, "I know I only directly see a bit of the work you do as residents here, and have even less direct interaction with you, but I want you to know that a fact like that does not mean I don't fully understand the medical care you provide our patients or the extraordinary work you all have done in the last week. Drs. Burgoyne and Slawson and I meet daily, so they've kept me appraised of where we are on this nasty little RSV outbreak, as well as the yeoman's job you have all done to address it – yes, yeoman's job applies to you ladies as well, in as much as back in the day there were only yeomen, not yeo-women— and your efforts have been exceptional. We've nipped this thing in the bud and there have been no patient complications. That has meant a great outcome for those patients unfortunate enough to contract the virus, but also for the hospital in terms of what could have turned into a serious problem."

He looked at Jerrod who smiled and nodded, and then back at the residents. "I wanted to express my personal thanks and appreciation, and with that I have another meeting to get to." He smiled and then added, "Dr. Burgoyne tells me that there's going to be a celebratory party of some sort in a neighborhood called Sellwood tomorrow night for you dayshift residents, and likewise Dr. Slawson tells me of a similar event for you on the night shift. However, I'm afraid I wasn't invited to either and, in fact, have heard absolutely nothing about it. You know, celebratory parties of this sort being highly irregular!" He looked them all over once more and said, "Thank you, and have a good time tomorrow when you celebrate. You deserve it."

With that he was out the door and it closed slowly behind him. Jerrod turned right to business, looking at Troy. "What do we know this morning?"

"No new admissions with RSV, and no reported new cases among patients, that's three days with no new infections, and the whole week with no complications, so we appear to be in the clear. The remaining current patients were doing fine overnight. The last oncology patient is scheduled to be discharged today, and the last two that were nosocomial have been asymptomatic and should be good to discharge in the next day or two, with the approval of their attending physicians."

Jerrod nodded and replied, "Good news. I think we're out of the woods. I'll leave it to you to coordinate with the attending physicians about discharge. Then it's back to normal. I'll let you finish up and get ready for rounds." He paused and looked at all of them. "For the record, I'm very pleased that Dr. Welch was here just now to speak to you. He did so at his own initiative, so take that seriously. You've done great work this week."

There was a round of chuckles and high fives, then all of the day shift residents turned back to their prep for seeing their patients.

On the drive to Jerrod and Roger's home, Liam wished he'd asked Troy to share a ride, but then told himself it was silly. He'd had laundry and shopping to do, had gone to visit his mother in the afternoon, and they weren't an item or anything. There was still the open talk they hadn't yet had. It was unlikely to happen at a party with hospital staff, and there was still the on-again, off-again way Troy was behaving. It was disconcerting. How Troy could switch from being cold and professional during the day and then snuggle up behind him at night was beyond him. Frankly, part of his brain was uncomfortable, but the other part liked the man and had enjoyed working with him to solve the RSV problem during the week.

He was relieved when he arrived to see a couple of other cars parked out front, and when he knocked and Jerrod answered the door and welcomed him inside, he saw that Troy and one other resident weren't there yet. At least he wasn't the first one to show up! He waved and said hello to the other residents, as Jerrod led him through to the dining room.

"We've got a bar set up in here, and let me introduce you to Roger." At the sound of Jerrod's voice, Roger turned and smiled at Liam as he was introduced. "So, you're Liam. Jerrod has been telling me about things as the week progressed and how you came up with the idea of extra rounds for infection control purposes."

Liam smiled, wanting to downplay what he'd done. "I just had the idea to sleep at the hospital and look in on the RSV patients during the night. It wasn't that big a deal."

They heard another knock on the door, and Jerrod left to answer it as Roger pointed him at the bar. "There's both a good Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, both from Oregon. There's also two different types of IPAs. If you'd rather have a mixed drink I can do that too."

"Very thoughtful of you," Liam said, and continued, "I'll just have a Pinot Gris, if you please. Tomorrow's a work day."

Roger grinned, "That's why we figured most of you would want beer or wine." He poured the wine and Liam said, "Troy… that's Dr. Whiteside, told me that you and Jerrod have two children."

"We do. We adopted them from the Philippines. We have a Filipino nanny every afternoon and they're with her tonight. It's a school night for them, so they would have insisted on being part of this event and never have gotten to sleep on time."

"I'm impressed, with Jerrod's schedule at the hospital and what I assume is yours as a psychologist, that you can pull it off."

"We wouldn't be able to without the nanny, and we have two proxy uncles who are partners and live here in Sellwood, and my parents live here in Portland too. They're all a big part of making it work." Roger took a sip of his wine.

Liam grinned. "Wait! You've got gay uncles? That's too cool. Plus your parents… here, I mean. So your families were open and supportive about you and Jerrod, by the sound of it."

"Oh yeah, they really were. We've been together since our senior year in high school."

"My mom was really supportive when I came out. I mean, with her I really didn't need to come out. She knew and understood and made it clear the most important thing was to discover who I was and to be happy," Liam enthused.

"She sounds like a very wise woman." Roger turned as Jerrod came into the room with Troy and the last resident. He introduced them to Roger and then Troy looked at Liam and said, "Hi, Liam." Their eyes connected for just a second, and that was long enough for Liam to realize it was going to be a business-as-usual evening. He'd be treated just like all the other residents.

He swallowed and tried to smile, and said hi back, and then sipped his wine. Roger asked the newcomers what they wanted to drink, and Liam saw Jerrod watching his interaction with Troy. Troy asked for wine and then said, "I'm going to say hi to the others while you guys get drinks," and moved into the living room followed by Liam and the other resident.

A couple of minutes later Jerrod announced that they'd be putting out the food and would have it available shortly. Troy wandered in, looking the house over, and then walked around saying hello to all the residents.

He joined Liam and another who were talking about skiing, and noticeably didn't participate in the conversation about the skiing at Mt. Bachelor. Liam knew it would be too obvious about both of them being there at the same time, and that would likely lead to questions Troy wouldn't want to answer. After a couple of minutes comparing Mt. Bachelor to Timberline, the resident departed to get another beer.

Troy looked at him and asked? "Good day off? Did you get caught up on chores and stuff?"

Liam answered neutrally. "Yep, got the laundry done, some shopping out of the way and visited my mom, so it was a productive day. How about you?"

"Much the same, except for visiting my mom. Now we're all caught up and ready for next week."

Liam was irritated and looking past Troy's shoulder and could see Jerrod and Roger setting out trays of food on the dining room table. He watched them come into the living room to announce the food was ready. They all wandered in, and Jerrod pointed at the plates and silverware and told everyone to sit where they were comfortable, in the living or dining room. Liam poured himself another glass of wine, lingering behind the other residents, and was the last one to fill his plate. He found Roger right behind him, and heard him say, "You'll have to tell me more about this wise woman who is your mother."

Liam smiled at him. "She's a great person, I'll tell you that."

"Well, the kind of counsel she gave you sounds very much like helping people sort out their own identity. One of the uncles I told you about is also a psychologist and was Dean of Students at Lewis & Clark for years, and spent much of his time with students helping them sort through to their real identity. You know, 'know yourself, become you who are,' concepts like that."

Roger pointed him over to two empty chairs in the dining room and they chatted as they ate. Liam was impressed at both how knowledgeable and competent Roger seemed, but what an easy conversationalist he was. Of course, he told himself, he's doing therapy sessions all the time so he's talking to people all the time!

He found out that Roger also asked a lot of open ended questions, and by the time they were almost done eating he felt like he'd told Roger more about himself and his life than he'd told anyone ever before. Maybe he shouldn't have talked so much about the pursuit of pleasure as a means of achieving happiness.

A few of the residents came back in for more food and drink, and Roger stood to pour some wine and offer a beer, then came back to sit. "More food?" Liam shook his head, "I'm good, thanks. I will take just a half glass of wine, though." He grinned, and Roger stood and poured.

When he sat back down, Roger smiled indulgently and said, "What you told me about choosing to pursue pleasure as a means of happiness sounds to me like you studied the philosophy of Epicurus."

Liam smiled, embarrassed. "I didn't mean to sound like some kind of philosophy major. I just took a couple of general philosophy classes in college, but I remember Epicureanism as being my kind of approach."

Roger smiled back, wryly. "I have to ask if you were making a conscious decision between sensualism and hedonism?"

"Not that I remember, why?"

"Well, Epicurus has gotten a bad rap, originally by competing schools of philosophy, and then later by Christianity, who turned much of his teaching on its head and made it out to be a philosophy of self-satiation and hedonism. In fact, it wasn't that at all. Much more on the sensualism end rather than the hedonism end. For example, while his teachings focused on the pursuit of pleasure, it was all within the bounds of moderation, and the avoidance of pain."

"I guess that makes me a sensualist rather than a hedonist." Liam grinned at Roger. "Good to know! I've always though it important to pursue pleasure that way, the way you said Epicurus taught, in order to be happy."

"You're understanding it correctly. A lot of the misunderstanding gives Epicureans no credit for espousing virtues like self-control and moderation, and that the purpose was to attain a happy tranquil life characterized by peace and freedom and the absence of pain. All of that in order to live a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. Sounds more like a hippie commune than a selfish and self-serving view of life, don't you think?" Roger's face lit up with a smile.

"Yeah, that's for sure. Thanks for clarifying for me. I've had people tell me I was a hedonist and didn't realize most of that came from other philosophies and the church. I was raised Catholic, so I get that part."

Roger raised his eyebrows. "Well, I mean my parents were Catholic," Liam went on. "With a name like Fitzgerald you'll understand my dad was Irish Catholic. He was a more gung-ho believer than my mom, who is what they disparagingly call nominal. Anyway, my dad died when I was thirteen and that's when I told my mom I didn't want to go to church or Sunday school anymore, and she was good with that."

"Like I said earlier, a wise woman."

"Well, she never got over that her husband and daughter died in an auto accident. Bad weather, run into the back of a truck parked on the side of the road, no one's at fault. You know, how could God have allowed it to happen to innocent people?"

"You mean much like the position of many Jews after World War II, asking how there could be a God if he had allowed the Holocaust to happen?"

"Exactly! So, I quit church, essentially became an atheist, and started figuring out for myself what would make me happy."

"That's very commendable. My hat's off to you, Liam." Roger paused and then added, "I think we should go join the rest of the group, so they don't think we're ignoring them."

They did, and the conversation was pleasant, though Troy kept his distance. By nine o'clock everyone was begging off to get a decent night's sleep, and Troy reminded them about being ready to go at 0700 the next morning.

Liam said, "And more importantly, our hosts have to go pick up their children from their nanny because tomorrow's a school day."

All the resident's expressed their thanks and goodbyes, and Liam stayed behind to help Roger and Jerrod pick up glasses and dishes, and then in the kitchen helped to wash and dry them. After they'd settled into a rhythm, Roger looked at him and said, "So what's up with you and Troy. I had the impression you two were getting together, but I saw the looks you two were giving each other tonight."

"Well, we got started on it, on something I mean, but Troy isn't out and is still all hung up about rules and regulations and boundaries. He's got to get past his fear of that and being in control of everything. Right now, it's a little strained."

"Strained? I can understand that. I'll give you my card before you go. If you want to talk, call me any time."

The Jerrod walked in the kitchen with the last of the food plates and they finished cleaning up from the party.

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