t was two days before Charles was able to come back to the hospital. He had been waylaid by lawyers once he finished his finals. There was a ton of paperwork involved in inheritance of a small fortune. When he finally did get to the hospital room, he looked exhausted. He walked in and leaned over to hug me very gently, but I pulled him in closer. It was incredibly painful, but I needed him more than I needed pain relief. I went through hell to stay alive for my angel, and I wanted him to know that nothing would ever stop me from showing him how much I love him.
He had talked to all of my professors at the school and they had all agreed to let him bring my finals to the hospital. He would read the questions to me and write the answers down for me. That way I could go ahead and get this semester behind me. Once that was done, Marta would take the tests back to school and turn them in. It was incredibly nice of the school to allow us to do that, so I had him include thank you letters to each of my instructors.
It was while he was taking the tests back to Marta and Hog, whose real name I would now have to get accustomed to using, that I got a surprise visit. Henry and Marta were waiting in the cafeteria for the tests. Henry was of the opinion that it was the least hospital-like place in the building; he only had to look the other way when someone in a scrub suit walked by. He still had no intentions of coming any further into the building than that. When the door of the room opened I expected yet another doctor or nurse, but this was an older couple that I had never seen before. They both looked vaguely familiar somehow, though.
"So you're Jeremy," the man said as he and the woman walked into my room.
"Yes I am," I answered simply. I was waiting to hear why these people were here. I was not going to talk to any reporters.
"How much do you want, young man?" the woman asked sharply.
"Excuse me?" I returned in confusion.
"What amount do I need to put on the check for you to tell Charles that you never want to see him again?" the man demanded as he pulled said checkbook out of his pocket.
"I beg your pardon?" I blurted. "Who are you?"
"They're my parents, Jeremy," Charles said from the door of my room. "Hello mother, father. This is my friend Jeremy."
"Cut the crap, son," his father spat. "We've heard the news and talked to the school. More to the point, we heard other students talking on the campus. We know that you two have been having some sort of thing together." He had added a sinister twist of emphasis on the word thing as if he couldn't bring himself to call it anything else.
"We are in love, Father," Charles said boldly.
"Don't be impertinent," his mother snapped.
"Don't be ridiculous, Charles," his father said coldly. "You can't possibly be in love with him."
"Why not?" Charles returned. "Because he doesn't ignore me the way you two have for my whole life."
"We have never ignored you," his mother countered. "We worked very long hours at demanding corporate jobs to give you everything you needed."
"Everything except a normal home life and the love that all the other kids knew they got from their parents," Charles corrected.
"This is pointless, son," his father said shortly. "We are here to take you with us. There is a doctor waiting in Georgia who will admit you to his specialized clinic. We'll have you back to normal in a few months. I regret that our first attempts to curb your deviance failed."
"I am normal," Charles spat. "What do you mean your first attempts?"
"Well, we could see what was going on with you several years ago when one of the neighbors came to us and told us of your questionable behavior around him," his mother explained. "We made an arrangement with him to not only keep things quiet, but to also, hopefully scare you out of the phase you were going through. He told us that he would do certain things to convince you that you didn't want to be the way you appeared to be trying to go."
"You paid Mr. Pierabon to scare me straight?" Charles asked in a shocked whisper.
He suddenly turned and ran into the bathroom of my hospital room. I could hear throwing up and wanted desperately to go to him, but couldn't. What I did do is turn my attention back to his parents.
"I will ask you again, young man," his father began. "How much should I write the check for that gets you out of our son's life forever?"
"You don't have enough money," I told him coldly. "Sit down and let me tell you what your love has done for your son."
"We aren't here to play games with you, boy," the man said with a sneer.
Just at that moment, to my great surprise and joy, Rick Jenkins walked into the room. I had never been so glad to see a police officer. I immediately called out to him as he was about to turn and leave.
"Don't go, Rick."
"Well, I see you've already got company," he started.
"You need to hear this," I insisted. "Charles' parents here just admitted that they paid Pierabon to do what he did to their son."
"They what?" Rick exclaimed.
"I fail to see what you people are getting so upset about," Charles' mother sneered. "If it were your child, you would have done the same thing," she said to Rick.
"Like hell I would, lady," Rick snapped.
"I was just inviting them to hear what they paid for," I told Rick. "They didn't want to stay and hear it."
"They'll stay now," Rick growled as he took position blocking the door.
"Now see here," Charles' father snorted.
"No, you see here," Charles said as he walked out of the bathroom. He had taken off his shirt so that his parents could see the scars on his chest and back. "This is what you paid for. Did you get your money's worth? Do you need to see more? I could take off my pants and show you my butt that he raped when I was fourteen."
"He what?" his mother gasped. "He couldn't have. He didn't even come to us until you were sixteen."
"He was having sex with me on a daily basis for two years by that time, Mother," Charles told her. "He strapped me to tables and did horribly painful things to me, things that only Jeremy now understands."
"Your employee, Mr. Pierabon did all this to me," I added, indicating my body. "He wanted your son to be his personal slave and sex toy, and I was in his way. You were taken in by a pedophile and you gave him permission and even paid him to do what he was already doing to your son. If that's the way parents love their child around here, I'm glad mine died and left me in the Children's Home."
"We had no idea," his mother whispered. It was starting to look like she was going to be sick next.
"I most certainly did not pay that man to torture my son," his father defended angrily. "If I had known about this sort of thing...."
"If you had been home with your son, you might have found out," I yelled at him, cutting him off.
"Whatever happened can still be made right," the man said firmly. "Charles, you are coming with us this instant. The doctor in Georgia will deal with these issues as well, I'm sure."
"That doctor will have to find some other unsuspecting and undeserving gay boy to torment, Father," Charles said just as strongly. "I'm not going anywhere with you. You are no longer my parents."
"What are you saying, Charles?" his mother questioned.
"You heard me," Charles told her. "I am over eighteen and am now financially independent. I don't need you or your money anymore. You are dead to me."
"I suggest you leave now, or I will have you thrown out," I told them.
"You wouldn't dare," his father sneered.
"Don't try me," I warned.
"Save your breath, Jeremy," Rick told me. "Charles, I hate that you have to go through this, but I have no choice as officer of the law. Mr. and Mrs. Langtry, it is my duty as an officer of the law to place you both under arrest."
"What?" Mrs. Langtry exclaimed.
"On what charge?" her husband demanded.
"Torture and conspiracy to commit torture are crimes in this state, as are child endangerment and negligence," Rick answered.
"He's not a child anymore," Mr. Langtry snapped. "He said so himself."
"That doesn't change the statute of limitations," Rick told them as he pulled his handcuffs from his back pocket. "Jeremy, I would appreciate it if you would push your nurse call button and have her call the police. She can send hospital security if she wants, but the police will need to be called to make my citizen's arrest official."
"That's right, you're out of your jurisdiction," Mr. Langtry smiled. "You can't do a thing to me."
"I wouldn't bet on that," Rick growled. "I am an officially deputized officer of the law of this state, even if I'm not in my parish. I have every right and obligation to make a citizens' arrest when I am made aware of a criminal act."
For the next twenty minutes or so, my hospital room was pretty much in bedlam. The Langtrys were fussing and fuming and Rick was egging them on. Hospital security and the hospital administrator were pacing around like chickens with their heads chopped off. The local police finally showed up and at that point the nurse walked in as well.
"That's it!" she bellowed. "You're all getting off my ward now. You have disturbed my patients long enough. Everybody out."
"Nurse, there is a situation here," the administrator started.
"Well, it can go be a situation somewhere else," the woman returned. "My patients need their rest. I have needles and I'm not afraid to use them."
The police didn't seem to want to cross her and had the whole crowd out of the room really quickly. The administrator wanted to hang around and talk to me, but the nurse shooed him out as well. The only one she left in the room was Charles.
"Wait a minute, that young man is still in there," I heard the administrator complain.
"That's because he's lucky," the nurse said as she walked back into my room and shut the door in the administrator's face. She looked at Charles appraisingly as he still hadn't put his shirt back on. "Honey, scars or not, you two make one fine couple. Are you sure you're both gay?" she asked with a pout.
"Yes," we both answered firmly.
"Well, I don't know about Jeremy here, but I wasn't kidding when I said you were a lucky boy, Charles," the nurse continued as she started taking my vitals. "It's no wonder you didn't want anyone else seeing this one. Lord have mercy, when he gets all of that working again, you are going to be one very happy boy." Our faces could have stopped traffic at that point. "You boys are so sweet," she laughed. "Try not to disrupt my ward like that again or I will come back in here and give you both enemas."
"EEEEWWW!!" Charles shuddered. I couldn't have agreed more.
Naturally due to their political influence in the state, Charles' parents got off with no charges sticking against them. They did try to go through the courts and force their son into an antigay rehab program, but amazingly enough for a southern state, the judge ruled that Charles was of age and seemed to be a reasonably well adjusted young man given everything he had been through. The judge recommended that Charles and his parents sever all contact until such a time as they could come to terms with one another amicably, as if that was likely to ever happen.
By the time the court cases had finished, I was finally ready to be released from the hospital. The fears early on had been correct. I would never regain full use of my legs. I would be required to use a wheelchair for a couple of weeks once I got home, and a walker for the first six months after that. I would eventually work my way down to just a cane, but it would take a lot of physical therapy to get me there.
That had reminded me again that I had no home. I had been required to move into the dorm by the school based on my age, even though I was financially independent. While in the hospital, I had missed the beginning of the new semester. I had no idea what had happened to my belongings and Charles was being annoyingly secretive about the whole situation. When the day finally arrived for me to be released, I was still trying to get him to tell me what I was supposed to do and where I would be going. He had even sworn the hospital staff to secrecy.
Charles pushed my wheelchair down the hallway to a side exit of the hospital. I looked up at him in question. "Somehow the news media found out about us and the fact that you are getting out of here today. The front door is a nightmare, so we're sneaking out over here thanks to our friend upstairs."
"She told me to tell you that she would be glad to come over and keep giving me baths when you go back to school," I told him with a grin.
"She's out of luck," he said firmly. "No one else sees you without clothes ever again except me."
"That's it, isn't it?" I asked quickly. "You're whisking me away in secret so you can ravish my body in my weakened condition. I will be helpless to stop since I am still so weak."
"Jeremy, stop talking like that," Charles scolded me.
"You're not going to have your wicked way with me while I am recuperating?" I questioned. "Well, damn, you might have said so. I could have stayed here with the nurse."
"Jeremy!" Charles gasped. By this time we were at the car. He saw the look on my face when I saw it. Before I could say a word, he snapped out, "No, you can't drive home. You can't drive anywhere until the doctor says you can."
"You don't want to let me have any fun, do you?" I countered. I stuck my tongue out at him to prove my point.
"Can we discuss this later?" Charles asked.
"Fine, we'll discuss it right after you tell me where we're going," I told him.
"That will be just fine," he said and then he picked me up and put me in the car.
He grunted a bit at the effort of lifting me, and I wanted to complain, but to be honest, I couldn't. It felt so good to have his arms around me that I just kept quiet. I couldn't stop thinking about how good it felt to have him touch me again, though. We had only made it a few miles out of the city when I asked him to pull off at a rural exit of the highway. There were no gas stations or junk food places, in fact there was nothing at this particular exit other than signs pointing to places several miles away in either direction.
"What's the matter?" Charles asked me, worriedly. "Are you feeling sick?"
"No, I'm feeling lonely," I explained. "I have been in that hospital for so long and haven't been able to get more than a quick secret hug from you."
"It wouldn't have been a good idea to flaunt our relationship too much," he defended.
"I didn't say I didn't understand why it had to be that way," I told him. "It's just that we're out of there now, and we're parked on a deserted country road miles from anywhere." At this point I suddenly started getting shy and emotional. "I'm sorry, Charles. I'm just being selfish. You might not want to be close to me that way anymore."
"Is that what this is about?" Charles asked me. "You think I don't love you anymore and don't still want you."
"Well, yeah...." I admitted with a teary sniffle.
"You idiot," he laughed gently.
"You don't have to laugh at me," I gasped as I choked back a sob. "I understand why you don't want to be around me now. I'm not a whole man anymore."
"Jeremy, I couldn't get pregnant by you even if that monster hadn't destroyed one of your testicles," Charles pointed out. He reached over and stroked his hand down my face, wiping away my tears. "So we may have to wait a while before we go walking along a beach. Big deal. No great loss. I can't swim that well anyway."
"You don't care?" I whimpered, still sniffling.
"Baby, if I did, I wouldn't be taking you home, to our home, to our bed," he said huskily. "You were nearly killed by a maniac. I almost lost you. I never want to go through that again. I don't want you out of my sight for at least six months."
"You are not going to drop out of school because of me," I said firmly.
"You aren't going to drop out either," he returned. "We are going back next semester, together."
"I may not be walking by then," I pointed out.
"Maybe not, but if you aren't it will give me a good excuse for going into the handicapped stall of the men's room with you."
"Eeew, Charles, that's just...." Before I could finish my sentence, I saw the look on his face. "Oh, I don't suppose it would hurt to make a few extra trips in there to make sure that everything is healing up properly."
"That's right, and just think, with you already sitting down, it will be easier for me to sit in your lap," Charles added with a smile. He leaned over closer to me and said, "I love you, Jeremy. I want to love you for the rest of our lives." He leaned closer yet and added, "What did I tell you when you woke up in the hospital?"
"That you were afraid I wouldn't forgive you for what happened," I told him. "There is nothing to forgive you for, my angel. You didn't make him do what he did. It isn't and never was your fault."
"I know that now," he said softly. "I meant later than that. I told you that I love you and only you until the end of time and beyond. "
"Ditto," I smiled. He drew back with a shocked look on his face.
"I just told you I love you forever, and all you have to say is ditto?" he sputtered.
"I was trying to save time and get to the kissing quicker," I confessed with a shrug and grin.
"Don't you grin at me, like that you... you.... Why the hell can't I stay mad at you when you pick on me?" he demanded.
"Because you know that without you, I wouldn't be here right now," I said seriously. "If I had doubted our love like this before I was rescued, I would have died in that hell hole."
"So why are you doubting it now?" he asked.
"Because you haven't kissed me since we left the hospital," I said honestly.
"I have to kiss you to prove that I love you?" Charles questioned. When I nodded, he answered with, "I can live with that." Finally he stretched back over and our lips met in an explosion of emotions unlike anything we had either one ever experienced before.
"Take me home, Charles," I mumbled happily when we eventually parted to catch our breath. "Wherever that is."
"I think you'll like it," he smiled. "And there's someone right next door that has already agreed to come over and bathe you when I'm not able to be there."
"Charles, you had better be kidding," I warned him.
"Aunt Della said she can't wait to play nursemaid for you," he laughed.
"I do not want that woman bathing me," I protested. "I'll never heal up with her pinching me all the time."
"I was just kidding about that," Charles confessed as he started driving again. "We will be living next door to her, though."
"You mean that we're going to that house?" I asked him quietly. "Charles, are you sure you want to live there?"
"I can handle it as long as you're there with me," he said as he took my hand in his. "Besides, the shed and the pool house have been bulldozed. You will have to supervise some construction as you recover, especially if we're going to have the place ready for the Christmas tour of homes at this year's festival."
"Why me?" I asked. "It's your house."
"Don't you ever insult me like that again, Jeremy," Charles snapped. "Whose car is this?"
"Ours," I answered.
"Whose house are we going to?"
"Ours," I answered.
"Damn right," he said firmly.
"Marta will never believe it," I mused aloud.
"She'll never believe what?" Charles asked.
"You just said something butch," I told him as I burst into giggles.
"You're a bitch, you know that?" He started laughing too though. "You're right though. She won't believe it."
I can hardly believe it myself, but I have managed to finish another story. That's right. This is the end of the tale for Jeremy and Charles. I could have left off with the old line about living happily ever after, but I think that's pretty much a given for these guys. I hope you've enjoyed this story, and I also hope you will be happy to learn that with this one finished, I now plan to go ahead with Book 3 of Finding My Way Home. That's right the indecisive blond Cajun is surrendering to pressure from readers and characters alike. The only problem now is coming up with a title for the next installment, something I am not known to be good at doing. Oh well, you guys asked for it, so I will be working on it soon.
Thanks again for the support you gave Festival. It was a fun story to write most of the time.
Merci and Ya'll Come Back!