Sunday, July 17, 2016
TLR Chapter 78
Wednesday morning Duke woke early only to find Jake had already gotten out of bed. He could smell bacon cooking, and the scent of fresh brewed coffee revived him immediately. He got up and walked into the living room, smiling as he surveyed his rearranged bungalow. It had been good to sleep with Jake. Jake's things had been brought over by Mutt and his crew and Jake had been with him now for a little over a week. Mutt had created a set of steps that pulled out from under the bed and that matched the wood of the bed. They collapsed into a front that was decorative, and no one would even know they were there unless they saw Jake use them. He wandered out to the kitchen. "Hi Jake, did you sleep good?” he asked.
"Like a baby," Jake replied with a smile. "Having you near me is better than anything else I can think of." He pulled out a kitchen chair for Duke and placed a plate laden with eggs, toast, ham and bacon beside a cup of coffee on the table. "Dig in," he invited before making himself a similar plate. He sat down across the table from Duke and snatched up a slice of bacon. "So kiddo, what would you like to do today?"
"I thought I'd take my ATV and go for a ride on the lesser used trails. I haven't done that since last fall because of my broken arm. Maybe I’ll ride out to the cabin Dean and the guys are working on to see how they’re doing.”
"It's a good time of day for it," Jake admitted. "Though I'm not crazy about ATVs. I'd forgotten you even had one. Promise me you'll be careful."
Duke smiled. "Of course I'll be careful. I always am. It's why I got a four wheeler instead of a three. It's more stable."
"Make sure you wear your safety gear," Jake reminded sternly. He had a vivid memory of one of his cousins arriving at a family gathering, bruised and sporting a cast on one arm and limping along on a crutch with the other after an ATV accident. He knew that even an experienced person could get hurt on one of those things.
Duke nodded. "I will. I always wear my helmet and I have leathers too."
Jake grinned, imagining Duke in leather and liking what he saw. "I'm going to catch up on some reading. Will you be home in time for lunch?"
Duke thought about it and then nodded. "Sure I'll make sure I'm home by two and then we can do somethin' together after lunch, or even before if we like."
Jake grinned more widely with a gleam in his eyes. "Oh, I can think of several things we could do this afternoon," he hinted reaching across the table to put his hand over Duke's.
Duke's grey eyes glinted and he grinned. "Me too." He squeezed Jake's hand gently and leaned over the table to give him a kiss.
Jake eventually broke the kiss, worried that if he didn't do it now, Duke would never make it out of the house. "Alright kiddo, finish up. I'll take care of the dishes. You get into your gear."
Duke pouted a little, but then smiled. "All right." He geared up and walked in decked out in his leathers, helmet tucked under one arm. He was tempted to pick Jake up in the other to kiss him and made like he meant to do exactly that.
Jake was completely oblivious to Duke reaching for him. Instead he frowned and concentrated on making sure the leathers were fastened correctly. He enjoyed the feel of the smooth material over the muscular body. After inspecting the clothing he checked the strap and visor on the helmet. Judging them acceptable he handed it back to Duke, stretching up to kiss the taller man. "Be careful, or else," Jake said sternly.
Duke looked at Jake a bit surprised by his inspection of his protective clothing and stern warning. He said quietly, "I will Jake, I'm always careful." He kissed Jake back and then left going out the door. He started the ATV up with a roar and drove out of the yard toward one of the little used paths leading away from the resort.
Jake watched as Duke rode out of sight and went into the living room where he curled up in a corner of Duke's huge couch with a book, losing himself in the story. He was jarred from his reading by a knock at the door. "Come in!" Jake called.
The door opened and there stood Mutt, grinning, with something that looked like a large black suitcase near his feet. "Heya Jake!" he greeted the older man. "I saw Duke heading out and I have the... ah... thing you asked me for, so I brought it over. Ready for a little Mutt Magic?"
Jake smiled gratefully and helped Mutt maneuver the retractable foot rest in, a little surprised at how heavy it was and the fact that Mutt had apparently gotten it out of the bed of his truck and up the steps by himself.
"Hang on, Jake, I have to get the blanket so that this doesn't scratch up your floor."
Jake waited patiently while Mutt retrieved the blanket and placed it on their solid wood floor.
"Does Jeff know you're lugging this around? It weighs a ton," Jake scolded as he pulled while Mutt pushed the extension onto the blanket.
"I'm stronger than I look," Mutt grinned. "Besides, if I'd asked anyone else to help me, they'd have asked questions. We all know that I can't tell a convincing lie if my life depends on it so I just thought it was better to deliver it now without an audience."
"I guess that makes sense, Mutt, but you should still have used a dolly. You could have hurt your back."
"Cary and Tank are using the two dollies for big jobs. This is nothing, really. No worse than picking Tank up," Mutt laughed.
"You can lift Tank?" Jake asked, unconvinced.
"In a fireman's carry, yeah. Over my head, not so much. But then I'm not carrying this over my head either and it doesn't weigh near as much as Tank does. Besides, I used my ramps and that took a lot of the weight. All I had to do was push."
Jake let go of his end and looked out the door. He raised his eyebrows when he saw the ramps, which he'd failed to see the first time.
"Didn't believe me?" Mutt asked, somewhat amused.
Jake gave Mutt a look. “I still think you should have used a dolly. You could have waited until one of them was available."
"And run the risk of bringing this in when Duke was here?" Mutt laughed. "Then I'd have to explain to him what this is really for and I doubt he'd be terribly grateful. I'd rather face your wrath, or even Jeff's, than Duke's."
"And what do you suppose Duke would have done to you? He's a big guy but he only uses force when necessary and only on the job."
"Duke is the master prankster. He's even more devious than I am," Mutt said with a knowing smile. "There's no end of the havoc he could play with me. Best he not know, though once he sees it he'll figure out who made it. Now... as far as I'm concerned, I only made it as a foot rest. That's my story and I'm stickin' to it," Mutt sang. "You don't have to divulge it's real purpose, but if you do," he continued seriously, "I'm blameless. After all, you are a Top, and all I was doing was working on a project for you."
Jake looked thoughtful for a few moments and then grinned. "Master prankster. Good to know. Now, let's get this put in place and you can show me how it works."
"My pleasure," Mutt said smiling.
Jake took the blanket by the corners and pulled while Mutt pushed and they had it by the couch in no time. With Jake's help, they got it into position beneath the couch and Mutt showed him how it worked. Jake raised his brows in surprise and pleasure. He sat down on the couch and pressed the button, impressed at how easily the 'foot rest' extended and impressed by the slight hiss of hydraulics and the smooth feeling of butter soft leather and padding, and parts moving easily beneath his legs.
"I need to test this out," Jake said with a sly smile. "How's about you standing in for Duke for a little demonstration."
Mutt laughed and shook his head. "Thanks, no. I find myself in that position often enough at home. Besides, I tested it with bags filled with sand. It'll take up to 350 pounds of pressure just fine, and all you have to do is press that button again to make it retract when you're done using it... as a foot rest that is," Mutt maintained. "If you have any problems with it just call me... just not when Duke's here. Deal?"
"Deal," Jake grinned.
Duke smiled as he drove along. It was a beautiful day. He enjoyed the sun on his face as he guided his ATV on the trails set aside for this kind of activity. There had been some pretty good storms recently, but today was a perfect day. The sun dappled through the trees and birds sang as he putted along. He came to a rise and had to put on more speed to climb. As the trail rose the wooded area dropped off and displayed a spectacular view of the falls. In the distance the lake sparkled in the sun the white beach glowing. Duke kept an eye on the trail he was driving on, but also enjoyed the view. It never failed to amaze him the beauty of the land that the resort was built on. As he descended the hill, the vehicle began to slip. Duke's grey eyes widened as the ground beneath him crumbled away and the ATV tipped and began to roll. Duke hung on as long as he safely could and then threw himself clear, tumbling down the short but steep ravine along with his ATV.
When he came to a stop the recreational vehicle was on it's side sporting dents and scratches.
Duke carefully eased up and tested himself for broken bones. When he couldn't detect anything obvious he slowly stood. His leathers had protected him for the most part as had his helmet. He limped over to the 400-pound ATV and after several minutes of hard pulling, righted it. He hoped the thing still worked.
The security guard turned the engine praying it would start. It sputtered a couple of times, but then roared into life. Duke sighed in relief, climbed into it and slowly picked his way up through the ravine until he arrived back on the trail. He got off and studied the area. He could see where it had eroded underneath. “So much for going to see the guys,” Duke muttered to himself.
Duke took his radio out of his leather jacket pocket where he usually kept it and was glad to find when he briefly examined it that it wasn't broken. He took a deep breath to calm himself, set it to Con's frequency and keyed in. "Con...this is Duke, come in please. Over."
"Con here Duke. What's up? Over," came Con's cheerful voice after a couple of moments.
"Hi Con, I'm on recreational vehicle trail number 40. There's a washed out part of the trail just after the rise where the view of the falls and lake are. It can be dangerous for an unsuspectin' rider. Someone needs to come out and take care of it. Over."
Con was immediately on the alert. "We'll be right there, Duke." Then the thought hit him. "Duke, Rec T-40 is quite a distance away from the nearest hiking trail... how...?"
Duke said, "I was takin' a ride on my ATV when I discovered it," he told the man. "Over."
"Are you alright? Do you need me to call Jake? Over."
"I'm fine. No need to call Jake. Over," Duke reported.
Con, realizing that Duke had probably found the soft area the hard way, listened closely to Duke's voice and could hear the man's pain, despite the fact that he was trying to mask it. "Sit tight, Duke. We'll be there soon. Over."
Duke frowned slightly. "There's no need for that Con, I'm headin' back to the resort now. I just wanted you to know about it so that no one gets hurt. Over."
"Stay put Duke," Con said calmly. "Bri and I will be there soon. Mark the spot with any branches you can find and park yourself at the top of the rise so that you can warn anyone else that happens to come by before we can get there. Over."
Having been given a task Duke's Marine training as well as his position as head of security kicked in and he said, "Yes Sir. I'll tend to that." He limped down the hill and dragged several large branches up to the trail, laying them in front of the soft spot, then walked up to the rise and stayed put as ordered. His leathers were torn but that didn't bother the large man.
"Brian," Con called, "we need to head to Rec T-40. I'm pretty sure Duke's been hurt. Help me load some gravel and 4’ metal stakes along with the jumping jack into the truck and let's head out before Duke gets it into his head to drive off."
"Do you want me to call Jake?" Brian asked.
"And Heath as well. We can't be too careful. Even someone as experienced as Duke can get hurt on T-40," Con said as he loaded warning signs into the bed of the vehicle.
"Will do," Brian answered quickly. He made the calls and helped Con get the bags of gravel, stakes and the tamper into their pick up before heading out. Con put some bottles of cold water and snacks onto the seat between them. He had no idea how long Duke had been out there but he knew it could get hot and he worried that the large man would become dehydrated.
When Brian called and told the resort doctor about the situation, even though the man hadn't said anything about injuries, Heath readied the infirmary, just in case. He called Jake to ask if he was alright, knowing Brian had also called the man about his partner and what Con had suspected about Duke being hurt.
"I'm fine," Jake replied, "I just hope Duke is ok. Will you be there when he gets back?"
Unwilling to voice his own fears Heath said, "Of course. I'll be ready and waiting. I'm sure he's fine, Jake." He tried to reassure the man. "Duke is tough as rocks."
"The rocks are what I'm worried about," Jake tried to laugh. "I'll be there as soon as I hear anything more."
"See you soon then," Heath replied, hanging up. Checking that everything was ready, he finally sat down and waited.
The temperature was climbing as the sun moved across the sky and time passed, robbing the shade that had been there. Duke wondered when Con would arrive. He winced as he shifted, his bruises and scrapes making themselves known now.
It felt as though it was taking forever to get to where Duke said he'd be, but Con drove carefully. Even though the truck was high off the ground there was always a chance of another soft spot that could give under the 6000-pound truck. He looked up at the sky and saw the sun was directly overhead. He picked up his pace a little, keeping his eyes open for Duke.
"There he is!" Brian said.
Duke heard the crunching sound of a truck and breathed in relief.
Con pulled the truck up as close to Duke as he could and hopped out with two bottles of water and a bag of snacks.
Con gave Duke a once over and shook his head, concerned. "Duke, drink this. Slowly," he said, handing the man one of the bottles of water. He began to undo the zippers on Duke's jacket while Brian peeled the gloves off of Duke's hands, one at a time.
The big man was surprised as the two smaller men swarmed all over him and started to pull off his gloves and unzip his jacket. Duke took the bottle of water and hid a wince as he raised it to his lips for a slow swallow.
Con helped Duke take off his jacket as soon as the man had finished his water. He was worried that the other man had kept his leathers on when there was no shade or wind to keep him cool. He saw the man's arms were already developing bruises from where he'd fallen and went back into the truck for a cold pack. "Put this on this large bruise here, Duke, and go sit in the truck. Turn on the AC and drink the other bottle of water while Bri and I take care of this," he spoke calmly but it was clear that it was an order.
Once Duke was in the truck with the windows up and the AC on Con tuned to the doctor’s frequency and keyed his radio to contact Heath.
“Heath, Con here. Over.”
"Heath here. Over."
"Duke's been in an accident with is ATV on Rec T-40. He’s got some bruising, so far that's all I can see. He looks ok otherwise."
"Bring him in as soon as you're done out there. I'll call Jake. Over."
"Thanks Heath. It's gonna be a little while though. There's a lot of work to be done here. I've got Duke in the truck staying cool in the meantime. Over."
"Do you want me to send someone to pick him up?" Heath asked. "Over."
"The road might not be safe, but I promise that if Duke shows any signs of distress we'll drop everything and bring him right to you. Over."
Heath said, "Alright then, Con. See you soon. Out.”
Con did a thorough inspection of the area and realized that the gravel would only be a quick, temporary fix. The trail would have to be shored up with rocks on the ravine side, and cut further into the woods to avoid accidents like this in the future. Finally, he turned to Brian and helped him to take the first bag of gravel and the jumping jack out of the bed of the truck. In order to keep the gravel in place the two men drove the metal stakes in the ground then layered rocks behind the stakes to help keep the temporary fix from breaking away. Bri worked the jumping jack over the gravel to tamp it down into the rocks below it.
It took a couple of hours to do the job to their specifications and to place the warning signs notifying potential riders that the road was closed. As soon as they finished the chore they contacted Mutt about the situation letting him know what they'd need to fix the trail. That done, they took out the ramps, drove the battered ATV into the now mostly empty truck bed and then headed back toward the resort where they found Heath and Jake both waiting for them at the infirmary.
Heath looked at Duke as he limped into the examination room, watching the man's every move and expression. It was clear that he was in more pain than he was letting on.
Duke had a look somewhere between a pout and scowl as he went into the infirmary. "Don't know why there should be all this fuss," he grumbled.
Jake walked as calmly as he could over to Duke and took his boy's hand, pulling it up gently to kiss it. "Because you got hurt, hon. Con told us what your ATV looks like now and judging by those bruises you're going to hurt tomorrow. We care about you and want to be sure you’re taken care of. Now behave yourself," he added trying to smile.
"You took a spill down the ravine, Duke, that's what all the fuss is about," Heath added, checking Duke's head and neck, then shining a light into his pupils.
Duke protested, "It's not like I haven't had a few bumps and bruises in my life before...I'll hurt a little and then I'll be perfectly fine."
"Duke Winslow Montgomery, we've been down this road before," Heath scolded sternly. "We all know that you're a big tough guy, but anyone who had taken a spill like that would be in here, even if they'd just gotten a little scratch. I've told you before that it's better to be safe about this kind of thing. Now, come with me to X-ray, and no arguments."
As the large man looked as though he was going to continue to argue, Jake put a finger over Duke's lips and shook his head. He then gently pulled Duke up and led him toward X-ray. "I'll be right here when you're done. Behave," he said again.
Duke grumbled, "When I was in the Marines I had worse than this and no one sent me to the medic."
The rangers who had been watching the proceedings up till then looked at each other and nodded.
"We'll be heading out then," Con said. "We'll drop the ATV off at the garage for Mutt to take a look at. If anyone can fix anything that’s wrong with it, he can."
"Thank you, Con, Bri," Jake said shaking the men's hands before turning back toward Duke. "You just do as you're told now, Duke," he said firmly. "You're my Marine, and I take care of my man."
Duke sighed and went with Heath to be X-rayed. "You do know it's not needed. I didn't break anythin'."
Heath shook his head ever so slightly. He'd never understand why Duke was so adamant about not admitting to being injured or hurt when it was physically obvious that he had been.
"I'll be right here," Jake said again. "Just go on in and let Heath do his job. Alright, Dove?"
Seeing that Duke was about to argue again, Heath said casually, "I recall a man matching your description smacking a moose over the head and fracturing his arm, yet insisting that he was fine. Do you remember anything like that happening, Duke?"
Duke shook his head. "Wouldn't know a thing about that," he said straight faced, but with a twinkle in his eyes and he followed Heath.
Jake casually put his hand over his mouth to stifle a grin but he couldn't hide the glimmer of amusement in his eyes.
Duke winked at Jake and then, without another word went with Heath.
The X-rays took very little time with Duke's cooperation, and it was all he could do not to tell Heath 'I told you so!' when they came out negative for anything wrong.
"I really am glad that there's no more damage than a few bruises, scratches and bumps, Duke, but you're still going to have to take it easy for a couple of days," Heath said. "Take Motrin for the pain and swelling. If, and only if the pain becomes more than the Motrin can handle, will I prescribe anything stronger. Jake, take your boy home, he needs some TLC Jake style."
Duke looked at Heath and frowned, then scowled. "I don't need anythin' stronger...in fact I don't need anythin' for pain at all!" He got up and walked toward the door that led out of the infirmary.
"Whoa. Hold it right there, Duke. What's with the attitude?" Jake asked, surprised and a little perturbed that his boy would be so disrespectful.
Heath stood quietly, arms crossed, eyebrows raised in surprise, but he knew that Jake could handle the situation.
The large man turned and said, "I already knew there wasn't much wrong with me. I don't need a couple of days to take it easy and if the doctor is afraid I'm goin' to get addicted to anythin' for pain I don't need anythin' at all! I'm not my mother!" he stated angrily and turned and stomped toward the door again.
"Duke. Duke!" Jake called, running after his boy and grabbing his arm, carefully avoiding the bruises, before he could get much further. Jake turned Duke toward him and made him look him in the eyes.
"That's not how Heath meant it, Duke."
"No, Duke. I'm sorry, I wasn't even thinking that way," Heath said apologetically. "I just don't like to prescribe painkillers for every little thing. I hadn't even considered that you might become addicted to anything."
The large man's dove grey eyes reflected hurt and glistened with unshed tears. "I can take care of myself," he said and tried to extract himself from his new partner's grasp to turn away to leave once more.
Duke hadn't really heard Heath's explanation. All he had heard was that stronger pain medication would be given only if he was in pain he couldn't handle. Well he had handled physical pain since he was very young and would continue to do so without the aid of a pill.
"Dove," Jake said quietly. That one word was enough to stop the man in his tracks. "You don't need to take care of yourself anymore," he continued, "You have me. I love you, I care about you, and I'm here to take care of you, just as you would take care of me if the situation were reversed. Am I right?"
Duke looked at Jake's loving eyes and then with a big sigh nodded. "Yes Jake...it's hard to get used to bein' taken care of," he said quietly.
"Duke, you're not your mother, any more than I'm my cousin Carl, or my uncle Dwayne who are alcoholics. Just because we came from a bad place doesn't mean we have to carry it with us and perpetuate it. Do you understand me?" Heath asked, sorrow in his eyes that he had hit such a tender nerve in the big, usually unflappable man.
The grey eyes went to Heath and he nodded. "Yes...I understand...I'm sorry I reacted so badly," Duke told the doctor.
Jake placed a gentle hand on Duke's cheek and smiled up at him approvingly. "Come on, Dove. I'm going to fill part of Heath's prescription as soon as we get home."
Duke looked at Jake puzzled. "Do I have to take the medication?"
"If you have pain, then yes, I'd like you to take the Motrin, Duke," Jake said, "but what I was referring to was the 'Jake Style TLC' Heath prescribed."
Duke gave Jake a little smile then and nodded. "All right. I'd like that."
Jake quietly thanked Heath and took his boy by the hand, leading him home. Once there he had Duke lay on the couch with his head and shoulders propped on soft pillows.
"Hungry, Dove?" Jake asked as he gently rubbed Duke's thighs and calves.
Duke squirmed at what Jake was doing and said, "If you keep doin' that then it won't be for food...that's for sure."
Jake laughed for the first time since hearing Duke had been hurt. "Food first," he said, stopping the massage. "What would you like to eat, my love? If I can't make it I'll order it special from Gary," he grinned.
Duke returned the grin. "Well since I can't have you...then anythin' handy that you can make up pretty quick. I want to get to the other food as soon as possible."
Jake, keeping in mind that Heath had suggested that Duke get some rest said, "Hot dogs with mac and cheese for lunch then we can have your favorite ice cream for dessert. Your favorite movie is queued up in the player. As far as later..." Jake leered, "anticipation is underrated."
Duke pouted a little. "You think you're sneaky but you're not. I know what you're doin', tryin' to make me follow doctor's orders," Duke told his lover.
Jake grinned. "I always said you were a smart man, Duke. I'll make you a deal. Let's see how you feel after lunch and a movie. If you're still in the mood... well, I'm all yours."
Duke smiled. "I'll take you up on that then."
Jake winked and said, "Back in a jiffy."
As promised, Jake made a quick, easy late lunch and brought it out into the living room so that they could watch the movie while they ate. Once Duke was upright again, Jake pressed the button and the foot rest came out. As though it were nothing new he put his feet up and gestured for Duke to join him.
Duke's grey eyes popped open wide. "What the...where did this thing come from?"
"It's a little something I had Mutt make for us. Put your feet up. Relax," Jake said, nonchalantly.
Duke did as Jake invited. "Why?"
"Well, for one thing, when I sit on the couch my feet don't touch the floor," Jake laughed. "And it's a nice alternative to putting our feet on the coffee table. Don't you think?"
Duke looked at Jake and blushed a bit and nodded. "I'm sorry I didn't think about that when we had Mutt install the steps for the bed. I ought to have thought of it myself. It was thoughtless of me to have neglected your comfort."
Jake leered at his lover. "Honestly, hon, all I could think about was getting up on that bed faster and easier. This idea only came to me later, so don't feel badly."
Duke smiled then. "I'm glad you had Mutt make it for you."
"For us, Dove. Now," he said putting the dishes on the coffee table for the time being, "I want you to put your head in my lap and we can finish watching the movie."
Duke wriggled around to do as Jake asked and winced as he did so. It didn't take long for Duke to fall asleep in Jake's lap.
Jake put his arm around his love and put his head back as he idly played with Duke's hair. Soon he had dozed off himself.