Hope Among the Desertedbyxaviermayne©
This story involves acts of both sex and romance between consenting adult males, so if that's not allowed where you live then you should march in the streets. If you enjoy the story, I'd love to hear from you. Thanks for reading.
* * *
It wasn't the explosion that alarmed him. It was the silence.
In the aftermath, as the dust--and metal, and body parts--settled, he heard nothing. Nothing at all. Not even a muffled, muted facsimile of the screams and sirens and shouts that surrounded him, surrounded them all.
The explosion had ruptured his eardrums and so shocked his auditory nerves that he wouldn't hear for days, and never again as well as he had before. As he looked around, trying to sort out what had happened, trying to move, he saw a silent film of devastation. Grizz, who had been at the big gun, took the worst of it. There was little left to be sent home; the biggest parts were still gripping the handles of the gun. A pink mist descended; he looked up to see where it came from, and knew that it was all that was left of Grizz and who knows how many other guys--he wasn't sure who had been closest to the IED when it detonated.
He could smell burning. Oil, fabric, flesh.
Someone touched him on the leg, shook it hard. He couldn't hear them shout his name, he couldn't feel them pulling his legs to get him out of the burning remains of the transport. He felt himself moving, then spinning, and then darkness came as if his eyes had given up too.
* * *
"Will? Will, can you hear me?"
Light. Too much light. And what was that? A voice?
"Will, I need to you to focus. Can you hear me?"
It was a voice. He could hear, a little. One side, anyway.
"I ... ah--"
"No, no, don't try to talk. You sucked in some bad fumes there. Your throat's going to be a bit rough for a while. Can you open your eyes for me?"
He tried, but they were stuck. He felt a warm, wet cloth swab over his eyes, and then he could open, and blink, and try to focus.
"Good. Can you see okay?"
"Do you know where you are?"
He smiled weakly. Where else in the entire world would something like this happen to somebody?
"Afgha--," he croaked out, painfully.
The nurse nodded once, and made a note on the clipboard.
"Well, you were, until about 5 days ago. You were brought here after the attack, and we've been waiting for you to come around. Welcome back, soldier."
"Thanks," he coughed, and then fell silent.
"I'll let you rest. You have some work ahead of you, Will. But we'll get you patched up and on your way as soon as we can."
He lapsed back into unconsciousness, to experience an endless, silent replay of the explosion, as he had non-stop for the last 5 days.
A few hours later a buddy from his unit stopped by his bed. Their conversation was a simple one.
A shake of the head.
A slow shake.
A tear ran down the cheek as it rocked from side to side.
* * *
The next morning, he was better able to hear, more willing to see, and eager to talk. He waited until the same nurse came by to check on him, and then he tried out his voice again.
"Excuse me, ma'am?" he said, his voice sounding scratchy and higher than he remembered it being.
"Yes?" she asked, coming close to him, her head cocked, smiling.
"Juliet." He said the word like a prayer, like a wish.
She squinted at him a moment, and then realized what he meant.
"Oh, your wife! Yes, of course. The doctor spoke to her the first night you were here, and then again after the surgery. She's aware of your condition. In fact," she leaned closer to him, speaking more quietly, "He said that she's taking it real well." She smiled, as if she knew this was something he was worried about.
He fixed her with a puzzled gaze. She paled.
"Oh--oh my. Has the doctor spoken to you? Oh, honey, I'm so sorry. I assumed that--I marked on your chart that you were conscious and responsive, and when they see that they always come by to talk with you. Oh, I'm so sorry."
"What ... is ... it?" He pled with his eyes to be told, to know what it was that his wife of only a year was taking well.
"Let me get the doctor, honey," she said, and in an instant was up and gone.
Advances in surgical technique have revolutionized battlefield medicine, but every human endeavor has its bounds. There was nothing the doctors could do to reverse the paralysis that would leave Will's legs useless for the rest of his life. The considered him extremely "lucky," however, in that his paraplegia did not seem to have completely disabled his lower abdominal systems. He was continent, could control his bowels, and there was a chance, his urologist assured him brightly, that he might someday regain sexual function.
Will did not feel lucky.
Heaped with bad news, he was shipped home for several months of rehab at a VA hospital near his hometown--if you consider two states away to be "near." Juliet joined him there, and was involved in his treatment, at least at first. She had been relieved to see that he looked pretty much the same as when she saw him off for his tour 6 months earlier. He had always been the most handsome man in the room, any room, and he still was: a shock of brown hair, clear golden-brown eyes, the wide smile and the broad shoulders. Just that now he was in a wheelchair. Forever.
He worked as hard at physical therapy as he worked at everything he did in life: school, jobs, the service. If he was going to be in a wheelchair, he was going to go strong. He lifted weights every day, building what had been a lithe and defined torso into a sculpture of muscle and tendon. He built up his endurance in the wheelchair, until the staff, inspired by his dedication, took up a collection for a racing chair so that he could rack up the miles smoothly. And his legs remained still.
As Will worked to regain his strength, Juliet's focus turned to the family she had hoped to start. She pushed the urological team to come up with new options to restore his virility; surgery failed, Viagra left his heart fibrillating, an implanted pump would be useless without the muscles for ejaculation. She pushed and pushed and when that came to nothing she nagged and cried. Finally the team made one more suggestion: that she manually stimulate his prostate in order to encourage an erection and jump-start the ejaculatory system. It was a somewhat unlikely prospect, but it was the last thing they could offer.
"You want me to what?" she asked in a flat monotone.
"Mrs. Patchett, it's a very simple procedure. You simply lubricate and insert your finger--"
"Oh my god you cannot be serious. Did you just use the word 'insert'? He's a man, for god's sake!"
"Yes, Mrs. Patchett, he is. And this may help him feel even more a man. Once you have inserted your finger, you simply locate the prostate gland by--"
"I'm going to be sick! There's no way I'm going to diddle my husband like a prom date. You people are out of your minds."
"Please calm down. Now, if manual stimulation is out of the question, you can also use an electrical stimulator that you simply insert--"
"A dildo? An electric goddamn dildo? I can't listen to any more of this. I'm leaving."
And she did, leaving the urological team--and Will--out of options.
That night, the nightmare replay of the explosion was replaced with a new horror. Will found himself, in his chair, naked, surrounded by people he knew. As he focused in on them, he saw that they were friends of his from the army, from college, all the way back to high school. Then he noticed they were all naked, and sporting enormous erections. They laughed and pointed at his tiny, shriveled member as they stroked their own grotesquely large cocks. Meanwhile, Juliet made her way around the circle, pausing to lick or kiss or suck each prick, sighing and moaning as she went. Suddenly, the heat and noise rose to an unbearable pitch, and Will saw the cocks start to shoot. Long, flowing streams of white jetted out of every one, arcing high in the air and landing on him, covering with smelly, sticky spunk. He sat, soaked, in the middle, knowing that he would never experience sex again. He awoke in a sweat--a flaccid, panting sweat. He realized then--felt the truth of it in his gut--that he would never again experience sex.
Will eventually settled into a long-term rehab routine with a new therapist at the VA across the city he called home. Lucas was Will's age, and they hit it off immediately, both as therapist and patient and, soon, as friends. After working in the clinic for a couple of weeks they started running together, Will in his racing chair and Lucas running barefoot alongside.
For the first time Will started to feel as strong as he had been before the explosion, and he sometimes could go hours without remembering that he was a paraplegic. His spirits were lifting. He felt it was time to push on something that Juliet had been unwilling to do.
"Come on, hon, just give it a try. For me?"
"No, Will. It's disgusting."
"But if it works, we could start a family. Do you really want to give that up?"
She looked at him, unconvinced.
"Look, it'll be easy," he said, as he lifted himself off of his chair and onto the bed. He pulled his sweats off, as well as his shirt, and he sat before her, naked. He moved his legs apart, and lay back a bit.
His body still had the power to move her. From his head down to his waist, he was completely normal--more than normal, in fact. The wheelchair work had built his upper body to a steely strength that was breathtaking; his pectorals were slabs of pure muscle, and his abs were tightly cut into an eight-pack. His cock, of course, he had not been exercising, but it was still the long, silky wonder that it had always been. She started to think that perhaps she could figure out a way to make this work.
"Just give it a go, okay?" he pleaded.
"Oh, all right," she finally said. "But I'm going to stop if it gets too weird."
"Okay. Whatever you say," he assured her.
She took the bottle of lube from him, and greased up her finger. She brought it to his anus, and began to push. Her finger suddenly slid in, all the way. He gasped and jumped a bit, and she panicked and pulled out.
"That was great! I could totally feel you in there! That's a good sign, they said. It means that some of the nerves are still connected."
But Juliet was looking at her finger, slick and shiny with lube, and at Will's ass, spread wide and pink from the friction of his first penetration. She suddenly retched and bolted from the bed, to the bathroom, where she could throw up in peace.
Will was devastated. He slid back over onto his chair and wheeled to the bathroom. he pushed the door open, and saw her sitting on the edge of the bathtub, crying. She looked over at him, naked and pathetic, his pale, withered legs sitting hanging uselessly, his cock curled, flaccid, in his lap. She saw him for the first time as the sad case he was: he'll never walk, never fuck, never do anything worth doing. And now there were tears rolling down his cheeks to complete the look.
"Juliet, I know it's hard--"
"No, it's not hard, and that's the problem," she spat at him. She saw this pain this caused him, and she backed off. A bit. "Look, I love you, but I can't do this. I just can't. I'm going to pack a bag and get out of here for a few days, and then we'll work stuff out when I come back."
She never came back.
* * *
Will waited for three days, knowing in his heart that she would not return. But he didn't leave the house, in case she decided to do what she had said she would. By the time Lucas called to find out why Will had missed several therapy appointments, he had admitted to himself that it was over.
"She left? Just like that?" Lucas asked, in disbelief.
"Yeah. Just like that. I don't know where she is, or if she's even coming back for her stuff. I've just been sitting here, waiting."
"You mean you haven't left the house in three days? What have you been eating?"
"Oh, there was some stuff in the kitchen. It's mostly gone now. Hey, I had to learn how to do this stuff on my own sometime, right? I guess now is the time."
"Look, I'm going to swing by and see how you're doing, okay? Just sit tight."
"Lucas, there's no need for that. I can take care of myself. If I've learned anything through this experience, it's that."
"I'd feel better if I could see for myself that you're okay. I'll be by in 15 minutes."
Given that Will lived 20 minutes from the hospital, he was impressed by Lucas's determination to get there in 15.
He was there 12 minutes later.
Will rolled to the door, opened it, and let in a distraught Lucas.
"Oh my god, Will, are you okay? What can I do?" Lucas paused to breathe. "Okay, so we know what's first. You smell like the Green Bay Packers' laundry hamper. We need to get you in the shower, pronto. Now, where's the bathroom?"
Will chuckled at Lucas's boisterous entrance, and pointed down the hall.
"Let's roll," Lucas called as he pushed Will briskly toward the bath.
The house had not yet been modified to accommodate Will's chair, so he had indeed not been able to bathe himself without Juliet's help. Arriving in the bathroom, Lucas started the water going, and then he helped Will undress and lifted him out of his chair and onto a jury-rigged shower bench. Slipping into his professional role, Lucas began to tend to Will.
"Dude, I can wash my own hair," Will protested as Lucas worked his scalp into a froth.
"Oh, sorry!" Lucas laughed. "I got carried away. I'll step out now and leave you to it."
"Will you stay in the room, though? It's been pretty lonely here."
"Of course. I just feel so bad about what happened with Juliet. I don't mean to pry, but--okay, I'm going to pry. What the fuck happened?"
"I think it was building for a while. She really wanted a family, and this," he pointed to his legs, "means that I can't give her that. I guess she kind of snapped. I'm not the man she married."
"That's horrible. You're every bit the man you have always been. Anyone can see that."
"Well, the one who needed to see it the most didn't, so now that's over."
Will finished his shower, and Lucas helped him dry and dress.
"Look, Will, you can't stay by yourself in this house. Nothing's been set up for you to live alone here. You can't get your chair near enough to the shower, and the kitchen needs to be reworked, and there's no way you can get to the second floor."
"Yeah, but what am I supposed to do, check into a motel? I can't afford that."
Lucas knew he shouldn't, but he went ahead anyway.
"Come stay with me."
Will looked up at him in disbelief.
"I said, come stay with me. My place is all set up for a chair. My older brother was in one--he's the reason I went into physical therapy. He lived with me for years."
"But there's no reason why you should have to take care of me. I mean, your brother, that's one thing, that's family, but--"
"And Juliet was your family, and she decided not to do it. So, here I am, and I want to help. Please take me up on it."
Will considered this. It had been depressing being alone in the house, not to mention frustrating--the coffee was on a high shelf, which he tried to reach for two days before grabbing a broom and whacking everything off of it at once. It would be a relief not to have to do everything himself.
"Okay, for one night. But tomorrow I'm going to get some stuff changed around here so I can be here on my own again."
"Deal. Now, what do you need to take?"
Will gathered up clothes, and medicine, and his toiletry kit, and was pretty much ready to move in two minutes--like a good soldier. Last to go in was the laptop, which reminded him that he hadn't checked his email since before Juliet left. He opened the laptop and saw that she was still logged in. Her email was up on the screen. He was about to log her out when a phrase caught his eye:
"He wakes up screaming, which is bad enough, but when he doesn't wake up it's even worse, because he thrashes around. I'm afraid he's going to hurt me."
What the fuck? Juliet wrote this to her sister, about a week ago. There was more, much more:
"They say that PTSD shows up about four to six months after this kind of injury. That's what it's been, and I'm noticing changes. PTSD is the only thing that explains his anger at being paralyzed."
"He's just wasting away. I mean, his legs just dangle there. I cry myself to sleep every night thinking of what he was when I married him."
"He's sinking into depression, and once that happens I know I won't be safe here. It's one thing not to be able to have the kids I've always wanted, but it's something else to feel like my life is at risk."
Hot tears filled Will's eyes, and ran down his cheeks. Was he really the monster that Juliet claimed he was? Could he have hurt her in his sleep? Was he "sinking"? His pride in what he had accomplished despite his injuries evaporated, and was replaced with shame and doubt and guilt. He had ruined his marriage. He had driven her away.
"Ready to go, Will?" called Lucas from the front door.
Will cleared his throat, and replied.
"Yeah, yeah, I'm on my way. Just needed to grab a couple last things. Be right there."
He shut the laptop and rolled down the hall.
The drive to Lucas's house was less than an hour, and they got there just before dinner time. They stowed Will's pack in the guest room, which had been Lucas's brother's, and then settled on the back porch with a six-pack and a sunset. They were polishing off the beer before either spoke.
"So, what do you want to eat?" Lucas asked, in the most upbeat tone he could muster.
Will was silent.
"She left me, dude. She just left."
"Yeah, she did. Do you think she's coming back?"
Will snorted. "Hell no. Once she does something, it stays done. She's gone 6 years not talking to her cousin because she borrowed a dress of hers without asking. Something like this? Never. She's gone for good." Will tipped up his third beer. "And this is fine for dinner. Chewing is overrated anyway."
"You have to eat. I'm guessing you're not vegan?" Lucas grinned.
"Heh. No, not really. Anything would be fine. I'm not picky, I'm Army."
"Well, I'll try to scare up something that will be better than MREs. And I'll grab another of these," he said, picking up the paperboard beer holder.
Lucas grilled, Will ate, they both drank. And they were thankful for the company--Will because he needed to know that someone would be willing to stay in his presence despite the risks, and Lucas because his house had felt empty since Michael finally succumbed to his illness last year. He enjoyed having someone to care for, and Will was smart and funny and easy to get along with.
A cat entered the screen porch, meowing insistently. Will reached a hand down and rubbed its head, and it purred contentedly.
"Cat person, huh?" he asked Lucas.
"No, not really. Michael was, though. She was sort of a companion animal for him. She was always with him, even after he ran over her tail a couple of times. Since he's been gone, she just wanders around complaining at me."
"She's nice. What's her name?"
"Pebbles. But if you want her to come, all you need to do is open a can of something. I gave her tuna once, and from then on she hears the can opener, she's there. Drives me up the wall. But she reminds me of Michael, and having her around is like a link to him."
"You miss him," Will said simply, not a question.
Lucas sighed. "I do. Even though I took care of him most of my life, he was always my big brother. After our parents were gone, he was all I had."
Will raised his glass--they had switched to whiskey sours after dinner--and said, "To Michael."