Go to all chapters of "Medium Security".
Emmett opened the door of Justin's cell with the boy's key and led him inside.
She immediately stripped off Justin's clothes and washed him at the sink. Justin stood and let Em do it, occasionally wiping his eyes with the back of his hand and sniffling.
"I feel like your personal lady's maid, Miz Sunshine!" said Em, trying to keep things light. The boy was in a dismal mood and Em didn't want her surprise to be completely ruined. Who knows how he would react when he finally saw Brian? He might run screaming from the room or faint dead away!
"Thanks, Em," he whispered.
Em dried him off with a rough towel. Justin's skin was as soft and as smooth as a child's, but he had a dick like a full-grown man, that was certain.
"Why, it's no trouble at all, babydoll," Em replied. "What do you think I spend most of my time doing down in the Hospital? When I'm not folding sheets and sweeping the floor, I'm bathing people and emptying their bedpans. I'd much rather be rinsing off a sweet little thing like you than some of those nasty old convicts down there!"
"What am I going to do, Em?" Justin asked quietly. "How am I going to survive in here for another year or even longer? I don't think I can do it, Em. I don't think I can stand it much longer." Justin closed his eyes. "Sometimes the nights seem so long and I lay there in the dark, staring at the nothingness and thinking about what it would be like to just end everything. Maybe then I wouldn't feel all this emptiness."
Em's heart skipped a beat. This was one thing Em had been afraid of. She'd even spoken to Father Bob about her fear for Justin. Suicide wasn't uncommon in prison, especially among younger inmates who had lost all hope. And especially among those who had been sexually assaulted and believed that they were forever marked as victims.
Not long after Em had come into Stanton a young punk on the second tier had thrown himself down the stairwell and broken his neck after his jock started trading his ass for cigarettes and favors. Em had just begun working in the Hospital when they brought the kid in. He was already dead. Em couldn't forget the weird angle of his neck or the way his eyes were fixed and staring. Em had seen people die before, but they were old, like her grandmother. But this boy was only 20. Almost the same age as Justin.
Em got out clean underwear and a fresh pair of workpants and Justin put the clothes on slowly and mechanically. It didn't really matter if he got dressed or not, Justin thought. It didn't really matter what he did. Lee was right. Brian would never return to the Quad and hoping that he would, dreaming that he would, would never make it true.
Soon another jocker would step up and claim him. A few had already been sniffing around, just as they had when Justin first entered the tier. They let Justin know, in no uncertain terms, that they were interested, and Justin understood that he would eventually have to make a choice or else be fair game to any jock who wanted a piece of him. Lee and Stormy were punks, but even they had been able to break down the defeated Justin's resistance with a little weed and some Quaaludes. Yes, Emmett was watching out for him, and also the Juice Pig and Michelle, but even they couldn't fight the inevitable.
Justin thought about Brian whoring for the low-riders. And Lee having to service all the guys Big Chuck owed money to. Or the other punks Justin saw with bruises on their faces and bodies. He smiled grimly, thinking of his own mother telling him that Brian was a bad influence on him. That he was better off without Brian in his cell and in his bed. His mom had no fucking clue! No idea what had happened to him in this prison. And what would happen in the future to a small, blond white boy in a prison full of strong, horny men. With no protector. With no Brian.
"You come along with me, honey," said Em, taking Justin by the hand and ushering him out of the cell.
"Where are we going?" Justin asked listlessly. Not that he cared very much. He was coming down off the pot and 'ludes and that always left him even more depressed than he was before he took the drugs. They always worked on him that way. Justin could see how guys got into a cycle of taking shit and then needing to take more to get themselves out of the funk the drugs put them into.
"I need you to help me down in the Hospital, babydoll," said Em, smugly.
"I thought you were off duty now?"
"I am, but... but...." Em thought quickly. "Dr. Caputo wants me to get Barbie to make some new curtains for the ward. And I need someone to help me with the measuring."
Justin frowned. Em invaded the South Wing and dragged him away from Lee and Stormy to help him measure for some fucking curtains? That was a pretty sorry excuse for butting into his life! But Emmett was a nosy queen and that's what nosy queens did -- they butted into your life.
"Why can't Michelle do this, Em? I'd rather just lie down on my bunk." Justin swallowed. His throat felt dry after smoking that harsh weed and his head was fuzzy. "It's almost time for 4:00 head count anyway. I just want to go to sleep."
"You come with me, mister!" Em ordered. "No excuses!" Em steeped up her pace, but Justin kept lagging behind. "Will you hurry UP?"
"Can't we do this some other time?" Justin was getting tired of Emmy's bossy ways. She was worse than his fucking mother with all her badgering!
Em pulled the boy down the corridor and pushed him through the door into the Western Wing of the Quad. The doors of the main ward were open wide. Em saw Andre, the nurse from the county hospital, talking to the ambulance drivers who were going to take him back.
"I thought your shift was over, honey?" said Andre when he saw Emmy coming down the hall. And the tall queen had a pretty blond boy in tow.
"It is," Em said shortly. "I'm just bringing my friend down to help me with something in the ward." Em gave Andre a warning glance. "This is Justin."
"Justin!" the black nurse exclaimed, eyes shining. "Do tell, darling? What a pretty name that is! I'm Andre. I'm just passing through your fine establishment."
"Yeah, hi," answered Justin, sullenly. He yawned. The last thing he wanted to do was stand around while Em and this strange queen dished hospital dirt.
"No time for chitchat. We have some, um, windows to measure," Em said.
"Windows, hm?" Andre replied. "In that little room off the ward?"
"That's the place. So you see why we are in such a big hurry." Em guided Justin into the ward. "So bye-bye for now!"
"Bye-bye to you, too!" called Andre. He watched as the pair walked towards the small room where Andre's beautiful and sad patient had been stowed. That boy was a beauty, too. They both wouldn't be sad for much longer, Andre thought. He laughed to himself and walked out to the ambulance for the ride back to County General.
"Hurry, babydoll!" said Em, stopping next to the annex and pointed to the door. "You go in there and wait while I... I get the tape measure. Okay, hon?"
Justin sighed. This was taking forever. "Okay, Em."
He pushed open the door of the little room and paused. There was a patient inside, a man huddled under a sheet and hooked up to an IV. Justin hadn't expected anyone to be in the annex. If someone was in there it was because they were very sick and needed to be apart from the noise and bustle of the main ward.
"Excuse me. I didn't mean to bother you," Justin said, starting to back out.
The patient in the bed turned his head. "Justin!" Brian whispered.
Justin blinked and felt his throat choke up. "Brian!" he cried. "Brian!"
"I was wondering when you were going to show up, Sunshine," said Brian, lifting his head weakly.
"Brian!" Justin cried as he threw his arms around Brian's neck and hung on as if his life depended on it. Which it did, he realized with a start.
Brian gasped as the boy pressed against his wound, oblivious to anything except his need to touch Brian.
"Be careful there, honey," said Em, gently. She shifted Justin over slightly so he wouldn't be leaning on the dressing that covered Brian's left side.
"Oh, my God! I'm sorry!" said Justin. "Brian! Did I hurt you?" He'd only been with Brian for a minute and he'd already fucked up!
"No, it's fine. It doesn't hurt a bit," Brian lied. He shifted in the bed, trying to get comfortable.
"Why don't you go around to the other side, babydoll?" Em suggested. "That way you won't bump the dressing or the IV."
"Sure," Justin agreed. He scooted over to the right side of the bed.
Brian put his right arm out gingerly and wrapped it around the boy, pulling him down close to his face. "That's better, isn't it?"
"They said you weren't going to come back! That you were NEVER coming back!" Justin whispered.
"Where else would I go? Nobody would take me," Brian breathed. "They didn't even want me at that other hospital. And what prison besides Stanton would put up with me? So they had to send me back here."
"What's going on here, Honeycutt?"
Dr. Caputo was standing in the doorway.
"Just getting our new patient settled in, Dr. C.," said Em.
"Didn't you go off duty over an hour ago?" the doctor sighed. Emmett had obviously been orchestrating this little reunion between and Kinney and kid. And the kid was plastered against the older inmate, probably not to be displaced any time soon. Well, it could be worse, thought Dr. Caputo. Kinney could be dead and the kid could be strapped down in the Psych Ward. At least now they were both on the road to recovery.
"I was just doing some clean up work around here, Dr. C.," Em returned.
"Clean up, huh? It's only a few minutes until 4:00 head count, so you better hike back up to your tier before you get written up." Dr. Caputo looked at Emmett and then glanced at the kid.
"Justin, honey, we'd better go back up now," said Em, touching Justin's arm.
"No! I can't go now!" the boy protested, shaking Emmett off.
"I don't want you to get into trouble, Sunshine. You better leave now," said Brian. He lifted his head again, but it was a struggle. He felt as if all the strength had been drained out of him. The ride over from County General and the emotion of seeing Justin again had exhausted him totally.
Dr. Caputo gestured for Em to leave the room with him. They both walked over to the ward desk and the doctor shuffled through some forms. He filled one out swiftly and signed it.
"Here," he said, handing the form to Emmett. "Give this to the C.O. on duty on the third tier. "Tell him the kid is in the ward for sick call. That's so they don't write him up."
Em clutched the form. Dr. C. was a real doll! "Thank you so much, Dr. C.! This means a lot!"
"I only want my patients to get better," Rich Caputo replied. "Both Kinney and the kid have been through hell and if this helps them to get back to normal, then it's no skin off my ass. Now get back up to your tier!"
The doctor stopped in the door of the annex. "Taylor, you're on sick call for tonight so you don't have to go back up on the tier. But it's for tonight only. Tomorrow I want you to get back where you belong. You read me?"
Justin nodded. "I read you, Doc," he answered. "And thanks."
"And kid -- whatever you do, don't knock that line out of his arm. He's been jabbed so many times that it's getting hard to find a good vein," the doctor said. And he closed the door of the annex and went back to his office.
"I guess that means you can pull up a chair and stay a while," Brian smiled.
"Fuck the chair!" said Justin. He kicked off his sneakers and climbed up onto the narrow bed, trying not to jar his lover too much. Brian lifted the sheet and Justin slipped underneath, snuggling up against him.
But Brian felt so thin. His muscular arms looked wasted and weak and there were dark circles under his greenish-gold eyes. And his skin was warm and dry to the touch, like brittle paper. But Brian was alive. That was the only thing that mattered. Alive.
"I kept dreaming that you were speaking to me, Brian," Justin sighed. "I know it sounds crazy, but that's what I thought. Sometimes I was awake when I heard you. Your voice was so clear in my head. Like you were right inside of me."
Brian blinked. "What did I say to you?"
"That you were coming back here. That you were going to take me away with you to a beautiful place...."
"A valley. A green valley surrounded by mountains. And the golden horse, running," Brian said.
Justin raised his head and stared at Brian's face. "That's the place. The same one you talked about when... when I was in here after I got attacked. Emmett kept telling me that I was imagining it, but it felt so real. And that's how I knew that you were alive, even when everyone was saying you were dead. I KNEW that you weren't."
"I was dreaming of that place, too, Justin," Brian replied. "And I was almost there. I was right on the edge of that beautiful place. But I was there alone. So I turned around and came back. That's what I was dreaming. What I've been trying to remember. Maybe we were thinking of that same place, at the same time. Maybe that's possible." He ran his fingers through Justin's golden hair. It was the same color as the beautiful horse in his dream. Gold and white, like the boy's pale skin.
"I believe it," Justin insisted. "I believe it's possible. But I thought you'd abandoned me. That you'd forgotten all about me. I... I...." Justin couldn't continue. He couldn't tell Brian how he'd lost faith. How he'd given himself up to despair and tried to drown his pain in drugs and sex.
"I didn't forget, Justin," Brian whispered. He closed his eyes. He was so tired. "But there was no way I could get away. Except in my head. That was my only escape. I never thought I'd be grateful to come back to Stanton, but I am. I feel like I'm finally home. That I'm finally back where I belong."
"And I'm where I belong, too," Justin agreed. "At least for now. But we won't be here forever. I know we won't. This isn't the end, Brian. It's only the beginning."
"I'm not going to think about that," Brian murmured into Justin's hair. "I'm only going to think about right now. And I won't ask for anything beyond that."
Justin was deep in a dream.
He was looking out at the ocean. He'd never actually seen the ocean, but he knew that's what it was.
The water was blue-green and wild, crashing on the rocks. Curling around them and then receding. Washing back and forth, back and forth, the sound of the surf inexorable.
Justin felt that he was rocking, too. Like he was cradled in safety. In love.
He ran down onto a tiny patch of sand among the rocks. Brian was standing there. He was wearing blue jeans and his shirt was off. He turned and smiled at Justin. He held out his hand.
Brian was deep in a dream.
They were driving down a highway. It was not a new car, but it was theirs.
Justin sat in the passenger seat, a map unfolded on his lap.
The windows were rolled down. It was summer.
They were heading into a range of soft blue mountains. The road followed the line of the mountain ridges. You could look down into the deep green valleys and then beyond to the next ridge.
Justin turned the radio on, but all that came out was the sound of the ocean, of the surf, until it filled the car like high tide.
Brian turned and smiled at Justin.
He held out his hand.
Brian opened his eyes.
He could hear the clock ticking on the wall next to the bed, but it was too dark to see what time it was.
His side ached and he shifted slightly.
Justin shifted with him, changing his own position. His hand was pressed against the middle of Brian's chest. His head was under Brian's right armpit. He was curled up against him tightly and securely, like a precious package.
Brian's left hand was attached to the IV, so it was hard to maneuver it. But his right arm was free. It was also numb from being trapped under Justin's sleeping body. Brian pulled it away slowly and gently. He clenched his hand and moved his fingers around to get the feeling back into it. Then he touched the boy's hair in the darkness.
He remembered his dream.
Remembered driving in that car with the windows rolled down. Remembered the mountains. It reminded him of the visions he'd had when he was unconscious. Entering the valley, that beautiful place, ringed by mountains.
But this dream was different. It was more real. It wasn't somewhere beyond the world. It was a place where you could go and actually return from. It wasn't the ending of life, but the beginning.
Brian could actually feel the wind from the open window of the car in his hair. Then he realized that the window of the annex room was open and the May breeze was wafting in, blowing the old white curtains.
Maybe this was a picture of their future? Or maybe it was from some other life, somewhere else. Dreams could seem so real when you were in the middle of them.
Maybe this was all a dream and he'd wake up back in County General, alone and in pain. Thirsty and unable to reach the cup. Pressing the button for the nurse who never came.
Brian closed his eyes.
Or maybe he would wake up 10 years in the future. Still in his cell on the third tier. In his bunk, alone. Realizing that he was constantly dreaming this same moment over and over again.
The last moment when he was happy.
Brian lifted his head and looked around. He heard one of the patients out in the ward coughing. The light on the Yard was angling in through the window, illuminating the bare wall, casting the shadow of the bars on it.
Justin sniffed in his sleep.
He took off his shoes and ran across the small strip of sand. The water washed across his pale feet.
Brian chased him. Caught him. Spun him in his arms.
They both tumbled onto the warm sand. The cool spray of the water had dampened their hair.
Brian kissed him there. Kissed him softly, while he stroked Justin's wild, golden hair.
Justin sighed in his sleep.
It wasn't a dream. He knew it wasn't.
It was more real than reality. It was the truth.
That's all that mattered.
"Yes, Dr. C.?"
Em was juggling a stack of clean bedpans that she was about to take over to the geriatric ward.
"May I ask you a question?"
"Of course, Dr. C. Ask away!" said Em, although she wished that the doc would hurry up with his questions. Because if she dropped the bedpans it would make a heck of a racket.
Dr. Rich Caputo turned and watched a slight, blond figure trot by with a special tray of food he had just brought over from the Chow Hall. The figure disappeared into the annex room off the main ward.
"I wasn't aware that Mr. Kinney had hired a private-duty nurse," Dr. Caputo said, raising an eyebrow.
Em grinned. "Oh, we take all the help we can get, Doc!" But then Em frowned when she how serious the doctor was. "You aren't going to send Justin away, are you, Doc? Because he's really no bother. Ask anyone around here. Justin is actually a big help!"
Rich Caputo sighed. "He's NOT assigned to Hospital duty, Honeycutt. He's supposed to be going to classes. I know the boy wants to be down here with his cellmate as much as he can be, but it's getting ridiculous! The kid is here when I arrive in the morning and he's still here when I go off duty in the evening. And Dr. Gomez says he's here during his shifts as well. Doesn't Justin EVER go back up to his tier? How come he isn't getting written up by the C.O.'s?"
"Oh, he's always right there for head count, Dr. C. And he goes back up to the tier every night, right on schedule. Except when he's on sick call." Em swallowed and hoped that the doctor didn't check to see just how often that was. Em had done more than a little forging of Dr. C.'s signature on the sick call slips. That could get Em into real trouble if the doctor decided to make an issue of it.
"Emmett!" Dr. Caputo said warningly.
"Come on, Doc! He's going to all his classes. He really is! Just ask the teachers. Ask Miss Amy Carver. She'll tell you. Justin sits in there with Brian and does his homework. And he helps all the orderlies at dinner time. And with the laundry, too!" Em took a deep breath. "And Brian IS improving. You said so yourself. Who else could get him up and walking around? And he's not asking for so many pain pills now."
"I suppose that the boy bringing him special food from the Chow Hall is part of Mr. Kinney's recovery?" the doctor asked.
Em nodded. "You know that he was hardly eating anything, Doc. But Justin has a deal with the cooks to make special meals for him and then Justin brings them over. You have to admit that Brian's gaining weight." Em finally set down the stack of bedpans on a nearby cart. They were surprising heavy, even when empty. "And Justin has been better, too. He isn't having those weird conversations with himself anymore."
"That's true," Dr. Caputo conceded. Even the warden had asked the doctor if the boy was still talking about hearing voices in his head.
And, thought Em, Justin isn't hanging out with those bad-news punks all day, getting high and fucking around. Stormy and Lee were still in class with Justin, but whenever they saw Em coming those two kids made themselves scarce. Em had threatened to tell Ben, the Juice Pig, about what the punks had been up to. Ben was very protective of Justin and he'd be pissed if he knew that they had been taking advantage of the boy in Brian's absence. The punks were more afraid of the Juice Pig than they were of their own jockers, so that made them back off Justin.
Wesley had also been down in the Hospital Wing a lot recently, sitting with Justin in Brian's little annex room and doing his homework along with his friend. Things seemed all patched up between those two boys.
Michelle also came down regularly, bringing comic books and food that her mother, Debbie, sent, as well as little odds and ends from the Canteen that she knew Brian liked. Since he couldn't smoke in the Hospital, she also brought him gum, which Brian chewed almost around the clock. She brought soft drinks and collected Brian's mail for him every day, too, so that he could read his 'New Yorker' and keep up a little bit with his Prisoners' Legal Defense cases. Michelle and the other queens couldn't do enough for Brian.
However, with Brian incapacitated, most of the legal work in the prison had come to a stand-still. The PLD tried to keep their litigations going, but without their inside liaison, forms didn't get filled out, appeals didn't get filed, and prisoners didn't get advised of their rights or of the progress of their cases. Many of the inmates hadn't realized before how much they depended on the legal services that Brian provided -- that is, not until they lost them.
But Brian could only spend short periods of time reading and almost no time writing. It was too exhausting for him and Justin was like a pitbull when it came to Brian being over-tired. Sometimes Justin took the papers right out of his lover's hands and carried them away if he saw that Brian was flagging or thought he was over-doing things.
Dr. Caputo ran his hands through his thinning hair. "I know this is a special circumstance, Emmett, but I think you boys are taking advantage of the situation. If I find out that you're running some kind of scam down here, I'll nail your balls to the wall personally. Capisce?"
"Yes, Dr. C., I capisce," said Em, shuddering. Dr. Caputo was from a tough Italian neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York, and Em didn't doubt that the mild-mannered doctor was perfectly capable of nailing Em's balls anywhere he saw fit. "But there's no scam going on! I swear!"
"There better not be, Honeycutt," said the doctor, darkly. "Now get those bedpans over to Nurse Johnson in geriatrics -- pronto! You get me?"
"Yes, Doc, I get you," said Em. "And thanks."
Dr. Caputo watched the tall, thin orderly hustle away with the bedpans. Then Rich Caputo headed for the annex room to see what was really up with his special patient.
The doctor had to admit that Kinney's punk -- with some help from Emmett and his pals -- had transformed the dingy annex room. There were new curtains at the window and the gray walls were decorated with the boy's imaginative drawings. A portable radio was playing an oldies station softly. And the bed was covered with a colorful afghan that some of the queens on Brian's tier had made for themselves, but had generously donated to Brian's recovery process.
The pair were sitting side by side, Brian propped up in bed and Justin perched next to him, sharing the tray of food that the kid had brought from the Chow Hall. The meal looked decidedly better than what the rest of the ward was having. In fact, it looked better than what Dr. Caputo himself expected to get for his own dinner. He wasn't sure how the kid managed it. First, he organized the birthday party, and now he was managing his cellmate's recovery. Not bad wheeling and dealing for a punk kid.
"I see you gentlemen are already dining."
Justin looked up. "Hey, Dr. Caputo! We're just starting."
"What's on the menu today?" The doctor looked at the tray.
"Well," said Justin. "In the Chow Hall they're having Salisbury Steak and peas, but Brian doesn't like Salisbury Steak and the peas they serve are mushy, so I had Tony make some chicken parmesan with Italian beans and fettucini." The boy took a bite. "It's very good! Tony used to cook at a restaurant in New York City's Little Italy."
Dr. Caputo stared at the food. This really WAS better than the dinner he was going to have tonight. His wife, a lovely German-American woman, couldn't make chicken parmesan to save her life!
Brian was picking at the food, taking each mouthful slowly, but he WAS eating, Dr. Caputo noted. And he was off the IV completely now. That made for better mobility. Emmett had brought in another chair and a small table so that Brian could get out of bed and sit instead of just lying around all day. And the kid was the one who got him up and moving about. Justin also had him walking around the ward, tediously, but steadily.
Kinney was in pain and often irritable, but he never snapped at the kid the way he sometimes did at the orderlies and nurses. And Justin was infinitely patient with him. Maybe Emmett was right and this was exactly what both of them required in order to heal correctly. Kinney needed someone who cared about him completely and the kid needed someone to focus his energy on other than his own problems.
"You're doing a great job, Justin," said Dr. Caputo. And he watched the kid's face light up as he smiled at his own personal 'patient.'
And he watched Kinney's face change, too. It was a fond expression, but also a sad one. Rich Caputo wished that he could get inside that head and see what this man was really thinking. If he still believed, after all that had happened to him and all that still lay before him, in the possibility of happiness.
Posted December 2, 2004.