“The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops,
but the cultivation and perfection of human beings.”
Jim Kirk came in from the bitter cold of an early morning Iowa January into the warmth of the farm house. The animals had been fed and watered and were sheltered snug and warm in the barn. He stood on the floor mat, brushed off the snow, and shed his outer garments, the heavy plaid wool coat which was tightly woven and very warm, his wool hat, and his heavy mittens. He toed off his water proof boots and walked on his socked feet to the warmth of the Franklin stove in the corner of the kitchen. He checked the wood that was stockpiled next to it and was relieved to see that he still had plenty. However, next trip out to the barn he'd make sure to bring in a bit more. It wouldn't do to run out of firewood in this weather. He set the five eggs that he'd collected carefully on the table. At this time of the year even inside the warm barn, the chickens didn’t lay much, and Jim collected very few eggs each day.
He looked down at the recumbent form of his dog on the rag rug by the potbellied stove. “Cupcake, do you need to go out yet?” The enormous yellow dog looked at at him, and yawned showing his sharp canines. However, the dog's big, sharp teeth were deceptive. Cupcake completely lived up to his name, because a sweeter animal would be hard to find. Jim had had several serious talks with Cupcake about his responsibilities as a guard dog around the farm, how it was his doggy duty to protect Jim and the animals around the place. Sadly, Cupcake completely ignored all of Jim’s injunctions and proceeded to never meet a stranger. The big dog just continued to love everyone he met. “You know you have to go out sooner than later, you lazy dog, and it's only going to get colder, so you might as well do it now.”
Cupcake lifted his head, sighed gustily in disgust, and reluctantly got to his feet. Jim laughed. “Saw the wisdom of my words, did you?” Cupcake shook his massive, bony head, and walked slowly to the door. “Just scratch on the door or bark when you're ready to come in, okay? Don't stay out too long, it's really cold out and I’m going to start dinner,” Jim told him affectionately, opening the door. He said the same thing to the big dog every time he went out, fearful that he would stay out too long in the bitter cold.
It was the third day of the snow storm and Jim hoped it was the last. The snow was piling up in drifts everywhere. Jim looked around, noticed the gloom in the kitchen and lit the hurricane lamps. Electricity had come to Iowa City and to Riverside, but not yet to the outlying farms. It wouldn't be long now, Jim thought with satisfaction. He had a generator in the barn, but he tried to save fuel when he could. The soft yellow light of the lamps added a warmth to the small kitchen and living room, making it feel cozy. Jim also had good sweet water from the well to drink and cook with, as well as extra water from the new water pipes he'd put in for irrigation and sewage. Through the years, the original two room farmhouse had been lovingly maintained, upgraded and added to as need for additional rooms arose. Last Fall, Jim had a new toilet and shower installed, along with the water pipes. His mom would be pleased about that. No more using the chamber pots or running to the outhouse in inclement weather.
Jim looked around his beloved home. The living area was not big, but it was neat, clean and comfortable. It was a combination living and dining room with the kitchen at one end, separated from the main area by a scrubbed wooden table with 6 chairs. There were comfortable upholstered chairs in the living room and a large sofa. There were also small end tables by each large chair and on both sides of the sofa for the large oil lamps that cast good light. Jim was prone to sit and read where and when the mood struck. There was a fireplace with a mantel that held the stiff, formal photographs of his mother, Sam, his dead father and his grandparents, as well as a tall glass vase which stood empty now, but which in the spring would hold wildflowers that bloomed all around the farm. Jim preferred to use the big squatty Franklin stove in the kitchen during the dead of winter. It generated a lot more heat than the fireplace, which he only used in spring and fall when it was not so cold. There were book shelves on either side of the fireplace that held all of Jim’s large collection of books and magazines. Two large window, curtained now against cold drafts, faced the front of the house. There was another window over the sink in the kitchen that faced the kitchen garden, lying fallow now like Jim’s fields. The rest of the farm house rooms, two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a large storage room, were accessed through the hallway off the main room.
Jim still had a few chores to do, mend Keenser’s bridle, write to his mom who lived in Boston, to his brother Sam and his young family in Providence, and make the list of grocery staples and other things he needed to buy in Riverside. The town was four miles away, but Jim, on Keenser and with Cupcake trotting beside him, went at least once or twice a week. He badly needed to buy a couple of new flannel shirts at the general store. His warm shirts were getting pretty threadbare and he needed the added warmth of flannel under his coat. He saw that he still needed to wash the dishes from lunch which he'd forgotten to do, and, he reminded himself, he had to check the amount of oil he had left for his lamps and his supply of candles. He needed a constant supply because darkness came pretty early this time of the year. He went about doing his tasks humming contently to himself. He thought of turning on his battery operated radio, but he was enjoying the peace and quiet as he did his chores. Jim prided himself on keeping his little farm house clean and orderly. As his mom said, just because he lived beyond the town boundaries didn't mean he couldn't live like the civilized, cultured person that she’d raised him to be.
After his father's death, his mother had done her best to raise her boys as George Kirk would have wanted. As good, decent, men, and the kind of gentleman that their father had been. At home, the well read, educated and liberal minded Winona, made it her mission to supplement Jim and Sam’s rudimentary Boston public school education, so her boys were well and widely read. Their dinner table discussions had been lively and far reaching, touching on many subjects; politics, ethics, poetry, love, agriculture, religion, philosophy, and literature.
Winona had been widowed very soon after Jim was born, and when her unmarried sister agreed to take care of the boys during the day, she had found good work through the boys’ growing up years as a secretary for various prestigious law firms in Boston. She was highly skilled as a secretary, totally discreet, and she also specialized in doing research for the attorneys. For this she was paid extra and very well. To save money, Sam had lived at home while attending college, and was now a successful attorney with his own young family, but Jim early on, had told his mother he wanted to farm like his grandfather Kirk. She had wholeheartedly agreed and been pleased with his decision.
Jim's mother knew he was very happy living on the farm that had been in the Kirk family for almost a century, and which Jim's grandfather had left to him along with his lifesavings. Knowing how hard it was for Jim to get away, Winona came to visit Jim once a year. She would come by train from Boston to Iowa City where Jim would go in the buggy to pick her up. There might be a few automobiles in big cities like Boston, but most of rural Iowa, got around by buggy. It was a long trip for her to make, but she did it every year, (always laden with boxes filled with things she knew Jim would like) and he loved her for it.
Although it was hard for Jim to get away from the farm, he tried to make the trip to Boston when he could to see his mother as well as Sam and his family who would join the two of them in his mother's Boston house. Jim would leave his hired hand to take care of the animals while he was gone and he went by train, taking Cupcake with him. The big dog loved to travel, and Jim paid a regular ticket price for him and took him out every time the train stopped, so there would be no question about Cupcake’s right to be sitting at Jim’s feet for the long journey.
Every month Winona sent Jim a box filled with home made cookies, jellies, candy, newspapers, political pamphlets, magazines and books of all kinds. Jim read everything she sent him. He considered himself a well rounded, educated man, certainly more educated and well read than the majority of Riverside residents. Her letters were always filled with affection for her youngest child, as well as replete with pithy commentaries about daily life in Boston, her lawyer bosses (all discreetly nameless) the politics of the area, and family news. The only things she and Sam always worried about, was that Jim was alone too much, or that if he had an accident, no one would be around to help him. For that reason, during the Spring, Summer and Fall, Jim hired someone to help him when he had to work the fields with the tractor. Same thing in late summer and early fall for the harvesting of his crops. His hired hand came to Enterprise Farm every morning from Riverside and left at the end of the day.
As a kid, Jim had come to the farm every summer to help his grandfather Tiberius and he'd loved it from the start. He had never been interested in big city life like his brother, Sam. His big brother had been supportive of Jim’s lifestyle choice, happy to know that the farm would continue to stay in the Kirk family. Sometimes though, it did get a little lonely especially in the winter, but Jim wouldn't trade his life for anything.
Jim sighed as he looked at his food stores. When the storm passed, he would have to go hunting or go down to the English River to catch some fish; his dried meat and fish were dwindling fast. With the bitterly cold weather, Jim was hungrier than usual and so was Cupcake. The cold weather just made his work more difficult and the human body naturally burned more calories. He puttered around doing the last of his small chores until he heard Cupcake bark. Jim stopped his dishwashing to listen. It was not Cupcake’s needing to come in bark. The big dog sounded agitated, almost frantic. Jim dried his hands, put on his boots, coat, and gloves and grabbed his rifle, hoping it wasn't a starving wolf or coyote trying to lget to the animals in the barn. He opened the door stepping out on to the small porch. He peered through the swirling blinding snow.
“Cupcake!” He called sharply. “Cupcake come!” He could hear the dog’s frantic barking, but couldn't quite make out what he was barking at. Jim cocked his rifle and stepped off the porch. “Cupcake, what's out there?” The big dog came by his side and whimpered. “What is it, boy?” Jim put his hand on the dog’s head, and walked out a little further from the porch. The swirling snow cleared for an instant and he saw a horse standing still with a man bent double over the saddle.
“Jesus!” Jim whispered. He ran toward the horse and caught him by the bridle, Cupcake barking excitedly the whole time. The man bent over on the saddle was barely astride the horse and there was snow covering his whole body. Jim grasped the bridle tightly and led the frightened animal closer to the porch. “Cupcake quiet!,” he ordered the agitated dog. He pulled the reins away from the man’s unresisting hands and tied the horse to the porch post. He ran in and grabbed his thick saddle blanket to put over the poor, cold, animal while he took care of the unconscious man. Jim reached up and gingerly pulled him off the horse, not knowing if he was injured or not.
“Ooof! Whoever you are, you're damned heavy!” He hefted the unconscious man over his shoulders in a fireman’s carry into the house, Cupcake following, close at his heels. Jim laid him on the bed in the second bedroom, since it was used exclusively by his mother when she visited and it stood empty the rest of the time. He brushed the snow off from the man’s coat, and felt his limbs and chest. Nothing seemed to be broken and he was still breathing. With difficulty, Jim pulled off the man's freezing, wet coat, his gloves, hat, and boots, then went to the blanket chest and piled on every blanket he had on top of him. “I'll be right back,” he told the unconscious man.
“Watch him, Cupcake.” The big dog came to sit next to the man, his doggy gaze steadfast on his face.
Jim bundled up again against the freezing cold, untied the horse and led the frightened, animal to the barn. “Shhh, you’re fine, now. You'll soon be warm. You saved his life, you know, finding us here.” He led the roan mare into the empty stall next to his own horse, Keenser, took off the saddle, the saddle bag, bridle, and the wooden case strapped to the back of the animal. He left the saddle blanket on her for extra warmth. Jim gave the mare fresh food and water and patted the velvety nose. “I'll take good care of your owner, don't you worry. You did your part getting him here; now you rest and get warm.”
He closed the barn door tightly and hurried back to the house carrying the saddle bag over his shoulder and the wooden case under one arm. The snow was falling harder, swirling fast and brilliantly white, diminishing the little visibility there had been earlier to almost nothing. Jim could hardly see the porch now. He opened the door and stepped into the cozy, warm, room and sighed with relief. He pulled off his coat, hat and gloves, going immediately to the bedroom to check on the man on the bed. He was already looking better. As Jim looked at him, his eyes fluttered and Jim knew he was beginning to wake up.
He went to the stove to check the coffee pot. Some hot coffee would warm him up faster and help him regain alertness. He took a couple of the quilts off him, pulled up a chair and sat down to wait, looking with interest at the unconscious man on his mother’s bed. He looked tall, as tall as Jim probably. He had a strong, well defined face, a firm chin, high cheek bones, a full plush bottom lip, thick eyelashes, and dark thick hair,; it was a beguiling face, even beautiful, in a manly way, Jim thought, as he sat patiently. His patience was soon rewarded. The man’s eyes fluttered once more and opened. Jim was startled at the beautiful swirl of colors in those eyes, brown, green, grey, amber. He felt a sudden jolt in his stomach as the confused eyes met his own.
“Where am I? What happened?” The man’s voice was soft, deep, with a southern lilt to it.
Jim gave him a reassuring smile. “You’re in my farm house. I'm James Kirk, my dog found you on your horse, unconscious from the cold.”
Alarm flashed in the beautiful hazel eyes. “My horse….”
Jim put a soothing hand on the man’s chest. “She's fine, don't worry. She's in the warm barn right next to my own horse.” Jim patted him gently, feeling a strange reluctance to remove his hand from the broad chest.
The man relaxed, reassured. “My case?”
Jim pointed to the table. “Right over there, safe and sound. Your saddle bag too.”
The man sighed softly, his hazel eyes intent on Jim’s face. “Thanks, James.”
“Jim. I'm called Jim. You?”
“Leonard McCoy. Dr. Leonard McCoy.”
“A sawbones, huh?” Jim grinned. “Well, Sawbones, you were very lucky, Cupcake here found you.”
The man’s lips twitched in amusement as he glanced at the huge dog. “Cupcake?”
“Yeah, 'cause he's a very sweet boy, right, Cupcake?” Jim patted the massive head affectionately. “So, how about a cup of hot coffee to finish warming you up? Want to sit up to drink it?”
McCoy nodded. Jim pulled a couple of more quilts off him and leaned over to help McCoy sit up. He could feel the strong bicep and shoulder muscles flex as Jim helped him sit. “Easy now.” He stepped back. “Alright?”
McCoy nodded again. “I'm okay, thanks, Jim.”
Jim went to the stove and poured a cup of strong, black, coffee. “Here you go,” he said handing McCoy the cup. McCoy’s hand came up to the cup, but it was shaking badly. Jim covered his hand with his own warm one, and held it steady so the doctor could sip. McCoy closed his eyes in bliss as the hot drink went down. “S’ good,” he murmured. Jim let him take a few more sips then put the cup down.
“Your hands are still freezing,” he said. “Let me warm them up. You, as a doctor, should know that frost bitten fingers are nothing to fool around with.“ He took one hand in his own calloused ones and rubbed it briskly. McCoy, Jim noted absently, intent on his task, had beautiful hands, a wide palm with long, slender fingers, soft and without callouses like Jim’s. For a brief moment he wondered what those hands would feel like on his body and he felt a faint flush suffuse his face. What the hell! Where had that thought come from?
When both of Bones’ hands had stopped trembling, Jim stopped the massage. The doctor flexed his fingers. “Thanks, Jim. They feel fine now.” He looked around. “I have to use your facilities,” he said.
“Sure. It's right down the hall to the right. Do you need help?”’
A faint flush came over the high cheek bones. “If you could help me up, I think I can manage it.”
McCoy brought his legs over and put his feet down firmly on the floor sitting still for a moment. Jim held out his hands and McCoy leveraged himself up, putting his hands on Jim’s shoulders. He stood still testing his balance, meeting Jim’s blue eyes. Again, Jim felt that jolt in his stomach as he met those unusual hazel eyes. McCoy took one step and then another. Jim stood firm, close to him just in case. McCoy nodded to himself. “I'm alright, Jim. I feel okay.” He walked slowly away from Jim, who watched him closely. His steps were firm and he didn't waver. Jim saw that he'd been right; McCoy was tall, built solid, his shoulders broad, his arms muscular, his chest wide, tapering to a trim waist, slim hips, his legs straight and strong. Again Jim felt that strange pull of physical attraction as he watched McCoy.
At 22, Jim’s sexual experiences had been limited to girls about his own age in Riverside, exchanging a few hot kisses, and indulging in some petting with a couple of them. With the type of girls he knew, it had always stopped at that. When he felt the need there was always his good right hand. There were other women to be had in Riverside, but when he was old enough, his mother’s and Sam’s straightforward, pull no punches, sexual talks about syphilis, gonorrhea and other venereal diseases, their warnings about the horrendous consequences of these diseases, pretty much decided Jim, to a resounding hell no about prostitutes in Riverside or anywhere else! It might be the 1920’s but Jim knew there was no real cure for any venereal disease. Truth be told, he very much enjoyed the kisses and gropings he'd indulged in with the different Riverside girls, but he’d never felt or even imagined physical attraction for a man before. However, occasionally through the years, he’d heard and read about such things; how a man could have sex with another man or how some women fell in love with another woman. It had puzzled Jim slightly, but it had certainly not repelled him.
When he was much younger, Jim had no one to ask, other than his mother or Sam, about some of the things he'd read in some of the newspapers and magazines the boys brought to school, or that he heard, mostly in whispers in the school yard. His mother and Sam had always answered every question with straightforward honesty. Jim had found out from his school friends that this was not the norm with his friends' parents. To his consternation, and his mother's ire, he also discovered that the other boys he'd talk to, those who had fathers, would tell him things that were either plain wrong, or full of misinformation. From then on, he made sure to ask either Sam or his mother when he had questions about girls, sex, his maturing body, or anything else that puzzled him.
Now as an adult and living alone on the farm, he'd never seen a reason to change this habit, so it was still to Sam and Winona that he confided in after reading articles in a newspaper that puzzled him, such as the miscegenation and anti-homosexual laws. Jim would write down his questions and thoughts in the frequent letters that went back and forth. Winona was widely read and, had, as an adjunct to some law cases she'd researched, read authors like Kant, Adler and Freud, Her answer had been both clear and compassionate. Love between human beings, she'd told him, comes in many forms, but it should always be consensual, and when it was so, treasured and cherished. She explained how there were people who had to hide their attraction and love for each other, because society, as she'd found out from several law cases she'd already researched, not only disapproved, but had also passed laws against such a thing. She told Jim, that she felt this was wrong. In her opinion, she wrote, any adult, no matter their race or gender, should be free to love the person they chose to love. Jim had agreed with her. He was innocent in many ways, but he was not ignorant. He was a farmer after all, the many different manifestations of animal or human nature were as natural to him as breathing.
Still feeling the warmth of those hands on his shoulder, Jim shook his head. He'd think about all this later. Maybe he really was one of those people who were attracted to both men and women. Right now it was time to start supper. He'd cook the eggs and mix in some beef jerky to make it more substantial. He also had beans and bread. That would do with hot tea laced with lots sugar.
McCoy came back. He had washed his face and hand combed his hair. He looked around with appreciation. “This a real nice place you have here, Jim”
Jim glanced back at him from the stove. “Thanks, Bones. It was my grandfather’s and his father’s before him. Been in the family a long time.”
“Your daddy didn't want to farm?”
A shadow flashed across Jim’s face. “My dad died when I was just a few hours old, an accident, so he never had a chance to find out. I started helping granddad when I was just a kid, and I always loved it here. My brother Sam is an attorney, so he wasn't interested in the farm. Granddad left the farm to me, and I've been here about four years now.”
“Oh. I'm real sorry about your dad, Jim. It must have been very hard on your mom raising two boys alone.”
“Yeah, it was. But in spite of her sorrow, she's been an amazing mom to both of us. Also, we had family in Boston to help us out right after dad died. Her sister still lives there. Sam is married with two little boys, he lives in Providence. Sit down, Bones, supper’s ready.”
“Bones?” McCoy smiled and his dimples peeked out. Jim groaned silently. Those dimples were killers!
“Yeah,” Jim’s eyes twinkled at him. “You don't seem like the Leonard type, so Bones it is.”
McCoy shrugged. “It’s okay with me, after what you did for me, you can call me anything you want.”
Jim looked at him a little anxiously. “I won't call you Bones if you don't want me to.”
“Nah, I kind of like it, actually,” McCoy assured him, smiling.
Jim dished up and they sat down to eat. “So where are you from, Bones?”’
“I'm from Georgia.” He swallowed. “This is real good, Jim.”
“Thanks. I'm a pretty good cook,” Jim admitted, “have to be, really. You're a long way from Georgia,” he added.
McCoy sighed. “Yeah. Well, I saw the tail end of the Great War, not any fighting, but I served at Walter Reed in Washington as a surgeon. Was there three long years, seeing enough pain, suffering, and sorrow to last me a lifetime. Marietta, Georgia was my home town. My parents both died there. After that, there was nothing and no one left in Marietta to keep me there so I sold the house and furniture. I’d had more than enough of trying to put back together wounded, battered, and traumatized soldiers, so I left Walter Reed. I took a little time off to recharge, then I heard from a colleague that Riverside needed a doctor. It sounded like something I'd like, a fresh start, a general practice, with me doing a bit of every kind of doctoring. I like general practice a lot, so I took the train to Cedar Rapids, thought I'd see more of the area and bought myself a good horse, a saddle bag, and a saddle. I figured I'd need the horse if I decided to set up a practice as a doctor in Riverside and I could always buy a buggy later on if I needed to.”
Leonard put down his fork and sat back a little in his chair. “Then the blizzard caught me without any warning on my way here. I thought I'd make it to Iowa city or Riverside and I almost did. It got colder and colder. I went to sleep without realizing it. As a doctor I sure know better than that, but it never gets this cold in Georgia, nor in Washington, not like this anyway, so I had no experience with this kind of weather. Probably not the best idea to come here in the dead of winter.”
“You almost made it to Riverside, just three more miles west of me. You were very lucky you didn't freeze to death, Bones,” Jim said.
“I was,” agreed McCoy. “Very lucky. Thanks to Cupcake here.” He petted the big dog’s head.
“Well, you're very welcome to stay here as long as you like, until you find out if you want to set up your practice in Riverside. I'd enjoy the company. There's no hotel in Riverside, only a boarding house, and it's not a very nice place.”
Leonard smiled, flashing those dimples again. Jim swallowed hard. God, maybe inviting Bones to stay wasn't such a good idea.
“Thanks, Jim. I not only owe you my life, but now you're also offering me a place to stay. Any thanks I can give you is totally inadequate.” He looked intently at Jim. “I insist that I pay my way for stayin’ here, eating your food and having a roof over my head. I'll also help out with whatever needs doin’ around here,” McCoy added, in his soft drawl.
Jim flushed. “That's not necessary, Bones. As I said, I'd enjoy the company.”
“I insist, otherwise I won't stay,” McCoy told him very firmly.
“Alright,” Jim said, looking at the handsome, implacable face. He looked dubiously at MCCoy. “I don't even know what amount to ask for? Especially since you're helping me out.”
“How about what the boarding house charges?”
Jim looked so scandalized that McCoy burst out laughing. “Okay, you decide them.”
“I'll think about it,” Jim said. “But… I warn you, it will be nominal, Bones.”
“And I warn you, Jim, I’ll fight you on that one.” They grinned at each other in perfect understanding, an easy comfort already between them. Jim felt the warmth in his chest chasing away the bitter cold of the blizzard raging outside as if it had never been.
“The hardest thing to learn in life is
which bridge to cross and which bridge to burn.”
Five weeks after the blizzard
Jim came in from the barn carrying almost a dozen eggs. The chickens were laying more eggs now that the temperature was not quite as cold as it had been, and although it was still very cold, the bulk of the snow had mostly melted. He looked at the clock above the kitchen door. Bones would be coming home soon. He had gone into town this morning to finalize the lease on his new office building. The town council had been more than happy to do all they could to entice Bones to stay in Riverside. They told him the town needed a doctor desperately and they had offered him the choice of several empty office buildings at an extremely low rent.
Last week, Bones had asked Jim to go with him to look them over before he made his final choice. The council also offered him the option to buy whichever building he chose at a very reasonable price, should Bones decide to stay permanently in Riverside. Bones, after careful deliberation and Jim’s input, made his final decision, choosing the one that structurally, Jim assured him, was the best. Bones had agreed to a trial six month lease of the building. To sweeten the deal, the town council also offered to pay for his lodging at the boarding house for six months. Bones turned down the boarding house, explaining that he was already renting the spare bedroom at the Kirk farm and helping Jim out at the farm until his office building was ready when he would begin seeing patients.
The office building was plenty big enough for Bones’ needs. It had a small room in the front that could be used as the reception area and another much bigger room in the back with a door that could be closed and, which, Bones told Jim, would become the examination room. Thankfully, the building already had running water and electricity. For hygiene purposes, a modern sink with hot and cold water would also have to be installed in the tiny toilet area. There was a smaller storage room with built in sturdy shelves that was adjacent to the examination room. There he could store his drugs and extra equipment. He would need to have the flimsy door replaced with a heavy one and a very good lock installed. All drugs had to be kept secure and meticulously accounted for. Once they found and purchased the door and the sink, Jim had offered to help Leonard put them in. Leonard reported to the town council that he thought it would take at least three months before he could open his office.
Leonard had told Jim that he would have to hire someone to help him with appointments and record keeping. He hoped to find an older woman, an intelligent person with some secretarial and record keeping experience, someone who would be totally discrete about his patients. Since he could not afford to hire a nurse, he also wanted to train that person to perform light nursing duties, such as giving injections, taking blood pressure readings, and writing down patient histories. He and the town council had put the word out, and he hoped to interview a few candidates soon, but that would have to come later after he got the office ready.
Leonard, Jim found out, had his own medical instruments, some medical books and a few medical supplies that he'd brought with him in his precious case that Jim had rescued the night of the storm, but he needed to purchase more things. First, he needed furniture for his patients to sit on in the reception room. In the front room, he also needed a desk, desk lamp, a chair, and a typewriter for his receptionist. He needed a strong, secure file cabinet for his medical records, an examination bed, linens for the bed, and some additional medical equipment; an examination magnifying lamp, syringes, needles, a scale, a small sterilizing autoclave and a microscope. He had his own stethoscope, thermometer, blood pressure cuff, and an otoscope. That was the minimum equipment he needed, he'd decided, the rest would have to come later. He'd told Jim that Walter Reed had the best and most modern equipment that money could buy, and while he couldn't hope to purchase what he was used to working with, he wanted to buy the best that he could afford. He knew that for more sophisticated examinations and more than simple surgeries, he'd have to send his patients to Iowa City, Cedar Rapids, or Des Moines for treatment.
Thankfully, he didn't have to take out a loan to buy anything. He had the money from the sale of his parent’s home to set up his office and his practice. Jim had offered to do all the carpentry required in the building to save Bones some money and Bones had reluctantly agreed to it, although he kept grumbling that he'd be more beholden to Jim than he already was.
They had finally come to an agreement about the rent money, or as Bones called it, ‘money for my keep’. It was more than Jim wanted to accept and less than Bones wanted to pay. When he went into Riverside, he would often bring meat bones for Cupcake to chew on, and he'd buy extra food for Jim. It was always much more food than Jim was used to buying. He also bought extra oil for the oil lamps since now that there were two of them, and Jim lit more lamps around the house and used more oil.
He looked at the kitchen clock. It was time to start supper, Bones would be home soon. He'd been in town all day, cleaning up the office building, then going to the general store to order all his furniture and medical supplies. He was also, he told Jim, going to buy white paint so he could freshen the look of the drab walls of the office building. He wanted the office to look bright and clean for his patients. Tomorrow, Jim thought, after he finished his farm chores, he would offer to go into town with Bones to help paint the office. Keenser really needed to be ridden, the horse had been inactive for several days. Cupcake could go too, the big dog loved to go to town. He was very popular would get extra petting and small treats from the people Jim knew around town.
Jim looked down at Cupcake. “What do you want for dinner, you lazy dog?” Cupcakes ear twitched. “Yeah, that's what I was thinking too. Rabbit stew it is.”
Jim had been hunting and he had fresh rabbit, so the rabbit, with the potatoes, onions and carrots, would provide a rich savory stew. He also had fresh bread that Bones had brought yesterday and his mother had sent him a large tin of cookies for afters. With their coffee, the delicious home made cookies would be a treat. He started chopping the vegetables, humming contently as he worked and pondering his present circumstance.
Jim’s initial attraction to Bones had grown into something…else…something…more. He often found himself daydreaming about what it would feel like to kiss Bones, to have those gentle, healing hands touch him, to hear that soft southern lilting voice whisper words of love, of intimacy. What would lovemaking with a man feel like, Jim wondered? Probably very different than with the girls from town that he'd made out with. Their bodies had been small, curvy, their skin silky, smooth and sweet smelling, their breasts soft. Bones’ body was tall and muscular, the planes of his back and chest hard and firm, his skin hairy and rougher. These thoughts came unbidden into Jim’s mind. These days he wondered, but had no idea, if Bones had the same kinds of thoughts about Jim, or if he was even aware of how Jim felt.
During the month Bones had been at the farm, they had forged a deep and mutually satisfying friendship which Jim knew he didn't want to jeopardize in any way. Jim had never had a real male friend, a true friend to share time with, to confide in, to discuss his thoughts, questions, and important things with. The young men from town his own age were, like Jim, too busy working, or were already courting a girl, to have any time to spare for more than very casual friendships or the mild socializing that went on when Jim went into town. He'd shared an occasional beer or whisky with some of the young men in town, but the saloon was not much to his liking. It was noisy, dirty, and at times very bawdy in the interactions between the girls who worked there and the regulars who came in often. Jim was not a prude, or even particularly fastidious, but he preferred his socializing to take place in a nicer, quieter, cleaner place.
So Jim had, as he’d always done since childhood, confided in, and written all his thoughts, trepidations, doubts, and uncertainties about his feelings to his mother and to Sam, seeking their always affectionate, yet honest counsel. He felt very unsure about the situation he found himself in, he confided to his mother and to Sam. He had never felt an attraction as strong as this, not to any girl, and never to another man, and he didn't know what to do about it.
His mother’s reply had been affectionate, concise and forthright:
I can't say that a relationship with another man would have been my first choice for you, son. I have always hoped that someday you would enjoy the blessings of a family; a loving wife and children that would bring you the joy that you and Sam have brought me. However, I know that love comes to us when and where it wills, and the heart wants what it wants.
As your mother who loves you with all her heart, I offer these words of counsel to you. Be patient, Jim, let things develop naturally between you, realizing all the while that being with Leonard will not be an easy thing for either of you. My most definite and insistent caution to you, my dear, is to be very discreet about these feelings of yours. They must remain a completely private thing between you two. Sam says to tell you the same. People in Riverside will neither accept nor understand your feelings about another man. Inevitably, they will react with suspicion, hostility and even hatred toward you, and toward Leonard too.
I’ve read that in some cities like in San Francisco, New York and Paris, love between two men or two women is more readily accepted. However, there are still many places, such as in England, where that kind of relationship is considered a crime punishable by a prison sentence. That is exactly what happened to the tragic Oscar Wilde who fell in love with another man. Sam cautions you the same, Jim. As an attorney, he has seen first hand the bigotry, persecution, pain and suffering that can happen when such a relationship becomes public knowledge. But no matter what you decide, Jimmy, we, your brother and your mother who love you, want you to be happy. As I know all too well, my son, life is too short and too lonely, to live without love. Just be certain, Jim, that you do not show or confide your feelings to anyone other than to Sam and I. You and Leonard, should your relationship develop into something more than friendship, must, outside of the confines of the farmhouse, behave with complete propriety, only as good friends and nothing more.
With love, your Mother
Jim read the letter over and over again, deeply thankful for his mother’s and Sam’s understanding, advice, and support. He knew their acceptance of his feelings about Bones, was very much outside the norm from how colleagues, friends and other family members would view it.
The front door opened suddenly with a rush of cold air. It was Bones, and Jim felt the now usual warmth surge through his whole body at the sight of the tall, gorgeous man coming through the door. Cupcake raised his big head, looked at Bones without interest and promptly closed his eyes again. Jim laughed. “You are such an abysmally poor guard dog, Cupcake. Bones could have been an axe murderer, for all you know.”
“Trust me, if I'd been an axe murderer he would have gone straight for my throat. That dog worships the ground you walk on, and he's highly protective of you.” He bent over to pet the big dog affectionally.
“How did it go today?” Jim asked turning back to his cooking, hoping the warmth in his face would be attributed to the heat of the stove. It was a feeling that lit up Jim’s body from the inside out every time he saw Bones.
“It went fine. I got everything ordered. Mr. Sutton, at the general store, was very helpful; he said it would take about a month to get everything here. The furniture and equipment will come by train to Cedar Rapids and then either by freight train or wagon to Riverside. I gave the building a good dusting and sweeping today. It's ready for painting tomorrow.” His brow furrowed. “Jim, you don't have to come with me to help me paint. You always have a lot work to do here at the farm. I can hire someone from town to help me.”
“I want to help, Bones, I really do. It’ll get me away from the farm for a while. With the weather the way it's been, I haven't gone to town as often as I usually do. Cupcake and I would like to go with you,” Jim turned his face from the stew to meet the hazel eyes. And it's a good way to spend more time with you, Jim thought, but that remained unsaid.
“Alright, Jim, if you're sure. I'd enjoy your company that's for sure. Don't really know anyone in town yet, except for the town council.”
Jim flushed again with pleasure. He looked down at his dog. “Cupcake and I are sure, aren’t we big fella.” The dog’s ears twitched, but that was all the indication of interest that he gave.
Leonard grinned. “Let me go wash up, and we can sit down to eat.”
Dinner was good, if Jim did say so himself. Bones cleaned his plate twice and so did Cupcake. He also insisted on washing up afterward while Jim went out to the barn to feed the animals. After he fed Keenser and Bones’ mare, still unnamed, (Jim was leaning toward the name Uhura, an African name he'd read in a book once), he gave each a sugar lump and told them they'd be going to town tomorrow. He re-buttoned his heavy coat and left the warm barn to stand at the fence, oblivious of the cold. He watched the beauty of the setting sun sinking over the fallow farm fields, the deep red, orange, violet, and pink heralding the coming of night. He turned to look at the farmhouse. Bones had already lit some of the lamps and, from the fence, the house looked cozy and warm, the pale yellow paint on its wooden facade mellowing to a creamy color in the waning light.
This thing between him and Bones was coming to a head, Jim was sure of it. He could feel the powerful attraction, the rising tension growing between them and getting stronger every day. It was present in the lingering glances they exchanged, the accidental brush of hands or fingers, the intense crackle of electricity when they stood close to each other. Every day it seemed, the pull between them increased and it was getting nigh on unbearable now, Jim thought, and something had to give. He welcomed it, yet, at the same time, he feared it. He knew it was a river of no return. Once he crossed it, there would be no turning back.
How would his life change if he and Bones took things to that next step? Their living here together, their strong physical attraction to each other, their proximity in the small house, made their coming together inevitable. Yet...it would always have to remain a secret and a hidden thing, at least here in the small, provincial town of Riverside. There could never be any overt or outward expressions of their love, no touching, or other affectionate demonstrations for each other as there would normally be between a man and woman who loved each other. That would be difficult. Jim was a private person, but he was not secretive. Would Jim want to live his life like that? Would Bones? How had others who were in the same situation handled it? Also, as the only doctor in Riverside, Bones would have social and civic obligations. There would be women who would openly pursue him. They would think he was quite a catch because of his social status as the town doctor, because he was a single man, and because he was tall and handsome. How would Jim handle that? How would Bones handle it? And Jim? As a young eligible bachelor in Riverside, one who was well known in town, who with his tall, blond, good looks and brilliant blue eyes, always enjoyed a certain amount of popularity with the young women of Riverside, he would be pursued too, and was, in fact, already blatantly sought after. Would Bones be okay with that? He wondered if Bones had ever had other male relationships before. Did he know what to do? Probably, Jim thought, he was a doctor after all. Male bodies were no mystery to him. Jim sighed. He had so many questions, and no answers.
The sun had fully set now, only the rising moon provided some light and a few stars were starting to appear in the horizon. Jim heard footsteps come up behind him.
“Jim? Everythin’ okay? You were takin’ a long time so thought I should check on you.” Bones came up beside him and put his arms beside Jim’s on the fence.
“Everything is fine, Bones. Just standing here thinking about some things.”
“Yeah?” Bones looked into the beautiful blue eyes. “I've been thinking too,” he said, a little hesitantly. “Thinking about you and me…about things between us. Do you feel it too? This pull, this attraction between us?”
Jim nodded. “I do,” he said. He turned his head away from the horizon and faced Bones, his cheeks flushing pink. He felt young and inexperienced next to this educated, sophisticated man. He bowed his head. “I've never felt this way before, Bones. Not ever about a man, or even so strongly about a girl. It's different and,” he raised his head, his eyes soft and vulnerable, “it's sort of confusing. What about you?”
“Jim, I've been attracted to and had a couple of mild sexual experiences with men in Washington. It’s been mostly women for me too. And in case you didn't know this, there are people, both men and women, who feel romantic and sexual attraction toward both sexes. They find sexual expression with either sex pleasurable and fulfilling. It's called bi-sexuality.”
Jim nodded, he already knew this.
“Do your feelings about me make you uncomfortable because I'm a man?” Leonard asked him gently.
Jim shook his head. “No, they feel natural with you, but I also know that most people here in Riverside wouldn't understand my feelings,” Jim said.
Leonard’s face turned grave. “Love, sexual attraction, between two men or two women is something that is not well understood or accepted by most people in our society, at least not in this part of the world. It's mostly kept hidden, but it's much more common than you'd think. Jim….” He reached a gentle hand to Jim’s cheek and his thumb stroked the soft skin there. Jim closed his eyes in pleasure. Bones shook his head at the sight. “You're so beautiful, Jim, and I want to kiss you real bad right now."
Jim felt his cheeks heat up. No one had ever called him beautiful before. Could a man be beautiful? Yes, he thought, opening his eyes and looking at Bones’ face, most definitely. Jim gaze was riveted on the man standing before him. In the moonlight, Bones looked like a fine pencil drawing…all the color leeched out of his face, the shadows of the soft, dim moonlight hallowing the planes of his face. "I want to kiss you too,” Jim murmured. He looked around. There was no one around for miles. They might have been the only two people left on earth.
The two men leaned in, drawn inexorably closer toward each other. Jim’s nerves twisted in his stomach and he swallowed hard. He never, in his wildest dreams, thought to kiss another man, but he really, really, wanted to kiss Bones, to feel those lips against his.
Bones smiled at him gently, placing his warm hand at the nape of Jim’s neck. “Have you ever done this before, Jim?” He asked softly.
Jim shook his head. “I’ve never kissed or been kissed by another man. I've never been with a man, or for that matter, fully with a girl,” he said. “Bones, I don't know what the hell I'm doing here,” he said, looking a little shame faced into Bones’ eyes.
“Shhh, it's alright, darlin’, I do,” Bones whispered. He moved his head forward a tiny bit more, and since they were the same height, it was a simple matter for their lips to meet, and Jim got his kiss. It was a soft kiss, careful, gentle, almost hesitant. Jim sighed at the feel of Bones’ lips on his, opening his lips a little and returning the soft kiss. He wanted to melt right into Bones’ arms. The world and time seemed to stop as they kissed. This felt so right, so amazing. He raised his hand to press at Bones shoulder to draw him closer, and Bones made a pleased little noise deep in his throat. Then Jim moved his hand to the back of Bones’ neck to run it through the soft dark hair there, the other he pressed flat against Bones’ chest feeling the frantic beat of his heart. It was beating fast in counterpoint to Jim’s own. So, he thought in relief, Bones is nervous too.
Bones slowly drew back, but stayed close to Jim. ”Is this alright?” The low, gentle rumble melted away the last of Jim’s nerves and trepidation.
Jim nodded, still a little lost in the wave of euphoria that had swept through him at the feel of Bones’ lips on his own. That kiss had been so much better than any kiss his imagination had conjured up. “Very all right,” he said, two hectic spots of color dotting his cheeks.
Bones’ large warm hand caressed Jim's face and the younger man turned his face into the broad palm. “Jim,” he murmured, “Jim, Jim, Jim. I've wanted to do this for a while now. You?”
Jim nodded frantically, inarticulate in his excitement. His fingers dug into Bones’ shirt and Bones right hand drifted down to Jim’s hip as he leaned in. Jim felt his warm breath on his skin as Bones leaned in and inhaled and exhaled into his neck. He kissed the right side of Jim’s neck, nipping gently, and Jim tilted his head to grant him better access. Bones chuckled. “You like that?”
Jim nodded again and clutched Bones tighter, yes! Bones kissed him again softly, lightly, and his lips traveled over to Jim’s Adam's apple, nipping again lightly.
Reluctantly, Jim pulled away. “We should take this inside,” he said, hoarsely, breathlessly.
“Yeah, that's probably a good idea,” Bones said, looking around. There was not a soul around, but you never knew when someone might decide to ride by. He let go of Jim, but stayed close. “Jim, we can take this as slowly as you're comfortable with. I know this is all very new to you, and there's absolutely no rush. I'm a very patient man.”
Jim smiled. “Yeah,” he responded. “But what if I'm not so patient?”
Bones laughed softly, his eyes crinkling slightly at the corners. “We’re gonna’ take this slow, Jim,” he said gently, but firmly. “I want you to be absolutely sure you want this, that it's not just curiosity, or the heat of the moment. You're still very young, and not very experienced,” he added gently. “I'm not sayin’ I've had a ton of experience, but I'm six years older than you and I know that physical attraction, having sex, can be a very powerful experience, be it between a man and a woman, or between two men or two women. However, things change when two people make love. That’s an entirely different thing. When it's not just about sex, when it’s between two people who love and care about each other, then making love is truly amazing, and the experience changes people profoundly. Somehow, I'm already sure that for us, it won't be about just having sex, will it?”
“No, I don't think it will be,” Jim agreed slowly. “I've never felt like this about anybody. Bones. You said you were a patient man, and you probably will have to be with me. You asked me, but now I'm asking you. Are you sure about this? You could probably have your pick of anyone you wanted in Riverside,” Jim said earnestly. “And there wouldn't be any need for patience either,” he added.
“Jim, I'm not interested in anybody else, I don't want anybody else. I want you and I've never been so sure about anythin’ in my life,” Leonard assured him, looking deeply into the sapphire blue eyes. “But only when you're completely ready. Alright?”
“Alright,” Jim said. “Let's go inside so we can do this some more and we can also talk about us.” He took Bones' hand, pulled him up to the porch, through the front door, and closed the door behind them. Inside the warm house was the quiet, private haven and sanctuary that they both needed right now.
“There are no wrong turnings.
Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.”
Guy Gavriel Kay
Nine weeks After the Blizzard
Spring was just around the corner in Iowa. Coming out of the barn with the eggs, Jim looked around. The grass, weeds and wildflowers were beginning. Soon, he thought, he would have to check the tractor over to make it ready for use. He also had to go into town to pick up his wheat seed order. He would already have it on hand after he finished tilling the soil, getting it ready for spring planting. It was something he always loved to do, ride the tractor, turn over the soil and inhale the unmistakeable smell of the rich black earth the would soon receive the seed. He would till several rows, then stop, turn the tractor, and look back at the beauty of the miles of straight, black, narrow rows of good earth ready for the wheat seed.
It would be a very busy time for Jim, and the hired hand, Ethan, would be at the farm every day. He would always eat lunch and sometimes an early dinner with Jim and Bones. Jim sighed. He and Bones had already talked about it, and had agreed on the parameters of their behavior, complete propriety, hands off of each other at all times, no lingering glances, no innuendos or inside jokes as long as Ethan was on the property.
Jim went in the house to put away the eggs and get his seed order ready to take into town. He thought back on the past few weeks. Things between the two men had progressed slowly and steadily. Jim was already sure he was deeply in love with Bones, and he felt sure Bones felt the same. It was a heady feeling, although the words I love you had not been said out loud by either man. Bones was indeed a patient man. He had taught Jim slowly, gently and carefully, how they could pleasure each other and about the many erogenous zones on a man’s body. As a result, there had been a lot of passionate, frenzied kissing and caressing, and later, frotting and mutual hand and blow jobs. Jim delighted in this new knowledge, learning quickly how to pleasure Bones in return. The result was that the passion between them was almost constant. Jim couldn't seem to get enough of Bones and nether, apparently, could Bones get enough of him. Sometimes they would make love two or three times through the evening and during night, and it still wasn't enough. The next night they would come together again like it had been weeks and not hours since the last time they'd pleasured each other. Jim wondered. Was it because they were both men, young and virile? Or was it because they were already deeply, passionately in love, needing that mutual reassurance of reciprocated passion and need.
In spite of their frequent lovemaking, there had been no penetrative sex between them, nor, Bones had told the very nervous Jim, did there ever have to be if Jim didn't want to. He knew for certain, he assured Jim, that there were male couples, who never had penetrative sex. It was not something that every couple enjoyed, and it was a very personal and mutual decision. He furthered reassured Jim that he was perfectly happy with the degree of sex and intimacy that they were presently sharing. Jim, reassured, and much more relaxed about Bones’ sexual needs and expectations, found that his libido had heightened more with that assurance, and it was almost constant when he was around Bones. He had to practice strict self control to keep his hands to himself in public.
Another thing they had discussed at length and had mutually decided, was that they would continue to sleep in separate bedrooms, mostly because it must always look like Bones did rent that room, and secondly, because during good weather people in Riverside dropped in on each other, even to the outlying farms, unexpectedly, at all hours as whim and time allowed. Even if the two of them had sex in one or another of the bedrooms, one of them would eventually return to their respective bedrooms. Jim hated it and so did Bones, but it would have to be that way until the dead of winter came around again when they could stay in the same bed during the night. People in and around Riverside did not venture out to visit in the bitter cold and frequent blizzards and snowfalls of an Iowan winter.
Once warmer weather returned, people were eager to socialize and everyone was anxious to meet the handsome new doctor, and where Bones was invited, courtesy demanded that Jim was invited too. Both men had already attended several social functions in Riverside. There had been several home dinner parties and two public dances which both men had gone to. It was an expectation in the community that no one, man, woman or child, of any age or circumstance, missed a Riverside dance unless they were on their death bed or giving birth. The two men had danced with all the ladies, both young and not so young; they had mildly flirted with the pretty girls as was expected of them, but that had been all. There was a line that they had mutually agreed not to cross. Mild kissing in the shadows of the dance hall was okay, but that was it. So far neither man had done that. Jim told Bones he didn't want to and Bones didn't want to either, but if it became necessary to perpetuate Riverside society’s belief of the two of them being eligible bachelors, then it would have to be done. Jim felt deceitful about it, as did Bones, but mindful of his mother’s and Sam’s worried, cautionary injunctions, and Bones’ far greater knowledge of how society viewed same sex relationships, they remained extremely circumspect when they were in public, treating each other as nothing more than good friends.
Bones was now almost ready to open his office. He had, in fact, already made a few home visits, delivered a couple of babies, presided at a death, and set a broken leg. There was going to be a grand opening of his office tomorrow. Bones would, at the behest of the town council, meet and greet the citizens of Riverside. Since he didn't have a wife, they assured him that they would provide all the refreshments. Bones had grumbled and groused about it, but he'd finally agreed to it.
Leonard had also hired a receptionist cum nurse, Christine Chapel, a widow in her late thirties, who had kept the books for her husband's business before he was killed in action at the Battle of the Somme. She needed a job, she had interviewed well, and Leonard had been impressed by her practical, sensible attitude. She was friendly, pleasant and polite, but tolerated no nonsense. Leonard was already deep in teaching mode with Christine; injections, blood pressure, height and weight, learning to use the autoclave, properly sanitizing the examination table and basin, were all skills she was rapidly acquiring. Jim had met her several times and liked her practical, no nonsense attitude, as well as her gentle, easy way with the adults and children who trickled in to the office in spite of it being closed.
Bones’ supplies and equipment had arrived slowly but surely, until finally everything he'd bought had been delivered. Jim had put in the heavily reenforced door of the drug closet as well as the new heavy lock. The office had been completely repainted and it looked fresh and new. Jim had enjoyed helping out. It made him feel good that he was helping Bones out, and Bones had been overtly appreciative once they were back home.
“Jim? Jim?” Bones voice called from outside. Jim turned gladly and eagerly toward the door, until Bones added loudly, “I’ve brought company.”
Jim composed his glad face and calmly opened the front door. Bones was standing by his mare, (now named Georgia, because, as he told Jim, he wanted a good Southern name for her) and one of Jim’s farm neighbor was sitting on a wagon close to Bones. “Hi, Bones, hi, Mr. Thomas, good to see you, sir. What brings you to these parts?”
“Jim.” The older man nodded. “Your tenant brought me.”
“Mr. Thomas is selling his wagon, Jim. Thought I'd ask you to look it over to see if you think it's good enough to convert for transporting patients in the back..if need be, that is.”
“Sure thing, Bones, happy to. Come on in, Mr. Thomas. Have a cup of coffee with Dr. McCoy while I look it over. You just caught me, I was getting ready to go to town and put in my seed order.”
“Don't mind if I do, son. My back’s tired. Hiya, Cupcake,” he said to the big dog who looked up at him without interest. “Took my seed order in yesterday. Went to pick it up this morning and ran into the doctor, told me he was looking for a wagon. I'm getting a new one, Jim. Matilda don't like this one no more. Says her bones hurt her, sitting on the wooden seat. I'm getting one with padding and covered in leather.” He shook his head despairingly. “Waste of money if you ask me, but gotta' keep Matilda happy.”
Jim grinned. “That you do, Mr. Thomas, that you do.” It was well known around town that Matilda ruled the Thomas household with an iron hand.
“How's your Ma keeping, Jim? Is she coming this year?”
“She is, sir. Sometime this summer. She's doing just fine, thanks.”
“Hmm, what are you going to do with this young man, then, when she comes, if you're renting out your Ma’s bedroom?”
“I'm going to stay at the boarding house while Mrs. Kirk is here that month,” Bones interjected smoothly. “Jim says it's not very nice, but basically I'm just goin’ to sleep there, so it'll do. Jim insists, and so did Mrs. Kirk, by letter, that I come have supper here every day. Mrs. Kirk says the boarding house food is real poor.”
Mr. Thomas nodded sagely. “Winona is right about that, young man. She's a mighty fine cook, Jim’s mother is. Matilda and me have enjoyed many a great meal here, haven't we, Jim?”
“Yes, sir.” Jim glanced sharply at Bones, who returned his gaze calmly. Bones' boarding house stay was news to him. They hadn't talked about what to do when Winona came for her visit. The thought of Bones being away from home at night for a month was already painful to contemplate.
Mr. Thomas looked thoughtfully at Bones. “Well, Doctor McCoy, in my humble opinion, the boarding house ain’t really a fit place for a nice young man like you, much less a doctor, it's dirty, that's what it is. Seems to me a better solution would be for you two to add on to this house. You could build another small bedroom. It wouldn't take much doin’ and it wouldn't cost much either, and it sure would save you from that boarding house full of ruffians, terrible food and not so clean bed linens. We want our Riverside doctor to eat well, sleep well and be comfortable so he'll stay with us. What do you think, Jim? You're good at building.” Mr. Thomas’ grizzled face looked happy with his idea. “You two can come to an agreement about the cost of adding a bedroom and the room and board charges. I'm sure Sam could advice you on that.”
Jim grinned, his heart thudding happily in his chest. He put a thoughtful look on his face. “I think your idea has merit, Mr. Thomas. If Bones thinks the same, if he's agreeable, I'll ask mom what she thinks. An extra bedroom would be a good thing too, when Sam comes to visit with his family. We could put two beds in there. Cupcake and me, we like having the doctor here. It's been real nice for us to have company and talk to someone else besides each other, right, Cupcake?”
Cupcake thumped his tail at the mention of his name.
“Your mom won't never mind, Jim. She's never liked the idea of you being here alone, especially in winter, no matter how often Matilda and I tell her we check in on you. With the doc to hand, so to speak, she'll be much easier in her mind.”
“Your right about that, Mr. Thomas, but what do you think about the idea, Bones? It would mean some extra work for us, building the room, and it would have to be finished by the time mom comes this summer. I could get someone from town to help us to make it go faster.”
“I like the idea just fine, Jim, and we have plenty of time before your mother comes to buy the lumber to build the bedroom, and the two beds is a good idea too.” He smiled at Mr. Thomas. ”I'm going to tell everyone in town it was your fine idea, Mr. Thomas. You deserve all the credit for thinkin’ of it. It's mighty nice of you to think of my well being, sir. You know I put most of my money outfittin’ the office and hiring Mrs. Chapel. I can't afford to buy even a small house, don't know if I ever will be able to. Small town doctor's aren't in it for the money as you know, so I won't make much money here, but I can afford to help Jim pay for the new bedroom so I can stay here. So far I really like Riverside. Jim and the town folks have made me feel real welcome.”
Mr. Thomas nodded and preened a little. “Well now, we think a lot of our Jim here and of his Ma too. Kirks have farmed around here a real long time, so we want Jim to stay on here to keep on farming. It'll make Winona happy that's for sure to have someone here with her boy. Now then, Jim, you go out and check the wagon. If any little thing needs fixing, I'll do it for the doc. Well just sit here and drink our coffee and haggle ‘bout the price.”
“Yes, sir.” Jim went out to check the wagon carefully, his heart beating joyfully in his chest. Bones would not be away from him for a month this summer, and the idea had come from someone other than themselves. It would solve one big problem, and Jim’s mother could still enjoy her bedroom. He and Bones would be respectful and circumspect while she was here, each keeping to their own rooms, and curtailing their overt physical displays of affection and sexual activity while she was in the house, but at least they'd still see each other every morning and every evening.
He walked to the wagon and checked it over carefully. It was sturdy and structurally sound and with Jim’s help, Bones could make the back comfortable for transporting very sick patients. He went back into the house and said. “It’ll do just fine, Bones. We can fix it up for your patients with a thick pallet, linens and blankets.”
“Good. Thanks, Jim. Let me get your money, Mr. Thomas.” He rose and went into the second bedroom, bringing out a small wad of cash.
“Thank you, Doc. I'll clean up the wagon real good and you can pick it up whenever you want to. Glad it’ll be useful to you.” He shook hands with the two men. “Give your Ma our regards when you write to her, Jim. Tell her we're looking forward to seeing her when she comes. I'll be telling Matilda ‘bout my idea of the extra bedroom.”
“You do that, Mr. Thomas. My best to Mrs. Thomas, sir.” Jim knew that Martha Thomas would pass on all this news to the ladies in Riverside along with the fact that it had all been Mr. Thomas’ idea.
The two men and Cupcake stood on the porch and watched him climb up to the wagon. He waved goodbye as they watched him drive away until he was well out of sight.
Silently, they went back into the house. Jim locked the front door, and Bones closed the calico curtains in the living room. They met in the center of the living room and reached for each other exchanging a heated, hungry kiss.
“God, I missed you today,” Jim murmured into Bones mouth. “Wanted you, Bones, wanted you so bad, wanted this.”
“Me too, darlin’. Couldn't wait for Thomas to leave. Wanted to get my hands on you.” The hazel eyes looked at him with want and passion.
Jim’s erection, pressing against Bones, got even harder at those words, and he licked his lips before kissing Bones again, deeply, passionately. Bones pulled him closer, closer, then pulled his shirt out of his pants and traced a fingertip down Jim’s belly. Jim felt a surge of heated want and lust go through him like a tide, both to his heart and to his cock. Jim moaned, and pushed his hips up, rutting against Bones.
Bones tugged at the buttons of his jeans and deftly unbuttoned them one handed, one by one, From his pocket he pulled out a small vial of lubrication, and still one handed, gently coated Jim’s fully erect shaft. Then he unbuttoned his own pants and coated himself with it. He pressed his own thick cock along side of Jim’s and took hold of both, stroking up and down, gripping them together with his long deft fingers. Jim moaned. “Feels so good, Bones, so good. God, I want you.” He covered Bones’ hand with his own and his fingers reached up a little to stroke across Bones’ slit. Bones groaned at his touch and slid his other hand around to settle on the curve of Jim’s back, stroking gently down the curve of his ass. Jim gasped and panted into his mouth, kissing him deeply.
Bones’ switched back and forth, stroking from slow and gentle to fast and hard, using the tight friction of his fingers to draw more moans out of Jim. Jim could feel his orgasm rapidly approaching, and opened his dazed eyes to see Bones’ eyes
watching him intently, the hazel eyes filled with a deeply possessive passion.
“So goddamn beautiful,” Bones muttered. He always let his own mounting passion and desire for Jim show, totally open about his own arousal, his rampant need for Jim, and his vocal appreciation of what they were doing. His heavy breathing and moans mirrored Jim’s own as their passion grew.
"Bones, Bones, I'm gonna’ come,” Jim panted into Bones’ mouth.
“Come for me, darlin’, love to see you come, and I'm right along with you,” and with that, they both spurted into their joined hands, both still standing in the middle of the living room, clasped tightly together. Jim dropped his dazed, post orgasmic head on Bones’ shoulder and shuddered. Then he turned his head and kissed Bones’ sweetly, tenderly. “You're so amazing, Bones; that was so good, so good that my legs feel weak.”
Bones snorted. “You're the amazing one, Jim. I've never, and I mean never, felt like this with anyone before, man or woman.” He nuzzled Jim’s neck. “Jim Kirk, I love you.” He lifted his head and grinned into the blue eyes. "Love you with total and heartfelt devotion, darlin’.”
Jim gasped and cupped Bones' stubbled face with both hands. “Bones, Bones. I love you too. I was afraid to say it first. I had no idea what was the right things to say about how I felt, about this man being in love with another man thing.” He shook his head ruefully. “I was scared to say it first. I didn't know if it was okay to say it first, if it was too soon, if it would scare you off.” He felt a blush come to his cheeks. “I love you so much, Bones,” he whispered.
“Jim, Jim sweetheart. You never have to worry about anything you want to say to me. There isn't a protocol for this kind of situation; love comes when it comes, and it's come to us.” He grinned. “And now that we've both said it, shall we adjourn to the bedroom? I don't think my legs will hold out for another round with us standing up.”
They laughingly pulled up their pants and headed toward Jim’s bedroom. Jim was giddy with happiness knowing Bones loved him too, and he sneaked a side glance at Bones, who looked pretty damn happy too. In the bedroom, they undressed and pulled down the bedclothes. Bones yawned, “nap first, darlin’, then more sex, okay?”
“Excellent plan, Doctor McCoy, and yes, that's definitely okay,” Jim said, pulling the relaxed, pliant Bones into his arms so they could entwine themselves around each other. Bones fell asleep immediately, but Jim lay in his bed thinking.
Jim knew, as did Bones, probably even more so than the inexperienced Jim, that more and different problems were bound to come up if they couldn’t be open about their love for each other, at least not in Riverside, and not in all of Iowa for that matter; not if Bones wanted to keep his medical practice and Jim wanted to remain on the farm. Maybe someday things would be different and it would become possible, but until then, their love and desire for each other would have to remain a hidden thing.
Jim sighed thinking how hard that would be. He wanted to shout his feelings about Bones to the whole world. Maybe later on they could travel to a city like Paris, or San Francisco, where they could, if only for a little while, be more open about their relationship. Maybe there they could behave more like a couple, hold hands, or sleep together in the same bed in a hotel room. But, until then, they would live their private lives here, behind closed doors, away from prying, bigoted people with hateful tongues; safe together, loving each other, in their warm, cozy house.
Jim pulled Bones closer in his arms. He was confident that the two of them would meet problems as they came and work together to overcome every one. They would also have the love and support of Winona and Sam. He knew it would not be easy. Their public lives would have to remain circumspect and above suspicion, but they could do it. They'd already done it for almost three months and they'd proven to each other that it could be done. When his mother came, when she got to know Bones, learn what a wonderful man he was, how big and gentle his heart was, how much he loved Jim, they would talk things over with her, and, being the sensible, loving mother that she was, Jim knew she would share her own perspective and advice about their situation. Somehow, Jim thought sleepily, placing a gentle kiss on Bones’ thick dark hair, they would continue to make a life together here, safe on the farm that meant so much to him, loving and being there for each other through whatever was to come.