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Subject: Makarovia! Sure I Know Where That Is! Chapter 26 Losing Innocence Story: Makarovia! Sure, I Know Where That Is Chapter 26 Losing Innocence Author: Eric McQueen ail) Adult Readers, Sexual Situations, Sex Freedom of expression is precious. To do that, Nifty needs help. Your donation is greatly desired. Give to fty/ or this story ends and all the others! That would be a crime! They return to Makarovia and there are a few in Makarovia that aren’t happy. Very few. They worry that the changes will make changes the people won’t be ready for. Scams and innocence will be sacrificed. Losing Innocence We got into some vans to take us to the palace. Home. It’s a very special word. It meant more than just a building where you slept, ate, and raised a family. No, home was where you went to get away from the world and issues there, it was a shelter from storms. Home was where you felt safe. It was like a comfortable and warm quilt around you on a cold day. That’s how I felt. The Consortium was still out there. That pirate lady was out there. Out there. Not here. We didn’t talk a lot on the way to the palace. Why? When you were in the backseat and spoke to someone in the front seat, I won’t even ask how that went for you. With everyone talking…it was better if we didn’t start that. I said Stryia hadn’t changed from the air, but as we rode through, I could see some changes. The work underground I knew was well underway. What I said about Makarovians, and the warm weather was also true. There were quite a few people above ground walking on sidewalks and shopping or just stretching their legs. I had been told, this was when Makarovians prepared for the long and harsh winter. The underground was to help the need for urgent preparation. If you didn’t prepare what was needed, they may feel sorry for you, but you had no real sympathetic ears about having run out after you’re stranded because of the snow and ice. If you couldn’t, that was another issue. Makarovians would help. It was so nice outside; I wanted to go on a picnic! “Have you ever had a picnic?” I asked Peter. Peter grinned looking at me, “Not in a while. You want to go on a picnic?” I smiled and said, “It’s so pretty outside now. It would be a crime to let it slip past us without one.” Peter chuckled, “We can’t have that!” He looked at the sky through the window of the van. Looking back his smile grew warmer and much more personal. He liked what he saw. “I’m comfortable here,” I explained. “I feel like…we’ve come to sanctuary. I’m home.” Peter’s head went back a little, but he nodded, “That’s right. It is.” I smiled and said, “Picnic.” Peter’s eyebrow started to go up, “Yes.” “Oh,” I chuckled, “I love words that despite the language sound and mean the same thing.” I shrugged. “English, Makarovian, Ukrainian, Russian all say picnic and it means the same thing.” Peter chuckled again, “I never thought about that before.” The route we took us through the town of Stryia where the idea of warm weather was cherished. In the near center of Stryia, there was a large traffic circle. There wasn’t a lot of traffic, but I saw more than there had been a year ago. It was the only addition the Soviets wanted I agree with. That and the mechanized elevator in the fortress/palace. They predicted more cars and trucks in Makarovia’s future. The circle was to take the need for traffic signals out. Traffic went one way on this circle and when you got to the street, you exited. Simple. Makarovia took the center of that circle and added a garden. The only flowers I knew on sight were daisies and roses. Now I saw several out there putting plants in. Work had been done as I saw plants fully bloomed with red, white, yellow and a lot of purples. I turned to Peter, “This was here last year?” Peter gave a smile and a grudging nod. “The park was here; it hasn’t been maintained since the early nineteen-nineties and the breakup of the Soviet Union.” He shrugged. “We were too busy staying alive. The idea of a garden didn’t have high priority.” “It does now!” I grinned. “I’d love to see it up close.” I sat back and looked at him more critically. “And where’s the garden for the Queen?” “What?” Peter asked a little startled by the question, but not surprised or upset. He knew by now how my brain worked. I held up my hand and began counting them off, “England, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Germany, Japan, even Russia…maybe no one sits on the throne in these places, but the gardens are still there.” Peter shrugged, “It’s been a busy decade or two.” He said almost helplessly, “We didn’t have people to do that.” I waved out the window as six or seven people worked, “What are they? The United States’ and Great Britain’s military are helping with the greenhouses, but I don’t think any of them are.” Peter smiled and nodded, “We have to speak with Mom, Olek, and Helga.” We took the elevator to the palace level. It was used by quite a few people. We needed to add another elevator to handle the increase in traffic by people who worked at the palace and guests in the hotel portion. When it came down to the palace and infrastructure, I left that to people that did that for a living. Peter was going to Northeastern for Urban Development. Olek had control of it now. Sometimes, my mind went in directions I didn’t plan on. We got to the palace level and were walking through the Grande Hall. People going about on many tasks. Some people for the palace and some for the governing of Makarovia. “Olek,” I said in English. Mario was still with us. “That plane was awesome!” I only paused a second, “Doesn’t require more…” I thought about the word needed. “It’s high tech.” Olek didn’t look as if he quite understood. We often add shortcuts and shorten words as a habit. I raised a hand over my head, “Very complex? No ordinary pilot will do, and no simple mechanic will do.” Olek nodded, “Ah, yes.” He shrugged. “It is. The pilot and copilot we had to hire from elsewhere. No one from Makarovia ever learned to be a pilot. I hired men that knew how and the mechanics that knew how.” He grudged another nod. “I would love to have them be Makarovians, but Makarovians need to be taught and they will be. Eventually.” Peter nodded, “Like the miners now are being instructed to extract the ore.” Olek nodded, “That’s it. That also includes refining and processing the ore. It will take time, but we’re learning.” It wasn’t late, Peter and I weren’t tired. There were things we needed to talk about. Yuri had reported everything that happened that he knew about. Peter and I didn’t have to tell Olek some things. The news and entertainment media had done that for us. We just added more accurate detail. Montenegro didn’t release much about the political side of our visit. Montenegro didn’t, but CNN, the BBC and a plethora of other networks did. (Plethora and other words like pontificate I don’t get to use a lot) That coverage was true also for Greece and Malta. Greece and Malta didn’t report anything bad about our visit, but reporters often sensationalize. Think of it like someone explaining how the fish that was nearly caught but got away. The story grows as it’s told. What may have been a foot in length, becomes a whopper maybe six feet (two meters) long and the struggle to get from the water by net becomes an all-day battle with a fish that just wouldn’t be caught! Which version sounds better? Olek smiled, “I’ll be guessing, but I think Athens was your favorite stop.” “I love Greece,” I said again. “We saw the person,” Helga began, “that owned that bar. Pano Consentino. The angle they filmed the interview was shot made him look big.” Peter chuckled, “Yeah, well, your modern media embellish stories.” “They always do it,” I grinned, “It doesn’t seem to matter which country either.” Peter shook his head, “Pano wasn’t big.” Then he smiled brightly. “That man was huge!!” I laughed, “His bar is called Big’s Bar for several reasons. He is the Big of that bar. There’s a play on the word.” “The man is over two hundred centimeters tall!” Peter said. (Six feet, eight inches) “Hopefully,” I added, “You can see for yourself in August if they come for someone’s birthday.” “He’s the nicest guy,” Peter assured. “He and his husband Barry…” “And his father Edgar!” I added quickly. Peter nodded, “We couldn’t forget about Edgar! Or the Ouzo!” Peter and I laughed harder together. He best thing about sharing the good parts were the smiles of our family as we did. They were interested. “And we owe it all to Mom,” Peter said. Queen Alla was surprised, “Me!? Why me?” It wasn’t difficult following the logic, but he needed to say it. Peter waved toward Mario, “Because you brought him into our lives.” “Peter’s right. You brought Mario to us, and we made him family. He and his sister Maria have done for us what can never be repaid.” I looked at Mario. “I fully intend to thank your sister. A thank you card isn’t enough. I prefer to do it in person. Is she available to come here, or should we go there?” I didn’t know anything about Mario or Maria except they shared the same parents. Mario was older than Maria. Mario smiled. He didn’t do what I had complained about earlier. He didn’t minimize or divert the compliment. “I think either can happen.” “You two are close,” I stated the fact. “Can I ask how it’s possible that you two are so generous?” Mario smiled, “We are close. She is my sister, but we’re also the best of friends. She and I were sent away to bordering schools, but not the same one. We saw the family for special occasions and holidays.” He chuckled. “I went to a school for boys, and she went to an all-girls’ school. Her school was run by the Catholic Diocese, and she fell in love with the church lifestyle.” He shrugged. “My school was a sort of military school. I loved the discipline and the days’ structure where there was no question about what you were going to do or even how long it would take to get it done. Maria loved her school and from the time she was eight told everybody she was to become a nun.” He chuckled again. “It essentially came down to the same thing, a structured life that took away any guesswork.” I nodded. It made sense. Every kid that reads this will hate me, but they need that disciplined structure in their lives to give comfort and security. “She almost made it,” He laughed lightly, “Her life was turned around when she was nineteen. She met Alexi von Bar.” I smiled hearing at that. “She pretty much took the vows of celibacy and poverty from the beginning when she was still a child.” He grinned remembering something. “It made my job as her older brother a lot easier. Human-denying virtues sort of went away when she met Alexi.” Peter frowned, “But she loaned us her yacht! She had to know who we are and what we’d done.” I nodded, “Those in the Catholic Church don’t like us very much.” Mario smiled bigger, “She’s not in the Church.” “Don’t play obtuse!” I growled a little. I saw his and some other looks of confusion. “In this case, obtuse means slow and difficult to understand.” All that had looked confused now nodded with an almost audible “oh.” Mario chuckled again, “She would never presume to act for God. She doesn’t judge. Alexi’s brother is like you, and they are still close.” “Yep,” I nodded and shrugged, “We are everywhere. We just need to find one in every family and the struggle will almost be over.” It’s a sad truth, but there are many families that have one or two that are ostracized or severely repressed. I’m grateful that it didn’t happen to me or anyone in Makarovia. “He loves her,” Peter grinned. Mario nodded, “He really does. She had finished school,” he bobbed a nod, “she was in her second year at Tre Fontane Abby and was about to make her first vows leaving only one last step to being a nun.” He looked at Peter. “That you were so protective of your mother, I wasn’t offended at all. By this time our parents were dead, and I was even worse with Alexi than you were with me. I saw Maria as innocent! He was going to take that away!” “He must have proved himself to you,” Grandma said. Mario nodded, “It took a lot longer for him to prove it to me than I have with you.” Peter had a satisfied grin and nudged me, “See? I told you.” I rolled my eyes at that. “How old was she when this happen the first time?” “Six,” Mario replied. “Did she want to be sent to this school?” I asked. “Did you to yours?” He looked as if he didn’t understand the question, “There was no option to not go. We just went.” He considered something and said, “I know she cried a lot at first. I did, too, at first.” I nodded, “When you at home for a holiday or whatever; did you have parents that took care of you?” Mario shook his head, “We had nannies.” “The same ones?” I asked. Mario shrugged a nod, “Occasionally.” It was the poor little rich kid story all over again. Peter looked at me, “Why are you asking these leading questions?” “Because it explains a lot,” I said. I looked up at Mario. “Sorry, but you answered some other questions I have.” Mario smiled, “Like what?” He knew the answer but wanted to see if I did. “Were many of the teachers for her or did your teachers change?” I asked. Mario’s smile grew a little, “No.” Grandma was nodding with a smile. She knew, too. She taught me to see that! “Where was the only place Mario and Maria knew would be the same?” I asked and I answered the question. “School!!” Mom, Olek, and Helga were nodding now. “Maria and Mario transferred their feelings about home and family to their school and teachers because they wouldn’t change!” Peter just blinked and then shrugged, “Okay.” “You and I can’t empathize,” I said, “I can’t imagine doubting my mother’s, father’s, grandpa’s or grandma’s love for me. I understand it happens, but not to me.” Mario’s smile was still there, “And you did that with only a little time spent with me. The doctors I saw took weeks for them to reach the same conclusion.” “One-hour sessions once a week aren’t enough,” I said. Looking at Peter I said, “It’s obvious!” I waved at Mario. “The path to this is big enough to drive an eighteen-wheeler through.” The only one to smile was grandma. She’d spoken English quite a while now and knew what I meant. Peter grinned at everyone and said quietly, “He’s teaching me some Southern Proverbs.” He looked at Mom. “I know you don’t just play around, but is there a wedding in the future?” I swatted his arm, “Peter!?” He couldn’t have just asked that, but I know he did. I was appalled! That just wasn’t done. Peter didn’t back down at all and looked at me and pointed at me closely, “You know it, too!” He looked at Mario and pointed to me with his thumb. “You know what he called her the whole time? Our future step-aunt!” Then he looked at me at nodded a quick, so there nod. He looked back at them. “Don’t tell me you haven’t even discussed the possibility.” Mom looked a bit embarrassed, but Mario grinned. “It’s been discussed. The question was asked and a yes given,” Mario said looking at Mom. “Okay,” Olek said. “When’s the wedding?” Queen Alla was more embarrassed, “We had your wedding, Peter and now Olek’s and Helga’s wedding…” mezitli escort “Mom!” Peter said in a whine as every child, no matter the country or language, knows how to do. It’s high at the beginning, drops in pitch and then rises again and lasts longer than necessary. “Stop doing this!” He looked at me. “She’s always doing this,” He said quieter to me. He got up and knelt in front of her. “You consider everybody else before you.” He shook his head. “That’s made you a great Queen, but this once; you need to think of yourself.” “And poor Mario!” I added with a smile looking at Mario, “You’re tormenting the man! It’s written all over his face.” It was the opposite. He knew what he had and showed the patience of a saint. Peter nodded, “Yes, the true torment comes later.” He chuckled. I discovered another reason for the fluffy pillows on sofas. I hit him harmlessly in the head. “There’s always going to be something on the horizon,” Peter said. “After the wedding tomorrow, I would like a day you would like or at least a season!” He rose and said quietly. “Yes,” he said, “He isn’t Dad, but Dad’s gone. I know he would want this for you.” I watched as Mom’s eyes watered again. The gunk she used still didn’t cause anything to run. “It doesn’t matter if we approve,” he added, “or don’t approve, but just in case. I do approve.” I got up and stood with Peter, “We approve.” “Me, too.” Olek said, “if anyone’s asking.” Now the tears came unstopped by Mom. “And Olek,” Peter began smiling, “I can’t even begin to tell you how much I recommend it.” “Marriage,” Olek clarified to make sure the subject of our discussion was the same. He was pleased that Peter was happy. Peter put his arm around me, “When it’s right, it makes other things make sense. Eric for me, Helga with you,” Peter looked again at his mother, “and Mario for you. It’s wonderful. You need wonderful in your lives.” Mom got up and hugged Peter. The other two ladies were also crying. It was a that’s so sweet kind of crying. That was a good cry. I heard another sob come from behind us. Turning, I saw Boris comforting Yuri. Mr. Tough Guy had been touched by the emotions here at play. Mario got up and produced what I’d heard of in the past, but hardly ever saw. A handkerchief. These days, the threat contamination with germs and disease after disease, they weren’t used anymore. It looked a near blinding white as he gave it to Mom. “Okay,” Mom began, cleared her throat and went on. “I would love Autumn. And…” she touched Peter’s arm, “Understand when I say this; I don’t want to marry Mario here.” Peter’s brow wrinkled a bit, “Okay.” “I love Makarovia,” Mom said. “There are so many reminders about your father here.” “Is that bad?” Peter asked. “No,” Mom said softly, “Not at all, but I want to make vows where I’m not reminded of Olek, your father.” Mario rose to stand next to Mom. “I’ll want my focus on Mario,” she said. “I want to do it in Boston.” She looked in Peter’s eyes, “Do you understand? I can never forget your father and I wouldn’t want to.” Peter nodded and hugged his mother. This situation was unique. Mom was including Mario as family. I wasn’t sure yet, but he wasn’t marrying Mom and becoming a member of the royal family. If anything, he would marry her and helping Mom out of the royal family. (A short history review: Olek the first made mom Queen Consort by marriage. She became Queen Regnant when Olek the first died. Olek the second hadn’t finished school yet. She took control and she was the ruler. When Olek II did assume the throne, she stepped back, but she never backed down. To Makarovians, she was Queen.) Mario was helping her get distance from the family. She would become a Basso. The people won’t let her leave. Would they award him a title? I don’t know. I don’t have to remind you how well I received all of mine. There were all these rules! I love rules. You know that. Rules prevent problems and chaos. Mom was a queen that should have stepped down. She was a queen dowager. If any Makarovian were asked, she was Queen! When Olek II took the throne, Mom let go of some things. Olek II took the governing of Makarovia and business. Queen Alla kept control of the education and health needs of Makarovia. The two made a great team and did very well. If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. Helga would be Queen soon. I remember some discomfort with the idea of two queens voiced by Helga. I couldn’t believe there would be problems. This wasn’t a typical royal family. Makarovia wasn’t a typical people or country. “When do you think we can meet Aunt Maria?” I asked Mario. Olek had a few things to do with some people, so he went to take care of that. Mario told us he’d call his sister and a date would be agreed on. Mario and Mom were now speaking more privately. Helga walked off with my grandmother. All promised to meet before dinner. Yuri was getting his emotions in check and looked a little embarrassed as Boris was comforting him less. I often teased people and I did often with Yuri and Boris. You know how I feel about emotions. I touched his shoulder. “Please tell me,” I said softly to him, “you aren’t ashamed to show emotion.” Yuri looked more embarrassed. “Well…” “Yuri!” I said kindly. “You felt something deep enough to bring tears. The toughest men can do that. There’s nothing wrong with it.” “Maybe,” Yuri chuckled, “but I’m glad my men weren’t here.” Peter chuckled, “You’re safe. None of them were here.” I nodded, “Nothing but the family here, your tough man persona is safe for another day.” “Are you okay?” Boris asked and Yuri nodded. Boris kissed Yuri quickly and stood up. “Good, I want to check out what they’re preparing for dinner. Henri has all of us spoiled.” We watched Boris do a quick trot toward the kitchen. Peter grinned, “At least our family doesn’t change much. Somethings are consistent.” I agreed. “I feel secure.” We made sure Yuri was really alright. It was a few hours before dinner and it wasn’t fair, I know, but our luggage was brought up to us. We had been gone for two weeks. Peter nor I traveled with excess luggage. Almost everything had been washed once since we got on the Duchess. Who needs more than a week of clothes? We both had some dressier clothes just in case but didn’t wear them. They were hung up for us and you know I had issues with that help in the beginning. If someone else put them away, how would I know where anything was? Clothes that we’d worn were being laundered and put away. I got over it with Boris, but I didn’t know who was doing it now. It was like fighting the tide! So, I stopped resisting. For the first time in two weeks, Peter and I didn’t have to do anything or have to be anywhere. “Let’s find an Aussie Footy game on!” Peter announced as he led me upstairs. We knew the networks and we had access to them, so why not? I wasn’t worried about having created a monster fan. It was new for Peter and therefore more enticing. The rooms we used looked just like before. Neat and clean, but untouched. It was vacuumed and dusted, but that’s all. This could be dangerous, too. If I let it be. I would make sure to thank those I saw and look for those who had. I didn’t want to get so used to it; it was just expected. I thanked Boris and Yuri all the time. I was confident the royals not raised in that life did. I hoped. I watched Peter come in, pick up the remote, turn the television on and threw himself across the couch in one move. I grinned at what I saw and chuckled, “I guess the honeymoon is over.” Peter looked up shocked, “You have to be joking.” He rose up and came to me. “Our honeymoon is not over.” He pulled me closer. “And will never be.” He kissed me gently. “We love each other.” “Yes,” I nodded. “We do. This is what I wanted all along.” “What?” I waved between us, “To be so comfortable with someone. What you just did was proof of that.” “We have that.” We did finally find a game to watch eventually. It was during a bathroom break for Peter I heard, “Oh, my God!!” Not knowing what was wrong, I raced into the bathroom. We never even shut the door to simply piss. I saw Peter looking at the readout of our bathroom scale. I breathed a little easier as I smiled. “I gained almost six and a half kilograms!!” Peter said horrified pointing at the scale. Why did we have to be different in the United States? I did a fast conversion. “Fourteen pounds.” I nodded and waved him back. “It’s my turn.” I stepped on the scale and frowned at what I saw. “You only gained five point four kilograms,” Peter complained. I smirked at him, “Well, it may only be twelve pounds, but it might please you to remember; you’re four to five inches taller than I am. Meaning, I gained more than you did.” I stepped off the scale. Peter smiled walking with me back to the sofa, “We can skip a meal or two.” I shook my head, “That isn’t a good diet plan and often backfires. We’ll just increase our activity.” I grinned. “I’m with Cosmo, I want food.” We came down to the room we gathered in before dinner. There was no rush to be there at a particular minute as Henri insisted on. As the family gathered, Olek smiled. “I know you two will want details about tomorrow.” “Tomorrow will be a marriage,” Helga began, “Not a wedding.” Olek nodded, “To give a legal base for what will come afterward.” He took her hand. “We fully intend to follow the customs and traditions of Makarovia,” he smiled, “with a slight twist. There will be a proposal and the year to honor promises. At the beginning of that year, Helga will be engaged to all Makarovians.” “But she will already be your wife,” Peter said to be sure he understood. “Yes,” Olek nodded, “My wife, but not Queen.” He held a finger up to prevent anything from being said. “She will be Queen, but not tomorrow. The people need to hear the proposal and a year later voted in as their Queen.” “The people will have the option to keep me and make me Queen or reject me and I will just be Olek’s wife.” Helga agreed and touched her mid-section. “Our child will be born to parents who are married to each other.” Olek smiled, “We still need witnesses to sign the license.” He looked at Peter and me, “I want you two to be witnesses,” he turned to Mom, “And you and Mario.” “Boy!” I marveled, “This is an odd family. We’re all going to be on each other’s marriage licenses!” “The announcement about what’s being done will go out Friday,” Olek said. “Olek insists on being totally honest and forthcoming,” Helga added. That did make sense. Was it necessary? No. There were many children born to parents that weren’t married. There were children born to members of royal families that were born outside of marriage. There were a few current royals with children by people they weren’t married to, but I didn’t know of a woman, who was pregnant with a king’s child where it would be publicly and honestly admitted to the world. Makarovians should be fine and the rest of the world…who cared? It showed that Makarovia and King Olek were honest. The dinner wasn’t seafood this time. It was good. Makarovia was a melting pot and there were influences from several countries. The chicken dish that night was a Slovakian by way of Romania and Hungary. The Slovak part savory, the Romanian part added the tomatoes and the Hungarian part made it tangy. Helga looked very happy, but I wondered if she had a family. She didn’t really talk about anyone that was family. I knew she had an ex-husband but was her father or mother still in the picture? Siblings? And how did you ask questions like that? Unlike Peter, I didn’t dare ask a question that personal. Olek would know if anyone would. It was another thing that had changed. It wasn’t a bad change, but Olek and Peter were almost too honest with each other. If being too honest is possible. Helga wasn’t offended or upset when Olek had shared some things more personal with Peter. She voiced it in surprise a while back at the beginning of their relationship. Helga must have said not to talk about it or there was nothing to talk about. One of the reasons the Ivanovs and I got along so well was the honesty. There weren’t many secrets if any. No hidden agendas. I often heard Olek and Mom say, “most of Makarovia” when talking about the people supporting their King and Kingdom. “You usually preface…” I stopped and smiled. I wasn’t a know-it-all. My mother, grandpa, and grandma never talked down to me. We were all speaking English to keep Mario in the conversation. Mario’s English was lacking only on a few things, like my Makarovian. I think English was the stronger of the languages he spoke other than Italian, “you often begin statements when explaining support with a qualifying word, such as most or a majority.” I said tentatively. “Is there opposition in Makarovia?” Olek frowned a little, but nodded, “Of course.” Then he smiled patiently. “They are Human Beings. Not everyone is going to agree on everything.” Mom used her napkin and looked up, “If I may, being cut off from the world helped with that.” She thought before she went on. “As bad as the Soviets were with their economy or with power, there were some that saw the Soviets as a lifeline. It was better that what we were left with…” “Which was nothing,” Olek grumbled. He looked at Mom knowing he interrupted. “Sorry.” Mom just smiled, “Which was nothing.” My mind latched on a lesson learned much earlier, but not by my grandparents or parents. I nodded, “The Israelites.” Again, I got unsure stares. It could be the language, so I said it in Makarovian. “Izrayilʹtyany? I think that’s how to pronounce it here.” No lights came on in their eyes. “The Old Testament? The Exodus?” Still nothing. No, they weren’t Bible-thumping religious zealots, but I couldn’t imagine they didn’t know the story or at least saw the movie The Ten Commandments. “They were slaves in Egypt four or five thousand years ago. Freed by Moses and led into the desert.” I saw Grandma nod. She got what I was saying. “It famous! They made a movie about it with Charlton Heston as Moses! The parting of the Red Sea?” I pressed on. “They were stranded in the desert with no food or water, and they said it was better if they remained slaves rather than to die of hunger and thirst in the desert. The Egyptians were their lifeline like the Soviets were to Makarovia.” I saw the nods of comprehension. Turning to Peter I asked. “You went to Sunday School, didn’t you?” Peter chuckled and shook his head, “I must have missed a few Sundays. I didn’t make the connection until you explained it.” Mom nodded with a growing smile, “The hard life and isolation kept any voice of opposition quiet. With as many refugees in hiding or just laying low, the opposition stayed hidden. Most all of Makarovia supports what we’ve done and will do. They are quite vocal.” Olek nodded, “Most discussion against us is met with disapproval by the majority.” “But there was disapproval,” I said to be sure. “If only the immorality issue?” Mom shook her head, “Not really,” she stated, “You saw the crowds in the streets and many supporters that were rallying about you.” “They know the family’s stance pozcu escort about that,” Olek said. “Having almost half of the population like you, in a same-gender marriage; they know and loved many that are.” He shrugged, “They can be reasoned with.” “When we used the same reasons to them as we did with President and Vice-President of the United States,” Mom said. “It is far too common not to be completely natural.” She looked at Olek and Helga. “The same can be said about you two. The pregnancy is ahead of schedule but definitely wanted. It isn’t a mistake.” “I do not know of many couples that don’t do what you have,” Grandma said. “Some, I’m sure did wait until the wedding night, but most don’t. Sex is what we’re made to do.” I nodded, “Only the fear of pregnancy and adding beliefs is the cause delays and the impatience of waiting.” “Is there opposition?” Olek repeated, “There may be hundred or more that don’t like it. Most of the opposition did the opposite of what a lot of people did. They left.” He smiled, “That’s why I want to be honest. Telling the people the truth will tell people that we’re Human and make…” he thought, “errors in judgment, but we face the consequences.” I nodded, “I agree.” Olek grinned and almost quoted, “If anyone is without sin be the one to throw the stone.” He nodded at me. “I paid attention in Sunday School.” He said proudly. Quoting anything in a language you didn’t learn it in was not always easy. I grinned back, “Yes, you did.” Mom smiled, “The truth is…” she looked a little guilty, “I insisted the teachers in the schools teach what can be proven. It has to be backed by evidence. Not what’s believed based in faith. If it’s taught in the classroom, there must be evidence.” I was so stunned by this; I dropped my fork. I know my mouth dropped open. “There is evidence that supports evolution and the origin of species…” Mom went on quickly. She worried that I was offended. “Ha!” I said triumphantly pointing at her, “I absolutely agree!!” Peter grimaced, “Uh, oh. Here he goes again.” I turned and looked at Peter, “Well, it pisses me off!” I waved my hands I futility. “I am supposed to accept God created the world, fine. Leave it there. Don’t tell me it was in six days and tell me how when the evidence says otherwise!” I took only a short breath, “and it should piss you off! There is a timeline given. Six days.” I shook my head, “And don’t feed me that how long was a day crap. It wasn’t a parable either. The sun rises, sets, and then rises again. That is one day. And what was Adam? Cro-Magnon? Homo-erectus? But that means he had parents and grandparents! Hell, those brainiacs debated whether he had a belly button! Who cares?” They were looking at me uncertainly. Peter took my hand, “He’ll be okay.” He assured them mockingly quiet. “And they have the nerve to say we’re going to Hell?” I fumed. “We have evidence in bones and even DNA! That doesn’t lie!” Mario looked cautiously, “So, you don’t believe in God?” “Oh, no! I absolutely do!” I said urgently, “I’ve looked at the vast Universe by telescopes. I’ve looked closely at life, close up and in as much detail as possible by microscopes. The complexity is so far beyond my comprehension. Mutation and random selection can’t explain it all.” I shrugged, “I can’t understand how anyone can see these marvels and not believe in the miraculous. I just don’t know what He is.” I shook my head, “We ask questions.” I smiled. “A friend of mine and I spoke and discussed the other creatures with intelligence in the world. Other primates can communicate by signs, dolphins, and whales, but we do the one thing none of them do. We ask questions.” There were smiles now at the table. “Has any of the others asked questions such as Who am I? Looked at the sun and asked, What is that thing?” I shrugged, “We devoted millennia to answer that question and came up with gods and myths to explain it. We want to know. If some of the groups want to pull the morality card,” I shook my head, “What did God say about it? The commandments don’t include same-sex relationships. There are many commandments they break daily and don’t fear Hell. Why ours? Show me, don’t just tell me!” I was gaining momentum and speaking a lot faster. Olek was smiling and leaned toward Peter and asked in a loud whisper, “Is he always this passionate?” “Yes.” Peter simply said and nodded. I wasn’t finished, “The Biblical writings are an excellent record of history,” I said, “but the old man with the flowing white beard is as fictional as Greek and Roman myths. There is no Kool-Aid and cookie god!” I smiled and pointed up. “I tell Him all the time. I don’t know what you are. Tell me. I want to know. The more answers I get, the more questions there are. Something or someone started all this and is holding a pattern.” I sat back. “Evidence tells us we shouldn’t be here. Random chance and events took away other longer-lived species…” Peter took my hand, “You’re a preechin’ to the choir, honey.” Grandma burst out laughing. She knew. Okay, if I could do what Peter did without thinking about it, my eyebrow would be in my hairline. His imitation of a Southern drawl was damned good. The others at the table didn’t get it. “That means,” Peter began to explain, “like the choir is always behind preachers, we are Eric’s choir and behind him…in support.” Again, there were the nods and “oh’s” as they understood. “I’m sorry,” I chuckled, “Once I get started it’s hard to stop. It’s like rolling downhill, I lose some control.” Mom was now laughing as others understood, “That’s quite alright. I did insist any statement taught as fact have backing in evidence.” “And the Eastern Orthodox and Russian Orthodox churches?” I asked. Olek nodded, “When confronted and asked where God says anything, they simply point to the Commandment about adultery.” He shrugged, “Let them marry and that will solve the problem.” He shook his head, “They back off. Science helps with that. We show them evidence.” “I only know a few couples who obeyed that commandment,” Grandma said. I nodded, “And don’t tell me what the book of Leviticus says. Or what the Apostle Paul wrote to Rome or Corinth. He was biased. Not just about us, but to women!” Peter touched me again and did the eye search again, “There has to be somewhere you keep all this.” I swatted him off lightly, “Stop it. It’s just there.” I pointed at Grandma, “Grandpa was the one who started this.” Grandma nodded, “He did.” She laughed lightly. “Eric was born curious. Almost as soon as Eric could talk, he began asking why.” “I wanted to know!” I said not offended. “His grandfather, God bless him,” She smiled. “Eric would follow Theodore everywhere asking why again and again, and his grandfather wasn’t bothered a bit. He answered all of Eric’s questions.” I leaned in toward Peter, “He was my first browser before I knew about the internet.” Mom smiled, “It sounds a lot like another little boy I knew.” You know she was looking at Peter. Yuri cleared his throat. He was free to talk, but… “The small amount of Makarovians may have more time. With the new power generators going they have enough power.” He looked at Olek and Helga, “They should have no problem backing your marriage. There were a few unplanned pregnancies in the past. Human morals didn’t change. In a couple of cases, it even happened to some who were then trapped together during the snow and ice for three weeks.” Boris chuckled and shrugged, “If you’re stuck like that, make sure you have options about what to do.” Yuri smiled but continued what he wanted to say, “I’ve seen some cargo manifests of items imported. There are quite a few televisions and a few personal computers and modems. It won’t be long before they’re surfing the web and channels like professionals.” Olek nodded, “I hope so.” “Yes,” Yuri agreed. “But there are dangers on the Internet they will not be ready for.” “We can’t restrict what comes in,” Peter said. “There can’t be any censorship.” Yuri was again nodding, “I hate using this as an example,” Yuri sighed, “but it’s like they are all twelve or thirteen-year boys, going through puberty and given unlimited access and a full bottle of lubrication and uninterrupted porn!” “That could be a phase,” Mom said hopefully. “They outgrow it.” Yuri frowned, “Yes, but I’m not just talking about porn,” he struggled to explain. “There are groups out there that Makarovia won’t be ready for, religious groups, racial supremacy groups from Neo-Nazis to Skinheads. Scam artists promising wealth to them if they send personal information and bank account access. Dating sites and scammers that prey on people there…” “That happens in the United States and other free countries,” I said. “Yes,” Yuri agreed, “but we’re talking about millions of people here that are ripe for the picking.” “He’s right,” I said sadly. “A lot of this country’s charm is the innocence and naivety.” I shrugged, “They can’t understand.” I looked up at Olek. “How many computers are out now in Makarovia?” Olek pondered a moment, “I can look on our server and get the number. There were a few hundred, not counting any businesses that use them. Most are in Stryia and Skoal.” “We will offer them instruction to the Worldwide Network,” I suggested. “Show them how to use a personal computer and how to access things on the internet and warn them of the dangers.” Olek frowned and offered, “I could make it a requirement.” I gave a shrug, a nod and a skeptical and long, “Weeeell,” I shook my head. “The people here aren’t stupid. Far from it, but they need to be warned. If they fall into a scam they don’t know about…they do it because they don’t know.” I raised that finger again, “but ignorance goes away with knowledge. We will offer that knowledge.” Olek nodded, “We at least have a plan.” Peter had been joking the whole evening, until now. “The things you know,” Peter said in a quieter voice. “It’s impressive.” “Thank you,” I said, “As I said before, I remember topics and discussions of things that interest me.” I shrugged. “This life and any eternity would definitely be interesting.” Peter nodded and chuckled, “I suppose it would be.” He looked at me cautiously. “I doubt.” He confessed. “Those years when I had those…” He waved a hand near his face, “things all over. I didn’t believe at all.” I nodded but waited. So, I asked, “And?” Peter looked hesitantly, “I’m still not sure.” I waited again, but he seemed frozen. Clearly, I was expected to react. “Peter, what magic is there in whether you do or don’t believe?” I did a quick jester up pointed to the heavens. “Has the status of any God changed because of it?” I smiled and answered my question. “No. He is, or He isn’t hasn’t changed. He knows what I think. I’m honest with Him. I’ve said what I believe and my doubts, but I have to believe we’re more than animals who know we’re animals. I choose to believe.” I chuckled, “If he does exist, I’m covered. If he doesn’t exist it doesn’t matter.” I sat back a little, “Should I have said the marriage is over because you might not believe?” Peter’s eyes widened, “No!” I took his hand, “Good. ” I kissed him gently. “Tell me briefly what you know about the origins of the universe.” I saw his eyes grow. “No specifics, just a generalization.” Peter still looked a little shocked. “There was a large explosion billions of years ago…” “Stop right there,” I smiled, “Everything has a beginning. Who told you about this explosion? Or what it’s called in many countries, the Big Bang.” “No one person said that,” Peter explained, “It’s pretty accepted. Some of those really smart space guys said it.” “Space guys?” I repeated laughing. “Could you be a little more specific?” “Physicists, Astrophysicists, Astronomers,” He said, “space guys like that.” “You know how much I love math,” I grinned. Peter nodded immediately with a chuckle, “Yes, I do.” “No one saw it happen,” I said. “How do they know?” Peter shrugged, “I assume they see the evidence and reasoned it out using rules to determine what the evidence means.” “You know how I feel about rules,” I saw his eyes roll. “They just make these rules up, right?” “No,” Peter stated, “They follow rules that are there!” I nodded, “If you come to a structure with holes in it and some heavy good-sized round metals balls. What do you think happened?” “There was a conflict or war,” Peter said. “It was struck by cannon fire.” “But it happened two hundred years prior.” I reasoned, “No one alive saw it or even wrote it down. How do you know?” Peter nodded, “I see the evidence.” He pointed at me. “There is evidence of the bang. I get it.” “What caused the bang?” I asked. “They say that was thirteen point seven billion years ago.” I raised my hands helplessly. “Not thirteen, not fourteen, but thirteen point seven,” I shook the finger at him. “I’ll go even further with it! What was there a billion years before the bang?” “No one knows that!” Peter blurted attracting some stares. I patted his hand and looked at those stares, “He’ll be fine.” I got smiles and even a chuckle from Olek. I turned back at Peter. “We may not be the only bang, but one in a series of bangs and will continue after this universe ends.” I sighed, “Some of those really smart space guys have theories, but does it matter? We won’t even be a memory by then. Our solar system will be long gone before that. I don’t know! Talk about beliefs, creating these trillions upon trillions of stars in the many countless galaxies. Something is in control.” “Wow,” Peter said. “As I said,” I shrugged, “It doesn’t matter.” I kissed him lightly. I didn’t think making out at the table would be wise. “Because I love you here and now.”” Peter smiled, “I know. I love you, too.” I smiled, “I know.” I grinned, “It’s about to become gooey and sticky philosophically.” I watched him grin back and roll his eyes away. “Just bear with me,” I asked with a pat on his chest. “Life is a journey. We all make choices on the path we take. That includes any spiritual journey you take. I choose one with hope. The outcome will be the same.” Peter gave a nod, “Hum. You’re right. That was gooey and sticky.” We got our phone call from Mikell. He texted us and we asked for ten minutes to go back to our rooms. Then the time was up, our computer and phones were beeping. I wondered if we could have a system like was on the Duchess. I’d have to ask. The computer monitor came up and…I wasn’t surprised, but I have to say I didn’t expect images so…rough. Cosmo looked terrible. He’d been stabbed, so he would look terrible. Anyone who has been or had somebody in the hospital knows you recovered from injury, surgery, and severe illness, but you get well at home. Cosmo was sitting up now. Hospital clothing was standard, and he wore one of those unattractive gowns. He was unshaven and his beard was dark, except at the corners of his mouth, seeming to drip white in lines down to his chin and covered the bottom of his chin. The rest was dark hair. It gave him character. His hair had been washed, with soap. It looked scruffy. Mikell had shaved but wasn’t that well-groomed. He’d escort bayan combed his hair, sometime earlier that morning. Hair hung loosely over his forehead giving him a more youthful appearance. I smiled, thinking of Mercea and sort of felt a little envy. Mikell was a good-looking man. So was Mercea. The beginning of a relationship was almost magical. No, I wasn’t exactly sexually interested in either of them. They were attractive and did what people did. They attract attention from others in their species. I’ll also be honest and say men seemed to get better looking as they age. It’s true! They do. Some may not know how to dress or groom themselves; they might be overweight and out of shape. Or! They don’t consider it important and don’t bother. We’re talking about the birds and the bees, and talking about birds, for example? The female is often dull and unattractive, while he has the fancy-colored fathers and even does dances to impress her. She makes the decision to accept or reject him. Eggs are laid and I saw scientific evidence that the male, working hard to provide and not one of the eggs are his. The homely slut. Yes, genetic diversity and all that. The right one shook his tail feathers at me and here we are. The lion, the male kills and protects territory, but the female hunts… (I know, I’m doing it again.) Where was I? Oh, yes, the most attractive in our species are men. I’m gay. Just a reminder. Like a fine wine as it ages or good cheese. Who am I kidding? The males of our species are beautiful at many times of life. I was looking forward to seeing how Peter would turn out in his thirties, forties, fifties, and sixties! He’ll just get better looking. Olek was very handsome. I mean both of them. Olek the first had pictures with Mom. He was very good looking. Olek the second took much of those good looks and used them. Peter had them, too, but really took after his mother. The fair skin? “I suspect you are home,” Mikell smiled. He could wall of stone behind us and some furnishing. “We are,” Peter nodded. “I see they have you sitting up, Cosmo.” He nodded scratching his ear and a hand over his hairy face, “I know I look like shit.” If I went without shaving more than a day or two, the itch drove me crazy. I chuckled shaking my head, “You are so wrong. This is better than seeing you in a coffin. You’ve looked better and will again.” Mikell gestured with a jerk of his head at Cosmo. “They got him up today and had him walk about the floor.” I nodded, but Peter looked concerned, “So soon?” “Sure,” I said and began counting off the reasons, “To improve circulation to prevent blood clots from forming and strokes, preventing congestion in the lungs. It even helps with digestion.” I turned Peter’s surprised expression and held my hand up, “I learned all that from experience with Dad, Grandpa, and Mom.” Peter nodded and smiled sympathetically, but turned to the monitor, “Did you do well walking?” “I walked like I was ninety years old,” he answered, “I had to use a walker.” “They didn’t want you to fall,” I simply stated logically. “It took fifteen minutes to go down the short hall,” Cosmo complained. “Stiff muscles and joints?” I asked knowing the truth and he nodded. “There’s another reason to get you up!” “Did they feed you?” Peter asked. Cosmo huffed, “Not enough to fill a klop.” I’d never heard or used it, so I looked at Peter. “He means those little creatures,” Peter provided putting fingers to stick up and waved them, “Antennas? Komakha or pomylka.” I knew the word for an insect. “He had a good amount at dinner,” Mikell stated. “And it was barely edible,” Cosmo grumbled. That seemed to be universal, too. Hospital food was always complained about, and the country didn’t matter. “So,” I smiled, “do as instructed so you can come home. We promise to feed you.” “Did they give you a time frame?” Peter asked. Mikell nodded, “They said a week to ten days.” He shrugged, “It could have been sooner, but…” He looked at Cosmo. “He could be released to family. Cosmo lives alone.” Peter looked surprised, “And what are we?” I nodded, “He needs a caregiver.” “I’ll ask again,” Peter said. “What are we? Mikell has the authority to speak for Cosmo if Cosmo can’t.” He smiled, “If possible, Cosmo can be released to us.” I grinned, “Meaning he will stay here at the palace.” I nodded, “until you can live on your own.” Cosmo frowned, “That’s not neces…” “It is necessary!” I said firmly. “Even with a roommate you can fall or have complications. I will be one of those caregivers…” “So will I,” Peter added. “I’m sure Alec, Rolph, Mercea, and Mikell will do it, too,” I said. “We’re a team and will remain a team.” “And there’s one other thing,” Mikell began, and Cosmo said something I couldn’t make out. Mikell turned to Cosmo, “They need to know everything, Cos.” The shortened and casual way of saying Cosmo’s name couldn’t hide the serious tone about a serious subject. Mikell nodded at what else Cosmo said, “Yes, but they need to be told.” He pointed at us on the screen. “When the doctors know for sure, we’ll tell the other guys. Okay?” He turned and looked at the screen. “They suspect a partial interruption of the spinal nerve.” “But he walked,” Peter said waving at Cosmo. He waved at the screen, “His feet are moving. I can see them move under the sheet.” Mikell nodded, “He did walk,” Mikell sighed, “with a lot of difficulties. The movement in his feet, most of the time, he isn’t in control. They are waiting for the swelling to lessen and see if it clears up.” “He was stabbed in the front!” Peter said to reason it out. I nodded, “But the length of that knife or sword was long. He was stabbed straight in; it could have damaged the spine.” Mikell nodded, “He does have limited sensation in his legs and feet. The doctor said it was as if his brain, his computer, is trying to reboot the old connections. They hope with time and physical therapy he’ll gain it back.” “There is no question about it,” I said. “You’re coming here.” Peter nodded, “We’ll have Olek and Yuri call tomorrow. It will work out.” I grinned, “And don’t be thinking you’ll have it easy at the palace.” Peter nodded, “Not with Eric here.” “If they say two hours of therapy, you’ll have two hours of therapy.” I smiled. “When they say how much exercise you need, you’ll do it.” Cosmo wouldn’t look at us, but was smiling, “Thank you.” “No,” I said, “Thank you. You did it for us. They demanded someone tell them where we were and threatened others to get it. Many people should thank you.” “We’ll do what’s needed to get you back,” Peter promised. After the conversation, I thought about what may have to do. The fact Cosmo had sensation in his feet told the connection wasn’t severed. “Nerves don’t heal, right?” Peter asked. I shook my head, “No.” I looked at Peter, “This is the fun part.” That, you know, was sarcasm. Nothing about this situation was fun or funny. “He does have a connection from his brain to his feet. We will have to wait. His computer,” I tapped my head, “is trying to connect the connections it knows were there.” I shrugged, “No one can say tell us if there is a pinching of the spinal cord. If the swelling goes down and it is these pinch returns to normal, that would be great.” I said happily. “And if it’s more?” Peter asked. “We do all we can to be sure he has every opportunity to get it back,” I said. “He did it for us. We’re not abandoning him.” Peter grinned, “I suppose you know the physical therapy needed.” I shook my head, “Not really. I have seen some, but a therapist will know what needs to be concentrated on.” I smiled, “In fact, I bet there may be a few in Edmond’s and David’s collective group. They brought…everything. They couldn’t do without them.” I turned to him. “I never asked this. What are the medical costs for Makarovians here?” Peter’s head did the back-up thing, “Costs?” He thought a second. “Really, there hasn’t been much to do.” He shrugged, “A person who becomes ill gets to a medical facility if they can. Injuries are usually dealt with on-site.” He frowned again. “If it happens during isolation because of the weather…” he gave a reluctant one-sided shrug, “well, they often don’t make it. People are often warned about the hazards of living alone.” “There are things that can’t be guessed about,” I said, “Like apendystyt.” I lucked out using that word in Makarovian. It was the word for the appendix. I don’t remember hearing it in Makarovian. I hadn’t used it in Ukrainian or Russian. Most bodily parts and procedures were based in Latin. It paid off. “Sure,” Peter replied and looked at me a little smugly. “Didn’t you know it can be treated without surgery? Most Makarovians know that.” I rolled my eyes away and grunted, “Yes, but it’s not easy. Intravenous fluids and antibiotics…” “But we know it can,” Peter grudgingly nodded, “It’s dangerous and not always successful.” He paused as was about to explain, “I can’t believe I’m telling you about a medical condition and treatment.” He looked at me. “You know what happens if it bursts.” “Infection,” I simply replied. “Those toxic fluids go in your abdomen, and it gets infected.” “Yes,” Peter said firmly, “Now this one of the reasons why you shouldn’t live alone. Whoever is with you has to make you drink water.” He waved, “I mean liters and liters of water. What remains of the time will be resting or walking around. That means about thirty liters a day.” “Ten gallons!?” I was confirming my math. “A day.” I saw Peter nod. “That leads to water poisoning or intoxication!” Peter thought a moment and then nodded. “That does describe what you feel when you do it.” “That can kill you!” I said. “Yes!” Peter nodded, “Water intoxication might kill you, but those toxins left untreated will kill you.” He grinned. “I bet you even know why.” I grudged a nod, “It’s not hard. That’s pure science,” I said thinking, “That’s a lot of water in a short period of time. The body can only hold a set amount. The kidneys stop working hard as the electrolytes can’t carry it all.” I shrugged. “Pissing doesn’t help the volume. The body can piss about a liter. The water has to go somewhere.” I smiled as the answer was coming to me. “It would be stored in the blood.” Peter nodded again, “You get another A!” He grinned, “We refer to it as washing out.” Again, I gave a grudging nod, “That is what you want to do. It also was stored in the abdomen and intestines.” “You are getting washed,” he held his hands out helplessly, “from the inside.” Then I sighed frustrated, “Fine, that’s survival medicine, but that didn’t answer the question.” I leaned close to him my hands went down his chest, my left hand rested on his lower right side over his hip. Right over the spot. “I know your body better than I know my own. I have seen the appendectomy scar. That had to be in Makarovia.” I stated. “You never left this room.” Peter’s smile grew, “Not everyone has trouble getting help.” He chuckled, “Do you want to see the scar now?” “Sure!” This time was different than the other times. There were many, many times and each one was over the top good. We often made love slowly, but not this time. This was the wham, whir, thank you, sir kind of sex. Leaving us satisfied and panting. I love all of them. “That…” Peter panted, “was incredible.” I chuckled rolled so I could look in his eyes, “It was.” I hit the mattress. “I got used to a round bed.” Peter chuckled. “I’m sure there is one somewhere.” He rolled us so he was on top. “I thought you liked this bed.” “I do!” I said, “I just got used to the other one. We’re still breaking this one in.” I scowled at him, “Now, answer that question!” “Oh, yeah, I never answered that,” Peter said. “You know Mom went to some many countries for help with immunizations and even dental checkups.” I nodded. “Most serious conditions are sent to Ukraine or elsewhere.” There are a few doctors in Makarovia. All were general practitioners. “The equipment is a little dated. If they must go to a more sophisticated hospital, Makarovian picks up the cost.” He looked serious a moment. “General health is covered by taxes and they have appointments in the years.” He shrugged, “If someone needs a specialist, he or she goes to the Ukraine or Romania, even Hungary.” “Preventing illness,” I agreed, “There is no insurance.” “Not as such,” I sighed, “Casualties in the mines when in the service.” Peter nodded, “Medical coverage is the most expensive with taxes. Almost half of it is for that.” “Universal healthcare.” He nodded again. “No real expense. If you work here a while, you’re covered by as you pay taxes.” “No newcomers with underlying conditions?” I asked. Peter shook his head, “We don’t really get them here. They won’t get treated here.” He looked a bit sad. “There are flaws…” “Stop it,” I said. “When you were part of the Soviet Union, the cost was covered by the government.” “True,” Peter nodded. Where was I going with this? Oh, yes, Cosmo. “Do you think Olek will object to having Cosmo here?” “Of course not!” Peter said quickly, “Cosmo can stay until he recovers and comes back to work. He was doing the job for us. All his expenses will be covered.” “I thought so,” I said. “In the past, there were protest groups in the United States about a war in Viet Nam.” I frowned, “Men who obeyed the law when they were drafted. They booed when they came back and called names such as baby killers and murderers.” I shook my head, “We consequently learned a lesson and are ashamed for how we acted. By the time of Desert Storm, we learned to be grateful and thanked the military for their sacrifice.” I looked off, “Where was I going with this?” Cosmo. “Right, Cosmo.” Peter chuckled, “You have so much going, on in that head of yours; it’s miracle you can keep track of the thoughts!” “He was injured doing a job for us,” I shook my head, “not just for Makarovia or the King, but for us. Personally. We owe him.” Peter nodded, “No arguments from me.” “Anybody in our military deserves to be treated with respect and care,” I pushed. “The freedom we have to disagree and protest was hard-won.” “I agree!” “We can make plans for the immediate future,” I said thinking. “He will be discharged to us. We can’t plan too far ahead…” “Why not?” “We can’t put the cart in front of the horse,” I replied. An eye narrowed, “That was not a Southern proverb or thing.” “We imported that one from Europe and England!” I said tersely and plunged on. “We need to talk to Olek, Helga, Mom, and the house staff. If he recovers quickly, we’ll be here. If he needs to learn to send those signals from his brain differently, he’ll do it here.” Peter’s scowl grew, “Are you looking for an argument? I don’t disagree!” “I’ll have to call Edmond and David,” I said about our two Generals who were also friends. “We’ll know more after Yuri and Olek speak with the medical team for Cosmo. We’ll find out if there’s a physical therapist here and if they can loan him until we learn what to do.” Peter’s exaggerated look of patience added a clear and? I shrugged, “Just getting an itinerary together for tomorrow.” I kissed him gently. “We’ll be busy tonight.” His expression told me he knew, but he asked, “Doing what?” “I love you, Peter,” I said. His face softened, “I know. I love you.” “I know.” We had our wham, whir, thank you, sir sex before, maybe a few minutes ago. This time was slower, loving, but just loved as the other.

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