Ranch hand Bill Webster has worked on the Lazy W. for ten years, and for most of that time he’s been in a relationship with foreman Rusty Redfern. Lately Rusty has been slowing down. Although Bill likes the gentler, more romantic side to his lover, he can’t help missing the old Rusty who was always bursting with energy. When Rusty needs a pacemaker, Bill has to use all his powers of persuasion to get Rusty to the hospital. There Bill waits and worries while Rusty is in surgery, remembering happier times when they first met. How does each man adapt to the various changes of pace in their lives and relationship?
NOTE: This story appears in the anthology, "Cowboy Roundup" edited by Drew Hunt, available in e-book and print formats. Buy the collection and get 16 great gay cowboy stories in one awesome anthology!
It was pointless reminding him of what the doctor had said about his heart beating too slowly to get enough oxygen to his muscles and organs, and how, once the pacemaker was doing its thing, Rusty would be almost back to full strength. Rusty didn’t trust doctors and so didn’t believe what they told him, and that was that, end of story.
“I’m only doing this to shut you up, stop you worrying.”
Speaking quietly, so no one passing outside in the hallway would hear, Bill said, “I worry because I love you. So fucking much.”
Rusty turned to face Bill, his glower softening, and mouthed, “Love you, too.”
That was it, Bill had to kiss his man. But no sooner had he got to his feet and leaned over the bed than the curtains parted and a nurse pushing a cart entered. Thinking quickly, Bill straightened Rusty’s blanket before backing away and starting to sit. Then his southern manners kicked in and he straightened up again.
“Ma’am.” Bill’s right hand automatically reached up to touch the brim of his hat. Too late he realized he’d taken the hat off and put it on the foot of Rusty’s bed.
Rusty snickered and Bill shot him a look. Rusty had often teased Bill about how unsettled he became around women.
The middle-aged nurse closed the curtain. “Good morning, gentleman. I just need to take a few measurements, Mr. Redfern.”
“Rusty,” Rusty corrected.
Despite the seriousness of their situation, Bill’s mind instantly flashed the thought that he could tell the nurse Rusty’s most important measurement.
The nurse unrolled the blood pressure cuff. “Rusty because of your last name?”
“No, ’cause of my red hair. Well, used to be red,” Rusty mumbled.
Bill thought Rusty’s curly hair was just as sexy as it had been the first day he met the older cowboy.
“Do you know how much longer it’ll be before ...?” Rusty asked, allowing the nurse to wrap the cuff around his left upper arm.
“First patient went down about an hour ago. You’re next. So not too much longer.” She popped something on Rusty’s right pointer finger and stuck something else in his right ear. “Try not to worry. It’s a routine procedure.”
“Might be routine for you, nurse, but it’s the first time I’ve been opened up.”
“I’m sure Dr. Hathaway explained what will happen. The ‘opening up’ will be a small incision near your left armpit.” She pointed.
She made a few notes on her tablet computer then disconnected Rusty from the equipment. “You’ll be fine. We haven’t lost a patient this year.”
“It’s only February,” Rusty grumbled.
The nurse patted Rusty’s arm and smiled reassuringly. “I’ll see you later, Mr. Redfern.”
“Rusty,” he corrected again.
“Thanks, nurse,” Bill said, finding the edge of the chair with the backs of his legs. When she left he sat down and let out a sigh.