Jess Mercer
(© copyright 2009 by the author)

  The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent. Comments are appreciated at...

Tory read the short article in the evening paper with care. It covered the sudden disappearance of a brilliant young neurosurgeon and his close associate, an orthopćdic surgeon. Despite having won a major medical prize for reattaching the severed leg of a man and making the leg fully functional, including virtually all sensation in the limb, both men have recently been declared mavericks and censured by the medical society for an experimental transplant of a limb from one person to another, which failed.

He sighed deeply, tossed the paper aside, and turned on his computer, bringing up the message board of an amputee/wantabe/devotee site he frequented. His attention was riveted to the screen as he clicked on a message to bring it up completely.

Wish to interview young amputee in good health wanting his missing limb replaced with a fully functional living limb. Contact: Wholeagain@islandnet.net

Tory read it again, his hand stroking the stump of his left leg. God, to have my leg! To be back on the field! I'd give anything for that. I wish this wasn't a joke, but it's gotta be impossible. He read the message several times more, then decided to gamble. He typed: Please tell me this isn't a joke. Jock@swampnet.net

He picked up his crutches and went to the kitchen to refill his cup with coffee, then crutched back to his computer and brought up his mail. A message from a source he didn't recognize.

I assure you the posting is not a joke. It is a serious request from two registered members of the medical community. Reply with a brief statement about yourself, your amputation, and your willingness to undergo what is currently considered experimental surgery.

Tory thought about it while he finished his coffee. He had no work experience outside of his soccer playing, and he had steadily risen toward the top of the national players list until two months ago.

23 year old professional soccer player in excellent health. No dependents. No family. Below mid-thigh amputation of left leg in car accident. I have no future outside my athletic skills. I would give anything to have a leg that would let me get back on the field and compete at major league levels. What do I need to do?

He played a game or two of solitaire hoping for an answer. When the computer chimed, he opened his mail. The reply was there.

You appear to be the type of candidate we have been looking for. Your first step in the process is to find a willing donor. After a series of tests for compatibility, we will perform the surgery at no cost to either you or your donor. Your only expense will be your transportation to our clinic and room and board for the two of you. We must remind you that should the transplant be a success you will be on anti-rejection drugs for the rest of your life. Should your body reject the limb, amputation will be performed and you will return to your present state of being with a slightly shorter stump. In our opinion, this surgery carries no higher risk factor than that with any transplant surgery. Contact us again when you have found a donor. We stress that he must be competent to make such a decision by his own free will.

Damn! I might have known there would be a catch. Where the hell will I find anybody dumb enough to give up a leg? Wait a minute! Tory quickly turned back to the amputee website and brought up a listing of messages. Nothing beyond some names like Wannabe. He thought for a minute or two. In chat one or two pretenders had mentioned they really wished they were amputees. Perhaps …

He brought up Word and typed several messages, then looked them over trying to decide which would attract the most attention. He glanced at the cast aside newspaper, seeing a quarter-page Army recruiting ad. Hey! A bit of humor. Why not?

BE ALL (the amp) THAT YOU CAN BE! I need a left leg to resume my athletic career and life. Surgery performed by medical specialists at no charge. Reply to: Jock@swampnet.net

For two days he didn't leave the house, checking his mail frequently. The second day there was a message. His heart jumped when he saw it, then sank.

Why would anybody in their right mind want to give a good leg to a worthless jock? Get yourself a life, kid.

Might have expected something like this. Those wantabes are all talk and wet dreams, nobody's going to give up a good leg. He shut down his computer and went to bed, but he couldn't dismiss the dream. An opportunity, the only opportunity, and it was impossible. He wiped tears from his eyes and rolled over to sleep on his side.

He slept late the next morning, then read the paper while he lingered over his coffee. The sports page contained a half-page ad for the home game his former teammates would be playing that afternoon. I should go cheer the guys on, he thought. I haven't been to a game since … . He knew he had avoided the guys to avoid their pity, refusing many times to see Bret, his best friend and roommate on road trips. After repeated rebuffs, Bret had finally given up trying to see him, even calling.

Yeah, why not? It isn't going to change anything and, admit it, you've missed the hell out of the guys, particularly Bret. He put on his new jeans and a knit shirt. If I get there early, maybe I can see Bret before the game.

"Hey, Tory, good to see you, man. Going to the locker room?"

"Hi, Bill. Yeah. Thought I'd wish the guys luck," he told the guard.

"Go ahead, man, they're gonna be happy to see you. Sorry about your accident."


"Tory!" Rob yelled as he pushed the locker room door open. Instantly the team was surrounding him, slapping him on the back. Bret ran over and hugged him. "God, it's good to see you, buddy! Why wouldn't you talk to me? We're going for a beer after the game, and no argument."

"Tory! You're finally back where you belong. Go dress out. Your uniform's in your locker," the coach yelled above the din.

"For what, coach? I can't play."

"Damn it, you can sit on the bench and support the guys. Get dressed. We only got ten minutes to game time."

"Do it, Tory. We love ya, guy," Bret added, opening Tory's locker. "Your stuff's all washed and ready to go. I'll help you."

God, it feels good to dress out again, Tory thought as he changed. Only when he reached for the other sock and shoe Bret held out did he think. He looked up with moist eyes. "Don't need that one, buddy."

"Oh, shit! I'm sorry, Tory. I … I wasn't even thinking."

"Neither was I for a minute. Let me have the sock, though." Glad for once that he had big feet, he pulled the stretch sock over his stump to keep the guys from seeing it, then pulled himself up on his crutches. "Let's go."

Though the odds favored the visiting team, Tory knew he had never seen the guys play better. A last second save by Spike, the goalie, won them the game 3/2. Without thinking, Tory jumped up to join the others pounding Spike on the back, getting a rush from the smell of sweat and grime. Only when he fell did the others take note of him.

"Sorry, guy," Spike said, pulling him up.

"Great save, buddy! You were fantastic!"

"Ah, man, wish you were back. Say, have you looked into joining an amputee team? I've got a cousin plays on one back home."

"Never heard of one. But, hell, no future in that. No professional standing. I gotta find some way to make a living. Looks like I'll have to go back to school."

"You gotta make time to come to every game. The guys really poured it on today. Had to be because you are back."

"It was great being here to watch, but what use is a one legged guy?"

"Let's get a shower and change. We're all going for a beer like we used to."

Tory felt so at home with the guys and enjoyed their post-game talk so much he again forgot until he stood. He would have fallen had not Bret's arm gone around him and handed him his crutches.

"You okay, buddy?"

"Yeah. This was so much like old times I forgot for a minute. Thanks, guys. See ya."

Tory drove home, the glow of the game and talk after still with him. If I only had my leg, he thought as he entered his flat.

He fixed a cup of coffee and switched on his computer to check his mail. A message from Wannabe LAK. He opened it.

You don't know me, but I know you. You gave me your autograph two years ago after the big win over Auburndale. You were dead tired, but unlike the others you took a few minutes to talk with me. You're a real champ and deserve to get back into the game.

I saw you on the bench at today's game and watched you join the others on the field to congratulate Spike. Remembering how you used to play and seeing you out there today helped me decide. I've given this a lot of thought since I saw your message on the board. I've always felt something lacking in my life, now I know what it is - I NEED to be an amp. To make sure, I've been pretending on crutches continually for the past four days and I've never been happier.

If this deal is on the up and up, I'll gladly give you my leg if possible. If you want to get together and talk about it, I'd be thrilled. Perhaps over dinner? My treat. If so, call me at 080-3214. Jeff

He knew some of the guys on the team hated fans, but he'd always tried to be pleasant to them. Now to have that repaid in such an unexpected way brought tears to Tory's eyes. He picked up the phone and dialed.

"Jeff? Tory here. I got your message. If you're serious, I'll be happy to meet you any time and place. Just name it." He listened. "Ranch House at seven. Gotcha. Thanks, guy."

In his excitement, he arrived a few minutes early and asked the hostess for a quiet booth near the back of the restaurant. "I'm expecting someone. He may ask for Tory. That's me. I'll have a glass of tomato juice while I'm waiting."

He had taken the first sip and started to set the glass down when he saw the hostess leading a tall darkly handsome man towards the booth. Though he wore a polo shirt and chinos, his superb build was evident. A GQ model flashed through Tory's mind as they came closer.

"I'm Jeff. Thanks for coming." He glanced at Tory's drink and looked up at the hostess. "I'll have a bloody mary, light."

"You said in your message I talked to you after the big game last year. I swear I would have remembered a guy with your build, but I don't."

Jeff roared with laughter. "You didn't see me like this. I was a scrawny kid, but when I saw you close up, I knew I wanted to have a great bod like yours. I've been working out ever since." He reached across the table and laid his hand on top of Tory's. "I saw you right after you lost your leg and I knew instantly what I needed to make my new build look perfect."

Tory started to laugh until he saw Jeff's expression. "You're serious, aren't you?"

"Damn right I am. You're the most fantastic looking guy I've ever seen. Your stump and crutches are a real turn on. Even if it turns out we're no match and I can't give you my leg, I'm going to find some way to get rid of it. I've been wanting to since I started high school, but I'm scared to death of pain."

Tory shook his head. "There's going to be some pain, no matter how it's done."

"I'm willing to accept that, because they'll give us drugs for pain after the surgery. It's the pain before that I was speaking of. Best of all, this involves real doctors and it's free. I can't very well afford it any other way, unless I make it happen. And that's going to be painful."

"I don't know what to say, Jeff. I want a leg, but to deprive you …"

"Let's talk later. We'll eat, then go back to your place or mine. I'll let you look at what you'll be getting if this works out."

"If it matches the rest of you, then I know your leg's got to be in great shape."

Jeff smiled. "Thanks. You've got a great looking leg, so I'll bet your stump looks even nicer."

"I thought all the devotees I saw in the Garden were nuts, but you're a solid, educated man."

"I finished up my degree in computer science last year. I decided to go independent, and now I'm contracted as a systems analyst for a hotel chain. But, yes, I was a devotee even before I knew what the word meant. I've been pretending since I was in the eighth grade. I mowed yards part time and saved enough to buy a pair of crutches at a yard sale." Jeff smiled. "Never been the same since."

"Can I ask you something really personal?"

"I don't promise to answer, but you can ask."

"Are you gay? I mean a lot of the messages are guys looking for male amps."

"You mean you never noticed me the times you've gone out to the supermarket? Since you lost your leg, I've been stalking you every minute I had free. In a way, your going shopping late at night worked out perfectly. The only problem was I couldn't take a picture of you."

"That's why I go out late, not so many people around to gawk." Tory's brow wrinkled in thought for a moment, then he smiled. "That big bunch of roses I got while I was in the hospital, they were from you."

Jeff grinned. "Yeah. I was too chicken to put my name on the card. You wouldn't have known who I was anyway."

"You put 'from an admirer.'"


"Damn! I always wondered who sent them. I wish you had put your name on the card so I could at least have said thanks."

"You said that when you were nice to a shy skinny kid."

Over their meal, Jeff encouraged Tory to talk about games and team members. He was so easy to talk with, Tory told him far more than he ordinarily would have, including some of the teams' inside jokes.

Jeff finished his after dinner coffee. "Your place or mine?"

Tory pulled himself up. "Mine. We need to find out what else this is going to take. If the guy's on line, he usually answers quickly. You got to make it an early night?"

"I have tomorrow off. Time's no problem."

"Good. I guess you know where I live. The parking space next to mine is for my guests."

Jeff looked around at Tory's immaculate well-furnished flat. "Impressive."

"Meaning a dumb jock isn't capable of a decent home?" Tory teased.

Jeff blushed. "That's not what I meant. I mean I don't see anything I expected to see, like pictures, trophies, stuff like that."

"I know most of the guys keep that stuff around, but I see no need of it. I know what I've accomplished. That's enough."

"Gee, modest, too. I knew you were a great guy." He pointed toward the bookcases. "Why all the books on psychology?"

"Even with playing professional soccer, I managed to get a Masters degree in it. I was about to look into going back for a doctorate when I saw the message on the board. I'll still keep working toward that degree even if I get back to playing again."

Jeff looked at Tory solemnly. "I hope this works, because I'd rather you have my leg than anybody I can think of. You're a champ, no matter what." He kicked off his loafers, opened his belt and dropped his slacks, stepping out of them. He sat on the sofa and held out his left leg. "Here's what you'll be getting, champ. Let's see how it matches up with yours."

Tory sat beside him. "May I touch it?"

"That's why we're here. Examine the merchandise."

Tory ran his hand up Jeff's leg, kneading the muscles, then looked at Jeff with admiration. "Damn fine leg. Perfect muscles for running."

"Should be. I do four miles every morning before I go to work."

"No shin splints or other problems?"

"None. I had a check-up last week."

"What shoe size?"

"Thirteen wide. Same as yours."

"How'd you know?" Tory asked in surprise.

"That interview in Soccer Journal after the team played Argentina."

"I can't believe you read that."

"Ever since you were so nice to me, you've been my hero. I think I have everything written about you since."

Tory blushed and shook his head. "Wish I had known. I don't have many real friends. We could have gotten together before this."

"I'm too shy even begin to think of writing you or anything like that. I can hardly believe I'm sitting here now."

"Yet you answered my message."

"Because if it works, it'll give me what I've wanted for so long, and because it's for you. I'd hate to waste this leg when you need it."

Tory felt tears arising in his eyes again. "You're a wonderful man, Jeff. Whether or not we match up for a transplant, I wish there was something I could do for you."

"You mean it?"

"You know I do."

"I haven't seen your leg up close yet, but I really want to see your awesome stump. I mean if it won't bother you."

Tory grimaced. "I don't like people looking at it, but hell, guy, it's the least I can do." He leaned down and took off his shoe, then slipped easily out of his jeans.

Jeff lifted his leg and pulled off the sock, massaging Tory's foot, then began feeling the muscles in much the way Tory had done to him. He suddenly lifted his leg placing it beside Tory's. "Darn near a perfect match, Tory. You're going to look a little funny with blond hair on one leg and black on the other."

Tory snickered. "Hadn't thought of that. Guess I could bleach it to match, but long as it works, I don't give a damn. Besides, with the shorts and knee socks, not much is going to show."

Jeff got up and hunkered down in front of Tory. His hands gently stroking Tory's stump. Tory closed his eyes and sighed.

"Am I hurting you?"

Tory shook his head. "No. It feels good."

"I'm glad. It's a beautiful stump, Tory. I hope mine looks and feels as nice. You have a leg?"

"Not yet. It will be about another month before I can be fitted comfortably."

"I won't ever use one. I like the way I look on crutches." He suddenly leaned forward and kissed Tory's stump on the end.

Tory's eyes flew open. "What the hell?"

"It's so beautiful I had to do it. I'm sorry if I upset you, but I told you it's a big turn on for me."

"I … I'm not upset. It was a surprise. I guess I never thought anyone would find it as attractive as you seem to."

"It's not just your stump, beautiful as it is, it's the guy it's attached to as well. I've always worshiped you, Tory, now I'm falling in love with you. I … I guess I'd better go." He stood, pulling his pants on, and stepping back into his loafers.

Tory reached up, taking Jeff's hand and tugging lightly. "Please, sit back down. We haven't sent anything to the doctor yet. I want this badly, so I hope you haven't changed your mind."

"No way. Let's get to your computer. I expect I type faster than you, so I can do that if you want." He pulled another chair up to the desk and sat down, switching the computer on. Tory pulled up his e-mail and let Jeff read the doctor's message, then clicked on Reply. He pushed the keyboard back in front of Jeff.

Jock has a competent willing donor. What next? Jeff typed and hit Send.

For several hours, braced by numerous cups of coffee, messages flew back and forth. Both Tory and Jeff filled out lengthy questionnaires, then drank another cup of coffee while waiting for an answer. It was three-thirty in the morning before the final message was received. They were to contact the doctor again after both had arranged a lengthy period of time off work.

Tory grinned at the statement. "No problem for me. I'm not working, but what about you?"

"I haven't taken a vacation in over two years, and I've gotten people on the hotel's mainframe trained well enough I can take the time off without any problems. I'll take as much time as needed, 'cause I'm not coming home until you do."

"But you could be back home in six weeks max. It'll take me nearly four months or more, with all the checking for rejection and therapy."

Jeff's hands went to either side of Tory's face and turned it. He leaned over and kissed Tory on the lips. "I'm not leaving the love of my life alone; I want to be with you every minute. And if this works, I want tickets to every game you play, just to see my love and my leg in action."

"Jeff, I'm extremely grateful for all you want to do for me and I like you a hell of a lot, but I'm … I'm not sure I love you. Not the way you want and deserve."

Jeff stared at Tory in surprise. "You … you mean you're gay?"

Tory blushed. "I … I have the tendency, but I've never acted on it. No one knows, especially on the team. Bret and I always roomed together. I wondered if he might be gay, because … well, because he never missed a chance to feel me up. I'd slap his hand away and he'd laugh. It got to be a joke."

"You sure he wasn't just playing around?"

Tory nodded. "He told me the night he slept with me."

"You slept with him?"

"Not the way you're thinking. His oldest sister died while we were on the road for a game and he fell completely apart. I held him while he cried it out, then when I went to bed he wanted me to hold him again. I couldn't say 'no' to my best friend, so I held him in my arms until we both went to sleep. He told me then his mother died when he was a just a little kid and his sister was a mother to him. She was the only one knew he was gay and she accepted it completely. The next morning he hugged me and said for me not to tell anyone about her death until after the game was over, because he was playing it for her."

"I'm glad you were there for him, but you kept on letting him room with you."

"Yeah. He's a great guy, kind, sensitive, and quiet. There's no one better to live with when you're under the stress of being on the road, and I didn't particularly want to room with any of the other guys. Bret and me rooming together was accepted as a given."

"If you think so much of him, didn't you have some feeling toward him?"

"Yeah, but I didn't let him know."


"Because I didn't want to be gay. I was trying to make it to the top. You know how antagonistic people are to gays. Well, it's a thousand times worse when you're a jock. It's a kiss of death and my goal was the top of the majors." Tory stifled a yawn. "It's late."

"Yeah. I didn't even look at the time. Guess I should go."


"Bout a half hour."

"Stay here, then." Tory grinned. "I'll give you a choice. Share my bed or take the sofa."

Jeff smiled broadly. "That's no choice. If you're gonna lose that beautiful stump, I want at least one night in bed with it."

Two weeks later they boarded a plane to Miami, where they would transfer to Island Airways for the last leg of the journey. They were barely off the ground before Tory asked the steward for a Campari and soda. Told they did not have it, he settled for a vodka collins.

"Nervous, or excited, buddy?"

"A little of both. I know the doctor said the chance that we'd match up enough for a transplant was slim to none, but just the thought of playing again is driving me crazy." He smiled at Jeff. "Guess you think I'm nuts to care so much about a sport."

"It's been your whole life, buddy. I can't understand it any more than you can understand my fascination with computers," he winked at Tory, "and other things you've got I like. Which if we're both lucky, I can stop pretending and be real."

They thought the trip was over when they deplaned on San Germain. After checking through customs and having their passports stamped, they looked around the lobby. To one side stood a burley native holding up a piece of cardboard with JOCK printed on it in block letters. They walked over.

"You get bags. I take you to doctor." He said nothing more, but showed them to an ancient taxi and drove to the waterfront. He parked and pointed to a small boat that looked barely seaworthy.

"Wait a minute," Tory said. "Where are you taking us?"

"Island 'bout five mile." He pointed to a spot of green in the ocean. "Doctor there."

Once the engine started with difficulty and they had pulled away from the dock, Jeff grabbed Tory's hand. "Hold on to me if I get sick, buddy. I hate boats."

A thin man stopped pacing the dock as the boatman tied up, then helped Tory ashore. Tory's recognition was instantaneous. "You're Doctor …"

"Hayes-Ashton," the man interrupted. "My associate is Doctor Connor."

"Of course. I'm Tory and this is Jeff, my donor."

"Let's get you settled in. We'll start the preliminary tests as soon as our clinic hours are over tomorrow morning."

"You run a clinic here also?" Jeff asked.

"Yes. We're the closest medical help for the natives. Otherwise they have to make the boat trip to San Germain. Life is primitive here. This is a small island of some five-thousand inhabitants. The government gives us facilities in exchange for our clinic operation." He smiled. "Don't worry, our facilities have all the modern amenities including satellite TV. We also have FM radio from San Germain, mostly BBC relay, and our personal collection of CD's if you prefer music. We also have a decent assortment of books." He led them through a side door into a nicely furnished lounge. "Connor and I live here, so this is open to you during your stay." They followed him down a hall, where he opened two doors side by side. "Your rooms, gentlemen."

Jeff looked around the nicely furnished room. "Ah, Tory and I will room together, if you don't mind."

Hayes-Ashton smiled broadly. "I thought you might. No problem. The bath is next door. We do ask that you conserve fresh water as much as possible. While the clinic has a small reverse osmosis plant, we depend primarily on rainfall and reservoirs."

"Any chance we could see the surgical suite?" Tory asked.

"Of course. I understand your concern, but let me assure you that because of our work, we're better equipped than most major hospitals. It's this way."

Hayes-Ashton proudly showed off the labs, operating room, and the two, two-bed rooms for patients. Tory noted that everything he was shown equaled or surpassed the hospital where he had undergone his amputation. "Very nice."

"It has to be. I'm certain you would like to relax after your trip. As soon as I draw blood for matching, you may have a drink, if you wish. There's a bar in the lounge. Enjoy it while you can. No more alcohol once we start the tests."

Tory and Jeff were both amazed at the painless ease with which Hayes-Ashton drew their blood, then stood. "Should you go outside, please do not wander beyond the grounds. While the beach is nice and the ocean alluring, I suggest that you don't attempt to swim. I'm informed that there is a large school of sharks off shore at the moment. I need to join Connor in his lab to begin the test procedures. We'll see you at dinner an hour from now."

Tory could not identify many of the dishes set before him, but everything was delicious, mildly spiced. "Is this fried banana?" He asked.

"Same family, but this is plantain. I've grown quite fond of it," Hayes-Ashton answered.

"How recent is your amputation?" Connor asked.

"Eleven weeks."

"Excellent. It will be easy to open and work with if you're a match. As soon as we've finished eating, I want to do a complete physical on you both."

They were about ready to go to bed when Connor reappeared in the lounge. "We have one more test which will take two days to run, but everything looks good thus far. For two men who are not twins or members of the same family, you appear to be as close a match for transplant surgery as we're likely to find."

"Then it's possible," Tory said with a grin.

"If the last test is positive. You still wish to go through with this, even though we offer no guarantee of success?"

"You and Hayes-Ashton are the world's only authorities on limb transplant. I have no options."

Connor looked at Jeff. "And you're positive you wish to donate your leg to Tory?"

"I've wanted to be an amp since I was a kid. Tory needs it, so why waste a perfectly good leg."


"I have one question. I noticed one of the men outside has a peg leg like I've never seen before. I like using crutches, but I'd sure like to know where he got it."

Connor smiled. "Actually, he made it for himself after we got him the materials. He had a crude wooden peg before. Hayes and I were so impressed with his skill that we have him build pegs like his for the few patients we have that need one. I'm certain we can accommodate your request as soon as your stump heals. You will pay him directly as soon as I'm satisfied with the fit."

"How much?"

"Thirty dollars American. It may not seem much, but to him it's a month's income. He'll be delighted."

"What do you think, Tory? Will you like me on a peg leg?"

"You're the one going to have to live with it, so do whatever makes you happy. I just want you to never regret what you're doing."

At dinner two evenings later, Hayes-Ashton handed each of them a small pill. "I want you to take these now. They're a purgative and you will receive nothing to eat after mid-night. We'll begin your surgery tomorrow morning at seven."

Tory rolled over in bed and hugged Jeff. "Are you dead sure about this, buddy? We can still leave."

"I just want to have a stump and see you running on my leg. If that comes true, then I'll have no regrets. There's only one thing could make me happier."

"What? You know I'll do anything for you."

In the moonlight, Tory saw Jeff shake his head. "You can't force this against your nature. I wish you could love me the way I love you, so we could live together from now on. I'd have everything I want then."

"Give me time, Jeff. I'm growing more comfortable with you every day that passes. It may turn into love; I hope so. As for living together, we'll look for a place as soon as we're back home. You have to know that if this works and I go back to the team, I'll be on the road a lot."

"As long as I know you're coming back to me, that's all I ask. I do love you, Tory."

Connor woke them the next morning and, after they had completed their morning showers, injected each with a mild anesthetic. "I'll be back in a few minutes to carry you to the operating room."

"Tory?" Jeff asked drowsily.


"In a few minutes that beautiful stump is going to be gone. Let me love it one more time." He kissed Tory and fell asleep with his hand resting on Tory's stump.

A few hours later Jeff roused, aware of slight discomfort in his left leg. He raised his head enough to see the mass of bandage. It's really gone! Tears sprang to his eyes at the realization.

"Oh, sir, do not cry. You have pain?" An island native nurse stood beside the hospital bed, an anxious look on her face.

Jeff shook his head. "Not much pain. It's really gone. I can't believe it after all these years."

"I call doctor soon he finish operation. He be unhappy you cry."

"I'm not unhappy. These are tears of joy. Do you know how my friend is doing?"

"Doctor say this take many hours, so delicate his work. He will come when he want. You wish some water?"

"Please." Jeff took a sip and went back to sleep.

The sun was setting when he awoke. The two doctors were easing Tory from a gurney to the bed across from Jeff's.

"How'd it go?" He asked when they had Tory settled. He could see Tory's left leg swathed in bandage from just above the knee to his hip. The rest was covered by a plaster cast strapped to his good leg.

Hayes-Ashton turned. "You're awake. How do you feel?"

"Pretty good. How's Tory?"

"Everything went better than we expected. Now we have to wait and see if his body accepts the transplant. You may have some light broth if you would like something to eat."


"Excellent. I'll have some brought to you shortly. Then I'll give you a shot for pain and a sleeping pill."

Jeff awoke ravenous the next morning. After he had eaten, Hayes-Ashton and Connor came in and stood by Tory's bed. Connor shook his shoulder gently. "Tory, wake up."

His eyes opened and squinted against the sunlight.

"How do you feel?"

"Hurts. Feels like my leg's burning."

"That's a good sign." Hayes-Ashton took a sterile pin from a case and dragged it along the bottom of toes extending from the cast. "Can you feel that?"

"You're touching my foot with something."


"My left foot." Tory's eyes popped wide open. "You did it! I've got a leg and foot!"

"Yes. Don't try to move it. You need to rest as quietly as possible for the next few days. I'll keep you sedated." He gave the injection, then stood by Jeff's bed. "Let's see how that stump looks."

He cut away the bandage, then smiled. "You do heal fast. This looks almost like a second day instead of twenty-four hours."

"Can I see?"

"After I've cleaned it up a bit. You're going to like the look of your stump. Connor spent twice as long on it as another surgeon would have. You won't have a lot of sensation at the tip, because we had to take the nerves a bit long to make up for the difference in your friend's stump. Fortunately, his amputation was done rather indifferently so his surgeon didn't resect the nerves as much as I like. Your stump is a couple of inches shorter than his was. Because you mentioned a peg leg, Connor placed your muscles under tension by attaching them to the bone, and put a thick pad of flesh under the bone end so you can bear your weight on it with maximum comfort. Once it shrinks back to size, I think you'll be pleased with the sculpted shape he gave it." He finished wiping it gently with a moistened gauze pad and held up a hand mirror. "Take a look."

Jeff looked and caught his breath. "It's awfully red, but it's beautiful. When can I get up?"

"This afternoon, as long as you don't try to overdo it. I expect you could be up all day tomorrow, but I can't be around. I have tons of notes to enter in our computer."

"That's my business. Would you trust me to do it for you? It'll give me something to do, and you can watch if you want."

"I can show you our data base. But I want to be with you. These notes are irreplaceable."


Once Connor made a minor adjustment to Tory's crutches, he gave them to Jeff, amazed at how easily he moved around on them. "You've had practice."

Jeff grinned. "A lot. I feel a bit different on them now."

"To be expected. You had a complete leg then. With the weight of it gone, your center of balance has shifted. You'll be completely comfortable on them by tomorrow."


Hayes-Ashton sat Jeff in front of the computer in his lab the next morning and brought up the medical database. "This is what we're using."

Jeff shook his head. "You haven't upgraded?"

"Should we have? Neither Connor nor I know much about using one other than what I've shown you."

"There've been two new versions of this program since yours and the latest can be downloaded from the company's website. It'll cut your time in half. Want me to do it for you?"

Hayes-Ashton shook his head. "We can't afford to lose a thing we've got stored in here."

"No problem. I'll make a back-up, then load the new program. I can guarantee you'll lose nothing."

"In that case …"

Jeff made the necessary data back-up and downloaded the new version in a little over an hour. After checking to see that all the data was present, Hayes-Ashton stopped fidgeting and smiled. "Wonderful. Wish we could have you around when we have stacks of data to enter. I'm terribly slow at it."

"Your data get entered into more than one field?"

"Yes. That's what slows me so much. I have to go back and forth."

Jeff grinned. "It won't now. With this version you enter data once and it's automatically entered in every field prepared to receive it."

"You're kidding?"

"Not at all. Hand me a sheet of new data and watch." Jeff entered one set of data, then let Hayes-Ashton check the other fields.

"Amazing! This will cut my time by half or more. If we hadn't amputated your leg for free, Jeff, I'd mark the bill paid right now. This is wonderful, Connor won't believe it. Will you enter the rest of this stuff for me?"

"Sure. Give me something to do. Hey, you're not leaving are you?" Hayes-Ashton had turned toward the door.

"You've proven your competence. If you have any questions, just yell. I'll be in the lab next door."

By noon, Jeff had all the data entered, backed up on a CD, and had printed out the complete spreadsheet. He handed it to Hayes-Ashton when he came in to tell him dinner was ready. Hayes-Ashton took it with a smile. "I'm putting this by Connor's place at the table. I want to see his expression."

Connor came to the table obviously out of sorts. "Damn it, I need that material from yesterday and day before. How long you going to be, Hayes?"

"There it is."

"Bull shit! You're slow as molasses entering that stuff."

"Take a look."

Connor picked up the papers and looked at them. "Hell fire, it's all here! Now I can get back to work. How'd you do it?"

"It's our young friend here, thanking us for doing such a superb job on his amputation."


"He updated our program, too. All I have to do is enter data once and it automatically goes to the other fields. I can enter our entire day's material in two or three hours. I can even separate our lab work by what we have each put into the program."

"Unbelievable! Crimmy, make their stay on the house. This more than repays us for room and board."

"You know it."

"Jeff, I told Hayes he was right when he told me you and Tory were likely candidates for the transplant. Now I know it. We really appreciate this."

"I'll be happy if my leg … I mean Tory's leg, works. That's all I want."

"That's beyond our power now. It all depends on how his body accepts it."

"How much longer before you know? He has feeling in it."

"Though we joined the bones together with a pin, it has to knit before he can move it and we know for sure. It's much like a broken leg and takes about as long. I know you're anxious for him, but it won't be rushed. Relax and get your stump healed."

"And Thomás will have you walking on your peg by that time," Hayes-Ashton added.

Now that he was trusted fully, Jeff spent part of each morning entering the data both doctors began turning out in massive quantities. He was thrilled the morning Connor removed the bandage from his stump and pronounced it healed. He wrapped it tightly in an elastic bandage. "Let me know the moment this works loose and I'll rewrap it for you. This is to help your stump shrink to size. If all goes well, we can have Thomás fit your peg next week. That will help it maintain its shape."

As he had learned Connor's moods, Jeff had come to like the taciturn young doctor. "Thanks for giving me such a special job."

"You've more than earned it. I know it doesn't mean anything to you, but the data you're entering now is what Hayes and I have learned from transplanting your leg to Tory. When it's over, we'll publish."


"Why not?"

"What I did was because I wanted to. I don't want my name appearing anywhere."

"It won't. Patient's names are never used in this type of publication, nor would Hayes or I ever reveal a name. Surely you know of patient confidentiality. What you probably don't realize is that if this research is accepted, Hayes and I can go back home to work. I hate this place. I want to get back home so I can watch real sports."

"What kind of sports?"

"I could only dream while I watched the winter Olympics. I like to ski myself." He grinned. "Like a good soccer game, too. I hope to see Tory play again."

"You've seen him?"

"Just on TV, the big game with Argentina. He was spectacular. That's one reason I pushed Hayes into accepting him."

"That really gives me something else to look forward to. If Tory plays again, he'll get you a prime seat to watch. Maybe by then we'll have a place with enough room for you to stay with us."

"If that happens, let me know. Even if we're still here, I'll fly over for that."

Jeff got his peg a few days later. He looked at it curiously. "It weighs almost nothing."

Connor smiled. The rod is carbon fibre. It's extra sturdy and resistant to cracking. You should have no trouble with it. Since the fibre is black, I told Thomás to do it all black. Let's try it. As soon as I remove the stump shrinker, put your stump in the socket. If it relaxes you'll never get it on."

"Will it always be that way?" Jeff asked, disappointed.

"Not after your stump acquires its final shape. Ready?"

When Jeff's stump was in place, Connor laced the leather band snugly, and helped Jeff up. "Try putting your weight on your stump. Feel any pain?"

"Not much. It's just tight feeling."

"Good. Try a step. I'll hold your arm."

After a few cautious steps, Jeff pulled away and walked across the room and back. "Wow! I never thought a peg leg would feel so good. I'm going to enjoy this."

"You're going to have to build up your time on it gradually. I expect you'll like crutches better if you're going to be doing a lot of getting up and down. A peg doesn't bend like your leg did."

Connor began to reduce Tory's medication gradually, allowing him to remain alert longer each day, though he or Hayes-Ashton were by his bed every moment to keep him from moving the transplanted leg. One morning Connor removed the cast, all the bandages, and examined the scar. "You've healed perfectly, but you can't try walking until the bone has completed knitting. I'll put a brace on it and you can use crutches for a while. Any pain?"

"Practically none."

"Let me check for sensation." He dragged the large needle over every inch of the leg. Only in two small areas did Tory not feel anything, even when Connor jabbed him. Connor straightened up with a look of happiness. "Even better than Hayes expected. There's no sign of rejection and those two places where you feel nothing will in no way hinder you from any activity. You'll only need to check from time to time to see that you haven't injured yourself there." He left and returned to strap on an adjustable brace that stretched from Tory's foot to his hip. "Okay, here's some crutches. You're going to be unsteady until the strength returns to your muscles. Walking will help, but don't try anything foolish. We're here to help you."

At dinner, Connor said, "We're putting you guys back in the room you had when you first came. You don't need a hospital bed any longer."

"Good," Tory said. "That wasn't the most comfortable bed I've ever slept in."

About nine, Hayes-Ashton says, "I want Tory to get a good night's sleep. Do you mind going to bed early, Jeff, so you won't disturb him?"

"Not at all. I've been living for this night."

After Connor had removed the brace and helped Tory to bed, Jeff undressed, slipped off the peg, wrapped his stump, and lay down beside Tory, hugging him. "It's so good to have you back in bed with me. It's where you belong, love."

To his surprise, Tory's hand rubbed the end of his stump. "Oh, God, babe, what have I done to you?" Tory wailed.

Jeff kissed him. "You haven't done anything to me, love. Why are you crying?"

Tory reached down. "This is your leg and I took it from you. You … you've just got a stump like I used to have."

Jeff hugged him tightly. "Don't you remember? I've wanted this stump for years, and I was thrilled to give you my leg. All I want is for you to play soccer again and love my stump like I loved yours."

"Oh, God, Jeff, you're so wonderful."

"You're the wonderful one. You found out how we could each get what we wanted most and made it happen. I love you so much."

"Jeff? I've thought a lot since they cut back on my medications. I … I want you to live with me. I'm sure now."

"Just about that?"

"No. I've come to love you, babe. I'm sorry it's taken so long." His kiss lingered. They both fell asleep with smiles.

After an X-ray two weeks later, Connor removed the brace from Tory's leg. "Okay, guy. Let's see you move it."

To Tory it seemed to function perfectly. There were tears in his eyes when he looked at Connor, then Jeff. "I've got my leg back. It feels wonderful." He sat up and tried to swing his legs over the side of the X-ray table, but Connor stopped him.

"You've got a way to go before the muscles build back up to strength. I want you on crutches, but you can begin to put more weight on it each day and try taking steps a few at a time."

"You have any peroxide, Connor?" Jeff asked.

"Of course. Why do you want it?"

"I'm taking that guy out in the sun and bleaching those black hairs blond so they match those on his other leg."

For the first time since they had met him, Connor howled with laughter.

Exactly six months after the day they had arrived, Tory and Jeff boarded the boat to begin their trip back home. After a few days search, they found a large flat convenient for them both, and moved in together. One of the first things Jeff did after they had settled in was to place a double framed picture on his computer work station. Hayes-Ashton had obligingly taken the pictures. Tory and he were wearing nothing but cut-off jeans. In the first picture, Tory stood on his crutches, his stump clearly visible, with Jeff standing beside him, his arm draped over Tory's shoulders. The other shot was an opposite taken the day before they left the island. It was now Tory standing on two legs with his arm draped across Jeff's shoulders; Jeff's stump clearly visible. Jeff remembered Tory's argument about the first picture.

"So I can remember how both of us looked, before and after."

Tory shook his head. "It doesn't bother you to see yourself with two legs, then with one?"

"How could it? I got what I wanted. I do miss your beautiful stump, though. That's why I wanted the picture."

Tory suddenly hugged him. "I'm glad you asked Hayes to take them. I'll never forget how much you've given me, but if my memory slips, I'll look at that one and remember. I love you so much, Jeff."

Jeff returned to work, while Tory spent his days at a gym rebuilding the strength in his new leg. Neither of them was bothered by anything related to their surgeries until one night when Jeff felt his left foot itching. Connor had warned him of phantom limb, but this was the first time it had occurred. He reached over and lifted Tory's left leg, removed the slipper and began to scratch.

"What the hell are you doing?"

"Scratching my foot, it itches. Oh, God, that feels good."

"How can it when it's my foot?"

"Didn't you ever feel your leg when it wasn't there any more?"

"A few times. You mean you can feel your foot?"

"Yeah. It's weird. I know it's yours now, but I can feel my fingers scratching it. I'm glad you got it, so I can do this. Guess it's psychological. You don't care, do you?"

"How could I? It was your leg, now it's part of me. But since you can feel it when you scratch it, I guess we're going to have to call it our leg." He leaned over and kissed Jeff. "Yeah! Our leg."

"Can you take this afternoon and tomorrow off?" Tory asked a few evenings later.

"Sure, Why?"

There's a home game day after tomorrow afternoon, so there's a practice session this afternoon and I haven't seen the guys since we got back."

"You don't need me."

"I want to introduce you to Bret and a few of the others."


"Besides, I think I'm ready to go back. I want to get in some practice with them today."

"Then I'll go. I want to see my leg in action."

"It's mine now."

"Only on loan. If you don't behave I'm dragging you back to the island and taking it back."

"No way, guy. You made your choice, now you're gonna live with it."

"Happily, if I can watch you."

His face grew serious. "Just don't say anything about it to the guys. I'm going to try to fake a few of 'em out."

"Whatever you want, love."

"Tory!" The guard shouted. "Where you been? It's about time you showed up again. Damn! You walk so good I'd never know. Finally got a leg, huh?"

"This is my special buddy Jeff, Bill. We took a vacation together down in the Caribbean and haven't been back long. I got my leg down there."

"He getting one like yours?"

"Afraid not. He likes my old crutches better."

"Go on down, most of the guys are here already. You coming to the game?"

"Probably both of us. We'll see you if we do."

"Jeff, don't say anything to a guy named Vlad. He replaced me at forward and I've heard he's been boasting I couldn't have been so great as the others tell him. Bret can't stand him, so I'm going to help Bret get back a little of his own."


"Tory!" Bret screamed. "Where you been buddy? God, look at that tan."

"Jeff and I took a vacation. Sun every day. Bret, Jeff."

Bret held out his hand and gave Jeff a firm shake. "Good to meet you, Jeff." Then he saw Jeff's stump. "Damn, Tory. You found a guy like yourself."

"Yeah. 'Cept he won't get a leg."

About then a short stocky guy ambled over and sneered at Jeff. "So! You be great Tory, I hear 'bout. Not so great wit' one leg!"

Tory saw Bret about to move and stopped him. "You must be Vlad. I'm Tory. He's my friend Jeff."

"No. You got two leg."

"One of 'em's fake, you dumb bastard," Bret snarled. "Hell, Tory can out maneuver you even with a fake leg."

Vlad snorts.

"Okay, smart ass. The rest of the guys get here, we'll let Tory practice with us."

"Damn right!" Rob says. "Let's make it interesting. Tory whips your ass in practice, he plays in tomorrow's game if the coach agrees."

"The coach agrees," this voice says behind me. "You sure you're up to it, Tory?"

"Hi, coach. We'll see. I might not be back in my best form, but if I can do it in practice, I can do it in a game."

"Get dressed out, then. Move it, you turkeys," he yells at the others, then comes over to me and introduces himself. "You can sit on the bench and watch if you want. I figure that's why Tory dragged you in here."

"Thanks. He did say I could watch. He promised I could see the first game he played with his new leg."

"Must be a damn good one. You wouldn't even know it's fake, the way he moves."

"It's one of a kind gotten especially for him. I'd better go help him change. He doesn't want the others looking at him."

Jeff crutched to the far end of the locker room and held Tory's clothes as he changed. When Tory put them in his locker, he grinned. "Now for the fun." He swats Bret on the butt as we pass. "Let's get 'em, buddy."

Bret glances down. "Shit, man, that's some leg! I'd swear it's real. Got hair and everything. It ain't gonna bust or anything if you play like you used to is it?"

"It's solid, buddy. Don't sweat it. Go set Vlad up for me."

Bret grins. "That's what I've been waiting to hear. Kill 'im, buddy."

The coach tosses the ball to Tory, indicating he should start play, but Tory flips it to Vlad. With an unattractive grin, Vlad puts the ball into play. One of the opposition kicks it back toward Vlad, but Tory slips neatly in front of him and begins a race down the field. Vlad tries to intercept, but Tory sidesteps neatly and boots the ball in for a goal. Vlad screams something in his native tongue, while Bret and Rob are slapping Tory on the back with howls of laughter.

Play resumes. Vlad is more wary of Tory now, but it's not long before Tory is racing down the field again. Vlad deliberately trips him. I'm sweating for a moment, but Tory neatly turns the fall into a somersault and stands back up, while the coach is running on the field screaming, "FOUL!" He backs Vlad up and uses some words on him I'd love to hear. Tory sends me a grin and a thumbs-up.

The coach walks back to the bench and sits down beside me. "Shit! Tory couldn't do that when he had both legs. How the hell does he do it now?"

"I have no idea. He's been working out a lot at the gym, though."

The coach shakes his head. "I shouldn't say this, but I'm glad to see him wiping the grin off that arrogant bastard's face."

"Why don't you get rid of him? I've heard he's not as good as he thinks he is."

"Not by half. Wish I could dump 'im, cause he's a dirty player an' I got no use for his kind, but I don't have much say. Head office sends 'em to me, I gotta play 'em."

Tory makes another goal, then it's Vlad's turn. At every attempt, Tory steals his shot at the goal. I see, too, that the other guys on the team realize this is no longer a joke, but serious play by Tory. When the coach finally blows his whistle, Vlad's face is purple, and the other guys are yelling and slapping Tory on the back and butt. Bret hugs him. In seconds the entire team, with the exception of Vlad, is standing before the coach.

"Well, coach?" Bret asks.

The coach breaks out in a broad grin. "Dammit, I promised, didn't I. Tory you're playing. Now you guys get a shower and some rest. Stick around for a minute, Tory." He looks at me. "I'll get you a good seat for the game, Jeff."


"Now, let's see that damn leg, Tory. You did a couple of things with it you never did when you had two."

Tory sits down, pulls up the leg of his shorts and pushes down the sock. "Feel it, coach."

As the coach feels Tory's leg, his mouth drops open. "Shit! This ain't no fake; it's real! It can't be, but it is."

"Keep it quiet, coach, but it is real." He nods toward me. "It was Jeff's. He gave it to me."

"Hunh! How?"

"You remember the doctors left the country because they weren't allowed to experiment with limb transplants?"

"I seem to recall hearing somethin' 'bout it. So what?"

Tory slips his shorts down and points to the scar that circles our leg. "Jeff and I went to the island and they took Jeff's leg off and grafted it on my stump. It's just as good as my own leg ever was."

The coach is staring at me, eyes wide. "You … you mean you let 'em cut your leg off and give it to Tory?"

"Why not? He needed it more than I and he's always been number one with me. If you need to see," I pull up my jeans leg to let him see the black hairs on my leg, then point to Tory's. "We forgot to bleach the hairs when they started to grow out again."

The coach jumps up and pulls me up in a crushing hug. "You're some special kind of guy, Jeff. I couldn't have done it no matter how much I loved somebody. You're sitting right here beside me for the game tomorrow afternoon and any other game you wanna come to. Fuck the front office, you've give me my star back. Tory, you and me gonna talk about your contract. I'll kick those bastards in the front office from here to the ocean if they give me any shit."

"Thanks, coach. That's all I want. It's all Jeff wants, too."

"You guys are gonna get it. Now go shower and get some rest."

"Oh, yeah, coach. Jeff's my personal manager now. Tell the office to take all that business stuff up with him."

The coach grins and slaps me on the back. "Now here's one manager I think I'm gonna get along with just fine."

It's another game where the odds are against our team, but Tory and the others pour it on. Vlad is dressed, but sits on the far end of the bench, scowling and constantly muttering comments in his native tongue until the coach tells him to shut up. The final score is 3/0. The crowd in the stands is going wild, screaming, "Tory, Tory," over and over. After the post game celebration to which Tory and the coach dragged me against my will, Tory and I go home, Bret with us.

"How'd you do it, Tory? You ain't never played better. That must be some fake leg."

"Sit down, Bret. We want to show you something." Tory and I both drop our pants so Bret can see, and Tory tells him the whole story, including the fact that we're lovers.

At last Bret stands. "Buddy, I never told anybody, but I was hoping you'd pick up on it all those times I touched you. I could have fallen for you if you'd give me any encouragement, but you didn't." He shrugs. "Hell, you've found the right guy. If he give his leg for you, what you've got together has gotta be real." He wipes his eyes. "I ain't never gonna make another move on you, Tory, cause I want to stay your best buddy. I want to be Jeff's friend, too, if he'll let me."

Tory's arms go around both of us, pulling us into a mutual hug.



Posted: 05/08/09