The beast watched, eyes gleaming, as the car rocketed out of the drive way. The plan was in motion, the dice had been cast. Hopefully, its masters would be pleased.
Sniffing, it crawled out of the shadows and made its way along the side of the house, searching and examining. It had to be careful; if the boy sensed it's presence... well, the boy wasn't here now, was he. Still, to leave trace would... displease its masters. Which would be unwise.
Sniffing, it completed several circuits around the house. The boy's stench was strongest beneath one window... the boy's room? The beast saw a small ledge and leapt, barely clinging to the ledge as it carefully raised itself up, an inch at a time. Soon it could just barely reach the window. Its paw rested millimeters from the ledge and it suppressed a howl of outrage and terror. Impossible! it would have sworn, had it a voice to swear with. Carefully it inched it's way upward, to try and gaze into the room.
The tile it was holding onto slipped, and it's paw slapped against the window. Howling, it flung itself away from the house and hit the ground below with a sickening thud. Thrashing and twisting, it beat the flames that had consumed it's paw out on the grass, and as soon as it could ran. The neighbors would doubtlessly come looking for the source of the disturbance, and to be seen would be even more unwise than the several mistakes it had already made.
"Hello..." the doctor had to check the chart to remember Billy's name, "William." His accent was moderately thick, and reminded Billy of some movies involving Russian scientists. The kind of movie with bad actors and worse accents. "I'm Doctor Sveltchar. Doctor Harrison isn't available this time, he had a family emergency, and I'm going to cover for him today." Billy almost felt like laughing, the accent was corny and he strongly suspected the doctor was using it just to cheer him up. If so, it was working.
"Doctor," Mom asked worriedly, "Did Doctor Harrison discuss this case with you?"
"We didn't have time for any in-depth conversations, but I've read the charts, and Charles was kind enough to point out some of the highlights I might have missed," the portly doctor said cheerfully, grinning at Billy. Billy grinned back as Mom nodded, satisfied. "Now, Billy, the results I'm looking at are a little out of line with your normal results. I have a couple of ideas about why that might be, and Doctor Harrison was actually expecting it, but I'm going to order some additional tests. It's nothing to be worried about, it's a normal part of growing up. It just interferes with your meds, and of course vice-versa. I am afraid I'm going to have to ask you some..." The doctor licked his lips nervously. "Well, I'm going to have to ask your mother to leave the room and I'm going to ask you some highly personal, and probably embarrassing questions."
"Doctor, I can be in the room for anything you might ask Billy," his mother told the doctor.
"No, no, I'm sorry but ma'am that isn't really..." The doctor shook his head. "There are questions that any man would hesitate to answer before a woman, no? Especially his mother? And given his age, that... pressure would be doubly strong. Please, it really should be done... privately. Besides, it's time for his annual physical exam as well, and I'm going to handle that at the same time."
"Very well," Mom said as she rose to leave.
"Before you leave, Ma'am, one thing that isn't in the charts is whether Billy has been told of the... effects the medicine will have on his development as he grows into adolescence," the doctor asked.
Mom froze, and her face tightened. "We were going to bring that up when we had 'the talk' with him, and handle it ourselves," she told the doctor coolly.
"Ah, I'm sorry, I didn't realize," the doctor apologized. "I figured that at thirteen, such talks would have already occurred."
"We probably should have, but... it's a difficult subject," Mom admitted. "There are other things we haven't... you said Doctor Harrison talked to you, right?"
"Well, yes, he did," the doctor agreed. "Not at length, but he went over several... key points."
"Well, I had hoped to get the doctor to cover several of the technical details anyway," Mom said, "so feel free to give him the basics of the situation. Within reason, of course."
"That would be very much within the duties of a doctor," the doctor said with a grin. "I will... discuss both the changes, and what effects the medicine is having on them, if that is acceptable."
"I'll let my husband know that he'll probably need to be here," Mom said finally.
"What's going on Mom?" Billy asked.
His mother paused at the door and shook her head. "There were some things we... didn't want to tell you, Son. Your pills... are going to have some unpleasant effects on you soon. The Doctor... he can explain better than I can." She practically ran from the room.
The doctor grumbled something under his voice in some foreign language, and Billy almost didn't need a translation to understand that the doctor thought his mother was being silly. "Now, William-"
"Call me Billy," Billy interrupted.
"Billy then. Billy, I'm going to do a quick physical first if that's alright? It'll give me some idea of what subjects need to be brought up right away, and which ones I can safely leave for your parents, or for you to ask." The doctor wheeled his chair from the desk in a quick motion and smiled at Billy. "And, please, remember we are here, and part of our pay is to answer questions -- even ones you don't want to ask your parents, yes?"
"Alright," Billy agreed as the doctor started feeling his legs.
"Good, good," the doctor muttered as he poked and prodded. The routine of a physical went quickly enough until after Billy had dropped his pants. The doctor hooked a finger in under his balls and told him to cough, and Billy did so without thinking about it. Unfortunately, he let his mind stray towards Jer and his body reacted predictably. An unintelligible comment from the doctor drew Billy's attention back to the present, and he blushed as he realized his dick was now waving in the doctor's face. "Yes, oh good!" the doctor exclaimed happily. "This is good!"
"Doctor, I'm so sorry," Billy apologized, dropping his hands to his crotch to cover himself. "I didn't mean... I can't control it!"
"Do not worry!" the doctor said happily, "It is not bad thing at all! Even for normal kid, it is something they cannot control and happen at worst possible time, but for you this is good news! Your mother will be most happy to hear of this!"
"No!" Billy complained, "Don't tell her!"
"Oh, but I must!" the doctor said happily. "Billy you must understand, I did not expect this to be possible! The pills you are on normally prevent you from maturing properly, and interfere with sexual function. That you are able to get erect is nothing short of miracle!"
"That thing is good?" Billy complained bitterly. "It's always popping up at the worst time and trying to embarrass the fuck out of me!"
"All the time?" the doctor said, shocked. "This happen often?"
"Yeah, every day!" Billy told him.
"Oh my, you are impossibly lucky!" the doctor exclaimed. "Between your condition and the meds, erections should be almost impossible, and-" The doctor cocked his head as he leaned back in his chair. He glared at Billy for a few moments before muttering in a foreign language again.
"Something wrong, Doctor?" Billy asked.
"Yes, you silly Americans make so many subjects taboo, and if I approach this one wrong I get accused of wrongdoing," the doctor grumbled. He turned to his computer and his keyboards flew over the keys as he entered in information. As usual, the screen was oriented to keep Billy from seeing what the doctor was doing, a situation he'd complained, bitterly, about several times before. 'It's medical speak, you won't understand it,' his father had said, 'Don't worry about it, that's our job,' his mother had said.
The doctor got up from his desk and closed the curtain at the door. "I'll be right back..." he said before walking out, leaving Billy half undressed and horribly embarrassed. Billy waited a minute before pulling his pants up, angry that the doctor had just walked out like that.
Then he realized the doctor had forgotten to secure the terminal, and with a grin Billy slipped into the chair and pulled up the report the doc was working on. The end part regarding 'unusual presence of sexual function' and 'need to check for possible sperm production despite chemical inhibitory factors' didn't make any sense, but looked fascinating.
Then he scrolled to the top and frowned. Large parts of it didn't make any sense, but...
Patients records indicate, as Doctor Harrison has previously noted, that the initial neural degradation after patient was placed on treatment regimen was far below nominal levels expected. However data tracking, especially given recent data, has allowed for improved growth curve analysis leading to an alarming conclusion. While patient's base degradation was slow, growth factor is larger by a measurable level. Additional physical exams will be necessary, and I will add the results of the hands-on physical to this file after completion.
For the moment, analysis of the growth curve places the patient squarely on track for fatal toxicity levels in the nominal age bracket, with a degraded life-span after decision is made whether to continue increasing dosage or level out and allow accelerated nervous system degradation. I recommend that a minimum one-year safety margin be implemented, against parental consent if need be. Tell the patient on or shortly after his fifteenth birthday about the impending decision so he may make an informed decision when the time comes. Additionally, if growth rate analysis is inaccurate this buffer frame will ensure he isn't taken by surprise and denied the appropriate length of time to make the decision.
On moral grounds I strongly recommend the parent's wishes be overruled and the patient informed that he possess a fatal condition. He isn't going to graduate high-school, and he deserves the right to know that so he may-
Billy blinked as he re-read that last bit, then started from the beginning again, anger building in his gut. 'Fatal toxicity levels... against parental consent... on moral grounds... isn't going to graduate...' He didn't understand a lot of the language, but he wasn't stupid.
A sound in the hallway told Billy that the doctor and his mother were returning, so he pivoted the screen around and bolded a few sections quickly.
"Billy!" his mother asked anxiously as she opened the door.
"Wait!" the doctor ordered as his mother grunted. "Billy,. would you please re-attire yourself?" the doctor asked.
"You left him undressed," Billy's mother squawked angrily. "And get your hands off me!"
"I'm dressed," Billy told them coldly. "And I'd like a word, Doctor, Mother." He sneered the titles angrily.
"How dare you take that tone with me young man?" his mother scolded as she entered the room, closely followed by the doctor.
"How dare I?" Billy asked. "How dare I, Mother?" he spat the title out, incensed beyond recognition.
"Minor problem," he sneered. "Just to keep you safe," he repeated. "Nothing to worry about," he began to shout. "You'll live a long and healthy life my God-damned fucking ass!" Billy was in tears now.
"Is it true?" he pointed at the screen, staring at his mother.
"Honey," she said softly, "everything is going-"
"Is it true?" he screamed.
"The doctor will explain it, he probably left some other patient's-"
"Is. It. TRUE?" Billy demanded at the top of his lungs, voice growing hoarse from the sheer volume of his speech.
"Billy, calm down please, everything-" his mother tried again.
"Yes, it is," the doctor cut in.
"Doctor!" she exclaimed.
"I have been unhappy with this deception from the moment I found out about it Madam, and as a doctor my duty is to the best interests of the patient, not the wishes of his parents!" the doctor scolded her.
"We decide his best-"
"Nyet!" the doctor cut in angrily. "I mean, no. You have decided what you believe to be his best interests, even as evidence proves you wrong! No more I say, no more!"
"Doctor!" Billy's mother exclaimed, scandalized.
"Look at what's in front of you, woman!" the doctor shouted. "Is this really in his best interests, or are you just too cowardly to tell him the truth?"
"SHUT UP ALREADY!" Billy screamed, tears streaming down his face. "Just tell me the God-damned truth for once, mother! Is it true?"
"I... I..." Mrs. Edwards stammered, tears forming in her eyes.
"Tell me yourself," Billy begged. "Just tell me." All those years of lies... he needed to hear it from her. He needed to know they were going to tell him. He needed that little comfort, that it had been something like Santa Claus, something to make his life a bit happier but they were gonna tell him the truth, honest.
"Billy, please, I... I..." Mrs. Edwards was crying now too.
"When were you going to tell me? When?!" Billy demanded, desperate for the answer he already knew wasn't coming.
"Your father and I... we've been talking about it, I... I can't, I just can't..." Mrs. Edwards collapsed into a chair, sobbing helplessly.
"You weren't going to tell me, were you?" Billy moaned. "You were just gonna let me continue along oblivious to the cliff at my fucking feet until I fell into it."
Mrs. Edwards shook her head, sobbing, unable to answer.
"How long do I..." Bill turned away fro his mother. "Doc, tell me the truth," Billy begged.
"Skrylwer Sydrome is a nervous system disorder similar to multiple sclerosis, or MS," the doctor said softly. "It's a juvenile onset disease that manifests within a few years of birth. Over the course of a few years, the nervous system tears itself apart."
"How long, Doc," Billy interjected.
"I'm getting there, Billy," the doctor said sadly. "It was noticed, purely by chance, that the degradation was caused by certain chemical imbalances in the body, and that those imbalances were exactly the opposite of certain poisons. Your medicine is actually a concentrated combination of a half dozen industrial poisons, precisely formulated to counteract the imbalance. That's why we run these tests every single month, we have to keep the two in balance or it will kill you."
The doctor sighed. "Billy, there aren't many cases of Skrylwer syndrome on record, so every single one has to be judged on it's own merits. In your case, you appear to be on tack for a very important decision around age sixteen. After that... there's no way to tell in advance how long you'll last, but it's anywhere from three to nine months, depending. And I'd guess closer to three."
"So don't plan for my seventeenth birthday party," Billy said bitterly.
"No, don't. If, and I do mean if, you see it, it will almost certainly be from a hospital bed," the doctor shook his head. "I'm sorry, Billy."
"At least you were honest," Billy cried. "Unlike some people who probably wouldn't have told me until after I was in my coffin."
"Billy, please," his mother moaned.
"Shut up, shut up, just shut up!" Billy screamed in sudden rage. "You weren't going to tell me, just let me drift along until I was dead, and now you complain about me being angry?"
Billy was screaming in her face now, shouting at the top of his lungs as tears streamed down his face. He couldn't even tell what he was shouting anymore, if he was even shouting words or the incoherent babbling of sheer, impotent rage.
Eventually he just collapsed into a corner, sobbing. He was dying and they'd never told him. He'd never get a chance to live his life because it was already ending...
He felt someone's hand on his shoulder and shrugged it aside. But the owner of the hand didn't take the hint, and Billy's rage boiled over again, lashing out.
His mother stood far to close to him as she crouched down, and she fell backwards as his elbow smashed into her face. Billy saw her sitting there on the ground and something inside broke.
He ran out the door, tears still streaming down his face. Doctors and nurses watched, shocked, as he ran down the long dreary corridors of the hospital without plan or reason. A few of them moved to stop him but he just barreled past, ducking under grasping hands with ease. One hand managed to get a good grip, but Billy just grabbed a scalpel off a nearby tray and jabbed it in, deep. The scalpel nearly got yanked out of his grasp as the hand jerked away, but he held tight, ripping the wound wide open as he ran away.
Panting, he leaned up against the wall of a deserted corridor hidden somewhere deep inside the building, sterile white walls a calming influence on his emotions-ravaged mind. Seeing a nearby niche in the wall, he hid himself in it and let the tears fall soundlessly down his face. Dead. Dead. Dead. He was as good as dead. Dead man walking, that was him, just too dumb to know he was dead.
Billy muttered and sobbed as he rocked back and forth in his 'hidden' alcove, not realizing that the doctors had caught up and where watching him from a respectful distance.
"Billy," his mother asked him eventually, "please come out honey."
"No!" Billt shouted between sobs, "Nononono no!"
"Come out now," some stranger ordered, approaching the niche Billy was hiding himself in.
"Get away or else!" Billy shouted angrily, trying to move deeper into the niche. The stranger paused then backed away. "Just all of you go away!" Billy cried out as he rocked back and forth, sobbing, arms hugged tight against his chest. He didn't even notice as the scalpel he was still clutching started to cut through his shirt at the collar.
"Where is he?" Jer demanded as he leapt out of the still moving car. Da didn't waste any time either, barely taking the time to remove the keys from the ignition before running into the hospital after his son and his best friend's wife.
Mrs. Edwards panted heavily as she lead them to the back of the hospitol, and Jer watched, slightly awe-struck, as his Da just swept her off her feet and carried her as fast as Jer could sprint. Jer pushed harder, finding it difficult to keep up with Da despite the extra weight.
"Can't you run quicker than that, son?" Da asked between breaths.
"No!" Jer gasped as Mrs. Edwards pointed wordlessly to a stairwell.
"Fifth floor!" she said, still panting.
"Alright," Da said. "Hold on, this is gonna be rough," had added, pausing to adjust his grip before bounding up the stairs three at a time.
Jer lagged even harder, and Da just loped his way to the fifth floor without waiting. "Hold up... Da! I can't... keep up!" Jer panted.
"I'll come back and grab you," Da said as he rounded the landing.
Jer was dragging his way up to the third floor when Da came pounding down six steps at a time, grabbed him, and then seemed to just fly up the stairs, Jer cradled against his chest.
"My God, I saw it and I still don't believe it!" a man in a white coat exclaimed, holding the door open for them as Da and Jer took off again, leaving Mrs. Edwards behind as she gestured them on.
"How can you do that?" the man gaped, as he fell into formation with them. "Left ahead," he added.
"Ex-military, special ops. I stayed in training," Da told him.
"Day-am!" the man exclaimed, "I always thought that the whole... 'marines are super-men...' thing was exaggerated!" The man was panting now as he lead them through the maze of the back corridors of the tenth largest hospital in the U. S.
"Bite your tongue!" Da exclaimed. "I'm a sailor, not a jar-head!"
"Explains why you took so long getting here, squid!" another man in a white coat exclaimed as they ran up. "He's just around the corner, and still completely hysterical. If it weren't for the scalpel he grabbed... Well, the mother insists you're our only real hope of getting through to him, so we're giving you the chance. I've had some tranq rifles brought up, but his meds interact with most of the quick-acting ones, so that's purely a last ditch option."
"Not me, him," Da said as Jer walked through the crowd of doctors and nurses.
"William Franklin Edwards, what the bloody fucking hell do you think you're doing?" Jer bellowed. He hadn't let Da teach him much about fighting, but he'd been yelled at by a master too often too not pick up a few tricks. The sheer volume of the bellow had several of the adults flinching back, directed at them or not.
Edward glanced up from his hysterics and looked at Jer for a bare moment. Suddenly Jer went flying as fifty pounds of best friend slammed into him, sobbing onto his shoulder. Jer fell flat on his backside and didn't even notice, too busy comforting his best friend.
A sudden yelping noise brought Jer, at least, back to the real world. He glanced behind him and saw a doctor rubbing his wrist, needle on the floor at his feet. Jer smiled as Da's body language sank in, and turned back to his friend, sure that no one was going to interrupt. Several minutes later Billy calmed down enough to choke an outline of what had happened.
"Da," Jer said when Billy had finished, "take us home." Da smiled and nodded as Jer struggled to get his exhausted friend to his feet.
"You can't!" someone protested. "We need-"
"My son did in five seconds what the rest of you couldn't do in half an hour," Da growled out, pointing at a doctor holding a scalpel. "If he thinks home is the best place to take this, who are you to try and overrule him?"
"Shut up, Hargood," another voice interrupted as Jer's feet fell back out from under him.
"You OK?" Da leaned over and asked as the doctors continued to argue. A slightly overweight one with a stereotypical Russian accent led the 'charge' to let Billy go, Jer noted absently.
"He's too big for me to carry," Jer admitted, "but I don't think he'll let go."
"Easily solved," Da grinned. "Doctors, we're leaving now. Any instructions for me to ignore?" The harsh babble of response made it clear the doctors were not happy, but the Russian one cut them off and handed Da a scrap of paper.
"Call me soon," he ordered. "Tonight, at the latest. Boy's meds need adjusting, old dosage is wrong."
"Alright," Da acquiesced as he squated down behind Jer. Reaching out with his well-muscled arms, he grabbed Jer and Billy alike and pulled them close. Jer wasn't sure how his Da arranged it, but suddenly he found himself 'reclining' in Da's grip, Billy laying on top of him half-asleep. And drooling, ick. Jer shrugged his shoulders and squirmed around a bit, trying to get Billy to close his mouth. "Son, what are you... Oh," Da started to asked. With Da's help, Jer managed to wriggle around so Billy's chin rested on his shoulder, closed and no longer leaking spittle.
Da moved at a slightly more sedate speed this time, one of the doctors leading him to the elevators at the front of the building. Jer didn't really care, or notice, being too busy blushing. Billy may have been half asleep, but certain body parts were clearly all the way awake, and pressing in rather... well, it wasn't all that uncomfortable, but having Billy's dick pressing into him just felt weird as hell. Oh well, at least he wasn't...
Jer flushed red as his body responded to the absentminded thought and returned Billy's 'favor'. Oh damn, Jer thought, sleepy or not, there is no way he's going to miss that! Jer thought idly about this morning's 'cure', wishing he could apply it again, but that thought just made things worse. Jer felt his face go from hot to burning as Billy wriggled against it.
"Something wrong son?" Da asked.
"Nothing I want to talk about," Jer snapped.
"Excuse me!" Da scolded.
"Sorry, just... embarrassing as... remember the discussion we were having earlier?" Jer tried to dodge.
"What's going on?" Da asked, concerned.
"Remember that bit about random, er, spont... spont..." Jer struggled for the word.
"Spontaneous erections?" Da asked.
"Ya, that. Times two," Jer moaned.
Da laughed. "Don't worry about it, son, just be ready for Billy to tease you mercilessly once he wakes up. And I suspect it's one spontaneous, and one sympathetic, erection, not two spontaneous."
"Whatever they are, that sounds like something to worry about!" Jer pointed out. The doctor guiding them turned his face to hide a smile as he held the front door open. "It isn't funny!" Jer snapped at him grumpily.
"Oh yes it is," the doctor disagreed. "Have a nice day, and I hope you can help the poor kid out."
"I'll try," Jer smiled as Da dumped the two of them into the back seat, "I'll try!"
"OK Da, I think Billy needs to get into bed," Jer ordered as Da hauled the two of them out of the back seat. "And since he's not going to let me go just yet..."
"I swear, the Da Taxi Service is not what I imagined doing with my life when I retired from the military!" Da commented with mock annoyance as he carried the two of them through the house.
"Well, I didn't choose to be Billy's teddy bear!" Jer pointed out. Then he got a great big, evil grin on his face. "Daaaaa..." he whined.
"Oh God have mercy on our souls, what evil thought have you cooked up?" Da asked.
"Do you think you could fish Theo out of the attic for me?" Jer asked with a smile.
"Theo?" Da asked, nonplussed. "Oooh," he added as memory hit him, "You mean Theodore!"
"Yup, Theodore Edward Bear!" Jer grinned. "I gots me a plan!"
"This should be fun," Da commented as he dropped the two of them off in Jer's bed. "Be right back, Jer."
"Wait a sec," Jer said, sniffing. "Phew, what stinks? Could you open the window?"
Da sniffed suspiciously, "Son, I don't smell anything."
"Well, it smells like something died in here!" Jer complained. "Just open the window already!"
"Alright, sure," Da agreed.
"Gah, close it quick!" Jer gagged as the smell grew worse. Black, oily -- though how he could possibly tell a smell was black or oily Jer couldn't even guess -- the smell spoke to him of something long dead, yet somehow...
Jer wanted to retch, but thankfully Da closed the window quickly and the smell started to subside, if nowhere near as quickly as Jer would like. Da left the room, presumably in search of Theo, and after a few moments Jer started wriggling against Billy, trying to get loose. Billy just smiled in his sleep and held on tighter. Jer couldn't wriggle loose, and eventually he went with plan B. Practical joke or not, he needed to get up so he started trying to wake Billy. "Billy, psst, Billy!" he said, eventually resorting to pinching his friend in desperation.
"Wha?" Billy complained.
"I need to get up!" Jer hissed. "Like, now!" Billy moaned a complaint but didn't move. "Billy, I gots to get up, I need to pee!"
Billy groaned and shifted around, knee pressing into Jer's abdomen as he rolled over. "Billy!" Jer gasped as the pressure came down on his bladder, but he was finally able to rip loose and run to the restroom.
"Found it!" Da exclaimed as he tromped down the stairs from the attic.
"Great!" Jer exclaimed as he dug his camera out of a desk drawer with an evil grin.
"Jer, what are you thinking?" Da asked, slightly worried. The very last thing Billy needed right this second was for Jer to give him a hard time.
"Billy's had a pretty rough day, and knowing him at least half his problem is going to be the knowledge that nothing can be the same again," Jer explained. "So by doing exactly what I normally would and giving him a hard time... it's exactly what he needs right now!"
"Jer," Da shook his head. "Are you sure about this?"
"No," Jer admitted, "which is why I'm going to save the photo until after I've had a chance to talk with him a while."
Jer slipped the teddy bear in beside Billy then draped Billy's arm over it, and he and Da shared a laugh as Billy shifted around to clutch it like a baby might. Jer snapped a few photos, giggling, then stopped in mid stride. Handing the camera over to Da, he leaned over and looked closer.
Billy was still crying. Deep asleep and exhausted, but still crying. "I think I just changed my mind, Da," Jer admitted. "He's crying. He's asleep and dead to the world, and still crying."
"He has a lot to cry about," Da agreed, hugging his son close and guiding him out of the room. "I knew his meds were important, but..."
Da trailed off and stood vigil with his son for a few long moments before Jer looked up at him. "How much did you know?"
Da sighed, and looked down at his son. "They told me the pills were important, that screwing up the dosage schedule could kill him, but that was it. I didn't know that the pills were only a stopgap measure."
"If you're lying to me..." Jer warned.
"I'd never forgive myself if I had hidden that knowledge," Da told Jer softly. "He should have been told. That's... Jack knows me about as well as you know Billy, son. He knows I would have found a way to make them tell Billy if I'd known."
"Da, I..." Jer started try cry, and Da carried him into another room as he sobbed. "Why? He's my friend!" Jer asked.
Jer slowly stopped sobbing and leaned back in his Da's embrace to look back towards his room. "I think I'm going to take a nap with Billy," he told his father.
"Good idea," Da agreed. "Giddy-up!" he exclaimed as he lifted Jer up.
Jer giggled and laid his head on Da's shoulder as Da carried him to his room. Da laid him gently next to Billy, where Jer had a far easier time wiggling into his grasp than he'd had wiggling out of it.
"You two look so sweet like that," Da commented evilly as he picked up Jer's camera.
"Oh no, don't you-" Jer began angrily. The click-flash of the camera announced that oh yes, Da dared. "I swear Da, I will get you for this!"
Da giggled maniacally as he removed the memory card from the camera and left the room, and Jer resigned himself to an unpleasant future as he drifted off to sleep.
Later that day, Jer woke up to the sound of shouting. "Where is my son?"
"Oh great," Jer moaned.
"Dad's here," Billy agreed sleepily. "Stupid no good-"
"Shhh," Jer interrupted, "I want to listen." Jer slipped out of the bed and tip-toed to the top of the staircase to listen in. Billy followed closely behind.
"Jack, calm down, please," Da said soothingly.
"I want to see my son!" Mr. Edwards answered angrily.
"Jack, you go see your son in this mood and-" Da began.
"Who does he think he is, sneaking around behind our backs like that?" Jer flinched as Mr. Edwards interrupted Da. "Prying into-"
"Into his own god damned medical records, Jack!" Da cut him off angrily, letting Mr. Edwards off 'easy'. "His records, his records, not yours!"
"We're his parents Jeremy!"
"You just don't get it, do you Jack? His records, his life, his decisions," each repetition of 'his' grew louder as Da made his point. "He's thirteen, not a little kid anymore, for Chrissakes!"
"We're his parents!"
"Only as much as he lets you be, Jack. He's-"
"What is that supposed to mean?" Mr. Edwards screamed. "We are the parents, not-"
"If you would be so kind as to let me finish?" Da asked icily. Jer didn't have to be in the room to see Da's icy glare ripping into the miscreant who had dared interrupt him not just once, but twice!
"Sorry," Mr. Edwards answered contritely.
"I understand you're upset, but if you just thrash around without thinking about it first, you're going to make things worse."
"Jeremy, I... I..." Jer shared a long, horrified look with Billy. Was Mr. Edwards crying?
"Jack, he had a right to know- Let me finish! He had had a right know about this years ago, and the fact that you didn't tell him is going to cause you problems enough without barging in and 'laying down the law' as a parent would do to a little child." Da sighed, and again Jer could almost see him as he shook his head sadly. "Thirteen years of age, and lied to for far too many of them. He's a teenager, Jack, not a little kid. He's hungering to make decisions for himself, to separate himself from your authority and image and forging a new identity, a new image, with his peer group."
"He's old enough to start resenting it if you simply run his life for him like you have been, even if he isn't old enough to run it completely on his own. He's reached the point where you can't enforce your parental authority physically, you have to establish a family contract. You've already got a decent one in place, realize it or not, but you push too hard now..."
"I push too hard now and what, I'll break it?" Mr. Edwards laughed.
"Any social contract works because all parties are willing to put in the effort to make it work. You push too hard, and he won't want to make it work. He'll ignore it. And that will leave you with exactly one option, and brute force won't work once he's-" Da broke off suddenly, and Jer felt his stomach sink.
"It won't work once he's what? All growed up?" Mr. Edwards laughed bitterly. "The boy is never going to be a man. The pills... they keep him alive, but we've been feeding our son poison for a long, long time. He's growing bigger, but not... he's not gonna mature. He can't produce natural testosterone, not in sufficient quantities, and injecting the synthetic stuff 'complicates' the rest of his treatment."
Jer shared another long look of horror with Billy. He didn't understand the details, but the outline being sketched was all too clear. And the way Mr. Edwards sneered the word 'complicates'...
"I don't think I hate him quite as much as I did an hour ago," Billy whispered. "Listen to him!"
"Yeah, he's just as upset as you are!" Jer agreed.
"Mom mentioned something about not wanting to hurt me..." Billy thought out loud. "Maybe she really meant it, they just couldn't... knowing I'm dying is bad enough, how bad have they had it all these years?"
"Pretty bad, sounds like," Jer agreed.
Just then Mr. Edwards started ranting about never having any grandchildren, and Billy made a face, "Like that was ever gonna happen!" he muttered.
"Hey, I don't know about that," Jer whispered back.
"Huh?" Billy asked, nonplussed.
"Well," Jer blushed, remembering the conversation earlier. "Er... we're at the age where we start liking girls, both of us. 'Specially since, er..."
"What?" Billy asked.
"Well, erm... I'm not sure if you remember earlier, when you were crying, but... er..." Jer couldn't believe he'd dug himself into this hole. Idiot! he thought.
"Jer, spit it out already!"
Da's sudden laughter interrupted their conversation. "It's not funny!" Mr. Edwards roared angrily. "I mean, I wouldn't encourage him to go out and bang up some bimbo, but it's just not fair for him not to even be able to, well... jack off!"
"What's funny, Jack, is that you're dead wrong!" Da roared.
"What do you mean?" Mr. Edwards asked, a tone of hope entering his voice.
"Just the other night, we had a not-so-small incident here," Da laughed. "I didn't get a chance to mention it to you, you were far, far too angry, but Billy blew up in my face because I made a comment about the tent he'd struck."
"Tent? He doesn't have a... Oh my God," Mr. Edward's voice took on a real tone of joy.
"Yup, he struck a tent, at random, like any other thirteen year old boy would," Da announced proudly.
"Oh, I have got to tell-"
"Son of a god-damned bitch!" Billy swore angrily. "He promised to let that drop!" Jer clasped a hand over Billy's mouth and dragged him away from the door, but the sudden break in the conversation in the other room made it clear he was too late.
"Jeremy Derick Young," Da said angrily, "what have I told you about eavesdropping?"
"Not to get caught," Jer shouted back. "But you didn't teach me that I had to announce my presence while walking up to a room, and you guys were the ones talking about violating a sworn confidence by telling Mr. Edwards something you promised to forget about!"
The few moments silence from the other room gave Jer enough time to glare at Billy in warning before they walked in. "I'm going to assume you were just walking up when that came up, and that the elephants trampling down the stairs I heard a few minutes earlier was some other troublesome duo," Da said sternly.
"Oh, no, that was us," Jer admitted readily.
"Jer," Billy kicked his best friend angrily.
"Billy," Jer responded with a slight grin, "Da isn't going to punish me for needing to fix a problem, even if it was an embarrassing one. He told me all about spon-ten-yous ejections earlier, and mentioned sympapetic ones too."
"Spontaneous and sympathetic erections, Jer," Da growled with a grin. "And deliberately mangling the language to distract us from the issue at hand, or help your case."
The slight grin on Mr. Edward's face never faltered, suggesting to Jer that Mr. Edward's liked the idea of his son getting a boner a bit more than Jer was comfortable with. Even if he did kinda understand it. "Speaking of spinning webs of deceit," Jer decided to move to the offensive, "I have a bone to pick with you Mr. Edwards, and not of the phellic kind!"
"I think you mean phallic, Son," Da said, covering his mouth. "And a very cute play on words it would have been, if you'd gotten it right."
"Whatever!" Jer snapped, glancing over his shoulder in irritation. "You've lied, Mr. Edwards," Jer turned his gaze back to where it belonged. "To me, to Da, to Billy. For years you and your wife have systematically and deliberately lied to us!" Jer's voice was a copy of one of his Da's, the one he saved for people who had screwed up beyond royally. For all that it still held the high pitch of youth, the sheer derision and disdain dripping from his tone was a potent venom that set Mr. Edwards on the defensive from the start. His speech was slow, rhythmic, and the result torturous. Jer delivered a tongue lashing worthy of a marine drill sergeant.
And then he got nasty. He didn't really remember what he'd said or even how he said it, but from the looks on Da and Billy's faces when he finished, it must have been really, really good. All Jer remembered -- and on some level, he knew it was all he would ever remember -- was the anger. The cold, derisive anger he lashed out with. He rode the crest of that anger and used it as a whip to scourge the flesh of the complete and, God damn his eyes, utter moron that had lied to Billy all these years. "I'm not going to ask you how you could do this," he sneered to the quivering wreck that had once been a man, that now sat sobbing in an armchair with his head in his hands. "I don't want to know. Just get out. Don't come back. Not tonight. Go. Now!"
Jer took in the awed look on Da's face, and the horrified look on Billy's, and just grabbed Billy by the hand and dragged him from the room. "I'll deal with you later," he told Da coldly, looking over his shoulder as he left.