Castle Roland

A Special Place

by Sequoyah


Chapter 38

Posted: N/A

A Special Place--Part Thirty-eight--Michael

[From Part Thirty-seven: Just when I thought I could stand no more, I couldn't breathe. My throat was closed and I felt as though my body was being consumed by insects--stinging and eating my flesh. If I wasn't dead and in hell, I longed for death if it would take away the pain, the unbearable pain. I struggled for breath. I was ready to give up when, faintly, I saw a shadow standing just out of my line of vision. I turned my head as much as I could and saw Mary Kathryn. Was I never to hold her in my arms again? Was my life with her over after it had just begun? Was this the end? I struggled to pull air into my lungs. I had to live. I had a whole life ahead of me with my wild woman, my Mary Kathryn.

I struggled so hard and then I felt a new pain, a pain in my throat as if it was being forced open. Then, gradually I could breathe, but the insects were still stinging and biting and I was still being consumed by fire. I wanted to live so much and struggled so hard, but could I bear the pain? I was torn between loving life so much I was willing to endure anything and wanting it all to be over. Then, as a miracle, I felt nothing. It was as though I was above my bed, looking down on a body people were working on and calling Michael, but I wasn't there. I saw Margaret and Mary Kathryn, Matt and Luke and Chelsea and Gladys, looking at my body. I tried to shout, to have them look up and see me, the real me, but they did not. I was no longer in their world.]

The world in which I found myself was one of absolute silence and the pain was fading away. Slowly I was leaving the world of pain--not only pain, but also the world as I had known it. Feelings, emotions seemed strange in this new place. Even my love for Mary Kathryn seemed distant, even unreal, disconnected from the me that was no longer a part of her world--the world of flesh and blood and passion--and pain. I tried to remember the feeling of love and warmth and passion I had with Mary Karthyn, but like the pain, it was becoming a memory, only a memory. But most of all I was no longer in pain. The price was high, but the pain was gone. Then I realized what was happening--had happened. I was dying or maybe even dead and I welcomed it, longed for it because I was out of pain, no longer suffering. I could see the monitors with their flashing lights and knew they making sounds, but I heard nothing. As I floated above the scene, I could see the people talking, but I heard nothing. I was free of pain--then I saw Margaret crying and Mary Kathryn holding her. I had loved both so much, but now that seemed like a dream about another Michael, a Michael who could no longer endure the terrible, terrible pain. I couldn't go back; I wouldn't go back to the pain. I saw my brothers, both looking very serious. I had loved them too, but I could not go back. I couldn't endure the pain. I simply could not. I must go on in this world, my new world. Why didn't they realize that? Why didn't they understand that I welcomed death, wanted death, longed for death because with it there was no pain. Strangely, I realized, there was no longer any feeling of love--just a faint memory--but that didn't matter. They would forget--I was already forgetting.

When I had made my final decision, I saw the six people in the room suddenly moving about. Margaret quickly, but firmly, took Mary Kathryn by the arm and led her out the door, then closed it, leaving Mary Kathryn outside. Chelsea and Gladys were working on my body, but I was not there. They were trying to get me to come back, but I was moving further and further away from them. I was not in the body they were working on. I knew they wanted me back, but I had made my decision. I couldn't endure the pain and they loved me so they would understand that I was suffering and now I was not. They would understand. Now I was no longer a part of their world. As I watched, the scene below started to fade away. I was gone.

Just before I was compleletly in my world and their world had faded away as a shadow, I saw Matt look at Luke and they moved quickly to the bed where my body lay, Matt to my head, Luke to my feet. Just before what I knew would be my final look at those I had loved, both reached out and placed their hands on my body. Matt's hands were on either side of my head; Luke's were holding my feet. I screamed, "No! I hate you for wanting me in pain. Get away from me!" I felt as if something was pulling me back into my pain-filled body. I struggled against the powerful force which was drawing me back into their world, the world of my pain. I was too weak to fight. It seemed as though a hole had appeared between the world in which I had been floating and the world where my body lay on the bed and I was being sucked through it and into my body. The pain!! I was being consumed by fire. Insects were chewing, biting and stinging my body. Why did they want me to suffer so? I hated them for bringing me back to the pain! I wanted to die. Why wouldn't they let me?

Then I had the strangest sensation. I felt a river of pain, springing from the center of my body and flowing in two directions, one toward my head and the other toward my feet. As the river sprang up, I felt the fire flicker and go out. The insects disappeared and I was no longer in great pain even though I was back in my body. I don't know what kind of power or magic Matt and Luke had, but they had brought me back. Suddenly I was filled with shame. I wanted to cry I was so ashamed, but I could not. I had chosen comfort and a bodiless, loveless spirit existence over one in which I was loved by those around me and one in which I loved so deeply. I was so ashamed. How could I ever look them in the eye? How could I tell Mary Kathryn I loved her more than life itself when I had chosen death over life with her? How could I accept her love when I had taken mine from her? I was so ashamed! How could I hold my head up among those who loved me when I had chosen death over life? My mind was awhirl, but I was in no real pain and I slept.

A Special Place--Part Thirty-eight--Chelsea

Michael was in dire trouble, I knew that. You don't spend thirty years in a hospital and twenty of those in ICU without knowing when someone is at the point of death and Michael was. I knew that Margaret knew it as well, but was being the ever-hopeful mother. She broke down when Mary Kathryn, Matt and Luke came into the room, but didn't tell them just how serious Michael's situation was. He was near death when he was brought in, but responded quickly to the blood he was given. We all knew there was a possibility for a serious infection, but we all hoped for the best.

Tuesday his fever started going up and he was given drugs to help bring it down with little response. He was burning up. The IV antibiotics were not doing what everyone hoped they would do. It was very obvious that he had a massive infection. Then he started reacting to one of the antibiotics. That alone is enough to kill a relatively strong person and Michael was anything but strong. The blood he was given helped, but was not enough to restore him to health--not by a million miles. The doctors were waiting, trying to decide whether or not he could withstand an operation to repair any possible leakage from his intestines. Then he reacted to the antibiotic. In his present condition an operation was sure death, not that he wasn't at death's door anyway. Now, with Matt, Luke and Mary Kathryn present no-one was willing to speak the unspeakable. Michael was dying. Not only was he dying, but also he had to be in sheer agony. The monitors, if Margaret had looked, were telling the story and forecasting the future--a future without Michael. Suddenly it was all over. The alarms on the monitors went off and Margaret yelled for us to call a Code Blue as she quickly got Mary Kathryn out of the room. Gladys called the code--"Drug reaction to antibiotic," she shouted toward the intercom. As she did, I saw Matt and Luke move quickly to Michael's bed, one at the head and one at the foot. As they placed their hands on Michael, the alarms stopped almost instantly. As they stood, holding his head and feet, it was as though the monitors had been placed on rewind, changing from announcing Michael's death to showing him gradually coming alive. In a matter of minutes--actually seconds--Michael's vital signs were better than they had been since he was brought in. Within five minutes at the most, he was simply sleeping and appeared to be without pain.

Luke and Matt were another matter altogether. Both had collapsed and, when I rushed to Matt and touched him, I knew he had a raging fever. He was also groaning in pain and his body was covered with blotches and rash. He looked as though he had a reaction to the antibiotic rather than Michael.

When the Code Blue team rushed into the room, Gladys said, "Michael is ok all of a sudden, but you need to care for these two. They are in pretty bad shape."

The head of the team and a teammate took one look and quickly inserted breathing tubes in Matt's and Luke's throats. "We'll get them into beds as soon as possible and if you will examine them, Dr. Bai... Andrews--maybe we can find out what is wrong."

"Just take my word for it because you wouldn't believe me if I told you, but they are both reacting to an antibiotic. Give them the drug you brought for Michael's reaction. Then find a room for them. I'll be with them and as soon as I can confirm what I know to be true, I'll write orders."

"The semi-private room next door is empty; we'll put them there."

"Gladys, you stay with Michael and I'll go with the other two," I said as Dr. Andrews left the room, following the boys as they were moved next door. Matt and Luke were placed in beds and Dr. Andrews examined them and wrote orders for their medication. As the Code Blue team left one of the nurses said, "I'll bring what you have ordered."

"Make it as quick as possible or we'll have another emergency on our hands. And be sure to bring allergy test kit so I can check before before starting the antibiotic. We've had enough of that for a long time," Dr.Andews added said.

As soon as the team was out of the room, I asked, "Dr. Andrews, do you know what happened to the two boys?"

"You won't think I'm crazy?"

"Not unless you say something that contradicts what I just witnessed."

"Well, you were there and you saw what happened. Michael was dead. I don't think he will never be more dead than he was minutes ago. Now he is free of fever and the reaction to the antibiotic is over. But here we have two men burning up with fever and showing every sign of a drug reaction. What do you think?"

"You'll think I'm nuts, but I think--how I surely don't know--Matt and Luke took Michael's problems into themselves."

"I don't think you're nuts because that's exactly what happened. I was worried that they, too, would burst open death's door, but then they are healthy and strong. They haven't lost any blood--well not any to amount to anything. They did give blood, but not enough to matter to their bodies. You're right, I haven't the foggiest idea how they did it, but they did. Now we have two strong healthy men to fight off the infection and drug reaction that was Michael's and I am going to treat them accordingly."

As she finished, the Code Blue nurse brought the drugs Dr. Andrews had ordered and she started caring for Matt and Luke. The shots they had been given each to counteract the drug reaction--which had been Michael's--were obvioulsy working and she said, "That takes care of one problem".

Between the two of us, we got the boys undressed and in hospital gowns--as beautiful as they were, I started to not bother and just let them lie there in their natural beauty, but Margaret said, "Chelsea, don't you think you had better get those two covered? I know they're young, good looking and sexy, but..."

"They sure are that," I replied with a smile.

When we had finished, I used the test kit for allergies the nurse brought while Dr. Andrews checked the boys. "Ok, Chelsea, how does the test look, ok?" I nodded and Dr. Andrews said, "You've a lot better at IV needles than I am." So I inserted the IV needles and started the antibiotic drip. We both gave a sign of relief.

A Special Place--Part Thirty-eight--Matt

When the alarms on the monitors went off, I immediately had that strange feeling again. I looked at Luke and knew that he felt it as well. This time I grasped Michael's head and Luke his feet. As soon as my hands touched Michael, I felt a stream of scalding water rush into my body. It seemed to be carrying millions of stinging, biting, chewing insects which immediately started stinging, biting and chewing my whole body. As I continued to hold Michael's head, the pain grew worse until I could stand it no longer and all went black.

When I became aware again--I won't say conscious because I knew I wasn't--I was in another world. My body seemed as though it was aflame. I was burning and, in addition, I still could feel the insects stinging, biting, chewing all over my body. I was in agony so terrible I didn't see how I could stand it much longer. When I thought I was at my rope's end and simply wanted to die to escape the pain, all went black again.

The next time I became aware, I could feel the insects falling from my body. Their stinging and biting was fading away and they had died or flown or whatever. Finally, they were gone. I still felt as though my body was aflame, but even that was less intense. I felt a prick in my arm--I think it was my arm--and soon drifted off into, not blackness, but sleep.

A Special Place--Part Thirty-eight--Margaret

"Chelsea, I see the medication I gave Matt for the reaction is taking effect . How about Luke?"

"Same here. I can practically see the blotches disappearing and he is breathing normally." "This is what should have happened with Michael. It shouldn't have taken long at all for it to have given him relief. I don't know what was wrong, but Matt and Luke seem to be responding very well. I'm going to give them shots to lower the fever and a pain killer. I think they are out of danger." After I had given the shots, I said, "Chelsea, I'm going to talk to the family. I know David is here somewhere and I suspect Yong Jin and Greywolf have arrived from school by now. I'll be in my office; if you need me, call."

"Dr. Andrews, will you stop by Michael's room and let Gladys know what is going on? I know she's on needles and pins."

"Sure, and I'll see that you hear from Michael as well."

When I entered Michael's room I couldn't believe what I saw. Michael's color was good and he looked as if he was sleeping normally. "How's my son doing?" I asked.

"Dr. Andrews, I don't believe it even though I saw it, but as soon as Luke and Matt took hold of him, he came back to life and is--as far as I can tell--exactly what you would have expected for someone who had been cut open, but without infection or drug reaction. He's doing great. How about the other two?"

"You saw it, Gladys. They took Michael's infection and drug reaction from him and into themselves. Fortunately, they are strong and healthy and the drugs are working. They were in bad shape until the drug reaction was counteracted. I have given them medication to lower their fever and to combat the infection. They should be fine--in a few days."

"Well, as you said, I saw it with my own eyes but, believe me, I'll keep it a secret or someone would lock this old nurse up in a looney bin!" "I'm going to see who's here and give them the news. Also, have the desk page Dr. Walker and have him come to my office, please."

"Sure thing."

Yong Jin and Greywolf were in my outer office with David when I got there. "What's going on, Margaret?" Yong Jin asked. "Someone from the hospital called us on Greywolf's cell phone and said we needed to come as soon as we could. They also said they were trying to contact Jens and Gabrielle." Before Yong Jin had finished, Jens and Gabrielle came into the room, followed by Mary Kathryn.

"Ok, I am a thoroughly modern person. A doctor trained in the medical sciences," I started. " I think we know that," David said with a smile, "so get on with it."

"I said that because you're going to think otherwise, I'm sure, when I tell you the latest development. First of all, so you don't go off and not hear the whole story, everyone is ok, or will be."

"What do you mean 'everyone'?" David asked.

"Ok, everyone sit down and I'll tell you the whole stor... Dr. Walker, glad you're here. It'll save me having to tell the story over."

"Gladys and Chelsea both told me what happened. I guess with you as a witness I'll have to believe it, but this gets stranger and stranger."

"Ok, folks, this afternoon Michael was suffering from a massive infection..." " I had hoped it wouldn't happen and I'm still not sure whether it was from a leakage we missed or just the leakage from his intestines yesterda, but, yes, he had a massive infection which shot his temperature sky-high earlier today," Dr. Walker added.

"Then, to complicate matters, he reacted to one of the antibiotics he was being given to combat the infection--a severe and life threatening reaction. I thought he might be holding his own, but he was not. This afternoon, when Matt, Luke and Mary Kathryn came here from school, Michael died."

"He what???!!!" David shouted. "And you didn't call me? How could you, Margaret?"

"Calm down, David. I told you everyone was ok or would be. Michael went flat line--he was dead. And as soon as the alarms on the monitors went off, Luke and Matt rushed to him, one grasping his feet, the other his head and, believe it or not, the monitors reversed themselves. From saying Michael was dead, they announced he was alive. Matt and Luke, however, fell to the floor showing all the signs of the drug reaction Michael no longer had, and both burning up with fever. They are now in a room next to Michael's. The medication to counteract the drug reaction has done its work and they are out of danger from that. Both are still feverish but are responding, apparently, to the drugs I have ordered to bring their fever down and combat the infection. When I left, both seemed to be sleeping normally after having been given some pretty powerful painkillers. Now, family, that's all I know."

"You are trying to tell me Luke and Matt took Michael's medical problems as their own and he is free of them?" David asked.

"No, I'm not TRYING to tell you that, David. I AM telling you that. How? I don't know. Such doesn't happen in my world."

"Remember I said that I thought Matt had the power of a Lakota medicine man and that I didn't understand--physics doesn't have a place for that sort of thing--the powers of a medicine man, but I knew they were there and I thought Matt had them?" Greywolf asked.

"I don't know whether it's Lakota or Korean, but I do know that my Korean ancestors who were shaman passed power from themselves to someone close to them. I guess in the non-scientific world of the shaman, Matt had a double entry-way and apparently he has taken Luke with him. Doesn't surprise me," Yong Jin said. "Well, I doubt that Margaret or I will write this up for a medical journal," Dr. Walker laughed. "We'd be treated as nutcases. But I saw what happened when those two touched Michael yesterday so I'm not surprised--well, that's not so, because I am surprised--I don't disbelieve what Margaret said happened. In fact, it would be hard to do, wouldn't it?"

"So where are we?" Jens asked.

"Dr. Walker will need to examine the three, but I think what he will find is that Michael is free of the reaction to the drug and the infection and simply has to have time for his wounds to heal. I suspect he'll be ready to go home in a few days--within a week anyway. I think he will find that Luke and Matt are suffering from an infection--the drug reaction has been taken care of, I think--and that will take a few days to get over. If the antibiotics work for them, they'll be out of here before the weekend, I suspect."

"I'll do an examination, Margaret, but I am sure I'll find the things you just said. Some strange things happen in this world and I think this is the strangest I've witnessed--and I'll not be able to talk about it because no-one will believe me. Well, I'll check the boys."

Everything looked under control and suddenly I was exhausted. David took me by the arm, kissed my softly and said, "Come on, Mom, let's check on our son and go home and get some rest". David's saying "our son" was not lost on me and I was very happy.

A Special Place--Part Thirty-eight--Greywolf

As Margaret and David left, Yong Jin, Gabrielle, Jens and I went to check on our sons. Chelsea had an orderly helping her give them sponge baths in cool water to help get their fever down. They were obviously two very sick young men, but Chelsea assured us they were improving minute by minute. While we were there, Dr. Walker came in, examined the two and said, "Dr. Andrews hit the nail on the head. These two have an infection. But they seem to be responding to the medication and, in Chelsea's hands, they should be up and around soon. But I wouldn't plan on their being in school for a few days.

When Yong Jin and I got home, we sat and talked for a very long time. We both talked about things we had never discussed before--about the shaman in Yong Jin's family and about my experience with medicine men. "I never told you because I thought you would think me a superstitious fool, but I knew Matt was different practically from the moment he was conceived. In one sense, I was pleased because, should he be a shaman, it would--to me--take away some of the sting of being mixed. It would affirm my Korean heritage. In another way I was afraid. Shaman often live very isolated lives. So when he grew up to be a very popular and well-liked young man I was relieved. From time to time--such as his being able to sense Luke--I was sure there was a shamanistic side to him. I guess it was proven when--as has happened for centuries in my family--someone he loved received the power as well. Luke knew when Matt was coming long before he was in the room with him, remember?"

"Well, it took me longer to wonder about Matt being a medicine man. I, too, feared what that might do to him. Medicine men have great power, but they are often outsiders. Many, I have been told, are gay--except Lakota do not talk about gay and straight--they just talk about people who are special. But I'm trained as a scientist and I kinda thought all that was just old wives' tales, but, then, I would never have been healed by shots and pills as I was by the medicine man. There are still mysteries in the universe."

"Yes, and I think one of them is a Lakota Korean American you and I brought into the world. I only hope he does good with his power and is not hurt by it. Now, let's get to bed. We do have school tomorrow," Yong Jin said with a particular sparkle in her eye.

Our love making was tender and passionate. As we lay naked in each others arms, I said, "You know, my Korean lover, young people have lust and the desire, but I think experience makes up for any decrease in lust. We could never have made love when we first met the way we do now."

"That's because you were always in too big of a hurry," she laughed as she bit a nipple.

A Special Place--Part Thirty-eight--Bill

Lunch Wednesday was a strange affair. First off, Mary Kathryn told us Matt and Luke were in the hospital and why. I guess those of us who grow up in the modern world just don't understand that we don't know everything.

"That sounds like some kind of magic," I said.

"You think it sounds like magic? You should have been there. It was really, really weird. If someone other than Margaret had told me about it, I would have thought they were smoking some strange herb," Mary Kathryn laughed, "but I know what happened. Margaret told us all about it after it was over. Michael was dead--all the monitors attached to him said so--then he wasn't and Luke and Matt were sick--very sick. I mean just like that--bingo and it happened

"So that explains why Luke and Matt aren't here," Linda said, "but where's Larry and Eugene?"

"I guess they are downtown," Jacob said. "Didn't McBride's trial start today? Hold up. Here they come."

"Sorry we're late. What's the news from Michael? Where's Matt and Luke," Larry asked as the two sat down.

Mary Kathryn had to tell the story again and, when she finished, Eugene said, "Man, who's going to believe that?"

"Where have you two been?" Linda asked. "We thought you'd have been at the trial."

"They're picking the jury today. The judge sent word I needn't show up until tomorrow. Larry and I went to see Ms. Jones."

"Look, Eugene's been doing well--actually he hasn't, but he says he is--but the trial is really going to be bloody so we wanted to ask Ms. Jones about the Fellowship being there for him."

"And she said?" I asked.

"She said it was ok if our teachers would excuse us. I got permissions forms for you to get signed by all your teachers. And you'll need a parent to sign as well. If all sign, you can go and we'll be there until this mess is over. I mean who's doing anything in school now anyway?" Larry laughed.

"Think we can we see Michael, Matt and Luke today? I'd sure like to see them to make sure they're ok," Jacob said. "I mean all this stuff about strange powers and so on..."

"Probably can. Let's all go immediately after school," Mary Kathryn said.

At the hospital, Mary Kathryn checked to see about visitors. The charge nurse said we could see the guys. "They're doing ok," she said. We were told all three were in the same room. Dr. Andrews was in their room and we could hear her talking before we went in. "Chelsea, Gladys, these three young men look in better shape that you two. Now that we have managed to get all three in the same room, it's time for you two to get some rest. Ok, I know you two are iron women, but enough is enough. You have to get some rest. The family can take over now and David or I will be around in case we're needed. Now you two get out of here." The two nurses left, looking as if they would drop any minute, but managed to give us big smiles as they left.

Dr. Andrews stepped into the hall to speak to us before we went in. "The guys are pretty much out of it right now," Dr. Andrews said. "They are improving by the minute, but all three are very weak from what they have been through. Matt and Luke are still fighting the infection, but they are almost over it. Michael... Michael... Well, Michael should be doing ok--and he is physically--but he seems really depressed. He just doesn't seem himself. I guess it's part of his being so sick, but it's... well speak to them, but don't stay long. And be careful with hugging Michael. Remember, he's only held together with cat gut and stainless steel right now."

When we walked into the room, Matt and Luke both smiled--weakly--and reached out to embrace each of us. Michael lay, looking at the ceiling as though we were not there.

When Mary Kathryn walked over to his bed, he didn't move. When she bent over to kiss his forehead, it seemed as though he kinda turned away from her. What was going on here? I guess... well, I didn't know what I thought. Maybe he was worried about his face and how he would look. I just didn't know. He certainly wasn't the old Michael who was always on top. The bandages on his face made talking hard, I'm sure, but he said nothing. I suppose all of us noticed that and decided to leave him alone. I knew something was eating him, but you don't press matters when someone is just back from the dead.

Matt and Luke were another matter. Sure they were weak--very weak--but full of questions. They wanted to know what was going on at school since they had outted themselves, what was happening with the trial and what we thought about the strange thing they did with Michael. Everyone tried to talk at once until finally, as usual, Linda got the upper hand. She told them there had been little said at school about them so far as we knew, the trial would start as soon as a jury was picked and that we had a hard time believing what we were told about their bringing Michael back. I was looking at Michael as Linda talked and when she mentioned the two guys bringing Michael back, I saw a tear in his eye. I really wondered what was going on, but it was time for us to go. Matt and Luke got hugs from everyone and Michael, again, seemed to be avoiding all of us so we just said, "See you, Michael," and left. Before we did, Mary Kathryn once again bent to kiss Michael and he definitely turned away from her.

Thursday we all met at school, took our permission slips to Ms. Jones and left for the trial.

The first witnesses were the three who had been in the state hospital. All three had been released to a halfway house, but the defense attorney kept trying to make the point that they were mental patients and their testimony couldn't be depended upon. Finally, some tapes of them were shown. I got sick at my stomach. Clearly, the early ones were of boys being raped by McBride. There was no question about that. The later ones showed them in all kinds of sexual activity with each other and they didn't look as if they were being forced.

The defense used to the latter tapes to prove, he said, that they were homosexuals and were doing what they wanted to do. The persecuting attorney pointed out even if what the defense attorney said was true, it didn't matter since all were under-age. The guys were questioned about why they had gone along with McBride and said at first it was because he kept telling them he was helping them get the devil out. Later, he gave them money, lots of money. All three are from very poor single parent families and the money was just too much temptation, I guess. Besides, they had been raped at 12 or so and where do you go from there? I must admit as much as I had hated them when they tried to run us off the road, I felt sorry for them. I don't think the defense got very far with his "they're mental patients" argument and certainly not with "they're gay so they were doing what they wanted" argument, but who knows?

The three's testimony took all morning and, when the lunch break came, the Fellowship--less the three guys, of course--were standing on the courthouse steps when the three came out. When they saw us, one of the three, Danny Elrod, walked over to where we were with the other two following. I was surprised first that they would approach us and then because it looked as though Danny was their spokesman. He had always been Jake Hilliard's yes man. "I guess you folks don't want to see or talk to us, but I hope you will listen. First of all, Eugene, I'm glad you had guts enough to escape McBride. We didn't. I know you can't forgive us for what we did--we can't forgive ourselves--but I did want you to know how very sorry we are for all we have done. It's not really an excuse, but we were so under McBride's power--the money, his pressure on us, his getting our parents to believe he was doing us good, a whole lot of things--that he really got us fucked up. Our time in the mental hospital and now in the halfway house and the counseling we are getting is helping. I just hope we can overcome our past. As I say, I don't expect you to forgive us, but I did want you to know how sorry we are and how hard we are working to get ourselves straightened out. Also, Eugene, how much we admire you, not only for refusing to fall into McBride's trap, but also for testifying against him."

"Danny, and you too Jake and Buddy, you have no reason to apologize to me especially. Gregory is dead and nothing can change that. Forgive you? I think I can. I know how easy it might have been for me to be where you are. The important thing is that you continue to get help so you don't become a McBride. I've been told that often happens--abused become abusers. And the most important thing is that you forgive yourselves and get on with your life, making it a good life in spite of the shit you have been through." I was surprised when Danny stuck out his hand that Eugene didn't just shake it, but pulled Danny to himself for a hug. The rest of us shook hands with Danny, Jake and Buddy. "Keep working on becoming the great people you can be and don't let McBride drag you down for your whole life," Eugene said. The three guys who had been the terror of Independence were all weeping openly as they turned to leave. Larry hugged Eugene to himself and said, "Babe, you are a bigger man than even I thought." We all agreed.

Millie was waiting for us at the courthouse door. "Son, I was told what you said to the three who testified this morning. You are a real man in my book! Not that you haven't always been, but that clinched it!" she said as she hugged him. "All of you are great in my book."

The afternoon started with a surprise. The prosecution called Eugene's father as a hostile witness and asked him to identify Eugene in the tapes. He kept refusing until Judge Snow said, "Mr. Joyce, either answer the questions or you're going to jail for contempt."

Old man Joyce reluctantly agreed that the tapes were of Eugene. When he was asked if Eugene had reported any such events to him, he said Eugene had been possessed of the devil and "I didn't and don't believe anything he said or says. He's a faggot. I know that now. I should have suspected it all along." There were immediate objections and the lawyers and old man Joyce were warned that all answers were to be to the questions asked and the events under consideration. The lawyer had to be warned several times that the present had nothing to do with the case.

I think the responses, even though wrong and out of place, served a real purpose. They made Eugene coldly angry. His testimony was matter of fact, straight forward and he did it all without breaking down, which we all feared. There were several other witnesses called by the defense to testify to McBride's good character and his crusade against homosexuality. None, however, could deny the evidence of the tapes. In a final, desperate effort to get the tapes dismissed, McBride's lawyer charged they had been doctored or were faked. An expert witness from the FBI testified, "The tapes you have seen are exactly as they were when they were taken from Rev. McBride's house. They have never been out from under lock and key except when they were being viewed and there were always at least three court officials present when they were taken from the locked box, while they were being viewed and when they were locked back in the box."

When Judge Snow asked how many more witnesses McBride's lawyer had, he said he had a hundred or so character witnesses. "Do any of them have direct knowledge of the events recorded on the tapes we have seen?" she asked.

"Of course not, because we believe those events were staged."

"Even those in which Rev. McBride appears?" she asked. There was no response.

After court was dismissed, we all went to the hospital. Luke and Matt were doing so well they had been told they could go home after Dr. Walker checked them tomorrow. They were full of questions about the trial. "I'm no lawyer," Larry said, "but I think it's about over. It's hard to argue with video tapes." He then told them about our conversation with Jake, Danny and Buddy."

"Man, it will be hard for them to forgive themselves, but at least they have made a start," Luke said. We had all just about forgotten about Michael since he had turned away when we came in and didn't seem to want to talk. He definitely turned away from Mary Kathryn's kiss, again. "How can you get forgiveness? How can you forgive yourself when you know you've done something terrible," Michael said softly.

"What do you mean, Michael?" Eugene asked, turning toward Michael.

"Nothing. Never mind," he said and turned to face the wall again. Something serious was going on here. What had Michael done that he felt he needed forgiveness or to forgive himself? We all looked very puzzled.

The second day in court went quickly. The hundred or so character witnesses turned out to be two: Eugene's mother and father. The rest, the lawyer said, had asked to be excused. After preaching about McBride's crusade against perverts and faggots, on cross examination, both Joyces were asked if the Rev. McBride was the person in the tape of him raping Eugene and in others of him sucking or fucking some kid. They both shouted that the tapes were fakes but, in the end, the tapes made short work of McBride's character witnesses.

It took the jury twenty minutes to find McBride guilty on all counts and, as had been said before, he will be an old man before he's free. And the feds hadn't gotten him yet.

Monday, Matt and Luke were back in school, somewhat worse for the wear, but present for lunch. They told us what they did, but didn't know why or what or how they had done it. "I guess it'll always be one of life's mysteries," Matt said. "But we do have a problem."

"Yea, how well I know," Mary Kathryn spoke up. "Something's bad wrong with Michael. Do you think he's afraid of how he will look? That doesn't make sense. I'm the one who will have to look at him and I don't care how he looks."

"I don't think Michael is that shallow," was the surprising response from Linda. "If my face got messed up, I'd just about die. But Michael? No, I don't think that's what's wrong. Luke, I think you and Matt ought to go see him today. Maybe he'll talk to you. Something has to be done. He's completely withdrawn from all of us." "Including me," Mary Kathryn said as tears fell down her cheeks.

"I agree with Linda," Jacob said. "You two guys saved his life, but you're also brothers. Maybe he'll talk to you. And if not, you'll just have to be firm--damn firm--with him."

A Special Place--Part Thirty-eight--Matt

When Luke and I reached the Jeep, he grabbed me and gave me a full Luke kiss. "That'll save the family jewels from that damn stick," he said. No-one had said anything one way or the other to either of us and I wondered if students were going to just take two gay lovers in stride. I sure hoped so. I knew it was great not having to pretend any longer.

When we drove by Eugene's former home, the front door was standing open and the house was obviously empty. "I guess the Joyces realized they needed to be somewhere else now that the Temple of Praise has been shown for what it really was. And think, David and Michael were in that shit for a long time," Luke mused. When we reached Michael's room, Dr. Walker and the plastic surgeon--Dr. Lucas--had just finished working on Michael's face. "Dr. Lucas, this is Matt Greywolf and Luke Larsen."

"Fellows," he said as he extended his hand, "I've heard it, but not sure I believe it. But something must have happened because Michael is doing great. As you can see, he has a scar, but the redness will go way and, when it is completely healed, it will hardly be noticeable. But I guess you two only specialize in drug reactions and infections because his wounds are still there, but healing nicely. Michael, smile, please." Michael turned to face us and gave a very forced smile. "As you can see, there is nerve damage and some paralysis. Not as much as I feared, but he will always have a bit of a crooked smile--but crooked smiles are sexy, I'm told." He patted Michael on the leg and turned to go.

"Luke, Matt, if you can spare a few minutes, I'd like to have you talk with Dr. Lucas a bit."

"Sure. Laters, Michael," I said.

As soon as we were in the hall, Dr. Walker said, "That was only half true. I'm sure you expected to be quizzed about what you did for/with Michael, but there's nothing to be said about that. It happened and we'll never know how or why I suspect. I just wanted to get you out of the room so we could talk. Dr. Lucas, will you join us?" Dr. Lucas nodded and we went to Dr. Walker's office.

"Guys, I am worried about Michael. He is healing fine. He seemed indifferent to the scar on his face and the paralysis. Most people couldn't wait to get a mirror to have a look, but when we handed him one, he just glanced at his face and then pushed it away. I think part of that is because he's just not as vain as most teenagers, but there's something else. Something is wrong. He's not just pushing mirrors away, he's pushing people--everyone--away. That's just not Michael. David and Margaret are very upset--although Margaret keeps making excuses for him."

"That' s the reason only Luke and I are here," I said. "The Fellowship talked about it at lunch and thought maybe he'd talk to me and Luke."

"Straight up, doctor, how rough can we be on him? Michael can be stubborn as a mule and it may take some pretty hard talk to get him to talk."

"He's in good shape physically and I think getting really angry would be better than the funk he's in now. What do you think, doctor?"

"Get him to talk, just don't mess up his face or bust any of his seams, but something needs to be done and I don't know how to go about it."

When we went back to Michael's room, he turned to face the wall, saying nothing. Luke and I sat silent, waiting. "What in the fuck do you two want," Michael finally said, turning to face us. "Why the fuck don't you just leave me the fuck alone? Nobody asked you to be here. I don't want you here."

"You are wrong, Oh Foul-Mouthed One," Luke answered. "The whole Fellowship asked us to be here. The two doctors who were just here asked that we be here. Only my fucking foul-mouthed brother doesn't want us here." "You're right about that. Why can't you just leave me alone? Why don't you just get the fuck out of my room?" "Because we are here to whip your ass if necessary. You are being a first-class shitty asshole, Michael, and if your were at death's door, I might take that. But you ungrateful little shit, we pulled you out of death's door, got sick as hell in doing it and, by damn, you're at least going to talk to us even if you aren't glad to be alive. I have never seen you be such a shithead even at your worst when your mom was dying. What in the hell is going on with you?" Luke was fairly screaming.

I must admit, when it comes to being a foul mouth, my brothers could outdo me with very few words. I didn't try. Quietly I said, "Ok, Michael, something's eating you, so spill it, Lil Bro, spill it."

Suddenly I could see the anger leave Michael as tears formed in his eyes. "That's better, Lil Bro," I said. "What's eating up your guts?"

"Bro, you'll never understand but, Luke, I think you can." Great sobs shook his body and it was, of course, painful. Luke sat on his bed, held him close and stroked his hair. "It's ok, Michael, your brothers are here. Just take it easy. We promised the doctors we wouldn't have you bust any of your seams. Take it easy." Michael did calm down, but continued to weep softly as Luke held him and stroked his hair. With his other hand, he patted the bed on the other side of Michael and I joined them.

With great effort, and I am sure great pain, Michael half-raised himself and wrapped an arm around my neck. "It's ok, Lil Bro. Just take it easy. Don't hurt yourself. Now what's this all about?"

Michael then told us about his wanting to die. Weeping he said, "Luke, at least you were thinking of Matt when you tried to kill yourself. I was only thinking of me. I hated you and Luke. I hated Mary Kathryn because you all wanted to bring me back. I wanted to die. I just wanted to die. I didn't want to live. I wanted you to forget me as I was forgetting you. No-one was important to me, no-one, except myself. How can I tell Mary Kathryn I love her more than life itself when I wanted to toss away my life and her with it? How can I stand to look you two in the face when I hated you because you wanted me to stay here?" Michael went on like that for at least ten minutes--crying, weeping, sometimes almost shouting, other times just whispering. Neither Luke nor I tried to stop him. We both just sat, holding him, stroking his hair. I knew his agitation was bound to be hurting him, but he seemed indifferent to it.

When he was finally calm, I spoke very softly to him. "Michael, I wasn't cut, so I couldn't have been suffering the way you were, but I wanted it to stop. Yes, I guess if it took death to stop the pain, I wanted to die, but... well, I didn't and you didn't. I don't know how I would have felt had someone kept me in that pain as--how I don't know--Luke and I did you. Does that mean you hated us? Does that mean you loved Mary Kathryn less? I don't think so. I think it simply means that you were beyond what any human can be expected to endure. We're not perfect, we're not immortal and we can't endure everything. You met your limits. Thank God, Luke and I were able to take some of your pain away so you could endure, so you could live. That's what friends and brothers do--even when you may think you don't want it. Lil Bro, it means you're human. There's no reason to regret that. There's nothing to be ashamed of or sorry for. The love that binds us together, more closely than any of us realized, prevailed. For that, be thankful and live the life you have been given back. You did die, you know. But, for whatever reason, death couldn't hold on to you just as he failed to hold on to Luke. Look what that has meant to me, to you, to Luke. the same thing is true for you. We don't know why you could be snatched from the jaws of death, but we can know it was for a good reason. And, be honest, are you sorry you're back? If you are, then you have reason for feeling as you do, but I know better. You don't feel ashamed because you don't love Mary Kathryn or me or Luke or Margaret. You feel ashamed because in a moment of torture, you forgot. We all can understand that--if not now, then one day when we reach our limit."

"But how can I ever forgive myself for hating the people who love me and whom I love? What can I do?"

"Michael, you have to forgive yourself because... well, because the only way you can ever make it up to us," Luke said, quietly, "is by being Michael and living the great life Michael has ahead of him. And you can't do that and hate yourself or put yourself down."

We talked for another half hour and, just as we were about to leave, Michael said, "Thanks, Matt, Luke. Don't ever fail to tell me off when I need it. I still have to think about what I did, but I'm on the right road, I think."

"Sleep, Lil Bro," I said. "We need you well, soon."

Luke and I went back to my place, got undressed and slipped into my bed. Before we had expressed our love for each other beyond a few passionate kisses, we were sound asleep.

Dad came up later and woke us to say David and Margaret wanted to talk to us. We quickly dressed and went downstairs.

"Luke, Matt, I don't know what you said or did this afternoon in Michael's room--and probably wouldn't believe it if you told me, but he asked not to be disturbed for a while after you left and when he called to have the 'Do Not Disturb' sign removed, he was pretty much the old Michael. When Mary Kathryn came by shortly afterward I was sure he was going to split a seam or two before he let her go. He then had her close the door and they talked--I guess they talked, I don't think he could have done much else--for half an hour or so."

"All we did was give him a brotherly talk," Luke smiled.

"A real brotherly chat," I added. "I'm surprised parts weren't heard all the way to your office, Margaret."

"Well, it worked," David said. "Dr. Walker says he can come home tomorrow. We had thought about keeping him at the hospital since Margaret and I will be there and not at home, but Chelsea and Gladys would not hear of it. They insisted on taking care of him during the day. If all goes well now, he may be able to go to school--at least half day--next week."

"And you two deserve all the credit," Margaret said.

"Believe me, I feel no more responsible for what happened than you do. It was something more than me which I don't understand," Luke said. I agreed.

Gabrielle and Jens insisted that Luke go home for the night and Yong Jin and Greywolf were equally insistent that I stay in my own bed. "You two need rest to recover and, after all, I suspect Thursday night will be a long one for you," David said with an evil smile.

Luke and I looked at each other blankly, then I felt a smile crossing my face as that famous Luke grin covered his. "I know you folks aren't going to believe this, but I had forgotten..." he said.

I tried to put on a hurt look, but finally just grabbed Luke and tried to suck his tongue out of his mouth. After a battle of the tongues, I gazed into his eyes and said, "I did too, Bright Angel."

I ate with Mom and Dad and we talked about what had happened a bit, but I was really exhausted and almost went to sleep before I finished eating. I was completely taken by surprise when Dad picked me up, Mom kissed me on the cheek, and he took me upstairs, undressed me and put me to bed. "You are a wonderful son, Matt. And I love you dearly," dad said, as he kissed me on the cheek and tucked me in bed as he had done when I was a little boy. I doubt he was downstairs before I was asleep, dreaming of my beautiful, loving Yonghon Tongmu.

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