Castle Roland


by Joe Writer Man


Chapter 10

Published: 8 Apr 14


Copyright © 2012 - 2014 by Joe Writerman and the Revolutions Universe Partnership.

All Rights Reserved

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Previously, from Geek Squad, Chapter 10:

Aaron, more relaxed with this kid, asked, "What's your name? Mine is Aaron. Aaron Zumwalt. But the assholes there called me Zeus."

The boy looked to the ground, between his legs. Aaron dared not touch the boy for fear that it would freak him out. Aaron spoke as softly as possible, but still loud enough to be heard, "It's okay. I'm not one of those. I'm an Initiate, nothing more and am here for the same reason you are. We've got to tell someone the truth of what happened to us and to the others. Be strong. They may have beaten us down, but so long as we keep getting up, then everything will work out. Now, what's your name?"

"Habab. I'm Habab… The Girl-Boy." The boy eked out before breaking down into racking sobs as he recalled how he got that name…

Centennial LogoHabab fell to his knees, covered his face, and tried oh so hard to regain control of his emotions.

Aaron stood watching, not knowing what next to do. Old training was kicking in. Crying was for the weak-willed. Tearing down weak will was and is a major part of retraining. Recalling Brother Kenneth's training efforts from last night, a big part of him realized the training was a precursor to being 'promoted' to a trainer, or was it just a ruse?

Aaron called, "Stand. Stop crying right this second. It will get you nowhere. Come on, get up." Aaron took hold of Habab's right hand, pulled it away from the boy's face, and lifted the kid to a standing position. The boy looked deeply into Aaron's eyes, and with his other hand wiped away the nasal discharges and rubbed it on the robe, not knowing what else to do with it.

Aaron, slightly unnerved by the pain behind the boy's eyes, quickly said, "We need to move. They'll be after us, if they aren't already." Continuing with his voice filled with steel, "I will not go back there alive." To drive home his point, he removed the gun from his robe pocket, cocked it, making sure the chamber was loaded, pulled the gun up and held it at his head in a ninety degree angle, and then placed his index finger on the trigger, and held it in place for a moment or two, until Habab nodded his understanding, at which time Aaron secured the chamber and replaced the weapon into his robe pocket.

The younger boy coughed up a mouthful of phlegm, wallowed it around with his tongue getting it ready to swallow. Then another thought passed through his mind: he walked to the corpse and with deadly accuracy spat into what appeared to be a remnant of an eye socket.

Aaron observed Habab's actions. Feeling his own need, he walked to the corpse, untied the ties for the garment, aimed and shot a stream into what could possibly be taken as another eye socket remnant, or possibly the remains of the hyoid bone. Aaron shook his tool to make sure Brother Kenneth received his full compliments. Yet… there was one more thing Aaron wanted to do. He stood in front of Habab, quickly drew the weapon from the robe pocket, chambered a round, then aimed toward the upper section of Brother Kenneth's blood spattered pants and fired, ripping a hole through the material. Very little blood spattered; however, chunks of flesh scattered about.

Suddenly enraged, Aaron emptied the weapon into his Trainer. Even when the weapon was empty, he continued squeezing and releasing the trigger until he returned to present day and time, nine shots later.

Aaron turned around and bumped into Habab. Quickly, Aaron put his arms around Habab and led him to the picnic table, taking care to prevent the youngster from seeing what he'd done. Aaron, in a rare display of any emotion, said, "He won't be hurting anyone ever again."

Habab looked at Aaron's exposed abdomen, reached inside the robe and picked away a small broken piece of bone from Aaron's flesh, held it in his fingers so they could both see. With his curiosity satisfied, the younger boy flicked the fragment into the undergrowth. He then turned his attention to Aaron's exposed root, quickly separated his own robe opening and untied the string holding the burlap garment in place. He contemplated for a moment before dropping the cloth to the ground. He turned toward Aaron and held his penis for Aaron's inspection. Aaron turned away without looking. The younger boy violently quivered, knowing he was just as disgusting to Aaron as he was to himself. Tears started flowing from his eyes, now knowing in his heart that Aaron didn't care.

What the boy didn't know was that Aaron was trying hard, oh so hard, to maintain his composure, and figure out what he should or could do. The youngster did not hear Aaron's unspoken thoughts about Brother Kenneth no longer being an issue.

Aaron took in a deep breath, held it for a moment and relaxed his stance. He turned to Habab, nodding his understanding. Softly, Aaron spoke while turning his organ up so that Habab would see the healed wounds of his own penis, the older boy offered, "They did this to me right after I was brought to the compound. It healed, so will yours."

Tentatively, Habab reached out his hand toward Aaron's gender. Reassuringly, Aaron brought Habab's fingers to the scar tissue, permitting the youngster to satisfy his curiosity. The older boy pushed away when his sensitive tissues began its ascent, which surprised Aaron.

The two boys' eyes met. Aaron's vision descended to fully inspect Habab's injury. He knelt on the ground, carefully peered into Habab's wound of the flesh, looked up into Habab's eyes, "Yours, too, will heal. Just give it some time. We'll find a doctor somewhere." Ceremoniously, Aaron grasped Habab's burlap garment, raised it up and fastened the ties together so that it wouldn't fall off. Next, Aaron tied Habab's sash, then stood up, at which time the younger boy grabbed hold of Aaron's waist and pulled him in just as tight as he could.

Filled with complete terror at this display of affection, Aaron quickly put his arms up and over his head. He looked all around to see if anybody was present or could be watching. They were silent, save for their breathing.

A part of him wanted to wrap the younger boy into his arms, but the bigger part led him to grasp hold of Habab's arms and pull him away. Aaron turned to the picnic table, grabbed a fresh magazine for the gun, and stuffed the gun into the pocket of his robe after engaging a round in the chamber. The barrel was still warm. He brought his burlap up and over his hips, tied the strings and closed the robe to ward off the chilly air.

Habab held out his hand, palm up. A long ago forgotten memory surfaced in Aaron's brain. He reached out to give Habab a 'high-five', but the youngster stopped him, grasped their hands together and said, solemnly, "I won't go back there alive. You must promise me, now, that if our captors return and we are going to be returned, then kill me." The stare Habab was giving Aaron was ice cold, devoid of all emotion, so much so that he shivered.

Quickly recovering, Aaron shook his head in the negative, "I hope it doesn't come to that. But if it does, I will kill myself, and you will take your own life. I can't do that to you. Let's go."

Little did the boys know, many desert animals, some large, some small, were lying in wait no further than one hundred yards to the south of their present location.

They quickly departed, heading to the stream that would take them to God only knows where. At the edge of the river, after making sure their foot coverings were securely fastened, they stepped into the shallow water, then rapidly made their way downstream, not paying much attention to how their feet were splashing their robes, and how cold the water was to their feet and legs. They were only intent upon getting a good distance from their captors, whom they thought were surely gaining on them.

(Little did the boys know that those night creatures had closed in and were munching, crunching, grunting, and fighting amongst themselves for what little remained of the deceased humans)

Aaron did take care to keep the weapons from getting wet, knowing that he would need them to fight to the end, or… or to end the fight with a single shot to the head – his. These thoughts kept him going; that and their youth drove them on deep into a forest of mesquite trees/shrubs… until they could go no further… While survival instincts were in full gear, their bodies screamed for rest. Aaron collapsed onto his right side. Habab collapsed against Aaron's back. Habab's last conscious thought and action was to protectively put his arm around Aaron's waist. Their breathing turned very shallow as darkness settled into their bodies and minds.

November 6, 2012, early morning

Woodward, Oklahoma, Jeremy's viewpoint

Much to Carl and Robbie's dismay, Rachel and I decided that Bradley and I would go to Oklahoma City to get our dad who was being discharged from the hospital today. When I spoke to dad on the phone earlier this morning, he was quite grumpy, wondering why we weren't already camped out and waiting for him to be sprung. Then he apologized for his grumpiness, asking only when we thought we would arrive… and oh yeah, to please, pretty please bring him street clothes to wear. He wasn't about to be caught dead wearing hospital garb. He didn't think it all too funny when I suggested that he would be okay, so long as he got out. I assured him that the back of his gown would be securely tied. He said something about there being so many comedians out of work...

Bradley and I hadn't been back to the house since that fateful day, so it was unnerving enough to just be close to it. I pulled off onto a side street, looked at Bradley and said, once I stopped the car and engaged the brake, "Bradley, I know you don't want to go into the house, neither do I really… but, we have to. Dad left his wallet and important papers. You don't have to go inside if you really don't want to, but I would like for you to join me. I'm having problems with this, just as much as you are."

Bradley replied to my concerns, "I know, Jeremy. It's just weird. The house is not our home anymore. I don't know what it is. It's just a house."

"It's where we grew up… there's a lot of memories in there. Nothing will ever change the good times we had. I've been trying to stay positive by remembering the good that happened in our lives. There was a lot of good stuff… Mom was a good mother. She just got misguided."

"Yeah, I've been trying to remember those memories, too, Jeremy… it's just hard. It all ended when she started shooting dad. That's where everything stopped. I'll never ever forget the expression on Dad's face when he pushed me and Melissa into the closet and slammed the door on us. There was so much pain in his eyes, and the pain was not from being shot… he told me on the phone the other night that his pain was from Mom's words…" I turned toward Bradley; he sat up in the seat and looked forward. He continued, "Let's get it over with. There's some stuff I need to get as well."

When I pulled into the driveway of our parents' house, Bradley and I, once again, looked into each other's eyes, then without a word, we got out of the car, walked up the sidewalk and stopped at the front door. I put the key into the lock. With some hesitation, I turned the key and pushed against the door to open it. Neither of us could walk in. We didn't even look in. The smell emanating through the air was slightly musty, but it was tempered by the faint smell of Pine Sol. Mom didn't use the stuff. Spic 'n Span was her choice of cleaning solutions.

Simultaneously, Bradley looked into my eyes as I looked into his. In them I saw resignation, then determination. I said, "I'll go in first. You wait here, Bro."

Bradley nodded, then when I took the first step through the threshold he followed. He wiggled his eyebrows up and down. With that, we walked on into the kitchen seeking for anything malevolent which would cause us to race to the car to escape. Our fears were unfounded; there was nothing that caused my hair to stand straight out from real or imagined fear.

Bradley and I both stopped dead in our tracks as we looked at the laminate covered drawings of stick figures with a sun and a moon on one, and a home with four people standing in front of it hanging from two magnetized hooks on the refrigerator. The home was drawn by Bradley when he was a little boy; the other was one that I had drawn in kindergarten. I remembered Mom's happy face when I presented it to her. There were other drawings, but those two were her favorites, so they held a special place in our home, when it was a home, and when plenty of sunshine radiated from every nook and cranny.

Bradley cleared his throat. He started to say something but no sound would come. I felt the same way. After a few minutes just staring at those pictures, and what they had represented, I said, reaching for the pictures, "Bradley, let's not let what has happened, remove what we had at one time not too long ago. Mom wasn't always the way she was when she turned on us and dad. This doesn't mean to say that what happened didn't happen; it just means I'm going to concentrate on the good stuff."

My brother gave a tiny nod. I turned, walked into the living room, setting the pictures down on the coffee table so that we wouldn't forget to take them with us. Seeing Bradley was still in the kitchen, I went back, opened the refrigerator door, pulled out two cans of Diet Mountain Dew, handed one to Bradley, popped the top off of mine and took in a deep draw. Bradley did likewise. From years of being told we could not drink in the living room or any other area of the house except the kitchen, dutifully we set the cans on the counter, then took off for the bedroom area of the house. Bradley put his arm through mine. I took it as a need for a hug. We hugged deeply, then turned toward the inevitable, and, together we walked down the hall toward Mom and Dad's master bedroom. Just as Dad had said, his wallet lay on the dresser adjacent to the wall. I grabbed it up and put it into my right rear pants pocket while Bradley went into the bathroom. Soon the sound of him peeing into the water permeated throughout the room.

I pulled out my phone and called Dad, "Hey Dad, we're at the house. Where are the papers you need?"

"They're inside the top left hand drawer of the bureau. I need the insurance papers to prove that I have health insurance, otherwise they're going to make me pay out of pocket."

I walked into the dining room to the antique mini-office inside of a dark-stained cabinet, opened the lid and looked around to find the paperwork. I found an envelope with a blue and white return address, "This looks like it. BCBS?"

"Yes, that's it. Thanks." Dad hesitated for a few seconds before continuing, "There's also an envelope with Mutual Life Insurance Company on the front. That's the life insurance policy taken out on your mother. There's another one for me, but I don't need it, obviously. The other stuff I can get at another time. Are you guys okay?"

"Got it." I replied, skirting Dad's question, taking the papers and putting them into my left breast pocket. I then returned to the master bedroom; Bradley was just exiting, zipping up his fly.

Bradley walked to me and said into the phone, "Hi Dad."

"Oh hey, Bradley. Good morning, Son."

"Good morning. How are you feeling? Are you ready to blow that place?"

"More than ready. I'm afraid that I've been a bear to the doctors and nurses this morning. The sooner I get out of here…" Dad left the sentence hanging. He didn't need to explain any further.

Bradley went back into the bathroom, flushed the toilet, walked out and then headed into the hallway. Dad and I finished some last minute details, then we hung up. I took off to find my brother. He was standing in the doorway to his room. His face was flushed. Beads of perspiration had formed on his forehead, and he was shaking slightly. I knew that he was reliving those moments when everything in our lives changed. I put my hand on his shoulder, lightly rubbed the tight muscle running from his shoulder upward into the back of his head. After a few minutes of quiet contemplation, he walked on into his 'sanctuary' as he'd always called his room.

I was surprised that his room looked like it always had looked. Gone were the blood spatters, smell of gunpowder, and all other physical evidence that anything bad had ever happened in it. His bed had been stripped to the mattress. Very quietly, Bradley walked to the center of the room and looked down at the floor in front of him. I knew what he was looking at, what memories were coming into his mind – he was looking at the place where Mom's body had fallen. I walked to him and looked, too. In my mind, I saw her still lying there. That was my last memory of her… it would forever be etched in my brain, never to be forgotten. Very gently, I asked, "What do you need? Can I help?" Even though it was no more than whispered, my words sounded as if they had reverberated through the room, breaking the stillness, breaking our unspoken moments of recollection.

Bradley left the room saying he would be right back with garbage bags. I took that to mean that he was going to be staying at my house for however long it took to make some important decisions as to where he and Dad would be living. I walked to his dresser, but didn't open drawers to retrieve anything; thinking that inside would be private items that Bradley would not want anyone to see. My brother returned. The sounds of opening a trash bag filled the air. I turned toward him. He said, "Would you grab socks, underwear, t-shirts… all's well. There's nothing in there that will bite you." He even chuckled, reservedly, then went into his walk-in closet.

While putting the contents of his dresser into the bag, I asked, "Do you want to take your computer?" It was a rhetorical question. I already knew the answer, but had to ask anyway.

"Yeah… I've got all my school stuff in there."

I finished with his dresser, then unhooked the cords from the computer, carried it on out to the car and put it in the trunk. Bradley followed carrying two bags of clothing and whatever else he'd put in them.

We finished packing everything that he wanted to take and the other items we had put in the living room along with a change of clothes for Dad, locked the house, and took off for Oklahoma City. We needed to get dad and bring him home, my home, where his family would be there for him twenty-four-seven.

Breckenridge, Texas, Finnegan Household

Jared, sleeping soundly, oblivious to the world, did not so much as flinch when an eight-year-old boy crawled over the foot of the bed, wiggled beneath the covers and pulled himself tight into his older brother's back. Nor did he feel Matthew's arms wrap around his waist to hold him protectively. The younger boy sighed contentedly, closed his eyes, and fell into a deep, deep sleep, thinking, knowing, that he revered his older brother with all of his heart and soul. Knowing also that Jared always welcomed him into bed, holding him protectively against the ghosts and goblins moving around here and there during the night, in the dark.

In the next room, Michael, soundly sleeping behind Eric, with his free arm firmly nestled between the mattress and Eric's gender decision point, was in the midst of a dream that took him to the creek behind their house. The dream was disconcerting, though not troubling, because he couldn't get down to the creek bank. With every attempt to descend, he would be lifted in the air and returned to the safety of his home. Michael's thighs and calves, tightly up against the backs of Eric's, were trying to run forward, but he was constantly being held back… he thought if he could just jump then he'd be over the obstacle, whatever it was.

Eric opened his eyes, smiled at knowing his boyfriend, Michael, loved him and made him feel that he was genuinely cared for and needed. This was new to the boy. Time and time again Eric had offered everything he had to Michael, but Michael, patient as he always was – held back so that they could give and receive of each other in what Eric felt was spiritual and altruistic. He remembered their last words before closing their eyes for the night: Michael and he were going to talk to his dad about taking their relationship to the next level. Since Eric had no idea what the next level was or would be, since he'd never experienced what he was experiencing before, and because he implicitly trusted Michael – they kissed and within seconds Michael was off in slumberland. Eric had quickly followed.

Eric closed his eyes, hoping against all hope that the next level had something to do with Michael's thrusting motions against his most private place. Eric fell to sleep when he felt a warm mixture spreading across his lower back. He deeply sighed as a deeper sleep overtook his youth.

Across and down the hall, John awakened, startled, for no apparent reason. He'd retired to bed at a reasonable hour after checking on his sons and the other boys. Yet he was now wide awake, his eyes staring at the ceiling, willing against all will that his full bladder would stop calling for release. Knowing there was no use in even trying to go back to sleep, begrudgingly, the man went into the restroom to take care of urgent business.

Noting the temperature in the house was quite cool, he adjusted the thermostat to warm the house a few degrees.

After turning on the main bathroom light, he checked on Michael and Eric. They were spooned together. The blankets were half off of the bed, leaving Michael completely uncovered and Eric clutching the blanket to his front side. Both boys, John clearly saw, were sleeping in the nude, quite unlike his middle son, but they were happy together. The boys didn't stir as he rearranged the covers so their skin wasn't exposed to the cool air.

Matthew's room was empty, although the bed covers were strewn to the floor.

Jared's door was nearly closed. Quietly so as to not disturb his oldest son, he quietly opened the door to peer inside. As expected, even through the covers, he could see that Matthew's arm was wrapped firmly around his older brother's waist with the rest of his body snuggled in with his head resting in Jared's neck. John wished he had the camera right then and there; it was a picture perfect scene.

Last, he checked on Stephen. Stephen's door was wide open so he walked in. John leaned down close to his son's face to hear his breathing. It was regular, deep and rhythmical. Unable to stop himself, John kissed his son's temple, which he found to be chilly to the touch. The boy had his covers wrapped tightly around himself, too tight to bring up to cover his head.

John turned off the bathroom light, then walked into the kitchen to turn the coffee pot on before heading downstairs to check on Lawrence, Luke and Jordan. Before going down, he flipped open the lid to the laptop, pushed the power button to the on position, then clicked on the dedicated weather site. A fast moving cold front had passed through the overnight hours, dropping the temperature eighteen degrees cooler from what it had been the previous morning. No storms were due for the next twenty-four hours.

The coffee pot began gurgling sounds, the sign that it was about ready for the first cup. Knowing he had a couple of minutes, he walked to the open basement door and headed downstairs to check on the other boys. As usual, the boys were huddled together in a human sandwich. The man thought deeply about how close these boys had gotten in such a short time. But, he wasn't worried, not at all. They needed each other. John shook his head knowing, from their accounts, how much abuse the boys had sustained in their young lives. The difference of how close they now were, despite their rough lives, was astounding, and he was grateful, oh so grateful.

Just as John was about to turn to go back upstairs, Lawrence, the boy in the middle of the human mass of arms, legs and torsos, raised his head, and seeing John, waved lazily. John smiled, waved back, and took off up the stairs knowing the boys slept au naturale, as evidenced by the usual scattered shirts, pants, and underwear lying on the floor all around the bed. Upstairs, after closing the door behind him, John walked to the coffee pot, deep in thought. He poured his first cup, then sat down at the table. He looked at the door leading downstairs, recalling Lawrence's wave and smile, remembering how he felt when he waved back, and contemplated for a moment with his head looking down at the table. He looked at the laptop. With care and precision he opened the instrument, booted it up, and signed in. He opened the email client.

Knowing John was up, Lawrence gently but decisively broke through the mass of tangled arms, legs and other anatomical structures, lost his balance and fell to the cold concrete floor with a smacking thud on his bare bottom. Slightly dazed due to hitting his head against the metal support beam, he got up anyway and stumbled into the restroom, closed the door, turned on the light, relieved himself after turning on the shower spigots to get the water temperature warm enough to bathe himself with no goose-bumps. On his way in, he grabbed a towel from the linen closet and hung it on the rack next to the shower enclosure door.

As the water cascaded down over his head and the rest of his body, he suddenly experienced a colossal vision of Aaron splayed across the wall in front of him. He reached out, completely convinced that he could touch Aaron's face, but all that was there was the chilly wet wall. Lawrence's body violently shuddered. Suddenly realizing the vision was only a part of his imagination, an imagination that he thought was long ago dead, he, nevertheless leaned forward and placed his lips where Aaron… seemed to have appeared.

Although his body demanded release, he quickly washed and rinsed, got out, dried off, wrapped a towel around his midsection, grabbed their community hair-brush and began brushing it out. The door into the bathroom opened. Luke made a beeline to the toilet to relieve himself, but not before grabbing and yanking Lawrence's towel to the floor, all the while giggling. Lawrence smiled widely.

Although Lawrence infrequently 'looked' into the mirror, his smile and the brightness in his eyes, despite being early morning, caught his attention. He wiggled his eyes up and down, then orneriness took over. He quickly turned toward Luke's back, reached out his hand and smacked Luke up the side of his head.

When Lawrence was making his get-a-way, he bumped into Jordan dragging his bones into the restroom on his way to join Luke at the throne. Within seconds Luke finished his business, gave his fully elongated wand more than the customary three shakes, turned around and walked to the sink where he reached up into the medicine cabinet, retrieved a tube of medicine and handed it to Lawrence with a reminder, "Don't forget."

Lawrence took the tube, applied an applicator full into its rightful place. By then Jordan was finished with his business. He walked over, holding his completely extended thing, and asked, genuinely caring about his heart-adopted brother, "Are you getting better?"

"Yip, sure am. No more blood, yay! See ya upstairs," Lawrence said, then took off, closing the door behind him. He dressed then turned his attention to the dirty clothes scattered about the floor. He grabbed them up, tossed them into the laundry room, then returned to their room and stripped off the sheets.

In the laundry room he separated the piles of laundry into six piles, loaded up the washing machine and fired it up after putting in a load of whites.

Upstairs, John was walking from the kitchen counter toward the coffee table when Lawrence made his appearance. The man smiled. The boy said, still smiling from remembering how he'd turned off the hot water spigot when Luke and Jordan were, uhmm… engaged or about to engage, "Good morning, Sir."

John smiled at seeing Lawrence so happy this morning. Without delay, John set the filled coffee cup on the table, then reached his arms out for a hug. Lawrence, not quite used to the gesture, hesitated but only briefly before accepting the hug, and then didn't hesitate at all about putting his arms around the man. John hugged the boy firmly, and held it. Lawrence closed his eyes, relishing the feelings passing through his mind, finally relaxing and just letting whatever was to come – come. John asked, "Did you sleep well?"

Lawrence nodded, and said, "Yes, Sir. I really did."

"Good. Let's sit down. I have a couple of ideas I'd like to pass by you. We need to talk while the house is quiet for a change." The man snorted, knowing how those moments were rare in the household. Lawrence squeezed one last time before reluctantly breaking the hug. John keenly sensed the reluctance, but the child headed to the refrigerator, pulled out the large carton of natural orange juice, poured a glass, returned the container, reached to the shelf, poured out two pills, his prescribed antibiotics and stool softener, from two bottles, slugged them down, then joined John at the table.

John patted Lawrence's shoulder and said, "I've been thinking about your situation here. I've been worried that you may think you're being held hostage here in this house. Other than for the trip to the hospital for your surgery, you've been pretty much holed up here."

"I've been fine, Sir. I know that our provisions are getting low. I'll be fine when you go grocery shopping. Jared mentioned that you guys would be going into town to stock up either today or tomorrow. I've got laundry to do. I can clean the house, too."

"Son, this is not a fair arrangement for you. We've unfortunately held ourselves hostage since Michael had his go-around with what happened to him at school. I pulled my boys out of that place when we weren't being supported. It's easy for them to say that they have a zero tolerance of bullies, when, in fact, Michael was bullied. Because his brother went to his rescue, he was dismissed, too, for fighting of all things, when all he was doing was protecting his younger brother. So… we've holed up. That's about to change… uhmm… Lawrence I trust you so I'm going to tell you something the other boys don't know about yet…"

Lawrence, surprised that John wouldn't have talked to his own sons, especially Jared, took a deep breath, swallowed hard, and gazed into John's eyes with a whole new sense of – anxiety.

John noticed. He said, seriously, "Lawrence, there are certain things that I cannot disclose to you or any of the other boys. Some affect you. Some do not. What…"

Lawrence looked at the table in front of him. John would have no part of that. He reached across, gently took hold of Lawrence's chin and lifted the boy's head so that they could speak together. John said, "Son, it's not that bad… and don't think for one moment that you are causing us any problems… because you aren't. Do you understand?"

"I can't help feeling like I do. You do not know my father. He's ruthless. I know he's looking for me. I can't put you in danger any longer. I've been thinking… that I need to leave… I've been selfish… John, understand that I do not want any of you hurt… my father will stop at nothing."

"And then what, Lawrence?"

"I'll just go back to him and mother. It won't be too bad. I will be starting college early. He'll probably send me to…"

"To where?"

"Well, the men in the family go to Harvard. My mother went to Yale. They argued about it time and time again. But, I'll never make it to college. I'll just run away."

"What do you think returning home would be like?"

"Hell. I can hope that he'll just send me somewhere across the world…"

"To do what?" John asked.

"I'll just blend in, Sir. I can make myself think, say or do just about anything to take attention off of me… I've done it all my life. It comes naturally. Excuse me."

The boy quickly stood up, but John was faster. He intercepted Lawrence, then, without asking permission, took the child in his arms, and held him firmly against his chest as Lawrence broke down… the boy knowing his plan wasn't working, and wouldn't work.

Sobbing hysterically, the boy cried, "He'll kill me. He's already tried. I'm so afraid for you and your sons. I've got to go, Sir. Please, I'll be out the door… could I please have the clothes I have on… I'll send you money…"

John, unable to stop himself, touched Lawrence's forehead with his lips, and said, "Lawrence, I want you to stay. My sons have grown to love you. If for no other reason, please don't hurt them by going away without explaining your fears to them. I think, if I know them like I do, then they, too, will want you to hang around and be their brother. That's right… they love you… and if I'm not mistaken, you love them. And, Son, make no mistake, I've grown to love you as well."

"I'm afraid…" Lawrence said, totally breaking down into racking sobs against John's strong chest. The man held firmer as Lawrence let out all of his fears and terrors. John kept saying over and over again to just let it out, don't hold it in, that he was loved and cherished as a member of the family, and that everything was going to work out for the better, that we just had to have faith and hope. If anything, John wanted to put into Lawrence, a sense of hope - by wanting to give him love and stability. John had no idea why this child wasn't loved by his parents. Were they incapable? 'Yes' was his only answer as this boy cried and clutched at his heart and soul.

Lawrence's meltdown lasted ten to fifteen minutes. John's heart hurt that this boy had suffered so much at the hands of his father. His already hurting heart – turned into determination that Lawrence was already a part of the family, and there was nothing he nor Lawrence could do to stop it from happening… because it already had commenced… it's already set in concrete.

The child took in a deep breath, exhaled, and slowly took another breath. While slowly exhaling, "I'm sorry… I've just been really confused… I've been so afraid for you all… my dad called me a fucking pussy whenever I cried. When I broke my foot skiing in competition… he told the doctor to tape it up so that I could continue the race… I just about died… another time a doctor thought I was having a heart attack; my dad told me to shake it off…"

"But… it was easy for you to tell me of your injuries, correct?"

The boy didn't say anything, but he did tighten his hold on John's waist, and pulled himself in closer. At the same time, Lawrence knew that he needed to go downstairs sooner than later. His mind was going back and forth between being the tough dude who could take anything, and the boy who needed someone to lean on, that it was safe to do so with John… yet… as the liquid trailed down the back of his leg… he pulled away, looked into John's eyes and said, "I've got to go downstairs and change… the medicine… uhmm, well… you know… I got pretty upset… I'm sorry… I'll wash clothes..."

"Okay. But I want you to remember something for the rest of your life… whenever you need to unload your feelings, troubles, worries, joys, and whatever makes up our lives… please come to me."

Lawrence nodded, then hugged John one more time before taking off across the kitchen toward the basement door. He looked back at John who was looking at him, but not saying a word about the mess he knew he'd made.

With his heart feeling much lighter, the boy took off downstairs.

John, of course, knew what had happened, but still stood there watching the boy turn and head down the stairs, his footsteps sounding much lighter. His heart broke at knowing the child had not been afforded the opportunity to be loved for who and what he was… however, his heart lightened at knowing Lawrence was more than capable of loving – and receiving love, too.

John didn't realize a young set of eyes had watched the interactions between him and Lawrence. The boy knew that his dad was like that. Of course, he knew that he was loved totally and completely, as were all of his brothers, yet he'd never seen that amount of love shown to someone outside, or was it inside… the family… The boy grinned, then quickly made his way into the restroom, closed the door, walked to the toilet, and then when his wand was pointed in the right position… he said with his hand straight up in the air, with his fingers pointed to the ceiling, "YES! I KNEW IT!"

When finished with relieving his morning needs, Stephen got into the shower, washed good, dried off, then with his towel halfway covering his front side walked into the kitchen where his dad was sitting at the computer. He leant in to kiss his father's cheek, "I love you, Daddy." What he didn't know was that his father knew exactly where he'd been and what he had been up to… then, without warning, the man scooped the lad into his arms and started tickling his ribs and stomach to the point where Stephen was begging for mercy. John gave into the boy's demands, but continued to hold him firmly so that the child knew that he, too, was loved and cherished. Then the ten-year-old scampered down the stairs into the basement, filled with piss and vinegar, high on love and okay with the world. John smiled, hoping against all hope that the child wouldn't get hurt with the changes coming up. He knew the boy had somewhat of a hard time with big changes, and that his son needed to be eased into them.

The next challenge of the morning was when Jared and Matthew exited Jared's bedroom. The eight-year-old was squealing his head off. When they first appeared in the kitchen, Jared had his brother hanging upside down with Matthew's legs wrapped around his neck. But the kid loved every minute of the attention. John scrunched up his face, reached out his surgeons' hand and delicately touched Jared's side before the boy could do anything about it. During the fray, Jared let the boy down, and that is when John ramped up the attack on his oldest son. In the end, John grabbed the boy into his arms and held on tight.

Matthew began laughing hysterically and pointing toward Jared's lower regions. All looked to see what he was hiked up about… Jared's maleness had escaped his shorts and was waving proudly, which sent him to his room with both Matthew and John laughing at Jared's expense. Add to that – Luke and Jordan, standing in the doorway leading down to and up from the basement, were snickering.

John sat down at the table, turned to his laptop, reached out his arms to touch the keyboard, and at the same time observed Jordan and Luke from the periphery of his vision – ready to pounce. Thinking that John was all business, the boys casually headed toward the refrigerator to get something to drink – but, before they were halfway there – it was they that got pounced by John, Stephen and Matthew.

Out of the corner of his eye, he noted Lawrence had wet hair and had changed his clothes. The boy was sitting down at the table… by this time, Luke and Jordan were begging for mercy, laughing their heads off; pronouncing urgent needs to use the restroom before they peed themselves. John didn't buy it. Both boys were freshly showered. All in due time, John released them, turned to his computer, started to sit down, but then stopped, grabbed Lawrence and had him upside down before the boy knew what was happening. Not knowing if Lawrence had replaced the medicine, he stopped when Lawrence began laughing so very hard, having a good time, and yet the boy melted into John – wanting more, though the child wasn't saying so.

During the fracas with Lawrence… Michael and Eric, with their bare butts following them, quickly snuck through the basement door, after having staved off Jared's and Matthew's attempts to 'get them'. John, still holding Lawrence firmly in his arms, but no longer tickling, snickered when Lawrence whispered into his ear, "You're going to get them, aren't you?"

"Oh yeah. Just remember, they have to come upstairs." John replied, snickering sinisterly.

Much to Lawrence's surprise, John kissed his cheek, urged him up, and then turned to the boys and said, "Whew, I'm all worn out… you guys make breakfast this morning."

The boys got busy. John, smarter than the average dude, knew that Michael and Eric were standing by the basement door just out of sight. How did he know that? Well, he didn't hear any footsteps go down the stairs, that's how. John held his hand up, pursed his lips and put his index finger against them. He walked to the small alcove right by the door – and waited. As he knew would happen, Michael poked his head around the corner – that was just enough notice… John got Michael, and then when Eric came to Michael's rescue, both boys were squealing for release. When John picked up Michael to toss him over his shoulder, the youngster ripped a loud butt-cheek-flapping fart to be proud of… that cracked everybody, including John, up… and it earned Michael a reprieve.

The room then got into a litany of fart jokes.

Bowls of fresh fruit, plates of bacon, eggs, hash browns, French toast, syrup, and the jug of juice went flying around the table as the boys ate voraciously. John observed the melee of forks, knives and spoons receiving their usual morning exercise. A warm fuzziness spread thorough John while seeing the boys enjoying themselves, and knowing that he would not soon be arrested for starving a bunch of hoodlums; hoodlums that he was so very proud of, the very same hoodlums that gave him lots of joy. A thought passed through his mind saying that his deceased wife would just love to see this. He took in a deep breath, let it out and smiled, knowing that she would have indeed been a part of the melee; in fact, she probably would have instigated the whole thing.

Once breakfast was completed, the boys, without being asked, quickly got busy cleaning up the kitchen, and soon had it sparkling clean. John noted that the boys worked very well together as a team, each doing what needed to be done in a semi-organized fashion.

While they were working, and while John's attention was in the laptop, he overheard Lawrence pass in conversation that he needed, in some way, to become incognito out in the world, that their dad had told him that he couldn't continue to be imprisoned (Lawrence looked at John. John continued to work). Lawrence's question generated a barrage of answers, none of which garnered any support. They included Halloween costumes, trench coats, scrubs shirts and pants, wigs… finally, Eric whispered into Lawrence's ear, "Um, don't hate me cuz I know you're all dude… what do you think about wearing a dress?"

Lawrence's eyes popped wide open. He stood there for a moment before taking Eric's head in his hands, bringing the boy close, and then happily kissed his lips, surprising them both. He quickly recovered, and announced, "Girl. I can dress like a girl. Nobody would ever expect it."

The other boys silently contemplated the idea of Lawrence dressing out as a girl.

Jared, concerned with the implications of Lawrence's denial of himself, spoke first, "Are you sure about that? I mean you are a guy through and through."

Luke added using his best deadpan voice, "You got that right!" He then looked at Lawrence and wiggled his eyes up and down.

Lawrence, for a moment, didn't register Luke's statement, but then, no more than ten seconds later, blushed fiercely, remembering how he'd awoken. Jordan snickered. The rest had that "What?" expression on their faces. Luke added, "It's an inside joke."

Lawrence blushed even deeper, groaned and said, "Would you just give it a rest? Sheesh."

Luke, not getting it this time, gave the "What?" expression. Jordan, 'getting it', said, "Never mind. It's way over your head."

Michael, the 'quick one' this morning, grinned toward Lawrence, but didn't say anything. Turning his attention to the actual conversation they were having, he looked at Eric, acknowledging, "It's a perfect idea. Way to go Eric." Turning to Lawrence, "Just because you dress like a lady once in a while doesn't mean you're… you know… um, are you?"

Lawrence, nonplussed, responded accordingly, "No. I'm not a girl, and I do not want to be a girl, but, I can dress as one, once in a while. If this means we can be a normal family… I mean if you guys can be a normal family with me tagging along… then I'm all for it."

Jared, quite taken aback, catching Lawrence's correction, said, resolutely, "You're as much a part of this family as we are. We're together in this. I just want to make sure you aren't damaged. Dad, would you tell him?"

John looked toward Jared, his oldest son, and said, "You guys work it out. There are eight of you and only one of me. When you come to an agreement between yourselves, let me know… just realize I have the final say so." With that, John turned back to the computer, with his heart swelling with pride that the boys were coming to a solution.

Breckenridge, TX, A mile and a quarter south of the Finnegan residence…

…Lay two boys huddled together on the cold hard ground. Had they been conscious, they would have realized they were lying next to and just beneath a railroad trestle crossing. The tracks were long ago abandoned due to their propensity to flooding during the rare summertime rainstorms that filled the gully-washes within minutes, seconds even. Had they been aware, they would have seen a family of possums hunched down about thirty yards to the south, watching them with interest. Adding to their interest was the smell of fresh blood and other strange living thing odors.

A large male possum, the biological father to two younger male possums, and the mate to a female, was busily sniffing the air, having caught a scent it had never before experienced. The animal chided his young ones and his mate, sending them into the nearby undergrowth beneath a small grove of trees.

Satisfied that they were out of sight, he observed the forms for any sign of movement; there was no activity to be seen.

He quickly scurried to the mounds of flesh. The scent of fresh blood catapulted its natural instincts into high gear, and he readied himself for war. Adding to that was his near starvation. He knew his family was hungry, too.

One of the human flesh forms, the closest one, made a movement with its arms, sending the critter scampering toward it with 'kill' on its mind – until he was standing less than six inches away to observe one more time before tearing into the flesh of its prey.

When no further movement came to be, the possum started sniffing the form, all the while observing for any sign of danger. He sensed none. As he moved down the body, the scent of blood became even stronger. With its survival instincts running rampant, he stuck his nose into the robe's opening… the scent was overpowering. Quickly he nuzzled its nose up the coarse material and began licking furiously, being driven for more, more, and more. Just as he reared back to go after the kill, sudden and violent shaking sent the animal scurrying away to prepare itself for war. It quickly determined the movement was coming from the larger form on the other side of the smallest. The violent motions didn't last long; thirty seconds at the most. The forms then lay still.

The animal having been spooked retreated fifty yards to the south. The wind, coming from the north, continuously and constantly sent the scents into its sensitive nose, nearly driving the creature totally insane with need for sustenance.

Driven, the animal quickly scurried to the life form with its mouth wide open and its fangs bared. Just as the animal approached the neck of the smaller life form, much to his surprise and worst fears – its neck was grasped by a much larger member of the food chain. It was quickly and violently sent to the ground, lying on its back, and the larger animal, a canine, quickly made the kill by sinking its own fangs deep into the neck of the unsuspecting animal. With a quick jerk of its head, the possum lay dead, its neck resting in an unnatural position.

The canine, ravaged by hunger and its own instincts, quickly tore through the fur and began nourishing. The other possums quickly disappeared in the direction of the creek, running for their very lives.

Because the prey's body mass was relatively small, the feasting beast made short work out of stripping the animal's fat layer, and then tore into its entrails, snarfing up muscles, connecting tissues, heart, liver, kidneys, and anything and everything it could get its fangs into and tear away for consumption.

One half hour later, the larger animal stood victoriously over the mass of skeletal tissues. With its hunger pangs satiated, it then walked to the human life forms lying unmoving nearby. Even though its smell sense was largely skewed from the meat and blood from its prey, the animal nuzzled its nose against the face of the younger form. The animal, finding the human alive, quickly began vigorously licking the nose, mouth and face in an effort to awaken it. There was some movement from the victim. The canine's protective nature took her over. Quickly she began licking the older life form in the same manner – until it, too, moved just enough to let the animal know the life form was alive.

Now, driven with purpose, the canine tore out in the direction from which the familiar scents were coming.

Once the kitchen clean-up was accomplished, all of the boys headed to the basement where they would plan Lawrence's wardrobe, all the while laughing when it came to bras, legging hose, anklets and shoes, and the care they would have to take to make sure Lawrence's flesh mound wasn't readily visible.

In the end they decided on a loose pair of female slacks as Lawrence showed his legs which had a fair growth of soft dark hair below his knees. Lawrence, rightfully so, according to Jared, had no intention upon shaving his legs. They then decided on a loose-fitting blouse – obviously he had no need for a bra; however, Luke brought up the fact that he should probably have boobage with a bra strap outline. Jordan wrote down various shades of makeup, eyeliner, and other various and sundry items to obscure Lawrence's face.

Jared laughed, adding to the excitement, then talked about the need for Lawrence to adjust his male mannerisms to the more typically female – until Michael quickly pointed out that dyke lesbians tended to not have too many female attributes.

Eric deadpanned the question of which restroom Lawrence would use, should the need arise to use it in a public place. This turned the attitude of the boys to a sense of seriousness. Lawrence answered the question they were pondering by saying, "I'll just use the women's room. It's not like they have urinals."

Stephen quickly pointed out that Lawrence would need to sit, because if he was to stand to pee – then it would be a dead giveaway. Everybody nodded their agreement.

With a plan of action firmly in mind, the boys went upstairs and relayed it to John, who reluctantly agreed with their ideas. He suggested, and the boys agreed, that they measure Lawrence so that the clothing would be a proper fit. Jordan offered, and the others agreed, that he would do the dressing room thing at the clothing store, since Lawrence didn't need to be out in public dressed as his normal self. Then, they found a hole in that idea - Jordan was very much a 'boy', so it would be weird for a 'boy' to go into a woman's dressing room - with lady's clothing and undergarments.

Undeterred, assured that they would come up with a solution, the boys then went to their respective rooms to get dressed so that they could take off for the clothing and grocery stores. Their provisions were getting low.

Not five minutes had passed since the boys had left, giggling, than John nearly jumped out of his chair. Startled, the man heard barks, snarls, body slams into the door leading outside. Instinctively, he got up, quickly walked to the door and looked out the window to see a dog madly running through the yard, bound up the stairs, body slam the storm door, and then take off only to do the same thing. On the third trip, John, sensing imminent danger, quickly and quietly went into his bedroom, reached up onto the top shelf, brought down a box, took it to his bed and opened it.

For a moment he looked at the 357 with fond memories, remembering his father giving it to him shortly before the elder Finnegan passed from natural causes. He also remembered how his father had painstakingly taught him safety and how to shoot the thing.

Without a second thought, after hearing the clawing and scratching and body slams against the door continue, he took the weapon out, checked the cylinder to make sure it was loaded, pointed the gun into the air, and then took off for the kitchen, intent upon killing the wild animal, fearing it was rabid.

By the time he'd returned to the kitchen, the dog was frantically clawing at the door and whining shrill noises from deep within its voice box.

Three sets of footsteps were heard ascending the stairway from the basement. The door opened. Jordan, the first to arrive, quickly asked, "What's that?"

John, in full protective mode, ordered, "You guys go back to Jared's room. Get the other guys in there, too. Go."

Luke, meanwhile, disobeying a direct order from John for the first time ever, pushed his way to the door, then separated the curtain to look outside. He then shrieked, "It's Dog! Jordan, Dog! Dog's here!"

Had John not moved his feet in the nick of time, he would have been bashed by the door opening against him. Jordan and Luke made their way outdoors. In a nanosecond, probably less than a nanosecond, they were outside rolling and romping on the ground with that supposedly wild rabid beast all over them, licking, grabbing hold of their arms and legs. But, they quickly realized Dog was not playing.

Jordan ran to the stairs leading up to the porch and announced, "There's something wrong. We're going to go find out what she's all upset about."

John said, "Get some clothes on." He then pointed at Jordan's bare chest. The boy, wearing jeans, socks and shoes, quickly pointed out, "Don't have time, Sir."

By that time, the rest of the boys were standing close to John, observing what was happening. They, too, clambered outside and ran to Luke who, they thought, was being mauled to death, but in all actuality Luke was waiting for Jordan. Meanwhile the dog was running between the edge of the woods and the boys.

Much to John's consternation, the boys then ran to and into the woods. While he could hear them, he couldn't see them. He grabbed a jacket, put it on, placed the gun inside of a pocket with the safety on, then took off in the direction the boys had run.

Meanwhile, with Dog leading, and Jared leading the herd of anxious and curious boys, they made their way through the thick underbrush, mostly staying on the trail, sometimes not. When they crested the hill leading down into the creek, the group stopped on a dime and became deathly quiet at seeing two bodies lying unmoving on the creek beneath the railroad trestle.

Jordan growled, "Somebody, go get Dad NOW!!"

Matthew and Stephen tore out into the woods, heading back to the house, but John was running toward them so the trip was short. Both boys were screaming about dead bodies by the railroad trestle. All three tore out running through the woods until they got to the opening.

The other boys came running over, afraid that they were seeing two dead bodies, but then Lawrence shrieked, dropped to the ground and cradled the older boy's head in his lap.

John looked at Lawrence, frantically, wondering why this boy was so distraught. His wonderment changed to professionalism, doctor mode when Lawrence cried, while looking into John's eyes, "Help him! It's Aaron! Oh God, don't die on me."

John, from years of trauma medicine, began performing quick assessments. They were both alive, but barely, the younger boy being in the most danger. John also noted the younger boy's burlap garment had deep dark red blood stains, but this was the least of the boys' issues. Profound hypothermia prompted John to say, urgently, "Okay boys, they are both alive, but we have to act very quickly. Jared, go get the motorhome and bring it to the clearing up there (John pointed in the direction of the road above them). We'll then load them up and head for the hospital."

Jared asked, "Do you want me to call 911?"

"No, we don't have time for that. Go ahead. Hurry. The rest of you, lay down and cuddle into these two boys. Your body heat will help warm them up; they are so cold."

Quickly, the boys responded and formed a human cocoon. John took his jacket off and tossed it across the boys, hoping it would lock in their body heat. Without delay, he too, lay beside the mass of legs, arms and torsos to await Jared's return.

Jared clambered up the hill, and then took off, running as fast as he could, as a deer would run in the heat of the moment. Wasting no time, knowing he had to act quickly, he entered the house, grabbed the keys to the motorhome off of the key board, ran to the rig, fired up the engine and turned on the heater to full blast, returned inside, went from room to room gathering up blankets and shirts. In his room, he changed out of his sleep shorts into jeans, socks and shoes, a shirt and a jacket.

Although John had occasionally permitted Jared to drive their old car, his son, he thought, was not prepared to operate a mammoth machine as was the motorhome. However, deftly, almost expertly, Jared made his way to the opening to the forest where the road ends. He knew the area very well, having lived, played and explored many, many times during his childhood, not so much recently. Drawing in a deep breath to give him strength, he very slowly broke through the plane into the forest using an abandoned overgrown with brush road as his guide. The rig moaned and groaned, and he heard tree branches sliding against the sides of the vehicle, but he was on a mission, knowing that what he was doing could very well make a difference between life and death.

Fifteen minutes later, no worse for the wear, Jared arrived to find not only the guys, but his dad, too, huddled and lying around the two boys who had been found at death's door. Knowing the kids would need the heat, he left the engine running, then debated on moving the rig to the other entrance where it wasn't quite so steep. The debate ended at seeing Luke waving him down.

In his haste, the fifteen-year-old lost his footing and rolled down mostly on a hip and shoulder. The boys, except Lawrence, half-smirked at their brother's ineptitude, then returned to the serious situation before them.

During Jared's absence, Lawrence's demeanor had relaxed considerably. John had told him that he needed to be calm due to the fact that Aaron was very unlikely to pass from this earth, that his oldest son was on the way, and that they would soon be at the hospital where he could get the best possible care.

John was more concerned with the younger boy's condition. Although there was no technology to test the child's core temperature, John knew, from experience, the child was very hypothermic. He told the younger boys to go to the motorhome to prepare the big bed. Jared added to their instructions the need to scatter the blankets. Their youthful energy helped rocket their young bodies up in the incline without a second thought.

Wasting no time, John picked up and carried the younger child up the incline, with Jared, Jordan and Luke providing needed boost power. At John's insistence, the boys stripped their new arrival of his clothes. All gasped at seeing the oozing of blood from the child's penis. John took a quick look with his trained eyes while telling Matthew to go get the first aid kit up front. Actually, John didn't want the younger boy to see the ghastly injury to something so incredibly sensitive.

Eric saw the cut and was quick to shield Michael from seeing the full extent of the injury. A tear escaped Eric's left eye, which he quickly wiped away so as to not cause undue alarm to the boy in his arms.

Jordan and Luke followed the youngster. Once the kit was found and retrieved, Jordan diverted his attention while Luke took the supplies to John, and then joined Jordan until John had bandaged the wound.

All five boys were anxious to tend to the new boy. Two minutes later, no more, John nodded for them to go back while he and Jared went to get the other boy, Aaron.

They stripped to their briefs before crawling into bed to cradle the cold boy with their arms, legs and torsos; even putting their feet to good use as they used them to massage the boy's legs.

John and Jared descended the hill. Jared made it down without losing his balance and tumbling end over end. John easily lifted the boy into his arms, but then a hard piece of metal fell from a robe pocket. Jared quickly reached down to the ground to show his father a large caliber handgun had dropped. He turned away to secure the weapon, all the while wondering why Aaron was carrying such a thing.

Aaron was much more difficult to carry up the incline, mainly due to the boy's longer arms and legs, and no pushing from behind by the other boys.

The older boy was cocooned into the nest, then John began reassessing both of their conditions while Jared went up front, at John's urging and reassurances.

Finding the boys in stable condition despite their near catastrophe, just as Jared was beginning the backup process, John made his way up front and sat down in the forward passenger seat. Jared hesitated and looked at his dad to see if the man should be driving. John nodded then looked at the rear cameras and assisted Jared with the long road - going in reverse.

Having been down the same road before, and with assurance from his father, the driver was soon on the blacktop heading into town. Aside from running the wheels over several curbs due to cutting turns too sharply, they were at the hospital within thirty minutes. The ramp and the local parking lot surrounding the ER receiving area was filled with cars coming and going and parked.

Knowing that they would never get the rig into the entrance, John said, "I'll be right back with assistance. Just stay here."

John ran up to the ER and disappeared inside.

John intercepted the charge nurse telling her that he had two patients suffering from profound hypothermia.

"Got it." The nurse acknowledged, then she went into giving orders to get the hypothermia protocol into action. At the same time, John commandeered two stretchers and a security guard, an orderly and a nurse casually talking in the hallway. They made their way to the rig and soon had their new patients loaded up.

Since the small town hospital only had one major trauma bay, the boys were wheeled into it… staff was ready for them and instituted the protocol with John heading up the team.

Jared, Jordan, Luke, Eric, Michael, Matthew, and Stephen took Lawrence to a conference room at the back of the ER department where they sat down. Jared, noting the boys were wearing only their underwear and nothing else, quickly headed back to the rig to retrieve their clothing.

Lawrence, nearly inconsolable, sat in the midst of his brothers and allowed them to calm his nerves so that he would be available for his beloved Aaron when the time came.

Jared soon returned with armfuls of clothing. The boys got dressed while Jared pulled Lawrence into his arms to console his very upset brother to be, reassuring and reminding the distraught teen that his dad was confident that Aaron would be okay. Luke handed the last remaining clothing items to Lawrence.

An elderly white-haired, portly man wearing a white collar around his neck and all black clothing walked the hall of the ER area to the trauma bay to observe the new arrivals and what was being done for them.

John looked up to see who had entered… the room was tight with people doing this, that and everything they were trained to do. As he removed his finger from the younger boy's bottom, he smiled seeing the man who had blessed his marriage and baptized each of his children, "It's good to see you, Father."

The elderly man walked to John, and patted his back. Seeing the pale blue skin of each of the boys he went to the head of the table, put his hand on each of their heads and began praying for their health and well-being, all the while calling on his God to bless and keep them safe and healthy, and then turned their spirits to the care and control of the Greater Spirit, should their human bodies leave this plane. He then exited the trauma bay after doing everything he could do.

John the surgeon, went into surgeon's mode. He carefully examined the deep laceration on the underneath side of his patient's penis, taking note that it was made with a very sharp instrument, perhaps even a scalpel. The youngster responded to having his very painful penis touched and manipulated for a proper examination. The child made purposeful motions to be rid of the stimulation; however, the blankets and warming apparatus prevented him from moving very much. He was trying to open his eyes.

John was pleased to see deeper tissues filling with blood as he hoped would happen. He brought the covers up to the boy's waist. He noted the youngster's eyes beginning to open, and said, "Well hello there young man. I'm glad you're awake. I'm Doctor John and you are in a hospital. We're taking real good care of you. You got a bit cold outside, so we're raising your temperature using these blankets. They're special blankets. They'll warm you up real soon."

The boy made motions with his mouth to speak, but nothing would come out. He looked deeply into John's eyes, then closed his. Within seconds his breathing was deep, regular and rhythmical. The monitor used to track his temperature read 89.6 degrees Fahrenheit, a troubling but not absolutely critical level. John knew that his temperature would rise. The trick was to not raise it too fast or too slowly.

Aaron, likewise, was very slowly improving. His temperature had risen to 92.7 degrees Fahrenheit. As a father, the man slightly hesitated before lowering the covers to inspect Aaron's gender evidence. Aaron had long ago received the same injury; however, it was healed, leaving behind significant scar tissue on the underneath side. As he was examining and manipulating the organ to feel the depth of the scar tissue, it began to expand. He didn't want the child to awaken afraid, or worse, to find himself being abused - again. John brought the covers up after taking a peek between Aaron's legs to determine if there was any blood present on the sheets or skin tissues. There was none, thankfully.

Doctor John Finnegan, feeling his reserves beginning to turn into Dad, quickly left the room, walked to the doctor's lounge, entered, then went into a restroom stall to relieve himself of pent up emotions of sadness and - anger toward those who grievously harmed those boys. Although he tried, he could not even come close to imagining the pain and terror they had to have experienced.

The only saving grace, so to speak, was remembering how Lawrence and Eric had responded to the love freely flowing from every corner in his home, from each one of his sons - into their hearts.

The elderly man, Father Mott, slowly made his way to the conference room to get a cup of coffee, knowing that the new arrivals were in good hands, if not only the doctor's, then our Creator's.

The cleric braced himself against the heavy door. Using reserve strength he pushed against it, and it gave, permitting him to enter.

A group of boys looked up to see who was entering. He immediately recognized the Finnegan children. Jared immediately smiled. Stephen, Michael and Matthew went to the man where they embraced.

Jordan, meanwhile, looked at the stranger with a terrified expression on his face. His eyes glazed over, and narrowed to mere slits. His brows furrowed. Then he struck out using words to destroy, "Get the hell out of here! If it wasn't for your kind – we wouldn't be here!" The boy then took several steps toward the man with his fists clenched.

Father Mott, surprised at the boy's aggression, flinched, then urged the boys at his sides to get behind him; however, Michael took several steps toward Jordan to hopefully calm him down before he hurt someone. He said to Jordan, taking hold of the younger boy's arm, "Jordan, don't. Father Mott's a good man. He's not one of 'them'. It's all good." Turning to Father Mott, "You'll have to excuse Jordan." When Jordan pushed Michael's hand away, Michael ordered, "Jordan, just sit down, cool it."

That all happened within a few seconds. Luke went to be at Jordan's side. He put his arms around his love, then gently urged Jordan to sit with him. But, Jordan wasn't ready to calm down.

Jared walked to Jordan. Although no force was necessary nor indicated, Jordan permitted Jared to lead him to an overstuffed seat where they both sat down, and Luke sat down on the other side.

Jordan continued to regard the man with contempt. His expression and stiff physical stance, like a lion readying itself to pounce, clearly indicated the issue wasn't resolved, despite Michael's and Jared's assurances. Jared put his arm around Jordan's shoulder and urged him into his chest. He whispered into Jordan's ear, "Father Mott's one of the good guys. He's not going to hurt us. He'd never hurt anyone, ever." Jordan's attention turned to Jared while he processed the older boy's words. If Jared said the man wasn't going to hurt them… Although the boy continued to search for any malevolent intentions in the man, he, nevertheless, began relaxing.

Luke put his arm around Jordan's waist, patted his back firmly, leant in and spoke into Jordan's ear, "He's okay. I don't know why, but I'm pretty sure he's trustworthy. Not every preacher is like that dickhead. Remember, I love you. I don't feel threatened… just look into Stephen's and Matthew's eyes, and Jared's too… they aren't afraid."

As the younger boys assisted Father to a chair, Jordan noted the man slowly wiping away wetness from his eyes, then the man, nearly unnerving him, looked deeply into his eyes. Luke was busily rubbing Jordan's back to reassure his boyfriend that there was nothing to fear, that he just felt this way, and it was okay.

Stephen, Matthew and Jared took seats on the sofa. Jordan noted they were relaxed, unafraid. They were just being themselves.

Unwilling to trust his feelings, Jordan continued to look at the man with distrust, even to the point of contempt. At the same time, on the other hand, he did not see what he'd seen in the Patriarch, emanating from Father Mott. There was no sign of evil, malevolence – or lust - in the man's facial expression. A shiver ran up and down Jordan's back from remembering the events that had happened to him and Luke, and Eric, too.

Stephen, sensing the horrific tension inside of Jordan, said, softly, toward Luke then Jordan, "Father Mott won't hurt you. I love him. He taught me that Jesus loves me, too. Jesus loves all of us – no matter what."

Stephen sat back in his seat, took Matthew's hand in his, squeezed, then looked at Luke, then at Jordan to gauge their reactions.

The pregnant silence prompted Father Mott to say, sincerely, "It's nice to see you boys. It's been way too long."

Matthew offered, speaking from pure innocence, "Father, bad men hurt them. Please don't be mad."

Father Mott's expression turned from willful patience to shock. He visibly shook when Jordan retorted, angrily, "You don't know the half of it."

Matthew's eyes showed just how hurt he was from hearing Jordan's venomous words thrown at him. Jordan immediately regretted his words. Matthew was the last person in the world whom he wanted to hurt, even accidentally. Jordan's eyes began watering. Not wanting to show weakness toward the man, Jordan quickly wiped them away, then turned his attention to Matthew, "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to say that to you."

Matthew's demeanor changed, in a heartbeat. He said, forcefully, "You dork, he's not going to hurt you. Now, just get over yourself!"

You could have heard a pin drop. The room was absolutely quiet. Not even the children's breaths were heard. Everyone's attention was placed onto Matthew. Never before had they seen him react in that manner.

Angrily, Jordan stood, then took off for the restroom located on the far end of the conference room. Luke was on his heels. Just as Jordan was about to close the door, Luke snuck in, then closed the door, turned to Jordan and said, "Look, I know we don't really trust people who say they're good, but let's give him a chance. You know as well as I do that Jared wouldn't let him hurt us, and just look at Eric… he's taking it all in. Despite all that he's been through - for months and months and months - did you see the tears that formed in his eyes? Did you see him just about get up and walk to the man? Did you?"

When Jordan didn't immediately reply, Luke stepped to the toilet, unzipped, then peed. Jordan joined him. Luke turned his head toward Jordan hoping to get his attention, but Jordan was paying total attention to the stream of fluids exiting his body.

Since Luke didn't feel like he was making any progress with calming Jordan, he quickly washed and dried his hands. He waited for Jordan to finish, then without warning, he grabbed Jordan and pulled their lips together to engage in a passionate display of their love for one another. Slowly, Jordan, knowing Luke wasn't about to stop, gave into the passion that Luke was passing in and through him.

Then it happened.

After utilizing several paper towels, the boys exited the restroom, albeit with a bit of flush seen on their faces. Michael groaned, thinking he probably knew what they'd been doing in there for the past ten to fifteen minutes. He shook his head then turned his attention to Father Mott's composing himself.

"Jordan, Jared told me a little about what it's been like for you. He tells me that you and Luke popped up into their yard some time ago. I don't know why he would tell me that, other than that he cares a great deal for you."

Jordan, incensed that Jared would tell the strange man anything about him, pissed him off. He looked first at Jared then at the man of the cloth and spat, "You're one of them." Without hesitation, Jordan got up, then stomped to the door, opened it and exited. His last display of anger was the sickening thud as he slammed closed the door.

Jared and Michael got up to follow Jordan, but Luke said, "He needs to be alone for a while." To Father Mott, "Look, it's like this, men of the cloth are not on our top five people list of favorite people on this planet."

Father Mott nodded, then he noticed Lawrence and Eric standing. Both boys approached the cleric. They stopped, then before anyone could react, they dropped their pants and underwear to the floor. They then quickly turned toward the bathroom, and bent over, which to Father Mott's horror told him more than words could ever convey.

Jared, Michael and Luke rushed to the boys and herded them into the bathroom. Stephen and Matthew, Matthew especially, had horror written all over their faces. Matthew began crying, then he went to the man he trusted the most, right next to his daddy, crawled into the man's lap and hid his face into the man's chest.

Stephen wasn't much better. He remained sitting. Tears were freely flowing. They were flowing down his cheeks and coming to rest on his jeans. Father Mott, seeing the boy's distress, urged the child to come sit with him. He did.

On the verge of sobbing, Stephen asked, "Why? Why did they do that?"

Father Mott slowly replied, "I don't know, Son. Let's pray."

They said two Our Father prayers before Jared led the way for Michael, then Eric, then Luke, then, finally, Lawrence. Jared ordered when they were assembled in front of Father Mott, "Say it."

Eric stepped forward, "I just did what I've been taught. I figured you wanted a piece of me. Everybody else at the old church did. I gave it willingly. Jared told me that what I did was wrong. I apologize."

Jared nodded his approval, then turned to Lawrence.

"Sir, I would not have let Eric participate, but he's right… it's what we were taught. We were expected to give our purity, and we looked forward to doing it to make us worthy of God's love. I'm sorry for offending you."

"Okay, you guys can sit down." Then with the force of authority, he said, "You do not ever have to do that again. Unlearn that trash. And don't waste any time doing it."

Luke, still not totally convinced of the man's trustworthiness, carefully regarded the man, looking for every possible reason to distrust him; not that he needed to look for reasons, mind you. And, clearly he had no reason to even think about trusting the man. He was elderly, just like the Patriarch. In fact, there was some resemblance, though not striking.

Father Mott, shocked beyond belief, slowly stood and walked to where Lawrence was sitting next to Luke, and held out his hands. With tears in his eyes the priest said, brokenly, "Lawrence, I know who you are. Trust me, Son, nobody will ever know, from my lips. You are a wounded soul; you have so much hurt inside of your mind. Let me assure you… I will never ever in a million years ask you to give of yourself in that way… I promise you." Much to Lawrence's concern, Father Mott took his hands and clasped them together, then wrapped his own hands around Lawrence's – and fervently prayed, silently asking his Creator to heal this child standing before him.

When Father Mott opened his eyes, tears flowed freely from them, feeling all of the hurt that Lawrence felt inside of his being. The Priest said, "I am so sorry that you are hurting. I can help you, if you'll let me."

So moved, Lawrence stood up and peered into Father Mott's eyes. In them he saw nothing but pain fueled by concern for Eric and himself. Sure, he'd been dragged to church under the pretense of being a good god-fearing Christian. He also knew that their attendance was all a show. There was no real principled purpose, other than to be 'seen' and 'thought of' as a good family to all who mattered, except for his family itself.

Something snapped in Lawrence. His expression turned to regret, "I'm sorry, Father. I had no right to do that. I'm learning differently. I offered myself to John as well. He told me to never do it again, ever, that not every man wants me sexually."

"That's right, Lawrence. I had no idea. Maybe we could chat alone sometime soon. I think I can help you. At least I want to help you, not harm your youth."

"I would like that. Maybe you could help Eric?"

Father Mott's eyebrows raised. Turning to Eric, "Maybe I can help… would you be willing to talk with me, alone?"

Eric turned to Lawrence. After receiving a nod from the older boy, Eric turned back to Father Mott and said, quietly, ashamedly, "I guess. It's pretty bad." The boy then wrung his hands and looked at the floor.

Seeing Eric's demeanor change, Father Mott said, softly, "Son, making judgments on people is not my best suit. As our Lord Jesus Christ says in the Bible, if you really read it, pay attention to love, reap and sow it, and rejoice. You boys are children, still. You have plenty of time to heal. Though your lives will never again be the same, there's no reason that you can't heal and move on into a happy and purposeful life. I can just tell that you boys have so much love inside of you. I noticed, too, that you are capable of being loved - just receive it, rejoice, and pass it on to the next person you meet in your travels. God will take care of you all the days of your life, starting right now."

Father Mott, after sitting between Lawrence and Eric, spoke to all in the room, "Boys, I'm Father Mott, a Roman Catholic priest. I was recently found unfit to serve God's flock while using the Catholic faith as my guideposts. While I disagree with many of their fundamental teachings and ordinations, I did what I thought was best as a true expression of love and dedication to my Creator."

The Priest smiled after noticing Eric's and Michael's hands joined. He reached down, grasped hold and gently brought them, still joined, up for all to see. Continuing, "This is what love is about. Love knows no bounds. God doesn't make the distinctions that man makes. Love glues us together as nothing else can. You boys warm my heart. You put aside your differences, and are busy finding your touch points, where you are the same, what you have in common - when the final bell is tolled, your love will be all that prevails. Love and cherish one another until the end of time."

Turning to Luke, "The same is true for you and Jordan. Love him. Cherish him. Be his boulder when he needs a rock. Allow him to be your boulder when you are in a time of need. Don't worry, Luke… the love emanating between you two is palpable. He's so afraid of what I stand for, not who I am, or what I can do to help you guys."

"You're right - he's afraid. So am I. Look, I don't want to go into much detail other than to say that it's going to take time to trust anyone again."

"That we can deal with. Time is on our side."

Jordan, suddenly feeling a gagging sensation coming on, quickly ducked into a restroom. He barely got the door closed and knelt down on the floor as a wave of overwhelming nausea overtook his stomach. He heaved and heaved, expelling all remnants of breakfast, and then some that he hadn't eaten that morning. When the wave passed by, the boy rested his body on his outstretched, hugging the bowl, arms. His forehead, no further than half an inch from the muddy water, swayed back and forth as other smaller waves threatened to make themselves known. As he knelt before the porcelain god, his anus painfully contracted and relaxed as yet, once again, he relived the assault on his person by a person supposedly of the cloth.

Suddenly feeling other needs, he quickly grabbed the trash can, sat down on the toilet, leant forward and felt the scalding searing hot liquids escape. The cramps were so incredibly severe that his face turned a ghastly shade of white. Remembering what was done to Luke - hurt the worst. The cramps would pass, the stomach would calm down, but those memories - they would always be there, he thought.

Luke looked up at the clock hanging on the wall above the Priest. Nearly forty minutes had passed since Jordan's departure, longer than he'd ever taken to get himself back to the present. Concerned, Luke stood up and walked toward the door that would exit the conference room. Every step of the way, he looked at the Priest, searching for – he didn't know what he was looking for.

Michael turned to Matthew when the younger boy got up from the chair he was sitting on. The little one walked to Father Mott, sat down on his lap and drew the Priest's arms around him.

Stephen followed his little brother's lead, but sat on the floor between the Father's legs.

Luke keenly observed all that was happening, very interested. He looked to his side to see Lawrence's expression. Seeing that his brother was still deeply troubled, said, "Just remember Lawrence, that you're loved. Since you are loved, your family will die before letting you get hurt again."

Turning to the Priest, Luke said, "Patriarch from Burroughs West Baptist Church captured Lawrence about a year ago. He was tortured and made to give his body to that man, and others. Father, I love Lawrence with all of my heart and soul. Jordan and I were captured, too. Lawrence helped us to escape… without him I know that Jordan and I would have been tortured beyond belief, too. Right now, Jordan needs us. I can just feel it."

Father Mott, looking at Luke with a mixture of disbelief and belief, quietly sobbed showing Luke just how much he cared for them. Something came over the boy – forgiveness maybe? No, not forgiveness… maybe a trace of trust was coming. He looked at Stephen and then at Matthew – they weren't afraid; in fact, if anything, they were more relaxed.

The Priest, after gaining a modicum of control over his emotions, said, brokenly, "I'm so sorry. My God does not hurt little children. Our dear Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ… stopped on his way to Mount Calvary to talk with the children, to assure them that He loved them no matter what, and to not believe the lies of the Pharisees. What this means to me is that we are all children who are loved completely."

After kissing Matthew's cheek, the boy got up as did Stephen, as did Father Mott. Father Mott said, "Yes, I have heard of the degraded degenerate you speak of. He is an aberration before our Lord and Savior. Instead of only speaking abomination, he is The Epitome of Abhorrence."

The man, taking a huge chance, took Luke's hands in his, then leant forward and kissed the child's forehead. Luke shrugged his shoulders. After a moment of quiet contemplation, Luke said, "I know Jesus, but not in the way you say. You see, I was brought up in a church, in Florida, where we were taught that Jesus is mean and vengeful. I might as well tell you that I'm gay. I need to go now."

Luke opened the door, took two steps out, then Father Mott's words stopped him in his tracks, "Boys, don't ever forget that you are loved, and that love comes from Someone much bigger than all of us combined. Never give up hope."

Trauma Bay

Doctor John, after noting the younger child's blood pressure, pulse, and oxygen level to be normal, nodded for the nurse to inject a short acting general anesthesia into the patient's IV line. With precision, he quickly used his surgeon's skills to delicately explore the depths of the penile wound inflicted upon this innocent child. He found no damaged or severed vital structures. Before suturing the laceration, he touched a small battery-powered nerve stimulator to small hair-like nerves located on either side of and inside the incision. Despite the child being anesthetized, his penis favorably responded to the stimulation by becoming fully erect. When the boy's testicles began a slow ascent, he removed the stimulation, then efficiently and expertly sutured the very delicate tissues with strong but small stitches.

Knowing how Eric and Lawrence had been abused, while the child was still under the anesthesia, Doctor John quickly performed a deep rectal examination after taking swabs both outside and inside of the cavity. Muscle tone was normal, and there was no blood to be seen. He nodded to the nurse, "Wake him up. He's going to be just fine. These samples need to be taken to the laboratory. Please have them rush the test results."

Next, he turned his attention to Aaron.

Other than for appearing moderately emaciated, probably caused by long periods of starvation and poor nutrition, he looked pretty much normal in every respect. The bluish tinge was dissipating nicely.

Aaron opened his eyes upon command, but they immediately closed due to the bright lights in the room. Doctor John said, "Aaron, I need to check you over. I'll be gentle. I promise I won't hurt you. If you feel uncomfortable, just say so."

Aaron slightly nodded in the affirmative.

John noted Aaron's eyes, ears, nose, throat, neck and chest were within normal ranges. His lungs sounded mostly clear. Heart: normal. Belly soft, although there was a large tubular mass in the left lower quadrant - the physician wasn't concerned. A trip to the restroom would take care of the elongated mass.

Other than for scratches, several abrasions, bruises and a marked indentation on the lower side of his knees, his extremities were okay. Thin, but okay.

His left testicle was not present. A small scar at the base of the scrotum told Doctor John that Aaron, too, had been subjected to unilateral testicular excision. His right testicle was normal for a fourteen to fifteen year old boy. Very light stubble was felt, evidence that he'd been shaved of all pubic hair.

Dried blood and stool and a couple of leaves surrounded the boy's bottom. John took samples, then performed a deep examination after cleaning the area with warm soap and water. Aaron's anal muscles were lax. Aaron groaned with discomfort. A very small trace amount of fresh blood and other substances was seen on John's gloved finger. The physician took another sample and had it rushed to the laboratory for analysis. By all appearances the substance was seminal fluids.

The nurse prepared a basin of lightly soaped water, brought it to the hospital bed Aaron was lying on. She was somewhat surprised when John took the washcloth from her hand and applied it, himself, to Aaron's bottom. John, in his mind, felt compelled to perform the ritual to this child who had received such horrendous abuse.

Meanwhile, Aaron's eyes opened wide. His face grimaced. His body tightened, but he worked very hard to relax his anal sphincter in anticipation of being taken. But, he wasn't taken. Instead, the man, a doctor, treated him with dignity and respect, taking care to help him rather than to bring harm to him.

The rectal examination on the other hand - hurt, and had hurt badly, but he'd long ago received training to ignore and push away any sense of pain.

Despite vigorous attempts to maintain his composure, the boy felt his organ expanding. Shame and guilt nearly overtook him. He turned over onto his stomach, spread his legs, and waited for the inevitable to occur.

Much to his surprise, the 'inevitable' didn't happen. Instead, he felt covers being drawn up and over his exposed skin and muscles. He then felt hands, large ones, cup and massage his scalp using strong fingers. Despite his best attempts to stay awake, relaxation took over and his eyes closed, and he was soon sleeping peacefully.

Doctor John, feeling his reserves slipping away, handed the washcloth to the nurse, then made his exit, and walked down the hall with a need to empty his bladder. The closest restroom door was closed and locked, so he took a different track and headed for the conference room where there was another restroom reserved for staff.

Although all of the boys were looking at him, Luke's eyes were speaking volumes – some good, some troubling, some filled with fear, and there was a good amount of hope emanating. Luke said, "I'm going to go find Jordan… did you see him anywhere?"

John shook his head in the negative. A concerned expression crossed his face and stayed steady. "How long has he been gone?"

Luke replied, "About an hour. I'm going to go find him."

The other boys, with Jared leading the way, followed. They checked the empty treatment rooms before heading toward the main hallway that connects the main hospital to the Emergency Department. Just as they reached the intersection, a guard intercepted them and told them that they had to be accompanied by an adult, otherwise they were to leave the hospital.

Disregarding the man's intense facial expression, Luke said, confidently, "Have you seen another boy about my age wandering around? He's my … brother."

The man said, "No, I haven't. Tell me what he looks like so that I can be on the lookout for him." Luke gave Jordan's description then all of the boys exited the building to go look for Jordan.


Jordan, feeling some strength returning, cleaned up, leant against the sink to wash his hands and rinse his mouth free of the remaining vile liquid from his stomach upset, then looked into the mirror and saw someone he hardly recognized. He reached his wet hands up to touch his forehead to make sure it was him that he saw looking back into the mirror. Assured it was him, he splashed his face with cold water, then used paper towels to dry his skin.

The boy about gagged as he leant over to flush the toilet, then hastily made his exit before another round of stomach upset took him down. He stood in the hallway for a moment to get his bearings and to decide if he was going to leave through the outside doors or return to the conference room where he figured the others would still be hanging out with 'that' man.

The conference room won. He wanted nothing more than to sit down with Luke. Perhaps they could get away to just be alone together. And, it wasn't even sex that Jordan was thinking of; he just wanted to have a long time with Luke without interruptions to do what they wanted to do. On the other hand, he mostly felt safe and relaxed with the Finnegans… the only real family he'd ever known.

Chills ran up and down his spine as he turned and started walking toward the conference room. Upon arriving, he stood there for a moment before opening the door and entering. None of the others, including Luke, were in the room. The elderly man sat alone. The Priest's head was bowed. Jordan thought he heard someone sniffling… At the same time he went into the room, the man looked up. His eyes and cheeks were wet, clearly showing Jordan that Father Mott was very upset over something.

Slowly, laboriously, the man stood, held out his hands, "Son, I know what happened to you. I'm so very sorry. I now understand why you do not trust me, and quite frankly, you have every right to distrust me. I would feel exactly the same way you do. But, if you will permit… I would like to talk to you. I may be able to help."

Without a word said, but with a determined expression on his face, Jordan entered and permitted the door to close. He walked to the Priest, looked into the elderly man's eyes, then without warning, reached down, released his pants and pushed them and his underwear to the floor, grabbed hold of his penis and stroked it. It was just beginning to rise when Father Mott pushed Jordan's hand away and leaned down, took hold of Jordan's garments and pulled them up all the way, then fastened the snap and zipper.

The man, clearly upset, stepped back and nearly tripped over the chair, bowed his head, and prayed, "Dear God, please bless these children. Watch over them. Guide them. Teach them that their bodies, their temples are their own to do with as they so desire. Please heal their minds. And, please fill their hearts with love. Amen."

Jordan, quite surprised, asked, "You put my clothes ON me – why?"

"Touché". Father Mott exclaimed, smiling. Just shy of smiling, Jordan sat down in a chair across from the man. Father Mott continued, knowing he needed to qualify his actions, "I took your offering as rather brazen, don't you agree?"

Jordan looked into the Priest's eyes. He realized the man had a point. Luke's boyfriend also realized he had offered something that was reserved only for Luke.

Father Mott saw the changes wash through Jordan. Despite his advancing years, Father Mott took Jordan's silence as a turning point.

"So, Sir, what do you know?" Jordan asked, looking into the man's eyes.

"I know enough to know that you boys were treated unfairly…"

"Unfairly… is that all?" Jordan groused while leaning forward to unravel a bunched up jeans leg. He sat back up, looked into the man's eyes, and waited.

"You were treated unfairly because your choices were taken away. Everybody should be afforded the opportunity to make up his own mind, don't you think?"

Jordan couldn't think of a retort, so he simply, quietly said, "I'm not concerned about what he did to me… he fucked me; it's no big deal, but what he did to Luke… it hurts, Sir. I'll never forgive that fucking asshole, ever."

Father Mott didn't flinch at Jordan's choice of words. Instead, he offered, "Son, have you talked to Luke about your feelings? I can tell that you and he are very close… perhaps more? That's okay, you don't have to tell me what I already see.. unless you wish to."

Jordan, picking up on what Father Mott had just said, relaxed. The man picked up on the boy's more relaxed state. Taking a chance, he stated, "There's no need to be ashamed or afraid of me. I see the love you have for Luke. And, although Luke didn't come right out and say that you and he are a couple – I heard volumes from his voice. May I share something with you?"

Jordan rolled the sleeves of the oversized shirt up to his elbows. Nodding, "Go ahead." He was now interested in what the man had to say.

Jordan looked down into his lap and noticed his maleness was clearly evident. He, as inconspicuously as possible, grabbed the material and shifted it so that his organ was no longer delineated.

"Jordan, is it okay if I use your name? It's a beautiful name. Biblical even. Did you know that you were named after an infamous river?"

"I doubt that's the way it happened. I was probably named after one of her boyfriends. Who knows anyway? I don't care. Sir, can I get a Coke or something to drink?"

"Of course. The refrigerator in back is full of juices and soft drinks. Would you please get me a carton of apple juice on your way back?"

Jordan nodded, then stood. When he arose, a wave of dizziness passed through him. He stood in place for a second before heading on into the canteen area. Father Mott noted Jordan's temporary difficulty.

When the boy returned with their drinks, Father Mott asked very softly, "Are you okay? I saw you hesitate…" The man didn't relay anything about having smelled stomach upset on Jordan's person.

"I guess I got pretty upset, but I'm okay now." Jordan replied, then took a swig of the Dew Drink, sat down, then looked at the man.

Father Mott, taking his cue to begin, "Son, I was a Catholic priest for fifty two years. It was my calling. I was eleven years old when I felt my Creator nudging me toward a life of service to Him. I never looked back. It was the right decision."

Jordan nodded, "So what happened? Why aren't you in a church?"

Continuing, "Oh but I was… until a little over eight years ago. I've been in many parishes. They tried, several times, to make me into a leader. It didn't work. Heh, I'm not an administrator, didn't want the responsibilities and to be subjected to the higher ups authority… my authority is my Creator, pure and simple. But… turning them down was the beginning of the end. Basically I didn't do what someone all but ordered me to do."

Seeing that the boy was listening with interest, Father Mott gave Jordan a quick warm smile, "That's right… I don't like being ordered around any more than you do…"

Jordan chuckled. He looked intently into the man's eyes, "Why did you get canned?"

"I'm getting there… authority I tell ya. God's my master, not men. Now, I'm really okay with the changes in my life. A lot of stuff the Church holds true I no longer see as being true. Take for instance… it's preached that innocent babies are basically screwed from the moment they pop out their mother's wombs… the baby has to be baptized if it has any chance of being reunited with God, otherwise its soul is sent to a dark and lonely place never to be seen by His Light and Love."

"That's stupid."

"Yes, yes it is. Another one is that according to Church Law, a man, woman or child is not forgiven until they confess their shortfalls to another person - a Holy Person at that, like we're special or something. When kids came to me filled with shame and guilt about doing what comes naturally, such as self pleasuring, cursing just because they can - but not to a person in authority… I told them go outside and play with the advice of not intentionally hurting or harming anyone… that's it."

"That's it? That's all they got you for?"

"Oh heavens no… they don't know about what I told the people because I didn't tell them… there was and is no need." Father Mott patted his heart, "This is where forgiveness comes in. Most of us know, or at least we can feel right and wrong. Our conscience tells us… and I believe this is where our Creator talks to us, one on one."

Jordan shrugged his shoulders, "I don't believe in God… but yeah… when I hurt Luke - it hurts right here," Jordan pointed to his upper gut, then continued, "I guess I'm not too bad… I try so hard to not hurt him… uhm… what does your God say about homosexuality?"

"I like that about you, Son. Let's get to the heart of the matter. Well… Okay… We'll go to the heart… over a period of about two years… I've married three gay couples. Yes, I married them… because… God wanted them to be together. At first, I had misgivings out the ying yang, and it's because I'd been taught that homosexuality's an abominiation… and if a man sleeps with a man as he should a woman, meaning they engaged sexually and had no intention of stopping the behavior - then off with their heads, prepare a place in hell for them."

Jordan's eyes popped wide open. His body shuddered, and he felt as though he needed to get the hell out of there. But Father Mott's eyes closed for a moment. A lone tear escaped his eyelid. Calming down, Jordan offered, "That's what I've heard. Luke talks about it once in a while."

"Does it make sense to you, Jordan?"

"Like I said, I don't have a mythical god riding on my shoulder like a monkey."

"No, wait… do you believe what they're saying?"

Jordan shook his head, "No."

"That's because you made up your own mind… you've followed your heart. That, I believe, is what our God wants us to do. So long as a person does not intentionally hurt and harm another, then I see a whole world opening up to us as individuals."

"That makes sense. You married three couples, really?"

"Yup. I sure did. I don't regret it, not for one moment do I feel what I did was wrong. The last two men I married were kids that I'd baptized when they were infants. I watched them grow up. I saw the turmoil in their families… their parents, while they wanted to love and nurture their sons, ended up following Church Canon to the letter. I'm afraid the boys, young men actually, were quite upset, at least for a while. They got their own place, got into drugs and alcohol because they felt less than human, hurt each other in ways that I won't go into here or anytime - because what they told me is confidential. Just like our conversation here, right now. Jordan, whatever you talk about stays here."

Jordan thought a moment before saying, "What Luke and I do, and yes we are together in every way, if you know what I mean, is for us… I mean, sure it hurts sometimes, but I do it for Luke…"

"You're giving of yourself for him to be happy?"

"Mmm hmmm."

"As long as you aren't hurt hurting yourself…"

"It's just temporary… uhm… well… it makes me feel good, too… we're okay."

"I can see it. Bless you, child."

"So… they, the Church, doesn't… I mean they kicked you out for telling people they should love each other in whatever way they feel is right?"

"Basically, yes."

"So… how are the two guys… you know the ones that… did they lose their families altogether?"

"They're doing fine. I just talked to them on Monday. In fact, they want to adopt a child, but you know as well as I do that it won't be possible for a while. I'm afraid Ashwood has set this country back about a thousand years."

"Yeah. Don't tell Lawrence, okay, please? He's hurting enough." Jordan said casually, then his eyes popped wide open, like he'd disclosed something that this man could take and use against Lawrence.

Father Mott observed the child's anxiety. "Jordan, don't. As I told him, his secret is safe. I would never ever disclose who he is, who he's with, or, where he is. I recognized him right off when he was here a few weeks ago for his operation."

"You did? And you didn't say anything?"

"No, Son. I've not told anyone. Nor will I."

Jordan bored holes through Father Mott's soul, so much, in fact, that the Priest took in a deep breath. Having someone inside of his heart like that had been a very long time ago, almost forgotten.

"Thanks." Jordan said, standing up. He walked to the restroom door, put his head against the door jam, and contemplated for a moment or two before turning back to Father Mott. He paced the floor several times, going to the restroom door then back, and so on and so forth. Finally, the boy looked into Father Mott's eyes and asked, "Then why is a man who calls himself a god go around and fuck kids? For Christ sakes man, that's just wrong. And just look at what he did to Lawrence and Eric… did they show you how they cut their dicks – so they couldn't have sex? And did you know that the assholes sold Lawrence to some fucking Iraqi?"

The man, clearly taken aback, turned ashen, "No, Son, I didn't know."

Father Mott arose from his seat, walked to Jordan and looked directly into his eyes, capturing the child's attention. At first there was fear in Jordan's eyes, but then he once again relaxed and waited for the Priest's response. He didn't have to wait long.

Father Mott's eyes narrowed to mere slits. Before Jordan could become afraid, the man said, "Although I do not believe in hell, I'm sure one could be arranged for those who do that to children. Not only were they hurt and harmed, but they had their choices taken away. Who is the son of a bitch?"

The intensity in Father Mott's voice struck Jordan. The words, the way he said it - pushed the boy into believing what the man had been saying all along. It was then that he saw the gravity of what had been done to not only him, but to Luke, Eric, Lawrence, and probably the two new boys that they'd rescued. Jordan had seen the wound done to the younger boy, and that vision is part of what had caused him to get so sick to his stomach.

"Around the compound, they called him Patriarch. His name is actually Fred Phillips. He's some czar from a church named Burroughs West Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas. I read up on him and his ilk. Did you know…?"

"Son, I know all about him, but I never ever thought he'd do something like that to children, but I was sorely mistaken. He and I went to seminary together long, long ago… He was dismissed for unknown reasons. Nobody talked about it, and the Vicars wouldn't say anything, only that he'd found another calling in his life. Were they lying to me?"

Jordan could tell from Father's expression that no answer was necessary, but he could see the man was hurting.

"You're okay, Father. Look, I'm sorry that I was such an ass, I mean butt-head…"

"Oh no, Son. You weren't a butt-head at all… I saw so much pain inside of you… now I know why. Jordan, this is one of those occasions when I must go into action. I am going to take your story and, so help me God, I'm going to do whatever I can do to stop kids from getting hurt. I have to. It's my calling." The man shuddered violently as a wave of determination coursed through his veins.

A moment later he continued, "Now, about you and Luke. Listen to me very carefully. Love him. Cherish him. See that he's happy without you losing yourself, all the days of your life. I have no doubt that our Creator brought you two together. Now, I am going to leave you with a word of advice: talk to Luke about what's going on inside of here;" Father Mott touched the front of Jordan's chest. "let him know what's going on inside of you. You both need to heal. And you will heal. Part of you will need to heal on your own, but most of all, the two of you need to heal together… you'll be stronger."

Jordan contemplated his words. "But I don't want to hurt him. He's got enough on his mind."

"I understand. You've got to have painful memories from the experience. Let me ask you this: do you want to tell him how you're feeling?"

"Well, yeah… I just don't know what I'm feeling. Like I said, I'm more concerned about what's going on in Luke's head. He doesn't talk about it either."

"Tell me this, if you choose to… has your relationship with Luke changed since… since the 'what' happened?"

"Oh yeah. Oh yeah." Jordan said, lowering his head onto his chest. His hands went up to his face, and he turned away from Father Mott.

Father Mott, seeing what was about to happen, quickly closed the distance, turned Jordan to face him, then, without argument from Jordan, pulled the boy into his arms and held him firmly.

In fact Jordan welcomed the embrace. His arms circled the Priest's chest as he tried oh so hard to not cry, but failed. For once, he didn't hold back the painful memories of what Patriarch had done to Luke, and to himself, too.

Bert, one of the hospital's two security personnel approached John at the nurse's station, "Sir, I noticed your rig is parked close to the entrance to the ER loading area, like, you know, in the street…"

John looked at the man with a puzzled expression on his face. Then recognition, "Oh my gosh, yes…" John walked out the ER doors and noted the rig was indeed still parked where it had been brought to in a hurry.

"Thanks, Bert. I'll get it moved. I'll do it right now."

As soon as John approached the vehicle he saw the boys rolling and romping around in the grassy area, playing with the mangy dog named Dog.

Matthew, seeing his Dad walking down the ramp came running to his father. When he arrived, the boy exuberantly asked, "Daddy, can we keep her? Please! Please! Please! Can we?"

Luke and the rest of the boys came walking up to John with expectant looks on their faces. Luke stepped forward, "Sir, we'll take care of her. I promise she won't be in the way." Even Dog got in the act by nuzzling John's hand, then sitting on its haunches waiting for The Decision.

John knew Dog's story… Luke and Jordan had told it to him. Not only that; Jordan had related his story of how he'd been mauled by a stray dog when he was a young child, and how he'd been petrified of canines – until Dog welcomed them at Katy's. Additionally, Jordan had been quick to point out the scar near his ankle that the stray dog had put there.

"Shake!" The man stated, looking into the canine's eyes and holding out his hand.

The dog, a definite wiseacre, promptly shook her entire body sending loose hair and other bits of its history in the wild to front and center. John chuckled. The boys all looked at him with hope written all over their faces. Luke laughed.

"Roll over!" John commanded. The dog obeyed.


John, kneeling down, wasn't prepared for what Dog did next… The animal knocked him onto his back, then promptly sat on his stomach and began licking his face – furiously. Now, this cracked the kids up… not only did they find it funnier than heck, but they encouraged her antics to continue, and continue she did… until SHE tired, and not before.

Luke deadpanned, "She likes you."

One hour later, the beast and the boys were busily frolicking in a shower stall located in the abandoned wing in the hospital. John scratched his head at seeing the mound of hair on top of the drain shield. The kids were busily shampooing its coat, and having hella fun doing so.

Knowing that Jordan's demeanor had been less than exuberant, John quickly made his way to the trauma area, headed back to the conference room, opened the door and was greeted by seeing Jordan and Father Mott quietly talking between themselves. Jordan looked up, nodded, got up, walked to John and drew him into a hug, and said, "I think I'm okay with knowing not all religious people are like Fred Phillips."

John smiled. Father Mott, who had walked to them, observing Jordan's transformation, wasn't taken aback when John said, "We'll be back after a while." He took hold of Jordan's hand and led him up to the abandoned hospital wing. Within two seconds after arriving, give or take a few, Jordan was just as naked as the rest – and he was being mauled by the wild beast, the beast who had won over the hearts of the kids.

The doctor returned to the trauma bay to check on his patients. Their temperatures had risen to 95.6. They awakened upon command. Several tests to check their central nervous systems, to determine if they had any neurological deficits from their ordeal out in the cold returned in the lower ranges of normal; somnolence being the last remaining symptom of their ordeal out in the elements.

John laid his hand on Aaron's head intending to allay the child's expression of fear, "Aaron, I'm Doctor John. I've been taking care of you since you were brought into the hospital. You and this boy to the right of you were found huddled together. We got to you in just the nick of time. But, you're going to be okay, though you're going to be sleepy the rest of today and maybe tomorrow as well."

"Where am I?" Aaron struggled to ask.

"Breckenridge Hospital. You're in the emergency room." Aaron fidgeted his hands against his surrounding covers." John continued, "These tubes that you feel have warm water flowing through them to warm your body. Your temperature was very low."

The boy nodded his understanding, then asked, "Where's Habab? Is he okay?"

"Habab?" John asked, clearly perplexed as to whom Aaron was talking about. He then looked to the younger boy in the next bed.

Aaron lifted his head, followed John's arm to see that the man in the white coat had his hand resting on Habab's head, just like his own. Aaron, exhausted, laid back; his eyes closed. Soon his breathing was deep, rhythmical and regular.

Seeing that Aaron was resting comfortably, he turned his attention to the younger boy. The boy, Habab, awakened to see and feel John's hand gently stroking his forehead. He cleared his throat. John quickly grabbed a Kleenex then held it to receive a large wad of phlegm expelled from deep within the boy's throat.

Habab nodded appreciatively, then said, "Thanks. Who are you, Sir?"

"My name is Doctor John. I've been taking care of you. What's your name?"

"Habab. Sir, are you one of them?" The boy asked while lifting his hand up to brush John's aside.

"One of them?"

"Yeah, one of them; you know, one of the doctors who… who…"

"Oh Habab… Son, what is your real name? Your blond hair, fair skin and freckles are a dead giveaway, sorry, Habab doesn't work for me."

"But, you cut me. Why did you do that?"

John's mouth opened wide, his forehead furrowed with worry after hearing the child's statement. "Son, what is your real name? When you answer me I'm going to show you something."

"Dalton. My real name's Dalton."

"Well, hello Dalton. It's nice to meet you." John replied, then without saying another word, helped the boy to sit. He lowered the blanket to expose Dalton's male parts. Carefully, gently he spread the boy's legs and lifted the penis up so that Dalton could see it just enough to make Dalton curious to see all of it.

Dalton reached down to turn over his penis to get a good look. The boy, clearly amazed, looked into John's eyes searching for any sign of malevolence or untruth. Finding nothing of the sort, he looked at his gland one more time before saying, amazed, "Did you fix me?"

"I did. You're going to be just fine." John replied.

The boy let go of his penis, then looked, awestruck, into John's eyes, "Thank you. I mean it. I really do."

"You're welcome. The swelling will go down in a few days. You shouldn't have too much scar tissue to get in the way of your normal life."

"He told me that I was filled with sin. All I did was, well, you know… it got hard. I tried not to, but…"

"But nothing. You're a boy. A penis is made to get hard… having erections is totally and completely normal and natural."

The boy shrugged his shoulders. His expression read disbelief. John let it go. There would be time to discuss those matters later under different circumstances.

Dalton looked into John's eyes with hope and innocence. John smiled and reassuringly brushed a hand across Dalton's head and pushed away a strand of hair that was riding across the boy's eyelash. Very quietly, humbly, the boy stated, his voice slightly above a whisper, "Sir, I need to use the restroom."

"Well, that can be arranged. There's a restroom just down the hall. Let me get someone to bring a wheelchair. I'll be right back."

Cynthia, the charge nurse, walked in just as John was about to open the door. John asked, "Cynthia, will you arrange for a wheelchair. Mr. Dalton, here, needs to use the can."

"Coming right up." She replied and left the room. When she returned with a wheelchair, she relayed, "The front desk needs me… I'll get somebody to take him."

John replied, "I'll take him… it's no problem." Cynthia handed John a warmed blanket which John used to snugly wrap the boy's arms and torso. Dalton, with John's assistance, got into the wheelchair, they then made their way to the restroom.

With John's assistance, the boy sat on the toilet and began evacuating. When John turned to leave, the boy took hold of John's wrist, "I'm kind of scared, Sir."

John nodded, closed the door, then walked to the sink, washed his hands so that the child felt he had some privacy. Dalton said, "I didn't believe the doctor who did this to me."

"I wouldn't have believed him either. What he did to you was wrong. What did he say to you?"

Dalton's face took on a reddish hue from exertion. He looked into John's eyes with a trace of frustration, then smiled with satisfaction - and relief. The boy replied, "Sorry about that. The doctor said I looked more like a girl than a guy. What do you think? All done."

John replied, confidently, "Well, I know differently. You're all boy, that's for sure."

Dalton looked down and saw what John was talking about. He looked back up with a smile on his face, a smile that John wanted to see a whole lot more of. When Dalton peeled off a strip of tissue paper, John said, "Call me when you're done. I'll be right outside the door."

When John walked out and closed the door, the boy inspected his maleness very carefully, amazed that it would work after being cut like it had been cut. He didn't linger, though. Once he was clean, he stood and shuffled to the sink, washed his hands, dried them, then knocked on the door after finding it was too heavy to open on his own.

John opened the door. Dalton looked at the man for a moment before slowly, carefully, calculatingly, and gently put his arms around the person that made him a boy again. Doctor John put his arms around the boy's shoulders and held him firmly. When John began to part, the boy held firm. John kissed the top of Dalton's head and enjoyed their moments together. But there came a time and place where and when it was probably not appropriate to be hugging and being hugged by a naked boy. John parted, then wrapped the child in the blanket and took him back to the trauma room and helped him into bed, covered him, and then watched Dalton fall right to sleep with a smile on his face.

Eric, Michael, Stephen and Jordan were busily drying Dog after her bath while Jared, Lawrence, Matthew and Luke were taking a shower washing off dog hair, cockleburs, straw, and other various and sundry dirt and grimy objects from their bodies.

Dog was having a hey-day with all the attention paid her, and the boys were having a good time with the attention and affections given them by her. When she was dried as good as she was going to get, she took turns knocking over each of the boys and frantically licking their faces with appreciation and happiness. Her coat was simply beautiful. The boys each gave one another resounding high-fives at seeing how happy and clean they'd made her.

After the boys in the shower finished washing each other's backs they got out and began drying while the other children entered to take theirs.

Lawrence, the first dressed, quietly padded out of the room and made his way to the ER to check on Aaron, the love of his life. Each step brought increased anxiety. He asked himself several times questions such as 'Would Aaron even know me?' 'Did Aaron feel the same way about me as I thought about him?' 'Did Aaron stay alive with hopes that one day we would be together?'

Yes, those questions dogged him. They became even more significant when he turned the corner to enter the Emergency Department.

Father Mott intercepted Lawrence about midway down the hall, just as Lawrence screwed up the courage to go the distance, to have his questions answered once and for all. Lawrence flinched when the Priest placed his hand on his shoulder. The man, sensing the youth's anxiety quietly waited until Lawrence relaxed, when the boy realized the man was not going to harm him or anyone else, for that matter.

Finally, unable to take the suspense any longer, Lawrence looked into Father Mott's eyes and said, "I'm so scared. What if he hates me? What if they got to him?"

Father Mott quickly replied to Lawrence's anxiety, "Son, I don't think that's going to happen, but you'll never know unless you go in there and find out for yourself. I really think, no, I really hope you're wrong. I'll go with you, if you'd like for me to."

Lawrence nodded. He took in a very deep breath, slowly let it out, set his jaw determined to see this through, knowing how he'd waited so very long with hope this moment would arrive, and now that it was here - he was afraid, so very afraid. 'What if he rejects me?' The boy thought quietly to himself.

As though his mind was being read, Lawrence shivered when Father Mott said, "I can see that you love Aaron very much. I'm positive that everything will turn out just fine. One thing we do with our loved one is share our vulnerabilities with them. Because of things that we're taught along the way, and what we've picked up through our lives is what holds us back from truly expressing ourselves. There was a song that was played several years by an artist named Lionel Cartwright. The name of the song is "Leap of Faith".

"I've heard it several times. I like it, too." Lawrence said. He took a deep breath, slowly let it out, took hold of the door handle, then, without fanfare, opened the door and entered, with his arm inside of the Priest's.

Lawrence found Aaron soundly sleeping. For two or three minutes the boy stood there observing his Aaron, thinking how peaceful his love appeared to be. Slowly Lawrence reached his hand over and laid it on top of Aaron's that were clasped together on his belly, rising and falling with each deep breath. Then he took the Leap of Faith – he leant down and touched his lips to Aaron's, then withdrew as though Aaron's lips were hot and scalding branding irons. The Priest looked at the interaction between these boys… his eyes filled with tears and his breath caught in his throat as he watched Aaron's eyes flutter open. Because Aaron's face was turned toward his, he did not see Lawrence closely observing, hoping against all hope…

"Well, good afternoon, young man. I've been waiting for you to awaken." Father Mott said.

Aaron slightly nodded, then feeling something touching him, looked down at his hands. Then, seeing that whatever had been touching him was not his, and seeing movement in his peripheral vision quickly turned his head toward Lawrence. His eyes went wide open, and then they filled with tears. A low, painful groan emanated from deep within his lungs as he lunged forward to the person he thought, was sure of, was dead. But he wasn't dead. He was alive, and he was looking into his eyes.

The boys came together and wailed their relief – and love.

Father Mott quietly stole out of the room, went to the conference room, and despite his age, dropped to his knees and quietly wept.

Getting out of the hospital was another chore. Luke and Jordan, one on either side of the now clean puppy dog, as they fondly referred to Dog, quickly made their way toward the Emergency Department knowing there was no way they could hide Dog's presence.

Jared walked ahead, as though he could somehow obscure Dog's presence if someone was to question them why a canine was inside of a hospital, designed to stay clean and free of outside pathogens. Of course, Eric, Stephen, Matthew followed up the rear, hoping the very same thing.

As it was, they did just fine until they reached the corridor that led into the ER. Bert was flabbergasted that an animal had escaped his watchful eyes. Immediately he took off toward the boys to find out exactly why that dog was inside the hospital, and to get it out. Using his most stern words and eye contact he demanded to know why THAT animal was inside of a hospital used for sick humans.

Matthew quickly replied, "He's our dog. We gave him a bath."Jared responded, "That's right. We were just leaving. And don't worry, we cleaned the bathroom after we got finished bathing her."

Michael offered, "We're going."

Eric added, "Our dad knows about it. He said we get to keep her." Several affirmations from the rest of the boys followed.

The man scratched his head. These boys, he thought, knew what they were doing, and why. Who was he to thwart their plans? Quietly, he nodded and took the lead to escort them out of the building. Once outside, he noted the motorhome was no longer in the street, rather it was parked in the large parking lot across from the hospital.

The boys quickly made their way to the rig, only to find it locked. Jared, the elected 'official' was quickly dispatched to find their dad to get the keys so that they could get into the vehicle.

Bert, ever mindful of those boys, acquiesced Jared's request to find his father for the reasons he went there for in the first place, with, of course, Bert escorting him. The last known place where Jared had seen his father was the trauma bay. The doors were closed.

Bert went to the front desk to search out a nurse who could assist them, while Jared, familiar with the hospital and his dad's line of work, slowly, quietly opened the door to peer in.

He was quite shocked to see Lawrence and the new boy, one of the two they had rescued, holding one another as though their very lives depended on their embrace.

Lawrence looked up to see Jared standing in the doorway. He motioned for Jared to come. Jared did so. Lawrence's eyes, filled with tears and running down his cheeks quietly said, "This is Aaron. Aaron, this is Jared. He's been a big brother to me… he's helped me to stay somewhat sane, and never once discouraged my hopes of us coming back together."

Although Jared knew that he and Lawrence were close, he really had no idea just how close they were. His words, filled with emotion, "Glad to finally meet you. I've heard so much about you that I feel that I know you pretty well."

Aaron nodded and said, choking back his emotions enough to speak, "Thank you for being there for Lawrence. I can never repay you enough."

Jared, simply stated, "The bill is paid in full. I've been waiting for this moment, but you're welcome. I'll talk to you two later."

John's Viewpoint

Cyn caught me in the hallway. She was very unlike her usual bubbly self. Her eyes were shooting daggers. U had to duck several before she spoke, "Who hurt those boys?"

Cynthia's a good nurse, wife and mother of five girls, and she's devoted to her work. I trusted her emphatically. Three years ago, Michael gave us a leukemia scare. She was right in there supporting him and me, too. Thankfully my son's illness resolved itself without treatment.

She's old school nursing, meaning her patient care is first and foremost. She's always in trouble with administration because of her propensity to delay completion of paperwork.

"Cynthia, come with me. I want to show you something, then we need to talk."

Without waiting for an answer, I led her to the door of the trauma bay. I said, "Stay quiet. I need to show you something, then maybe this will make sense."

I slightly opened the door. Just as I had anticipated, Lawrence was holding Aaron in his arms. Their tears, happy ones this time, were freely flowing from their eyes and running down their cheeks.

Softly, quietly, I closed the door after making sure that Cyn saw their interactions.

We ducked into an empty exam room. "Cyn, what we just witnessed is love in its purest form. Those boys have lived almost a complete year thinking the other was dead. Nobody, except me to a certain extent, knows how much those boys truly went through to get where they are right now."

I took in a deep breath before continuing, "Cynthia, this is what I know: four boys have shared their experiences with a very dark cult like organization that captures, tortures, rapes, mutilates, and tears boys apart from their inner core outwards. At least one of the boys in that room had been bought and sold for sex purposes. Both of the boys, I'm sure, escaped from the hell-hole where they'd been held - it sounds more like a Nazi concentration camp than anything else. I've got to leave, Cyn. I've got to take these boys to safety. I owe it to them."

Cyn reached out her arms. Tears were freely flowing from her eyes. She buried her face into my chest and wept. I put my arms around her shoulders and held her close. If ever there was another woman whom I could fall in love, it would be Cyn. But, she's married. And her husband is a beautiful man… kind, considerate, giving, asks for little, and he's the father of their five adorable daughters.

Cyn said, "John, the scuttlebut's talking. It's been very active since Lawrence Ashwood was admitted to this hospital for his operation. Nobody has said anything because we're all Ashwood haters… the man should be shot dead a hundred times. Do you think…"

"I don't know anything for sure, other than I need to get those kids out of this town. They're not safe here. Michael was attacked at his school. Jared was kicked out for defending his brother. We don't need this shit, Cyn."

"Then go. You're a good man, John. Your sons adore the ground you walk on. And, I've seen how the other boys respond to you… go… God bless you and your kids."

We parted. Cyn went her way. I walked to the trauma bay door, pulled back the curtain to observe Lawrence and Aaron's interactions. They were still holding one another, talking, kissing every now and again… mostly, though, they were together. This warmed my heart to the boiling point.

Jared turned the corner into the ER with Bert escorting him. Immediately I thought to myself, "Oh, oh…" but then relaxed when he walked to me and asked for the keys to the motorhome.

I replied, "We shouldn't be here too much longer. The kids are doing fine. Jared, some things are going to be changing very soon. I can't go into details right now, but I will talk to you guys a little later today."

Jared accepted my answer. We hugged, then he took off. I watched him exit the department and walk toward the motorhome. I observed that he's maturing in both body and spirit. About halfway through the parking lot, he turned and waved, knowing I'd be looking out after him and his brothers, new and old.

When Jared entered the coach, not two seconds passed before Stephen disembarked and came running ninety to nothing toward the hospital. I opened the door and ran toward him. He jumped at the very last possible second and landed in my arms, and held onto my neck and kissed my cheek.

"I just wanted to tell you that I love you, Daddy. You're the best dad in the whole wide world. Gotta go. And, oh yeah, Dog is all clean, but her breath stinks!!"

With that pronouncement, we touched lips, and then he was down and out of my arms, and running toward the coach at breakneck speed. Thankfully my little boy saw a car driving on one of the little side roads. He stopped. The car passed on by with Stephen waving at the driver.

I went back inside the hospital, headed for the physician's lounge. The place was empty. I sat down in one of the chaise lounge chairs, pulled out my cell phone and made a phone call, "Adam, this is John. We need to talk…"

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Bradley's Viewpoint

Parking was scarce. After searching the garage high and low for a space, a car pulled out and we were able to park. I noted our location on the fifth level at the end of the floor.

Thirty-five minutes and multitudes of hallways later, we strode into Dad's room. He, we saw through the partially opened curtain, was shaving. Immediately, he looked into the mirror, and in a heartbeat turned to see us. He tossed down the razor into the basin and drug his IV pole over where we all hugged as firmly as we dared. When we parted, Dad had both tears in his eyes and a scowl on his face. He growled, "What took you so long?" Then like a light-bulb turned on, the scowl was replaced by a warm smile, and his words took on a whole different meaning, "It's good to see you guys. Give me a few minutes."

A nurse entered. She chuckled, "So, you've come to spring your dad, have you?"

"Yes, Ma'am." I replied. Jeremy nodded.

"Well, you're in luck. Let's just say your father is quite anxious to go home, and leave it at that…"

Dad rolled his eyes up into his head, then held out his arm, gave the nurse a determined expression. She winked, then proceeded to remove the IV tubing from his arm. Dad genuinely smiled, turned and entered the shower. He tossed the hospital gown to the floor, and he began singing some weird song - out of key and out of tone - it was horrible, yet I felt good inside hearing that my dad was alive.

While he was showering, a female clerk stopped by with discharge papers that dad had to sign before he could go. When the shower turned off, Jeremy got up, grabbed clothes for dad to wear and took them to him.

A few minutes later, Dad and Jeremy exited. He greeted the woman, signed the forms and handed the insurance papers to her. All was in order. Dad was discharged, but he was required to ride downstairs in a wheelchair. When the orderly was satisfied that dad was safely inside and the seat belt securely fastened, he took his leave.

Within the hour we were sitting in a corner booth at the back of a Flying-K truck stop restaurant searching the menu. Dad grumbled quite a bit. He was so hungry that every choice on the laminated sheets of paper looked dynamite good to him.

A waitress soon arrived with a tray filled with glasses of water, a container of coffee, cups, and menus. She about dropped everything at seeing dad and his sons. After scattering the table, Mary, the waitress, sat down. I hadn't seen her in quite some time. I got up, leaned down and accepted and gave her hugs.

Jeremy, more reserved, simply nodded and smiled.

"Mary, can you take our order? We have people to see and places to go?"

"Oh sure. What do you guys want to eat? Our specials are…"

She entered our orders into a PDA device, electronically sent the order to the kitchen. Once it beeped, she asked, "So, Dale, where have you been? We haven't seen you in ages."

"Well, I've taken time off the road to spend with my family. The chances are really good that I'll be doing something else."

"We're going to miss you. You know that, don't you?"

"Oh, yeah, there'll be some people I'll miss as well. But it's time to plant my feet. Bradley's growing up way too fast, and I have a grandson to watch over."

"How's Regina? I haven't seen her in a coons' age."

"Regina passed away on October 26th. And don't ask me any questions. I'm not ready to talk about it; neither are my sons."

Mary regarded Dad very carefully before patting my back. She got up and headed to the kitchen area to retrieve our orders. When she returned and had our plates scattered, she said, "Is there anything I can do for you guys?"

Dad took a swig of coffee, swallowed it, then turned to Mary and said, "Mary, you know as well as I do that – news of Regina's death will end up in Europe by the time we leave this place. No, there's nothing you can do for us. Thank you, though."

I dropped my fork onto the floor. Jeremy's mouth dropped. Neither of us had ever heard Dad speak like that to any other human on Earth.

As if that wasn't enough to shock us into reality, her words finished off the deal, "You have a point there. Be well, Dale. It was nice to see you, Bradley. Jeremy, it's been too long. Take care of your family."

With that said, Mary huffed down and across the aisle to take care of another customer.

Dad snarled, "That woman has the biggest mouth that ever lived and moved. Let's finish up and get on our way."

Jeremy paid for the meal, much to Dad's consternation, and then headed outside to fill up the car with gasoline for the trip home while Dad and I went into the restroom to drain the cans.

When we met at the sink to wash our hands, "Dad, is everything okay?"

Dad looked into my eyes, "I will be. I will be. How about you, Son? How are you holding up?"

"We went to the house today. It was hard." I said, honestly, while rinsing the soap from my hands.

Dad replied, "I understand. I'm not looking forward to it. We'll talk about it later. Right now, I want to get home." I nodded my understanding and agreement.

We met Jeremy at the cashier's cage. Before Jeremy could retrieve his credit card, Dad plunked a fifty-dollar bill on the counter. Jeremy was about to argue about who was going to pay for the trip, however Dad's smile convinced him that any argument would be - pointless.

I laughed out loud at seeing Jeremy's defeated expression. He shot me a look that would kill a mountain lion, but that was quickly replaced by one of his 'I will get you later' expressions. Fat chance.

As we walked out to the car, which Jeremy had parked in the back of the restaurant so that other people could gas up, six rapid blasts from an air-horn close by startled the heck out of all of us. By the time, and it took only a split second, we looked around, the driver had pulled into a fuel bay. We could not see who the driver was as the rig was pointed toward the freeway. At first, Dad was going to walk across the parking lot to see who it was, but then thought differently. We continued to the car, with Dad saying, "We need to get home. I want to vote."

We waited for Jeremy to unlock the door locks. I noted Dad and Jeremy exchange glances. When I reached for the front passenger door, Jeremy grinned while handing the keys over to me.

Confused, I offered, "Jeremy, I don't have a license, or even a learner's permit."

Jeremy pushed the keys into my hand, then got into the front passenger seat, closed the door and buckled himself in, and gestured toward the driver's side.

I loved to drive. Mom had let me drive with her several times, but not on the freeway, and not in traffic.

After getting inside and buckled in, Dad said, "I know you've driven before. Your Mom said that you're a good driver, so let's go home, or are you going to sit here all day?"

I had one more argument, a valid one, "But this is your car, Jeremy… are you sure? What about insurance?"

"Good point. We're covered if anything happens. Let's go."

Driving as though he'd driven for years, Bradley attentively negotiated the parking lot filled with cars, trucks, even a motorcyclist. When traffic was clear, it was their turn to go, he entered the service road leading to the interstate entrance. The light was red. While they were waiting their turn, Dale said, "Traffic is heavy, Son. Stay with it the best you can. And… don't put your foot on the brake unless you actually plan to slow down or stop due to traffic flow. Many bad accidents happen because people indiscriminately use their brake lights. Keep yourself a safe distance from the car in front. If someone pulls in front of you, then simply drop back."

When they were out on the highway, after Bradley made a perfect merge into traffic, he asked if he could use the cruise-control. Dale replied, "No, I want you to get a good feel of the road. I only use it out on the open highway, and only when there's little to no traffic."

The female truck-driver carefully observed which direction the small coup took at the light. She grinned, knowing that she'd finally caught up to the ticket to her redemption.

Filling those dual one-hundred gallon damned tanks one at a time seemed to take forever and a day. Twenty minutes later, the attendant rapped on the window glass, and told her the price of $648.14. She scanned the ticket, fired up the engine and put the mammoth machine into gear. The attendant jumped down when the wheels started rolling. When the driver took out, the young man raising his family debated on shooting her a full flock of birds, but refrained for fear of losing his job.

But… he laughed his ass off when she barked the curb with the second trailer. He got busy with another truck, and didn't give her any more real estate in his head.

The driver, not paying attention to what was around her, took the turn onto the interstate in front of a family of six in a Toyota conversion van. The family was in the middle of a turn when an inattentive speeding on-coming vehicle slammed hard into the front passenger side sending it careening against the steel-reinforced concrete barriers used to keep cars from falling onto the freeway below. The sliding doors flung open during impact, flinging three young unrestrained toddlers out of the vehicle, off the ramp and down below onto the concrete surface. They laid unmoving as did the female passenger, their mother, his wife, riding in the front seat.

The driver, seriously injured himself, saw his wife slumped over with her eyes 'vacant'. Unable to revive her, he frantically broke out the window on the drivers' side, and crawled his body out. He ran around to the other side of the van to find his children down below. Then the carnage continued – trucks, cars, and motorcycles began crashing together.

When he saw his babies, the only reason he and his wife lived, lying unmoving on the concrete slab, an innate feeling deep down inside screamed at the top of its lungs that they were dead. Filled with despair and a grief that nobody could understand, with what little strength remained in his body, he crawled onto the railing – and flung himself below. He, too, lay unmoving only inches from the raging mammoth steel machines.

Ahead of the conflagration wasn't much better. Many trucks and cars had only been sideswiped. Others had suffered a much worse conclusion. Other drivers were stopping to check on and attend to the injured, all the while trying to figure out what had happened, and what to do next. As traffic ground to a stop, the female trucker, now on the interstate heading west, pulled into the center median to get around the stopped trucks and cars.

Knowing the highway patrol would be busy, once back on the pavement, she cranked it up and screamed down the highway, largely alone.

Her mind continued to reel from hearing about Patriarch's orders for her to be killed, or worse.

His wrath was all because their prized possession, their Number One commodity had escaped, as had other urchins. The stakes were high, way high. The existence of their holy work was in grave peril. Those urchins had to be stopped – no matter what, and they had to be stopped – now.

No matter the peril, however, the Matriarch had ensured a method of getting back into the Patriarch's good graces. If ever there was a way to please him, then this would be it – the plan, her offering, would work. She was convinced. And she knew that Dale was a sucker when it came to children…

Dale, knowing there was the usual road construction on the open highway up ahead about twenty miles told Bradley, "Son, take the exit for the John Kirkpatrick Turnpike. The exit is about six miles away. That'll take us home without having to deal with the orange barrel brigade."

Shortly after turning onto the infamous Route 66, they stopped at a long-ago abandoned quick stop building where they relieved themselves in the rear of the falling down joint.

Jeremy pulled iced-tea cans from a cooler in the trunk for them to drink along the way. Soon, Bradley was headed toward highway 281 which would take them into Woodward, home. Once all of the turns, curves and bumpy road had been negotiated, they had clear sailing ahead. Dale instructed Bradley to increase his speed to seventy-miles-per-hour, give or take, and to watch for deer along the side of the road.

Several miles further down the I-40 freeway, cars and trucks began slowing down at an acceptable rate, until it was stop and go. Stop for a while. Go forward a hundred feet. Stop again. And so on and so forth. After traveling at that rate, all traffic was then directed into the eastbound lanes. The long bridge, the driver knew exactly which one was being replaced from having driven the route many times over the years… but why today of all days, she thought.

After sitting absolutely still for twenty-five minutes, Katy turned on the CB radio, wanting to hear tales of road weary truckers ahead of them. Instead, she only heard of a massive pileup at mile-marker such and such. The mess was at the truck-stop exit. She listened for maybe five minutes before turning it off and switching to a nationwide, commercial free music service. She turned it on just in time to hear the announcement that a special tribute to Fleetwood Mac was coming up next. She rested back as the tunes began playing. She dared sing with the lead singer. Next, to mellow out, she figured a little entertainment and even more 'entertainment' was in order. She shifted the rig into neutral, listened for the hiss of the hydraulic brakes doing their thing, unbuckled the seat belt, heaved herself up and forward, and reached under the dashboard.

Thirty minutes later, mellow, and munching on a sack of 'munchies', traffic started to slowly move again. She turned down the radio after hearing a series of four rapid sneezes, one after another, come from the back, in the sleeper section of the rig.With her whole attitude changed for the better, the woman smiled.

Up ahead, several mangled vehicles, separated only by a little bit of air, were sitting on the side of the road. As traffic once again started flowing, as the rig drove by, she flipped them the bird. Soon they were back up to the interstate speed. The driver, knowing the cops would be working the accident, pushed the envelope, but slowed down after the second trailer began swinging a little too much for comfort.

At the turn off to 281, the female driver took the corner a bit too fast. The load shifted. To keep from jackknifing, she made a series of maneuvers to keep the rig on the road and to make the turn successful. She prided herself on knowing just how to handle anything that had wheels on it. She convinced herself that maybe, just maybe she needed to slow down a bit, that she knew where Dale lived, and that she'd just make the rendezvous tomorrow. She hadn't seen Jeremy in years. She was surprised to see that Bradley hadn't grown all that much during the two years since she last saw him. The driver grinned. There was one secret nobody knew about – except three – and one of them was dead.

Adam's Viewpoint, east Wichita, Kansas

The day started out rough. Wayne was in one of his 'moods' where everything we had to do to get him ready for the rehab center – was a chore.

The first chore was getting him out of bed and into the bathroom to attend to his morning rituals. Normally, he's up and out of bed when I enter his room and turn on the his bathroom light, but not this morning. When I reached for the blanket to pull it off, he pushed it away, rolled onto his back, grasped his fully distended member and began to stroke it with purpose.

He knows the rules against sexually acting out in front of me. When I stayed, he got up and walked into his bathroom without saying a word.

When I left him he was brushing his teeth. I told him that I'd be fixing breakfast. He didn't acknowledge my words, so I went on to the kitchen and began preparations for a healthy breakfast of fruits and whole grain cereals. His mental status had improved dramatically when I got him off of the junk crap, and he didn't argue when we'd made the switch.

The next challenge started when he entered the kitchen dripping water from his body because he hadn't dried after taking his shower. I knew better than to continue his obstinate methods. I took him back to his bathroom to dry him. I reached into the open cabinet door and found that he had run out of clean dry towels. I led him to my bedroom bathroom, gave him a towel which he just looked at like it didn't exist. I dried him while he talked about his old days living in Chicago, how he loved Joey, his then boyfriend. Wayne experiences deep remorse for pushing Joey away, and getting Joey all fucked up at a party that his mother had thrown.

When he talked about those days I knew that there was 'somebody' down deep inside of him.

When he started talking about their fucking, cumming, and other sexual adventures, I left the room not wanting to be a part of his relieving that part of his past life, returned to the kitchen to continue breakfast preparations knowing that he would relieve himself while reliving their moments, and my not wanting to hear it, or see it.

Twenty minutes later, just as I was about to see what he was up to, he entered and plopped down on his bar stool. I took a plate and sat it down in front of him. I noted that he hadn't begun to get dressed. I said, "Wayne, you know that you're to wear something for meals, right? Go get some underwear on and be sure to wipe away the semen on your belly. Now, go."

He returned wearing a pair of jeans without underwear or a belt. They were half on and half off, showing ninety percent of his bare butt, but he ate his breakfast and took his bowl and plate to the sink. The doctors had told me that because of his brain injury, other parts of his mind would take over, but that they needed natural sugars and proteins to rise to their full potential.

Without being reminded, Wayne took off for his bedroom. I got up and performed kitchen cleanup while he dressed for the day, happy that his attitude had changed drastically. He'd apologized, kissed my cheek, and offered a hug which I took him up on.

I wondered where he was after twenty minutes, so I walked back to his room to find out what the delay was all about. He was dressed and sitting on the toilet exerting himself. I said, "We'll be leaving in a little while."

He nodded while reaching for tissue paper.

I returned to the kitchen to load his lunch satchel with two apples and oranges, a banana, a kiwi fruit, and two natural breakfast bars. While the Center served lunch, they didn't provide snacks throughout the day. Tuesdays were late days. He wouldn't be ready to pick up until 6pm, which, today would be just fine. I needed to go into town to stock up on groceries to feed a hungry army of eleven for several days.

After his snacks were packed and he still wasn't ready to go, I went back to his bedroom. He wasn't there… he was still sitting on the toilet. I asked, "Are you having a bad time?"

He nodded in the affirmative.

The doctors had told me that Wayne's sphincters had been, at some point, stretched to beyond what his body was able to take, which had left scar tissue and his fear of relieving himself due to the pain involved. Sometimes all that needs to happen is me staying in the room with him… he'll relax enough to let it pass. Today was one of those days he needed my presence.

After getting Wayne checked into the Center I took off, went to the grocery store, spent close to $1,400, stopped at the pharmacy to get Wayne's prescriptions refilled, and took off for home where I unloaded everything and put it away into their rightful places. Our two freezers and three refrigerators were filled to capacity.

Unknown to me back then in 2003 that I'd need all of this space, I'm glad I bought this large property and house, for even the 3,500 square feet will be a tight fit for all of us.

Once everything was organized, I took off for Penny's to stock up on sheets, pillowcases, and blankets, then headed for the furniture outlet where I purchased and had loaded up into the truck six queen-size beds. Wayne and I would set those up in the basement and sun-room, rooms which were never used.

Next on the agenda, I went to my office to work on a boy's junior swimming competition photo-shoot done last Friday. The kids were photogenic, the lights were just right, the walls were painted correctly. Many of the group pictures with one particular boy in all of them had to be tossed because he was constantly boned up, or had the appearance of being aroused. I saved them off into another folder to come back to for touching up. I wished James was here. He was really, really good at picking just the right pictures to submit to the client for approval. Out of 586 pictures, I pared the number to twenty-five, saved them to a zip file, and then transmitted them to Daniel, their swimming coach.

Even though rush-hour would be in full swing, I headed to the local grade school to vote. I had the idea that my decision would make no difference, however, I could no longer sit aside and let Ashwood get off the hook, even by one vote.

The polling place was jam-packed. I waited in line for over an hour. The Center was across town on the outskirts of Wichita – a good twenty minute drive on a good day. I called the Center from my cell phone. They said Wayne was having a good day, and was, in fact, still on the wrestling mat taking down opponents.

Back home, Wayne disappeared into his room. I found that very strange. Normally, he was a motor-mouth for over an hour while he calmed down from that day's activities. I went to check on him… he was sound asleep sprawled across his bed without a stitch of clothes on.

The boy can sleep for twelve to sixteen hours a day, if I let him, however after hearing of his adventures, I simply drew down the covers and helped him into bed the way it is designed to be slept upon. I turned off the lamp sitting on his bedside table, leant down, kissed his cheek, then stole out of his room and headed to my office to work on another shoot that had been on the back burner simply because I'd done the work gratis for a YFC church group in the ritzy part of town.

Later, after finishing that chore. It was a chore due to basically: the kids didn't want to be photographed. They were a bunch of spoilt brats suffering from terminal cases of 'affluenza'. In the end, I tossed all of the pictures, entered a credit transaction through my bank to the school.

Wayne was sound asleep, but he had been up at some point for his bathroom light was left on. I flushed his toilet. Leaving his wastes unflushed is another bad habit he has developed over time. Somethings are just not worth fighting about.

I looked at the sleeping form of this child I'd taken into my home to love, to protect, to take care of, to commit to making sure he had the best life possible. Due to his age he was deemed by the social welfare system as 'unadoptable'. Tony was working on the legal entanglements to get things going, to get the boy adopted.

I love the kid. And he loves me in his own way.

I went into the kitchen, retrieved a bottle of Jim Beam, got a glass down from the cabinet, poured more than I probably should have, then topped it with ice cubes, took swig direct from the bottle, and then took off for the TV room to initiate a call with John and Dale.

First though, I turned on the TV to see what the talking heads were talking about, hoping against all hope all had seen enough of Ashwood's bullshit to vote him out of office once and for all.

Before I could call, the phone rang. Caller ID showed the caller as John.

"Hello, John."

"Hey, Adam. It's good to hear your voice, as always. Do you have a few minutes?"

"Yip. How are the boys?"

"They're fine. Have you watched the news?"

"Oh yeah. It's about time."

"Yes, Sir. Well, I have some really good news to pass along."

"Oh kewl. I'm always game for good news… what's up?"

John went on to tell me about two more boys, Aaron, Lawrence's significant other, and a kid named Dalton, who were found at death's door earlier in the day close to their property. He went on to say that several of the kids were sleeping out in their motorhome, simply because they'd run out of space. He went on to say that his middle son, Michael, and Eric his boyfriend, had given their room to Aaron and Lawrence for the night.

The conversation then turned dark, for me at least, when it steered to John telling me how Lawrence and his boys came up with a way to keep the child's identity obscured. Although I didn't say anything, I felt the idea to be a bad one. I just cannot see a boy doing something that detracts from his identity. 'Hadn't Lawrence had enough heartache in his young life? Dress like a girl? No way.'

To be continued

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