Castle Roland


by Joe Writer Man


Chapter 13

Published: 8 Apr 14


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

All Rights Reserved

Dear Readers, a technical glitch created a number of formatting and editing issues which required fixing and a reposting of this chapter. Thank you for reading the Revolutions Universe.  Joe Writerman.

Centennial LogoOnly a few minutes had passed before two columns of uniformed officers formed outside of the rear of the school building. Children, single-file, walked between them, and then took off running through the school yard, between two buildings until they were in the open at which time the kids took off running for their lives. Since Jeremy arrived, there were no less than twenty, maybe twenty-five other parents anxiously awaiting arrival of their children.

When the officers and the parade of children in their care arrived in the makeshift staging area, set by the parents themselves, an older gentleman, recognized to be the Chief of Police, stepped forward, and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, would you please leave the area? I'm sorry but I do not have a whole lot of information to give you. This lack of information is simply because our investigation has just begun… as soon as your children are reunited with you, I will make a brief statement. Before we break, is Mister or Missus Akers present?"

Dale, Christian and Bradley, walking as fast as they could, quickly made their way down Eleventh-Street hoping to find Jeremy and Rachel. When they passed a grain elevator silo, they looked right to see a throng of people standing across the terrain. There were lots of children and parents hugging. The children were very, very upset. They saw Rachel first. Jeremy was behind her.

Two officers intercepted Dale, Bradley and Christian. When Dale gave their names, the officers escorted them to the staging area where they joined Rachel and Jeremy. The officers stood by. Jeremy said, "Mister Akers is not here with us. Our name is Wilson. The boy is staying with us. Where is he, Robbie Akers, and where is our son, Carl Wilson?"

"Sir, we have another staging area on the other side of the school. Several children are located there at the Presbyterian Church. If you'll wait right here, I'm going to find other parents whose children are not here."

Five other parents joined. They were taken north on 11th street, then right on Maple. Soon they were at the church; however, nobody was in the street waiting… there was no sign of children or parents anywhere. Officer Hargrove, the Chief of Police, led them inside to a snack room just off the lobby. There were seven children nervously wandering around despite having adults, including pastors, tending after them. When the parents walked in, the kids ran to them and were enveloped into deep, deep, and very emotional hugs. The reunions were fierce.

Jeremy, not seeing Carl or Robbie, tried to be as calm as possible, "They're probably in the restroom."

Bradley turned to Jeremy, "Probably. I'll be right back."

Jeremy and Rachel hugged deeply. They held on, holding onto hope that their son, Carl, and the love of his life, Robbie, were okay, that this was just a bad nightmare that would soon end.

Dale, from the corner of his eye, saw Christian exiting through the large front doors of the church. The child looked both ways, then decided to go right. Dale quickly looked around for Carl and Robbie. Not seeing them, he took off after Christian. Just as the youngster was about to cross the street, Dale took hold of the boy's arm and said, "You stay with us. There's something going on that is not good. I know this is tough for you, but we're family, and families stick together when challenges present themselves."

The boy looked into Dale's eyes. Just as he had always done since meeting his father for the first time, Christian relaxed and permitted Dale to lead him back into the building, with the younger boy wrapping his arm around Dale's back. Never before had he seen so many worried people all in one room. The closest he'd experienced was when a young boy, Jeffrey, died from The Fever.

They then walked into the Church, headed for the conference room, sat down around the table – and waited.

Carlin and Robbie were not in the restroom. Bradley wandered through the hallways, poking his head into rooms. The door to the last room on the left side was open and a light was on in there. He debated for a moment, not wanting to interrupt, yet he was starting to feel frantic. With but little hesitation, Carlin's uncle entered the room. He heard voices coming from an inner room. His heart lifted when one of those voices was Carlin's. He rushed into the inner room, then stopped in his tracks at seeing Carlin being attended to by a man. Robbie was sitting in a chair. He was holding a makeshift baggie filled with ice cubes to his face. Both Carlin and Robbie had bruises on their faces, both were sporting shiners.

When their eyes met, both boys jumped up and made their way to Bradley who ran toward them. With both boys clutching Bradley, he looked into the man's eyes to size him up, to determine if he had hurt them. The man said, the gravity in his voice clear and distinct, "They are going to be okay. They are heroes in my book. They did what needed to be done without even thinking about it. You should be proud."

After refreshing the ice bags, the man escorted them to the conference room. The parents anxiously looked up. Jeremy and Rachel ran to Carlin and enveloped him into their arms and held on tight. Dale, meanwhile, got up and walked to Robbie, drew him into his arms and held on firmly so that the boy did not feel all alone or left out.

The principal cleared his throat. He and the Police Chief stood. The law enforcement officer said, "Can we all sit down, please?"

When everyone was seated, the principal spoke, "Ladies and gentlemen, boys, girls, everyone, today was a difficult day. Today something happened that I never ever would have believed. The incident was that a deranged individual entered our building with high-powered weapons to hurt and harm our students and faculty. This older teen was intent upon finding his alleged victim. He found her in the library. He was taking aim. But it was not meant to happen." The man looked to Robbie, then to Carlin, then to Jeremy, and then to Rachel, and said, "These two boys, studying on the second level of the library, heard the screams, and without any thought or consideration to their own well-being – jumped from the second story balcony. They landed on the individual, knocking the weapon from his hands, and him to the ground where they subdued the attacker until the adults could take control of the situation. This older teen has been arrested and taken away. On behalf of Woodward Middle School, boys, we are eternally grateful for all that you did, and you are considered our heroes. Thank you." The principal looked to the Chief.

The Chief said, "That's absolutely correct. Men, women, and especially kids usually do not jump onto a situation as you boys have done today. Not that they wouldn't, they just don't, and you did without regard to your safety. Mister Wilson, Missus Wilson, you should be proud of your children. We are. From the bottoms of our hearts. Thank you."

Jeremy squeezed Carlin. He looked to Rachel. Rachel was unaware of the meetings between his boss, Dale and Bradley, held earlier in the day. He then looked to Dale, nodded, and said, "Sir, thank you. Honey, I've not had time yet to talk with you. After what happened today, we are leaving Woodward and going to an undisclosed location. We will be leaving today, this evening. Our family meeting is a go. We need to make some hard decisions that will not only affect our son, Robbie, but us and Dad, as well."

With that said, unceremoniously, the family got up and walked outside, and looked in all directions, afraid for their very lives, Rachel and Jeremy more so than anyone else in the group.

After arriving home, and bathroom breaks were taken, Jeremy, Dale, Christian, Robbie, Bradley and Carlin took off across the street. They walked around to the back of Robbie's house where he had lived with his now imprisoned fathers. Robbie checked the large sliding glass door to see if it had been left unlocked. It was still locked. He walked to his bedroom window. The window was one that slid from side to side to open or close it. It was locked, as were all the rest of the windows elsewhere.

Robbie, knowing his property well, responded to the closed and locked entryways with determination. He went to the garden shed located at the end of the back yard, retrieved a metal garden rake, returned and handed the object to Jeremy, and said, "Here, use this to break out my window. We need to go inside. Once inside, I'll open the sliding door."

Breaking the window proved challenging in that the house had been fitted with triple paned glass that were difficult to break. Then it finally broke. But, the opening was beset with shards that would shred the boy should he be lifted to gain entry.

Robbie led Dale to the garage. The garage was unlocked. With some difficulty, they lifted the door. Christian, Jeremy and Carlin approached. Between all of them they carried a large twenty-five foot ladder to Robbie's window. Piece by piece, Jeremy removed the shards of glass from the frame.

Down below, Christian insisted on being lifted through the window to go unlock the patio door so that everyone could go into the house.

Once inside, taking Jeremy, Bradley and Christian aside, Dale made formal introductions while Robbie and Carlin walked from room to room, searing for keepsakes and important papers.

At first, Jeremy's reaction was much the same as Bradley's; however, he decided that he would work through his issues later rather than currently. Christian, sensing the incredible tension in the air, started to walk out of the house; however, Jeremy walked to the boy. They went outside to the garage. Jeremy said, "It's not your fault that I'm a bit upset. I'm just surprised with my father, that's all."

The boy reached out, lightly touched Jeremy's face with the palm of his hand and closed his eyes. Nothing was said between the two; however, Jeremy noticeably relaxed. They stood still for about five minutes, until Christian removed his hand and said, softly, "I've seen pictures of you when you were my age. We're brothers until you tell me that we aren't. I feel out of place, yet I don't… I'm confused in many ways."

Jeremy, sensing someone watching them, turned toward the house to see his father with tears streaming from his eyes, standing in the sliding glass doorway observing their interactions. Dale reached up and wiped away evidence of his being torn between his betrayal of Regina and the life borne from those moments of indiscretion with Katy from many years ago.

Seeing his father's tears was something new for Jeremy. He looked into Christian's eyes to see only purity and innocence emanating through and through. He did see fear in Christian's soul, but it wasn't born there; it was a feeling foreign to the younger boy. Unable to stop himself, not that he wanted to stop, Jeremy reached out for Christian's hand, squeezed it firmly, then stood facing the boy and said, "We'll talk later. Don't be afraid of us. Just know that we're not going to hurt you. Give me a little time to work my own mind around this. Meanwhile, let's be friends."

Christian nodded, then they, together, walked to the house. Christian, at Jeremy's urging, went inside. Jeremy said, "Dad, it's going to take me some time to work through this, but we'll get through it."

Dale nodded.

Robbie and Carl, exiting a bedroom, turned into the office, and walked to Dale to hand him a manila folder filled with several sheets of paper. The first document was Robbie's State of Texas certificate of live birth. Robbie's natural father was listed first; his dad was listed second. The word "Mother" had been scratched out with a deep black magic marker pen. The document was authenticated by a notary's seal and signature. Other paperwork included authorizations for health care, his immunization record, his most recent physical indicating a clean bill of health, and several sheets of paper that Robbie had written of his love to his fathers, a house with three males, and, lastly, the deed to the house showing it was paid free and clear from all financial entanglements.

Although Dale wanted to tell the child that he and Jeremy had a good idea where his parents were restrained, he refrained, not wanting to give the child false hope, yet he said, "Robbie, we're going to find your folks. Finding them is very important. They do not belong in jail. Why? Because they've done nothing wrong. Finding them and freeing them is going to take some time. As soon as I know something concrete, you'll be the first to know."

"I just miss them. God, do I miss them." Robbie said, sadly. His eyes filled with tears. Quickly, he wiped them away.

Tenderly, Dale patted Robbie's back and said, "I know, Son. Just know that we're doing all that we can do to find and free them. I can't make any promises, but I have hope, as should you."

Robbie went into the kitchen, retrieved two large size trash bags then took them to his room and began pulling clothes from his dresser and a small closet while Carlin stuffed them into the bags.

He didn't have many material things, but his eyes told Carlin that there was more than enough love from Robbie's parents to fill the bags completely, and then some more.

Sensing his boyfriend was about to lose control, he quickly walked to Robbie and took him into his arms. Robbie permitted, encouraged Carlin to hold him tight until such time as he regained control of his emotions. It took a while. In the background, Dale, Jeremy and Christian looked on, observing. He closed his eyes and sent gentle waves of love and energy their way.

Robbie said, wiping his eyes, "I'm okay. I just needed to cry. It's been so hard. I'm sorry that I haven't… I don't know… I've been distant from you…" He looked to the door to see people watching them. He walked to the door, closed it and returned to his boyfriend, and said, "Tonight. Tonight is the night when I want you inside me. I'm ready."

Carl nodded his understanding. Their lips came together. Feeling urgent needs, their bodies joined front to front. Carl's hands slowly made their way down Robbie's back and had just arrived on his boyfriend's twin globes, however a knock on the door interrupted their passions. They smiled then went to the door to find Jeremy standing on the other side of the door. Jeremy rolled his eyes up as the boys quickly adjusted their pants in an effort to hide their arousal. When they exited the room, both caught Christian's wan smile.

Robbie and Carl looked at one another, grinned then shrugged their embarrassment away. Robbie then quickly walked to his bed, pulled something from beneath the pillow and was just about to shove it under his shirt, but Carl, no more than an arms' length away, intercepted his hand. In Robbie's clutches was a small stuffed bear who had seen better days. Carlin reached for the bear, pulled it to his mouth and kissed it gently. "What's his name?"

"Don't laugh. His name is Kermit."

"Kermit? Ha ha, that's a frog, you silly one."

Seeing Robbie's expression turning to embarrassment, Carl quickly touched his lips to Robbie's and said, "Sorry. Sometimes my jokes are lame. This is one of those times."

Jeremy cleared his throat.

As they readied to leave, Robbie walked into the kitchen, reached up to a key holder and grabbed it. He turned to Jeremy, "We need to take our vehicle to wherever it is that we're going. It'll hold more stuff."

Jeremy nodded his appreciation and agreement.

Dale, meanwhile, found some thick cardboard and duct tape in the garage. He and Bradley got busy closing the hole caused by the broken window in Robbie's room. Christian watched them very carefully, taking in what they were doing with rapt interest, and observed how they worked together, just doing what needed to be done. The boy was filled with need, so he went into the restroom and closed the door, sat down and let loose, all the while thinking of his 'family' in Refugio, wondering what they were doing, and were they aware of the dangers that he'd picked up on, that he felt emanating from Jeremy and Dale? "God, keep us safe." The boy whispered.

Breckenridge, Texas

Jordan's Viewpoint

After taking showers, getting dressed, consuming breakfast, and making potty breaks, we headed for Fort Worth to buy new clothes and shoes, groceries and basics necessities such as toothpaste, shampoo, toilet paper, underarm deodorant, and various other and sundry items that we'd need to take on a long trip. Haircuts were also on the agenda. In the grocery store, Luke, smiling and trying to be as inconspicuous as possible, grabbed a bottle of personal lubricant. Eric, though, did something I would not have thought him to do – he, too, acquired a bottle and pushed it into his pants pocket.

Eric's indiscretion didn't go unnoticed.

Jared, flabbergasted, went to Eric, reached into the boy's pocket then retrieved the nearly stolen item and tossed it into the basket, and then took Eric aside and severely chastised his actions. John was looking on, oblivious to what Jared was railing on the kid about. Not that it mattered, unless Eric took it further. I didn't know that Michael and Eric were already or were going to be intimate in 'that' way. To our knowledge, they hadn't been completely intimate; at least they hadn't said so.

Lawrence, meanwhile, took a tube of the personal lubricant, then went to John and showed him the item for purchase. I didn't think that Lawrence was ready, physically, as he, still, sometimes experienced discomfort with his normal bodily elimination functions. But who was I to say if he was ready or not. Now that he had Aaron, thank God, and Aaron had him – who knew what their limits would be; hopefully the sky was the limit. They'd earned it. They deserved it. Lawrence looked at me… I smiled and nodded. He blushed fiercely, knowing that I knew what he knew, and knowing that he knew that I knew. I chuckled. The moment was ours. Luke looked into my eyes with curiosity written into his expression. I replied to his unspoken question, "I'll tell you about it later."

Much to our surprise, John stopped at a medical supply store where he ordered, as a physician, a bunch of medical supplies, including instruments, bandages, medicines, and antiseptics, all to the tune of well over $35,500.00. We helped with loading boxes, bags, and trays into the motorhome where John directed us to put them into cubby holes, under seats and beds, on shelves, and wherever else we could find.

Jared asked John what those were all about. His father simply said that we'd talk about it later when we were home, that he couldn't answer our questions right now.

Lawrence had no difficulty with the medical supply store but he cringed when we arrived at a very large mall where we'd go clothes and shoes shopping, and get our haircuts. Haircuts came first. To say that we got our hair cut in strange manners – would be an understatement – but John explained, before we went inside, that we probably would do well with changing up our appearances as much as possible, beginning with outlandish hairstyles.

We had the most fun with Lawrence as his hair had grown out the most. Talk about outlandish – he ended up getting a wide Mohawk. That's right, a Mohawk. He had a tail in back, and a wide expanse of hanging-down hair in front. He looked like a rendition of an acid rock, head-banging singer – not a President's, or ex-president's, son. He looked very different.

We next stopped in at Macy's where we bought various makeups that, when applied, made Lawrence look much older than he really was, such as dark eyeliner, brush-on eyebrow stuff, and stuff that the saleslady said would make him look like he had a beard. Add to that, although he initially balked somewhat, he decided to have piercings done to his eyebrows, tongue and earlobes. He definitely looked like a wild boy. If we didn't already know him… well, he was hard to recognize from days, weeks and months past. I just about cried, though, when he didn't even flinch when the artist inserted those objects into his skin, without using anesthetics of any kind, although John had offered to inject the sites.

Aaron also did the punk transformation, although his mostly bald head precluded the Mohawk and dark makeup. He decided to have the piercings done to his eyebrows; however, refused the tongue piercing, but, instead, got one for his lower lip. He, too, didn't show any sign of discomfort when they were inserted. Instead, he simply closed his eyes and wandered away, holding Lawrence's shoulder.

The next stop was the men's store. I totally wigged out when both Lawrence and Aaron picked out very low-riding jeans, acid rock group sweatshirts, and then lost my cookies when they came out of the dressing room with their pants sagging below their butts, and with the top inch, possibly two of their cracks showing. Aaron kept fidgeting with the hem of his underwear to keep his modesty; however, Jared took him aside. They talked for a few moments. When Aaron returned, instead of trying to pull his under garment up, he stuck his thumb down inside and made sure that a good section of his cheeks were showing. Jared rolled his eyes up into his head, grinning. They finished their transformation by purchasing several other pairs of jeans and shirts of the same caliber. The rest of us, except for John, decided to join Lawrence and Aaron in their outlandish outfits.

Luke, silly boy, quickly raised and lowered his shirt to make sure I saw his low-riders barely resting on his hips.

Instant hard.

To make matters worse, he giggled and seductively wiggled his hips while grinning.

We walked out of the store, then broke out laughing our asses off. And, I mean we were laughing our ASSES off!

Before leaving the mall to head for the grocery store, John took us into a sporting goods store where he purchased various and sundry camping items, such as Coleman stoves, lanterns, fuel, wool army blankets, thermal underwear, hand and feet warmers, and fishing poles and accessories.

"There's one more place where we need to stop, but first let's take our purchases to the coach and unload them, then we'll return." John said.

Everybody grabbed the gear and took it outside. We had parked across the parking lot. The place was busy and bustling with people. I watched them carefully to see if they saw through our ruse… Several people just looked at us like we were urchins, or something sinister. I had one hand free, so I reached down to my belt loop and urged my jeans down another inch or two.

Jared, walking behind me, kicked my butt without provocation. I was about to say something hasty, but one look from John told me I would be in for trouble if I did, so I stayed quiet and kept walking. Besides, Luke was walking in front of me, giving me something very pleasant to see. Occasionally the breeze would lift his shirt just enough for me to get a nice view of his lower back… His briefs, no boxers for him, were riding low on his hips, and was showing more cleavage than he probably wanted seen.

A little rise in the pavement caused me to stumble and land flat on the armload of blankets I was carrying. Luke and the rest reached out their hands and gave me assistance to get back up. I was laughing so hard that I had trouble standing. The laughter was infectious. Luke deadpanned, "What's so funny there? Don't you know that there are many comedians out there without jobs?"

"Don't worry, I'll tell you later. It's all your fault." I giggled.

After unloading, we returned to the mall. John led the way and could be seen talking with Lawrence and Aaron walking side by side with him.

At the end of a long corridor was a storefront Hank's Arms. John stopped us before we could enter. He said, "Who, here, besides Aaron, Lawrence, Jared, and you too Michael, know about guns, safety, and how to use them?"

Luke spoke up, "My Dad and I used to go shooting all of the time. I had my own lever action Remington… Well, it was mine when we were together out shooting, that is. He ended up selling every firearm we owned."

Michael said, "You know I've shot guns and know how to use them."

"Yes, you are good, My Boy." John replied while touching the tip of Michael's spiked haircut. Michael grinned.

"Boys, here's the deal… Listen up…"

"Sir?" Aaron said very softly.

John turned to him, lifted his eyebrows and waited for Aaron to speak.

Aaron stood straight up tall, looked directly into John's eyes and said, "Sir, there's something I haven't told you… Nobody except Dalton knows about it. I'm sorry, Lawrence, even you don't know… I'm sorry…"

Lawrence put his arm around Aaron's lower waist and said, "Don't be sorry. Do you want to talk with me alone?"

"No. Everybody needs to know…"

John said, "Go ahead, Son. And don't be sorry. If you have something that you need to share, then, by all means, do so. If it's personal and private, then we can talk about it privately if you want to."

Aaron shrugged his shoulders, slightly, then continued, "Well, Sir, I can handle about any gun, big or small. I'm a certified. I do not say this to toot my horns. Right after we escaped, the four of us, from the Temple, before I met you Dalton… I killed Brother Kenneth with his own weapon. It was a 357… I shot him until there was no ammo left in the gun."

Dalton walked to his hero, wrapped his arm around Aaron's waist, smiled and said, "I vomited and we both shit into his brains, or what we thought were his brains, or an eye socket… it was hard to tell. Aaron saved my life. I have no doubt that Brother Kenneth was taking me into the woods to kill me."

The way Dalton told his story left very little doubt that he was indeed going to be eliminated, but why? This was just a flitting question that came into and went out of my mind in a flash. A shiver ran up and down my spine. He's a good kid.

Aaron continued, "Sir, I'm just telling you so that you know everything… I'm not ashamed. He had it coming. I didn't hesitate, but I did tell him to say hi to the other side, if there is such a thing. I also hurt my thumb, but I hurt it because I was rolling and firing at the same time. I simply lost my balance."

John briefly looked to the floor, then raised them and looked deeply into Aaron's eyes. He then took Aaron's into his arms and held on tight for a few moments, just to let Aaron know that he was loved and cared for just like the rest of us.

They parted and we went inside the store.

Matthew, Stephen, Michael, Eric, and Dalton were outfitted with Ruger 10-22 rifles. The owner said they were light and easy to handle, that they made a good weapon for the inexperienced shooter. In the end, I chose the same caliber weapon.

Luke, next to be outfitted, chose and was approved by John and the owner to get a Sig P226 in 9mm handgun. The owner said that while the gun had some kick, he was sure that Luke could handle it well.

Aaron, well, he was equipped with a big dawg. He has large hands and long fingers. The gun shop owner offered him a .40 G22, which he took and felt up good, positioning it in his hands, then, like an expert, double and triple checked the chamber. In a heartbeat, he assumed a shooter's stance, swirled around, aimed toward a bulls-eye sign hanging on the wall in the back of the store, made sure there was nobody around, and then pulled the trigger eight times in rapid succession while going to the floor. He clicked off another three shots, then, after standing and securing the weapon, turned to John. John was very surprised at the display that Aaron just completed.

The gun dealer, too, was amazed, and said so, "I'll be damned. Sir, your boy sure knows how to use one of those. He's good. He's really good."

Meanwhile, Aaron turned to Lawrence then handed the gun to his boyfriend. Lawrence looked around the room, double checked the chamber to make sure it was empty and then crouched down low and rapidly walked around the corner, and took aim at the same bulls-eye marking and make-believe unloaded.

I don't know jackshit about weapons, but as far as I was concerned, he did better than Aaron - more relaxed and focused… I don't know. But, I was impressed.

The gun shop owner was impressed as well; however, he came around, then took Lawrence, in slow motion, through the exercise, gave pointers and suggestions, and told Lawrence to be relaxed but sharp.

Lawrence tried again, on his own, but that wasn't his niche, as he would say later. Instead, what he did next mirrored Aaron's maneuver… and damn was he good. He was definitely as good as, if not better, than his love.

He looked to John, "Sir, may I have the same weapon as Aaron?"

He was granted his wish.

Last was Jared. He tried the Glock; however found it a bit uncomfortable so he changed over to the Sig P226 in 9mm like Luke was going to acquire.

Luke and I stayed behind when the rest of the guys left to check out other items in the store. The owner handed a form to John for him to complete.

The man asked John, "Have the boys received their required official training? Are they safety certified? A certificate is required even though you are purchasing their weapons for them."

None of us were certified.

Another customer walked into the store. The shop owner grinned.

He was a certified firearms instructor.

An hour and a half later, all of us, including Matthew, were duly safety class certified. The instructor remarked on how well Aaron and Lawrence had done, and how they were coaching the rest of us who really knew nothing about weapons and their safety.

The instructor handed out sheets of paper for everyone to complete, sign and date, and have countersigned by John.

Luke said what I was thinking, "John, can we talk to you for a second?"

The shop owner and the instructor walked into a back room, saying the guns came with holsters and that they'd be right back.

Luke asked, "Uhm, Sir, are they going to do background checks on us? I mean, well, you know…"

"No, you kids are under age. They are probably running me through the computer system, but you don't have anything to worry about."

"Do they enter our names in a computer database, you know for the training?"

John mused for a second or two before replying, "That I don't know. We'll find out, though. You guys can use Finnegan as your last name if they do."

I nodded, then looked at Luke. He nodded his understanding.

John continued, "I know someone who can snoop around to see if there are any missing children reports for you two, if you would like me to. That way we could know once and for all."

"Yes, please. I don't think she would do it, but you never know with her." I was probably more sarcastic than I meant to be… John gave me a sort of disapproving glance.

The shop owner returned about fifteen minutes later. He took our names (Finnegan) then entered them into a computer. Certificates were printed. John paid twenty-seven-hundred dollars and change for everything. In a way, I wondered where he had come up with all the money he'd spent, but then relaxed knowing he was a surgeon, and probably received appropriate compensation for his time and skills.

Our ruse worked.

On the way home from the grocery store, we stopped in at a high-end steak place – we were refused service… we didn't meet their dress codes. John gave the maître a bit of a hard time for being such an asshole, but when we walked outside, he said, grinning, "Kewl, it worked. Do you realize that you bunch of gangstas kept us from having a wonderful dinner? Shame on us." He cracked up, which considerably lightened the atmosphere of doom.

He then took us to a hole-in-the-wall-steak-bar-joint on the way home. The food was superb, the service excellent, and the crowd very accepting since the place was a biker-bar with a restaurant.

In the motorhome, with all of our tummies filled to capacity, we started giving John a hard time about being dressed – as usual – prim and proper. After receiving quite a bit of grief from us, he stopped in at a western clothing shop, where we outfitted him, all the while overriding his 'feeble' protests at wearing boots, western pants, a camouflage shirt, and a stud black cowboy hat.

After his clothes and boots were paid for, we took off; however, Luke stopped me just before we got to the door. He said, "We've gotta have a picture of us! Hey John, wait up."

I went back to the cashier and told her of our plans. She obliged, though she didn't quite know what to think of a bunch of 'cool' dudes with a cowboy. We guys with the sagging pants made sure to turn our bodies in such a way that the full effect of our transformations were clear in the picture. We had a hard time with staying still long enough for the lady to take several pictures. And, she had a very hard time maintaining her composure. The dull mood was broken, and we had fun with poking John with little fun comments.

With our sides hurting so badly from laughing so hard, we walked out of the shop with pictures in hand, heading for the motorhome.

Inside, not quite finished with our rambunctious behavior, Dog got into the act by sticking her muzzle down my crack, which sent me into hysterics. Then to add insult to injury, she attacked my face while lying across my chest and stomach. Everybody was cracking up, and their goading her on made her all the more feisty. Finally, I gave up, put my arms around her and pulled her down so that she would lie still on my chest. It worked. But her doggie breath would gag a maggot off a gut wagon. With one last slurp, she got up and curled herself on Luke's feet and went to sleep.

At some point, John went up front to take a phone call. Slowly we settled down; however, the calm was short lived right after Jared went to use the facilities. He came out laughing his fool head off. He took hold of my hand, yanked me to my feet then took me into the bathroom to look in the mirror for the very first time since we'd transformed from goody little kids to something that I would have hardly recognized. I, too, got caught up in renewed laughter and levity.

It went down the line. Luke was next. Oh my God, his eyes went wide – at first it was from terror, then he began leaking tears from the absurdity and because he was laughing so hard.

The best reactions came from Lawrence and Aaron. They acted so cool, yet their eyes told a much different story. Michael quipped and pointed to the gap between Lawrence's shirt and the top of his pants, "At least you're not dressed like a girl. Dude, you've got pubes showing." Horrified, Lawrence looked down, lifted his shirt to find out for himself. Michael then cracked up. Lawrence had no sign of that trail of hairs that runs from the pubes to the belly button.

We settled down once again. Matthew, lying across Jared's lap, fell asleep. Eric was next to wimp out, then Aaron and Dalton. I was feeling a bit tired myself. Just as I was getting comfortable in Luke's arms, John returned from the front of the motorhome with the phone to his ear. He looked at us all gathered around one another. Although the expression on his face registered concern, he did smile.

He entered the main section of the coach, sat down, and urged us to wake those who'd fallen asleep.

Matthew got up, walked to his daddy and plopped down in his lap.

"Boys, we've been talking about plans, but you don't know exactly what they are. Now is the time to tell you. Things are moving along just as they should; it's time to get you all involved. I have Adam, Dale, Peter, and a family law lawyer named Tony in on this call. They can explain different aspects better than me. You can ask questions at any time. You do have a certain amount of say-so, although, just so you understand, the final decision is up to me and my friends. Do you have any questions, right now?"

There were none. At least none were voiced. John then pushed a button on his phone to put us on the speaker.

"Dale, would you introduce everybody on your side?"

Dale said, "Sure. My oldest son Jeremy, my middle son Bradley, my youngest son Christian, Rachel my daughter in law and Jeremy's wife, Carlin my grandson and his boyfriend Robbie."

John said to Adam, "Adam?"

Adam replied, "It's just me right now. Wayne is away for right now. I will be picking him up in a while. Tony?"

"Good afternoon. My name is Tony Lorenzo. I'm an attorney specializing in juvenile and family law. My son, Seth, is not here. He will not be coming with us."

John then introduced all of us one by one, who we were, what our status was, and the fact that each of us was armed and considered 'dangerous'. Everybody except Lawrence and Aaron chuckled reservedly.

Peter introduced himself. He was quick to point out that while he would not be joining us, he would be coordinating efforts to take us somewhere where our safety was all but assured.

Jared asked, "Where is that?"

Peter replied, "You will be going to a remote location located deep within the Lake of the Ozarks. I have a little known family-based facility there. There's plenty of room for everyone to have their own rooms. While it is not a five-star hotel, it is comfortable and has all of the amenities that should meet your approvals."

Dale continued the conversation, "As you may or may not know, our town had, or attempted to have a school shooting today, this morning. We also believe that the idiot from Burroughs West Baptist Church is infiltrating this small town where we live. We're in. There's really nothing keeping us here, now."

Peter spoke up again, "Dale, you still have a job, and our agreements remain; however, you will be responsible for coordinating the facility and everyone here on this conversation."

"Thank you, Sir." Dale replied. "I'll do everything in my control to make sure that all goes well. I think that the adults should spread out the responsibilities, but, yes, I will work in harmony. And, I believe the children should be given responsibilities, too. We will be working together. John?"

John replied, "That's fine. I'm sure all of the children will be given jobs to do. We must all work together."

I nodded my approval and understanding, as did Luke and the rest of us. Verbal agreements were heard from everybody on the call.

Adam spoke up, "Robbie, Mr. Lorenzo is here to give you some information on your fathers. Tony?"

"Thank you Adam. Robbie, Adam is absolutely correct. We've found your fathers."

Robbie's sharp intake of breath could have been heard a mile away. His voice was saying something, however it was muffled. I couldn't make out what he was saying.

Tony continued, "Robbie…"

"I'm here… where are they? When I can I see them?"

"Each of your dads are imprisoned in two different facilities. Right now, I'm negotiating with some very higher up folks to get their release. It's looking very promising. But, we have to be patient."

"It's hard."

"I know. I know. Here's what I'm doing – I've received your birth certificate and adoption papers. Clearly, the charges levied against your parents are completely – bogus. The good news is that Mr. Bryce's courts will see justice prevail."

"When can I see them?"

"That's a good question as well. I wish I could give you a definitive answer, but I can't; not right now. I'm working on obtaining their freedom. We can only hope that, now that Bryce has been voted into office, Ashwood's hold on things will lessen as time goes along. There's a lot of uncertainty around what Ashwood is going to do… Right now, it's up in the air. Me? I have cautious optimism, but, at the same time, I'm not going to hang my hat on him. He's done some silly stuff during his administration."

"Are they okay? Have they been hurt?" Robbie asked, his voice wobbling worriedly.

"I'm sorry, Robbie. I don't know. I've not penetrated the system other than to find out where they are and for what crimes they were charged. This is the best I can do, but know this: I'm working hard for their freedom; they do not belong in prison. Know also that I will travel to Texas to attend any hearing on their behalf."

"Thank you, Sir." Robbie said. His voice sounded stronger like maybe he had hope now.

John said, "Jordan, Luke, I've asked Tony to perform background checks to see if there are missing person's reports for you. Tony?"

"Jordan, your mother did file a missing person's report in Florida. However this was several weeks ago. Two weeks ago the report was withdrawn by your mother. No Amber alert was ever issued. And, this is because you were in no imminent danger, or so sayeth your mother. Now…"

"The bitch." I looked at John and spat, "I told you. I told you that she doesn't give a fuck about me!"

John's expression hardened. He was looking directly into my eyes. They never wavered. Admonishing my outburst, he said, "That's no way to handle this situation, Young Man. You are to apologize right this instant. The sooner you realize we're not your adversaries the better off you'll be. Now."

Luke took hold of my arm. I turned to him. He nodded, then whispered into my ear, "Go with it, Jordan. Hear him out. I don't think he's done talking."

I looked to the floor, trying to determine what I should say. It was true. She didn't give one rat's ass about anything or anybody other than her damn self. Luke squeezed my hand while putting his other arm around my shoulders. I looked up and all around to the other guys, searching for validity to my concerns and feelings. I saw none. All attention was directed at what I would next say. Jared nodded.

Dale said, "Jordan, things are going to change. Just listen to Tony. I believe you will be okay with what he has to say next. Can you do this for me?"

A woman's voice said, "Jordan, this is Rachel. I want you to listen to what Tony has to say. Just open your mind. You need to make a decision. It will very likely affect your life, and Luke's, too, in a very big way. Just realize we're together, or we're going to be. Dale's told me a bit about what happened to you and Luke… just know that we're in your court."

"This has been hard. I just don't want to go back. I've always been a pain in her butt."

Dale said, "Understood. As soon as you straighten out your side of the street, then we'll get on with what needs to be talked about, concerning your and Luke's situation. Just do it. I know you mean well, but there's the issue of being respectful."

I looked to John. He had this 'I'm waiting' expression, though he wasn't angry any longer.

"Okay, I'm sorry for cursing. I'm not sorry about what I said."

John nodded his approval.

Dale said, "I think I can speak for everyone – thank you, Jordan. It's the right thing to do. Now, if you'll let Tony finish, I think we can put your mind to ease. But, he's correct, you will need to make a decision."


Unable to take the silence any longer, I broke it by saying, "I'm listening. But I won't go back there. I just won't."

"That's no problem," Tony said, then continued, "I spoke with Miss Miller on the telephone about an hour ago."

"You did WHAT? You called her? Come on, Luke, we're so out of here!" I grabbed his arm and physically lifted him from his seat. We'd taken two laborious steps before John stepped in front of the door leading outside.

John said, "You are going to listen to Tony. He's not finished. Just listen. Open your mind."

"That's right." Tony relayed. Before I could say anything, even though my words were on the tip of my tongue, he continued, "Yes, I spoke with your mother by telephone. She moved to Jacksonville in attempt to get a job as a waitress. She is working. And she told me that she has thirty-two days without a drink or drug. She's trying to straighten up. Here's the deal: although I am not licensed to practice law in Florida, there are several universal laws dealing with children and their parent or parents. We talked about these and how charges could be filed against her for things like abandonment, contribution to the delinquency of a minor, child endangerment… Because we have no physical proof that she physically abused you, I reminded her that this could and would be further investigated. This would, of course, require you to return to Florida to testify, and you, too, Luke. So here's the deal we came up with: she told me, and I have every reason to believe her, that she stopped the missing person's report because (1) she didn't know if you are alive, (2) she'd thought about what she'd done, (3) she'd thought about various charges she could possibly be charged with, and (4) she loves you in her own way, and she understands how you would feel. Finally, she loves you enough, with a little encouragement on my part, to relinquish parental rights. Dale?"

"That's right. You do not have to return to Florida, and you do not have to return to her home. Think of it this way: although things were terrible there, I believe, from what Tony has said, I haven't talked to her myself, that she wants the best for you. She knows, and you know that some things cannot be undone, words cannot be retracted, and certain actions cannot be reversed. This is just the way it is, or was."

"So what does that mean? Relinquishing parental rights."

"It means that you're, if something isn't soon resolved, going to be a ward of the state, and yes you will need to return to Florida for this to happen… otherwise you're a runaway. Eventually, you'll be caught up to, and probably be put into a juvenile facility until you're eighteen years of age. On the other hand, you do have some options that will keep that from happening. From my experience as a family law attorney, you do not want to be locked away for the rest of your childhood."

I'd heard of juvenile.

"I go where Luke goes. We're together. We're gay. I love him. What about his status?" I asked assertively. I turned to Luke. He nodded and squeezed the muscle that runs between my shoulder and the back of my neck.

He took a deep breath and said, "That's right. We're together. My dad – he and I were, at one time, close. In fact, I'm still shocked about what he did… I just can't get it out of my mind."

Dale said, "We understand, Luke, although I cannot and do not understand why a father would abandon his child, especially you. You're a good kid. Jordan, you are a good person as well. And you two make a nice couple. I'm going to turn this back over to Tony… He's got some information to share with you. Just listen. We can then talk about what it means."

"Go ahead." Luke said reservedly.

"From everything I've heard, I know that a correct action has been taken… I've spoken with your father. He's extremely sorry for abandoning you. He says he wasn't in his right mind. However, and this is difficult for me to say… he has made the choice to relinquish his parental rights as well."

Rarely does Luke let something bother him. He rarely, if ever, releases his pain. From the conversation that Father Mott and I had yesterday, I knew that we needed to talk more about our feelings and what's going on with us. But, when he laid back and curled up into a fetal ball, I knew something had to be done, and it had to be done right now. My baby started crying uncontrollably. I laid down and pulled him into my arms. He curled into my chest, sobbing hysterically.

With my anger renewed, I spat, "Why? What did he do to deserve THAT?"

"Luke, I need you to listen to me for a few moments. I think we can straighten this out fairly quickly. I understand why you are upset, and you have every reason to feel the way you do. This is hard for me, too. I've met a lot of parents, both good and bad, in my work."

Michael, with tears freely flowing down his cheeks from his eyes, brought Luke a box of Kleenex and set them down within reach. I took two and used them to wipe Luke's eyes and nose.

Dale, his voice thick and raspy, said, "Boys, you both have a place to stay with me and my family. Being gay is not a curse. It is no reason for a parent to abandon their children. Personally, I cannot come up with any reason for a child to lose the affections of their parents, but this is just me. There are all types out there in the world. If I was there to hug you, then I would, and I wouldn't let go, not until you were past the hurt. I can't say the words Tony needs to say, so I'm going to turn this back over to him. I want you to listen very carefully. I'll speak again once he's finished."

I whispered into Luke's ear, "Let's just listen. So far, nobody's lied to us. We both know when someone is not telling the truth. I love you. I always will. We'll be together, and I think, I feel that they want us to be together, too." I urged him to sit up so that we could listen to what was about to be said. Luke leaned into my side, then barely nodded.

I said, "Go ahead. We're listening."

"I'm sorry this is hurting you, Luke. I don't know how else to tell you other than to just be frank. Your dad is not able to accept that you're in love with someone of the same sex. He says it is against every principle he's ever taught you from day one. He had a very hard time with accepting your mother's choice of mate, other than himself."

"Yeah, I know he hates gay people. I was so afraid of him finding out. I'm not surprised, but God, oh God, it hurts. We were so close. He always looked out for me. I mean we did everything together – church, scouts… everything. What did he say? Did he just throw it all away, just like that?"

"I'm afraid so."

Luke took a deep shuddering breath, then got up and walked outside. I followed him, put my arm around his shoulders and pulled him into me. He wailed, "I tried to be a good son, I really did. It's not like I can do anything to change who I am, but I tried, oh God I tried to be a good boy, to be someone he was proud of. I thought I was doing a good job. I love him, Jordan."

"Well, we were going to leave anyway, even when your dad was shacking up with my mom. They paid no attention to us anyway… It was like we weren't even there. So far we've met people who actually give a fuck about us. I've been dealing with strange feelings… Somehow I think they really are looking out for us. Like John for instance. He knows we're gay and that we have our physical lives… He's respected us… I'm starting to feel like I'm fitting in. Don't you?"

"It shouldn't be like this, Jordan."

"But it is. Then there's Dale. He's open minded to the love you and I have. Heck, he's the first person we called when things were going from bad to worse… like the time when we were out in the field all alone – well, we were with Lawrence, but you know what I mean. Who did we call just before we escaped? Although I don't really know him, I'd like to."

"Jordan, this is all so hard for me. I mean six months ago, even five months ago, we had it all together… We were a regular family… Then just like that – it's gone. It's gone. It's gone."

"No it's not all gone. If, and it is a big if, then we wouldn't be together. We wouldn't even know each other. Luke, you've been the best thing ever in my entire life. Without you, I'm just, well, I'm nothing more than a piece of shit. You and I need to talk. Father Mott talked to me about how we, you and I need to talk about our feelings and stuff… You know… about what happened to us. I was so rude to him that it hurts. But he got into my head. He made me realize just how much I love you. Even though we make beautiful music together, I have to talk to you about that."

Luke nodded into my chest while putting his arms around my waist and letting his hands trail down to rest in that space between my jeans and skin. If we weren't in a parking lot standing up, with a motorhome filled with people we'd grown to know and love… then… well… never mind… right now, other 'more pressing' issues needed resolving.

"Tonight. We'll talk tonight. I promise. Besides, you and your sexy body do all kinds of good things to me." I said then to solidify my statement, I pulled our lower bodies together. I didn't feel his thing, but he certainly felt mine because his eyes opened wide, and his lips said, "Is that all you think of?"


He snorted and nodded his head in understanding. Our lips briefly joined. I gave his buns a short but meaningful squeeze then we went inside and retook our seats. I looked to John, "Sir, we've got some stuff to talk about… We're going to do it tonight… It's time. Father Mott's right."

John nodded, curiously.

Dale said, "Boys, being children is where you are in your lives. You don't have to know everything right now. Over time, things will start making more sense. Heck there are still things that I learn every day. I think this is the way it is supposed to be for all of us adults and children as well. What we're talking about today is something none of us have really talked about, and I do not think talking about it in any great detail is appropriate… If you guys would be willing, I'd like to get to know you a lot better. Maybe we can work things out so that you have a permanent place to live and call home. There's one more thing. Again I haven't talked to anyone about this – I think it would be good for you to talk with your parents. At least your minds would be put to rest by hearing what they've said directly from the horse's mouth."

John agreed with Dale's assessment by nodding in the affirmative. My stomach churned and I swallowed down to keep a rise of bile from spewing forth. Luke's grip on the lower end of my upper leg tightened considerably.

I said to Luke, "He's probably right. We're being told some heavy shit. While I believe Dale, I guess I need to hear it from her mouth. I've got a question though – what about Luke's mom? Have you contacted her? Doesn't she have something to do with parental, what do you call it? Relinquishment?"

Tony spoke up, "Luke's father terminated the call before I could ask him about how to get in contact with her. Understand that I'll have to communicate with her before we can legally consider yourself as completely abandoned. It's just that the law requires."

"I can't believe that she hates me. She ran off with a lesbian who hates kids. She's got a lot of room to talk… not.

John said, "While you guys were outside talking, we went around the table getting a good idea as to who is agreeable and who is not. So far, we're all in agreement, but nothing is set into concrete until you boys have given your thoughts and ideas. If you guys want to have a few minutes to talk between yourselves, then please feel free to do so.

"We've also agreed… Lawrence asked about calling his father to determine his status. Right now, at this second, Peter is contacting a person that lives in Hawaii to determine if the call can be made without being traced to our location. If this is not possible then we'll come up with something else that will work. As far as Eric's status… the last contact he had with his mother was when she was working as a hooker and drug dealer in New Orleans. He's never met his father.

"Dalton's parents are unfortunately assumed dead. Dalton was taken from his home. All he heard in the background, as he was being carried to the car to take him away, was gunshots, lots of them."

I looked to Dalton. Our eyes met. His were filled with unshed tears. His pain was palpable, raw and thick. Without even thinking, I took hold of Luke's hand. We went to the newest member of the family and pulled him into our arms and held him while he silently cried into our chests. John put the phone on the table then pulled Dalton into his arms and held him firmly.

Luke took the phone and said so that all could hear, "Okay, I'll talk to my Dad. I have to know for myself. I have to hear his words so that I can deal with it."

Tony said, "I can get him on the phone right now if you would like to take care of your concerns, or else we can do it another time, whatever you want to do."

I nodded. Luke said, "Right now. I have to know."

A few clicks later, a man's voice, Luke's father answered, "Hello."

"Mister Tompkins, this is Tony Lorenzo. If you have a few moments, Luke is here and would like to speak with you. Is now a good time?"

"Yes. Now is fine. Luke?"

"Yes, Sir. I'm here. Dad, why are you doing this to me? I'm your son, your flesh and blood… Why?"

"I assume you are not alone, am I correct?"

"That's correct. Jordan is here with me. Dad, I love him. I love you, too. And Mom, too. I really need you… I'm hurting… bad."

"Son, I love you as well. Yes, you're my flesh and blood. Come home. Repent of your sins, fly right as you've been taught all of your life, for, you see God made laws that are to be obeyed lest you get cast into hell for the rest of your life. There's one condition, one that I will not waver on: you can have no contact with Jordan. I forbid it. If need be, I will send you to a Conversion camp. They will force those evil thoughts from your mind, and in doing so will cleanse your heart."

"Well, Dad, I've already been to a concentration camp. Do you know what their methodology consisted of? Wait, don't answer. Their way was to fuck me in the ass… Yeah, a grown man put his dick into me. Not only that, but he fucked Jordan, too… It was brutal. And yet another kid, his name's Eric, had a cross burned into his skin. Is that what you're talking about? If so, then forget it. I'll take my chances."

"What is happening to your mind? Are you being brainwashed? Sure, that is what it is… I taught you to be strong and forthright, and what is this about you swearing in my presence. You know how I feel about curse words. Come home this instant!"

Dale spoke up, "Sir, if I may… My name is Dale Wilson. I met your son some time ago. He's good people. You should be proud of him instead of trying to make him that which he is not. Let's talk about this…"

"Shut up. This is between my son and me. Luke, I expect you to be home within twenty-four hours or else."

Luke hollered, "OR WHAT?"

I pulled Luke into my arms, turned his face toward me, and I said, seriously, "Don't. Don't even go there." Without warning, I touched my lips to his then when he tried to say something, I sent my tongue into his mouth, wiggled it around a couple of times then and only then did I release him from my clutches.

Michael, sitting next to me, whispered into my ear, "Would you guys go get a room, already!"

Jared rolled his eyes up.

John smirked and said, "He has a point there. Sorry Tony. Go ahead."

"Mr. Tompkins, from a legal aspect, you are not in a position to call the shots in this matter. As we discussed, life could become very difficult for you. Need I repeat myself in front of your son?"

"What do I need to do?" Luke's father asked in a much more conciliatory manner.

"Do you have a fax number available?"

"I do." Mister Tompkins said, then relayed the number.

"Good. I am transmitting right this moment. I would like to have this matter resolved expeditiously. Do I make myself perfectly clear?"

"Abundantly. Here it comes. It's coming through my computer… Do I need to sign or can I just electronically sign it?"

"A handwritten signature is necessary."

"Fine. Luke, you know that you will rot in hell. I've warned you. Don't blame me when your body is filled with pus given you by Satan. Don't be surprised if you get and die from AIDS. God will get you even when I cannot."

"Fat chance, Dad. At least I love my Jordan unconditionally."

His dad didn't respond. I heard a printer working in the background, then the sound of a sheet of paper shuffled around on a desk. The man said, "There, done. I'm scanning."

"Good." Tony said, then added to the phone conversation with the rest of us, "This piece of paper with his signature will open the door to adoption. I have an incoming transmission. Luke, is there anything else that you want to say to him before I terminate the call?"

"Yes, Sir. Dad?"

"What can you ever say that would heal my broken heart? This is the hardest thing I've ever had to do."

"I love you. I always will. Maybe someday we can sit down and talk… maybe when I'm a man, you know – grown up. I always tried to be a good son to you and mom. I really did try. I'm trying to be a good boyfriend to Jordan. He loves me when I don't think I'm loveable. I hope, now, knowing what I know about you, that our relationship will only get better; you know… more close, more intimate. Maybe mom will understand."

"You may be right there." Click.

Tony confirmed, "I have the transmission. All appears to be in order. I'm sorry, Luke. I'm sorry it turned out this way, but at the same time I'm happy that you're going to be in a happy, loving home, and that you and Jordan are now free to be who and what you are – from what I've heard, you are a fine young man who I would like to meet in person. Maybe someday we'll have that opportunity."

"Thank you, Sir. Uhmm, can I ask why my dad stopped… you know… telling me those things?" Luke asked, cautiously. He didn't really want to know, but needed to hear the answer so that he could heal.

"Luke, trust the folks around you. When you become eighteen and you still want to know, then contact me. I'll tell you the truth then. For right now, I want you to move on with your life. I hope your hearing his words will help you to do just that." Tony skirted Luke's question, and I'm glad he did.

"It helps a lot. Thank you. I appreciate all you've done for us." Luke said, looking deeply into my soul. Our lips came together – I never ever wanted us to part, but John cleared his throat. I opened my eyes to see Jared rolling his eyes up into his head. I snuck my tongue into Luke's oral orifice, wiggled it around, and then we parted. My already tight jeans were just that much tighter in one little area. I dared not look down because all eyes were on Luke and me. Luke shifted slightly, then patted my back which urged me to turn toward John. I nodded knowing that if Luke could do it, then I could also.

"Guys, I need to break off to go get Wayne from his day treatment. We should be on the road within the next two hours. See you at o-dark-thirty." Adam informed.

Everyone said their good-byes and wished him a safe trip. He clicked off.

The man, Jeremy, next spoke, "Guys, we're going to need to hit the road here real soon as well. Dad, are you going to stay on?"

"Yes. Bradley, Christian and I'll catch up with you. Be safe guys. I love you."

A boy in the background, I didn't not recognize his voice because I'd never heard it before, asked, giggling, "Are you going to do the underwear thing again?"

Dale snorted and then broke out in a hearty belly laugh, as did everyone else in the motorhome and on the phone.

I looked to Luke. He was just as clueless.

John smirked.

When the laughter died down, I ended up smiling because it was actually funny. It was fun when it happened, and it's funny now.

Adding to the excitement was Luke's fingers sneaking their way down my back and into the back of my pants. I whispered into his ear, "You're playing with dynamite there, oh lover boy."

Luke grinned and nodded his agreement.

With the mood broken, I nodded to John and sent to Luke, 'I may as well get talking to her over with once and for all'. Luke brought his hand up from the danger zone and rested it on my shoulder. He, too, nodded to John.

John said, "Tony, we're ready. Jordan, just hear her out."

Reluctantly, I nodded my cooperation.

She answered on the third ring, "Hello." Her voice sounded clear, like she wasn't all fucked up and stuff. It wasn't angry, either.

"Miss Miller, this is Tony Lorenzo. We spoke earlier today."

"Yes. Yes we did. And… Jordan, are you there?" My mom's voice sounded frantic. Not angry frantic. I looked to Luke for support.

"Mom, it's me, Jordan. I'm here. I, uhmm…"

"You don't know how much I've prayed for this moment. God, it's good to hear your voice. Are you okay?"

"It's good to hear from you, too. Look, Mom, I'm sorry for causing you to worry. I guess I didn't think things through very well. You were so angry, though. I didn't know what to do."

Luke ran his hand up and down my back as I reached up to my eyes to wipe away the tears. All of the hurt was coming back into my mind. I didn't feel angry. I tried to put myself into her position and realized just how frightened I would be if my son was to run away and stay away from home. "I'm sorry." I said brokenly while trying to stifle back a sob.

John handed me a Kleenex, patted my back, nodded then sat back down across from us.

"Oh honey, I know that I've been a bad mother. I'm sorry for hurting you. You have every reason to distrust me. I'm trying to clean up my life. It's hard, Jordan. It's so hard. But, I'm working on it. I love you. I know I've hardly ever said those words to you, but they are coming directly from the bottom of my heart."

"I hear you. I was just sitting here thinking about what I would feel like if my son ran away. I'm sorry."

"I'm sorry, too. Is Luke still with you?"

"Yes, Ma'am. I'm here." Luke said, solemnly.

"Luke, you're a fine boy. I apologize to you, too. Are you taking good care of my son?"

"Oh yes, Ma'am. We've had some really hard times, but we're taking care of each other." Luke said then looked to me and raised his eyebrows.

"Mom. Uhmm, about Luke and me. We're a couple. I'm gay. I love him with all of my heart and soul. I know how you feel about gay people…"

"I know. I suspected it long ago. Although I don't understand your lifestyle… let me just tell you this: every night I looked in on you. When Luke came with his father, I checked on the both of you. There was something about you guys lying there in the broken down bed that told me everything would be okay. Jordan, are you taking care of Luke?"

"Yes, ma'am. Always. He's got my back and I've got his."

"Good, that's the way it is supposed to be."

"I didn't mean to hurt you either, Luke. I'm not a mean person. I'm just sick, and I'm trying to get better. Some days are good, some are not so good. Jordan, I wish I could make things up to you. As your mother, I love you. And always will. I understand that you're in good hands and are being well taken care of, is this true? I need to hear your voice tell me."

"Yeah, Mom, it's all good. I tried to be a good son, but I messed up, though I really didn't mean to be that way. It wasn't always bad… We've had some good times. Like the time we camped out on the beach that one time."

She giggled. "You were quite the exhibitionist… What were you, nine or ten?"

I smiled remembering her getting after me for running down the beach, in the middle of the day, sans clothing, but I'd felt free. "I think I was ten, almost eleven. I can't believe I did that."

"Well, you did. I still chuckle when I think of how you convinced several other kids to do the same thing. The parents rumbled quite a bit, but soon relaxed at seeing how much fun you guys were having. I should have taken lessons about relaxing more and just let you be a child." Mom said then broke down into sobs.

"Mom, I don't hate you. I did, or thought that was what I was feeling. Some of it is very confusing to me."

"Thank you, Son. I needed to hear your words. I tried. I really did."

"I know. I tried, too. Look, can we just do something? Like, can we just put the past behind us?" I asked while wiping away the water dripping from my eyes and the snot draining onto my lips.

"Yes. Yes, let's do that. You really are an insightful child. You've got a good heart, too. You'll go places in this life."

"I guess." Luke pinched my left butt cheek with his fingers. "Ouch. Luke's being a pain in the butt."

"I'm not even going to ask what that's all about."

"Some things are best kept to one's self. This is one of ‘em."

"Jordan, I want to leave you with a few thoughts."

"Just a minute, please." I put the phone to my pants and announced to the group, "Can we mute everybody out except for my mom?"

A man's voice from the phone said, "Sure can. Just say when."

I took hold of Luke's arm and we walked to the bedroom and closed the door. Whatever she had to say would be important, and I didn't want just everyone to hear what we said to one another.

"Okay, Mom. We're in private. Nobody else can hear us. Well, Luke's here with me. Can I say one thing?"

That was an odd question. I can't remember asking for her anything.

"Of course." Mom said, curiously.

"Mom, I don't hate you. Not now. I did. I'm just being honest. I just didn't understand. I'm not sure that I understand now, but Luke and I have been through some tough things, stuff that I'm not going to tell you about… Maybe somewhere down the road, but not now… Anyway, I think I understand a little more."

"Honey, it's very complicated. I do not entirely understand. Drugs and alcohol made me, at least for a little while during your formative years, into something I never ever thought possible. It made me a very angry person, but, you have to know that I was never angry at you. Annoyed – yes. Angry – no. I don't know what the future brings, but I do know one thing – I love you. And because I love you so much, I have given up my rights to be a parent to you. This does not mean that I am no longer your mother… I gave birth to you. Nothing will ever take away the moment I first saw your eyes open. You were lying in a bassinet… I knew then that I would never amount to being a good mom. I hope that someday you and Luke will have a child or children of your own. You need to experience that heart joy… there's nothing like it."

"Maybe someday we will. We haven't talked about it."

"Well shoot, I hope not… You're only twelve, going on thirteen here very shortly in about six to seven weeks. And besides that, I'm too young to be a granny for God's sake. Wear rubbers, do you hear me?"

Once again, I bowed over with lightning-hot flashes running through my veins. Once again my hair felt like it was about to light on fire. I groaned. She laughed… I mean she really laughed.

As did I. That is when the heat blast subsided.

"I've got to go to work. I'm going to leave you with something to think of: First, don't quit. Reach for the stars. Secondly, take care of yourselves. Third, let people love you. Fourth, don't stop loving – you have a lot to give… it's in your nature. And finally, don't give up on your dreams. They can and do become reality."

For the first time in my life, I said, "Mom, take care of yourself. Maybe we can meet up someday. I think I'd like to do that. I hope things work out for you. Don't quit on yourself. That's what Luke and I do every day… we don't quit."

"I won't. I'm living day by day. Today is a good one. It is a day that I'll not forget anytime soon. Luke you take care of my baby. Promise me."

"I promise. I love him with all of my heart and soul. Look, I need to tell you that I hold no hard feelings for you. I'm glad to see Jordan released the dam that was holding him back. I already see a change in him… it's all good."

"Boys, I'll always keep a listed number. If you ever want to talk then I'll listen. I've got to go now. New job and everything."

"Bye, Mom. Love you."

"I love you, too."

Click. Click.

I tossed down the phone onto the bed, took Luke into my arms, held him tight then we joined our lips together as floods of relief passed through my veins and into him.

A light knock on the door interrupted our travel to that faraway place. We got up, rearranged our bits then answered the door. John stood there with a quizzical expression on his face. I nodded then he enveloped Luke and me into his arms. I said, "We had a cool conversation. She's trying. She's really trying. I'm not going home. It's just not home anymore."

John patted my back then I went into the restroom, blew my nose, drained the can then returned to the main coach area to find John making a phone call. I looked all around to our friends and family, smiled then took my seat next to Luke, wrapped his arm around my shoulders and stuck my fingers deep down into the back of his pants which caused him to squirm.

Next on deck was Lawrence. Tony said, "Lawrence, my contact is working on getting a secure connection with your father. He told me that it should be in place within the next ten minutes or so. Do you want to go through with it?"

John walked to where Lawrence and Aaron were seated, got down on his knees, then pulled both of them into his arms and held them firmly. They said a few things, words that we couldn't understand, then John got up and walked to the table and sat down next to Luke on his other side. Lawrence replied, "Yes, Sir. Thank you. Are you absolutely positive that we can't be traced?"

"I'm reasonably certain. Jim will come on the line when the connection is made. He'll give you the details about how it is going to work, but yes, I am confident."

Luke gave me an ornery expression then got up and quickly walked to the bathroom and entered, closing the door behind him.

Lawrence's Viewpoint

The moment had arrived. I was so scared of talking to the man I hardly knew. The only thing we had in common was blood. He had spewed his sperm forth, and much to his dismay I had come along nine months after that.

When I stood, John approached. I fell into his arms just to soak up his strength and stamina. My legs were wobbly. My head was a bit woozy. He crushed me into his chest and said, "You don't have to do this. We're going to be okay."

"No, Sir, we're not. My father is ruthless. He stops at nothing."

"So why then are you putting yourself out there to be hurt? Don't be a hero, Son."

"It's something I have to do. You have given me the strength and encouragement in many, many ways. Now it's time for me to put it into action. I'm doing it for you. It will help all of us. If anybody knows my father, I do. Not even my mother knows what goes around in his head."

"You're positive, then?"

"Yes, Sir. Aaron and I talked about it last night. Sir, if my father can kill or have killed people that are to be respected such as Aaron's parents, then I put nothing past him. He lost the election. He will not stop at anything. I know it in my bones, especially in my heart of hearts. I have a key that will unravel his well-being. It will shake his foundation."

"Blackmail?" John asked after pulling my face from his chest and looking directly into my eyes.

"Maybe. But it's not what you think. If my idea fails, I will return to Washington." Before continuing, I turned around to go get Aaron, but he was standing behind me. I pulled him into my arms and hugged him deeply, and touched his lips with mine. I turned so that both Aaron and I were facing John, "You and I have talked about my becoming a part of your family… your son… and you've told us that Aaron is a part of the package, that where I am, so is Aaron, and where Aaron is then that is where I am, as well."

"That's right. It's going to take me some time to get used to the wardrobe, but, yeah, I'd be honored to have you boys become my sons. (John grinned). This is not something that is going to be very easy to make happen. I want what is best for you boys, both of you, and this includes you, Aaron. I have grown to love Lawrence. I know you don't trust men right now, but Lawrence didn't either. I see growth in him each and every day. And I see how you have changed over just the last twenty-four hours. I assure you that you and Lawrence will be kept together… if I have anything to say about it."

"Thank you, Sir. My parents loved me. They took care of me. And they were okay with me and Lawrence…"

I didn't know that he had disclosed to his parents our relationship. Aaron, seeing my fright and concern quickly said, "Mom and Dad knew that I was gay, and that I loved you. I told them. I had to. They understood, because they saw us together every now and again. My father told me that we'd have a very hard time, Lawrence. He wasn't even sure that we'd be able to have our relationship. His last words, on the boat, down in the hold, when we had a few minutes alone with each other, were that he'd try to somehow get us together more often, and that both he and mom approved of our relationship."

A light bulb went off in my head. 'Could he, my father, the President of the United States have gone so low as to kill off one of his cabinet members just to make his point?' Although the idea was crystal clear, I had a hard time believing he would stoop that low. No, there had to be something else to drive him, but what could it have been?

John, concerned, asked, "Boys, I know you are together. Although you didn't say much, Lawrence, I knew that Aaron was always on your mind. (I nodded). Your relationship is – and I bless it. But… I think you are making a very big mistake calling your father. Blackmail never works, I don't care what they say. I just hope that you have weighed out all options before coming to this conclusion, have you?"

"Yes, Sir. I have thought long and hard. As I said, even though I am nothing like my father, I know him. I know what he's capable of. And just because Bryce won the election does not mean that he'll go down easily, or willingly. He knows people in low places, people that are hungry, people that he can wrap around his little finger through shame, guilt, power and prestige, evil desire… all things bad… attributes that no average human being can even imagine or comprehend. Yes, he is about to do something really bad."

"What could you ever say that would convince him to… to… let you go?" John inquired warmly.

"I will wing it. My father is very limited in his interactions with me. He says the same thing over and over again. I have one thing that he does not."

"What's that?" John asked while rubbing my back. I didn't realize that my body was giving away my nervousness.

I took in a deep breath. While slowly exhaling, as I felt shards of strength come into my being, I replied, "The truth."

John took in a deep breath, then slowly let it go.

"The truth will kill him, Sir. He lives in this little bubble of his construct. The problem for him, is that it was built upon lies and deceit." Aaron said, supporting me in every way. The more John rubbed my back the more confident I felt. I just knew I had to do this. I had to.

John, looking into my eyes, searching for flaws, pulled both Aaron and me into a hug and held on firmly.

"Okay. Do what you need to do. Do not make me put my foot down – you will not be permitted to return to your father on his turf, for any reason. Do we have an understanding?"

"I cannot promise you, Sir. There is too much at stake to let him go on like he is."

John was about to say something but Aaron stopped him by saying, "Sir, I have no doubt that he killed my parents in cold blood. I must avenge their deaths. In doing so, things in this country will change, but not until he's stopped."

"You will have a hard time convincing me that there is anything that would justify putting yourself in harm's way. Do we have this understanding perfectly clear?"

"Perfectly. Sir, just remember my father is a very powerful and influential person. I am his son. While I am not a well-known member of the President's family, my relationship has its positive notes. People will listen to me, Sir."

John tilted his head toward Aaron then to me, "Lawrence, don't add insult to injury. Don't disgrace him."

"I will not disgrace him; he's brought everything down on himself. It's kind of a Humpty Dumpty situation. All of the King's horses and all of the King's men cannot put him back together again."

Aaron offered, "Sir, President Elect Bryce is going to have a whole lot of work ahead of him to regain our country's trust of the Presidential office. I have a good idea of what Lawrence is just about to do. Trust me, blackmail will be the last thing on our minds. It never really serves a good purpose, unless, of course, there is no other way known to man and beast."

"Okay. Okay. I will be with you, at your side, all of the way. That goes for both of you."

I took in a deep breath before reaching down to my pants to shove the back down below my butt-cheeks, ruffled my shirt, and ran my hand through my hair to make it stand straight and tall. I went to the restroom, peed a few dribbles (nervousness), and looked into the mirror to see who was looking back. My transformation was huge, yet I still saw the Ashwood eyes, nose and chin. Our family lineage is well-recognized, no thanks to my father. My cheekbones, however, belonged to my mother. As is my black hair. Actually, they both gave me black hair, but unlike my father my body is not grotesquely covered.

A light knock on the door ended the comparative analysis between me and my father. I opened the door. Aaron said, "They're ready. Are you okay?"

I nodded, took in a deep breath, patted my tummy, and smiled. Aaron was looking directly into my eyes… He was stripping my psyche to bare skin. He didn't completely buy into my words. I'd never lied to him. "I'm scared shitless."

To be continued

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