Castle Roland

Mountain Magic

by Sequoyah


Chapter 9

Published: 8 Apr 14

Sunday, Beth showed up at Grace a bit early, Hank in tow. He looked as if he thought there would soon be a human sacrifice and he was it. "Relax, Hank," Jason said. "I felt like I was doomed when I first showed up too, but once you get into it"

"That's what I am afraid of," Hank smiled weakly.

When it came time for communion, I leaned over to Hank and said, "You're welcome to come with us if you like." Hank seemed hesitant but when Beth got up, she held her hand out. Hank took it and followed her, obediently, up the aisle. Jason and I followed and then stepped ahead of the two so we could take our places at the altar rail before Hank and Beth. I was sure if Hank saw us, he'd know how to receive the Elements. Sure enough, he was smart enough to watch how we received and, when the time came, held his hands up like a veteran communicant.

As we walked out of the church, Hank greeted Fr. Hanson with, "Liked your sermon, Reve ... Father. It was short." Fr. Hanson broke into a laugh and we joined him. Hank blushed and said, "That's not what I meant." We laughed harder as Hank stammered and got redder and redder.

Fr. Hanson was finally able to stop laughing and say, "Thanks, Hank. Hope you'll come again and I'll try to keep it short then as well."

The four of us walked toward our cars and were standing by the Jeep when Granddad and Grandmom came up. "We told the boys to invite you two to join us for Sunday dinner if you like," Granddad said. "Did they extend the invitation?"

"Of course they did," Beth said, "and we'll be delighted to join you."

"We'll meet you at the Gourmet Uptown," Grandmom said.

As soon as they were out of earshot, Jason asked, "Doug, did you invite these two to join us?"

"No, did you?"

"No. Beth, what's this 'Of course they did' bit?"

"I realized you had been told to invite us, hadn't done it, and your grandparents would be disappointed in your having lost your manners so I covered for you. You owe me."

"I suppose Sunday dinner for you and your boyfriend at the Gourmet Uptown will cover our debt," Jason grinned.

"Just about," Beth said.

During dinner, Hank had a hundred questions. I was surprised because, even though I had known Hank for a few months now and we had become fast friends, I usually saw him as, well, a kind of happy-go-lucky guy who didn't look at anything very deeply.

He and Granddad got into a pretty deep discussion of why Fr. Hanson didn't spend his sermon telling parishioners how wicked and evil they were or how wicked and evil everyone else was. "Guess we all sit kinda easy in the saddle," Granddad said. "There certainly is evil in the world and there are people who do unbelievably evil things, but they seldom show up at Grace. Most of us there are trying to do the best we can with the hand we have been dealt."

Later, Hank said he had really thought about that and realized that the guys who had fought me were not likely to show up at church, and they would have to find out about doing the best they could with what they had from someone else. "Like you, Douglas," he said, "they have to see you could have made the whole of their lives pretty miserable and didn't. I hope they see they need to do the best they can--not for anyone else but for themselves."

After dinner, Hank suggested we go by the hospital to check on John Doe. When he did, Beth said, "I haven't been involved with him at all, so I think it would be best if I not go with you."

"We'll be happy to run you home, Beth, if you don't want to go with the boys," Grandmom said.

"Thanks," she replied.

Hank looked a bit uneasy and asked, "Beth, are you sure? I mean I can take you home ... I mean I am supposed to take you home...."

"Hank, you're going to see about someone who can't take care of himself, I can. I'm happy you're going," Beth said, gave Hank a kiss on the cheek and went with the grandparents.

The nurse on the floor knew us from our earlier visits. When we walked in she said, "Good to see you three. Your John Doe, by the way, is Jonathan."

"Whoa," Hank said. "Jonathan? Is that his name?"

"Yes, he finally told the doctor he was Jonathan, not John Doe--Jonathan Henderson and he does, by the way, go to Coldsprings High School. He's a freshman."

When we asked how he was doing, the nurse said, "I guess I'm talking out of school, but since you three seem like his brothers--if he has any they haven't showed up, none of his family has. Anyway, Jonathan is definitely out of the woods so far as his physical problems are concerned. Physically he is making very good progress. He could probably be discharged soon so far as that is concerned, but emotionally ... that is definitely another question altogether. Emotionally I think he's getting worse all the time. He's still on suicide watch. No-one can seem to get through to him."

"Children's Protective Services had an agent up here several times and he refused to talk with them. Same with the sheriff's department. I don't know where his parents are. You would think they would have reported him missing long ago. Other than official visitors, you three are the only visitors the poor kid has had. Anyway, he's definitely in an extremely fragile mental state."

"Since you three are near his age, maybe you can get through to him. I hope so. If there's no turn around emotionally, his being better physically will make little difference. We've all tried pleading and begging but he just dismisses us."

When we entered Jonathan's room, he was lying on his side, his back to the door. Jason walked around his bed until he was facing Jonathan.

"What are you doing here?" Jonathan asked with a sneer.

"I came by to see if I could get in a pissed-off mood and hate the world," Jason responded quickly."

Hank and I were out of Jonathan's field of view, and both our mouths dropped open at Jason's response.

"I got up this morning after not sleeping worth a fuck, the weather was sunny and warm, but I have to be inside most of the day doing school work for tomorrow. I'll have to go to school and learn shit I probably will never use. All my family is either in jail, street walking or dead. Life sucks."

"I've been given a shitty deal, but then I am alive and I think that's pretty great. Then I looked at all that again and decided life really is shitty. It sucks and I shouldn't be glad I am alive, but I am. Then I realized that I could get a sure cure for that by coming here where a snot-nose little shit thinks he has a monopoly on being miserable and hating the world. I was sure he'd give me help in feeling sorry for myself. How about it? You think my life is rotten enough for you to help me hate being alive?"

Hank and I stayed out of sight, staring open-mouthed at each other as Jason carried on.

"Well, are you going to let me in on your life-hating game or not?" Jason continued. "I mean, what do you have to lose if I hate life too? Don't you think I have reason to be pissed off at life? My old man is in prison. My old lady is out whoring somewhere. The only family I had was a drunk grandma and she burned to death when the only place I had to live burned. Don't you think I have enough to get me into your life-hating club? Huh? Come on, don't be such a jerk, thinking you're the only one who has reason to hate the world. Hell, I bet half the people in this hospital are pissed off at how life's treating them. Maybe we should organize a protest against life. You and I could lead it. What about it?"

"Will you please just shut up!!" Jonathan shouted. "Just shut the fuck up! Your family is in prison, off somewhere or dead, tough shit! Mine is very much alive, but see this?" Jonathan reached behind himself and ripped the dressing off his back. He had half turned, still facing Jason and had not seen Hank or me. His whole body was shaking from his sobs as he threw the dressing at Jason.

"Oh, shit," Jason said as he reached out toward the kid. He pulled Jonathan to himself and stroked his hair. Jonathan's back was healing, but the cuts on it told the story. From his neck to his buttocks his back was striped with cuts and bruises, obviously made by a belt. Several large bruises surrounded clear imprints of what must have been a large belt buckle.

"Oh, shit, Jonathan," Jason repeated. He continued stroking Jonathan's hair as the young man buried his face in Jason's shoulder. "Tell me about it."

Jonathan had not yet seen Hank and me. Before he did, Jason caught my eye and motioned to let us know Hank and I should go. We left, closing the door behind us.

We went to the nurse's station where I told the charge nurse what Jason had done.

"Jason took a big risk," she said. "As fragile as Jonathan is emotionally, he might have pushed him over the edge."

"Well, he's on suicide watch, anyway," Hank said, "and nothing else seemed to be getting to him. Maybe shock therapy will work."

"When we left he was clinging to Jason, crying his eyes out. I think he might very well spill everything, but we may be here awhile."

"If he can get anything out of the kid it will be a help. Make yourselves comfortable. Want a coke?" When we nodded, she took two cokes from a fridge near the nurse's station and handed them to us.

"By the way," I said, "Jonathan ripped the dressing from his back."

She said it was ok since the air would do it good. That was about the sum total of our conversation about Jonathan since none of us knew much about him.

In response to her questions, we told the nurse what we were doing in school, where we worked, how Hank and I were on a swim team, stuff like that.

When Jason joined us half an hour later he said, "Jonathan didn't tell me much, but I think maybe he's thinking in more positive terms. He had a good cry, I think a healthy one, and promised he'd try to get better instead of fighting you all every step of the way. We'll be back tomorrow after school."

"Thanks for any help you can give in getting the kid to think life might be worth living," the nurse said.

When we got in the Jeep, Jason said, "Guys, I didn't mean to push you out back there, but Jonathan looked like he might trust me, and since he didn't know you two were in the room, I thought it best to make sure it stayed that way. Right now all I can tell you--all I know--is that his family has disowned him and his father was the one who beat the shit out of him and left him to die."

"The bastard ought to be hanged," Hank said. "I don't care what Jonathan did, no-one has the right to treat another human being--or animal--like that."

We agreed and wondered why he had not been locked up already.

After our visit to the hospital, we took Hank home. "I can hardly believe this weather," Jason said as we turned into our drive. Even though it was the last half of November, the day was bright, sunny and very warm, the snow forgotten. "Let's take advantage of this great day and head for the woods," Jason suggested.

We didn't see our grandparents as we walked into the house and headed upstairs. We went to our rooms and changed out of our Sunday-go-to- meeting clothes and went downstairs. As we stepped out the kitchen door, we met the grandparents who had been looking over Granddad's garden. "Can you believe this weather?" he asked. "Snow Friday and today like spring. You two off to the woods?" We told him we were.

When we reached our rock I decided, I guess, to prove how macho I was. I reached up, grabbed a bush to swing myself up and around to get on the rock. As I started my swing, the bush pulled out of the ground and I fell backward, head first. Fortunately, my foot caught in a crevice, stopping my fall.

I was hanging bottom side up, held only by my foot. I could see myself lying several yards down the side of the mountain with heaven only knows what broken if my foot pulled free. At the same time, my foot was not appreciating being caught.

Jason grabbed me by my free leg. "Take it easy, Doug," he said. "See if you can work yourself free." When I was free, Jason started lowering me until I reached an outcrop. As soon as I was safe, he joined me. I was still shaking as he looked into my eyes and said, "Doug, you're safe. I've got you." His lips then touched mine gently, lovingly.

I guess it was a combination of my feelings of love for this man and my fright which caused me to return his kiss passionately, crushing my lips against his. His lips parted and my tongue invaded his mouth, exploring it, tasting Jason. Our legs were intertwined, our hips pressed together. I felt his hardness against mine as his hands moved down my body, cupping my ass cheeks, pulling my hips into his. He broke our kiss, looked into my eyes and I melted.

Jason and I climbed back up the mountainside, he still holding my hand tightly. In spite of my foot having been caught, I was none the worse for wear. My shoe had protected my foot from anything more serious than a bruise.

When we were both safely on the rock shelf, Jason flopped down on a mossy patch, rolled on his back, raised his arms and said, "Come to me, you sexy man." I lay down in Jason's arms, got lost in his black, black eyes, then leaned forward to kiss his lips, his neck, his eyes.

My fingers trembled as I unbuttoned his shirt and when it was open, I started kissing his chest, paying particular attention to his dark, round nipples. I couldn't resist licking one and, when I did, Jason started groaning. "You're making me sooo hot," he said, placing his hands beside my face and pulling my lips to his. Breaking the kiss, he said, "You are one hot man," and kissed me again.

"How can I stay cool when a good-looking, black-eyed man says he loves me?"

"I don't know about staying cool but you are right, well maybe not good- looking, but this black-eyed man loves you. He loves you enough to eat you." With those words, Jason sucked my lower lip into his mouth and bit it very gently. As he did, he slid a hand under my shirt, down my back and started under my belt.

I realized Jason's free hand was trying to reach my belt buckle so I raised up and he opened my belt and unzipped my fly. His hands then slid down my back again, inside my briefs, while all the time his mouth was against mine and he was breathing through my mouth. I could feel the wetness growing in my briefs, especially when I began grinding my hips against his.

Jason held my hips to his, his strong hands holding me to himself, as he slowly rolled on his side, his lips not releasing mine for a second.

When we were lying side-by-side, Jason slowly moved a hand from my back to my front where it took hold of my hardness. As Jason grasped, I gasped, sucking his breath into my lungs. He removed his lips from mine, looking into my eyes as he pushed my pants and briefs down, exposing my manhood.

He continued looking into my eyes as he slowly stroked me. It was only minutes before I exploded, covering his hand and myself with hot cum. I blacked out momentarily, lost in the power of my climax and Jason's love.

When I regained consciousness, I was looking into the kindest, most loving black eyes it is possible to imagine, eyes which were bright, lit by Jason's smile--a smile which had melted me from the first time I saw it.

As he pulled my lips to his, I reached out and quickly freed his manhood which was hard, hot and streaming precum. Our kiss continued and my hand started moving up and down in long, slow strokes.

His tongue invaded my mouth then, as I continued to stroke him, his mouth found the crook where my neck joined my shoulder. As I felt his cock surge, shooting his man's seed over my hand and over himself, his teeth, which had been teasing my shoulder, bit hard. As his eruption continued, he bit and sucked that spot. Finally he relaxed as his climax, which had taken control of his body, released him.

Satiated, we lay in the sun, wrapped in each other's arms, our legs entwined. But it was November after all and, while the day had been sunny and warm, it was not summer. Before long, what had been hot man's juice became a clammy, cold mess. Jason laughed as he said, "You may be hot, lover, but your cum is now cold!"

When I had gone to the rock by myself I always took tissues, but when Jason and I started going I forgot. We both slipped off our pants and used our briefs to wipe ourselves as clean as we could. Having done that, we stuffed our briefs in our pockets. Then we lay in each other's arms, exchanging soft, angel kisses until finally, in spite of our love and hormones, we grew uncomfortably cold.

As we walked back to the house, holding hands, we kept exchanging kisses until we were ready to leave the shelter of the trees. No more kisses after we started walking along a cow path beside the pasture fence, but we still held hands which we had done from the first time we had gone to our rock.

When we walked in the kitchen door, swinging our hands, Grandmom said to Granddad, "Seems to me we have two happy boys on our hands," and smiled at us.

"Two happy men you mean, don't you Grandmom?" Jason asked as he walked over and, towering over her, put his arms around her and kissed her on the cheek. "And what man wouldn't be happy to have a good-looking woman like you looking after him? Right, Granddad?"

"You couldn't be righter, Son," Granddad replied. "You couldn't be righter."

I watched the interchange between Jason and my grandparents and felt really good that he was accepted as a grandson and I knew it made him happy to be a part of the family. But I did worry about the future when my grandparents discovered their grandsons, natural and adopted, were lovers- -and there was no doubt in my mind that we were and would be.

"Well, you may be looking after Jason, Grandmom, but it's time he looked after a cow. Milking time, Jason," I said.

We put down new straw in the cows' stalls, fed them and milked. As we walked back to the house, each carrying a milk bucket, we once again held hands. I wondered how we got started doing that and why nothing had been said about it, but I loved the feel of Jason's strong hand in mine.

We handed the milk to Grandmom and as we did, Jason said, "By the way, I thought you'd have a banged-up grandson this afternoon." Then he told them about my fall.

"You two need to be careful. I know you love the woods but they can be dangerous if you are careless. I suspect the fall was enough to give you a good scare. Bet you need to wash up and maybe change your drawers," Granddad laughed.

"Fall or no fall, you two need to get washed up and come on down to supper," Grandmom said. "I'm heating some soup and there's stuff for sandwiches when you're ready."

When we got upstairs I said, "Babe, I think we need a shower because of the dangerous encounter I had with a snake this afternoon." When Jason looked puzzled I smiled and said, "You know, the encounter I had with the snake from the Garden of Eden--the snake between your legs."

"I hope we got cleaned up enough before we came home so we didn't smell like rutting males. I thought about that after I hugged Grandmom," Jason responded in a serious tone.

"Well, I guess we probably do smell like rutting males because that's what I am," I said as I reached out and pinched Jason's nice butt. When I did, he picked me up, tossed me over his shoulder and carried me to the bathroom.

He still had me over his shoulder as he turned on the shower and adjusted the water temperature. When he had it right, he very unceremoniously dumped me in the shower, fully dressed.

"Jason, I will get you, I promise," I said as I stood up in the shower, taking off my now very wet clothes.

I was so busy getting undressed I didn't notice that Jason was undressing until he hopped into the shower, grabbed me and pulled my body to his. "Jason, I don't think you want to start something we can't finish," I said as I pushed him away.

"Yeah, you had your way with me and now you push me away. Some romance this turned out to be!" He stuck his lower lip out and I couldn't resist. I quickly sucked it into my mouth and bit it gently. Releasing his lip, I kissed him and then we soaped each other well, rinsed off and he started drying me. "Babe, you need to be sure and wear a shirt that covers your shoulder. Some wanton person has given you a hickey," he said as he dried my body.

We finally managed to get our hormones under control enough to get dressed and go downstairs to eat.

As soon as we were seated and had started eating, Granddad asked, "Learn any more about the kid you picked up out of the ditch?"

"Grandmom, had you heard Jason talking to him this afternoon, you'd have washed out his mouth with soap," I laughed.

"I didn't see any reason to beat about the bush with him," Jason said. "I knew the nurses and doctors has begged and pleaded with him to get him out of feeling sorry for himself, hating himself, hating the world, so what did I have to lose with a new approach? I had felt sorry for myself long enough to know it helps nothing and, at the same time, if he thought life had mistreated him, I figured I could match him misery for misery."

"Well, we do know his name now and that he has been disowned by his family and beaten by his father. I hope we can find out more next week and that something can be done about his situation--whatever that turns out to be."

We sat and talked with our grandparents a while longer. I liked that about Sunday suppers: we always sat and talked, sometimes about serious stuff, sometimes about nothing important, but it was a good time.

Granddad asked about my fall again, we talked about the old lady's "cat house" that we were cleaning, just stuff. Finally I said, "I hate to bring a good time to an end, but I have homework I need to do."

"Same here," Jason said.

We cleared our places and as we did, Grandmom said, "Go ahead and get on the school work. Granddad and I will clean up from supper." Jason and I both thanked her because cleaning up after meals was our job.

We had a pretty large table in our den and we usually studied together at it-- unless, as lately, we couldn't keep our minds on the books for having them on each other. I think it helped both of us to study together because if one got stuck on something the other could usually help him out.

I could usually help Jason with his algebra and I was surprised to find he was excellent at reading my essays and not only finding mistakes but also helping make them better. He had a real way with words.

He especially got on my butt when I wrote something he thought pompous or pretentious. My English teacher at St. Stephen's was always crying, "More details! More colorful words! More description."

Jason took a look at one of the first essays I had done and said, "This reads like it was written for a middle school teacher who is a frustrated greeting card writer. Writing should be clean and mean. Get rid of all the useless words." Strangely enough, with his help I did, and discovered descriptions and details came alive with fewer words.

We had gone upstairs about 9:00 and been working for over an hour when Jason stood up, stretched and said, "Time for a break."

"You finished?" I asked.

"Yeah. You?"

"Need ten or fifteen more minutes. I need to finish this last calculus problem."

"As always," Jason said. "See you downstairs."

When I finished, I went down and we had a snack with the grandparents. Granddad told us he would like for us to keep next Saturday clear if we could. "We need to cut some firewood to replace what we have been burning in the den."

The fire in the den was more for looks than heat, but we all liked it when the weather outside was nasty because it gave the room a cozy feeling.

"No problem if Jake needs you to work, just the first Saturday you are free we need to get wood cut so it will be dry next year."

We watched the news at 11:00 and saw the weather was returning to the usual cold, damp November routine. "Sure glad we took advantage of today, even if I almost banged up my gorgeous self."

"But you were rescued at great peril to your brother," Granddad laughed.

"You'll have to forgive him, Granddad," Jason said, "Doug can be a little self-centered if you don't watch him."

I picked up a cushion from the sofa and tossed it at Jason as Granddad said, "I have noticed that now and again." When he did, Grandmom tossed at pillow at him.

"Pillow fight," Jason shouted as he grabbed a pillow I was holding, pushed me down on the sofa with it and started tickling me.

"No fair," I said when I could get my breath. "No fair, Granddad, Jason's not ticklish."

"You are appealing to the wrong one," Grandmom said. "Your granddad's not ticklish."

Jason stopped tickling me, reached down and helped me to my feet as I had rolled off the sofa into the floor trying to get away from him.

"Guess that's enough foolishness for tonight," Jason said. "Time for me to get to bed.

When we got upstairs, I gathered my books and papers and put them in my backpack as Jason had done earlier with his. While I was doing that, Jason walked up behind me, bent over and nibbled on my ear. I turned to face him and when I did he kissed me and said, "Damn! I never knew what I was missing. I like this kissing business!"

"Good thing because I expect to be doing a lot of it with you."

"You know when I had you down tickling you? I caught myself just before I kissed you. Man, that would have torn it!"

"I don't know and that's what's so bad: we don't know how our grandparents will react." I put my backpack on the table, stretched and said, "I'm done for the night. How about you?" as I sat down on the couch.

Jason took a chair from the table, turned it around and sat, the chair back between his legs, facing me. "With school work, yes, but I'm not finished for the night. We gotta talk."

"Man, you are getting to be all talk and no action again," I grinned.

"Bet you didn't think that this afternoon. Seriously, Doug, we need to decide who we are going to tell about us and when and how. I was thinking as I came upstairs I really don't want to be down the hall in a big bed by myself. Then as I walked out of the den just now, Granddad and Grandmom both said, 'Goodnight, Jason, sleep well.' We can't just go our merry way doing as we please, as much as I would like to. We, both of us, have an obligation to our grandparents. I'd like to think they would love us, and accept us and our love without question, but I don't know. And even if they do-- eventually--learning their grandsons are gay and lovers is going to be a shock. You know it is."

I knew what Jason said was right. "As much as I wish we could do as we please, you are right, Jason. I don't know what the answer is. Maybe time will tell but, right now, I guess we need to be careful although Grandmom and Granddad seldom come upstairs...."

"Except to get your lazy, but luscious, ass out of bed...."

"They seldom come upstairs," I said again, ignoring Jason's remark, "so I think we can keep our secret and still get in some love-making--restrained, maybe--if we are careful and if you can get hot and bothered without groaning out loud."

"And if you can stop shouting when you cum," he laughed.

Jason had moved his chair closer to the couch and was playing with my hand while we talked. Finally he raised my hand, opened it and kissed the palm. Looking deep into my eyes he said, "It has been a great day, hasn't it?"

"Yeah," I replied as I turned my hand over so I could kiss the back of his. "It has been a great day."

We stood, embraced, kissed each other goodnight and, as much as we wished it were otherwise, went to our own beds.

Monday morning dawned dull, wet, rainy, messy. Granddad seldom had to come upstairs to get us out of bed. Actually, if it had all depended on me he probably would have, but Jason was generally awake before him and called me. This morning was different. Jason didn't wake up and I guess didn't hear Granddad call. Neither did I and was startled when there was a quiet knock on my door and Granddad said, "Douglas, time to get up."

I crawled out of bed as I heard Granddad tap on Jason's door. As I opened the door to my bedroom, Granddad was at the head of the stairs. "Thanks for calling me, Granddad," I said. "I guess I'll need to start setting the clock again." Until Jason moved in I had depended on the annoying alarm clock to get me up, but after he moved in I depended on him.

I staggered out of my room and down the hall to the bathroom. Jason was just coming out of his room, looking worse for the wear. "Bad night?" I asked after I had kissed him good morning.

"Very bad night. I had some terrible dreams about Jonathan. He was being chased by a man on horseback and as he ran, the man kept cutting his back with a whip. I finally got myself awake from that nightmare and then couldn't go back to sleep thinking about him."

"When I finally did get back to sleep, I had the same nightmare except this time it was you being chased. I lay awake for ages and when I finally did drop off to sleep, I guess I just died to the world."

We got ready for school and went down to breakfast. When Granddad saw Jason he said, "No wonder you didn't wake up this morning. You look half- dead from lack of sleep."

"You've got that right," Jason replied. "I had terrible nightmares last night."

Hank had called Sunday night and suggested we leave for school early and check on Jonathan. Since we had kinda overslept, we were still getting ourselves together when he arrived.

The new hospital, like the high school, had been built closer to Coldsprings than Clarksville, I guess because the eastern end of the county tended to go into Asheville for any medical problems. Nonetheless, it was about ten miles from our place so we had at least a thirty-minute drive to get to the hospital and back to the school.

We stopped at the nurse's station and asked about Jonathan.

"He's been upgraded to satisfactory status, with a caveat about his mental/emotional status. He has at least stopped saying he should have been left in the snow, but he's definitely depressed, crying a lot, won't talk about what's bothering him. Seems you got through to him yesterday and for that we're thankful. Maybe you can spend more time with him today.

"We're on a pretty tight schedule but we'll look in on him now and get by after school on our way to our jobs in Clarksville," Hank said.

Jonathan was lying on his stomach, his back uncovered. It made me sick at my stomach just to see it again. "How you doing, Bud?" Jason said as he walked around the bed and took Jonathan's hand. When Jonathan didn't answer, he continued. "Jonathan, do you remember my two best buds, my brother Douglas and the blond Indian over there is Hank. So how's it going?"

"Douglas, Hank, nice to meet you. But, Jason, you asked if I remembered them and I don't."

"When we introduced ourselves you were floating on some major drugs," Hank said as he shook Jonathan's hand.

"Guess you got that right," Jonathan said as he shook my hand. "How am I doing? Better. I don't hurt very much. But I'm worried. I was told I was doing good physically, good enough to have some surgery. When that's over, I can go home...." Large tears formed in the young man's eyes and started rolling down his face.

Jason was holding his hand and when Jonathan started crying, he rubbed the back of his hand and said, "What's wrong, Jonathan. What's really wrong?"

"Jason, I have no place to go and I can't stay here much longer. I can't go back...."

"No-one would expect you to go back!" Hank said with some force. "No-one would let you go back wherever you were after what happened to you."

"I don't know what I'm going to do," Jonathan said as silent tears continued to roll down his face.

"Jonathan, hang in there. Take care of getting ready to leave and don't worry about where you're going. Let us worry about that."

"Thanks, but I guess you'll change your mind when you learn about me."

"Don't think so, but we gotta rush now. See you after school on our way to work. Don't worry. You've got three buds who will look out for you."

Jason had been holding Jonathan's hand. When he turned it loose, Hank and I shook hands with Jonathan again and we all took our leave.

When we reached the Jeep, Hank said, "I guess we have taken on a major project."

"You up to it?" I asked.

"Damn right!" Hank replied. "Somebody's got to help that kid. I thought I would puke every time I looked at his back. Yeah, we'd got ourselves a project."

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