"Denise? It's Karin. Any word on Kyle?"
"Nothing new. Kyle's still pretty unresponsive. Jay, Tommy and Andy are going over today to try and bring him around. They got the okay to try using Bunnies."
"Well, if his absolute favorite game doesn't bring him around, I don't think anything will. You know how much he adores it."
"Yeah, I know. It's weird. Being into physics and science and all that, I'd never guess he'd get so deep into a card game like that."
"I can't. I don't think there's a mathematical formula, equation, super computer or whatever that can figure Kyle out." Denise replied, giggling.
Karin laughed. "I think I'll head over to the hospital. When were they all going to be there?"
"I think Andy said around four. They may not let you in. They don't want too many people around him at this point in time."
"Oh, I'm not going to join them, I just want to be there to lend them some moral support and find out first hand how everything goes."
"Please call me and let me know what happens."
"I will. Talk with you later."
"Bye for now."
Surprised to see Karin arrive at the hospital, Andy asked her, "Hey, lady! What brings you here?"
"I heard you guys were going to try to bring Kyle around using Bunnies and I wanted to be here to lend moral support."
"Awesome. We're going to play with his Doctor first. He wants to make sure it won't upset him or mess him up any further. We have KinderBunnies* with us as well, in case the doctor says no to Killer Bunnies. Want to join us?"
"I'd love to, but will I be allowed to?"
"There's no reason why you can't join us for the demo game, and we can ask about you joining us when we play with Kyle, if he lets us."
"Hey guys! What brings you here, Karin?" Tommy asked, surprised to see her, and definitely glad she was there.
"What do you think? Bunnies, of course!" She replied, giggling. "Seriously, I'm here to lend some moral support."
"If Kyle's Doctor gives us the okay to play Bunnies with Kyle, I'm going to ask if Karin can join us." Andy explained.
"That would be cool. Jay should be here any minute with the games." Tommy responded.
"I brought them with me."
"Cool. Hey, here comes Jay with the doctor"
"Well, let's see this game you all have been raving about. Karin, are you in on this scheme also?"
"Actually, my initial intention was to be here to lend everybody moral support, but I'm always up for a game of Killer Bunnies."
"Well, let's get started then. Show me how you play the game."
For the next hour, their corner of the cafeteria was filled with raucous laughter.
"Well, I must admit it's a fun game. You've hooked me on it. I see no reason why we can't give it a try. Just the four of you, though, unless you would rather not, Karin."
"Actually, Doctor, I was kind of hoping to be able to play. Kyle and I have always been extremely close."
"Fine. Let me go talk to him and see how he feels about it. How much time will you need to get the game ready to play again?"
"About ten minutes" Jay replied.
"Okay. Let me go see Kyle and feel him out. You get the game ready to play again and I'll be back in a few minutes."
"Good morning, Kyle. How are you feeling today?" Doctor Foster asked, receiving no response from Kyle.
"Jay, Tommy, Andy and your cousin Karin are here to see you."
Still no response. Kyle just laid there on his stomach, legs spread, and teeth clenched and clinging to the mattress as if he was being raped.
"They brought Killer Bunnies with them, hoping you would join them in a game."
"Bunnies?" He whispered, loosening his grasp on the mattress slightly.
"They brought your set with all of the special cards you created. I must admit I can't remember when I've had so much fun playing a card game."
"Bunnies?" He asked again, his voice a little stronger.
Doctor Foster removed one of Kyle's hand-drawn cards from his pocket and placed it in front of his face. "Yes, Bunnies. They're waiting to play with you."
"Bunnies!" Kyle responded, his voice closer to normal as he turned over in the bed. Then he remembered who Doctor Foster said was waiting to play and turned back over onto his stomach, burying his face in the pillow.
"You don't want to play?" Doctor Foster asked, puzzled.
"Jay won't want to play. He doesn't want anything more to do with me."
"Why do you say that? It was his idea to bring the game to you."
"He hasn't come to see me since I've been here."
"Kyle, Jay has been here every single day hoping to see you. He's even slept outside your door on more than one occasion."
"He hasn't come in to see me."
"Because I wouldn't let him until you were ready. Would you like to see him?"
He paused, not sure if he could face him. "Yes." Kyle finally responded, slowly, uncertain that Jay would actually want to see him.
Doctor Foster picked up the phone and dialed a special number. "Attention hospital visitors. Will Special Agent Williams please report to room 3481-North? Thank you." He hung up.
After a few moments, there was a knock on the door. Doctor Foster opened it to admit Jay, then left, closing the door behind him.
"Hello, Kyle." Jay said, cautiously, not approaching the bed.
Kyle held out his arms and Jay rushed into them, both men crying.
"Kyle, I'm soooo sorry for what happened. It was never my intention to attempt to fuck you."
"It was my fault. I pressed the issued. I want to come home." Kyle clung tightly to Jay. "Please hold me."
Jay got onto the bed and gathered Kyle into his arms, holding him close, but not too tightly.
"Tommy, Andy, Karin and Doctor Foster are all waiting to play Bunnies. Are you ready to play or not?"
"I don't know if I can face them, knowing that they know what happened to me. They probably only came to play Bunnies."
"You think so little of your friends?"
"No, my friends, if they still are that, are the best."
"Then why did you say that they only came for that?"
"Because I can't understand why they would want to be around me."
"They all love you and want to help you through this."
"Well, thank them for me, but I'm really not worth the time and effort."
"Not worth the time and effort?" Jay almost shouted, making Kyle recoil from his anger. "That's the biggest crock of bullshit I've ever heard come out of your mouth. If you weren't worth the effort I wouldn't be here right now, nor would everyone else." He rose and stormed to the door. Opening it, he turned to Kyle. "Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all." He left the room and sought out Doctor Foster, explaining to him what just happened.
"Let me go talk to him. Don't go anywhere just yet."
Doctor Foster slowly opened the door to Kyle's room and cautiously peeked in, finding Kyle huddled miserably on the bed. "Kyle? Are you ready to play Killer Bunnies?"
Kyle just lay there, not saying anything.
"Kyle? We need to talk about what just happened."
"I'm sure you have more important things to do than waste your time talking to my worthless ass."
"Kyle, I, want to be here, as do those who are waiting to play Killer Bunnies with you. We care about you. If we truly thought you were worthless, we wouldn't be here. I don't understand what happened to make you think that way about yourself."
"I'm worthless as a boyfriend and I'm worthless as a teacher. The two most important things in my life."
Okay, Doctor Foster thought to himself. There's more going on here than just the aftermath of the kidnapping and rape. "Let's talk about your job for a moment."
"What about it?"
"Do you like your job?"
"I used to love it. It was the most important thing in my life, next to Jay."
"And what happened to change that?"
"The kids used to look up to me and I failed them miserably."
"How did you fail them?"
"I used to run the after-school science club."
"Used to? Why aren't you doing it anymore?"
"It was shut down. They took the money for the club and sunk it into the new football stadium, which we did not need." Kyle's anger was very much evident in his voice and in the tension in his body. "I sent letters home to the parents and I argued with the school board, but they wouldn't listen. FUCKING BEAUROCRATS!!!!! I HATE THEM!!!!!!" Kyle shouted. He paused for a moment then continued in a more normal tone of voice, but Doctor Foster could tell he was still agitated. "I had over fifty kids in my club, none of whom were jocks. There's nothing left for them now, and nobody gives a shit."
"You obviously do." Doctor Foster said, soothingly.
"For all the good it does. I had offered to continue the program at my house. I even told them I'd pay for everything out of my own pocket, but they denied me. All they care about are the damned jocks!"
"I can understand them not allowing you to run the program at your house, but I can't understand their refusing your very generous offer to fund the program yourself. Surely there was room for compromise to keep the program going."
"You agree with them?" Kyle asked, extremely agitated.
"Look at it this way, Kyle. Suppose the school board had granted you permission to continue the club at your house. What would happen if one of the students injured themselves? They wouldn't be covered under the school's insurance policy. You could be sued for the medical expenses, and the school could also be sued for allowing you to conduct an extra-curricular activity off school grounds without parental consent. And God help you if one of the female students' cried rape or one of the male students claimed you sexually molested him."
"But I wouldn't do any of those things to my students." Kyle responded with a little heat.
"It doesn't matter whether you would or not. All somebody would have to do is claim you did and your teaching career would be over. You could end up losing everything, including your freedom."
Kyle was silent as he thought about what Doctor Foster had said. "You're right. None of what you just said had ever occurred to me. Most, if not all, of my students know I'm gay. I've never flaunted my sexuality, but I've never hid or denied it either. Since I came out, that is."
"You are a very compassionate man, Kyle, and it appears that you tend to leap into action without considering the consequences. Sometimes this is a good thing, but sometimes it can open Pandora's Box."
A look of despair crossed Kyle's expressive face. "I certainly opened Pandora's Box the morning I kissed Jay in the FBI parking lot."
"Kyle, I've said it before and I'll say it again. You were not responsible for what happened to you and Jay, nor was he. What will it take to convince you of that?"
"There's nothing you can say or do to convince me. You're just trying to make me feel not guilty."
Doctor Foster thought hard and fast for a few minutes. I'm losing him. I have to come up with a way to convince him he wasn't responsible. There's got to be someone who knows something about his attacker that can help. Wait a minute. I've got it! He picked up the phone and dialed. "Janet, get me Special Agent Hunter over at FBI Field office, please. Thank you." He hung up the phone. It rang a couple of minutes later.
Kyle answered it. "It's for you." he said as he handed the phone over.
"Doctor Foster. Ah, yes. Thank you Agent Hunter for taking my call. I need your help with something. If you have some free time, would you mind coming over to County General and clearing up a few misconceptions regarding the Kyle Matthews and Jayson Williams cases?" There was a slight pause. "An hour? Perfect. Thank you so much. See you then. Goodbye, Agent Hunter." He turned to Kyle. "If you won't take my word for it, perhaps the investigator who lead the team that rescued you and apprehended your attacker can convince you."
"Well, I'm not going anywhere anytime soon, obviously."
"Since it will be about an hour before he gets here, how about a game of Killer Bunnies with your friends?"
"Like any of them would still be waiting around to play games with a nut job."
"You're not a nut job." Doctor Foster said, a little bit more forceful than he intended. "As far as whether or not your friends would still be here, see for yourself." He went over to the door, opened it and motioned outside. Jay, Tommy, Andy and Karin came in. "See, I told you they were still here."
"And the rest of the gang would have loved to be here too, but Doctor Foster wouldn't allow anyone else to come." Jay said, smiling, his love for Kyle shining in his eyes.
Kyle laid there, surprised that his friends were actually there. They had come to see him, with no sign of judgment on any of their faces. He started crying tears of shame.
"Hey, hey, hey, there's no reason to cry." Jay said gently as he took Kyle into his arms. Tommy and Andy went around to the other side of the bed and put their hands on his shoulders while Karin rubbed his back gently.
"I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I never expected to see any of you. I didn't think anyone would want to have anything to do with me again. I'm such a big loser."
"Kyle, look at me. Look at me." Jay said pulling slightly away from Kyle so he could look him in the eyes. When Kyle refused to make eye contact with him, he gently lifted his chin. "I don't fall in love with losers, and losers don't get the Teacher of the Year and Favorite Teacher awards."
"What?" Kyle whispered, unsure of what he just heard.
"Yes. I wasn't supposed to tell you, so act surprised when the awards are presented. Also, losers don't get awarded a Ph.D., Doctor Matthews." This drew stunned looks and sharp intakes of breath from those gathered around.
"This came for you a couple of days ago. I opened it in case it was something important that had to be taken care of immediately. It's your diploma and Doctorate certificate in quantum physics. There's a letter with it which states that all of your professors agreed that your thesis on how fusion affected molecular cohesion in a sub-zero temperature vacuum was innovative and showed them that you should be working for NASA or some research facility making an obscene salary."
Everyone cheered and started hugging Kyle, who couldn't believe it. "Believe it, Kyle. Here's the diploma, certificate and letter." Jay handed the documents to him.
Sure enough, the certificate said "Doctor Kyle David Matthews, Ph. D., Quantum Physicist". He did it. Despite everything, he achieved his dream.
Something suddenly snapped inside him. Maybe I'm not such a loser after all. He thought. Maybe I do have something to contribute. If only things could be right between Jay and me.