M/M, m/m, M/m


This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

This story contains descriptions of explicit sexual acts of boys and men discovering their sexuality. It contains graphic scenes of sex between consenting underage boys, consenting adult males and boys with adult males (eventually). If this type of content offends you or you are under the age of 18, do not read it.


If it is illegal to read such material where you live or if you find the topic distasteful, then please stop reading now. You have been warned.


This story is the property of the author. It can be downloaded for personal reading pleasure or sending to a friend, but if you wish to re-post them at your own site, please contact the author for permission.


Copyright 2016 WSC, all rights reserved.


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Author's Note:


I started writing this story, never intending it to grow into what it has become. It seems to have taken on a life of its own. I hope you enjoy.


Also, if you are enjoying this story, my first story can be found here:



Chapter 49 – Happy? Birthday


Tom's alarm announced the new day promptly at six, also waking me in the process. Though this was still his week to have early duty, I was too excited to waste a single extra moment of this day in bed. The most important one of my life so far (to me, anyway) had finally arrived, Thursday, March 13th, Joey and Alex's first birthday with their new family. Today was sure to be filled with all sorts of new experiences and I just couldn't wait to experience them. * When Tom came out of the bathroom, I was standing by the bedroom door waiting for him, almost dancing because of my giddiness.


He took one look at me and said, "Look, if you need the bathroom that bad, it's all yours, I'm done."


"I don't need a bathroom, bubba. I'm just excited. Look, I've waited for years to celebrate my kids' birthdays and I finally get to do that today. I can't wait."


"Holy crap, man, if you don't chill out, I'm gonna have to tie you to the bed just to keep your ass from floating away."


"While that sure sounds like it would be a fun time, lover, today is not the day. C'mon, let's go wake `em up."


We quietly padded across the house and stopped to wake the trio first. "C'mon guys, let's get moving." I whispered while poking them in the ribs, Tom watching in astonishment.


"Hey, that's not how you told me to wake `em up. You said to be nice and gentle and I'd get a better response."


"Sh-h-h, they'll hear ya next door," I whispered back. "Boys, get your buns in gear. We gotta' wake up Alex and Joey and I want your help. Roll on outta' there and hit the can."


"Yeah, dad, we're movin'," T.J. moaned, sticking a foot out from the under covers and wiggling it around as if to prove his point. I finally got all three going and each made a quick stop in the bathroom before we motored on. "What're we doin', dads, this don't make sense."


"It's their birthday. I want to give them a wakeup call they won't forget. I want you three to run in there and start dancin' and jumpin' all over their bed."


"Really?" Andy asked, eyes wide open in surprise.


"Really. Just don't land on `em, okay?" We'd reached their door and with my hand on the knob, I asked, "Okay, you guys ready to rumble?" Receiving three eager nods in response, I counted down and then pushed the door open. "Three, two, one, GO!" They were gone in the blink of an eye and Tom and I followed along when we could hear their wild giggles and screams as they started to pummel Alex and Joey. The twins had burrowed deep under the covers to escape the onslaught, but they were fighting a losing battle.


Finally, from under covers I heard one of them yell, "Hey! What's the big idea!? We're tryin' to sleep here."


"Happy Birthday, sleepyheads!" I yelled. "Time to get up!"


Alex finally pulled the covers down far enough to expose his head, looked at me and grumbled, "Look, buster, I will get even for this. You better start sleepin' with one eye open."


"Oh, c'mon you two, let's get movin'," I pleaded. "It's a beautiful day and you need to enjoy every second of it. We'll see y'all in the kitchen for breakfast. Let's GO!" Tom and I left the room to get ready for our busy day, picking up the cake and shopping for birthday gifts. I could hear Joey and Alex kicking the others out of their room so they could get up. Ten minutes later, we'd reassembled in the kitchen where the boys decided on cereal for their breakfast while Tom and I had some English muffins with butter and honey.


"You guys ready for a great day?" I asked.


"What's so great about it," Joey asked. "We still gotta' go to school. Big whoop."


"But it's your birthday. Aren't you just a little bit excited?"


"Not really," Alex replied. "It's just another day to us, dad. Besides, the party's Saturday."


"Yeah, the Mueller's never did anything for our birthdays," Joey added.


"Good thing we're not Mueller's, then. Or do you want us to forget about cake, ice cream and presents tonight?"


"Hey, if we're not having a party tonight," Tom began, "we better call our parents and tell `em they can stay home tonight. And I guess they can return whatever presents they got. Maybe they can buy something for themselves."


"Better call Carol, Dylan, Lee and Carl and tell them, too," I commented as I continued his thought. "No sense in them wastin' their time comin' out if we're not havin' a party." By this time, Joey and Alex's eyes had reached saucer-size and their mouths were wide open. "Close your mouths, you two, you're gonna start catchin' flies," I snickered.


"Really!? They're all really comin' out, just for our birthday," Alex exclaimed.


"We thought you was just kiddin' `bout that," Joey added.


"Boys, I never kid about a party. Of course, they'll all be here tonight. The party Saturday is just for your friends from school. Whatever made you think I wasn't serious about tonight's family party?"


"Like I said, the Muellers never did nothin'."


"Yeah, I guess we just thought that's what everyone did on their birthdays, nothin."


"Not in this family, boys. We celebrate! Now, get happy, let's see at least a little bit of excitement." Joey and Alex looked at each other in surprise, then laid their heads on each other's shoulder and started crying. Startled at this development, I walked around the counter, wrapped an arm around each of them and asked, "What's wrong, guys? You should be happy."


Alex looked up at me, tears streaming down his cheeks, and whimpered, "We are happy, dad, happier than we can ever remember."


"Well, you sure have a funny way of showin' it."


"We both know our real mom and dad loved us," Joey cried, "but we can't remember it."


"And the Mueller's never cared about us," Alex continued, "they just wanted the stinkin' money."


They looked at each other again and Alex whispered to Joey, "We got a lot to learn `bout bein' in a real family, bro'," receiving a nod in agreement. I signaled Tom to give me a paper towel. After he handed it to me, I dried both faces.


"Thanks for findin' us and givin' a real family, dad," Alex said.


"And we're glad you're a part of it. Life would be awfully boring around here without you two." I gave each another hug and added, "Look, we better get moving or we're going to miss the bus. All of you, get your bowls rinsed and in the sink. The stuff in the dishwasher is clean and I haven't emptied it yet. Then, get your packs and coats and we'll meet up in the car." The boys disappeared into their rooms. When I turned to collect Tom so we could get ready to go, I noticed his eyes were just as red as Joey and Alex's. "C'mon, softy, I was includin' us in that."


"Yeah, just a minute," he replied as he ripped another paper towel off the roll and dried his own eyes. Once he'd done that and forced a smile on his face, he said, "Okay, I'm ready."


"Ya sure, big guy? If you're too emotional to deal with this today, I can do it myself," I snickered.


"Oh, would you shut the hell up and get moving? Time's a wastin' and we're gonna be late to meet the bus." He took the lead and as we walked through the house, he added, "I fuckin' hate those fuckin' lowlifes. Four years without even acknowledging their birthday. There ought to be a fuckin' law against shit like that. You better hope I never see them again, `cause if I do, you're gonna have to bail my ass outta jail."


When we'd reached the end of the drive, I decided to wait for the bus to arrive since we weren't going back to the house. As I saw the bus lumbering up the road, everybody got out of the car and we made sure we got our hugs before the boys ran to climb on. With my usual reminder to `learn something new today', I received four waves and a rather loud `yeah, whatever' from the fantastic five as they headed off to join their peers for the ride to school.


About halfway to the bus, Alex suddenly stopped, turned around and ran back to us. He wrapped us is a quick hug and said, "Thanks, again, dads. I love you both." Before we could respond, he was off, again, running to join his brothers. After a quick wave to Carl, Tom and I headed to town to take care of our shopping and other errands.


On the way to town, I realized I still hadn't gotten the cashier's check I needed to pay for the new Flex, so the bank was our first stop. As I pulled into the parking lot, Tom asked, "What're we doing here? You gonna rob the place to pay for stuff today."


"No, we need to get the cashier's check for the new car. It's supposed to be here tomorrow and I don't want to have to deal with this while trying to take Andy to the doctor and picking up the new car. Why don't you come in with me?"


"What, you need a guard? Afraid somebody'll mug your sorry ass on the way out the door?"


"No, I want to get you added as a signatory on my accounts."


"Uh, don't you think it's a little early for that? I mean, we're not even married yet."


"So, what's that got to do with it? We might as well take care of it since we're both here. Besides, you're not changing your last name when we are married, are you?"


"Hm-m-m, hadn't thought about that. Mr. Thomas Sanders? Not too sure I like the sound of that. Ooh, wait, how `bout `Mr. Thomas Wright-Sanders?" he asked, giggling. "Yeah, now that, I could get used to. I've always wanted a hyphen, makes you sound like a sophisticate. But, wait a sec," he paused thoughtfully, "why should I change my name, why don't you change yours?"


"Because, bonehead, I'm a rich and famous author, remember. We don't change our names for anyone." We both broke up in laughter as we walked into the bank, earning several confused stares from the other customers and employees. As we walked to a teller to get the check, I realized I'd forgotten the note I'd written the total on and made a quick call to Herb to make sure I remembered the amount correctly. As luck would have it, the car had arrived early this morning and Herb said I could pick it up any time. With check in hand, we next met with a personal banker to get Tom's name added to my accounts and safety deposit box. After we had signed all the cards and forms we needed to, Tom leaned over and gave me a kiss, receiving a look of surprise from the person who'd helped us.


Before we left the bank to continue our errands, I asked to speak to the bank's President for a moment. After waiting a few minutes, we were led into her expansive and beautifully furnished office and she stood to receive us.


"Good morning, Mr. Sanders. Always a pleasure. How are you today?"


"I'm doing great, Joy. How are you this bright and beautiful day?"


"Not too bad, thanks for asking. Of course, I'd be doing a whole lot better if all the money in that vault out there were actually mine," she laughed. "What can I do for you today?"


"First, I'd like you to introduce my fiancé, Tom Wright."


"Good morning, Mr. Wright. Nice to meet you," she replied, extending a hand which Tom grasped and gave a perfunctory shake before retaking his seat.


"I've just added him to all my accounts and safety deposit box. I'd like to get a new debit card for him, also. And, I need to make sure that he won't have any problems with accessing our accounts should something happen to me."


"Max, what the hell!?" Tom asked. He turned to Joy to apologize for his outburst. "I'm sorry Joy, but we haven't talked about this at all. I'm just surprised." He turned back to me and added, "Really, man, what are you talking about? I've told you, I don't want your money."


"Tom, if something happens to me, you need to be able to take care of our sons. It's just that simple. I need to talk to James about drawing up a new will and I'll take care of that next week, but I'm just trying to be prepared and make sure our boys are taken care of."


"Well, thank god for that, I guess. This whole thing makes me uncomfortable."


"I know that, Tom." I turned back to Joy and continued. "So, we won't have any problems, will we?"


"We won't. Unless, of course, Mr. Wright is the cause of your untimely demise," she giggled.


"Good, I'm glad to hear it. Next, I haven't checked for a while, can you look and tell me the balances in my checking and savings accounts?"


She got busy with her computer and finally answered, "After deducting for the cashier's check you just picked up, you have $156,732.56 in checking and $641,985.12 in the savings. Your royalty checks from your publisher are still coming into the savings account and when the checking gets below $100,000.00, we automatically transfer from savings to bring it back up to $250,000.00, as you requested."


"Okay, I don't see any reason to change that, do you, Tom?"


"Gee, I don't know, Max," he replied sarcastically. "You may want to bump it up to $200,000 and half a mill. Five boys can go through an awful lot in a week." He waved a hand in disgust and turned his head away to look out the window as Joy laughed aloud.


I looked back to Joy and calmly said, "I think we'll leave it the way it is for right now. But I still want to get the new debit card. Can you do that for us now?"


"Certainly, Mr. Sanders. Give me just a few minutes." She turned her attention to Tom and asked, "What would you like to use for a PIN, Mr. Wright?"


"I don't care," he grumbled. "Just make somethin' up." Joy rapidly left her office to obtain the card.


"You want to tell me what crawled up your ass and died?" I asked.




"I thought we'd settled this problem, Tom."


"I thought so, too, but I'm still having issues with it, I guess."




"I don't know. I've worked my ass off since I got out of high school and in all that time, I haven't earned what you have in a damn savings account. And that doesn't even scratch the surface."


"Pure luck, bubba. All the money in the world doesn't mean a damn thing to me without you and the boys to share it with."


"Yeah, I know, but that still doesn't make it any easier to accept."


"Would it be easier for you if I gave it all away?"


"Don't you dare. You earned it, fair and square, and you deserve to do what you want with it. It's not your fault I'm havin' a hard time adjustin' to bein' rich. I'll get used to it eventually, but it's gonna take me some time."


"You have the rest of your life to get used to it, okay," I grinned.


"Thanks, but I hope it won't take me that long," Tom smiled back.


Joy returned and hesitantly asked, "Everything okay in here?"


"We're fine, Joy. Tom just feels weird about how much money I have."


"I'm tryin' to deal with it, but I'm having a hard time."


"Well, Mr. Wright, I wish I had some sage advice I could share, but I'm afraid we're a wee bit out of my league on this one. The best recommendation I can give you on the spur of the moment is to just sit back and enjoy the ride," she laughed.


"Gee, thanks Joy, that was ever so helpful," he laughed.


"I do what I can, sir." She handed Tom the new debit card and added, "Here's your new card, Mr. Wright. The PIN code we selected is 9653. If you'd like something different, just let me know and I'll be happy to set it to whatever you'd like."


"No, that's fine," Tom replied as he slipped the new card into his wallet.


"Anything else I can help you two with today?"


"No, Joy," I answered, "I think that's everything we needed. Thanks for your help and I hope you enjoy the rest of your day."


"I will, thanks. Oh, and congratulations on the wedding. I wish you nothing but happiness for your future."


"Thanks, Joy," Tom replied. "Again, sorry for the outburst."


"No problems, Mr. Wright. Sudden wealth almost always causes unexpected reactions from people."


As we climbed into the car to head to our next stop, I asked, "We good, bubba?"


"Yeah, I'm getting' there, slowly but surely. What's our next stop?"


"Might as well pick up the new car since it's here. Doesn't make sense to load this one up and then move it all later, does it?"


"No, I guess not. And it saves us a stop tomorrow. Let's go see Herb, then."


When I pulled into the dealership's lot, I parked in front of the rental office to return the car. After settling my bill with them, we headed deeper into the building to find Herb. We finally found him in his office behind a desk covered with numerous deep piles of paper.


I stuck my head in the door and commented, "I hope you never have an avalanche in here, it'd take a week to dig you out."


Herb raised his head and when he saw who was there, he yelled, "Max, Tom, how's my favorite customers?"


"Doing great, Herb, how `bout yourself?"


"Busier than a one-legged man at a butt-kickin' contest, as usual. Come on in and have a seat. You ready to order that Shelby?" he joked.


"Oh, please, don't get him started," I replied, pointing to Tom. "We already have four cars for two drivers and the Flex will make it five. I don't think we really need to add number six to the stables right now."


"Max, you know, it's my opinion that one can never have too many cars."


"I'm well aware of that particular kink in your psyche, Herb, but a man's got to know his limitations."


"What do you think, Tom?"


"I'm with Herb on this one," he answered while looking at me and then turned to Herb and asked, "By the way, do you take debit cards here?" I looked at Tom with surprise on my face.


"You bet. I'll take just about any form of payment except for livestock."


"Great, I just got a brand new one I'm dyin' to try out to make sure it's real. Just out of curiosity, what's a new Shelby going for these days?" Tom asked with a sly wink to Herb.


To his credit, Herb didn't miss a beat as he answered, "Well, they start at about fifty-five grand and you can go up to almost seventy depending on the options. What color you thinkin' about?"


"I kinda partial to the dark blue with the white stripes I've seen in some pictures."


"Excellent choice, Tom. Now, will that be a cash sale or do I need to arrange for some financing?"


"Oh, no, strictly a cash deal. I'm a rich guy, now, ya know," Tom laughed. Herb could no longer maintain a straight face and cracked up laughing along with Tom.


"Okay, you two, can we get down to some real business? We've got a lot to do today and don't have much time to get it all done and still be home before the boys return from school."


"Whoops, sorry, Max, just give me a moment to grab your file. I know it's here somewhere." He rummaged through the top of the desk first and when that proved unsuccessful, started digging through his desk drawers. "Aha, there you are," he exclaimed as he pulled a file from the bottom drawer. He opened it up and started spreading even more papers across his desk while saying, "I'm going to need your signatures on these where I've circled. And, of course, a cashier's check." After I signed the pages, I slid them over to Tom so he could do the same. When we'd both signed everything, Herb asked, "Do you want personalized plates or whatever's next in line?"


I looked to Tom and after receiving a shrug of indifference, I turned back to Herb and said, "How about `SW RANCH'? I think that would be perfect and it suits us to a tee." Tom gave a little snicker of understanding at my choice of plate.


"I'll add that request to the paperwork for the Secretary of State and you should have the new plates in about a month." He reached out, cradling the keys, and added, "Here's the keys to your new Flex. As long as it's in your pocket, all you have to do is hit the start button on the dash. The car locks and unlocks automatically as you walk away from or to it. I hope it will give many years of good service and you and your boys enjoy it."


"Thanks, Herb, I'm sure we will." I turned to Tom, handed him one of the keys and asked, "Why don't you go find somebody to bring the car around? I need to talk to Herb for a moment before we go."


"Sure thing, I'll be waiting outside with it," he responded as he eagerly grabbed the offered key and skipped out of the office.


When he was out of earshot, I turned back to Herb and said, "Okay, time for some serious business, Herb. You know that Shelby you two were just talking about, tryin' to give me a heart attack? Get it ordered, with all available options."


"You sure about that?"


"Damn right, I am. And not a word to Tom. It's going to be my wedding present to him."


"Well, hell, Max, you aren't, by any chance, considering having a second husband, are you? I could use a new Shelby, too," he laughed.


"Sorry, Herb, but, as tempting a catch as you might be, you're not my type, bein' as your straight and all," I laughed. "Besides, I think I can only handle one husband at a time."


"You remember it takes longer to get a Shelby than a regular car, don't you?"


"Yeah, I know the drill, Ford builds the car and then sends it to Shelby out in Vegas for them to do their work on it. No rush, though, the wedding not until May 17."


"That's only two months and four days from now! There's no way we're going to get it in time."


"Yes, you will, I'll make sure of it."


"Well, I'll place the factory order this afternoon and put a rush on it. That'll help, but I can't even begin to guess what Shelby's schedule will be."


"You just get the car ordered and I'll take care of the rest, Herb."


"I'm on it, Max. And my lips are sealed. Thanks for the business. Hope you guys have a great day and wish the boys a happy birthday for me."


"I'll do that. Thanks for everything. Oh, by the way, don't forget that donation we discussed, they can really use the help."


"Already done and your name is in no way connected with it."


"Thank you, Herb." I stood to leave, shook Herb's hand and said, "Always a pleasure, my friend." I headed out to locate Tom and our new Flex. It didn't take long to find the bright red car with the black roof sitting right outside the front door. Tom was happily ensconced in the driver's seat and busy playing with something on the dash, so he didn't see me coming. I slipped into the back seat and cried, "Home, James!"


He spun around and retorted, "Get your ass up here. I ain't nobody's chauffer." After I'd moved around to the front passenger seat and buckled my seatbelt, Tom asked, "Where to, boss?"


"Why don't we hit Walmart first to get the Nerf guns Mike wants to give the Alex and Joey? Then we can swing by Barnes and Noble to get the puzzle books for Andy's gift to them." Tom started driving as we continued our conversation.


"What about the picture frame for T.J., where do you want to look for that?"


"We could probably get something cheap at Walmart, but I'd like to find something of a better quality. I think Jeffery Alans further in on Wabash will be a good place to find something nice."


"What are you getting them?"


"Don't you mean what are we getting them? I was thinking about new bikes. None of the boys came to us with one and I think every growing boy needs a good bike. What do you think?"


"That's a helluva lot better than anything I've thought of. Where are we gonna get those? Walmart?"


"No, there a good locally-owned bike shop on MacArthur across from Town & Country Shopping Center. Whatever we get there may cost a little more than it would at Walmart, but it'll be a better bike."


"Sounds good to me," he replied as he pulled into the parking lot for Walmart. "Hey, while we're here, we should probably get some general food to fill out the pantry a bit. I've noticed we're starting to run out of some things." "


"Good thinking. Let's find the Nerf guns first, then we'll swing through the grocery section." As we turned the corner into the Nerf aisle, I was stunned at the wide assortment and variety of the things available. After about fifteen minutes, we finally settled on a couple of medium sized guns for Alex and Joey and some slightly smaller ones for the other three. We almost got a couple extras for ourselves so we could join in the fun, but we resisted that temptation. We did, however, remember to get several packs of refill darts. According to Tom, there's no such thing as having too much ammo. Once those selections were settled, we headed to the grocery side of the store, passing through the cards, wrap and party items area.


With wrap, cards and everything else we needed party-wise for tonight, it was on to the grocery section to replenish some food supplies. We started at the back of the store and worked our way forward so we'd be close the checkouts when we were done. We were about halfway to the front of the store when we turned into the bread aisle. Tom abruptly stopped moving and I ran into him with the cart.


He turned to face me and said, "No. Turn around right now and pick a different aisle or I'm going to jail. And that ain't happenin' today." I looked around him and saw the reason he changed his mind about getting bread. Damn, what do we have to do to get away from those vile human beings? I made a quick U-turn and we headed to the deli area to get some Virginia Baked Ham so we could have grilled ham and cheese for supper tomorrow night. "Hey, I'm gonna run back across the store to get a small cooler chest for the car. I'll be back in a few minutes." With that, Tom disappeared while I waited in the line at the deli.


As I waited, I was dismayed to see the Mueller's getting closer and closer. When it became obvious they were headed for the deli, also, I thought about leaving the area and going back to pick up the bread we'd bypassed. But then I thought, fuck it, I have just as much right to shop at Walmart as they do and I stayed right where I was. And I didn't want to lose my place in the deli line, either. When they finally joined the line with me, Iris was the first to notice who was in front of them.


"Frank, look, it's that pervert."


I turned around as if I were innocently looking around and when my eyes finally settled on them, I said in my most polite voice, "Well, good morning, Frank and Iris. How are you today?"


"What do you care?" Frank hatefully hissed. "What the hell are you doing in our store?"


"Your store?" I asked in mock surprise. "Oh, please forgive me, I didn't know you two owned a Walmart."


"You know what I mean, fag. Now, answer my damn question," Frank demanded.


"Well, if you really must know, today is Joey and Alex's ninth birthday and we're here to get some things we need for their party tonight. I'm not surprised you don't remember that since you never did anything to commemorate the event for the four years they lived with you."


"Those little faggots can't have a birthday since they're the evil spawn of the beast," Frank responded.


"I bet if you shaved those little blonde heads, you find 666 tattooed under those mops somewhere," Iris added helpfully.


"Ya know, I'm getting really tired of you two. I've tried to be polite to you and you simply refuse to return the favor."


"Yeah, big deal. What the hell you gonna do about it, pussy? You gonna run and tell your mommy and daddy we were mean to you? Gonna tell your daddy to come beat me up?"


"No, Frank, I don't need to tell anybody anything. I'm gonna take care of the problem my own damn self," I answered as I left the cart and took two steps towards him. I'd balled my right hand into a fist and just before that fist found Frank's nose, it was halted mid-flight by a much stronger arm.


"Whoa, Sugar Ray!" Tom yelled, breaking my rage-induced trance. "Go back to our cart and don't move, Max. Right now!" I meekly turned and followed his order. Frank was standing in shock at my violent outburst and Iris was yelling for security. Tom hissed, "Frank, Iris, walk away, now."


"NO!" Iris screamed. "That bastard assaulted my husband and I want to press charges."


"Iris, let me explain the law to you. Max would had to have actually touched Frank for there to have been an assault. That didn't happen. It was close, yes, but no actual contact, so no assault."


Security finally arrived and wanted to know what going on.


"That man right there assaulted my husband and I want him arrested right now!" Iris screamed.


"Ma'am," the guard replied calmly, "If you don't calm down and quit screaming, I'm going to have to ask you to leave the store." The guard turned to Tom asked, "Did you see what happened, sir?"


"Unfortunately, no, I was just coming back after picking up this cooler," he answered, lifting the cooler for the guard to see. "I was able to prevent the situation from escalating, though."


"I thank you for that." The guard turned to the other shoppers in the deli area and asked, "Did anybody here see what happened." The lady in line in front of me raised her hand and nodded. "Thank you, ma'am, may I talk with you for a moment over here, please?" he asked waving his hand to a spot away from the rest of us.


"Certainly." The two stepped several feet away and became involved in a very hushed but animated discussion as Tom rejoined me at the cart.


"What the hell was that, Max?" Tom whispered angrily.


"I don't know."


"What the fuck you mean you don't know?"


"Just that, Tom, I don't know. One moment I was just standing here and the next I was ready to beat the ever-loving shit out that sanctimonious motherfucker. I've never done anything like that before," I ended, shaking my head in disbelief at my actions.


"Fine, don't move. Can you just stand here and do nothing while I try to keep your ass from getting arrested?"


"I think so. I'll try, anyway." I stood in a very confused daze as Tom turned to Frank and Iris.


"Frank, are you okay?"


"What the hell do you care, fag?"


"Frank, despite what think of me personally, I care about all people. I just want to make sure you're not hurt in any way."


"Of course, I'm not hurt. That little pussy boyfriend of yours couldn't hurt me no matter how hard he tried. He never could."


At that moment, the guard and lady shopper separated and we heard him say, "Thank you ma'am, I'm sorry you had to be a witness to such appalling behavior." The guard returned to us and began talking to the Mueller's before Tom and me. "Excuse, me folks, I'm sorry for what happened here and I intend to see that it never happens again in this store."


"Thank you, officer," Frank replied. "I do hope you can keep those kinds of people out of this store in the future," he continued, angrily shaking his finger at us.


"What? I'm sorry, sir, you misunderstood my meaning. According to my witness, and what I just heard with my own ears, it was you two who instigated this entire incident with the way you spoke to this gentleman. I hate to inform you of this, but you two are no longer welcome in this store. Please leave your cart where it is, leave the premises immediately and never return. We'll take care of the items in your cart."


"WHAT!?" Iris screamed like a banshee in heat. "They're the problem! He was going to hurt my husband! He needs to be in jail! They're both faggots who shouldn't be allowed around normal people!"


"Ma'am, that's exactly the type of incendiary language that caused our problem today. And we won't allow that to continue. Please, leave now, before I'm forced to call the police to have them remove you." After the Mueller's stormed off in a huff, the guard finally turned to us. "Please accept my apologies and the store's apologies for what has happened here today, sirs. We certainly don't tolerate that type of behavior in this store. Is there anything I can do for you today?"


"No, thank you." Tom answered. "We're just about done with our shopping, anyway."


"Before you go, can I talk to you for a minute, sir?" the guard asked Tom.


"Sure." Tom turned to me and said, "Go ahead and get the ham, Max, we'll be right over there," pointing to a spot about fifteen feet away. As they walked away, I was still struggling with what I was about to do Frank. Where the hell did that come from? That's NOT who I am. Or is it? I don't think I know, anymore.



"What did you want to talk to me about?" I asked.


"Sir, I hesitate to get involved in personal matters, but I assume the other gentleman is your partner."


"He is."


"Well, please don't take this the wrong way, but is he okay?"


"Now, that's a damn good question," I answered, scratching my head. "This is the first time I've ever seen something like that happen."


"Well, I want to let you know that I was in the security office and watched the whole thing develop on the monitors in there. I even backed up the video to watch it again before coming out here just to make sure I didn't miss something. I've never seen anything like it before, and I work here, for God's sake. Your partner was just standing there, looking around as most shoppers will do as they wait their turn. When he saw who was standing in line behind him, he immediately curled his right hand into a fist. I could see he and the couple were talking to each other, but I couldn't hear what was being said. Then, from out of nowhere, your partner stepped forward and took the swing that you, thankfully, stopped."


"When you talked to the other lady, did she tell you what was said?" I asked.


"She said your partner just said hello and the couple immediately got loud and very verbally abusive. It appears the last thing they said was something about someone being the `spawn of the beast' and having `666 tattooed on their scalps'. It was at that point, your partner, for lack of a better word, snapped."


"We've had a few run-ins with them before. Let's just say we're not friends."


"Well, whatever the history may be between y'all, I think you really need to find some counseling for your partner and try to figure what happened here. It sounds to me like today was an aberration, but better safe than sorry."


"I agree and thank you for your concern. I also appreciate you telling me what was said. It makes it a little easier for me to understand his reaction. Thanks for your help today."


"No problem, sir, I wish you two the best of luck sorting this out."



I had just gotten the ham and was rejoining Tom as the security person walked away. "What was that all about?" I asked.


"We'll talk about it when we get home, babe. Are you okay?"


"I think so. I still don't know what really happened."


"I'll tell you about it, later. Let's finish our shopping here and move on. We have several more stops to make and lots to do at home before the boys come home from school."


Our next stop was Barnes and Noble for the number puzzle books. We picked up a couple Sudoku books for Andy's gift to the twins and a few other number puzzle books to be stashed for the future. Next up was Jeffery Alans to find a good picture frame for T.J.'s gift. We finally settled on a nice solid wood frame that would hold eight pictures, knowing we had more than enough pictures to fill it.


Next on our hit list was the bike shop to pick out two bikes. We went to Ace Bicycle Shop where I'd bought my own bike some years before. After perusing the selection for a bit and receiving some good advice from a very helpful employee, we selected two bikes that were identical except for the colors. Unfortunately, we didn't know what each boys' favorite color is, but we hoped they'd be happy with our selections. It was a bit of a struggle to get both assembled bikes in the car with all our other purchases, but after some careful rearranging, we managed to accomplish the feat.


Our last stop before we could return home was to pick up the birthday cake. After letting the car's navigation system direct us, we finally located the bakery. When the cake was brought out for inspection, we decided it was perfect. Assuming, of course, the boys liked the Transformers. I guess we'd get that answer when they saw it tonight. The cake was placed into a box for the trip home and carefully placed in the car to keep it from sliding around. We could only hope nothing among the other stacks in the back of the car would fall on it. The one funny thing throughout all our shopping was Tom's use of his new debit card at each stop. I was happy that he seemed to be enjoying spending money without worry as he grinned wildly with every swipe of the card.


Upon our return home, we unloaded the car, stashing the bikes and other gifts in our bedroom. The food, of course went into the pantry or fridge and the party supplies were left on the kitchen counter. When that was all done, I made a quick call to my insurance agent to get the new Flex added to my policy and ensure Tom was listed as a driver for all the cars. When we finally sat down to relax for a bit before the boys returned home, I was drained, both physically and mentally.


"Okay," I started, looking at Tom, "Tell me what the hell happened at Wally World. The last thing I remember clearly was seeing the Mueller's in the bread aisle and we made an abrupt about face to avoid them."


"Well, we headed to the deli to get ham and while you waited in line there, I zipped back across the store to grab a small cooler. You remember that?"


"Vaguely, yes. What happened next?"


"Most of this I got from the security guy, so it may not be complete, but hopefully it'll jog your memory. Apparently, the Mueller's got in the deli line behind you. You turned around and saw them and immediately made a fist with your right hand. The three of you then had some sort of conversation during which they said something about `spawn of the beast' and `666 tattooed on their scalps'. It was at that point, you decided you were Sugar Ray Leonard or Michael Spinks and were going to punch Frank. I got back just in time to stop you from blasting him square in the face and probably breaking his nose."


"Oh, god, I remember it now. The `beast' thing and that `666' bullshit is what set me off. But I don't know why."


"How'd that come about?"


"Well, I tried to be polite just by saying hi and asking how they were. I knew it was a waste of breath, but, you know me, I felt I had to try, anyway. Then they asked what we were doing in their store and I told them why we were shopping, but they probably didn't remember it was Joey and Alex's birthday since they never recognized it. That's when Frank said the boys couldn't have a birthday since they were the spawn of the beast. Then Iris added if we shaved their heads, we'd probably find the mark of Satan tattooed there. I tell you, I've never been so fucking furious with anybody. Every little bit of anger I've felt for anybody since I was ten or twelve just burst from nowhere and I was about to rearrange that smug bastard's face." By the time I finished telling the story, my eyes were overflowing tears as I wept in self-pity and anger at my stupidity.


Tom moved over to the couch and held my hands as he responded. "Now it makes sense to me. I just couldn't reconcile what I just saw today with what I've seen from you before, Max. I've never seen that type of reaction from you over anything and I couldn't imagine what drove you to that point."


"I still don't get it, Tom. I've never felt like that my entire life. I could've killed that son-of-a-bitch right there and felt nothing about it except extreme pleasure at having done so. Where the hell does shit like come from?"


"Years and years of repressed anger and pent-up hostility. I saw it several times on the job. Shit builds up over time and people just snap and lose it sometimes."


"But, that's not me, Tom, you know that. I've put all that crap behind me in the past year."


"Obviously, you haven't, babe. You've just buried it deep. And today, it came back to haunt you."


"I'm scared, Tom. I don't know who I am anymore, not after that. I don't think I have any business adopting kids until I figure this out." I had curled up on the couch and was shivering in fear of the monster inside me. Tom embraced me with his strong and comforting arms.


"Max, baby, you're gonna be just fine. You're still the same kind, loving guy. You just need some help to deal with your demons. And I'm going to help you through this, we all will."


"God, I hope so. I don't what I'd do if lost all of you," I whimpered.


"Sh-h-h, don't you worry about it. Come on, let me put you to bed, you'll feel better after a nap." Tom picked me up and carried me to our bedroom. Damn, he's strong. After undressing me, he pulled the covers up to my neck, gave me light kiss and whispered, "I love you, babe. Get some sleep. You'll be better when you wake up." I was out before he closed the bedroom door.



Damn it, I love this guy, but what the hell am I getting myself into? I just told him I'd help him get through this, but how? And we've got a fucking party tonight to get ready for. I need some help and I need it now.


After checking Max's phone for a number, I placed my first call.




"Hi, is this Paul, the guy who used to be Mike Broadhead's foster dad?"


"Yes, who's calling, please?"


"Paul, this is Tom Wright, Max's partner."


"Oh, hi, Tom. What can I do for you today? Everything okay out there?"


"Not really. I need some help and I didn't know who else to call, so I thought I'd start with you. I'm hoping you can help or, if you can't, point me in the direction of someone who can."


"This sounds serious, Tom, what's going on?"


"Well, we had a little problem today while we were out shopping." I continued to explain in as much detail as possible what had happened at Walmart. When I finally wound down, I added, "I've put Max to bed for now, but I don't know where to go from here."


"Look, Tom, I'm not going to sugar-coat this, but you're right, you've got a problem, or rather Max does. Max sounds like he's a powder keg just waiting for someone to light the fuse. I'm sure a bulk of the problem is the rejection by his parents, but there could be other issues we're unaware of compounding the problem."


"That's what I'm afraid of Paul, but even though I told him I'd help him get through this, whatever it is, I don't have a clue what to do."


"You've already taken the first step by calling me. I know Max isn't a child, but it sounds like his issues stem from that time, so I think I can possibly help him. I don't have anybody else scheduled this afternoon, would it be okay if I came out and talked to him. I should be able to tell pretty quickly if this is something I can deal with or if he needs someone else."


"Really? You'd do that?"


"Of course, I will. I consider you folks to be friends and I'm more than happy to help if I can."


"You're a lifesaver, Paul. I can't thank you enough. How soon can you get here?"


"Half an hour work for you?"


"Perfect. I'll see when you get here. Thank you so much." I hung up the phone and placed my second call.


"Wright residence," I heard as dad answered the phone.


"Hey, dad, how ya' doin?"


"Just fine son. Tryin' to get things ready to hit the road so we can be on time for the party. What's up, you sound a bit out of sorts."


"I guess I am, dad. Look, I hate to rush you guys, but can you get here as soon as you can?"


"Well, sure. We could be on the way in about ten minutes."


"Great, dad, I've got a problem here and I just need some help."


"We'll be there as quick as we can, son. Hold down the fort."


"Thanks, I love you both. Hurry, but be careful."


"Always. See you soon." Time for the third call and as hard as the first two were, I was really dreading this one.


"Hello?" Rose answered.


"Hi, Rose, it's Tom."


"Well, hi, Tom. We still on for a party tonight?"


"I sure as hell hope so, but I have a problem out here and I was hoping you and Jim could come out now and see if you can help me."


"What's going on, Tom, is it a problem with one of the boys?"


"No, something weird happened with Max today while we out shopping for the party..."


"Oh, my god, don't say another word, we'll be there as fast we can."


"Thanks, see you when you get here." Having called the only people I could think of, I grabbed a soda from the fridge and sat in the living room to stew in my own thoughts, wondering what the hell I needed to do next. I couldn't think about anything except for my babe sleeping in the other room. I hated to see him hurting for any reason and not be able to help him. But, I knew whatever happened today was way beyond my meager talents. I heard the drive sensor ding and got up to meet whoever had arrived. Fortunately, Paul was on the doorstep shortly after I opened the door.


"Afternoon, Paul, thanks for coming out," I said as I let him in and closed the door.


"Look, Tom, I'm happy to help if I can. Where's Max?"


"Still in bed, asleep, you want me to get him?" I asked while hanging his coat in the closet.


"Not just yet. Before I talk to Max, I want you to tell me again what happened today. I want to know everything possible before I sit down with him."


The drive sensor went off again and I said, "Let's wait a moment on that, Paul. That's probably Max's parents arriving. I called them, too, hoping they might know something that would help. Might as well tell you all the same time."


"That's fine, Tom. Can I grab a drink?"


"Sure, help yourself, kitchen's right over there," I replied, pointing the direction he needed to go.


I opened the door again just as Jim and Rose climbed the two steps up to the porch. "Hi folks, thanks for getting here so quickly."


"Are you kidding me, Tom, this is our son we're talking about," Jim responded. "If he needs help, we're going to do whatever we can."


"Glad to hear it. Let's get your coats hung up, then we can sit and talk." While hanging up their coats, Paul returned with a can of Pepsi in his hand. "Paul, this is Max's mom, Rose and his dad, Jim. Jim, Rose, this is Dr. Paul Kirkland. He was Mike's foster father and he's a psychologist. I called him to see if he might be able to help Max figure out what's going on."


"Well, what is going on?" Rose asked.


"Let's all sit down, first." I led the way to the living room and once everyone had taken a seat, I told the story again of what had happened at Walmart this morning. I did my best to remember every detail, leaving out only the name of the Mueller's.


"Do you know this couple, Tom?" Paul asked.


"Unfortunately, we do. They were the foster parents for Joey and Alex."


"Oh, you mean the Mu..."


"Stop! I don't want to hear the name. It just pisses me off even more every time I hear it, knowing they're somehow the cause for Max's problem. I don't know how I know that, but I do. Maybe it's my cop's intuition, but whatever it is, I know."


"Mr. and Mrs. Sanders, have you ever seen this type behavior from Max before?"


"Never," Rose answered. "Our son is the kindest, gentlest person I know. He doesn't have a violent bone in his body."


"I hate to ask this next question, but it's important for when I talk to Max."


"Go ahead," Jim said.


"Has he ever displayed any signs of or have you seen him torturing or killing small animals or insects?"


"God, no!" Jim exclaimed.


"Good. I'm glad to hear that." Paul turned to me and asked, "Okay, Tom, why don't you go see if you can wake Max? I think I've got everything I need to know for now. I'll leave it up to Max to fill in the blanks."


"I'll try, Paul. Do you want me bring him out here?"


"No, I think we'd be better off to have this conversation in private."


"Okay, I'll be back."


I headed back to our bedroom, quietly opened the door, stepped through and closed the door behind me. I moved to the bed and sat on the edge, brushing my babe's hair off his forehead as I did. He looked so peaceful in his sleep and I hated to disturb him, but I needed him awake to talk to Paul. Maybe we could find out what's going on in his mind.


"Max, babe, can you wake up, please? Somebody's here to talk to you."


"Huh, what's going on? Why am I in bed? We've got a party to get ready for."


"Not yet, we don't, babe. I called Paul Kirkland to come out and talk to you, see if we can figure out what happened this morning."


"We don't have time for that, Tom. We gotta get ready for our parents and the others who are coming."


"Not until you talk to Paul, babe. Please," I begged.


"Oh, fine, let's get this over with. We don't have time for this shit today."


"Thank you, babe. I appreciate you doing this. Stay here and I'll send Paul in." I left the bedroom and walked back to the living room to get Paul. When I rejoined the others, I said "Okay, Paul, he's awake. He's not happy I'm making him talk to you, but he's waiting for you. Down the hall over there and through the double doors on the right."


"Thanks, Tom. I'll be back as soon as I can, folks. It's all up to Max, now." He turned and disappeared down the hall.


"What can we do, Tom?" Rose asked.


"We bought decorations and stuff for the party and they're on the kitchen counter. If you don't mind, would you please do what you can to make this house look like we're having a party here tonight. Until I know what's going on with Max, I can't think about anything else."


"Consider it done, Son," Jim responded as he stood up and patted me on the shoulder. Jim and Rose disappeared into the kitchen and got busy putting up banners, blowing up balloons, and setting up everything they could. When they came back to the living room, Jim said, "Okay, Tom, that's all set up and done. What were you planning to do supper before the party? We could get started on that."


"If I remember it right, I think Joey and Alex asked for mac & cheese, so that won't take long to do. We'll probably have to make more than usual with you two and my parents being here for supper, also."


"I wondered if you'd called them, also," Rose commented. "We could always grill some hot dogs to go with the mac & cheese. That way you wouldn't have make more."


"Good idea, Rose," Jim agreed.


"Of course, it is, it's one of mine and I don't have bad ideas," she laughed.


"Whatever, dear."


The conversation slowly tapered off to silence as we waited patiently to hear from Paul. About an hour later, we heard the drive sensor ding three times, announcing the boys were home from school and waiting in the shelter. Before any of us could move, it dinged again. A minute later, as I was pulling on my coat, the front door opened to reveal my mom and dad standing there, surrounded by the fantastic five.


"Look what we found," dad called out as they stepped inside. "Five perfectly good boys, tossed to the side of the road like trash, I assume out the window of a fast-moving car."


"Grampa, nobody tossed us out a window, we just got off the bus," Mike giggled.


"Oh, sorry Mike, my mistake," he responded, ruffling Mike's hair.


"Mama, Papa, you're here already, too," Joey hollered as he ran through the living room to give them hugs. Of course, he was followed by the other four in a mad dash to see who could give the best hug. Another half hour passed with the boys chattering away with our parents while we waited for some sign of Paul.


Alex had come to sit with me and quietly asked, "Pops, where's dad? I'm feeling like something bad has happened."


"He's in our room talking to Dr. Kirkland about something. He'll join us in a bit." I whispered in response.


After what seemed forever, Paul finally came back to the living room. Mike was the first to react to his presence as he nonchalantly said, "Oh, hi, Mr. Kirkland," and then turned back to his conversation with Rose. When it finally clicked in Mike's brain who was here, he jumped up, ran over to Paul and wrapped his arms around his legs, squealing with delight. "What're you doin' here? How's Mrs. Kirkland? I miss you all bunches."


"We miss you, too, Mike. How are you doing?"


"I'm great, sir. We're a having a party tonight for Alex and Joey's birthday. Are you here for that?"


"No, Mike, I'm here for another reason. Listen, I know you all have a lot to talk about and a party later, but I need to talk to the adults privately for a bit. Would you boys mind going to your rooms for a little bit and watch TV or play a game?"


The boys truly lived up to their `fantastic five' moniker at that moment as they stood as one and headed down the hall to their bedrooms without complaint or question. As the last one to make the turn down the hall, Alex said knowingly, "Let us know when we can come back." I nodded my acknowledgement of his intuition and turned to face Paul who had taken a seat facing the five of us. He looked very solemn and troubled and I was terrified about what he was going to tell us.


"Paul, before you start, you should know the other couple here are my parents, Bill and Estelle. Mom, Dad, Dr. Paul Kirkland."


"Hi, there. Nice to meet you, wish it could be under better circumstances." Paul received nods of acknowledgement from my mom and dad, but they remained seated. Then Paul continued, "First, if Max hadn't given me his permission to discuss this with you, I couldn't, due to doctor/patient confidentiality. He reluctantly did so because, as much as he feels this is his problem alone, he also understands you need to know what's going on, and he just isn't ready to do that himself. We have a real problem on our hands, folks, and I don't think Max is ready to deal with this on his own. He's going to need all the love and support he can get from all you."


"What's going on Paul?" I nervously asked.


"We talked for a while to get things started, but I could feel he was holding something back. I finally got him to agree to hypnosis to try to find the root of his problem. What we discovered under hypnosis is shocking, to say the least. Do the names Frank and Iris Mueller many anything to the rest of you besides Tom, because I know you know them?"


"Well, yeah," Jim answered. My eyes widened in shock that Jim could know these people.


"And how do you know them, Jim?"


"They're members of our church, have been for years. And they used to teach Sunday school to the kids who were in their early teens."


"Yeah, that fits with what Max said," Paul intoned. He took a deep breath and continued, "Okay, there's no easy way to tell you this, so I'm just going to say it. Frank Mueller raped Max repeatedly at the church."


"What the hell are you talking about!?" Jim yelled.


"Oh my god," Rose gasped.


I could do nothing but bury my face in my hands and cry.


"From what he told me, it sounds like Frank somehow discovered Max was gay. Frank then tried to convince Max he really wanted to be straight by showing him what being gay would be like in the worst and most painful way he could. Best I can determine at this moment, the abuse started shortly after Max turned thirteen and continued almost weekly until Max quit going to church. He quit, of course, because of the repeated abuse. During all those assaults, Frank and Iris repeatedly made comments about Max being the `spawn of the beast' and that he had to have `666 tattooed on him' somewhere since he was a faggot. Frank would also tell Max he was driving Satan out of him as he raped him."


"Oh, god," I moaned, "that's what the two of them said about the twins this morning. That's when Max lost control and was going to rip Frank's head off."


"I'm not done yet, Tom. Believe it or not, it gets worse. Max also told me that, as another way to convince him that he really wasn't gay, Frank forced him to have intercourse with his wife, Iris. I'm assuming, in their twisted minds, they somehow thought if Max saw how pleasurable sex with a woman was, he would never want to have sex with a man. Again, all this happened somewhere in the church."


"So why is this coming out now," I asked, desperate for information.


"Basically, Max repressed the memories of the abuse, which is not uncommon in cases like this. People have a way of blocking out things that would otherwise seriously damage their minds and their sense of self-worth. I believe your recent interactions with these people have kicked open the trap door in his mind where those memories were buried. There's also a slim possibility that the workshop you all did at the school yesterday dislodged a few more barriers. From what Max said, some parts of that were pretty intense and that could have caused some unforeseen results. But, it all came to the surface this morning when the Mueller's talked about the twins the same way they'd threatened Max twenty years ago. To Max, he took their comments as a threat to repeat what they'd done to him, only this time with Joey and Alex as their victims. Max's instinct at that moment was to protect your boys at all costs."


"So, why didn't he remember all that after I stopped him?"


"Because it only surfaced for just a moment. As soon as you stopped him from killing Frank, and I'm sure he would have, everything he'd just felt returned to wherever he'd originally hidden it. Since it's all related to his original trauma, he reburied it almost immediately once he felt the threat to the twins had been neutralized."


"Does he remember it all now?" I asked.


"Unfortunately, yes. As painful as it is for Max to do so, under hypnosis, I suggested he not hide it again as it would do nothing but continue to eat away at him. He's going to be much better off dealing with it now than keeping it locked away where it could resurface again, without warning like it did this morning."


"I'm gonna kill that son-of-a-bitch," Jim growled.


"Paul," Rose started, "why didn't Max tell us about this so we could do something to protect him?"


"Who knows? Shame, fear, disgust with himself for being gay, all of the above. You can take your pick. But, think about it this way, through his mind's eye at that age. You were all members of the same church. Max knew how the church felt about homosexuality and, by extension, how you felt about it. He obviously knew what Frank felt. I also think Frank probably threatened to tell you Max's dirty little secret. While Max didn't say this, I think he felt if he told you what was happening or if Frank told you he was gay, you just might continue the abuse at home. So, he kept his mouth shut and internalized it all. I also think that's why he left home as soon as he could and never came back to live with you like so many other young adults do."


Rose looked at Jim and asked, "My god, Jim what have we done? We put our only son in that monster's care for years. We trusted him to take care of Max in those classes and look at what happened."


"But we didn't know!" Jim protested. "How could we protect him from something we didn't know about?"


"I don't know, but we should have done something."


Bill finally spoke up and asked, "So, Dr. Kirkland, what happens next? What can we do now to help Max deal with and get through this in one piece?"


"Well, the first thing I have to do is report these people to the police. I have one victim I know about and there is a good possibility there are more. Due to recent changes in the law, there's no statute of limitations on sexual abuse. I can't believe Max is the only victim of these people. The police will have to investigate and they'll be talking to all of you and other church members who might know about what was happening. What you can't do is force Max to discuss it. Max will talk about it when he's ready to and not before. He may never talk about it with anybody but a therapist, I just don't know. I will also refer Max to a different therapist to help him through this. I think, I hope, that with all your love, support and patience, he'll be fine, but it's going to take some time. There's no such thing as a `quick-fix' for a situation like this."


"What should we do tonight, Paul?" I asked. "Do you think we should still have a party? It seems wrong to carry on as if nothing happened."


"Oddly enough, Tom, that might be the best thing for him right now. Sure, what he's now remembered will cast a shadow over things for quite a while, but living a normal life can be very beneficial to someone who's been through what he has. The worst thing you could do is treat Max any differently than you normally would. You'll have to be the judge of how best to handle things from here on."


"My old boss at the Sherriff's department will be here tonight. I'll let him know about those bastards so he can get an investigation going."


"You can do that, Tom, but I still have to report it also."


At that moment, Max, came into the living room, "What? You all look like you're at a damn funeral. We've got a party to get ready for." Tom jumped up and hustled over to wrap me in a crushing bear hug. "Whoa, big guy. I still need to breathe."


"Max, I'm so sorry. I had no idea you were in such pain."


"Don't feel bad, lover, I didn't know it either, until Paul got me to face the truth. I thought the elephant leaving my chest yesterday was a big deal. Shit, that was nothin'. Now I feel like the whole damn circus has finally moved on."


"I'm glad to hear it. But we need to deal with this."


"And we will, Tom, all in good time," I reassured him. "Let me go talk to our parents and then we can get back to getting ready for a birthday party." Tom and I finished the walk across the living room and sat together on the love seat with the others surrounding us, Tom holding my hand. "I guess Paul's told you all what we learned in there."


"He did, Son," Jim replied, "We want you to know how sorry your mom and I are for not protecting you better."


"Mom, Dad, before you go any further, what happened to me isn't your fault. How could it be? I never told you what was happening and Frank sure as hell wasn't going to, was he? I don't blame you for anything, so don't be feeling guilty about anything. You guys trusted Frank and Iris. Hell, I trusted them and look where that got me. No, the only blame here lies with those two and if it's the last thing I do, I'll see that they pay dearly for it.


"All I ask from all of you right now is to first, don't say anything to the boys, especially Joey and Alex. It would kill them to know what those two pieces of shit have done to me. They'll find out in due time and I'll be the one to tell them when they're old enough to deal with it properly.


"Second, let the police do their job. Tom, Dad, Bill, I know the three of you, right now, want nothing more than to drive to their house and kill them. And I don't blame you one little bit, but please don't do it. I couldn't stand to lose any of you right now. And I know I can't be the only boy those sick fuckers got their hands on. Once the cops start digging and the story gets out, more victims will come forward. And the more that do, the longer those two will be in prison. I can't think of a better punishment for the two of them than to spend the rest of their pathetic, useless lives in prison. I think Frank will be the perfect little bitch for some strapping young cellmate. Providing he doesn't get killed his first day there, not that that would bother me in the least.


"Last, before y'all get overly concerned, I'm in no danger of regressing and hurting myself, so don't go worrying about that. I have way too much to live for to even think about it. Now that I know what caused my reaction this morning, I can control it and learn to live with it. And live with it, I will."


"Max, please don't take this the wrong way," Estelle started, "but you seem way too calm and put together after what you just learned. Are you sure you're okay?"


I gave a harsh little laugh and answered her with, "Calm, Estelle? You have no idea the effort I'm putting in right now to appear calm. I'm furious, absolutely seething with rage and hate at what those people did to me. And while that may be an appropriate response to what I've remembered, I can't and won't allow those emotions to run or ruin my life. I made a promise to myself not too long ago that I was done living with negativity. Each day is a gift and I fully intend to unwrap that gift and enjoy whatever's inside each and every day, from now until I take my very last breath, no matter how hard it may be to do so. With the love I know you all have for me and the support you'll continue to give me, my rage and hate will slowly dissipate until I no longer think about it. It'll be just a wisp of a thought that will disappear the instant I think of you and the boys."


"Max, I believe you are on the right path," Paul commented. "Positivity can do remarkable things in a person's life."


"I well aware of that, Paul. I've surrounded myself with positivity in the form of people I love and who love me back. I don't think I can ask for much more than that."


"Max, I have one question I'd like to ask, if you don't mind?"


"Now's your chance, Bill."


"When you met these people at Steak `n Shake with Alex and Joey, didn't you know who they were?"


"Ya know, Bill, that was the weirdest thing. As they walked up to the table, this faint glimmer of recognition flitted through my mind. You know how it is when run into somebody you haven't seen for a long time, you think `I know this person, but from where?' It was like that, and I just couldn't piece it together. Probably a good thing I didn't that night, huh? But then, it had been twenty years since I'd seen them, and I'd buried what happened so deep, who they really were just wasn't clicking. I thought I caught just a flicker of recognition from Frank, also, but I just blew that off because everywhere I go, people know who I am since my picture is on my book jackets.


"Thanks, Son, I was just curious."


"Well, I think I've done all I can do today," Paul commented. "I should probably head for home so I can have supper with the old ball and chain." Paul stood and headed for the front door with me following behind.


As I passed the hallway, I yelled, "Mike! Get your skinny little behind in here. Mr. Kirkland is getting ready to leave." As we waited for the tornado named Mike to appear, I turned to Paul and said, "Paul, I can't thank you enough for your help today. I couldn't understand where my rage came from this morning, but now that I know the source, I can work on it."


"I'm glad I was able to help, Max. I'm still going to find another therapist to work with you. I'd do it myself, but I'd much rather keep our relationship on a personal level and not a professional one."


"I agree completely. You get me a name and number and I promise I'll follow up with whoever it is." I'd barely finished my sentence when Mike rounded the corner at full tilt boogie and wrapped his arms around Paul's legs again. The other four boys also returned and they joined Tom and their grandparents.


"You leavin' already, Mr. Kirkland? You didn't' stay very long and we hardly got a chance to talk."


"Yes, Mike, I know and I'm sorry. But Joy is going to have supper ready soon and you know she really likes it when I can be there to eat with her."


"Well, you have to come back soon."


"I will, Mike, I promise. We'll both come out soon, okay?"


"Thanks. I love my new home and family, but I miss you guys."


"We miss you, too, little one," Paul replied, kneeling down to return Mike's hug. You take care of yourself, you hear me."


"I don't have to do that, sir. I got dad and pops and my brothers for that. See ya' later," he grinned. With that, Mike turned and went to join Tom, his grandparents and his brothers.


"Max, I have one more thing to say before I go. Don't you, for even one second, think you're not ready to adopt those boys. You need them just as much they need you. I feel you needed to hear that."


"Thank you, Paul. You have no idea what that means to me right now. I was seriously doubting that decision earlier today."


"Trust your instincts and go with them. They'll rarely steer you the wrong way."


"That may be, but when they do go wrong, they go way wrong."


"It can happen to anybody, Max, but you've got the right attitude and a great support group over there. I have a good feeling that you're going to be just fine."


"Yeah, you're right," I started, looking back at my family in the living room, "I'd have a hard time finding a better group of people than them to help." I looked back to Paul and asked, "Would you feel weird if I gave you a hug for your help today?"


"Not at all, come here." Paul and I hugged for a minute and when we finally separated, there were tears running down both our faces. We ingloriously wiped our faces on our sleeves and shared a bit of a chuckle.


"You're a good man, Paul Kirkland, and I'm glad I can count you among my friends."


"Ditto, Max. Take care and if you need anything, call me, please."


"I will. Tell Joy we said hi and we hope to see you soon." Paul waved over his shoulder as he walked down the sidewalk to his car, then climbed in and drove away.


As I headed back to the living room to rejoin the rest of my family, I paused for a few seconds, just to absorb the positive vibes permeating the house at that moment and basked in the glow of warmth I was feeling in my heart thanks to those vibes.


When I got out of bed this morning, full of anticipation of the new experiences I expected to experience today, that was definitely not the experience I had expected to experience. But, what the hell, that's life!


When I had finally rejoined the rest of the family, I asked, "Hey didn't I hear someone say something about a party tonight or what!?"


* I know this an odd thought/sentence, but it comes from something my own dad said many years ago. With both parents being teachers, our family regularly took trips during our summer break. I've been in about 40 of the 48 contiguous states thanks to those travels. Inevitably, the old man would make a wrong turn somewhere and we almost always seemed to wind up on the `wrong side of the tracks' in some god-forsaken hellhole we had no business being in. Thankfully, we always managed to return to civilization before harm could befall any of us. On one those misguided detours, as he was trying to follow the trail of breadcrumbs back to safety, he tossed out the following thought, `Just think, folks, without having this experience, you could never have the experience of telling someone else about having experienced this experience'. Or something really close to that. I do know he had the word `experience' in there at least four times and maybe more than that. Despite our location at that particular moment, some dark and foreboding industrial area of Portland, Oregon, we all found the comment to be quite hilarious, especially considering the circumstances. To this day, with him turning 88 years old earlier this year, we've never let him forget his profound statement of that night. I felt a certain compunction to share this slightly shortened version in this story. 😊