Saving an Angel

by Jason Finigan

This story is set in an alternate reality, and assumes the technology and capabilities of this reality's 23rd century are present in modern-day society.

Portions of this story contain copyrighted characters from other authors. Fictional organizations, situations, and characters from "Out of the Past" are copyright © by Dark Star and are used with permission. Clan Short is copyright © 2004-2008 CSU Productions; all rights reserved

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 may contain scenes which involve sexual situations between young males. If this type of material is offensive to you, or it is not legal for you to be reading this type of material, please do not read any further. This story is copyright © 2007-2008 by Jason Finigan, all rights reserved. Please do not copy this story for distribution or post on any online server without the author's permission. Please send all your comments to:

From the last chapter:

"Daddy, ummm...." I started, thinking of something suddenly, but not knowing how I should tell them about it. Honestly, I don't even know what made me think of it, but it made perfect sense to me and was surprised that no one else had thought of it.

"What is it, Kyle?" Jason asked me.

"Ummm... well, it's kinda stupid," I said, now unsure as to whether they'd actually listen to my idea.

"No, Son. Whatever it is, we want to hear it," Ryan said.

"Well, I was thinking that about what I was talking about with Stan and Paula and Tommy and Adam, and well... what if Tommy and them didn't have to leave?"

"Didn't have to leave?" Ryan asked. "How do you mean?"

"Well, what if they all moved in with us?"

Chapter 17

At first, Ryan just stared at me for a minute. Just like mom used to do whenever I suggested something to her that she thought she should have thought of before. Ryan was just like that exactly. A hushed silence filled the room as all the adults looked at one another, and for a second I thought I'd made a mistake in suggesting what I did.

"That's one smart young man you've got there, Ryan," Gerard said.

"Don't I know it!" Ryan agreed. "Honey, what made you think about Tommy's foster family moving in with us?" Ryan asked, turning his attention back to me.

"Well, Daddy, I didn't want Tommy to get sad because he couldn't see Adam any more, but I also didn't want him to be sad because he had to leave his new brother and sister too. So I figured if we all lived together, we could just be one big family and no one would had to leave anyone."

"You're something special, kiddo," Ryan said, ruffling up my hair.

"Dad!" I complained, trying to put my hair back into place, but knowing it was a lost cause.

"Okay, an option is on the table," Tina announced.

"The question is, is it something practical?" Anna asked.

"I guess that's what we'll have to find out," Jason said.

Over the next hour or so the adults talked amongst themselves, going over the pros and cons of my suggestion. There wasn't really any way for me to fully understand what they were saying as they were using terms I wasn't familiar with. I could tell that they all were interested in my idea, but I guess working out how it'd be possible was a different thing entirely.

After a while, I began to get restless. I mean, sitting there listening to the adults talk was getting a little boring and I wanted to do something; anything but sit around. Thankfully Adam provided that relief for me by hurrying down the stairs.

"Hey, Kyle? Do you guys wanna join us?"

"Sure thing, buddy," I said, grateful for the chance to do something. Stan, Paula, Greg and I followed him up the stairs, where he led us to his bedroom. Tommy was lying back on Adam's bed when we walked in. He looked over at us and sat up.

"Hey guys," Tommy said.

"Okay, Adam, what's up?" I asked after acknowledging Tommy's welcome.

"Tommy says he wants to tell you something," Adam said.

"We're all ears, Tommy," Greg said.

"No you're not!" Adam protested, obviously not catching the meaning of what Greg had said.

"It's an expression, Adam. It means we're listening," Greg explained.

"Oh okay. You guys would look really silly if you were all ears," Adam giggled.

"Yep!" I agreed, laughing at the thought of the bunch of us walking around as giant ears.

"So, what's up, Tommy?" Greg asked.

"Well, I'm kinda worried about what's going to happen now. I mean, I don't want to leave Adam again."

"I know how you must feel, Tommy. I told Dad that I thought you and your new family should just move in with us. This place is certainly big enough."

"Wow! Really?" Tommy exclaimed, his eyes opening so wide I thought they were going to pop out of his head.

"Uh huh," I confirmed.

"What'd they say about that?" Tommy asked.

"I dunno. They were talking about it when Adam came to get us. I didn't really understand what they were saying, but I think Dad and Pop liked the idea.

"That would be so cool," Tommy said excitedly.

"Uh huh. Cause if you guys moved in, then you wouldn't have to feel sad about leaving your new family, and you'd get to stay with Adam and kinda be like a part of our family too," I said.

"I hope they go for it," Greg commented. "Ever since Adam came to the group home, he was lost. I just couldn't let him be alone like that. He's pretty much been by brother since then, even before Dad became our new Dad."

Just then, Ryan's voice called up to them from downstairs. "Kids? Can you all come down for a minute please?"

"Okay, Dad!" I called back. "Well guys, let's go see what Dad wants."

"I ain't no guy," Paula said dejectedly.

"Oh, just come on!" I said, rolling my eyes at her. Together the lot of us went back downstairs, Greg walking pretty much beside me while Adam was practically glued to Tommy's side. Paula and Stan were right behind them. When we met up with the adults, they were still in the living room talking amongst themselves. Ryan was the first to see us, and beckoned us to find a seat. The couch was empty, so the six of us attempted to sit down on it. I'm sure it must have looked kinda silly, with all of us squeezed in there together. I felt more like a sardine in a tin can at that moment actually, but then with Greg with me, it didn't really matter. A couple of the adults were chuckling softly when we sat down, but I didn't pay them much attention. Instead I just looked up at Ryan who was regarding us with a bemused expression on his face.

"You all comfy then?" Ryan asked.

"Yep!" I answered for the group, smiling up at Ryan.

"So I take it Kyle's told you all about his idea then," Ryan suggested, looking at each of us in turn, continuing only when we each nodded our head to let him know that I had. "We've been talking about it down here, and while there's been no agreement as of yet, Tommy, I just wanted you and your brother and sister to know that you are all welcome over here at any time. Kyle, the same goes for you and your brothers. You're allowed to go visit Tommy and Stan and Paula when ever you want to. So long, of course, as it's okay with their parents."

"Does that mean they won't be moving in with us then, Dad?" I asked, some of the excitement in my voice leaving me all of a sudden.

"Not right away, buddy. We can't make any promises. While this is a really large house and only a part of it is being used, having Tommy's foster parents move in with us isn't a decision to make lightly. There's still a lot we don't know about each other, so we'd like to take some time to do just that. In the mean time, however. We felt that it wouldn't be fair to split you guys up. Us adults can already see that there's a bond forming between all of you, which makes all of us really happy."

"Uh huh. They're the best," I agreed enthusiastically.

"So what we've decided for tonight, since they're already here, is that they'll stay the night, which will give you guys more time together. How does that sound?"

"Really, Daddy?" Adam asked, his eyes wide with hopeful excitement.

"Yep. You know that your Pop and I can't stand to see you unhappy, Munchkin," Ryan told him.

"Oh cool!" Adam exclaimed, wrapping his arms around Tommy and practically leaping up onto his lap.

"Honey, I think this is the happiest I've seen Adam," Jason said, hugging Ryan from behind kissing the back of his neck.

"Thanks, babe," Ryan said, putting his hands over Jason's. "Our boys deserve to be happy, after everything they've gone through."

"I couldn't agree more," Jason answered back.

"Well, if you all are finished giving the good news to the little ones, how about I get a hand setting up the table. Dinner's almost ready," Darren announced, walking into the living room.

"What about it, Adam? You and Tommy want to do the honors?" Ryan asked.

"Cool! Okay, Daddy," Adam said, jumping off Tommy's lap and running to Ryan to give him a hug before grabbing Tommy's hand and leading him into the dining room.

"I guess I'm helping, Adam," Tommy laughed, allowing Adam to lead him away from the rest of us.

"Looks like it," I said, smiling at Adam's excitement.

* * *

Who knew that with so many kids sitting around a dining room table, that the food placed upon it would disappear so quickly. Well, actually, I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised. We are, after all, growing boys. All of us except, of course, Paula, who had absolutely no trouble keeping up with us boys. She was happily chattering away with the rest of us, usually telling stories of the things she's caught either Stan or Tommy doing at their house. Like the time Tommy volunteered to make lunch for his brother and sister one time and accidentally knocked over the jar of jam on the floor. While accidents like that are bound to happen around kids (believe me, I know) what was really funny about the whole thing was that in the attempt to clean up the resulting mess, the cat and dog also got into the mix, ending up with jam all over their faces and paws. A couple times the dog even slipped which was funny in and of itself. So not only did they need to clean up the jam from the floor, they also had to give both the cat and the dog a bath to wash the jam off their feet and faces. I didn't envy them the task of giving a cat a bath. I've always heard that cats hate the water. Something that Paula, Stan, and Tommy found out the hard way. I almost doubled over in my seat laughing when I heard that story, and the rest of us, including the adults, were pretty much in the same state. Tommy was blushing furiously, but even he joined in the laughter.

Since Ryan let Tommy, Stan, and Paula stay over for the night, we of course decided the best way to spend the rest of the evening was to challenge each other to a game of Mario Kart on Adam's Wii. We picked Adam's Wii because it was his and Tommy's special day; their first day together after having been separated for so long.

I tell you I've never had so much fun in my entire life as I did that night. Since Greg and I also had Wii consoles as well, we were able to use our controllers at the same time. With three controllers it meant three people at the same time could race each other which was really cool. Tommy and Adam went first of course, and they raced against each other as well as Paula.

Paula wasn't kidding when she said she was good at playing these games. More often than not she was in first place the entire time. What I thought was really sweet of her though, was when she made some obvious mistakes to allow both Adam and Tommy the chance to pass her. I just wanted to hug her right then for doing what she was for those two.

When it was Greg's and my turn, we played against Stan, who proved to be pretty good at the game himself. It was obvious, though, that the amount of practice that Greg and I had that we were definitely better at the game than he was. Still, Stan had a lot of fun, especially when he was shooting turtle shells at either Greg's or my kart, knocking us off the track while he sped forward. He had the cutest little laugh I've heard on a boy his age and thought that he'd definitely be one hell of a boyfriend to someone one day.

As with all things fun, however, it was soon time to be packing it in. Ryan and Jason had come up the stairs to watch us play for a bit before telling us it's time for bed. Of course, that set off the bunch of us, protesting and wanting to stay up longer. Ryan and Jason were adamant about us going to bed though, and to be honest, I was kind of sleepy.

Reluctantly we agreed to hang up the game, Ryan and Jason letting Adam, Tommy, and Paula race one more course before having to turn off the Wii. As we watched them play, my eyes began to widen with excitement, as for the first time I saw Adam doing something he hadn't done before. He was genuinely beating the socks off of Paula! She wasn't making mistakes on purpose this time, rather she was fighting the best she could to catch up to Adam. It was like she was caught in the middle of one of Murphy's laws that said if anything could go wrong, it would go wrong. She was royally getting trounced, and even Tommy was passing her now.

By the end of the race we were cheering both Tommy and Adam along. The two of them were practically neck and neck. Heck, even Ryan and Jason were cheering them along, and they were the ones who had come upstairs to tell it was time for bed.

The entire room erupted in cheers from everyone when Adam at last crossed the finish line, just barely ahead of Tommy, winning the race for the first time. Tommy immediately put his arms around Adam, picking him up off the ground and happily laughing with everyone as they congratulated Adam for winning the Race. None of us could be more happy for the little guy, and you could see his face wore a mixture of expressions including embarrassment and sheer elation. His flushed face was just so cute, and the smile of his could melt the heart of anyone who happened to see it. 'That's my brother,' I thought to myself, and at that moment I couldn't feel more proud of him if I tried.

Once it was all over, though, reluctantly we shut off the Wii.

"Wow, that was... amazing!" I said, still trying to catch my breath from all the excitement.

"I know!" Greg agreed. "He's really picked up on that game well. I'm going to have to challenge him to a race sometime soon."

"Better get in some practice first, babe," I kidded him.

"Hah, I could still beat the socks off you, silly."

"Any time, any place," I laughed.

"Just you wait," he challenged me.

"Okay, you six, it's time for you to get ready for bed. Tommy, Paula, and Stan, your parents are downstairs and are getting ready to leave soon. Why don't you go down there and say good bye before coming back up to brush your teeth," Ryan suggested.

"Be right back, guys," Paula said, already rushing out of the room followed close behind by her brothers.

"Now as for you three. Come on, up and at 'em. Get in the bathroom and brush your teeth, then get into your pajamas," Jason said, motioning us out of Adam's room.

"Did you see that, Pop?" I asked Jason. "Adam really won. I mean, they didn't let him win; he really did win!"

"I saw it, little buddy," Jason confirmed, smiling down at me. "Now scoot," he said, playfully swatting my behind as I ran out of the room giggling.

"Those three are so very special, honey," I heard Ryan say to Jason just before I walked into the bathroom.

"You're right about that, Ryan."

Together the three of us brushed our teeth in the bathroom sink. We were still really energized from the race which caused us to fool around a bit in the bathroom. Pretty soon brushing our teeth turned into a minor water fight as we splashed one another with water by flicking our tooth brushes into the running tap. We didn't get too carried away, though, as I knew Ryan and Jason would not appreciate us getting everything all wet. Eventually we settled down somewhat, and put away our tooth brushes, then cleaning up the little mess we made on the counter.

"So, Dad, who's going to sleep where?" I asked Ryan when we had come back to Adam's room. Tommy, Paula, and Stan were just coming up the stairs after having said good night to their parents.

"I take it you will be sleeping with Greg," Ryan said with a questioning look.

"Uh huh," I said, nodding my head.

"Well, then, Tommy and Stan could use your bed for tonight, while Paula can use your Uncle Darren's room."

"But where's Uncle Darren going to sleep?" Greg asked.

"I think he said something about spending some more time with Mrs. Jacobs," Jason said, winking at Greg.

"Ooooh!" Greg said, giggling slightly as he understood what Jason was hinting at.

"Um, Mr. Hunter..." Paula started.

"Paula, you can call me Ryan, or if you prefer, Uncle Ryan," Ryan stopped her.

Paula smiled up at Ryan before continuing. "Uncle Ryan, we don't have any tooth brushes. We didn't think we were going to be staying the night."

"That's okay, Paula. There are spare tooth brushes under the sink in the bathroom. Just pick one and it's yours whenever you're here, okay?"

"Cool! Thanks, Uncle Ryan," she said before heading off to the bathroom.

"Does that mean you're our uncle too?" Tommy asked timidly.

"If you want, Tommy. I'm not going to make you call me anything that you're not comfortable with," Ryan told him gently, seeing the uncertainty on Tommy's face.

"Thanks, Uncle Ryan. You're a cool Uncle," Tommy said, smiling up at Ryan. He gave him a quick hug before he too ran off to the bathroom to brush his teeth.

"I don't think I've seen him smile like that before," Stan said contemplatively. "Tommy's right. You really are a cool Uncle. Thank you, Uncle Ryan."

"You're welcome, Stan. Now you better get before those two use up all the toothpaste," Ryan kidded him.

"You're silly! Uncle Jay, you've got a nutty boyfriend," Stan said.

"Yep!" Jay agreed, laughing.

"I'll get you later, Dear," Ryan said, blushing slightly.

"Mmm, can't wait, Honey," Jason said suggestively.

"Oh man! What've I gotten myself in to?" Ryan sighed, shaking his head.

"A house full of love?" Jason replied, putting his arm around Ryan.

"Definitely, Babe," Ryan agreed, giving Jason a quick kiss.

Pretty soon Paula, Stan, and Tommy were finished brushing their teeth and came back out into the hallway. Greg had already gone to his room to get changed, while Adam was putting away his game and making sure the controllers were someplace where they wouldn't get knocked over.

I decided I had better get into my own pajamas before Tommy and Stan needed my room. Closing my bedroom door, I quickly stripped off my clothes, and slipped on my pajamas. Picking up my clothes I put them in the hamper then left my room.

"Okay, Tommy, Stan. My room's all yours," I told them.

"Thanks, Kyle," Tommy said, walking past me and into my room followed closely behind by Stan.

"Ready for bed there, little buddy?" Ryan asked me.

"Uh huh," I said, a yawn escaping from my mouth.

"I can see that. It's been a very eventful day. You guys go downstairs and say good night to everyone before you guys get settled into bed."

"Okay, Daddy," I said. Grabbing Greg's hand, I led him and Adam down the stairs into the living room where Darren was cuddled up to Anna on the Love Seat and Tommy's parents were sitting on the couch. Each of us said good night to all the adults, giving them a hug, then hurried back up the stairs where Ryan and Jason were waiting for us.

"Go on guys, get into bed. Kyle and Greg, we'll be right there after we've tucked in Adam and said good night to him," Ryan said.

Greg and I gave Adam a big hug and said good night to him, then went to Greg's room. Greg practically jumped into bed and was quickly under the covers, looking up at me with a huge smile on his face as I stood by the side of the bed. God he looked so cute laying there as he was.

As quickly as I could, I climbed into the bed and threw the covers over top of me. As soon as I did that, Greg moved right up against me and put his arm over my chest, holding me close.

"I love you so much, Kyle," he whispered.

"I love you too, Greg," I whispered back.

Together the two of us just lay there like that, waiting for Ryan and Jason to come say good night to us.

* * *

"Good morning, Babe," I said, looking into my boyfriend's eyes.

"Good morning," he answered, giving me a nice morning kiss.

It was definitely morning. The sun was already shining bright in the room and I could hear the sounds of cars outside the window; people heading out to work or where ever it was they needed to get to. Not that it mattered to me. Right then and there, the only thing mattered was the cute boy laying beside me in bed. I couldn't stop myself from looking into his eyes which were filled with his love for me. Had it been my choice, I would have lay there with him the entire day. But as it was, there were other things that needed to be attended to.

"I gotta go," I said, quickly scrambling to get out from under the warm blankets.

"Me too."

What a sight we must have been; two half naked boys with obvious tents in our pajamas heading for the bathroom at the same time. There is just no getting in between a boy's bladder and the bathroom in the morning. As my mom used to say, not unless you wanted to get your feet wet. She could come up with some of the silliest things to say I think.

Don't ask me how long we were in there together taking care of our morning business, but I can tell you that after playing a long game of 'cross the streams' we were both wide awake and giggling. We didn't leave the bathroom until we had brushed our teeth, though. Morning breath is so gross! Together the two of us ran back into Greg's room and jumped into the bed, getting back under the covers.

I was still in a playful mood.

Couldn't help it. Looking over at Greg mischievously, I slowly moved my bare foot over towards him. Greg didn't notice what I was doing until my foot touched his. His reaction, however, was swift and dramatic. He shouted out loud, and instinctively jerked his foot away from mine. I wasn't going to give up so easily though, and began to chase his foot around the bed with mine, the both of us laughing out loud.

"Alright you two, what's with all the noise?" Jason's voice said from the doorway.

"Nothing," I answered, still giggling and trying to trap Greg's foot with mine.

"Oh nothing is it?" Jason said, walking into the room with a very mischievous grin on his face.

"Uh huh."

The closer he got to the bed, the more I watched him. I'd stopped trying to get Greg's foot, and began to giggle at Jason's approach. He was moving slowly, like a cat would stalking his prey just before it pounced. And oh my God did Jason pounce!

Before Greg and I could do anything, Jason was leaping onto the bed, a hand on each of our ribs, tickling us mercilously.

"Nothing huh?"

"Nope, nothing!" I laughed.

Greg was laughing hysterically beside me, and who could blame him. Jason knew just where to tickle us.

"What's with the racket?" Ryan's sleepy voice said from the door. Jason stopped tickling us and looked back at Ryan.

"Daddy, Pop's tickling us!" Greg said, still laughing.

"Oh he was was he?" Ryan said. "Jason?"

"They woke me up," Jason said simply.

"Oh. Okay. Carry on then," Ryan said, smiling.

"Daddy!" I complained just before Jason resumed his tickling of us.

"You sorry?" Jason asked us.

"Yeah!" we both laughed, struggling to escape his fingers.

"Okay," he said, and stopped tickling us. "Love you guys."

"Love you too, Pop," Greg answered.

"Love you too, Pop," I repeated, not one to be left out.

He put his arms around the both of us, holding us together in a big group hug. It felt really nice.

"You guys ready for breakfast?" Jason asked, sitting up finally.

"Yeah!" we answered in unision.

"Well, I'll leave the two of you to get dressed and I'll meet you downstairs. Come on you two, up and at 'em," Jason said, before getting up off the bed and walking out of the room.

"It's a good thing he stopped tickling us when he did," Greg said.

"Why's that, Babe?"

"Cause I think I would have peed my pajamas if he didn't," Greg laughed.

"Yeah, me too. And we already went this morning!" I agreed. "I'll be right back, Babe. I gotta get dressed," I said, leaning over to give him a kiss.

"You keep kissing me like that, and I might just not let you," Greg answered dreamily, causing me to giggle.

Leaving his room, I walked over to my room. The door was partially opened, but still I knocked on it. There was no answer inside, so I opened the door a little bit more. The sight before me was the cutest thing I had ever seen in my life. Quickly, I rushed back to Greg's room where he was just pulling up his underwear giving me a nice view of his cute little butt.

"Hey, cutie? You gotta come look at this," I told him, causing him to jump slightly.

"Enjoy the view, Babe?" he asked.

"Definitely," I replied, winking at him. "But you've gotta see something else"

"Oh?" he asked, pulling on a pair of track pants.

Together the two of us walked back to my room where I let Greg get a good look inside, a wide smile soon appeared on his face. Inside my room, laying on my bed, still fast asleep, were Tommy, Stan, and Adam. Adam was snuggled in close to Tommy with Tommy's arm securely wrapped around Adam's chest.

"Think we should wake them up, Babe?" I whispered.

"Yeah, we should. But that is just so cute," he replied.

"Definitely. Come on." I led him into the room and stopped by the side of the bed where Tommy and Adam were sleeping.

Gently I reached out with my hand and shook Adam's shoulder gently. "Adam, buddy."

"Huh?" Adam said sleepily, his eyes slowly opening.

"Time to get up, Bro," I whispered.

"Hi, Kyle. Hi, Greg," Adam yawned.

"You wanna wake up your brother and Stan? Pop said breakfast will be ready soon," Greg told him.

"Uh huh," Adam answered. The two of us left the room, looking back one more time as Adam slowly sat up and try to wake up his brother.

"What about Paula?" I asked Greg.

"We'd better see if she's awake as well."

"Yeah. Don't think she'd be too happy to be left out of breakfast," Greg said.

"Nope," I agreed, and together the two of us walked over to Darren's room, where Paula had slept.

* * *

Paula wasn't that easy to wake up. The door to her room had been closed, and Greg and I didn't want to walk into the room. Mostly because she was a girl. The only room I've ever walked into without knocking was my mom's room. And that was usually when I got scared because of a thunderstorm or a bad dream. Most of the time my mom never even closed her door, except when she was changing.

In the end, Ryan was the one who woke her up, after Greg had gone to get him. Ryan had been downstairs getting the coffee pot ready. I think he thought it was funny that Greg and I didn't want to go in to wake her up, but he understood. After all, Greg and I were only ten years old and boys. Boys just don't go walking in on girls when the door is closed.

We stood out in the hallway when Ryan knocked on Paula's door, then opened it, calling her name. When she didn't answer, he walked inside, leaving the door open. A few minutes later Ryan came back out, and closed the door again, telling us that she was awake and will be down shortly. He then walked behind us, as we all went downstairs and into the kitchen.

Jason was already cooking up some bacon and eggs. With the number of people that were going to be having breakfast, I just knew that he'd be cooking for a little while.

It was at that time when the front door opened, and Darren and Anna came walking in. Upon seeing them, I rushed over and lept into Darren's arms, giving him a really big hug, then doing the same with Anna. Greg, of course, had to have his turn which both Darren and Anna were only too happy to oblige.

When Darren walked into the kitchen and saw Jason happily away at the stove, he suddenly stopped. The strangest look came over his face, a look that Ryan saw at once. Clearing his throat, Ryan tried to get Jason's attention, since Jason still hadn't seen Darren or Anna yet. The second time Ryan cleared his throat, Jason finally looked behind him, and just froze. There was no mistaking Jason's reaction to the look on Darren's face, and I could see it was really beginning to make Jason worried. He kept looking at Darren, and then at the food he was cooking, and then back at Darren again.

A couple of times, Jason's mouth opened, as if he was trying to say something, but no sound came out of his mouth. Thankfully Ryan was there to rescue him by gently guiding him to the kitchen table and sitting him down in the chair. I don't know whether Jason was scared or what, but his eyes never left Darren's face.

"Um, I should find out what's wrong," Ryan said, slipping out of the kitchen to follow after Jason.

"What happened?" I asked, still not clear as to what was going on.

"I don't know, little one," Anna said gently. "Why don't you get some orange juice out of the fridge."

"Okay," I answered. Anna took out some glasses from the cupboard while I pulled out the jug of orange juice from the fridge. She placed the glasses on the kitchen table and I opened up the jug and began to pour the orange juice into each one. Anna had put out enough glasses for all of us kids. At the same time, Darren had picked up the spatula from the floor, cleaned it, and continued with the cooking that Jason had started. Shortly after, Adam, Tommy, Stan, and Paula all came down the stairs.

"Why's Poppa sad?" Adam asked.

"Why do you ask that, Adam?" Anna asked.

"Cause I heard him cryin' upstairs," Adam answered.

"It's okay, little one. I'm sure your Dad will make it better for your Pop," Anna said.

"Okay," Adam's little voice said.

"So do I get a hug?" Anna asked him. His answer was immediate as she found herself being hugged tightly by an eight year old.

"I missed you, Aunt Anna," Adam replied.

"I missed you too, Adam," she told him before setting him down.

"There's some orange juice on the table for all of you. Why don't you all take it to the dining room. Breakfast should be ready soon," Darren said.

"Okay, Uncle Darren," I said, grabbing one of the glasses, and making my way towards the dining room. Greg, Adam, Tommy, Stan, and Paula followed after me, each of them picking a chair to sit in at the table. We sat in silence, all of us, I think, worried about what had upset Jason so much.

Pretty soon, Darren and Anna had started bringing the food into the dining room. Besides the eggs and Bacon, Darren had also made up some toast, and even made up some waffles. I'm guessing they were the frozen type that he just put in the toaster since there wasn't any way he could have made up a fresh batch of waffles and cooked them that fast.

At first I didn't want to start eating yet, since Ryan and Jason weren't here, but Anna insisted that we begin, telling us that it was okay and that Ryan and Jason would be down soon enough. It still didn't seem right to eat without them, but then again, my stomach was telling me otherwise. Who am I to argue with my stomach, especially with Anna staring at me to make sure I ate.

Ryan and Jason did eventually come back downstairs. I could see that Jason had been crying, and I got up from the table to give him a hug. It seemed it was just what he needed because he really held me tight for a while before letting me go.

"Are you okay, Jason?" Anna asked gently.

"Yeah. It was something stupid. I'm sorry, Uncle Darren."

"Don't worry about it, Jason. I'm not upset with you."

"Jason, have you made an appointment with the councilor I suggested you go see?" Anna asked.

"No, I haven't. Not yet," Jason admitted.

"Well, I think it's important that you make one today. I've never seen you like that before," Anna told him.

"It's okay, Anna. Jason told me what happened, and I can understand it. But you're right. He definitely needs to talk to someone about it," Ryan said. "Uncle Darren, the look you gave him in the kitchen, well it was the same look that his father used to give him, right before the yelling and hitting started." There was a collective gasp by everyone in the room, followed by complete silence upon hearing what Ryan was telling us.

Editor's Notes:

Poor Jason; it is a very sad fact that a fully grown adult will still have flashbacks to traumatic events from childhood. It is doubly sad to think that any child would be punished by hitting them. Don't get me wrong, I am not against spanking a child if the occasion calls for it, but there is a huge difference between a spanking and hitting a child, to the point where the child is frightened half to death about it. Nothing that a child can do is bad enough to require a beating. I also think that belittling a child is in excusable. That is mental abuse. I can hardly wait for the next chapter.

Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher