Chapter Twelve: TO ACT AS THREE

a story by: Solace Lenity

This is a story about, well,  love and chance.  It is for the most part, a work of pure fiction, though some of the situations discussed are drawn from life experiences (particularly the romantic ones).  Though not in the beginning, this story will eventually contain sexual acts between consenting adults.  Gay characters have gay sex, so if this bothers you, or if it is illegal to read such materials due to your age or where you live, then please do not read further.  All copyrights are held by the author, so please do not duplicate, print, alter, or resubmit (or anything else I may have missed ) this story without first obtaining written permission from the author. 

Further notes:  This story will address several social issues in a perspective in which you may or may not agree.  It is also a story centered around life and love between friends, family, and partners, along with romance, and it is not intended to be a jerk-off story.  There are spiritual and paranormal themes which affect the lives of the characters.  Finally, the story is told in the various points of view of the characters involved.  (To make this process easier, each character's story is distinguished by a specific color and font style dedicated to that character.)

A SPECIAL THANKS  to Paul for all his help.

This is my first attempt at writing fiction of any kind.  If you have any comments, ideas, suggestions, etc., I would love to hear them. I have greatly enjoyed the comments I have received thus far and wish to thank you all for taking the time to send them.    Please contact me via


'At Thomas was a real special guy, n' he n' Mic fit real good together n' all.  I liked 'im soon as I seen 'im, and I knowd he liked me n' Sorrow, not cause he told us like he did, but cause you could tell what he was feelin'.  It was in ever'thin' he said and did.  The more I's studyin' 'im, the more I realized just what it was 'bout 'im that seemed so familiar to me.  Thomas was lots like our Daddy was.

He's a right handsome fella, really.  He's 'bout as tall as my Sorrow n' Jew  was.  He was real muscle like, though, like Daddy n' I reckon Dad too.  His hair wasn't as dark as Dad's, but it was still kinda brown, and it was real short.  Course, he was one of 'em Marine fellas, so I reckon he had to have it cut all short like that.  He had 'im a real nice smile, all friendly like.  His eyes even sparkled when he was laughin', and his big ol' chest shook when he was doin' it too.  Most of what I's seein', though, was that he looked at Mic like Daddy looked at Dad.  That made me like 'im lots, cause Mic was real special to us.  Not just for what she done for Sorrow, but cause she was just good at makin' ever'body feel lots better 'bout things a goin' on n' all. 

When he first got back home, we all got to meet 'im or say hi to 'im if n' the person  done knowd 'im.  But, then him n' Mic went in their room to be alone n' all.  I reckon they sure was missin' one 'nother, that was for sure.  We got kinda tickled a couple times, cause we heard 'em some.  That's when we 'cided we might just wanna go downstairs.

We visited with our friends  till it was time for all of 'em to go on to their houses n' all.  Shaft n' Dad took 'em home n' was back 'fore we knowd it.  Then, we all talked for a while, till ever'body 'cided we oughta get us some sleep. 

Pops slept in the study, though me n' Sorrow tried to get 'im to take our bed.  He wasn't lonely though, cause Domino n' Chips had done curled up in that ol' couch bed.  Pops thought that was funny n' told our dads to leave 'em pups just where they was.  I guess he liked 'em ol' pups as much as me n' Sorrow did.

Dwayne n' Carter come in our room real early like, just smilin' like thiefs robbin' a bank or somethin'.  Me n' Sorrow was already woked up then, so we just pat a place for 'em on the bed.  They laid down with us for a while, n' we talked 'bout all kinds of stuff.  Mostly, we was thinkin' what we was gonna get our dads for Christmas, since it was comin' up real soon.

Then, we 'cided we was gonna cook breakfast for ever'body.  We hadn't never cooked by ourselfs or nothin', 'cept Sorrow did 'fore he come to live with us, so we was real 'cited bout the idea.  Chips n' Domino come down with us, n' I reckon they noticed that nice smellin' turkey, cause they kept runnin' round the stove just a sniffin' n' all.  Sorrow n' Carter took 'em out, n' me and Dwayne got scrubbed up.  Then, we started makin' breakfast.  Sorrow n' Carter helped us after they fed 'em pups.

We was gonna make biscuits, but 'at turkey was way too big to fit any biscuits in there with it, so we made toast.  We fried up a bunch of bacon n' sausage. 
We thought 'bout fixin' grits, but none of us liked 'em ol' nasty things n' 'cided we just wasn't havin' us no grits.  Then, we fixed lots of eggs for ever'body.    We put em all on plates, n' then loaded 'em up on trays.  We fixed some juice for ever'body too.  Then, we started carryin' up all the trays to ever'body's rooms.

First, we took Hela hers, cause she was just 'bout always cookin' for ever'body.  Then, we took Jena n' Jew theirs.  After that, we gave Cole hers n' Pops his.  Then, we went back downstairs to get more of 'em trays.  We gave all our dads their breakfast next.  Then, Nana n' Grams.  We had to go back down 'em stairs again to get the rest of 'em trays.  Roe was real 'cited we cooked for 'im, n' gave us all big hugs (all of 'em had done that when they got their breakfast, but Roe seemed lots more 'cited 'bout it for some reason).  Finally, we took Thomas and Mic theirs.

Thomas answered the door, n' I seen he had this eagle on his arm.  I smiled lookin' at it, n' he grinned back at me.  "Well, isn't this a fine welcome home!" He said all nice like.  "I knew you four young men were special, but I had no idea.  Honey!  Look at what these guys have done for us!"  He was braggin' to Mic 'bout the breakfast.

"You guys better eat it up 'fore it gets all cold like."  Then, I got to thinkin'.  "Thomas, I hope you don't like 'em ol' grits, cause we didn't fix none of 'em."

Mic started laughin', n' Thomas smiled, bendin' down to me.  "Thanks for that, Chance, but I think grits are kind of gross." 

Us boys all started laughin' then.  "Ain't none of us likes 'em neither, but Daddy n' Ethan sure does.  So, we all eats 'em to make 'em happy."  Then, I told 'im our secret.  "You just gotta swallow 'em real fast like n' drink lots n' lots of juice."

Thomas musta thought that was real funny, cause he let out a real big laugh.  He picked me up n' hugged me all close to 'im.  "I am so going to enjoy having you around, little guy."  He then moved out the door, carryin' me with 'im.  "Come on in, guys, and visit with us."

Sorrow carried in the tray, n' Carter n' Dwayne followed 'im in.  Mic thanked us for breakfast, givin' all of us big hugs n' kisses for it. 

"So, boys, what do you think of my Thomas?"  She smiled, wrappin' her arm 'round his back.

"He's a lot like Uncle Kanawha," Carter said, "only not so hairy."  Then, Carter got real red.  "Sorry, I couldn't help but notice your chest."

Thomas just laughed n' messed up Carter's hair.  "It's fine, buddy.  You're a guy, and guys notice things."  Then, he smiled real big at 'im.  "There's nothing wrong with that."

"I's like 'at eagle you's got on your arm."  I said to 'im.  Then, I raised my shirt, turnin' 'round n' pointin' on my back.  "I wanna get me one of 'em put right here when I get old 'nough to do it."

Thomas turned 'round n' showed me this big ol' tiger he had on his back.  I liked it, too, n' I's even thinkin' 'bout gettin' me one of 'em.  Sorrow was gigglin' at me, cause he knowd what I was thinkin'.

Thomas said he got 'at tiger when he was in Korea.  That got Carter n' Dwayne to askin' lots of questions 'bout that place.  Thomas told us a few stories 'bout all the stuff he done while he was there, what the towns was like n' all that.  It was real 'citin' hearin' 'bout all 'em different places.  He did all that while they was eatin'.  He told us a few times how good our cookin' was n' we all thanked 'im.  Mic thanked us too, of course.  Thomas told us a little bit 'bout the war too, but I could tell there was some stuff he wasn't wantin' to talk 'bout.  None of us asked 'im nothin' to make it like we was tryin' to force 'im to talk 'bout any of that stuff. 

"Well, I think you is just a big ol' hero, if you's askin' me."  I said, all honest. 

Thomas looked kinda sad then.  "No, Chance, buddy.  I am no hero.  I just lived through a few rough points."

I wrapped my arms 'round 'im, huggin' 'im real tight.  "Well, I think you's a hero, regardless."  Then, he hugged me back n' all kinda pictures n' stuff went runnin' through my head.  I seen all kinda stuff 'bout that war, then.  I don't guess I really knowd what a war was till I seen all that stuff, n' it was a real terrible thing. "You's been through lots, n' I think you's real brave."

He kissed the top of my head, all soft like.  "Thanks, buddy." was all he said, but he was holdin' on to me for a real long time.

Sorrow come up to us n' hugged 'im too.  "That makes two of us, Angel.  You are a very brave man, if you ask me."

My belly got the best of me, growlin' like it does.  Sorrow started laughin', sayin' we best get n' get us somethin' to eat.  'Fore we left, though, Thomas asked if us boys was wantin' to play some ball or somethin' later.  We all smiled at 'im, tellin' 'im he was on.

We went down n' fixed us some eggs n' heated up the bacon n' sausage.  Carter fixed us some toast, n' Dwayne fixed us some juice.  We ate, talkin' 'bout how nice Thomas was.  I told Sorrow  'bout what I had seen when Thomas hugged me, but neither of us knowd what to do or why I's seein' all 'at stuff.  After we's all eat, we 'cided to get all the dishes n' stuff put in 'at washin' thing.  We all went up n' got all the trays, then took 'em down n' loaded 'em up.    Me n' Carter washed up the trays while Sorrow started the washin' thing.  Then, him n' Dwayne dried off all 'em trays n' put 'em back up.

When we was done, ever'body was comin' down the steps.  We all talked in the livin' room for a while.  Then, us boys went n' got us showers.  When we come back downstairs, our dads n' the guys was gone.  Hela told us they's all out back, so we went out to talk with 'em.  Hela said the girls was gonna watch dinner n' start fixin' ever'thin' else soon.

When we walked outside, Dad n' Jew n' Thomas n' Shaft n' Roe was doin' this stuff I seen 'em do sometimes 'fore.  Well, I don't guess I seen Thomas do it, but I seen the others.  Dad n' Shaft was teachin' Daddy n' Ethan.  Jew was teachin' Pops.  It was this kung fu exercise stuff Jew did when he was nervous or tryin' to relax.  They asked if us boys wanted to learn, so we was real 'cited bout that.

I felt kinda silly at first, but then I's likin' it.  Thomas said him n' Jew would teach us some to defend us if n' some of 'em bully guys tried to hurt us.  Sorrow told 'im I was a pretty good scrapper, but he reckoned we could use some help just in case. 

So, we started learnin' some of that ol' kung fu stuff.  I think we was layin' on the ground more than anythin', but it was real cool a choppin' n' kickin' n' all that.  Then, Jew n' Thomas went at it, showin' us what we could do once we learned it real good.  It was better n' one of 'em tv shows me n' Sorrow watched sometimes with Daddy!  They was both real fast, spinnin' n' kickin' n' jumpin' n' choppin' n' all that!  I was sure gonna learn me some of how to do all that.

Then, we played us some football.  Thomas n' Dad talked lots, cause I guess they was friends 'fore Thomas had to leave.  Daddy talked with 'im some too. 

Then, Thomas pat Dad on the back.  "You know, I think Kanawha is a fantastic guy.  I'm proud of you, Kal.  You have done well for yourself."

Dad hugged Daddy up.  "Tommy boy, you have no idea!"  Dad laughed.  Then, he smiled.  "Somehow, I just knew you two would hit it off."

"Let's not forget my little Ethan."  Shaft smiled. 

Thomas grinned.  "Shaft, I could never be more happy for anyone."  Then, he looked at Jew.  "And what a difference that Jena has made in you, buddy." Thomas said, pattin' Jew on the back.  "You both seem so content, and I wish you nothing but the best."

We played us some more ball, till  'em pups just up n' stole it.  We chased 'em for a long time tryin' to get it back, but 'em pups just kept gettin' faster.  Shaft got tired n' had to rest on the steps. 

"I guess you are getting too old for this, hey Pa?"  Carter joked.

"I think you might be right, Son."  Shaft laughed. 

Ethan was a bit tuckered out too, cause he just flopped down on the ground.  Then, it was too late.  Chips n' Domino was all over 'im, likin' 'im 'n pullin' on his clothes.  Then, they took his shoes again.  Least they left us the ball, but it was all slobbery.

Shaft almost fell off the steps, he was laughin' so hard.  Ethan said not to worry about the shoes, cause sooner or later, 'em pups would get tired.  He was right, too, cause it wasn't long till they dropped 'em shoes on the porch n' laid down for a nap.  Since 'at ball was all slimy like, we 'cided to wrestle 'round a bit.

Daddy helped me learn some on my moves, since I had me a match next week.  Yep, I done made the team at school.  Sorrow wasn't wantin' to wrestle, but he come to all the practices.  He even told me I looked all hot like in that uniform we had to wear.  Coach put him to helpin' 'im n' TJ with the team, n' Jake too, cause he come to see TJ.  Dwayne n' Ethan always wrestled with me at home, cause we was close to the same size.  Shaft was too busy laughin' to wrestle, so him n' Dad just usually made cracks at us.  Course, we all knowd they was just funnin' us. 

Daddy was a real good teacher, n' I reckoned he was prob'ly better 'n ol' Coach was.  Thomas told 'im he oughta look into helpin' coach, but Daddy said he didn't have 'nough time to be at all the practices.  He was workin' lots at fixin' up the home when he wasn't workin' at his job.  

Me n' the other guys did too, when we wasn't busy with practice or 'at play.  Me n' Sorrow was in that ol' play, too.  We was gonna do it the week 'fore we was out for Christmas.  We didn't have us no big parts, but we was in it, at least.  I reckon it was good we didn't, cause we didn't have to be at all 'em play practices, so that gave us some time to help at the home buildin'.  I guess we was all real busy people, but we did lots of 'at stuff together n' all so we could spend us time with one 'nother.

We had us a great big dinner after that, n' we all told what we was thankful for.    Us boys thanked all of our family for helpin' us when we needed 'em, n' we 'specially thanked our dads for givin' us a home.  Ever'body thanked us boys for bein' part of the family, which we all thought was real nice.  Our dads each said it different, but it was the same.  They was all glad to have us as sons.

Then, we got to eatin'.  Boy was there lots to eat.  I was so full, I don't reckon I could barely move.  I ate me way too much pie, but that ol' pumpkin stuff was too good not to eat it.  We all kinda laid still in the movie room, scared we was gonna pop open if we's moved too much. 

After we rested a bit, Roe had us boys help 'im carry down a bunch of ol' boxes to the living room.  'At's when we started puttin' up the Christmas tree.  This 'n was the first one I 'member helpin' with, n' I got kinda teary a few times.  The one thing that was nice 'bout it though was we did it as a family.  There was lots more to decorate, but we 'cided to do it through the weekend.  We lit up the tree n' sat lookin' at it for a while.  Then, Mic n' Thomas got ready to go to 'at cabin.

"I reckon I's gonna miss you, even if I's just gettin' to meet ya."  I told Thomas.  "I think you's an awful nice fella, n' I's glad you's livin' with us."  Then, I got to smilin'.  "When you gets back, we's gonna get to do more of that kung fu stuff, right?"

He just smiled n' kissed me on the cheek.  "You better believe it, buddy."

"Good.  Then I's be ready when you gets back."  I giggled. 

Then, Thomas 'prised me.  "You know, though, Chance, your Dad is rather skilled in martial arts.  I'm sure he could work with you on some of this while I am gone."  I didn't know Dad knowd how to do all 'at choppin' stuff.  Then, he hugged me again.  "But, I still want to work with you guys once I get back.  I enjoyed our time together."

"So did us boys." 
I smiled at 'im.  Then, I's turned n' looked at Mic.  "You be careful Mic, n' take this with ya'."  I said, givin' her my pocket phone.  "That way, you can call if you's needin' us."

She kissed me on the cheek.  "Chance, honey, I love you!" She smiled at me.  "But, you might need your phone."

Sorrow hugged me from behind, all gentle like.  "Mic, he is always with me, and I have mine.  So, take it, and call if you need us."  Then, he got to thinkin'.  "Call and let us know you made it, too.  Yeah, we all love you, so don't be surprised." He laughed.  "I know everything will be fine, but I know we will still worry, just the same."  Sorrow hugged her, then Thomas.  "I can't wait till you get back!  That was so much fun today, Thomas. Not just the martial arts, but everything, just spending time with you."  Then, my big ol' angel kissed 'im on the cheek.  "We love you too, Thomas.  You're family, after all."  He grinned.

Thomas grabbed Mic by her little ol' waist.  "Honey, you were not kidding about these boys.  They are truly something else."  That made me feel awful proud like.

Carter n' Dwayne hugged 'em both bye, tellin' 'em both to be careful.  The rest of the family then saw 'em off, waivin' as they drove down the street.  It might've just been a few days, but I knowd I's gonna miss 'em both lots.

We went up n' watched us some movies.  Mic called durin' one of 'em to let us know they's safe, thankin' me for lettin' her use my pocket phone.  After the last movie, Ethan n' Jena called their Mom.  Jena talked to their dad first, but he didn't wanna talk to poor ol' Ethan.  So, Jena kinda told 'im off some.  Then, they talked to their Mom.  She musta been 'cited 'bout the boys, cause she wanted to talk to Carter n' Dwayne.  They talked for a while, I guess.  Then, she wanted to talk to Shaft n' Jew some.

After that, Shaft and Cole talked to their Mom n' Dad.  Both of them wanted to talk to Allen n' Ethan.  They talked to Carter n' Dwayne too.  It was right then I knowd they was all gonna be meetin' ever'body soon.  Sorrow grinned at me, cause he knowd it too.

We went on to bed, n' got us some sleep.  I guess we was all real tired, but I think 'at turkey n' pie had somethin' to do with it.  We woke up in the middle of the night, cause me n' Sorrow had us a bad dream.  We 'cided to go see our dads n' ended up sleepin' with 'em.

The next mornin', we got up to fix breakfast with our dads.  We went to see if Carter n' Dwayne wanted to help, but they wasn't in their room.  We started back down the hall, n' then, they was comin' out with their dads from Ethan n' Shaft's room.

"We both had a nightmare last night,"  Dwayne told us.  "so we curled up with Pa and Da."

Me n' Sorrow started laughin'.  "We did too!"  Sorrow told 'em.  "I guess we all had too much turkey or something."

We all went down to the kitchen n' fixed breakfast.  That was kinda fun, cause we had all our dads with us cookin' in the kitchen.  After breakfast, we all got ever'thin' cleaned up n' went down to work on the home.  Hela n' Jena was gonna go shoppin', but us fellas wasn't goin'.  Daddy n' Jew told us boys how awful it was to go a shoppin' on what they said was Black Friday.  Ethan n' Roe loved to shop, but neither one of them wanted to go, neither.  That there 'cided it for us boys.  Cole wasn't goin' neither, sayin' she'd rather be drug by a truck on the highway.  She 'cided she would go work with us.

The other fellas met us there, n' we all started workin'.  Aaron n' Cindy was flirtin' 'round some, but I reckon lots of us was.  It kinda made workin' more fun.  I knowd Dad n' Daddy did lots of that stuff.  So did Ethan n' Shaft, for 'at matter.  I guess me n' Sorrow was guilty of it too. 

I was gettin' ready to use 'at ol' nail gun, when Roe n' Shaft yelled out, "Hit the deck!"  Ever'body thought that was real funny, n' it even made me giggle.  I was extra careful with it, though. 

Cole told me I was doin' a fine job n' not to listen to her 'crazy brother or his goofy friend '.  That had Allen laughin', n' he had to set down his saw for a minute.  I didn't think it was funny, n' I don't reckon Cole was tryin' to be.  I just think Allen musta had 'im one of 'em strange senses of humor or somethin'.  Sorrow giggled some, though, on count that he knowd what I's thinkin'.

"I think that is what it is, Angel." He smiled. 

Grams n' Nana come n' brought ever'body lunch.  They had some big ol' boxes they packed it all in.  We all had us lunch together in one big group. 

I got to know more of Blade's football friends, cause the whole team was there helpin' out.  They was bein' nice to Jake, but I guessed he was still a little hurt that they'd all turned on 'im like they did when he told 'em he was gay.   Kevin n' Alex was there, though Kevin wasn't none too good at that kinda stuff.  Jeff, at big fella that was walkin' at little Mike to school n' back cause he was gettin' all beat up 'fore, was there.  He brought poor Mike with 'im, too, which was nice.   Wyatt talked with Dad lots, but he was real 'cited to find out Aaron n' Cindy could talk with their hands like that too.  See, Cindy had a little brother 'at was like Wyatt, deaf n' all.  I reckon the whole group was there really, but there was quite a few more from school.   Even some of our English class was helpin' out.  That made me feel real proud, 'specially cause Miss Cooper started comin'. 

"Chance, Eric," She started sayin', "I have to say this is such a wonderful thing.  I am so honored you shared this with the class and invited us to be a part of it."

"We're glad to have the help."  Sorrow said, showin' 'at pretty smile of his.  Lord, did he look all handsome right then.  "This will surely help get the home open before Christmas!"  We was all 'cited 'bout gettin' 'em boys off 'em streets, but we was really wantin' 'em to have a home 'fore Christmas got there.  It just seemed like it would make it real special for us all.

Miss Cooper smiled, pattin' his shoulder.  "I sure hope so, Eric."  Then, she got to thinkin'.  "You know, we could have a drive at school for Christmas gifts for the guys that will be staying here.  Even if it is just a class project, I think it would be worth trying."

We's both real happy with that idea.  "I reckon' 'em boys would be happy with anythin'.  Whatever we can do, I's just sure they's gonna 'preciate it."  I said.  Then, I waved to Cole to come over.  She n' Miss Cooper got to talkin' 'bout her idea, n' Cole was thrilled.

Sorrow was lookin' at me all funny, n' then he hugged me up all strong like.  "Chance, this all started when you shared things about yourself.  You inspired Blade, who has really taken off on his own path.  He even has the entire football team helping out.  You also inspired our English class, most of which are here.  And, you inspired the group, all of which are here today."  Then, he kissed me all big like.  "I know you never believe me, but you are the one who has made all of this possible."  Then, he kissed me a bunch more times.  "I am so proud of you, Angel, and I am honored to be your boyfriend.  I know I may say that a lot, but I mean every word of it."

I didn't argue none with 'im.  I just kissed 'im with ever' bit of love I had in me.  Sorrow was real special, n' I knowd it was soon he's gonna see just how special he was.  "I love you, Sorrow.  But, if you's gonna put this on anybody, it should be Dad n' Daddy.  If they didn't find me n' love me like they's did, then I's 'd be out on the street.  Maybe I's 'd even be dead by now."  I told 'im, all pantin' like from 'at kiss.

"Now THAT was a KISS!"  Aaron said, smilin'.  Then, he looked at Cindy.  "Why don't you kiss me like that?"  He laughed.

"Well, I suppose we will have to work on it."  She said back to 'im, wigglin' her nose n' then kissin' im.  "Hmm."  She grinned.  "I guess we will just have to keep on practicing."

"Promise?"  Aaron was grinnin' like Daddy, then.

"You can bet your sweet ass we will."  She laughed.

Then, we all got back to workin'.  It was gettin' kinda late, n' some of 'em fellas had done went home.  All the sudden like, I knowd there was trouble, n' I took off as fast as I could 'fore it was too late.


We had a fantastic time working together on the home project.  As I looked around at all those volunteering, I was so awestruck as I realized none of this would have been possible without my Angel.  In all honesty, he had put into motion everyone and everything involved.  Had he not inspired Valerie and Ed, we would have never met the homeless teens, therefore eliminating all of the work we were doing.  Had he not inspired Blade, the fashion show and the idea of the home would never have occurred.  Had he not inspired the group, none of them would have been there; more than likely, Carter and Dwayne would also not be with their dads.  Had he not inspired our classmates, they would have still been self-absorbed and indifferent.  Had he not inspired Aaron, we would never have made friends with him or met Cindy.  Had he not met me in the mall as he did, I would probably have been dead.

Then, when Chance mentioned our dads, I realized just how powerful an act of love and compassion could be.  To me, it was amazing to see how one life touched so many others.  Little things, no matter how small they may seem at the time they occur, honestly shaped our destinies.  Chance had done so much, but he was honestly right.  Had it not been for the act of love our dads had given him, our entire lives would have been so very different.

One kind deed fostered another.  They built upon one another in an intricate fashion, creating the very fabric of reality.  An act of anger could do the same, I realized.  It was so overwhelming, really, the power an individual choice had in creating the world in which we would live.  The idea began to make my head hurt, but it did give me inspiration for the project Angel and I had to do for English.  At least this time, he was my partner and we could work on this one together.

Chance and I discussed this as we worked, and he just smiled at me.  "See, if it's anybody, it's our dads." 

I just giggled and kept working.  Before long, though, we had a good basis for a story.  I imagined it would be fun to write it with Angel, blending our unique styles together.

We had worked well into the evening, when I could put it off no longer.  I walked over to our dads to give them a hug.  They were very receptive, but I knew they wondered what prompted the affection.  So, I explained my realization to them.

"Well, Son, that is quite a noble idea."  Daddy grinned.  Then, he looked at Dad.  "Of course, you rescued me that day, so if anyone would get such credit, it would be you, Love."

"Love, I believe we rescued each other.  As to the credit, well, I think we should give it to the proper one who truly made this all possible.  That would be God."  Dad smiled.  "This is all part of his plan, you know.  Our meeting, finding Chance, then finding Sorrow... that was all his doing, honestly."  Then, he kissed me on the cheek.  "Still, I think your idea is a fantastic one, and it should make for quite a story."  Dad suddenly had a serious look on his face.  "Imagine, though, Love.  How different would our lives have been had either of us missed meeting the other at the bookstore?"  After a moment, he added, "I just cannot fathom life without any of my men."  Then, he hugged us tightly to him.  "I know it makes you truly thankful for the life you have when you think about things like this.  Speaking of which, where is..."

He didn't get to finish his thought, for a sudden panic filled my very being.  "ANGEL!"  I yelled, turning to see Chance was gone.  I quickly searched the site, but he was nowhere to be found.  My heart was racing, and I knew there was trouble brewing.  "Dad, we have to find him!  I just know Angel is in trouble."

The silence and look of worry on Dad's face was all I needed to know.  Daddy became tense, as I am sure we all sensed my Angel was indeed in over his head.  With no further thought, we started sprinting out of the door. 

"This way!"  We all said in unison, pointing in the same direction.  Dad had his gift to point the way.  Daddy could feel his presence.  I could hear his thoughts, as he was calling out to me. 

We moved as quickly as we could through the maze of streets.  Soon, we were in the worst part of town, moving down dimly lit streets and dark alleyways.  We were getting closer, then.  Angel's thoughts were getting stronger, and he was begging me to hurry.

"We've got to get there soon!  Angel's in serious trouble!"  I cried out.

"I know, Son."  Daddy responded, picking up the pace.

We kept running, each of us praying we were not too late.  "Up there!" Dad yelled, pointing to a creepy, dark building.  "He's up on the roof!"

We entered that dark slum, a building that had long before been condemned.  Here and there were barrels of burning trash, creating a source of heat for those poor souls that called this place home.  The stench was horrible, as it all but robbed you of your breath.  It was also hard to see, but we found the stairwell and moved as quickly as we could.  We must have climbed at least ten flights, but there was still no roof.

"Keep going!"  Daddy barked, and I knew he was as frightened for Angel as Dad and I were.  "Sorry, Son. Sorry, Love."  He said as an afterthought.  "I didn't mean to yell at either of you."

"I know Daddy.  We've just got to find Angel."  I said softly.

"We will, Son."  Dad assured me.  "He will be fine.  He just has to be."

We continued climbing up the steps.  About ten more flights, and we found the door.  Daddy kicked it open, and we were all three startled by what we found.

Chance was standing, ready to fight with his life, to protect Mike and Jeff.  All around them, there was a gang of guys, at least forty of them.  Evidently, Dad recognized who they were.

"It's them, Love."  He said, a lump forming in his throat.  "This is the Thorns!  They are the gang that beat our Chance, and they are the ones who did all those horrible things to Juan." 

Daddy looked at him with concern.  "Love, there is no other choice.  We have to protect our sons and the other boys."  He soothed, knowing how much Dad detested violence.

"I know."  He replied sadly.  Then, Dad looked at Daddy with a determined expression.  "Remember, Love.  You are not protecting me.  You are protecting our sons and the boys.  I can handle myself, so don't let worry distract you."

Daddy took his hand and squeezed it.  "Alright, Love.  Let's go save our son."  He turned to me.  "Son, stay between your Dad and me, and be careful." 

With that, we moved in.  Daddy pounded at a few of them that came his way, using his boxing skills to keep them at bay.  Dad, on the other hand, moved gracefully, taking a few down with his martial arts training.  One came my way, and with what I had learned the morning before from Jew and Thomas, I was able to defend myself.  Soon, we were with Angel. 

I grabbed him tightly, hugging him for dear life.  "Chance Samuel Givens!  If you ever take off on me like this again!"  I yelled, as the emotions I had been battling came to a climax.

"I know, Sorrow, but I had to move right then.  Otherwise, they would've done killed Mike n' Jeff.  We tried to outrun 'em n' all, but they's just too many of 'em.  So, we 'cided to try n' hide.  That's how we ended up on this ol' roof.  See, this used to be my home.  Right over there was where I used to sleep."  Chance sighed, and my anger quickly faded.  Honestly, my heart broke as I took in the life my Angel had lived.

"Angel, I don't know what I would do if you had been injured."  I replied, holding him even closer to me.

"We can talk about that later boys.  Right now, we need to fight our way back out of here."  Dad stated calmly. 

I looked up only to find that we had been cornered.  I realized then that they had more or less allowed us to get through them so that they could get us all in one place.  I was scared, but more for my dads and my Angel than for myself.

Chance took a fighting stance and glanced at me.  "Just don't give up, Sorrow.  Keep fightin' for all you's worth.  We gotta protect 'ese boys."

"God, help us."  I replied, also meaning it as a prayer.

A couple moved in, and Dad took them down.  Then, Daddy took down a couple more.  To my horror, the rest of them pulled out knives.  It just seemed that hope was looming at that point.

"Just don't give up."  Chance reminded me, and we moved up next to our dads.

As some in the front moved in, several of the ones in the back went down.  "Start the party without us?  Now, that's just damn rude!"  Blade quipped. 

He and the whole football team were there, armed with what appeared to be fourfoot sections of two-by-four's.  They began pounding away, as Daddy and Dad took down those moving in on us.  A clear path was made, and Chance and I yelled for Mike and Jeff to run for it.  Jeff grabbed up Mike and sprinted him to safety behind Blade and the Ravens.  Angel, our dads, and I quickly followed, taking stances to watch each other's backs.  

Some of the Thorns darted down the stairs.  I was thankful to see them flee, for it meant we were safe.  Blade and the other Ravens grabbed up the injured Thorns, escorting them roughly towards the stairs.

"I figure the police might want these ass holes."  Blade said gruffly.  "Ethan has already called them, so they should be here soon."

As we descended the stairs, we were startled to find that someone had knocked over a couple of the trashcans.  As a result, there was a fire on the top floor of the building.  One of the hallways was filled with smoke, but we could hear a few cries for help.  With no thought at all, Blade dashed off.  Chance and I quickly followed, ignoring our dads, yelling for us to get back there.

At the end of the hall, in a very dilapidated room, were two small children and a teenage girl.  Blade grabbed the girl, and Angel and I each grabbed one of the boys.  As we headed back down the hall, the fire had spread.  Blade looked at us a moment, then wrapped the girl up in his jacket.  Holding her tightly, he leaped through the flames.  Angle and I did the same, wrapping up the kids and holding them as tightly as possible.  I kissed Chance quickly, then we leaped through together.  Dad and Daddy were a bit pissed at us, but seeing the children, their mood changed quickly.

"Are there any others on this floor?"  Blade asked the girl.

"Yes!" She cried.  "Down that way are a couple of guys.  That's all, though."

Daddy started to go down the hall, but Blade grabbed his arm.  "Oh, no you don't!"  Blade commanded, and Daddy looked at him curiously.  "You have a family to see to safety, and these three as well." He put the girls hand in Daddy's, then turned his attention to the others.  "You guys go on down.  Stop at each floor and yell for everyone to get the hell out of this place."  Blade instructed his teammates.  Then, he took off down the hallway. 

Angel and I were reluctant to leave Blade, and Daddy and Dad lingered with us.  Oddly, the girl refused to move until Blade was back, so it gave us another reason to wait for him.  It had been a while... too long, really.  I was about to run after him, but at that moment, he reappeared, holding two young teens, one in each arm. 

"Let's get moving!"  He told them, and the boys quickly complied.  He looked at the seven of us (the girl and the two boys were still with us).  "Thanks for waiting for me, guys, but you should have gone on down."

"Not a chance." The girl said, stating what was in all of our thoughts.  Blade smiled at her and nodded his head in appreciation.

Along the way down, Blade helped a few other stragglers to the stairwell.  We checked each floor as we descended, and stopped if we sensed anyone.  Once we made it to the bottom, we were sure everyone was safely evacuated.  The fire department was there, working to contain the blaze.  They met us and helped us out of the building.

Once out, we were greeted by our frantic friends and family members, those that had been working at the project.  The Thorns were all in custody, as Jew, Roe, and a few of the other guys had halted any tries for escape.  The police were talking with Mike and Jeff, and we figured they would want to speak with Chance at some point.  Miss Cooper was organizing those from our class to help assist the medics and tend to everyone from the building.  Cole had a few of the mission vans ready to take those that had been staying in the building to the shelters where they could bathe, eat, and have a warm place to sleep. 

There were a total of eight teens and children from the building who did not have parents.  A few of them were scared to go to the shelter, but Cole promised them they would be safe.  Six were orphans, but a couple were runaways.  The runaways were frightened of being returned home, but Cole swore she would do everything she could to have them placed in the home once it opened.  They were still uneasy, but Blade convinced them to trust Cole.

The girl and her two little brothers we had rescued were orphans, having lost their mother about a month before.  They had been living on the streets, though, for a few years.  Blade was shaken up a bit by the girl's story, but there was something more there. 

"I can't thank you enough for helping us."  She told him, pulling her hair back from her face.

"All in a days work."  Blade smirked.  They both started giggling, and Chance grinned widely at me.

"I knowd that sound anywheres, Sorrow."  He snickered.

Daddy wrapped his arms around us, laughing.  "I think you are right, Son.  And the feelings are definitely mutual."

"He's surely a hero, boys, but I think being her hero is the only thing that will matter to Blade."  Dad smiled. 

The two of them flirted a bit, talking about nothing, really.  Chance and I talked with the boys.  The youngest was Ryan, who was six.  Patrick was nine, and Myra was fifteen.  I fell in love with the boys immediately, as did Chance.  Dad and Daddy, I could tell, were rather fond of them as well.  We didn't have to ask our dads, because they were thinking the same thing.  After talking to Cole, she smiled and agreed. 

Cindy was chatting away with Myra, while Aaron was going on and on about Blade's bravery.  It had me tickled, because I could see them double dating in the near future.  Daddy went over to talk with Myra about coming to our house to stay the night.  Cindy vouched for its safety, adding that Blade would be there that evening.  That was all it took for her to agree.  Cindy turned to us, winking, which had the three of us laughing. 

Just then, my cell rang, and I snickered as I saw who was calling.  "Hey, Mic.  Somehow, I knew you would be calling."

She laughed.  "Well, I have had this feeling that something was terribly wrong, so Thomas and I came on home.  The thing is, there is nobody here."  She paused a moment, then continued.  "So, do you mind telling me what is going on?"

I filled her in on what had happened, and about our eight guests.  She asked to talk to Dad, so I gave him the phone.  It was apparent her question as Dad replied.  He told her what he thought the sizes were for Patrick and Ryan, and that Myra was around Cole's height and build. Then, he described the other five boys that were coming home with us. As he hung up, Dad smiled.

"Well, if anyone had to go shopping today, I am sure glad it isn't going to be us."  He snickered.  "Poor Thomas.  He just arrived home from the war, and now he has to shop on Black Friday."  Then, he patted my back, rubbing my shoulder.  "We'll keep them safe until Janet decides what to do with them."  Chance looked at Dad and grinned.  "Who knows, Son, who knows."  He chuckled, knowing Angel's thoughts all too well.

The police talked with Angel for a few minutes, taking his statement.  They did have a few laughs as Chance explained the fighting that occurred, really over-dramatizing it and adding his rendition of the action moves as he told it.  The officers told our dads what a fine son they had, and Angel blushed like I had never seen before.

We would later learn that three of the gang members had bragged about 'icing a fag' when they had first cornered Mike and Jeff.  A few moments later, Angel had come along and helped the boys get away.  It turned out that one of these boys had a class ring he wore around his neck on a chain.  That ring ended up belonging to Myles, the kid who had been murdered a couple of years ago, the murder which prompted TJ, Jake, and Bobby to form the support group.  Upon searching homes, the police found enough to charge the three with Myles' murder; each of them had kept something of Myles' as a memento, a souvenir of the brutal killing. All three were convicted.  The rest of the gang members were placed in jail or the juvenile detention center, being found guilty on a number of charges.

After everything was wrapped up with the police, and those poor souls were taken to the shelters, Cole had the vans come to transport everyone back to the home project.  We showed our guests around a few minutes, explaining what we were doing and how things were going to be once finished.  By this time, all the other volunteers had departed for their homes, so we all called it a night.

Patrick had curled up on my lap, as Ryan had on Chance's.  Myra was next to Blade, flirting and giggling in the awkwardness of budding love.  The other kids were still a little scared of most of us, but not at all with Angel.  He knew a few of them, and the other two were quickly at peace with him.  As I have said many times, Chance just has that way of putting others at ease.  It was through Chance that the kids became more comfortable around the rest of us.  He was like a bridge between our world and theirs, I guess you could say.

As we pulled up to our home, they were all impressed.  The old hotel has a unique charm to it, much like my Angel.  As we entered the house, Domino and Chips greeted everyone.  The kids took to them immediately, and the pups took full advantage of all the petting and attention.  Hela, Nana, and Grams welcomed them all with open arms and a bounty of love.  There was also a large meal awaiting them. 

Chance was radiating as we watched them chow down.  It kind of saddened me, actually, for they ate like they were starving.  By looking at them, I realized it was fairly close to the truth. 

"They's gonna be fine now, Sorrow."  Chance assured me.  The delight in his eyes was so profound.  "Whatever they's been through, they ain't goin' through it no more.  We can 'least be happy 'bout that."

Angel then wrapped his arms around me, kissing me gently.  Lovingly, I stared into his eyes, taking his face in my hands.  "Have I told you how much I love you, Angel?"  I softly asked, stroking his cheeks with my thumbs.

"Not in the last few minutes, I don't reckon."  He chuckled.  "I's likin' this special 'tention you's givin' me, though."  Then, he rested his head to my chest.  After a moment, he leaned back and looked at me.  "I's real sorry I scared ya so bad, but I just had to get goin'.  'Cides, I done knowd you n' Dad n' Daddy was gonna get there to help me.  But, I's promisin' ya right now I ain't never gonna leave you's side, not never again."

I was in tears, as my fears of losing Chance resurfaced.  "Angel, I am not mad at you, so please don't think I am.  I just don't know what I would ever do without you.  You mean everything to me, Chance Samuel Givens, and I love you so very much."

"I love you too, Eric Aisa Moirae."  Then, he grinned.  "You know, we's stinkin' like ol' smoke."

"Well, maybe we should get cleaned up."  I giggled.

"Yeah, but after we's make sure all 'ese kids get 'em a good bath n' all first."  He smiled thoughtfully.

The kids were all laughing, as Shaft, Ethan, Jew, Roe, and our dads entertained them with their crazy antics.  Carter and Dwayne joined Angel and me as we took it all in.  It was amazing to watch them in action, for their loving hearts clearly shined through with every movement. 

Carter pointed out Blade, who was intently watching Myra nibble on a sandwich.  "You guys cannot ever pick on me again about Dakota.  We are never that goofy."  He laughed.

"I beg to differ!"  Dwayne shot.  "You two are way more dopey, but I wouldn't have it any other way."  He snaked his arm around his much taller younger brother.  "I'm just thrilled you are so happy."

Carter returned the hug.  "Now, we just have to worry about your love life."  He sneered.  Then, he looked at Patrick and Ryan.  "They remind me of us when we were little."  He chuckled.

Dwayne smiled as he reflected a moment.  "You have always been my best friend, Carter.  I suppose you always will be."

Carter smirked at him.  "I'd better be!  What do you mean, suppose?"

"You know what I mean, little brother."  Dwayne giggled.

"Excuse me?"  Carter laughed.  "You mean younger brother, shorty."

"And I can still kick your butt!"  Dwayne replied.

"Is that so?"  Carter snickered. 

Then, they wrestled around, laughing hysterically, just enjoying that special bond they held together.  I looked only to see that Patrick and Ryan were doing the exact same thing, and I became tickled.  'Brothers! ' I mused to myself, fondly remembering David.

After everyone finished eating, we headed to the living room.  Mic and Thomas were just coming through the door, loaded down with bags of things for the kids.  All of them were excited, and Mic and Thomas quickly put them at ease.

As they were handing out the goods to each of the kids, Ryan pulled on Thomas' pant leg.  As he gained Thomas' attention, he reached his arms out to be picked up.  Thomas bent down and grabbed him up.

"Thank you, mister."  He said softly, hugging Thomas tightly.  Thomas was all smiles, hugging him back fondly. 

Patrick moved over and clung tightly to Thomas' leg.  Mic smiled, watching her husband with loving eyes.  I thought it was priceless, and Angel seemed to agree.

"Well, I guess we need to get you all upstairs so you can get a bath or shower."  Mic grinned, talking to the kids.

Ryan pulled his face from Thomas' shoulder, staring intently into his eyes.  "Can you help me with my bath, Mister?" 

"I would be honored."  Thomas beamed.  Then, he looked down at Patrick.  "You coming with us, buddy?"  Patrick grasped his hand, smiling wide as he shook his head.  "Well, alright then.  Let's go up stairs and get you boys clean."  Thomas then hoisted Patrick up in his other arm and carried the boys upstairs.  The way he was playing with them, I realized he was every bit as silly as the rest of the men in the house.

Roe, Blade and Hela went to ready some beds on the top floor.  There was not much up there, other than Daddy's gym equipment and Nana and Gram's craft room.  Nana and Grams decided to sleep up there, in case the kids needed anything.  They then went to help set the rooms up.

Cole smiled as she led Myra up to her room for a shower.  Dad and Daddy took one of the guys up, while Ethan and Shaft took another.  Jew then took one up with him.  That left Carter and Dwayne with one, and Chance and I with the last.

Pete was 12, and he was very shy.  Chance and I took him to our bathroom and showed him where everything was.  Angel decided he should have a bubble bath, so he made the preparations.  That being done, Pete went into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.

Dad and Daddy were in the study, so we walked in to join them.  "I sure would like to keep us some of 'ese kids at least."  Chance said, wrapping his arms around Daddy and sitting on his lap.

I moved over next to Dad and lay across his lap.  Dad giggled as he started scratching my head.  "Chance, they are not exactly pets, sweetie."

Angel sighed heavily.  "I knows that, Dad, but it would be awful nice to have us some brothers."

He then looked at Daddy, who began chuckling.  "Chance, Son, they are not Christmas presents, either."

"But ya gotta 'mit it would be REAL cool to wake up n' have one!"  Angel smiled, trying his best to persuade our dads.

I couldn't help but giggle, and Dad winked at me.  "Let's just wait and see what happens."  Dad smiled, speaking to Chance.

That seemed to pacify Angel for a little while.  A short time later, a young guy walked out of our dads' bathroom and into the study.

"Have a seat, Brad."  Daddy smiled.

The young guy, Brad, smiled at us and sat nervously in one of the chairs. "Thanks for the shower, sir."  He mumbled quietly.

"This here's my Daddy, Brad, so you ain't gotta be all scared 'round 'im or nothin'.  This is my Dad and my Sorrow, too.  They's all real nice n' won't bite ya none."  Chance giggled.  "They might tickle ya some, though."

"So, you and Brad know each other, Angel?"  I asked.

"Yep.  We used to play up on the roof some n' go lookin' for food n' stuff together sometimes."  He grinned.

Angel and Brad began talking, recalling some of there adventures together.  They laughed over some of the memories, and, I have to say, it was infectious.  Things like taking a bubble bath in the park fountain late in the night, panhandling for food, or being chased down the street by elderly ladies armed with brooms were among the stories.

"Those were some good times, Chance."  Brad smiled.

Something about that bothered me.  These were things most people would see as horrible atrocities, but Brad and Angel looked back at them fondly.  I was then beginning to understand just what kind of life my Angel had led.  Just as the sadness began to fog my mind, though, I realized what Chance meant when he would always tell me that whatever we could do, no matter how small, those we were helping would be appreciative. 

It was all a matter of perspective.  To most, Brad and Chance had nothing. If most were reduced to such standards of living, they would see it as a cursed life or a terrible run of bad luck. However, to Brad and Chance, they saw each scrap of food or even finding old socks in the garbage as good fortune. 

This was the source of the view my Angel had of the world, the one I found so endearing.  Most of us expected certain things in life, taking them for granted, and never truly being satisfied with what we had.  People like Chance, however, saw the true blessings God granted them each and every day. Angel, and others like him, held true humbleness and thankfulness in his heart.  In that manner, Brad and Chance were quite wealthy, and, in fact, they were truly closer to understanding the nature of God than most of us would ever be.

"You's understandin' me now, ain't ya Sorrow?"  Angel asked, shaking me from my thoughts. 

I looked over and saw his grinning face, so full of kindness and compassion.  "I find you more and more amazing, Angel, and I also realize just how lucky I am to have you by my side."  I smiled.

Chance climbed over and nestled himself beside me on Dad's lap, wrapping me in his arms.   "You's almost ready, I reckon."  He whispered softly.

Dad was amused by the both of us sprawling out on his lap.  "By all means, boys, make yourselves comfortable."  He joked, stroking both of our faces with his hands. 

Chance looked at Dad with a gleam in his eye.  "I guess Daddy's lap is good for sittin' n' cuddlin', but yours is real good for stretchin' out n' snoozin'."

"That and my lap usually contains Sorrow."  Dad giggled. 

Daddy suddenly pounced down over Chance and me.  "I guess we can all three sleep on your Dad's lap, then." We all found this very funny, but I guess it was just one of those family moments.

"Do you guys always do stuff like this?"  Brad asked.

"Yep, pretty much."  Daddy replied.  Then, he grinned at Brad.  "You know, I think there is room for one more."

Brad quickly pounced on Daddy's back, squishing Chance and me for a second.  I guess Dad really felt it, though, seeing as we were all piled on his lap.  If he did, he didn't let on.  He just laughed and hugged us all at once.

"Um, what are you all doing?"  Pete softly said.

"Sleeping on the best lap in town."  I giggled.  "Come and join us."

Pete was a bit hesitant until Dad asked him, "Well, are you going to join us, or just stand there?"

Carefully, Pete climbed upon Daddy's back beside Brad.  It was then that I realized that Daddy was holding most of the weight off of Dad by using his arms to raise himself.  I don't guess Brad or Pete noticed, but they sure were laughing. 

After a few more minutes, Daddy told them both to hold onto him. He raised up with both of them hanging from his back.  He then swung them about, just being Daddy, I suppose.  I know they both enjoyed it, every bit as much as Chance and I did when he would do that to us.

After watching them roughhouse for a few minutes, Dad suggested that Chance and I go take a shower.  As we cleaned up, Angel kept talking about how great it would be to have all the kids around.  I didn't comment much, but I guess Chance did enough talking for the both of us.  He was just so excited by the idea.

After our shower, we joined our dads, Pete, and Brad in the study.  Dad and Daddy combed their hair, and without letting the boys know, checked them for head lice.  Thankfully, they were both clean.  Afterwards, Daddy read to us a little, then decided it was time for bed.  The four of us took Brad and Pete to their room, which they seemed to like immediately.  As we were turning to leave, however, we could all tell they were a tad bit scared.  Chance looked at our dads and me for only a second.

"Yes, Chance.  They can if they want."  Dad giggled.

Angel was thrilled.  "You boys wanna sleep on that ol' couch bed down in the study we's in 'fore we done come up here?"  Needless to say, Brad and Pete slept soundly that night, guarded by Domino and Chips, on the sleeper sofa.


 Love and I had a long, hot shower, trying our best to wash away the odor of smoke from our bodies.  Afterwards, we held each other closely, finding comfort and relief that we had survived a terrible ordeal.  We gave thanks for this, and that our sons were fine and well, many times that evening.

"Love, what do you think about the boys?"  I asked, gently caressing his back as he lay on my chest.

"We have two fine sons." He smirked, and I tapped him lightly on the back of the head.  "I'm biased.  What did you think I would say?" He continued playing coy.

"Love, you know what I mean."  I chuckled.

"Oh, you mean those boys?"  Love asked innocently, grinning widely. He thought a moment and sighed softly, as he began tracing circles around my nipple.  "They are both adorable, honestly."

"But?"  I asked, knowing him so well.

"But, I'm just not sure, Love.  I mean, that would be four boys... teenage boys at that."  Softly, he kissed my chest.  "I don't know.   I really want to keep them and give them the best home we can, but I am wondering how fair that would be to Chance and Sorrow.  Our time would be divided by four.  Right now, each of us can spend some one on one time with our sons, and we can do things as a family.  Then, we also do things as couples, like the ballet."  Then, he sighed again.  "I really like Brad and Pete, but I don't want Sorrow and Chance to feel slighted or neglected in any way."

I shuttered as he softly sucked my nipple.  "I have been thinking it over, too, Love, and I have to agree with you.  I want very much to give them a home, but not at the expense of losing the closeness we have with our sons."  Love sucked in air slowly, freezing my nipple into a hard nub.

"So, what do you want to do?"  He asked, gently caressing my side and hip.

I definitely wanted to do something, but I knew that was not what love was speaking about at that particular moment.  "Honestly, Love, I don't think this is a decision we can make alone."  I admitted, gently raking my fingertips down his back.

"That's what I was thinking."  He replied, delicately tracing the muscles of my upper arm.  "This needs to be a family decision."  He began kissing his way up my chest and throat.

"So we talk to the boys..."  I started, but Love slowed me with a kiss.  "...lay everything on the table..."  He gave me another kiss.  "...discuss it all, pray, and..." This kiss was rather long.  "...then we decide as a family."

After another long kiss, Love smiled.  "That's what I'm thinking."  He began slowly grinding himself into me.  "Now, we have that settled, I'm thinking something else."  He said in such a seductive way, I had to grin.

He was so very gentle, my skin felt like it was on fire.  Each touch of his hands, lips, and fingers pulsated through my body.  I responded in kind, making the little circles along the small of his back that I knew drove him wild.  I wasn't disappointed, as Love became a bit more aggressive... but not too aggressive, as to wake the kids. After making love to each other, we settled in for the night.

As we were close to dozing off, Love giggled lazily.  "At least that dream will finally stop."  He made reference to the dream we had been sharing with the dying bird, where fire consumed it and our sons.  Love was right, as our dream was much more peaceful.

We awoke rather early to a loud thump, then four distinct sources of laughter.  Love and I climbed out of bed and crept into the study.  There lay Brad, Pete, Chance, and Sorrow, giggling like you would not believe.  Each was sharing embarrassing moments, which I thought was kinda cute. 

Love stroked my belly, leaning his head on my shoulder.  "We'll talk to our sons after breakfast.  Then, we will give them some time to think it over and decide."

"I couldn't agree more, Love."  I smiled, giving him a nice kiss and wrapping him in my arms.  We then refocused on the boys.  I thought about pouncing on them, letting it turn into a free-for-all, but they were too adorable to interrupt.  So, Love and I just watched them.

Brad was 12, and he stood a strapping 5'2".  He was so very thin, and he had pale skin like Sorrow.  His hair was raven black, and poker straight.  His light green eyes held a fire of mischief in them, and he was fairly outgoing.   From watching the interaction, it was apparent that Brad had a wicked sense of humor that reminded me a lot of Jena's.

Pete was also 12.  He was so much smaller, standing at about 4'6".  He had a tiny, lanky frame, much like Shaft.  His gray-blue eyes hinted at the deep thoughts he pondered as he took everything in.  Pete was timid to say the least, and it was obvious he was more of an observer than anything else.  He seemed to pause for long periods of time before saying anything, as I figured he was internalizing.  His skin was almost as dark as mine, and his light brown hair hung in tight, unruly curls. 

After a few minutes, Brad noticed us and grinned.  He sprang from the bed and headed straight to us.  Grabbing our hands, he tugged for us to follow him back to the bed.  Love and I sat down and were then manhandled into lying positions.

"That's better."  Brad giggled.  "Now, you gotta tell us the most embarrassing thing that ever happened to ya."  He smiled.

"Oh, so that's what this is, is it?"  Love jested.  "Get the dish on the dads and then blackmail us later."

Chance reacted to this with a huge grin.  At first, I thought he liked the idea of blackmailing us, but it wasn't the case.  Chance saw a gleam of hope in Love's words, particularly his using dads in what he had just said.  I was tickled once I had this realization.

Pete had a serious look of contemplation on his face as he made his subtle reply.  "Hey, I never thought of that."  Love looked at him, somewhat shocked.  Then, Pete giggled.  "Nah, I couldn't do that to somebody."

That brought about a round of laughter.  After everyone calmed down a bit, I decided I may as well play the game.  "Alright.  I was in the seventh grade, and we had to do an oral report in front of the entire class.  Well, it was my turn, so I headed up in front of the class and was almost at the podium.  I dropped my papers, so I bent over to pick them up.  That is when it happened.  My pants ripped apart, and the whole class was staring straight at my now exposed ass."  I smiled.  The boys all laughed, and Love chuckled a bit.

"That's not too bad."  Brad smiled, patting me on the shoulder.

"Oh, did I forget to mention that I didn't have on any underwear that day?"  I smirked.

The boys all lost it then, but not near as much as Love.  "I never knew you were the free-balling commando type of guy!"  He laughed.

"Well, I have never been after that day."  I admitted.

"Alright."  Brad smiled, and looked at Love.  "Now, it's your turn."

"Gee, which of the million horrific things should I tell about myself?"  He asked, thinking aloud.

"It has to be the MOST embarrassing one."  Brad prompted.

"Oh.  Well, that one is easy."  He giggled.  "I was a junior in high school, and I was on the track team.  So, we had to take our group picture in our uniforms.  That in itself was nothing major, and when the picture was developed, it was a really good shot."  He turned blood red, laughing so hard.  Finally, he calmed down.  "The problem was, the picture we were looking at was just a small snapshot size.  Well, in the yearbook, it was a two page spread.  Anyway, once everyone received their yearbooks, they all noticed immediately and made several jokes about me for weeks after."  Love had another fit of laughter.

"And, what was so funny?"  Sorrow asked, as all of us were very curious.

"I am not going to tell you."  Love said, gettin up and walking out of the room.

"Dad, you's can't just stop in the middle like that, leavin' us up in the air n' all!"  Chance shouted to him.

A moment later, Love returned with a yearbook.  "I am not going to tell you, because a picture is worth a thousand words... however humiliating they may be."

Love opened up the yearbook and placed it on the bed for the five of us to see, pointing himself out in the picture.  At first, I didn't see anything wrong, but I was looking at his face.  I have to say, Love was hot, even back then.  As my eyes traveled down further, I saw what he was meaning.  Just as plain as day, and in great detail, Love's rather ample package was hanging out the side of his shorts for all the world to see!  Like I said, he was hot, even back then.

"Oh my God in Heaven!"  Sorrow laughed, looking at Chance.  "Our Dad is a porn star!"

Love gently rapped him on the back of the head.  "I most certainly am not!"  Then, he chuckled.  "Porn stars get paid for the pictures.  I had to pay $37.50 for the yearbook."

After another half hour of talking, we decided to go up and check on all the others.  We arrived at Myra and her brothers' room first.  We were all moved at what we saw.  The two double beds had been pushed together.  Myra slept to the outside right, curled up next to Mic.  Mic was on her side facing Thomas, who was lying on his back holding Patrick and Ryan in each arm.

"Love, is that not absolutely breathtaking."  My husband sighed softly.

Thomas began to stir, opening his eyes.  After a moment of focusing, he grinned at the six of us.  "I take it you encountered the same problems."  He smiled sleepily.  "They were a tad nervous being alone in this big ol' house, so we stayed to comfort them.  I guess we fell asleep."  He snickered.

I laughed lightly.  "Love, the boys, and I bypassed that.  We just took our little guys downstairs to the study."

Thomas became tickled.  "You know, we didn't think of that.  We have a sleeper sofa, too."  Then, he looked at the sleeping brood.  "Maybe we will do that tonight."

Love looked at Thomas a moment, then Thomas smiled in reply.  "I see."  Love laughed.  "We will have to talk later, so you can tell me all about it."

About that time, Ryan, the youngest, woke up.  He was disoriented at first, but as soon as he saw Thomas' face, he hugged him tightly.  "You stayed."  He sighed happily.

"I sure did, buddy."  Thomas replied, stroking his back softly.  "So, how are you this morning?"

Ryan just hugged him tighter.  Then, he raised up, looking into Thomas' eyes very intently.  "I really need to pee."

Thomas chuckled.  "Well, I seem to be stuck."  He said, looking down at the sleeping Patrick.  "Would it be OK if Kal took you?"

Ryan looked at Love a moment, then back to Thomas.  "Yeah."  He started to get out of bed, but stopped and turned back to Thomas.  "Promise you won't leave?"

Thomas swallowed hard, realizing the motivating factors behind Ryan's asking.  "Not ever, buddy.  I'll be right here any time you need me."

Love took Ryan to the bathroom.  "So,"  I smiled, "have you..."  I started, but Thomas knew what I was asking.

"Not yet."  He sighed.  "I hope to get to that this morning, as soon as we can find a moment alone."

"Maybe the boys can entertain them for a bit."  I suggested, and Sorrow and Chance readily agreed.

"We can let 'em play with Chips n' Domino some.  They's all seemed to like 'em yesterday evenin'."  Chance proposed, smiling at the idea of playing with the little tikes.

Thomas quickly agreed.  "That would be great, little man."  He smiled at Chance.

Ryan  zoomed back in the room.  His red-orange hair was sticking out in tuffs every which way.  His bright blue eyes glistened and his huge smile spread across his freckled face as he saw Thomas was indeed still there.  He leaped as best he could on  the bed, but Thomas had to reach down and help him up. 

Latching on to Thomas, Ryan again sighed happily.  "You stayed."

"Of course I did, buddy."  Thomas chuckled.

"Well, we're going to check in on everyone and then make breakfast."  Love smiled.  "I guess we will see you in a bit, then."

We checked the other rooms.  Nana and Grams each had one of the boys snuggled up to them, so we knew they were in good hands.  In the last room, we found Jew and Jena up, talking with Nathan. 

Nathan was 16, and stood at 5'10".  He had a broad frame, though you could tell he was a bit undernourished.  His sandy blond hair hung in loose waves.  He was fairly handsome, honestly, but you could see that trouble abound as you looked into his gold-green eyes.  Nathan waved to Chance shyly the moment he saw him.

"Hey guys.  I see you are up early."  I said.

"Actually, we haven't been to sleep."  Jena said as cheerfully as she could, yet showing signs of fatigue.

The concerned look on my face must have been apparent.  "I-I had a n-n-ni... a bad dream."  Nathan stuttered.  "S-s-so, they s-s-stayed up with m-m-me."  I could sense his uneasiness.  Nathan was sure that one of us would make fun of him.

"Well, they are great people, Nathan."  I smiled.  "Besides, nightmares can be really traumatic sometimes."

"Sorrow n' me had us one the other night n' ended up sleepin' with our dads."  Chance added.  "You know what's funny's that ol' Carter n' Dwayne had 'em one too, the same night n' ever'thin'.  They went to sleepin' with their dads just like we did."  Then, he paused in serious contemplation.  "I's still thinkin' it was 'at ol' turkey or pumpkin pie, cause we all ate lots of it."

Sorrow walked in and was getting ready to sit on the other bed, when Nathan stopped him.  "Y-y-you might n-n-not want t-to do th-th-that."  Then, I could feel the shame radiating from him.  "I h-h-had an a-a... I p-p-peed the b-b-bed."  Tears welled up in his eyes as he hung his head down.

Sorrow moved over and sat beside him, wrapping his arm around him in a gentle hug.  Then, he whispered something to him for a few minutes. 

Nathan looked at him with big eyes.  "R-r-really?"

"Yeah."  Sorrow grinned.  "And, it has happened a few times since then."  Then, he laughed.  "You know, I think doing that is way worse, really... especially having someone else there with you.  At least Angel hasn't held it against me."

Chance started laughing.  "Oh, that!"  He made his way quickly, sitting in front of Nathan.  "I reckon I's done that some too, though, Sorrow.  So's I don't see how I can be all mad at ya or nothin'.  'Sides, Ethan n' Shaft told us it was OK n' all, n' I reckon they's know what they's talkin' 'bout."

Love and I were bewildered, as we had no idea what our sons were talking about.  However, whatever the topic was, it brought Nathan out of his feelings of shame, at least for a while.  Brad and Pete soon joined the boys on the bed.  Pete wrapped his arms around Chance, sitting on his lap.  Brad stretched across Sorrow and Nathan's legs, as Sorrow stroked his belly and Nathan scratched his head.  Sorrow and Chance talked about school, and the other boys listened.  Soon, Chance's stomach growled, as it usually did in the mornings.

"Well, boys, I believe we were going to make breakfast."  Love announced.  "Nathan, would you like to come with us?  There is so much to do, and I know we could use your help."

Nathan looked apprehensively, turning to Jew and Jena.  "Actually, Kal, if Nathan doesn't mind, Jew and I would love to help you guys, too." 

That put Nathan at ease immediately.  "S-s-sure.  I'd l-l-l-ove to help."  He smiled.

"Well, then, I reckon you's oughta get you'self up n' come on."  Chance said excitedly, sliding off the bed while still holding Pete.  "This is gonna be lots of fun today cause we gots us all kinda of help, Daddy."  he smiled.

So, we all headed down to the kitchen and began the task of cooking.  Love had all the boys take the pups out, as Chance and Sorrow quickly understood our hint that we needed to talk.

"So, how bad was it?"  I asked.

"He was so scared."  Jew said sadly.  "Jena woke me, as she heard crying at our door. H-h-he..."  Jew became too emotional to continue, as tears flowed down his gentle face.

"Stormy, he was balled up, sitting on the floor against our door, just crying his poor heart out."  Jena cried.  "As soon as he saw it was us, he grabbed our legs and held on to us for dear life."  She paused a moment to collect herself.  "I swear, Stormy, I have never seen someone so terrified.  After we had him calmed down, he started crying again, and I realized his pajamas were wet."

"He was so upset about it."  Jew added, finally calming himself enough to speak again.  "I told him it was no big deal, but he was worried everyone would laugh.  Kitten said we would get it all cleaned up, and no one would ever know."

Jena wrapped her arms around Jew, resting her head on his chest.  "So, after we took the bedding to the laundry, we washed off the bed.  He asked us if we would stay with him for just a few minutes, so of course we agreed.  Well, the few minutes turned into an all night conversation."  She sighed.  "Most of it, though was him telling us why he ran away from home and how worthless he thinks he is.  See, he has had some bad experiences and has had to make some horrible choices."  Jena replied, becoming teary.  Jew joined her as they clung tightly to one another and sobbed for some time.

>From their reaction, I knew what some of those experiences and choices would have included.  Love held me close as we too shed tears.  At the same time, we again thanked God our Chance was spared from such a horror.  Once they were somewhat calm, we talked some more.

Towards the end of our conversation, Love asked.  "So, what do you two want to do?"

They both smiled at each other, then turned to us.  "He is such a sweet young man, Kal.  We both love him to pieces." Jena's feelings, as she spoke, were mirrored in Jew.

"He has some serious problems, but, I think we can handle them."  He looked at Jena, then back to us.  "I swear, Nathan is made for us."  Jew enthused.

"So?"  I asked, bringing them back to the question.

"So, we are going to talk to Janet and try to become his foster parents."  Jena beamed.  "Hopefully, by the time our application is processed, we will at least have set a date for the wedding."  She slyly stated.

"I'm ready today, Kitten."  Jew smiled.  "Any day will be a great day to marry you.  I told you before, I am happy with whatever day you want."

"Do you see how he turns it all back to me?"  Jena said in mock frustration.  "Sooner or later, the date will strike us."  She snickered.

The boys came back in, and we fixed breakfast.  Once it was about finished, we sent the five of them up to let everyone know.  Blade, Carter, and Dwayne were the first ones down.  Dwayne and Carter ribbed Blade, saying he had kept them up all night by calling out Myra's name in his sleep.  He just laughed right along with them.

"You're not going to fight back?"  I smiled.

Blade blushed, then admitted softly.  "To be honest, I really can't say I didn't.  I know I dreamed about her all night."

Love wrapped his arm around Blade's back.  "Somehow, I just knew you would."  Blade chuckled and turned even deeper shades of red.  "Blade, there is nothing to be embarrassed about."  Then, Love turned and held Blade's face between his hands.  "For the record, I pray everything works out for you and Myra.  You're a great guy, and we all love you."

Blade hugged Love, lifting him off the ground.  "Thanks, man.  I love you guys, too.  You're... well, you're like my family."

"You are a part of this family, Blade, so, like it or not, you're stuck with us."  I smiled, patting his shoulder.  Then, I had to giggle.  "Speaking of love..."

Blade turned to see Myra walking in the kitchen.  She truly was a beautiful girl.  Her dark red hair, baby blue eyes, and creamy complexion would turn many heads.  To be 15, she was also pretty well developed.  Blade, of course, admired all of this,  but I could feel their connection was much more.

Patrick and Ryan arrived by way of a very enthusiastic Thomas, as he carried one in each arm.  Mic giggled as she followed, enjoying the spectacle before her.  As they were seated, it was Blade, Myra, Mic, Patrick, Thomas, and Ryan.  Both boys had to sit beside their Thomas, which truly warmed my heart.

The last down for breakfast were Ethan and Shaft.  Ethan seemed well rested, but Shaft looked a little haggard.  There was a little worry there, but I figured it was concerning the boys or his upcoming finals.

After breakfast, Love and I talked with our sons.  We explained everything we had discussed, and asked them to take their time to think it through thoroughly before reaching any decision.  Then, we would discuss each decision as a family.  After that, we prayed for God to guide us in the direction he would have us walk.

"I's already knows my decision."  Chance started.

Love started to say something, but Sorrow interjected.  "I already know my decision, too, Dad."  Then, he smiled at Chance.  "I believe we all do, honestly."

Love looked at me, so I said, "OK, then.  Let's hear your decisions and why."

Chance started, as I figured he would.  "Well, I reckon 'em boys needs 'em a home, but it needs to be a good one n' all.  I knows we's got us a real good home n' we gots lots of extra rooms here.  'Cides that, you both is real good dads, n' I knows you's 'll give 'em lots of lovin' like they's needin'."

"I agree with Angel." Sorrow smiled.  I knew what Sorrow's response would be, too.

Truthfully, I knew Love and I had already determined what we felt was right, but we wanted to explore everything completely first.  "OK.  Well, what about you two?"  Love began.  "How are you going to feel when our time is split four ways, not just two?  Will you feel slighted or less loved when you have two younger brothers demanding attention?  See, there will be an adjustment, and during that, Brad and Pete will need a good bit of our time.  But, it is going to be an adjustment for you two, as well."  Love sighed.  "What I am getting at is this:  We care about Brad and Pete, but right now, you two are our sons, and our first priority is with you.  If we do this, that will change.  Think about how this will affect you, and how that will make you feel."

Sorrow smiled, hugging Love tightly.  "Dad, Angel and I both know you and Daddy love us.  We know nothing would ever change that.  As for the time being split, I just don't see the big deal.  If you and Daddy are busy with Chance, I know you still love me, and it's the same for Angel when you both are busy with me.  As our lives are now, sometimes we do things as our whole family, sometimes it is as one father - one son, and sometimes it is as couples." He paused a moment, taking both Love's and my hand.  "Sometimes, we are all so busy, we have little time to spend together.  But, with what time we have, we make the best of it.  How is that going to be any different with Brad and Pete joining the family?"  Then, he looked at me, smiling.  "As for feeling slighted or less loved, Daddy once told me that the amazing thing about love was that there was an overabundance of it in our hearts for everyone.  He then explained to me that the more you loved, the more love you had to give.  And, he was so very right.  It's not like the two of you are going to run out of love."  He giggled.  "And honestly, Dad, if we saw you and Daddy were busy with Pete and Brad, we would especially know you loved us.  We would know this because we want them to be a part of our family, every bit as much as you and Daddy do.  Besides, we all know they are meant to be with us."

Love smiled, realizing just how put together our sons truly were.  Then, I decided it was my turn.  "OK, then, what about them?"  I asked.  "I can see you both have a good understanding of this, but what about Brad and Pete?  How do you think they will feel if we are busy with either of you?"

Sorrow laughed.  "How was it that you said it, Angel?  I can't remember exactly, but it was something like this:  Whatever we can do to make things better for them, they will appreciate anything we can offer."

Chance was all smiles, hearing Sorrow try to quote him.  " See, Daddy, we was talkin' 'bout doin' more to help out n' I was tryin' to make Sorrow understand it.  When I's on the streets, I didn't have me much of nothin', but I's awful thankful for what little I's had.  These boys is just like that, too.  Whether it's a little bit of time or lots of time, they's gonna be happy with it, cause 'fore they had us, they didn't have nobody to spend no time with 'em."

They truly had this well thought out, I had to give them that.  "So, family, what is our plan."

Love smiled.  "We welcome them to our family and to a home filled with love."

Chance grinned.  "N' we's keep on tryin' n' hopin' for the best."

Then, Sorrow added, "And, we have faith that everything will work out as God has intended."

"So,"  I smiled, "when do we want to talk with the boys?"

"Now's good!"  Chance enthused.

I suddenly remembered something we had forgotten.  "Actually, it will have to wait a little while.  You boys are supposed to entertain Ryan and Patrick for Thomas."

"Oh, Yeah!  We's better get to that, Sorrow.  Then, we can all talk with 'em boys when we's finished!  Then, we's gonna have us some brothers!"  Chance was so overjoyed, I had to giggle.

The boys kept Ryan and Patrick busy, as Blade occupied Myra.  Love and I talked with Jena and Jew, as we watched all the boys interact.  Carter and Dwayne were playing rummy with Jonah and Mark, the boys that had been with Nana and Grams.  Ryan sat on Chance's lap as he and Pete played checkers.  Sorrow, Nathan, Brad, and Patrick were playing crazy 8's.  They had already been outside with Domino and Chips, but they were soon too cold to stay out for long.  So, they were spread out in the movie room playing games, as the pups slept on one of the loungers.  An hour and a half had passed, as Thomas and Mic came and sat down beside Love and me.

"So?"  Love asked anxiously, though he already knew the answer.  So did I, but we wanted to hear it anyway.

Mic gave a hearty laugh.  "Honestly, guys, tell me this.  How could I put up much of a resistance?  You saw Thomas with them."

Love giggled.  "So, was there really any resistance?"

Mic smirked.  "You just think you know me so well, Kal!"  Then, she pat his leg.  "No, not really.  My only concern was that we have been apart for SO long, and I wasn't sure if it would be something Thomas was ready to deal with just now.  I mean, he has been through a lot the last few months."  She sighed, then turned and kissed her husband tenderly.

"Mic was worried about all the adjustments."  Thomas smiled.  "I just pointed out that we were both adjusting as it is, so what better time."  He chuckled.  "The truth is, the very moment Ryan had me promise not to leave, I knew for sure this was what we had to do.  When he first tugged at my pant leg last night, I fell in love with him.  Then, it was Patrick, and quickly after, Myra stole my heart." 

Mic smiled, rubbing Thomas' leg with affection.  "Seeing that fondness for the kids in Thomas' eyes is what did it for me."  She turned to Love and me.  "In all honesty, did it not melt your heart?"

I grinned, recalling the moment.  "Completely, but not near as much as seeing you five huddled up this morning."

Thomas looked at Love and Jew, then laughed.  "I can see we should expect more additions to the family."

Jew and Jena both beamed with excitement, as did Love and I.  "Nathan is one special guy, what can we say."  Jena said, looking at him fondly.

Love laughed.  "Well, if you recall the toast our sons gave at the reception, I believe you can understand our decision."  Thomas looked confused, so Love filled him in, quoting the toast word for word.

I pulled my husband closer to me, kissing his neck.  "So, Pete and Brad quickly won our sons' hearts.  Love and I were quite fond of them last night, but I think seeing them with Chance and Sorrow this morning really helped push that along.  Then, when we met as a family to discuss it, the boys presented one fine argument.  So, the four of us are in complete agreement on this."

Mic reached over and hugged both Love and me.  "How sweet!  And, that was excellent parenting skills, too.  This will affect everyone, so it should be a family decision."  Then she giggled.  "Lord, guys, that is six new kids running around!"

Jew became concerned.  "Guys, what about Jonah and Mark?"  This became our primary thoughts for the next few moments.  Then, Jew continued.  "Jena and I wanted to talk with Nathan today, but now I don't know if we should.  You know they will all be excited and tell each other the good news."  Tears formed in his eyes.  "You know, I was one of the kids no one wanted around, and I just couldn't stand to see that happen to Jonah and Mark."  He thought a few more moments.  "You guys will all have your hands full.  I think Jena and I will be in the same boat.  Nathan just has so many issues, he will take too much of our time for it to be fair to them."

"Let's just pray about this, and, for now, we agree not to say anything to the other kids."  Mic wisely suggested.

After dinner that evening, the family was gathered in the movie room.  We were all chatting, as the kids were playing.  Love took notice of Carter and Dwayne with Jonah and Mark.

"I know, Kal."  Shaft sighed.  "Ethan and I have been debating the idea of keeping them, but we're still not sure.  My last semester before graduation is going to be extremely hectic, and Ethan begins his internship.   It is going to be hard enough to get in some quality time with Carter and Dwayne. 
We just aren't sure if we can balance two more.  We haven't had any answers through prayer as of yet, either."

Ethan took his hand, gently stroking it with his own.  "Honey, are you sure you feel OK?"  He asked worriedly.

"Yeah, Baby.  I am just tired, and I keep racking my brain trying to figure out a way to make enough time for it to be fair to Jonah and Mark.  You know how much I want them, but I'm not sure we are what is best for them."  He contemplated it a moment longer.  "I've even thought that something is better than nothing.  But, then I think it would be selfish of us to take the boys when it is possible that there is another couple who would have more time to spend with them.  Those boys deserve more than just scraps of our time."  He then shook his head vigorously, as if it would clear up his confusion.  Wrapping Ethan firmly in his arms, he sighed.  "Let's just take some time on this, Honey.  I want to make certain we are doing the right thing for those guys."

'Such wonderful men, and even more amazing fathers.'  I thought to myself.  "If it helps ease your mind, I agree with you, buddy.  Don't do anything until you are sure it is the right thing to do." I said, patting Shaft's shoulder.

Shaft brought his hand to his shoulder, encasing mine.  "Thanks, Kanawha."  Then, he giggled.  "To be such impulsive people, you would think we would have been the first to decide on this."

"Maybe you are uneasy for a reason."  I suggested.  "Anyway, I know you will make the right choice at the right time."

The next week went by rather quickly.   Jena, Mic, Ethan, and Love had talked with all the schools, with mixed results.  Patrick and Ryan were placed into school, provided Mic and Thomas agreed to help catch them up in their learning levels.  The others, however, would have to take placement tests.  All, that is, except Brad and Pete... not right away, at any rate.

During our family reading, Brad confessed to us that he did not read very well.  Truth was, he could hardly read at all.  Bless his heart, he was so worried we would be disappointed in him.  Somehow, we each gave him the part of ourselves he needed to see this was not the case. 

Pete had wanted to go to the junior high with Love, so he did.  As Love talked with the principal, it was agreed that Brad would spend a few months under Jena and Jew's instruction, as they tried to get him up to speed with the other seventh graders. Then, he would be tested once Jena and Jew found he was ready.

Pete asked Love and the principal if he could be with Brad in Jena and Jew's program.  He said he didn't want Brad to feel stupid or ashamed of his poor reading ability.  Since they were the only two going to the junior high, Pete thought that if he stayed with Brad, then Brad would never have to feel like a failure for not getting accepted into the seventh grade.  The principal complemented Pete for his thoughtfulness and agreed.

High school was another issue all together. 
Jonah was to be a freshman, so he would be placed if he met the required scores.  Myra, Nathan, and Mark would be placed according to their scores.  Since there were a required number of credits to achieve before graduation, they would receive credits based upon their scored grade level.  They would then have to attain the remaining credits before they could graduate.  To me, that seemed a bit harsh, and I felt getting a GED might turn out to be a better option for them.  I just prayed they did well, as did the rest of the family.

Shaft began his exams on Wednesday, and he was finished by Friday.  Ethan had finished on Thursday.  That finished them up until mid January.  I had until the following Tuesday, as did the rest of us.  Jena decided to work her class schedule around her work at the mission, Jew, and Nathan.  She said the kids and her family were more important, and if all she had time for was one class, her PhD could wait.  Mic, as of Tuesday, was finished with her Master's program.

We spent Friday evening at the home site, and had gone there Saturday afternoon.  Everything was coming together nicely, and it looked like we would be finished within the upcoming week.  Love and I were admiring everything when we heard Ethan shout.

Shaft had fainted, and it was obvious he was really fatigued.  Ethan rocked him gently in his arms, even after he finally came to.  "You stubborn ass!"  Ethan griped with loving concern.  "I have told you at least 50 times this past week to take it easy.  I knew you were pushing yourself too hard, but did you listen to me.  Not one damned bit, I can tell you!"  He kissed him softly.  "Honey, you are going home and straight to bed.  And if you get up for more than the bathroom or to eat until Monday morning, I will tie your scrawny ass down.  Then, we are going to the doctor to make sure everything is OK."

"Honey, really, I am fine, just tired." 
Shaft said pleadingly.

"You know, those pretty black eyes may work on your mother or Cole, but you are going to the doctor, and that is final."  Ethan stated matter-of-factly.

"Alright, Honey.  Just don't get so worked up about it.  That is all I meant."  He sighed, rubbing Ethan's face softly.  "You worry way too much, sometimes."

"Oh, and I guess I should just laugh off the fact that my lover just passed out from exhaustion."  Ethan argued.  "Once I know you are fine, I might quit worrying.  But, I doubt it."  Then, he laughed.  "It is part of who I am, Honey.  If you love me, then you have to love the worrying."

In his most seductive voice, Shaft replied, "You worry better than anybody, Baby."  This caused them both to laugh.

"You are such and ass, sometimes."  Ethan snickered.  "But, I love you, anyway."

Ethan refused to let Shaft walk to the car, asking me to carry him.  I did, and laughed my ass off listening to Shaft bitch about it.  Jew and Jena rode home with them, as Jew was to carry Shaft up to bed.  I became tickled with the picture of Ethan trying to carry Shaft into the house, up all those steps, and into their room.  Being both the same height and weight, I knew it would have been rather hard for Ethan.  The mental image, though, amused me for hours.

That evening, Love and I were in the study with all four of the boys.  We were listening to music and talking about nothing really.  Shaft crept in, and sat between Love and me. 

"Thank God Ethan went to spend some time with the boys."  He chuckled.  "A man can only stand a room for so long, you know." 

Sorrow came over and picked Shaft up, sitting him back down on his lap.  Chance then sauntered to the sofa and sat beside them.  Pete climbed upon my lap, and Brad did the same to Love.

Shaft looked at Sorrow quizzically.  "Um, why am I sitting on your lap?"

Giggling, Sorrow replied.  "I was thinking that Ethan might mistake you for one of us boys if he peaks in looking for you.  He is going to be so mad at you for not being in bed.  You realize this, right?" 

Shaft let out a bellowing laugh.  "Life on the wild side, I guess."

Sorrow wrapped him in his arms, and Chance lay his head in Shaft's lap.  "We's missed you a good bit this past week.  We ain't hardly got to see you much at all, you's been so busy."

Shaft rubbed Chance's head gently.  "I know, buddy.  That is why I came in here.  I missed you guys too, and since I am supposed to be shackled to the bed, I had to wait until Ethan had something else to occupy his time."  Then, he laughed.  "My boys really love me."

"You didn't!"  Love laughed.

"It was the only way I could get out of there, Kal."  Shaft replied with a grin.

I had to chuckle.  "Shaft, you realize Ethan will tear you a new ass once he realizes you used your sons to distract him."

"I know.  I just hope it takes him a while before he realizes it."  He snickered.

We talked for about an hour before Ethan tracked him down.  "You ass!"  Ethan blasted.  The boys all piled completely around Shaft, barricading him in a protective huddle.  Ethan looked at him, then began tapping his foot.  "You know, if you do not want to be put on se... um, restriction, I suggest you get back to bed."  He stated, catching himself before blurting out his intended wording in front of the kids.

Chance began laughing hysterically.  Looking at Ethan, he smirked.  "You's wouldn't be able to last too long without doin' that STUFF you'self." 

Ethan blushed deep red, then smacked me playfully on the arm.  "I swear, he gets more and more like you every day, Big Guy."  Then, he looked at Love.  "You should really watch what this idiot is teaching your son, Kal."

"Hey! When did this become about me?"  I laughed.

"Oh, I don't know.  But, aiding and abetting an escaped lover is a capital offense."  He shot.  "Seriously, Shaft.  You need to rest.  If you don't want to stay in the bed, at least lay down on a couch or in a recliner."  Ethan had the pleading look, and I knew he was deeply hurting.  "I'm just worried about you, Honey."

The boys moved to let Shaft up, and he held Ethan gently in his arms.  "I know, Baby, and I am sorry.  I just needed to get out of that room, and I really wanted to catch up with Kal and company some."

Ethan kissed him softly.  "That's fine, Shaft, but promise me you will take it easy."

Shaft led Ethan to the recliner, and seated them both into a snuggling position.  Holding Ethan closely, he sighed.  "Now, I feel rested."

Within a few minutes, Carter, Dwayne, Jonah, and Mark were at the study door.  "Sorry, Pa, but he figured it out."  Carter sighed.  "I hope Da went easy on you."

"Much easier than he should have, I believe."  Shaft winked, kissing Ethan's head.

"Well, boys, make yourselves comfortable."  Love smiled.

We all visited with one another for the rest of the evening and well into Sunday morning.  Love and I carried Jonah and Mark to Carter and Dwayne's room, as the boys had invited them down for a sleep over.  That became their usual sleeping grounds.  I then carried the snoring Ethan to bed where Shaft lovingly tucked him in.

"He means the world to me, you know."  Shaft said softly.

"You are his everything, Shaft.  That is why he worries so much about you."  I said, hugging him firmly.  "Humor him, buddy.  For his sake, try to rest as much as you can tomorrow."

He kissed my cheek lightly and smiled.  "I will, Kanawha.  And, thanks for being there."

"Anytime, buddy."  I grinned back.

Then, I returned to the study and held Brad and Pete while love fixed up the sleeper sofa.  After tucking them in, Love and I tucked in Sorrow and Chance.  Then, we retired ourselves, holding each other snugly until sleep crept over us.


It was around ten o'clock Tuesday morning.  I was in the middle of doing performance evaluations, when it came.  The symbols told me much, and images of Shaft and Ethan stood before me.  I didn't need to probe further to know they were in need.  I handed the evaluations over to my assistant and headed out the door quickly, grabbing Jena on the way.  I called Love once we were in my car.

He answered immediately. "I know, Love.  I am leaving work now.  I'll meet you there."  He replied, and I could hear the tears in his voice.  I tried calling Cole, but I couldn't reach her.  She was out of her office on some kind of errand.

Jena and I pulled up to the medical center.  Love, thank God, was there waiting for us.  As we exited the car, Cole pulled up in one of the vans.  With her were our sons, Carter, and Dwayne.

"Chance and Sorrow called me to pick them up from school."  The worry on her face was clear.  "Kal, what is wrong?"

I sighed heavily.  "I don't know, Cole.  All I know is they need us."

We walked into the clinic and found out which doctor Shaft was seeing.  He had some tests ran on Monday, and was there today to have them read.  As we entered the waiting area, Ethan and Shaft were coming out of the office.  Something was definitely wrong, so we raced to them.

"Honey, what's wrong?"  Cole began, tears flowing down her cheeks.

"It's his heart."  Ethan said without emotion.  It was obvious he was in some form of shock.

"How bad is it?  Do they need to do another surgery?"  Cole cried.

"No."  Shaft said softly, hugging Cole tightly. "No surgery this time, Sis." 

"Well, that's a good thing, right?"  Jena asked, wrapping Ethan in her arms snugly.

"No, Sis.  Not this time."  Ethan replied, almost inaudibly.

"What do you mean?"  She asked softly.

"It's all coming undone.  Everything they have fixed before, it is all falling apart."  Ethan said, his eyes showing he was far away at that moment.

"Well, they can fix it, right?"  Cole asked, knowing full well the answer.

"No, Sis.  Not this time.  It is too deteriorated to repair."  Shaft clung to her tightly, in shock himself.  "This time, I am going to die."

"Oh, God, NO!"  I cried, as Love held me in his arms.

"Three to four weeks."  Ethan almost whispered.  "That's all the time we have left.  In less than five minutes, the doctor told us Shaft's heart condition had deteriorated, which was causing all the stints and patching to come undone.  The valve replacements are also leaking.  Then, he said his only option would be a transplant.  But, he took that hope away with a wave of his hand, because he says Shaft would never make it through the surgery."  Ethan became even more emotionally withdrawn.  "Then, just like that, he told us Shaft had three to four weeks to live.
He even gave me a number for Hospice. In a matter of seconds, he ripped my world apart."

We were all rather hysterical, but we tried to be strong for the others.  Carter fell to his knees, his sobs were so strong.  Sorrow held him closely, as Chance snugly embraced Dwayne.  Jena and Cole held their brothers tightly, while Love and I encased a set of twins each in our arms.  After some time, Love and I carried Shaft and Ethan to the van.  Sorrow carried Carter, while Chance walked with Dwayne.  Jena and Cole clung to one another, following us in a blinding flood of tears.  Love held my hand as I drove us all home in the van. 
The urgency to be in the safe shelter of the old hotel was so overpowering at that point in time, and given the state of our dear family members, Love and I decided to later come back for our cars.

Nana and Grams called the family, while Love, Sorrow, and I put Ethan, Shaft, and Carter to bed.  Dwayne curled up with them, and the reality of the situation finally sank in for him, as he abruptly fell into deep, soul-felt sobs.  Jonah and Mark knocked lightly at the door, and Cole explained what was going on.  They both sat beside Carter and Dwayne, trying their best to comfort their newfound friends.

When all of the family arrived home, we met in the movie room.  There, Love and I had the terrible task of breaking the news.  Afterwards, we gathered in prayer for the rest of the evening.  Occasionally, one of us would look in on Shaft, Ethan, their sons, and Jonah and Mark -- Mark and Jonah wanted to stay in case any of the other four needed something --  There was little change for them throughout the evening. 

Weary and tired, we climbed into bed.  Thomas and Roe said they would watch over them while the rest of us got some sleep.  Patrick and Ryan slept in the movie room, wanting to be with Thomas.

 It was a restless night, as Love and I mostly cried.  Sorrow and Chance came to our room about an hour after we lay down, and Brad and Pete arrived a few minutes later.  Love commented that we needed a bigger bed, but we made do.  As the sun began to rise, there was a light knock at our door.

Ethan and Shaft entered.  "Hey, we just wanted to thank you guys for everything yesterday." Ethan smiled.

I motioned for them to join the huddle, so they did.  Sorrow and Chance quickly wrapped them both up in their arms, and we sat there talking for almost an hour.  They both seemed to be handling it better, but I could tell that was going to change soon.

Love got up and called the school.  He explained that our sons, Dwayne, and Carter would not be attending for the day.  Then, he returned to the bed.   "Let's go fix something to eat.  I'm starving."  He said half-heartedly.

Mic and Hela were already cooking as we entered the kitchen.  Thomas and Roe were drinking coffee, and Ryan and Patrick were each sitting beside Thomas. 

"They are like little shadows."  I snickered, and Thomas motioned for me to join him. 

With a gentle hug, he asked quietly, "Are you OK, Kal?"

"For now, I'm holding it together."  I admitted.

"You know if you need me..." He started.

"Yeah, big brother, I know."  I smiled.  "So, just be expecting me anytime."

He grinned.  "I'll keep that in mind."

We all sat down at the table once Mic and Hela chased us away from the stove.  Evidently, they did not desire our being under foot.  Chance and Pete took the pups out while Sorrow and Brad prepared food for Domino and Chips.  As they were finishing, Hela asked if we would let everyone know breakfast would be ready in ten minutes.  Love and Ethan went to wake everyone. 

I pulled Shaft to my lap, holding him tightly.  "I'm not giving up, little brother, and neither are you."

He smiled at me, then rested his head on my shoulder.  "Never, Kal.  I'll fight till the bitter end."  I just held him for the next few minutes, fighting desperately to keep from falling apart.  It was so hard to accept that one of my dearest friends, my little brother, was going to leave us soon, to never again grace us with his wondrous presence.

"Excuse me, but don't you have your own husband?"  Ethan joked, sitting on Love's lap.  "I guess I will just have to take yours, then."  He looked at Love, then back to me.  "On second thought, you can keep him."

"You could get yourself hurt for that, you know."  Love chuckled.

Ethan reached over and took Shafts hand.  "Let's eat, Honey.  We can play lap dancer later."

"Is that a promise?"  Shaft asked expectantly.

"It depends upon which one of us gets to be the lap, and which one gets to be the dancer."  Ethan giggled.

Under the circumstances, we had a fairly quiet breakfast.  Honestly, I think everyone was just far too tired, as they all looked haggard and worn.  Everyone was also trying to ignore the elephant that loomed around us, as I suppose none of us were really ready to deal with it just then.

After breakfast, Roe and Thomas went to bed, though they were up by eleven.  They didn't sleep any better than the rest of us had.  Ethan and Shaft had lain down for a nap, when Cole finally gathered up the courage to call the doctor to get the specifics of Shaft's condition.

In tears, she explained to us exactly what was going on and what was expected to happen.  There were two replacement valves in Shaft's heart, the mitral valve and the pulmonary valve.  Both were leaking a spillway of blood into both ventricles, the two bottom chambers. 

>From birth, the ventricular septum in Shaft's heart, which is the wall between the two bottom chambers, had a large hole in it.  As he grew, this had to be repatched several times, which had always been successful.  But now, because of the added pressures in the ventricles, the patch was leaking heavily and deteriorating rapidly.  This was causing deoxygenated blood to be mixed with the oxygenated blood that was being pumped back into his body.  As a result, Shaft had a lowered blood-oxygen count and would tire easily.  In time, as the patch was destroyed, he would become more blue in color, having fewer and fewer hours of consciousness.  Eventually, in the state of a coma, his body would start to die, cell by cell, through oxygen depravation.

Shaft had a few other genetic defects that were corrected with surgery.  His pulmonary artery, which carries blood to the lungs, was far too narrow.  It had been stretched and expanded.  The same had been done for two of his coronary arteries, which feed the heart itself with oxygen.  These vessels, unfortunately were losing their elasticity and narrowing down quickly.

I hated to admit it, but everything seemed rather hopeless.  While Ethan and Shaft napped, the rest of the family gathered in the movie room for another cry and round of prayer.  It was one of the most somber moments I can ever recall having, and I was honestly devastated.

Love was worried about me, as I was always so optimistic.  At the time, however, I simply could not foresee any hope.  As I would concentrate on Shaft those past 24 hours, I noted something;  it was about the symbols that granted me glimpses into a person's future
.  Those around Shaft were fading, and I knew that they would start to disappear one by one.  Explaining this to him, Love joined me in a long, heart-wrenching cry.

Once Ethan and Shaft were awake, we spent quality time as a family.  Again, everyone avoided the obvious pain that was tearing at our very souls.  That was how it continued over the next several days.

It was on the following Monday that Love and I were making dinner.  This marked a four month anniversary for Shaft and Ethan, Jena and Jew, and Love and me.  It also made four months since we had been blessed with Chance, and the next day made four months for our having Sorrow.  The family was already seated at the table, and polite conversation was abundant.  I am not sure what it was, but something inside of me snapped.

I suddenly threw the platter I was holding across the kitchen, shattering it against the wall.  "This is BULLSHIT!"  I screamed.

I had everyone's attention, to say the least.  I stormed over to the table and grabbed Ethan and Shaft each by the arm.  "Get up, and come with me."  I demanded.  I led them into the living room, as Love quickly followed us.  I seated them both on the couch.  "This has got to stop!"  I yelled.

"What have we done?"  Ethan asked softly, concerned he had somehow offended me.

"That!"  I screamed, pointing my finger at him.  "That is not you, Ethan.  You are not acting like yourself, and neither is anyone else."  The floodgate quickly broke, and a maelstrom of frustration was released.  "No one will say what they really want to say, and to be honest, I am sick of it!"

Shaft looked at Love, who was completely shocked at my display, then back to me.  After a little hesitation, he asked softly, "So, what is it you want to say?"

"Both you and Ethan have been walking around here acting like everything is just fine and dandy.  Well, it isn't, Shaft!  It's not fine!  It's not OK with me!"  I vented, turning my boiling emotions on Ethan.  "And, you!   All you have been doing is skirting around everything.  You can't bury your head in the sand forever, Ethan.  At some point, you have to say something!"  Then, I pushed him beyond his limits.  "Be a man for once!"

Ethan jumped to his feet and was in my face within a second.  "What do you want me to say, Kal?  Do you want me to tell you the truth?  Do you want me to tell you how I feel?"  He screamed, his voice escalating with each sentence.  "I am ANGRY!  I hurt like hell, and you want to attack me!  Fine!  How the HELL do you think I SHOULD feel, damn it!  The love of my life is dying, and I am falling apart inside!" 

Ethan put his hand over his mouth, and his eyes went wide.  He fell to his knees in deep sobs.  "Oh, God!  Shaft is dying!  He's really dying!  NO!  Oh, God! NO!" 

With a tear-soaked face, Love looked at me knowingly, then knelt down and wrapped Ethan in his arms.  Ethan put his head in Love's chest, crying over and over "Why?"

I pulled Shaft to his feet.  "I love you, Shaft.  You are one of my dearest friends, but I am not OK with this.  I don't want you to die."  I cried, holding him as tightly as was humanly possible.

His tears soaked my shoulder.  "Kal, I don't want to die, either."  He whispered softly.  "I don't want to die." 

My heart was breaking during all of this, the entire confrontation, but it simply had to be done.  Often, love is gentle and kind.  But, sometimes, it must be tough.  With time ticking onward, denial had no place.  Ethan and Shaft had to face the horrible reality of what was happening.  The task of being the catalyst had fallen upon me, and I felt terrible for pushing as I did.  I just held Shaft tightly to me, praying that he and Ethan could see their way to forgive me once they dealt with their feelings.

After a long, healthy cry, Ethan and Shaft had a heart-to-heart talk.  They asked Love and I to stay with them, so we did.  I suppose they understood my intentions for the confrontation by this point, and neither seemed to harbor any ill will towards me for my actions.

Ethan stroked his lover's face, trying to wipe the tears as quickly as they fell.  Then, he kissed him several times lightly.  "Oh, Baby!  You can't leave me like this.  I just found you, and now you're dying."  He said, as the streams glistened on his cheeks.  "I know you told me from the beginning, but I never really thought this day would come."  Ethan ran his fingers across Shaft's face.  "Just don't leave me."  he whimpered softly.

"Ethan, Honey, it's not like I want to.  I will fight it every step of the way, but, in the end, we both know what will happen."  Shaft sobbed.  "This has been so unfair to you, and I am so, so sorry."

"Stop, that."  Ethan replied, covering his lover's mouth with his hand.  "I'm not sorry, Shaft.  My heart is breaking into dust, but I am NOT sorry."  He kissed Shaft again, then held Shaft's hands in his own.  "You are the best thing that has ever happened to me, Baby.  I wouldn't trade these last four months for anything."  He leaned in and kissed Shaft for a long, slow kiss.  Wiping his tears, he began to sing to nothing but the music of his heart.

I Would've Loved You Anyway

M. Danna and T. Verges ©2001

If I'd've known the way that this would end
If I'd've read the last page first
If I'd've had the strength to walk away
If I'd've known how this would hurt

I would've loved you anyway
I'd do it all the same
Not a second I would change
Not a touch that I would trade
Had I known my heart would break
I'd've loved you anyway

It's bittersweet to look back now
At memories withered on a vine
Just to hold you close to me
For a moment in time

I would've loved you anyway
I'd do it all the same
Not a second I would change
Not a touch that I would trade
Had I known my heart would break
I'd've loved you anyway

Even if I'd seen it comin'
You'd still have seen me runnin'
Straight into your arms

I would've loved you anyway
I'd do it all the same
Not a second I would change
Not a touch that I would trade
Had I known my heart would break
I would've loved you anyway
I would've loved you anyway

Love broke down, crying uncontrollably in my arms.  "This is so unfair, Love!  I just don't understand why this has to happen."  He looked to Ethan and Shaft, then into my eyes.  "They are two of the kindest, dearest people I have ever met.  Why must they suffer this?"

I held him to me, rocking him in my arms.  "I don't know, Love."  I softly admitted.  "I'm as lost with this as you."

Chance and Sorrow carefully made an entrance into the living room.  They both quietly walked over and sat to each side of Ethan and Shaft.  Hugging them tightly, they cried.

"Please, Shaft," Chance almost whispered, "just don't go givin' up.  You's gotta fight.  If nothin' else n' for Ethan n' 'em boys, you's can't go givin' up."

Shaft kissed Chance softly on his forehead.  "I promise you, Chance, I'll try with everything in me."  Holding our son closer to him, he said, "I love you boys so much.  Remember that, if nothing else, OK?"  Chance just cried, but shook his head yes.

Sorrow sighed through his tears.  "You can't give up, either, Ethan.  You have to help him fight.  To the bitter end, you both have to hold on."

Ethan held him snugly.  "Sorrow, I will not let my Shaft go without a fight.  Of that, you can be certain."

"Good."  was all Sorrow could say before his voice was taken by his tears.

"Enough of this."  Shaft announced after a few more minutes.  "I'm not dead, and I am not spending whatever time I have left dwelling on this."  He smiled at Ethan, taking his hand gently.  "Four months ago, you brought me to life, Baby, and I am not going back to what I was before.  'Til the very end, I want to LIVE every moment."

The two stood and walked towards the kitchen.  Turning to the four of us, they both smiled.  "Are you going to join us for dinner or what?"

Dinner was nice, and the emotional baggage we were all carrying was released through the course of the evening.  Everyone expressed how they felt.  Then, we moved on.  Each of us worked to fulfill Shaft's only request, that he truly live what days remained of his life.  Gradually, he weakened, requiring more and more rest.  Within the next two weeks, he was resting more than anything else.  He began turning more blue in color, particularly around his lips.  But, we continued praying and kept our promise to help him live.


I was so angry at first.  I was angry at Shaft for dying on Ethan.  I was angry at Ethan for choosing to love Shaft.  Most of all, though, I was angry with myself for not being able to protect my little knight.

Being his soul mate, I felt every pang of hurt in Ethan's heart.  It was killing me, knowing how much he was hurting, yet being completely helpless to do anything about it.  Yes, I am a complete control freak, and I admit it.  But, when someone you love is hurting, you realize just how out of your control life truly is.

Ethan and I had many long talks those few weeks, as we stood by, helplessly watching his one true love die.  Cole spent this time with Shaft, I imagine having the same talks.  I know I cried in his arms so many times, but Ethan was not the same brother I once had.  Shaft's love had changed him, for he was so much stronger than before.

That was the turning point for me, when my anger was replaced with compassion.  Shaft was really a Godsend for Ethan, a blessing beyond the hurt.  I understood Ethan's choice, then.  One day experiencing true love was truly worth much more than an entire lifetime of loneliness. 

I knew I would feel that way about Jew, though I don't honestly know if I would have been as brave as my little knight had I known from the beginning our time was limited.  I felt so guilty that Jew and I were healthy, while Shaft was not.  But, in the same token, I was quietly thanking God we were in good health and not facing this tragedy directly ourselves.

We celebrated Chance's birthday, and Shaft did well that day.  I think his love for Chance and Sorrow gave him the strength he needed.  He also did well the few days his and Cole's parents visited.  They were coming back on Christmas morning, but we were to call if it looked like Shaft would not make it till then.  Shaft even fought to be well enough to see Sorrow and Chance in their school play.

Unfortunately, Shaft's condition deteriorated more with each passing day.  In that last week, he was so weak and frail, I hardly recognized him.  But, together, his and Ethan's courage was stronger than any I had ever known before.  Shaft and I shared many talks, and I learned so much about life from his shared perspective.  Crazy, huh?  Learning how to truly live from someone who is dying... but, that is what happened.

The biggest question for me, though was why?  I knew Ethan shared the same question, and I suspected the rest of family did as well.  I just felt if I understood why this was happening, then I could accept it.

Whether I accepted it or not, though, Shaft was dying.  It was on December 23 when Shaft started losing consciousness.  We had moved a bed into the movie room where he could rest while visiting with the family.  All the boys were out of school on break, and we adults took this time off from the mission.  The home had been completed and opened.  We all prayed Shaft would make it, just two more days, and be strong enough to see the kids from the home have their Christmas.  We all knew how much this meant to him.

We had been debating on whether or not to have Christmas early, fearing Shaft would not make it the next two days.  But, it was something he was looking forward to, so we saw that it was a hope to which he could tightly cling. 

Valerie and Ed were over, along with Kevin and Alex.  Stormy, Kal, and their sons had went to fix some hot chocolate, and Valerie had gone to help them.  They had brought it back up and had just brought Shaft his cup, when he slipped from us.

"Shaft?  Shaft?"  Ethan shook him lightly, trying to wake him.  "Shaft!  SHAFT!"  He cried, feeling for a pulse.  "Oh, thank God!"  he sighed, knowing Shaft was still alive. 

Shaft came to for a moment or so, but he would slip back away.  Ethan was devastated as he realized that Shaft would soon be in a coma.  He just broke down at that point, softly crying out "Why?"

All hope was pretty much lost, at that point.  We began to prepare for the worst.

Chance and Sorrow were in hysterics, begging everyone not to give up.  They kept telling Ethan 'That isn't the right question to be asking', and even sat with Shaft for some time, whispering for him to hang on and not give up.  I felt much like I knew everyone else was feeling.  If Shaft could leave us without further suffering, then that would be best.

Chance and Sorrow, though, were determined.  With heaping sobs they turned to Hela.  In her loving arms, they unloaded their feelings, and the whole exchange broke my heart into nothingness.

"You's gotta do somethin', Hela.  They's all but givin' up."  Chance sniffled.

"Baby, what can I do?"  She cried, feeling their pain herself.  Hela truly loved those boys as if they were her own.  There was always a special bond between them, but it was extremely strong that evening.

"I don't really know."  Chance sighed.  "All I knows is you's 'posed to do it."

Hela held his face in her hands.  "Chance, baby, I don't understand."

Sorrow was pacing frantically.  He turned to Chance, opening his arms.  Chance ran to him, and they held each other tightly.  After a few moments, Chance turned back to Hela, smiling.

"You's can sing 'at ol' song of yours."  he said.  "You know, 'at one you's always singin' when you's wakin' us up each mornin'."

Hela sobbed quietly for a few moments.  "Chance, baby, I don't know if I can."

The desperate look on Chance's face broke my heart all over again.  "Please, Hela.  You's gotta try.  Don't give up, not yet."

It was quiet for a few moments, as Hela collected herself.  Then, she began the song.
There can be Miracles
Music by: Stephen Schwartz & Baby Face
Lyrics By:  Stephen Schwartz   1998
Many nights we prayed
With no proof anyone could hear
Hela broke down in tears, and Cole held her tightly, joining her in song.
In our hearts a hopeful song
We barely understood
Hela again found her strength, and she and Cole sang through tears.
Now we are not afraid
Although we know there's much to fear
We were moving mountains long
Before we knew we could, Oh Yes
The two of them wrapped Ethan in their arms, each singing from their souls to raise his spirits.
There can be miracles
When you believe
Though hope is frail
It's hard to kill
Who knows what miracles
You can achieve
When you believe
Somehow you will
You will when you believe

Jew wrapped his arms around me, tears flowing from his eyes.  They spoke volumes to me.
In this time of fear
When prayer so often proves in vain
Hope seems like the summer birds
Too swiftly flown away
As he sang, I found the true meaning of faith.  For all the love I held for Ethan, for Shaft, for my Jew, for my God, I sang out, joining Jew in the melody of hope.
Yet, now I am standing here
My heart's so full I can't explain
Seeking faith and speaking words
I never thought I'd say

There can be miracles
When you believe (When you believe)
Though hope is frail
It's hard to kill
Who knows what miracles
You can achieve (You can achieve)
When you believe
Somehow you will
You will when you believe

Mic and Thomas walked over to Ethan, embracing him tightly.  As they sang together, I realized if anyone understood the words, it was them.  They had been through so much, but always, they held to hope and faith.
They don't always happen when you ask
And it's easy to give in to your fear
But when you're blinded by your pain
Can't see your way safe through the rain
Thought of a still resilient voice
Says love is very near
Hela and Cole sang again, as the rest of us joined in, lifting up our voices and our spirits.
There can be miracles (Miracles)
When you believe (Now, When you believe, Oh)
Though hope is frail
It's hard, Hard to kill, Oh yeah
Who knows what miracles
You can achieve (You can achieve, oh)
When you believe
Somehow you will (Somehow, somehow, somehow)
Now you will (Now, Now, Now)
You will when you (When You)  believe  (Oh)
You will when you (You will when you believe)
Just believe (believe) In your heart, Gotta believe, just believe
You will when you believe

Ethan sprinted to Chance and Sorrow, hugging them tightly.  "Oh, guys!  Thank you.  Thank you so much for not giving up."  He cried as he clung to them tightly.  Then, he cried out in prayer.  "Oh, God, please, save my Shaft.  Don't take him from me!"

Kanawha and Killian approached them, followed closely by Pete and Brad.  Kal wrapped his arm around Chance, as Stormy did the same to Sorrow.  Then, Kal and Kanawha joined hands and began praying.  Pete stood beside Stormy, and Brad beside Kal, joining them in their prayer.

Jew and I were the next to join, meeting Hela and Cole to form a circle.  Soon, all our family was gathered in a huddle, praying for Shaft.  I just knew a miracle was going to happen, for I could feel such a powerful presence among us.  When we finished our prayer, I anxiously looked at Shaft.  There was no change (Honestly, I expected to see him sitting up laughing like he always did, but that was not the case).  However, I was not giving up, not after this.


I joined Kal, Kanawha, Chance, and Sorrow in the kitchen.  The boys, I sensed, already understood, but I needed to guide their fathers.

"I'm so glad you could join us this evening, Val."  Kanawha smiled.  "I think it will help Shaft find more a reason to hang on, really."

"I agree, Love."  Kal lovingly supported.  "He loves helping on Saturdays, and I believe it will inspire him to see you."  He grinned at me.

"You know boys, there comes a time when you have to quit hanging on and just let go."  I replied, and they both looked petrified.  "No, I'm not saying it is time to let Shaft go."  I smiled, patting their cheeks to comfort them.  "What I mean is this:  As you walk a path, sometimes you come to a river.  Crossing the river can be very difficult.  Sometimes, it is not meant for us to cross it.  Sometimes, we must let go and let the current carry us, because sometimes, the river is actually our path."

"What do you mean?"  Kanawha asked in bewilderment.

"What I mean is that it's time."  I simply stated.  "It is time to act as three.  But, before that can be done, there is the matter of your Destiny."

Kal looked excitedly.  "Is it time to find our destiny?" 

I knew he was hoping for Shaft's recovery at that point.  "No, child.  You have already found your Destiny."  I smiled.  "He has been with you almost the entire time."

"You mean, Chance?"  Kanawha asked.

Kal pat his shoulder, as he was becoming aware.  "No, Love.  It is Sorrow.  He is our destiny."

I nodded my head, grinning.  "Exactly.  Chance was indeed your Chance, but Sorrow is your Destiny.  And, what a glorious Destiny he is."

Kanawha snickered.  "You know, I honestly thought at some point we would find a kid named Destiny."

"And that you did, child."  I laughed.  "His very name is Destiny."

"She's right, Daddy."  Chance smiled.  "We learned 'bout it in school n' all readin' one of 'em stories in 'at ol' English.  Moirae was 'em ol' Fates, you know 'em three girls that worked that ol' spinnin' wheel, makin' the threads of life n' stuff."

Sorrow grinned proudly, hugging Chance tightly and giving him praise.  "That's right, Angel. Moirae literally means the inescapable destiny of man."

"So, children, you see, you have already found your Destiny.  Now, it is time for your Destiny to find himself.  Then,  you will be able to act as three."  I said, grabbing a tray of hot chocolate.  Turning, I headed towards the door.

"What is that supposed to mean?"  Kanawha asked.

"It means that you must trust in God and let go.  Then, you will understand."  I replied.

Later, in the movie room, as we gathered and prayed for Shaft, I could sense the change. 

"Love, I wish you could see this!"  Kanawha enthused, squeezing his husband's hand.

"Actually, Love, I can."  Kal smiled amazedly.  "It's the most incredible thing I have ever seen."

The hare gave way to the dove, as Sorrow completed his first of many journeys.  His very presence was completely different, as Sorrow was simply no more.  He and Chance both knew this day was coming, the day when Sorrow would be made new.

"Angel, I feel so different."  He commented.  Then, he smiled in great joy.  "Oh, Chance!  The angels, I can see them. They are here with us, and they are whispering to me." Lovingly, he turned his gaze to Chance.  "Oh, Angel!  I had no idea, but you have always known who I would become." He said, kissing Chance warmly.

Chance grinned, taking him in his arms.  "NOW you's the one I's meant to be with, but I don't reckon you's my Sorrow no more."  A look of contemplation crossed his face, then another smile.  "Now, you's my Aisa."

"Aisa?"  Roe asked, having no clue what had just happened.

"That's right, Chance."  I smiled, wrapping my arms around them both.  Then, I turned my words to who was now Aisa.  "Aisa was the name God picked out for you, child.  It was the name his angel whispered into your mother's ear on the day you were born."  I rubbed his back gently.  "It means one who cannot be turned, and it is a fitting name, for your faith in God shall never again falter."

Kanawha grabbed Killian, hugging him tightly.  "Love, I understand!"  He enthused.

"Yes, that's it exactly!"  Kal smiled as understanding dawned upon him. 

They were both being flashed with the dream of the dying bird again.  This dream was not about Blade and the boys, it was about helping Shaft.  They were also understanding what it was to act as three.

They came to us, each taking one of their sons in his arms.

"I love you, Son."  Kal sighed as he hugged Aisa tightly.

"And, I love you, Son."  Kanawha said, holding Chance in a firm embrace.

"Now, it is up to you."  They both told their sons in unison.

Joining hands, Chance and Aisa walked to the unconscious Shaft.  In their presence, Shaft roused.  He was still so very weak.

Aisa looked at Shaft fondly for a moment.  Then, tears flowed from Aisa's eyes.  "Your destiny is to die, Shaft, and that cannot be changed.  For that, I am truly sorry."  He said softly.  "But, that will not happen for a very long time.  You and Ethan will live to know your great-grandchildren quite well."  He smiled, seeing clearly the final fate of his beloved friends.

Chance looked at Aisa lovingly.  "You's got all my hope.  You's always have.  This 'n's up to you.  This here is your destiny."

Aisa bent down, whispering into Shaft's ear.  "Hold to your faith, my dearest friend.  There can be no doubts.  All you have to do is believe."  Shaft cast him a slight, weak smile in response.  Aisa then looked at Ethan lovingly, tears flowing from both their eyes.   "You asked a question of God.  In response, he says how else could he show you he loves you this much." 

Aisa placed his hand on Shaft's chest, leaning down and kissing his forehead.  He muttered a silent prayer, then spoke to Shaft softly. "God says you are healed and made new.  Now, it is up to you.  Just believe.  That's all you have to do."


It was at the Christmas Eve service at our church that the full weight of what had happened truly struck me.  I sat with my sons: Carter, Dwayne, Jonah, and Mark.  Shaft and I had asked Jonah and Mark if they wanted to join our family, and thankfully they accepted.  Mic and Thomas sat with their little family, and both Patrick and Ryan were nestled on Thomas' lap.  Nathan was cuddled between Jena and Jew, and I was so happy for Sis; Nathan had some issues, but he was definitely one terrific kid.  Kal and the Big Guy were grinning proudly, seated with their sons Chance, Pete, and Brad.  Everyone else in the family was shuffled somewhere in between.  We were all waiting the special Christmas song that was to be sung.

Allen made a few announcements, then shared the news about Shaft.  Everyone, especially myself, was stricken to tears by the story.  Finally, Allen said there was a special song to be shared that evening.  Aisa and my beloved Shaft walked to the front of the congregation.  Though he had told the family we could still call him Sorrow if we wanted, we all knew that he was meant to be Aisa.  For a time, Sorrow fit him, but now, Aisa was who he had become.  It was his destiny, and we each respected that.  As the song began, I cried, thinking about the words and all of their meanings.

I Call Him Love

Ty Lacy, Joanna Carlson, Kevin Stokes  ©1997

Some called him a prophet
Some called him a saint
Some couldn't believe their eyes
Or the words he had to say
Some called him crazy
Some thought he was strange
But I have felt his touch
And I'll never be the same

I call him love
I call him mercy
I called him out of my darkness and pain
And he answered my need
I call him love
I call him healing
He is the one who has filled me with hope
And restored life to me
I call him love

As Aisa sang this, I thought of how far he had come in his life.  When Sorrow was at his lowest point, he had cried out to God, and God was there for him.  God gave him hope, though it was in the form of our dear Chance.  He had also healed his broken spirit and gave him a whole new life.  As Aisa, he was truly touched by God, and I knew for certain he would never truly be the same again.  He was now completely confident, moving with purpose in every step.  There was not a trace of doubt, for Aisa held complete faith in God.

Some call him a mystery
A power without a face
Some feel he's a distant father
That they could not embrace
But I have felt his touch
And I'll never be the same, No

I call him love
I call him mercy
I called him out of my darkness and pain
And he answered my need
I call him love
I call him healing
He is the one who has filled me with hope
And restored life to me
I call him love

As Shaft sang, I cried, reliving the experience.  But, Shaft was also different.  His voice, which had always had that timid, airy quality was much stronger and more forceful.  Kanawha told Shaft that his spirit had been changed.  He said that before Shaft's spirit was a sparrow, but now, it was a phoenix. In the depths of the darkness and pain, God had looked down upon us favorably and restored Shaft, healing him completely.

As Aisa and Shaft sang together, I just had to smile.  Both of them were proof that God worked miracles in our everyday lives.  Plus, they just rocked the church. 
Cause he reached out to me
I'm overwhelmed by the grace I received

I call him love (Call him love)
I call him mercy (Mercy)
I called him out of my darkness and pain
And he answered my need, yeah
I call him love (Call him love)
I call him healing (Healing)
He is the one who has filled me with hope
And restored life to me
I call him love (I call him love, mercy, mercy, mercy, Father, love, I call him love)

I call him love (Call him love)
I call him mercy (Mercy)
I called him out of my darkness and pain
And he answered my need
I call him love (Call him love)
I call him heeling (Heeling)
He is the one who has filled me with hope
And restored life to me
I call him love (Mercy, I call him love)
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah (I call him love)
He gave me mercy (Mercy)
He gave me healing (I call him Love)
He is the one who gave me hope (I call him love)
I call him love (Mercy)
I call him love

Afterwards, Allen talked about the spirit of Christmas being a time of giving.  He pointed out the many blessings God gave us everyday.  He then spoke about the gifts God had given each one of us to use in service to God and for our fellow man.  Alan concentrated this part of his sermon on three gifts, for he said at the end of time, all gifts would fade, save these.  He called them the triad, for the three worked together.  Those gifts were Faith, Hope, and Love.

As he continued talking, I smiled over to Kal and Kanawha.  After Shaft had been healed, we were astounded at what had happened.  Valerie dismissed our surprise by saying it was the power of acting as three. 

Valerie explained that Kal and Kanawha were both blessed with the gift of love.  She said that love was the greatest of all gifts, so she was not surprised that for his purposes, God split this gift between the two of them.  Once they had learned to act as one, this gift was unified and made whole.

She then explained that Kal and Kanawha were given Chance to foster him with love.  From this love, Chance's gift of hope bloomed and blossomed in all of its glory.  She stressed, however that without love, hope could not exist.

Finally, Valerie explained that Sorrow's change into Aisa was because he had received the gift of faith.  His connection to Chance was truly ordained, for faith was an extension of hope.  She said it was hope moved to the point that there was no doubts left, turning into a sense of complete belief.  With faith, miracles could happen, but again, it all stemmed back to love.

The intricate workings of destiny was overwhelming, really.  Kal and Kanawha were destined to meet so that together, their love would strengthen Chance.  As Chance was actually the one who connected with Sorrow, it was his destiny to give Sorrow the hope he needed to grow.  Once he matured into Aisa, he would, in turn, have the faith needed to help my Shaft. 

Valerie patted my leg, shaking me out of my thoughts. 

"That's right child."  She smiled at me.  "Helping Shaft was always Aisa's destiny... well, a part of it, anyway."

It was kind of creepy how she could do that, but I was happy, regardless.  And, I was quite thankful.  I was granted a lifetime with my Shaft, the man I would forever love.  That was all the Christmas I would ever need. 

AUTHORS NOTE:  Though this is not exactly the way it happened, my nephew lay dying some 15 years ago from this same heart condition.  Through the power of prayer, he lives a perfectly normal life with no signs of his past ailment.  Miracles are all around us, if only we are open to see them.  All it takes is the courage to believe. 

Happy Holidays to you all, and may God bless you with a wonderful new year.

This completes Chapter Twelve.  Thanks for reading, and please let me know what you think.  The final chapter to this story, Chapter Thirteen, will be coming  soon.