RAY OF LIGHT
in the Gloaming
story by SOLACE LENITY
This is a story about tragedies and
triumphs faced in the journey
For the most part, it is a
work of pure fiction, though some parts draw upon a host of life
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.
This is my second story in the Raven Cliff
series. For those of you
who read OF LOVE AND CHANCE, you will find ONE RAY OF LIGHT to be
quite different. For one, it is told in limited third person
narratives, rather than various individual points of view. It is
much darker, more complex delve into the nature of
humanity. It contends with spiritual and social issues, but in a
completely different manner. In similarity, it is ultimately a
romantic love story that is not meant to be a quick fix, jerk-off
session. You might also recognize a few characters here and
there, for lives often interconnect in ways we do not realize. If
you haven't read OF LOVE AND CHANCE, don't worry, for this story stands
thanks to Paul for all his efforts with editing, and to Tob for
his input and feedback.
have any comments, ideas, suggestions, etc., I would love to hear
Please contact me via email@example.com
"You did what you could for them,
Nathan. Take comfort in that, and let the trauma team do their
jobs." He said calmly.
Max tried his best to ease his young friend's mind, but he knew that
was a defeated cause before he ever began. Nathan was a worrier
by nature, he surmised. And, he tended to carry the weight of
things on his own shoulders, somehow seeing himself to blame for almost
everything. Still, Max wanted to give Nathan as much comfort as
he could muster. Nathan was special to him, as were Cindy and
Aaron. They were like the children he never had, or at the very
like his niece and nephews.
Max never had a sister or brother, though, so he could only imagine the
love he felt for these kids would be along those lines. Max had
also never married, deciding to accept his sexuality rather than follow
along with what society in his time had deemed to be the only way of
life. He and his lover had instead forged a life together,
defying the odds against them. That, however, came with quite a
price, one he often felt may have been too high for his dear
As Max thought back over their past, he realized that he was scowling
yet again. For whatever reason, he kept finding himself with a
glower across his face, ever since the gloaming had come.
about the storm and the falling night had him up in the air, and those
feelings were not subsiding themselves. As he looked at his young
friend, he deduced that Nathan must have also sensed an impending doom
looming about in the darkness.
Max snaked his arm slowly around Nathan's neck and shoulder, pulling
him into a side-ways hug. "Honestly,
buddy, try not to worry so much. It isn't doing you any good, nor
is it doing anything for those two young men."
Max couldn't help but chuckle as he beheld Nathan's gold-green eyes
looking at him with such annoyance. He lightly ruffled Nathan's
hair, bringing a slight smirk to the boy's face.
"I know i-it's not, but it's a-all I
c-c-can do right n-now." Nathan sighed. His face
rumpled in such a way that Max knew his plight.
"I know how you feel, Nathan, but we
have to stay positive." Max heard himself saying, yet
finding his own words hard to swallow. He just could not
shake that uneasiness that had his stomach in knots.
Aaron looked over from snuggling with Cindy and smiled. "It really isn't that hard to do
Nathan. You just have to realize that you cannot control
everything," he said, reaching out and patting his
friend's shoulder, "and that
you are not to blame for every single thing that happens."
He added in a soft voice, and Max found himself smiling at Aaron
intently. "I know you all too
beautiful. You did everything you could for them, so quit
Max grinned as Cindy reached over and took Nathan's hand in her
own. "He's right,
sweetness. All the worry
in the world will not change what has happened." She
brought his hand to her lips and kissed it ever so gently. "The past is the past, babe. You have
to learn to let it go and move on."
For the hundredth time that day, Max reaffirmed to himself why those
three kids were so special to him. They were there for each
other, through thick and thin. They each held an incredible
perceptive quality, easily seeing inside of others and identifying with
their pain. And, they were all three very lovable children, in
Aaron had this cocky, playful nature that kept you laughing; a
perpetual smile adorned his handsome features almost constantly.
Cindy had her
snide, witty jabs that brought a hearty smile to your face; yet, she
also had a loving glow in her eyes which were illuminated by her caring
soul. And, then, there was Nathan.
Max had to agree with Aaron's assessment and pet name for him.
Nathan was beautiful; no other word would possibly fit him
better. True, he was
very handsome, but there was so much more to Nathan than that.
possessed the most humble, gentle nature Max had ever
encountered. Nathan also held a loving, compassionate spirit that
radiated in his eyes and smile; he practically glowed with its light,
in fact. His every action seemed so selfless to Max, as he
believed Nathan to always be placing the needs and desires of others
far above those of his own.
That, Max surmised, was both Nathan's
gift and his curse; his young friend thought so little of himself,
he just could not see the true beauty that dwelled inside. Max
sadly wondered if he ever would.
Max felt himself moving towards tears as he reflected upon the tragic
life his dear friend had faced. He recalled the many
heart-to-heart talks the four of them had shared, as Nathan bared his
very soul to them. The countless times Nathan was physically and
verbally abused by his step-father Jasper Morton, the uncaring
indifference of his birth mother Barbara, those things had left many
scars upon Nathan's heart. Then, the death of his natural father
had left Nathan with little hope of ever escaping their cruelty.
But, the sexual abuse the poor boy faced had tainted his life, possibly
forever Max feared.
A shimmer of liquid sorrow dripped from the corner of Max's eye as he
thought about all of that. He remembered the vivid details Nathan
had disclosed to him, and he could practically visualize the entire
ordeal the poor kid had undergone. At the age of nine, Nathan had
been raped by Jasper, and with the added aid of Barbara no less; she,
his own flesh and blood mother, helped to hold the terrified Nathan
down so Japer could force his way upon him... well, into him was more
like it. Then, if that were
not enough, the two of them sold Nathan out to anyone who had the
money. One of these men had been so brutal, so savage in his
conquest of Nathan that the kid had taken to the streets for
There, Nathan faced starvation unless he committed the most painful act
Max could possibly imagine; Nathan was cornered into placing himself
the exact same situation from which he had fled.
In Max's view, when Nathan was at home, he had no
choice in the matter; he was forced to do what Jasper
wanted. However, on the streets, Nathan had to willingly sell
himself, succumbing to the sexual desires of grown men in order to
survive. Granted, Nathan had little option, but he still had a
choice. And as heart wrenching as it was, Nathan had to make that
God-awful choice all alone in a darkened alleyway. Max knew this
fact was what haunted that boy who had
become so dear to him.
All the years of being told how worthless he was were culminated in
that instant. Of that, Max was certain. From what he
gathered, Nathan had never had much self esteem. But, once he had
willingly accepted his first trick, Max realized that Nathan lost all
sense of self worth. That downward spiral took upon a whirlwind
pace as Nathan did what was necessary to survive.
As the tears trickled down Max's cheeks, he bit his lip in an angry
scowl. In his mind, Barbara and Jasper Morton were to blame for
all the atrocities young Nathan had faced. Max just hoped that
they both found themselves playing bitch for many a horny and
relentless inmate, if only that they would suffer an inkling of the
harm they had caused his dear Nathan.
'May you both be tortured as you rot
in your cells! May your pleading cries for help fall upon deaf
ears! May you suffer until the day you each rid this earth of
your disgusting presence!' Max proclaimed in his
thoughts. ' Then, may your
agony truly begin
as you both burn in hell!'
Max pulled Nathan
snugly to him, kissing the top of his head. "She's right, Nathanael. You need to
let the past go and realize your potential in this new life you've been
granted." As he held Nathan to him, Max whispered "I love you, kid. Don't ever forget
And he did. Max loved all three of those kids with everything
inside of him. Never before had he felt such a love for anyone
other than his life-partner Philip. Despite their many traumatic
hardships, Max remained faithfully devoted to his darling Philip for
over forty years. That was the thing about Max; once he loved
someone, it was forever. That brought a small smile to his face
as he again took in those wonderful children who had become such a
vibrant part of
'Such a brilliant future.'
Max assessed to himself. Coming of age during the social reforms
of the 1960's, Max held
strong to many of the beliefs he had developed during the times of LOVE and PEACE. This philosophy had
perpetuated itself into Max's adult life, becoming his personal
mantra. True, because of
Philip's family and his position as both an attorney and then family
court justice, they had to live their love in secret. But, in
those same shrouds of secrecy, Max had found a way to build upon his
dream: to make the world a better place.
In order for Philip and Max to get their first apartment, a pretense
had to be started. That was how Maxwell Billings had been
born. He had assumed the identity to pass as Philip's cousin, a
necessary lie to protect themselves from the hatred of society that was
all around them.
However, Max's true name was Uzziel Uriel Shalom. As Philip's
career had grown, none of those in that circle knew of Uzziel, which
gave Max a freedom to follow his heart. After his parent's
deaths, Uzziel used what fortunes his family had amassed and began
building his dream. He had known he could never do so in the
foregrounds of the fight, but at least he could make a difference in
the background, safely shrouded in secrecy.
It was simply named THE MISSION, but during the 29 years of its
existence, it had touched many lives. It had started out as a
simple shelter, a safe haven for those suffering hardship. In
time, it grew
to meet the needs of the community of Raven Cliff. At that very
moment, The Mission held 57 unique program departments, each
addressing a different area of need for families and members of the
Uzziel felt strongly about the importance of community and family,
though his interpretations of the words far exceeded those who were in
current political power. To them, the freedoms and sanctities of
life for which those words held meaning were to be granted only to
persons who fit into what they deemed as moral and decent. However, to
Uzziel, those words were bonds that connected every single life to one
another and to the father who created all things; in his beliefs,
everyone was entitled to these precious gifts, for we were but one
world, one large family struggling to exist together.
that lay Uzziel's dream. He wanted to help bring about a world
in which all persons were given the respect and dignity of life that
were an innate part of being a society. To Uzziel, family and
community were the building blocks of the social order he prayed would
That, Max realized was another reason why those children were so
important to him. They were the
future. The older members of society had been so deeply rooted in
prejudices and stereotypical thinking that he saw little hope for
change. But, the youth of the world had fresh, moldable minds
that had not yet been hardened. In them, Max felt the seeds of
hope lay dormant; all they required was to be nurtured in love,
tolerance, and understanding.
As he assessed his three young friends, he could not help but
smile. 'A truly bright,
magnificent future for us all.' He affirmed to himself.
As they tried to console Nathan, Max became aware of eyes that were set
upon him. Glancing towards the front desk, he spied them.
They were six more reasons to find hope for the world, Max
thought. Only two of the six were aware of his presence, and they
were perhaps the brightest beacons of faith and hope Max had ever
encountered: Aisa and Chance. Both boys held radiant smiles
as they waved to him.
Aisa had grown some over the past year, Max realized, for he now stood
at 6'4", the same height as his father Kanawha. Aisa's stocky
frame had also become more defined. His pale blue eyes glistened
with the kindness that Max knew sprang from his very being. His
dark black hair jetted about every which way, ending in tips of
electric blue haircolor. His pale complexion seemed to only
enhance his charming looks.
Chance, on the other hand, had hardly grown much at all. He was
still so lean and thin, though Max knew it wasn't from starvation; that
kid could eat his weight in food easily. Chance stood at 5'9",
and Max grinned as he remembered the young man glowing as he proudly
proclaimed his one inch growth spurt. His dark brown hair was a
jumble of unruly curls, setting off his hazel eyes which shifted from
green to blue with his changing moods. His high cheekbones and
square jaw were highlighted by the dimples that showed when he smiled.
They were both extremely perceptive young men whom Max knew held a
divine purpose. But, then again, so it was with their entire
family. Kal and Kanawha, the boys' fathers, were the very epitome
of all love represented. Brad and Pete were Aisa and Chance's new
and Max felt
certain those two boys also held an important destiny. The six of
them had been blessed by the Father, and their presence always made Max
feel a warm glow emanate within his soul.
Softly, Max gripped Nathan's shoulder, gaining his attention. "Looks like you have visitors."
He said, pointing out Nathan's adoptive uncles and cousins. "Maybe that's a sign." Max
noted, more to himself.
Nathan grabbed Max's hand, giving it a squeeze that felt like
desperation. "I-I sure hope
s-so." He replied, and Max understood the worry which again
"So do I, buddy. So do I."
Max mumbled as he rose to his feet. As the four of them made
their way across the lobby, Max realized Nathan was not the one they
were there to see.
"Love, Coal is here somewhere.
God, I just pray he is OK." Kal stated softly, as Max
wondered what was wrong with Cole.
"Dad, what's wrong with Aunt Cole?"
Brad asked as Max noted tears of worry gleaming in his eyes.
Kal bent down and caressed his young son's face. "Oh, Son, no. He... It's not your
Aunt Cole, it is a friend of mine. His name is Coal also, but it
isn't even spelled the same way. Nothing is wrong with your aunt,
though, Brad." He soothed. The relieved look on
Brad's face mirrored that which Max felt himself. He did not want
to see anything bad happen to anyone in Kal and Nathan's extended
family. Then, Max felt slightly stupid as he realized Kal had
said he, not she, in his previous statement.
Kal looked up to his husband Kanawha. "I'm worried about Coal, and his baby girl, too."
Kanawha chuckled lightly, as he rubbed Kal's shoulder. Max found
himself wishing for Philip's comforting embrace at that moment. "Love, I'm sorry, but I just cannot see why
anyone would name their daughter Malice."
A lopsided grin grew on Kal's face as he shook his head lightly. "No, Love. Malice is a cat, a huge
gray fluffy cat that is probably a good six pounds overweight."
Max gripped Nathan's shoulder tightly as the reality of the situation
set in. Nathan looked at him and the lines of worry grew sharply.
"D-D-Did y-y-you say c-cat?"
Nathan asked, and Max noticed his young friend's entire body trembling.
"Yes." Kal replied, as he
looked up somewhat startled. "Oh,
hey Nathan! Wait. What are you guys doing here in the
middle of a blizzard?" A concern began to cross Kal's
and Max felt he would probably have laughed had the circumstances not
been so grim.
Nathan clenched Max's hand, leaning his head on his shoulder. "I kn-new it, Max. Th-this i-i-is
"Does your friend drive an older tan
truck?" Cindy asked Kal.
"Yes, he does. Why?"
Kal responded, the concern growing even more.
"Well, we kinda found him, Kal."
Aaron stated gently. "And
another young guy too. Both of them were, well, injured and
sorta buried under some snow on the side of the street."
"WHAT?" Kal seemed
terrified with hearing this, though Max himself could not think of any
easier way to have broken that particular news.
Young Pete moved over and took his father's hand in his own. The
immediate effects of this did not escape Max's attention, and he found
himself again realizing that Pete and Brad were indeed destined for
something important. Kal's shoulders slumped in an almost
completely relaxed state, as his overall affect calmed quickly.
Pete stroked his dad's hand for a moment, then let it go.
"I'm not sure what happened, Kal, but
they were both in pretty bad shape." Max responded. "They had injuries I don't even claim to
know about, but Nathan does." He added, turning to his
young friend. 'Come on now,
son. You can do this.' He thought encouragingly.
"W-w-well, h-h-h-he... umm, h-h-h..."
Nathan started. Tears filled his eyes as he quickly shut them and
began humming to himself. All the while, Max's heart reached out
Nathan tried to explain again and again, but his tongue simply twisted
his words as they hung in his throat in a seemingly endless
stutter. The streams shimmered down his cheeks, and Max, too,
found himself crying as Nathan held his head down in defeat. He
could only imagine what pain his dear Nathan felt in that moment.
Pete stepped over and took Nathan's head between his hands, stretching
up on the tips of his toes to give it a gentle kiss. "It's OK, Nathan. Just relax and
breathe." He calmly stated. Max was once again
amazed at the reaction Pete's tranquil presence could bring, for Nathan
began to calm himself almost immediately. "That's it, Nathan. Just relax and
let it all out." Pete soothed.
Taking Nathan's hand in one of his own, Pete lifted Nathan's head with
the other. "Now, tell us what
happened." Pete said, ever so calmly.
"W-we were going t-to Cindy's
house. On the w-way, we saw the t-t-truck. One of the
g-guys was n-n-naked, a-a-and he h-had been b-beaten. Then, I
f-f-found the o-other m-m-man a-a-and his c-c-c-cat."
Nathan softly began. Max reached out his hand and
gently rubbed Nathan's back as the boy explained everything that had
happened and the injuries he suspected.
"The thing is, Uncle K-kal, he
l-l-lost a lot of blood. I'm k-k-kinda w-worried about that."
Nathan added, gripping his uncle in a firm hug. "A-and, h-his throat was c-c-c-cut.
Th-that can't be good, e-e-either." Nathan let out a sigh
that sounded as if his world were ending. "I d-don't even wanna think ab-bout that
c-c-c-cat. Sh-she must r-really love him."
Kal wiped the tears from his eyes and tried to compose himself.
The sight of him moved Max's heart as he thought of what a fine young
man Kal was. Kal worked for Max... well, for Uzziel, anyway... at
The Mission, and he had been recruited by order of Uzziel
There had been several letters recommending Kal for scholarships at the
university, and one of those scholarships happened to be sponsored by
The Mission. Upon reading about such a fine, outstanding young
man, Max felt certain he could be a catalyst for positive change in
many people's lives. So, Uzziel arranged for Kal to be
>From the interview notes, Max had learned that Kal was everything the
letters of recommendation had stated, if not more. He had also
learned that Kal had several close friends whom all wanted to attend
school together. After dwelling on the matter and consulting
guidance through prayer, Uzziel made Kal and his friends an
offer. That offer, in Max's opinion, was one of the best
decisions he had ever made.
Together, the lot of them made such an impact. The seven grew
into eight when Mic had married Thomas, another of Uzziel's personal
recruits. Then, Kanawha, Jena, and Ethan had joined their little
family. Before long, their residence was bubbling with new
additions, each making a contribution to the lives of others.
That was why Max had decided last year that Uzziel would sell the band
of friends the old hotel at just a fraction of its true value.
Together, they had given a loving home to twelve children in
also had given counsel and guidance to a group of young,
and scared homosexuals (a group which Max himself sponsored), leading
purpose in their lives through helping one another at school and
feeding the homeless. And, together, they had developed a special
homeless teens, as well.
In the beginning, Max had purchased the hotel as a means to entice Kal
his friends into joining The Mission; he had offered it to them as a
rent and utility free, in exchange for working for him there.
Still, he tended to their needs by making sure they had enough of a
paycheck to bring home, along with periodic allotments to make the
hotel into a place of their own. Then, when Kal and Kanawha
needed to purchase a home in order to adopt the boys, Max's path became
clear. He had Uzziel sell them the place, adjusting their pay to
make sure they could afford to live; of course, the adjustments were
passed off as differentiating the residence and utilities they were no
longer receiving for their work, and no one had been the wiser.
As Max looked at the young couple, he smiled to himself. 'Yes, Uzziel, they are truly one of your
Kal reached out and pulled Nathan into his arms. "You are right about that, buddy.
Malice loves Coal with her very life." He leaned back
slightly to look Nathan in the eyes. "Coal feels the same way about her, if you
were wondering." He smiled. Then, Max noticed tears
again filling Kal's eyes. "She
his entire world, honestly. Oh, God, please let them both be OK,
and that other kid, too."
Time seemed to slowly crawl by for the next twenty or so minutes.
During that time, the group paced the lobby, trying to comfort one
another from their worry. Then, Kal's cell phone rang.
"Hello... Yes, this is he... Coal,
I know him. Why?... Yes, I know. That is where I am right
now... He what?... Oh, well, yeah, sure. I'll be there in just a
Kal had a look of confusion on his face as he
hung up his phone. Kanawha moved quickly into position to comfort
him. Again, Max found himself longing for Philip.
"Love, that was the hospital.
Apparently, they have figured out who Coal is from his wallet. I
guess that is how they had my cell number, too. Anyway, she says
that Coal has me listed as his next of kin in their records."
Kal seemed to
swallow hard to fight back his tears. "The thing is, Love, he has absolutely no
one other than Malice and Mrs. Turner. To think that he would
actually list me as his next of kin..." Kal trailed off.
Kanawha wrapped his husband in his strong, bulky arms. Max mused
to himself as to how gentle Kanawha could be, particularly for one of
size and physical might. Max also knew he possessed quite a
temper, but that rage was only fueled by the protective love Kanawha
for those he held near and dear. Overall, Max knew him to be an
outstanding young man and an excellent father.
"Love, if you only knew all the things
that poor man has been through." Kal crossed his arms and
snaked his hands along Kanawha's forearms which held him. Leaning
his head back on his lover's shoulder, he sighed. "He is such a good man, too, Love. He
doesn't ever seem to see it, but he is, just the same. He
certainly is not deserving of something like this." Again,
Kal trailed off into tears.
"No one is, Dad." Aisa
said softly, wrapping his arms around Chance.
Max had to smile,
seeing how much those boys mirrored their fathers. The love each
held for his partner was as evident as it was with Kal and
Kanawha. Max, too, was certain that these two young men would
spend their entire lives in love together, just as he knew it would be
for their fathers. He just prayed each couple had a much easier
journey than he and Philip had endured.
Again, Max thought of his beloved partner, and a strong yearning filled
his very soul to the point of aching. 'Wherever
you are, Philip, know that I
love you.' he declared within his heart. 'Just be safe and sound, my love.'
Max could almost feel Philip's arms around him, and his skin began to
tingle. In his mind, he could see his lover standing before
him. Of course, over the forty years they had been together,
both Max and Philip had changed considerably. Still, Philip was
the only match that could ever light the fires of passion within Max's
heart. Often, Max believed he would burn beyond control at the
very touch of Philip's lips, which he could almost feel brushing
Just as he was losing himself to his pleasant fantasy, Max smelled that
familiar scent as a hand firmly grasped his shoulder. His
hand reached up and gently stroked the fingers of that all too familiar
hand. "I was just thinking
about you." Max sighed.
"Were you, now?" The deep
baritone voice of Philip actually triggered something in Max's ears,
sending a shuddering shiver down his back.
Max turned to his partner and smiled. Man, was he a sight for
sore eyes. Philip stood at 6 feet tall, just an inch beyond
Max's own height; to Max that made them a perfect fit, especially when
spooning together at night. He had soft tan eyes, which were a
sharp contrast to Max's almost black ones. Philip also had a
paler complexion than Max, though he still would be what one would
consider tan. His light brown hair was slightly peppered with
grey around his ears and nape. There were a few creases
that adorned his face now, but Philip was holding up quite well, Max
assessed. The love of Max's life was dressed in one of his usual
dark suits, carefully tailored to fit perfectly. The crisp, clean
creases that lined the outfit, the well polished shoes, it all screamed
Philip; at least, that is how Max saw it.
Max leaned in, careful to not draw too much attention to them, and
whispered. "With you looking
like that, how could I possibly think of anything else?"
Philip just chuckled lightly giving both of Max's shoulders a gentle
squeeze. Max knew this was about as affectionate as it was going
to get for them, as Philip had his career to think about. He
sighed within himself as he looked over at Kal and Kanawha snuggled up
together, holding hands as usual. What he would not have given
for Philip to hold his hand right then... or, to even give him a
gentle hug, much less a kiss. But, at least Max knew he had
Philip's heart, and in all honesty, that was what really
mattered. That thought brought a slight grin to Max's face.
"I got your message as soon as I
reached home. Needless to say, I was worried sick. So, well
over an hour later, I finally made it here." Philip
explained quietly. "I didn't
want you to be alone, honey."
Max was startled, but in such a joyful way. Philip had not
changed overnight, but at least he was making an effort. Max
recalled his telling Philip that if he could not stand up and be
counted, then Max could no longer be a part of Philip's life.
That had happened at the hearing where Philip eventually awarded Kal
and Kanawha adoption of Chance, Brad, and Pete; that small action had
changed the lives of those three boys for the better. But,
it had cost Philip a good bit of public support. For that very
reason, Max found it to be one of the most romantic declarations of
love Philip had ever given him.
"I've had some good company,"
Max smiled, pointing out his nine companions, "but no company is more welcomed than
yours, my darling."
Philip blushed and gave Max's shoulders another squeeze. Then,
the two walked casually over to the rest of the group. As they
took two unoccupied seats, Philip seemed surprised to find Brad
quickly seated in his lap, a sight that only warmed Max's heart.
Pete wrapped his arms around Philip's neck and gave him a strong
hug. "I never got to thank you,
sir." He said softly. "I'll never forget you, though, or what you
did for us."
Philip ran his hand along Brad's head, grasping his nape
lightly. "It was my pleasure,
young man, but thank you just the same." He then smiled at
Max. "I have no doubts that my
decision was the right one, and it does my heart good to see you boys
are happy, healthy, and safe."
"We's got us some good dads is why."
Chance chimed in, and Max noted the small smirk on Philip's face as he
again experienced everything which was CHANCE. "I reckon we's just glad you could see that
n' all when ya did."
Chance rolled his eyes as his entire body expressed what he was
feeling. "Man, I's gotta tell
ya, though, you had me just sweatin' 'em ol' bullets while you's
tellin' us what you 'cided to do. I just knowed for sure I wasn't
never gonna see my dads again. But, you sure 'prised me in a real
good way when you said what you did!" He enthused.
As Philip's smiling face turned towards Max, it had him
grinning. Then, softly Max said. "Maybe now you understand why."
"I never doubted why." He
replied, again bringing a tingling joy to Max's heart. He knew
exactly what Philip was saying: he had made his decision solely
on his love for Max.
"Remind me to tell you something
later." Max replied, as he desperately desired to show his
lover just how much that meant to him. Max realized however, it
would be an agonizing wait before he would be able to do that.
As Brad, Chance, Pete, and Aisa talked with Philip, Max smiled.
Philip, he knew, was enjoying every minute of affection and attention
those young men were pouring upon him. Max had always believed
Philip would have been a wonderful father. Then, his mind began
to ponder this.
He could imagine Philip, in a time when they were much younger, coming
home to him. He would be greeted at the door by a swarm of
anxious children, all thrilled that Daddy was finally home. Max
would sigh happily as he watched Philip roughhousing with the boys,
while gently assuring each of the girls that Daddy was glad to see
Philip would finally make his rounds and greet their other father, who
was every bit as happy to see their Daddy safely back home.
Dinner would be ready, and their large family would enjoy the meal
together, discussing each of their days. While Max would clean up
the mess, Philip would help the children with their homework.
Next, they would spend the evening together playing board games and
pursuing the children's interests. Then,
Max and Philip would read a story with their brood.
After a wonderful evening,
both fathers would tuck their children into bed, saying prayers before
kissing each one good night. Finally, Philip and Max would
snuggle in the living room, fondly discussing how lucky they were for
having such wonderful children.
That had been their dream, many, many years before. It was a
simple dream, really, one that most couples shared. They had
wanted a family.
However, at that particular time in their lives,
society was quite different. By the time it had begun to change
even slightly, Philip had long before entered his career in law.
The world was still, for the most part, indifferent and biased in its
views towards lesbians and gays, but it was a far better world than the
one Max and Philip had lived through.
Still, Max could not help himself but wonder if it had been fair of him
to have ever loved Philip. The price of that love had been so
very high, as many of Philip's dreams had to be compromised or
abandoned altogether. Was Max really what Philip had
needed? Would Philip have been better off if he had married and
followed the way of society? Though Max could not imagine life
without his beloved, he felt an agonizing regret for the toll that love
he cherished so dearly had taken upon Philip. And, again, Max
found himself glowering.
Max became infuriated with himself as he again cast his gaze upon his
life-partner, fondly conversing with the children. 'How could I be so callous and cruel?'
he mentally demanded. 'Philip
gave up so much for me, but I never really even thought about that
before. And, when I asked... no, forced is more like it... when I
forced Philip to make his court decision regarding those boys the way
I wanted it to be, what more did I cost him? The only part of his
dream he was able to really achieve was his career. Have I
screwed that up for him, too? '
A deep sorrow washed over Max, as he pondered the possible
ramifications of Philip's decision to honor Max's wishes.
Granted, it was the right thing to do, and Max did not regret that the
boys were with their loving fathers. But, as a family court
justice, Philip was in a position to do good for many people. He
could protect children from cruelties like what Nathan had faced.
He could also protect a spouse from abusive situations. Max
if his desire to see justice for the gay and lesbian community might
end up costing the larger community of Raven Cliff the kind and
compassionate rulings he knew Philip always rendered.
Mostly, though, he wondered if his beloved Philip would someday soon
come home to him completely broken hearted. It had happened so
many times before, and each time, Max did all he could to comfort his
darling. But, a man without a dream had nothing; how could Max
possibly comfort Philip if the last piece of his shattered dream
slipped from his grasp.
It had started over forty years before. It
was fall, but unseasonably warm. The
year was 1964, yet
he could remember it as if it were only yesterday. Uzziel was so
small back then, standing at 5'5" and weighing well less than 100
pounds. His dark brown hair was neatly cut, swept over into a
side part, and glistening with healthy shine. His blue slacks
well pressed, as his mother insisted he look his best. His white
short sleeve button up shirt and navy tie completed his wardrobe.
As the maddening rush of classes halted for lunch, Uzziel decided to
take advantage of the sunshine. He carried his lunch with him as
he passed through the double doors which lead to the front lawn of the
high school. It became apparent that much of the student
population had also felt the beckoning of the sunshine, for the grounds
were pretty much covered by them. Uzziel sighed to himself, as
he had wanted a bit of peace and quiet so desperately.
He was a shy boy, truth be told. His small size did not help
matters much, either, for he was often the target of school
bullies. But, then again, most of the freshmen were. Being
one of the Jewish kids, though, seemed to bring with it a particular
magnetic aura, for Uzziel could attract a bully from almost a mile
away. So, he always sought to blend deep within the background.
As Uzziel quietly strolled along the hedges of the lawn, he decided he
would try the side entrance of the school. To his delight, there
wasn't a soul in the area. So, he sat down beneath a maple tree
and unpacked his lunch. He was just biting into his corn beef
sandwich when the most stunning guy he had ever seen began walking in
As he drew closer, Uzziel could make out his features even
better. He stood around 5'8" and possessed a fairly broad build
along his upper torso. This narrowed to a small waist and nicely
shaped hips. Uzziel liked the lighter brown hair, but he was
speechless when he gazed into those soft tan eyes.
"Hey! Are you deaf or
something?" The young man said, startling Uzziel as he
found himself to be staring into the boy's eyes.
"Umm, no. Sorry, I was just
thinking." He replied softly, as his shy nature began to
take over. Uzziel dropped his head somewhat in embarrassment.
"Well, I just asked if you minded my
sitting here for lunch. But, if you want to be by
"No." Uzziel responded,
almost too forcefully. He did his best to get control over
himself, but found his voice was shaky when he spoke. "You're welcome to sit anywhere you want."
"Really?" He asked.
Uzziel simply nodded in reply. However, he gasped in astonishment
when the young man sat himself down right upon Uzziel's lap. The
contact caused an odd reaction for Uzziel. His stomach knotted
itself up tightly, and his palms began to sweat. A sharp tingling
sensation danced its way from his spine to his groin, and Uzziel shook
with panic as he knew what was about to happen. He just prayed
the young man could not feel the twitching taking place in his
After a moment, the boy turned his head to look at Uzziel. Then,
he fell over to his side, laughing violently. Uzziel just knew he
had felt it and was almost in tears from embarrassment.
"Sorry. That was just too good
to pass up." The young guy laughed. "If you could have seen your face!"
Uzziel let out a huge sigh of relief. Then, he found the humor in
the joke. "Well, I was not
really expecting something like that." He said in defense.
"I know. That was the whole
point." The boy smirked. "I'm Philip, by the way. Philip
Uzziel thought that was the most beautiful name he had ever heard, but
then he felt uncomfortable. He argued with himself that he should
not be having thoughts like that, especially over another boy. "I'm Uzziel." He said softly.
"I know who you are. We have
four classes together." Philip said, shaking his head
while he chuckled at Uzziel's shocked face. "I didn't figure you'd have known,
anyway. You never look up from your books long enough to see
Uzziel felt himself blush, knowing that Philip's assessment was
true. He really did try, but the shyness was so hard for him to
overcome. He wanted nothing more than to make friends with his entire
class, but it just wasn't possible. Uzziel wasn't sure he could
even do that with one person, much less hundreds.
Philip's laughter was so melodic. Uzziel was intrigued by the
mischievousness that danced within his soft tan eyes. Philip's
lopsided grin and casual smirk made Uzziel feel a bit more at ease.
"Look, don't worry about it. So,
you're shy. I think I can handle that." Philip
grinned. Then, he looked away for a moment. "I just thought that maybe you might want
to talk sometime, and, you know, maybe become friends or something."
There was a sudden loss of confidence when Philip said that, which
Uzziel found endearing. He wondered to himself why a boy would
have him so entranced but quickly decided to dismiss this.
"Sure." He smiled in
reply. "That would be nice."
That casual smirk quickly returned to Philip's face, and Uzziel
realized he found this boy to be quite charming. He knew this
should bother him, but, for whatever reason, it didn't. Maybe it
was perfectly normal for friends to find something about the other as
being attractive; at least, he found himself hoping that was the
case. But, something deep within Uzziel's heart told him that it
didn't matter; if it meant being abnormal, Uzziel would just be
abnormal. Somehow, having Philip in his life seemed to be more
important than all of that.
An awkward silence fell. Every once in a while, one of the boys
would look at the other, then smile or giggle. But, that was all
either could do for several minutes. Then, finally, Philip broke
"You seem to be a whizz with
math." He said which took Uzziel a bit by surprise. "I'm not very good with numbers."
Philip added, then looked at Uzziel expectantly.
It took him a moment to figure out that Philip was awaiting his
reply. Then, he laughed at himself for not picking up on the
subtle hint. "Maybe I could
help you with it sometime."
The relieved look on Philip's face let Uzziel know he had read the
situation correctly. "If you
wouldn't mind, that would be great." Philip took a deep
breath, and his voice cracked slightly. "You want to get together after school
sometime and study?"
Uzziel became a bit nervous, chewing lightly on his thumb nail for a
moment. Then, he looked Philip in the eyes. "Look, you do realize that I am Jewish,
right?" He asked, awaiting the rejection to follow.
Philip looked at him a moment, as that casual smirk again crossed his
face. "Is that supposed to
explain your brilliant math skills or something?"
Uzziel was surprised to say the least. Most of the time, once his
potential friends had realized this, they quickly found a way to excuse
themselves. Later, they would avoid him like the plague.
"No, I'm good at math because I'm
brilliant. Being Jewish is just a bonus." He
laughed. In a more serious tone, Uzziel sighed. "So, this isn't going to be a
problem? I mean, your parents aren't going to ground you or
something for this, will they?"
Philip seemed lost in thought.
"It has happened before, Philip, so
I understand." Uzziel explained.
"I don't see where it would be a
problem with them." Philip responded. "It's not one for me, anyway."
Knowing how things had gone before, Uzziel sighed softly. "Well, maybe you should ask them
first. If it is alright with them, then maybe you could come by
for dinner sometime. We could study afterwards, but you'll have
to have dinner with us before hand. See, my parents will want to
"Hmm. You better give me your
number then. My mom will want to talk with yours to make sure it
is ok that I come to dinner." Then, Philip laughed. "She makes a big deal out of stuff like
For the remainder of lunch, the two discussed the similarities their
families held. Both boys disclosed stereotypes they had heard
about the other's religion, bringing better understanding to one
as they each dispelled those myths. Uzziel was amazed how much
they had in common, as he truly hoped their religious differences
would not hinder their friendship.
He was pleasantly surprised when Philip had called him that
evening. After their mothers chatted on the phone for what seemed
like forever, the two boys anxiously made plans for the following
day. To further put Uzziel's mind at ease, his mother seemed to
have really liked Mrs. Billings.
Philip seemed a bundle of raw nerves when they sat down to dinner that
next afternoon, and Uzziel found himself sweating it out as his parents
grilled Philip with their constant questioning. To the boys'
delight, however, Uzziel's parents gave their approval for him to spend
time with Philip. Two days later, it was Uzziel being drilled
with questions from the Billings, yet they too gave their consent to
the boys' friendship.
Over the course of the next four months, the two spent many evenings
together. They studied, but they tended to talk and goof around
more than anything else. Uzziel's feelings for Philip had grown
strongly, and he worried about their meaning and consequences.
Then, three days before Hannukah, their relationship took a turn.
They had been debating the social ramifications of the continuing
racial riots and
the importance of recent music icons, such as Bob Dylan and the
course, this was on a much smaller scale, as they were but fourteen and
fifteen years of age. But still, change was all around them, and
they both hoped the changes would be for the better.
They had been discussing music, when Philip made a lame comment that
compelled a physical response from Uzziel. So, he struck Philip
over the head with a pillow. The resulting blows brought out
great laughter from the boys, turning eventually into a wrestling
match. Philip had obviously overpowered Uzziel easily, and, as
he lay upon Uzziel's chest catching his breath, his hand lightly
stroked Uzziel's side.
With the soft stroking of fingers to his ribs, Uzziel found himself
becoming aroused. As Philip raised his head and looked into his
eyes, Uzziel realized he could never live without Philip. Caught
in a whirlwind of confusing emotions, Uzziel reached out his hand and
lightly traced Philip's face. Their calming giggles ceased in
that moment and a heavy awkwardness descended.
Uzziel brushed his hand through Philip's hair, cupping the back of his
neck. Slowly he drew him foreword. As their lips met, an
explosion of thoughts and feelings erupted. To his dismay,
Uzziel found that something else had exploded, leaving a sticky mess in
But, the intensity of the kiss continued to build, as both young men
obviously delighted in the roaming hands of the other exploring his
body. Though completely inexperienced in such matters, instinct
seemed to lead them in the areas where knowledge was fleeting.
Uzziel found his heart racing to the point it felt as if it were going
to rupture within his chest. He could barely get a breath into
his lungs his need for Philip was so strong.
Suddenly, Philip broke the kiss, raising himself up slightly from
Uzziel. His face was flushed, his hair disheveled, and his eyes
glistened with a glazy film. "If
we don't stop, I'm going to shoot." He announced
His hand glided lightly down Uzziel's side, then softly slid up his
inner thigh. An odd expression crossed Philip's face for a
moment, but his patented smirk soon returned. "Too late for you, I believe. Sorry
Uzziel, despite the primal urges raging within his hormonally charged
body, felt completely embarrassed. He tried to think of something
cleaver to say, but how could he come up with anything to pass off an
act as mortifying as that? He just looked away.
Philip rolled over and lay beside him, as they both took to staring at
the ceiling. Because of the awkward silence that pursued, Uzziel
became worried that Philip was having thoughts of regret. Uzziel
himself was battling this, as the war between what he had been taught
was right and what he felt in his heart conflicted greatly. Just
as he was
about ready to cry, he felt Philip's fingers gently rubbing up and
down his hand.
Uzziel turned to his side only to find Philip staring at him.
His eyes were glistening with unshed tears. Immediately, Uzziel
felt terrible for upsetting Philip, and he just knew their friendship
had been ruined. He was in the middle of mentally kicking himself
when Philip softly spoke.
"Look, Uzziel, I am really sorry if
this has upset you. It's just that I, well, I don't know how to
say this." A look of deep despair and desperation loomed
in his soulful tan eyes.
Uzziel was so uncertain at that moment. Should he apologize and
pass it all off as a simple mistake, or should he trust in what his
heart was telling him? Though it seemed like he wondered in his
inner turmoil for hours, Uzziel quickly decided he would just be
honest. If their friendship was meant to last, then Philip would
find a way to forgive him.
Taking a deep breath, Uzziel stretched out his hand, gently tracing
Philip's face. Then, he unloaded the burden that was weighing on
his heart. "I think I'm in love
with you, Philip. You probably think I am crazy or sick, but
that is how I feel."
Philip grasped Uzziel's hand, giving it a firm squeeze. Sighing,
he replied. "I don't know what
it is I'm feeling right now, Uzziel, but whatever it is I don't want
it to stop. All I know is I can't lose you."
It took all of two seconds before they were again entangled within each
other's arms. Their kissing was far less animalistic this time,
though Uzziel felt it was every bit as urgent as it had been
before. They were softer, more passionate and caring kisses, ones
Uzziel believed were fueled by feelings of love more so than hormonal
urges. And, he knew for sure that he would never survive a single
day without Philip being at his side.
It was on the first night of Hannukah that year when Philip and Uzziel
gave the first part of themselves to each other. Philip had
spent the night at Uzziel's, and he felt certain that Philip was the
best gift he had ever unwrapped. During each of the following
holiday evenings, the boys found new ways and parts of themselves to
share with one another. By the end of Hannukah, they had tried
every conceivable way in which their teen minds could think of to be
united together. And, they were rather imaginative, Max
mused to himself as he remembered.
But, his pleasant memories were halted as he recalled so many of the
struggles they had faced in the years that followed. Every time
one piece of Philip's dream for their future shattered, Max had felt
his own heart crumble. The dejected look worn by the man he loved
than life itself had been overwhelming. Again, a glower took
possession of his face as Max relived the pain.
"Is something wrong?"
Philip asked with such concern laced in his voice.
Max snapped himself back to the current time, leaving the memories
to loom where they may. Brad was still resting on Philip's lap,
his arms encasing Philip in a tight embrace. Brad's head leaned
on Philip's shoulder, and his young eyes danced with the happy energy
that seemed to radiate from Brad's very soul.
"Sorry, I was just thinking."
Max replied, trying to force a smile. Nathan leaned his head over
onto Max's shoulder, and Max encased his young friend in a firm
hug. "I know, Nathan. I
am worried, too, but we still need to be positive."
"I-it's just t-taking so long."
Nathan sighed. "It m-m-makes me
"Maybe Dad and Daddy will know
something when they get back."
Brad commented cheerfully, and Max felt certain he was trying his best
to lift everyone's spirits.
For reasons Max could not explain, not even to himself, he found
himself smiling as he looked at Brad. In fact, he noticed the
whole group of them were doing so. This phenomenal effect Brad
seemed to bring about with his very presence mirrored the tranquillity
exuded by Pete, Max realized. Again, he pondered the destiny of
the two youngest members of the Darkstorm-Lord clan, and he stood in
awe as he mentally surveyed the possibilities.
Brad let out a soft giggle as he cast his gaze towards Max. "See Nathan, it's not so hard to smile
every once in a while. It might even do ya' some good."
The most endearing smile Max had ever seen then burst its way across
Brad's face, bringing a dazzling twinkle within his soft green
eyes. "Nanna says being all
down and gloomy makes you constipated." He laughed.
"Hmm. That would explain why
your bowels seem to work so well." Pete replied timidly,
bringing a hearty laugh from Aisa and Chance. The soft giggle
from Nathan, though, was music to Max's ears.
Though Brad cast an indignant look to the little Pete, a slight smirk
broke through. "Is that so,
Pete chuckled lightly. "I would
rather be short than stinky any day!"
"Hey, now!" Brad
"P-p-p-pete is r-right. Y-you
s-s-stink up the p-place!" Nathan chuckled.
A shocked look crossed Brad's face as he protested his innocence. "I do not!"
"Dude! Your ass is so rank!"
Aaron laughed. "I think
something died up in there years ago."
Brad jumped from Philip's lap, crossing the waiting area quickly to
stand before Aaron. "I've been
saving one just for you, Mouthy! It has your name all over it."
As Brad started to turn around, Chance interjected. "You's better not be pointin' that thing at
nobody, Brad. And, if'n's you let that ol' nasty stuff loose in
here, I's gonna skin you good! Ain't nobody wants to be gaggin'
from your ol' stink noways."
Before Brad could protest, the giggling Aisa intervened. "Brad, Angel's right. Nobody wants to
smell your foul stench, so back that butt away from Aaron."
He reached out his hand, and pulled Brad into a gentle hug.
Kissing the top of his head, Aisa said softly, "Besides, you shouldn't behave like that
in public. Why don't you read one of your books or something."
Brad gave Aisa a small smile, then returned to Philip's lap with his
backpack. As he snuggled into Philip, Brad produced one of his
books. Seeing the title sent Max into a fit of giggles:
TOILET TALES -- THE BUTT OF THE JOKE.
Philip grinned at Max, wrapping his arm around Brad. With a
wink, he softly asked Brad. "Say,
you're not going to..."
Brad laughed heartily. "No
way! You could throw me in jail for something like that! I
was just kidding, anyway." Brad opened his book, then
looked up at Philip. "You can
read with me if you want to, but it's a graphic novel. The
pictures are real good, though. I'm on page 29, but we can start
at the beginning so you don't miss anything." The boy
Philip shot Max a huge smile.
"So you like to read, do you?"
Brad shook his head in a vigorous response. "Yeah! And these books are so funny,
too." He smiled over at his three brothers. "You know, this time last year, I could
hardly read at all. There is so much I'd have missed out on had
y'all not taught me how."
As Brad began reading aloud, Max watched his brothers' faces
intently. Each time he would stumble upon a word, the three had
such supportive looks. As Brad would sound through the words and
figure them out, smiles of joy and satisfaction would line their
lips. A prideful, loving gleam radiated in their eyes as Brad
When Philip took his turns, laughing as he read with Brad, Max again
thought of how wonderful a father his lover would have made. The
happiness at seeing Philip interacting with Brad became mixed with a
sadness for what could have been. Yet again, Max found himself
with a glower crossing his face. His thoughts, however, were
interrupted as Kal and Kanawha announced their return.
Chuckling, Kanawha smiled at Brad.
"Son, the judge may not see the humor you find in TOILET TALES."
Philip smiled as he looked up at Kanawha and Kal. "Actually, I think they are rather
comical. And, outside of court, it is Philip, or just Phil."
Max then realized that Philip was quite taken with the family, just as
much as he had been, for there were few people that were given the
option of calling his darling Phil.
"A-any news, Uncle K-kal?"
Nathan asked, as Max drew him in tightly in a supportive hug.
"All they said was that the doctor
would be with us shortly." Kal replied, showing signs of
Kanawha wrapped him in his large, muscular arms. "Love, Coal will be OK. Just have
"I do, Love, but I'm still worried,
regardless." Kal half-smiled, leaning his head on
As Kal swayed gently in his husband's arms, Brad and Philip resumed
their reading. Chance pulled Pete closer on his lap, as Aisa
wrapped his arms around them both; Chance, Aisa's Angel, leaned his head
on his beloved's shoulder. Max noted that Cindy was in a similar
position, resting in Aaron's embrace. He found himself clinging
to Nathan even more as time slowly crept on by.
A half-hour later, the doctor Max had seen talking with Nathan walked
towards them. He looked rather haggard, but Max hoped it was from
a long day's work; otherwise, it would not be good news. The
doctor moved his way over to Nathan, taking the seat beside him.
With a heavy sigh, he stretched out his arms along the back of the
chairs. Max noticed Nathan's immediate reaction and fought hard
the urge to snicker. It was apparent to him that Nathan fancied
the good doctor, and Max had to admit that Nathan had good taste when
it came to men.
"Y-you OK, Garrett?"
Nathan asked softly.
He smiled, wrapping his arm around Nathan's shoulder. "Yeah, buddy. Just tired.
Thanks for asking, though."
Max thought for sure Nathan was going to have a stroke, the way his
face went so red. At that point, he could not control it any
longer. Max shook with silent laughter, even more so when he felt
Nathan's finger poking him in the ribs in an attempt to quiet him down.
Garrett looked around at everyone, then asked. "So, which of you is Killian?"
"That would be me." Kal
said, raising his head from Kanawha's shoulder. "How is Coal?" The worry was
evident in his voice.
"He came through surgery just
fine. We managed to repair most of the damage, though I'm not
sure about his voice. The way he was cut, well, it makes it
difficult to say. It was just so close, and if scar tissue
forms... well, we'll just have to wait and see." The
doctor replied. "He lost a
great deal of blood, too."
Garrett rubbed Nathan's shoulder as he smiled at the smitten
teen. "The cat did control the
bleeding, though. But, still, your friend lost a great deal of
blood. The good and bad news of it is that Coal is type
AB-. That means he can receive red blood cells from just about
anybody with a negative RH factor. We also had the right plasma
and platelets on hand, so that part was easy."
Kal let out a sigh, then formed his words before speaking. "Well, what is the bad news?"
"Coal's white blood cell count is
pretty low. To keep down infection, he needs granulocytes.
They are a type of broad-based white blood cell. And, they
cannot be stored, really. See, we use a process called apheresis
to extract them from a donor, and the granulocytes must be transfused
within 24 hours. AB- is a pretty rare blood type, too. Only
1% of our population has it. We can get it in, though it takes
some doing." Garrett wiped his bangs from his eyes. "With the storm, though, I don't know when
we can get a batch here."
"Could you do this apheresis here, should one of us
have his blood type?" Max asked. He had no idea what
his blood type was, but he was more than willing to donate it should he
be a suitable candidate.
"Yeah, we can. Do any of you
have AB- blood?" Garrett asked.
Everyone looked at each other questioningly. Then, Kal spoke for
them all. "Well, could you type
our blood for us?"
Garrett grinned. "Yeah, we can
do that, too. But, blood donors must be at least 17 or have
parental consent. They also have to weigh at least 110 pounds, so
that might leave a few of you out." He looked at Pete and
Brad, who seemed rather disappointed. "Sorry boys, but we can still type your
blood for you, if you want."
"But what if either of us is the only
one who has the right kind of blood?" Pete asked, seeming
to be in deep thought.
"Well, buddy, your bodies are not big
enough to donate blood yet, even if it is the right type of blood."
"What about Malice and the other boy?"
Kal asked. In afterthought, he added, "Malice is the cat."
Garret chuckled lightly. "Well,
officially, we do not treat animals at the hospital. But,
unofficially, I had one of my staff contact a veterinarian friend who
guided us in what to do for her. She is in the staff lounge
recuperating as we speak. We didn't find any signs of frostbite
on her, though I strongly recommend she see a vet in the near future."
Then, a more somber look crossed his face. "We still have no ID for the other young
man, but he is in pretty bad shape. He had several fractures
throughout his body, even to his skull. There were a few bone
fragments that were lying on his brain, so they had to go in and remove
them. Dr. Haga was still in OR when I came out to see you."
He squeezed Nathan's shoulder gently. "You did an excellent job with him,
Nathan. You assessed the situation and gave the proper
care. All we can do now is pray for his recovery." He
paused a moment, then pulled Nathan into a strong hug. "There is one more thing, though.
With the rectal tissue damage, it appears that he was forcefully
Hearing this news, Max bowed his head in silent prayer. The idea
of a young life suffering such brutality was unfathomable to him.
Max was not all that familiar with medical terms and such, but he knew
that it had to be a pretty serious beating in order to fracture a
person's skull in that manner. Then, compounded with being raped,
Max felt his heart breaking for the young man. As a few tears
escaped the confinement of his eyes, Max felt his lover's hand gently
stroking his back. As Max looked up, he was pleasantly surprised
to find the group gathered around him in prayer. As their prayers
ended, Garrett held Nathan close to him as he sobbed on Garrett's
"Come on, buddy. Let's go get
your blood typed." He said softly, turning and guiding
Nathan down the hallway.
Everyone, with the exception of Cindy and Aaron, followed Garrett and
Nathan. Since Cindy and Aaron were not 17 and did not have a
parent with them, they were not permitted to even be tested. Pete
and Brad watched intently as the phlebotomist drew everyone's
blood. When it came their turn, Pete held Chance's hand
Brad, on the other hand, had to have both his fathers, Aisa, Nathan,
Philip, and Max touching some part of his body for moral support.
Philip chuckled lightly as Kanawha told Brad what a brave young man he
was. Brad, of course, delighted in his father's praise, up until
the needle entered his skin. At that point, his eyes grew wide,
much like a scared rabbit Max thought. Once the ordeal was over,
though, Brad passed it off as if it were no big deal. That fact
had Philip in fits of laughter, as he gently ruffled Brad's hair.
Garrett then led the group to the ER staff lounge. Wrapped snugly
in a pile of blankets lay Malice. Max was moved when he heard
Garrett explain how heroic the animal had been, having actually been a
key factor in saving Coal's very life. To Max, though Malice was
indeed a large cat, she seemed so small in the scheme of things.
A small smile passed his lips as a few tears trickled down his face.
In his mind, one thought prevailed. No matter how seemingly
insignificant a person, or even an animal, may be, the Father could use
them to accomplish great things. Humbled by this revelation, Max
scanned the room, looking intently at Kal and Kanawha's four
sons. When Nathan returned with Cindy and Aaron, he also studied
' Yes, the good Father could use them in many ways.' Max
determined. At that point, he realized that each of those
precious children held a destiny of their own. And, in his book,
each of their futures was of equal importance and greatness.
As Kal and Nathan gently stroked the sleeping Malice, a page for Dr.
Kersey came over the intercom. Garrett picked up the phone and
spoke with someone for a few moments. Then, he smiled as he
returned to the group.
"Well, fortunately, we have two donor
matches." He bent down to look Pete in the eyes. "It seems you were right, little man.
You indeed have AB- blood, though we still cannot let you donate until
you are bigger. But, it won't be necessary for you to donate
today, anyway, because Philip is also a match."
A strong sense of pride washed over Max as he cast his gaze upon his
lover. Philip was such a wonderful man. The fact that he
could help in saving the life of someone in need made Max even more
thankful that his darling was a part of his life.
Dr. Kersey led the group down the hallway to another waiting
area. After giving Philip a short physical examination, Garrett
handed him a blood donor form to fill out. The first few
questions gained both Max and Philip's attention.
"Have you ever used intravenous
drugs? Are you a man who has had sexual contact with other
men since 1977? Have you engaged in sex for money or drugs since
1977?" Philip quoted quietly. He then looked
intently at Max. "Honey, they
categorize us with drug addicts and street hustlers."
Philip said dejectedly.
The idea saddened Max for a moment. Then, laughter brought his
eyes upon one of the dearest souls he had ever encountered. As
Max pointed out Nathan to Philip, he smiled. "Well, darling, I can think of far worse
company to be in than that."
A rather large grin crossed Philip's face as he watched Nathan
interacting with his family, friends, and Garrett. "Hmm. I believe you are right about
that, honey. That kid sure is something else."
As their concentration returned to the form, Max could sense Philip's
hesitation in answering the one question he knew was bothering
him. For so many years, they had to live their lives together in
secret. It had always caused Philip such pain to deny their
love. Yet, to help save the life of another, he would have to do
so once again.
"It is a necessary evil, Philip.
I don't like it either, but it is something we must do."
Max soothed. His heart ached, however, when Philip checked the NO
After completing the form, Dr. Kersey explained the procedure to the
group. As he was getting ready to escort Philip to the area where
the apheresis would be conducted, Brad grabbed his hand.
"Hey. I was wondering. Can
Philip read while he is giving blood?" Brad asked,
clutching his book tightly.
"That depends. Is that your way
of asking if you can go with him?" Garrett grinned.
Brad's smile grew to broadly cover his face as he shook his head
vigorously. "Well, if your dads
and Philip do not mind, I think it is a great idea. It gets
rather lonely in a room all by yourself."
When Philip quickly gave his consent, Kanawha looked at Brad
sternly. "Promise to behave
Brad gave his best innocent look in his response. "Of course, Daddy."
Both Kal and Kanawha snickered in seeing this. They both reached
out to him as he raced to them for a hug. "Remember, you promised." Kal
warned, though a grin still crossed his face.
"I know Dad. I just wanna read
with Philip some more." Brad smiled. "No jokes or pranks. I know."
"Then, we will see you in a bit.
If you need us, just ask one of the staff." Kal added, a
loving worry gleaming in his eyes.
Brad took Philip's hand as they walked down the hall. Max found
himself smiling at the sight, not to mention the impact Philip seemed
to have made on Brad. 'Or is
it the impact Brad made on Philip?' Max wondered to himself.
Dr. Kersey returned a few minutes later and led the group down the
hallway towards the staff lounge. He assured the worried Kal that
Brad was perfectly safe and behaving himself like a young
gentleman. As they neared the lounge, two orderlies came from a
set of double doors with a patent on a gurney. Aisa and Chance
hugged their fathers firmly, then sprinted down the hall to the patient.
As the remaining group continued down the hall, Max saw Aisa, holding
Chance's hand, lean down and kiss the young man's cheek. Then, he
seemed to be whispering something in his ear. As they drew
closer, Max realized Aisa was praying for the boy.
Tears streamed down both boys' faces as they turned to face their
fathers. "I'm so sorry, Dad."
"There ain't too much we's gonna be
able to do for 'im, Dad. Not for 'at Coal fella neither.
They's tellin' Aisa it ain't our place to help 'em."
Chance added sadly.
Max recalled Nathan telling him about his Uncle Shaft, and how those
two young men had helped him with his ailing heart. He realized
that somewhere in the back of his mind, he had hoped they could do the
same for Coal and the young man; for the cat, too, for that
matter. Yet, that hope had now been crushed. The same
glower Max had fought since the onset of the gloaming returned to his
face. He just prayed that the Father, with all his mercy, held
another plan to help them.