Standard Disclaimer:

This is not a standard Nifty story: there may be sex in this story, but only insofar as it shows up in real life, and I'm goign to try and take a closed-door approach to it. This is not a porno story, it's intended as a serious novel. That said, I still need to provide certain disclaimer's if I'm going to post on Nifty:

You're all probably familiar with the standard drill: this story may contain sexually charged scenes including same-gender pairings, abuse, incest, rape, and more. If reading such is illegal in your area, please do not continue.

I have my own website, and am also hosted at other sites, including and Redemption, and Guardians before it, are not my only stories! If you drop by my website, it tends to be the most comprehensive source of stories for your reading pleasure, but you will occasionally discover stories that haven't reached it -- such as Unexpected Reactions at

Remember, please, that e-mail is an author's only payment -- please do pay! My address is, and I look forward to hearing from you. I respond to all e-mail recieved.

Nothing was going quite according to plan! He could have cursed if it weren't for the fact that it looked like things were working anyway. Paul was thoroughly distracted helping to rescue the boy, and when the time was ripe they could troll his old friend's plight below his nose to keep him distracted. They'd have to keep things to a minimum boil in the meantime, not easy with those morons trying to turn up the heat and the doctors trying to break the spell-enforced coma, but between those two situations, they should keep Paul's attention riveted-

The man froze, black robes flaring around him as he had an idea. He resumed his pacing, slightly slower, as he considered it. They couldn't give outright help to the military without tipping their hand, but Paul almost certainly already knew they were involved. The man had argued against making the offer from the first, but it had been felt that 'guaranteeing' his neutrality had been worth the risk. And, beyond that, the offer had provided scope to firmly lock his attention elsewhere...

The man smiled as new vistas opened before his eyes. Now that Paul already knew they were involved, they could use that knowledge against him, for free!

All they had to do was what they really wanted to do anyway. They hadn't dared try in a while for fear of giving themselves away, but now that that was no longer a concern, Paul was fair game. They couldn't attack his family -- the very last thing anyone wanted to do was draw his attention back home, Dark bless it! -- but maybe, just maybe...

The grin clearly displayed for everyone, not just those who had eyes to see, that the man was a man in gender only. He'd shed what little was left of his humanity long ago, like a clinging shroud that had hampered and confined him to no purpose.

Eddie leaned back in his seat as he stared out the window. That session had been emotionally draining, and the 'good doctor' knew too many emotional buttons to press. Still, he didn't think he'd given away anything than he shouldn't have, and whatever brainwashing the doctor had hoped to pull had failed miserably.

<The point of it wasn't to succeed today,> Galen explained, <but rather to lay the groundwork for eventual success. All he needs to do is raise one sliver of doubt in your mind or twist one memory into falsehood, and he's won.>

<Oh please, do you really think that would work?> Eddie thought back.

<He does, and history shows he's right. It'll take time, more time than I think he realizes, but the instant he makes you doubt, however slightly, it'll be just a matter of time,> Galen told him sadly. <Of course, it might be slightly more difficult than he thinks to pull it off,> he added a bit more brightly. <I don't think anyone has ever tried to brainwash a kid while a full adult, who knows the truth, is there whispering in his ear.>

<And how many kids are as sure in their parent's love as I am?> Eddie asked smugly.

<Don't get too cocky, kid...> Galen warned. <Plans never survive first contact with the enemy. That's why they're called the enemy!>

Eddie didn't bother to reply. He was glad enough for the help, but there was no way -- no way -- that anyone was going to convince him that his parent's didn't love him, absolutely, however much he didn't like their decisions at times.

"So, Edward," Mr. Cook broke the silence. "How was your visit with the good doctor?"

"A complete waste of time," Eddie said evenly. "He refused to even imagine the possibility that my parents loved each other, loved me, and that nothing untoward was going on."

"Because it was manifestly absurd! What could two grown men want with a child?" Mr. Cook argued.

<Oh, great, the 'therapy' session isn't over!> Galen snorted.

"Can't I get a break?" Eddie moaned. "First Dr. Riddle and now you!"

"We're concerned about you, son," Mr. Cook told him. "We know what unspeakable, unthinkable things have been done to you and are trying to help you come to terms with them."

"Translation: you think gays are evil and are trying to make me believe it too," Eddie said, a touch too acerbically. "Fat cha-"

Mr. Cook didn't even look over as he slapped Eddie with the back of his hand. "I will make some allowances, but keep a civil tongue in your head Eddie."

"Whatever," Eddie grumbled, earning himself another slap.

"You know, I don't think child services would appreciate that very much," Eddie said, a grin forming on his face.

"I already talked to your caseworker; a modicum of physical chastisement, applied as needed, is well within the rules," Mr. Cook told him evenly. "Feel free to confirm it with her next time you see her. I think she's coming over tonight for a visit."

"Oh great, yet another voice in the 'you've been abused, let us help you,' chorus," Eddie groused.

"We're all concerned, and want to help you Eddie," Mr Cook repeated. "The sooner you admit the truth to yourself, the sooner you can begin healing."

Eddie sighed. If everyone was going to keep after him like this, it would almost be easier-

<That's what you meant when you told me not to get too cocky,> he thought at Galen.

<Yes. Not the only reason, but it is going to be an uphill battle to hold your heart and mind together against that kind of concentrated, deliberate, and prolonged assault> Galen confirmed. <I'll be here, by your side, but this is your battle to fight. And it's going to be a long one. If you quit...> Eddie could hear the shrug Galen couldn't actually show him.

Frank leaned back against the wall, gazing at the second prisoner in the cell. With two 'bunk' style beds, the room could hold as many as four prisoners, but from what he'd seen there were so many open cells that placing even one other person in his cell seemed a strange decision. And by strange, Frank meant suspicious as hell.

Of course, maybe the hours he'd spent, cooped up in this cell, unable to get any word of his son, were just making him paranoid.

Frank snorted. If anyone believed that, he had a bridge to sell them, for a low low price!

The second prisoner was fast, Frank had to give him that much. Fast, determined, without a single instant of hesitation. The only warning Frank received was the actual act of catapulting across the room, knife in hand.

Unfortunately for the man, Frank was more skilled. Frank was faster. Frank was more skilled. Frank was meaner. And quite simply, Frank was a hell of a lot more skilled. Deflecting the knife was instinctive, swift, and sure. The simple twist that brought the man's wrist back behind his back was a bit more deliberative, but not by much.

The pull that left the man screaming in agony as tendons and joins were forced in directions they just couldn't handle was pure, unadulterated anger on Frank's part. They'd taken his son from him and then they put this neanderthal in his cell?

The knife clattered to the ground a mere instant before something gave way, and Frank kicked it out of the cell with his shoe as he tossed his opponent across the room. "Attack me again, and you won't have an unbroken bone in your wrist by the time I'm done," he growled angrily.

"On the ground, now!" an officer shouted, weapon out and pointed at Frank. "On the ground I said! Now!" he repeated as Frank stared at him, shocked.

"Alright officer, all you have to do is ask," Frank said meekly. Slowly, he turned around and then lowered himself to the ground.

The last thing he expected was for the officer to kick the knife back into the cell, where the second inmate grabbed it and pounced on Frank. Frank barely had time to roll away from the knife, and he immediately scissored his legs, knocking his opponent back to the ground as the officer grinned at them. This time Frank didn't bother with non-injurious restraint. He simply grabbed the wrist and twisted it hard enough to shatter bones.

Contrary to his threat, Frank didn't shatter every single bone in the wrist. But when he was done, the wrist most definitely was broken, a useless mess that required surgical reconstruction. "On the ground, now!" the officer barked again.

"Fuck you," Frank muttered as he slowly let himself to the ground beside the still-shrieking prisoner. Unfortunately, the officer heard him.

"Oh no," the officer murmured, "the fucking is going in the opposite direction tonight you child raping bastard..."

Frank felt his heart stop at the implications of that statement. He was one man, and he didn't dare rock the boat too hard. So far he hadn't given them anything they could use against him, but he had to be careful. Breaking the man's wrist like that had probably been excessive, but he could still survive it. Probably.

Fuck. He'd played right into their God-damned hands, again!

"Frank, are you an idiot or did you just not listen to me?" John Murphy demanded. The lawyer's tie was loosened as he glared at Frank.

"I was deliberately provoked-" Frank began.

"It doesn't matter," John snarled. "Judge Dixon was going to handle arraignment, but now you've been given priority, and Judge Hunt is in charge. Hunt!"

"Should I recognize the name?" Frank asked.

"Oh, I should think so!" John said angrily. "He's only one of the main movers behind the Marriage Protection Act of 2011!"

"Oh hell... that's the anti-gay marriage law, isn't it?" Frank asked.

"Yeah. Worse yet, though I haven't been able to prove it, word is he's a hard-core wrecker," John said disgustedly.

"Oh great, that's all I need," Frank laughed. "What's next? Stuffing the jury with those idiots?"

"Given the area, that was almost a given," John said. "I was going to try to get the proceedings moved, but there's a snowball's chance in hell of Hunt letting that happen. Or of him recusing himself."

"Alright. Life sucks, then you die," Frank snorted. "By the way, make damned sure to get the video recordings of today's escapade on file before they can get 'lost'-"

"Too late. There was an 'electrical malfunction' that left the camera offline for the entire thing," John snorted. "If we could count on a fair jury for the trial, I could turn that into ten different kinds of reasonable doubt when we reached trial, but with these bastards in charge..." John shrugged.

"Fuck," Frank swore. Leaning back in his chair he dropped his head. "Any news about Tim?"

"Still in his coma. They got a good analysis of the stuff he was poisoned with, and..." John looked away. "They put him on all the right antidotes, and they have it flushed out of his system. He should be waking up."

"Should?" Frank asked.

"Actually, he should have woken up already. The docs say..." John sighed. "According to the docs, there's nothing keeping him in a coma, but the drugs may have done some damage which..." Frank shook his head. "Stripped of the medicalese, the longer he stays in the coma, the less likely he is to wake up. Ever."

Frank stared at John, shocked. Tim... Tim couldn't be... but...

Closing his eyes, Frank forced himself to calm down and focus. "All right. So I'm going to be on my own as far as providing evidence."

"You already gave me a few critical bits of evidence. I was able to talk to the airport security manager and get a deposition from him," John told him. "Which was perfect timing; he was transferred to another facility not an hour later, and it looks like they're going to try and claim the new guy was in charge all along."

"Surely there would be holes in that," Frank argued.

"Oh, I don't doubt it," John agreed, "but not as many as you think. All they had to do was move the date one day back and it would look perfectly normal without a thorough investigation and the manager's name."

"What about our papers?" Frank asked.

"Well, the police managed to find them but they most assuredly don't support our position," John snorted. "Thankfully, I was able to contact Travelocity and they e-mailed me the originals. A certified copy is already en route, and I did a verbal deposition with one of their managers over the phone. It won't hold up in a crooked court, but that's not our goal anyway."

"It's not?" Frank asked, confused.

"Our goal is to take advantage of the fact that the prosecution doesn't get reverse discovery rights in this state and use all of this as a knuckleduster in the court of public opinion," John told him. "We can't win in court. But if we let them stir up the media, get the nation's attention on this trial, and then throw this in their face..."

"I don't like being that far in the public eye," Frank told him, uneasy. He wasn't even sure why, it wasn't like he had anything to hide. His previous association with the Guardians was a matter of public record, and really didn't matter since he'd never been- "Ah," he grunted, touching his temple as a flash of pain erupted.

"You OK?" John asked.

"When the guards 'restrained' me they knocked me up a bit," Frank told him. "I didn't think too much of it, but it looks like it's triggered an attack."

"Attack? Do you need a doctor?" John leaned over, worried.

"Nothing the docs can do, I've seen several of them. As far as they can tell, it's just a simple 'tension headache', which I think is their way of saying something is wrong and they don't know what," Frank shrugged. "I've lived with them for the last couple of years, I'll live through this."

"Are you certain?" Ronan asked, face hard.

"What?" Frank asked, head snapping up.

"I asked you if you're certain," John said. "Listen, I think you need to see a doctor, you were off in la-la land for a second there, or something."

"My mind wandered," Frank reassured him. "It's a side effect of the damned headaches. Nothing Lara can-" Frank blinked. "What the hell?"

"Lara? I thought your doctor's name was Sarah," John asked.

"Yeah, our GP is Sarah, Sarah McDaniel," Frank reassured him. "I have no clue why I said Lara. She wasn't even a doctor, she was my... my shrink?" Frank asked, confused.

"Are you OK?" John asked. "I think I'm going to get you a doctor."

"No!" Frank barked the order out without thinking.

"You're confused, vaguely non-responsive, and it seems clear your memory is at least a little muddled!" John argued. "You need-"

"No, I don't!" Frank told him. "This has nothing to do with anything medical."

"What the hell does that mean?" John asked.

"Give me some time to think about it, get my thoughts straight. If I'm right..." Frank looked to the side, deep in thought. "Don't let this drop. If I do forget about it, bring it back up."

"Forget about it? I thought you said..." John shook his head. "You aren't making any sense."

"I know. There was something I didn't tell you. About my past," Frank hesitated a moment. "I didn't want to bring it up, and I don't want to throw it in the public eye, but... maybe you should know."

"Know what?" John asked.

"You never asked me how Tim and I met," Frank said slowly.

"Is it important?" John asked, sitting back down.

"If I forget about this, ask me about it and all will become clear," Frank told him. "I don't..." Squeezing his eyes shut, he tried to concentrate, but it was hard. So hard. Why didn't he want to say? "I don't want to talk about it. And I'm wondering..." Frank took a deep breath. "I need some time to think about this, but if I forget... if my mind wanders and I loose track of it... push. Give me a few days, but if I forget, if I don't remember, push."

"Alright, I'll do that," John agreed, clearly confused. "But I'd like an explanation, one way or the other."

"If I'm right, you'll get it," Frank laughed. "I don't know what I'm right about, but you'll get it."

"You are making less and less sense," John rolled his eyes. "Alright, consider it done.

"Thank you. Thank you for your help, and thank you for trusting me," Frank told him.

"The one is my job. The other..." John shrugged. "You haven't lied yet, and you're pretty damned smart, as evidenced by your relying on me to do my job, instead of trying to do it for me."

"That's not a lot of evidence," Frank laughed.

"You would be surprised," John told him. "Now, we should probably go over your case, and our strategy, from head to toe one more time as long as I'm here. We have a few decisions to make, like when to lower the broom on how they modified the paper trail..."

"I hate to see him so still," Doctor Parish complained, stroking Tim's brow.

"At least he's alive," the investigator reassured her.

"I keep telling myself that, but the longer he stays in this damned coma..." she shrugged. "It's strange. He's completely non-responsive to all stimuli, but his brain waves are closer to sleep than a normal coma."

"An effect of the drugs?" the investigator asked, curious.

"I'm not sure. Normally I'd say no, but I can't think of anything else that could be causing it. It's probably an interaction between the drugs that bastard gave him and his injuries, or maybe something I gave him. I don't think that particular combination has ever been tested on a healthy man, much less one with a concussion," she admitted.

"His eyes!" the investigator exclaimed, "look!"

"Rapid eye movement certainly fits with his brain waves, but watch this," Doctor Parish ordered. Pulling a penlight out of a pocket, she opened his eyes and played it across them. "See? No response. More symptomatic......of a coma than dreaming." someone whispered into Tim's ears.

"What? Whose there?" he called, spinning around. The oppressive darkness hung close, and the mist underfoot flew away from his rapid motion before settling back down. "Is someone out there?" he called.

Getting no response, other than the vague sense there was a conversation going on somewhere nearby, just a bit too quiet for him to hear, he shook his head. "One direction is as good as any," he commented and starting walking. A little later he stopped, confused. How long had he been walking? This place was strange, unchanging, and appeared to be screwing with his ability to sense the passage of time. He couldn't tell if it had been five minutes or... hell, for all he knew he could have been walking for five years!

Tim snorted. That was unlikely, to say the least, but it seemed to ring true to him. In this place time didn't exist. And given that he could have sworn he'd just heard the word 'coma' -- and more than once -- that didn't sound good at all.

"Am I dead?" he whispered.

"Don't be any stupider than you have to be," a familiar voice rumbled nearby. Tim froze, tears springing to his eyes.

"D... D... Dad?" he asked.

As if the name alone had summoned the man, the darkness parted and his father walked through it, gradually forming from mist and shadow alike. "Hello, Son."

Hector breathed deeply, stifling his impatience. His mother had given him a task, and he fully intended to fulfill it. Somehow.

But... How in the Lord's name did you go about making 'friends' with someone? Especially when you knew -- knew! -- that your father was directly responsible for him being taken from his fag parents? How much should he tell, and how much should he avoid talking about? How much could he count on the kid's gratitude from being taken from his abusive parents?

The car pulled, noisily, into the drive, and Mother pointed at the door. "Yes ma'am," he said, smiling as he got up and walked through the door.

"Hello Father," he called, walking out to the car.

"Hello Son," Father said back. "I need to talk to you. Come with me."

"Yes sir," Hector answered, following Father through the garage. "Sir, what about Edward?" he asked as Edward slowly got out of the car.

"He'll find his own way inside the house, of course!" Father sighed, the 'you idiot' left unspoken.

"I only ask because mother asked me to do something with him, and I don't want to disobey her," Hector tried.

"Do? Do what?" Father asked, an undertone of anger warning Hector that he was pushing things.

"She wanted me to be his friend, and it seems that walking away from him like this would be counterproductive," Hector told him.

"We will discuss this later," Father growled. "Get inside, now!"

"Yes sir!" Hector moved to comply, rapidly.

"Darling, I'm home!" Father called out.

"I heard you pull in," Mother told him. "We need to have a talk."

"Yes, we do. The therapist has very specific orders about how we treat Edward," Father said.

"About Hector," Mother corrected cooly.

Hector blinked in surprise. He didn't think he'd done anything wrong, though the weird way his mother was acting made that uncertain.

"What has the boy done now?" Father sighed angrily.

"We need to talk in private," she told him.

"That bad?" he growled. "Boy, you won't be sitting-"

"Enough, husband!" Mother ordered. "The boy isn't at fault here, we are."

"Excuse me?" Father asked, nonplussed.

Edward chose that moment to wander in through the door. He froze the second after he closed it, the tension in the room clear and paralyzing. "Is something wrong?"

"No," Father said, just as Mother said "Yes."

"There is something wrong, but you don't need to worry about it, it has nothing to do with you," Mother said, looking firmly at Father.

"Ooooh-kay," Edward said hesitantly.

"Edward, take Hector up to your room for a while and talk," Mother ordered.

"Actually, I need to talk to Hector first," Father said.

Mother frowned. "I think our conversation needs to come first," she told him.

"I have some instructions from the therapist for him," Father said curtly.

"Very well. Let's talk about the therapist's instructions first," she said. Hector almost missed the slight emphasis, but the way he was frowning, clearly Father had not only heard it, but he understood it.

"Edward, go up to your room," Father ordered as he swept from the room. Hector followed, not even glancing over his shoulder. If he had, he might have wondered what the rather speculative look on Edward's face meant.

"Edward, go to your room," Eddie mocked under his breath. He glanced at the front door for a long moment. It was hard. So very hard. But... he had his orders. And if he ran away, he'd hardly have a chance to see to any of the people on his rapidly growing list. Mrs. Tate, the officers, Doctor Riddle -- hell, for that matter, the entire staff of that 'facility'! -- oh yes he had a list.

<Hey, Galen,> he thought, <as much as you seem to snoop around in my mind I'm sure you caught the bit about the list.>

<Bad idea,> came the instant response. <Your dad clearly said he wanted you to hold off and let him and Frank deal with it.>

Eddie's eyes narrowed. <But?> he asked.

<But in your shoes I would definitely like to do some 'wet work', as it's called, of my own> Galen said unhappily. <It's still a bad idea. You're going to have all you can do to keep your head above water, soon.>

<Soon?> Eddie asked. <Does that imply there is something I can do right now?>

Galen hesitated. <There are things that you could do. I don't think they'd be effective,> he answered eventually. <And walking out that door would screw all of them up,> he warned before Eddie started moving.

<Alright,> Eddie thought, <seeing as how I've been banished to my room lets do some talking.>

"The therapist said-" Mother began.

"I don't care what the therapist told you over the phone, he told me how we are supposed to handle this!" Father growled. Hector stayed at the edge of the room, silent as a mouse. Mother and Father didn't fight. Did. Not. Fight.

"I would appreciate it if you did me the courtesy of not interrupting me," Mother snapped back. "If you had let me finish, I was going to tell you that there was no inherent contradiction in the instructions, only your overly controlling interpretation of them."

"Here we go again," Father complained. "Wait," he added, "weren't you the one who wanted to refrain from arguing in front of Hector?"

"I wasn't the one who insisted he be here for this," Mother pointed out. "Now, why don't you tell us what the therapist told you -- the therapists version, not what you think it means."

"Woman-" Father began.

"I don't know what you think you're going to do, what you're planning, husband," Mother cut him off, "but there are limits any man should respect when he addresses his wife. You're pushing them. Hard."

"Fine," Father agreed angrily. "The therapist was very clear in his instructions though. Hector should try to befriend Edward. You, I, and all the other adults that come in contact with Edward should focus on making sure he knows we support him, care for him, and want to help him come to terms with what those bastards did to him. Make sure he knows we know what happened to him, and that we don't think it's his fault. Hector is not to try and drill that into Edward's mind, he's supposed to agree with us but focus on being a friend." Having listed the therapist's instructions, Father turned to face Hector. "So, go grab your bible and offer to study it with the boy. Make sure to focus on appropriate passages. Leviticus might help, and first Corinthians. Perhaps invite him to study-"

"Are you an idiot?" Mother interrupted, exasperated. Hector pressed himself against the wall, unable to believe what was happening in front of his eyes. The two of them were arguing. With each other. Which didn't make sense! How could they be right -- as they were, of course -- when they were disagreeing with each other? It wasn't possible! There was only one right path. There was only one right path, the path they laid out for him because they knew what was right. But there couldn't be two right things. So how could they argue? It didn't make sense!

"How dare you?" Father staggered backward, shocked. "You do not address me that way in front of Hector! We can't afford-"

"He is twelve years old, Ricardo," Mother snapped. "Twelve. Do you really think he and his friends -- if we'd let him have friends, as I just realized we haven't! -- would spend their spare time studying the Bible?"

"Of course! How else would they spend their time?" Ricardo argued. "I remember many hours as a boy, poring over my family's Bible, learning the word of God!"

"Yes, your father doubtless made you spend many hours on the Bible, as did my parents, but what did you do with your friends," Mother asked.

"I wasted a lot of time out talking, and chasing girls, but it was the time I spent with the Bible that was important," Father argued.

"But what did you do for fun, Ricardo? Don't you understand what I'm talking to you about? What did you do for fun, what did you do with your friends?" Mother was pleading with father.

"Our son doesn't have to make those mistakes," Father argued. "Hell, he needs not to make them, and you know it as well as I do!"

"Hector," Mother asked. "How many of the kids at school spend their time studying Bibles?"

"I spend all my free time there studying, Mother," Hector answered proudly. "Just as you and Father have taught me to!"

"Who else does?" Mother asked.

"I don't understand, what is your point?" Father asked.

"Who else does!" Mother shouted. "Who?!" She stared at Father, as if willing him to understand her point.

"No one. Most of them don't even bring Bibles to school, there are several teachers who don't like it," Hector answered.

"Don't like it?" Father asked, shocked. "Don't like the Lord's word in school? What idiots-"

"Enough," Mother cut him off. "By now you should get my point. That's not how to make a friend of Eddie," she said firmly. "He might not be able to make a friend of Eddie, but the only chance -- the only chance! -- he has is to try and do so anyways. He'll screw up. But maybe, just maybe, the Lord will forgive us and help him through this task."

"Forgive us?" Father asked, surprised.

"Our son has no friends, no life outside of the church. He's never so much as picked out his own clothes for the day! All because you insisted it was the only way-" Mother glanced at Hector then shook her head. "He doesn't know how to make friends. And there is no way to teach that. He has to figure it out for himself by doing it. Or not at all."

Father shook his head. "What do you mean, he doesn't know how to make friends? Of course he does! How could he not?"

"Because it's a skill, not knowledge out of a book. And with no opportunity to practice, to acquire the skill, he doesn't have it," Mother explained. "Worse yet, since it's not a skill that schools provide books for, a skill that could even be learned from a book, he has no theoretical base to start from. His only hope is to go out and either learn to swim... or sink like a stone."

Father sat down in a chair, and looked over at Hector in non-comprehension. "Of course he knows... how could he... you learn that as a child!" he stammered out.

"When did we ever give him a chance?" Mother asked sadly. "Your precious 'plan' seemed fine at the time, but God help me, I should have thought it through more thoroughly. God help me, I should have realized what it meant. I should have gone crawling back to that bastard and asked him -- begged him -- to remove his curse."

"How can you say that?" Father asked sharply. "Do you really think we could have trusted him?"

"Say what you will about my nephew, I've said plenty," Mother told him sadly, "but one thing he never was was a liar, or an oath breaker. And evidence says the same was true for his lover."

"They were-" Father began.

"Whatever they were," Mother argued, "they clearly showed themselves to be honorable. To be dedicated to doing what they thought was right, and God dammit you know he offered to remove it, begged me to let him!"

"He just wanted... he..."

"He wouldn't have lied and you know it," Mother said softly. "We misjudged them. Hell, there are times..." Mother looked away.

"There are times what?" Father asked, voice soft, dangerous.

"There are times I wonder about the road not taken," she told him softly. "There are times I wonder about a lot of the roads I didn't take."

"Sometimes, so do I..." Father admitted with a sigh. "There was this one time, when..." Father looked over at Hector. "No, not now," he said softly. "Hector," he said more strongly. "Your mother and I need to talk. We..." Father looked at Mother, seeking support.

"Hector, go talk to Edward. Spend some time getting to know him. Maybe play some games if you want. There are a few board games in the hall closet still from when you were younger. Maybe one of those will appeal," Mother suggested.

Hector nodded, smiling. At least it sounded simple enough, and from the looks of it his parents agreed on it so he knew it was right.

But how the Hell would he figure out what was right on the stuff the two of them disagreed on? It wasn't like he could choose between the two of them!