Jed's scream awakened the household. Jared propped himself up on one elbow and reached over to awaken his boyfriend.
"They're going to be killed!" Jed's panic-stricken voice carried a weight of pain and worry. He was sweating profusely and looked around wildly.
"Easy, bro. It's all right. You're safe, and I'm right here with you," Jared said, with more reassurance in his voice than he felt inside.
Raffy came running in. "What's wrong?"
"Jed had a nightmare," Jared said.
Raffy slipped up beside Jed, on the opposite side of the bed from Jared, and gave him a hug. "Nightmares are scary," he said with assurance. "But you're going to be OK." He looked down the bed. "You guys aren't wearing jammies. I can see your wieners!" he said, giggling.
"That's OK, we're not supposed to," Jared said, feeling a little out of his depth at the prospect of explaining the birds and the bees to Raffy. "Tell you what, run into the bathroom and get a washcloth. Draw some lukewarm water and get it kinda wet but not really, and bring it back. We gotta wipe off Jed's face and stuff."
"OK, kewl," Raffy said. "He's gonna be all right, isn't he, Jare'?"
"Sure, little brother," Jared answered. "He just got scared by a nightmare, is all." As Raffy ran off, Jared scrunched himself over, his cast dead weight, and wrapped his arms around Jed. "Draw a deep breath, bro. You panicked."
Raffy came back with a dripping washcloth. Jared hid a smile and began sponging off Jed's face. "Scoot back to bed, Raff. We'll talk about this in the morning." As Raffy headed out the door, Jared drew Jed's face to him and kissed him tenderly. "You're going to be all right," he said. Jed increased the pressure of the kiss, and slid his body up against Jared's. "Mmmm, that feels good," Jared said as they broke for air.
Jed didn't answer, but began kissing down Jared's body. Then he looked up solemnly at Jared's face. "I don't remember much of that dream, but I saw our friends getting killed, and it was like I couldn't do anything about it."
"It's OK; it was only a nightmare," Jared said, caressing Jed's hair. "Eeep!" he added, as Jed's tongue circled a nipple. Jed giggled, and devoted his attention to Jared's body, sliding slowly down the bed.
Having arrived in Farmington a little early after getting the kids off to school, George decided to stop at the coffee shop across from the courthouse for a quick cup before showing up in court. He walked in the door and there sat Josiah at the counter. The judge motioned George over to join him. "Breakfast?" the judge invited.
"Thank you, no; I ate with the kids. But some coffee would be good."
Josiah motioned to the waitress for coffee for George, then inquired, "So how was your first day as a father?"
"Uh -- interesting," George replied. "Things got a little awkward when we got home, but I think it was more having to do with memories from living in that house with the Eccleses than fear of me. Philip even said as much. But he still refused to show me where I was supposed to sleep."
"Why was that, do you think?"
"I'm not sure; I wish I did know! Whatever it was the Eccleses did to those kids has got their heads screwed up six ways from Sunday."
"So how did you get around that?"
"I followed his directions and found the room on my own. Then we broke into Eccles's study; the kids told me I could use it for my study, but it was locked. I've got to go get some material later today to fix the door."
Josiah looked incredulous and said sternly, "You broke into one of the rooms in their house?"
George chuckled sheepishly. "Er - yeah. They begged me to, actually. I have a feeling it won't be too long before Drew and Randy have me wrapped around their fingers. I think I'm looking forward to that training in Orlando."
Josiah laughed. "Seven year olds can do that. So you're still okay with what you did? No second thoughts?"
"Absolutely none. Though I will be glad when I can break through their reserve and get them to be real kids again. Hopefully, I can learn how to do that in Orlando."
"I feel sure you'll get something out of it at least." Then Josiah changed the subject. "Listen, George, I wonder if you could do me a small favor - strictly off the record for now."
"I guess so, Josiah; what is it you need?"
"I want you to do a background check on one Neil McConnaghay. I don’t know any more about him than that, except that he used to be, and maybe still is, Maureen's husband."
George’s eyes twinkled. "Oh, so the wind's blowing that way, is it?"
Josiah uncharacteristically blushed. Then he raised his chin and declared, "I want to marry her sooner or later. But until all this business is settled, I want to keep a low profile. I do not want her to know that I’m checking up on her ex. I don't want her and Jonas to get their hopes up in case there proves to be unpleasant complications."
"Should be easy enough. I can go to the County Clerk and look up the marriage certificate. That'll get me the vital information on her husband - full name, birth place and date, and so on."
"Good man, George. Keep me posted. Now I think it's probably time we showed up in court, don't you?"
"What's wrong, Peter?" asked Maureen, worry written across her face.
"Nothin', ma'am," the boy said, wincing and hunched over.
"Don't you be playin' the big brave man who can't admit he's hurtin' with me!" Maureen said. "I'm a mother; I know better. Now, how's about the truth."
"Well, ma'am, my morphine drip's running dry, and it hurts!" Peter answered.
"Jonas! Get down here! I'll be runnin' our little Peter back to the hospital; he's in too much pain. You ride with us; I'll drop you at school after."
"What's up, little guy?" Jonas asked as he came bounding down the stairs.
"His morphine's about run out, and he's in serious pain. I need to get him down to Farmington," Maureen said.
"Whoops! No, mother," Jonas said, holding up his hand as she angrily began to argue. "I agree he needs to go to a hospital, but his best chance for real help is in Orlando. Jed's supposed to be taking Mickey down there when he goes home today, and they'll be taking Peter along with him. Let me check with him."
"Very well, son, but he needs to be in hospital as soon as we can get him there. Ye can use your fancy Starfleet tricks to get him there in a wink, I suppose."
Two boys in bathrobes, one also sporting a full-leg cast, lay snuggled on the McKendrick living room couch - the position they'd been in since breakfast. Raffy and Mickey had subsided to only occasional glances and giggles. Jed's communicator went off.
"McConnaghay to Templeton."
"Oh, hi, Jonas. What's up?"
"Any idea when you're heading out to Orlando? Peter's here, and in quite a bit of pain. I want to get him to Doc Austin as soon as possible."
"I suppose we need to get going, but it's so comfy snuggled here with Jared. Can your mom bring him over, and then we'll beam down from here together?"
"I'll check. A quick exchange 'off-mike' and then "She says sure -- but he's hurting bad; you guys should get ready to beam out as soon as we get there."
"All right." Jed clicked off his communicator and said, "C'mon, Raff. Let's get some clothes and stuff together to take along, and an outfit for Jare' to wear."
Minutes later Maureen and Jonas were at the door with Peter, and Jonas helped Jed pull a set of loose sweat pants over Jared's cast.
Peter looked at Jed. "What's wrong?" he asked, noting the older boy's somber expression.
"Aw, nothin'," Jed said a bit sheepishly.
Peter winced. "I know pain," he said. "You're hurting." He turned his attention to Maureen. "Ma'am, I can handle this. Find out what's eating Jed."
Maureen had been giving Jed her mother's appraisal eye as this exchange went on. "Ye best be tellin' us what's wrong, me lad."
"Aww, it's nothin' really. Just bein' back here in Arkham, and at Jared's parents' house, I got to missin' Mom and Dad, and wishing I'd taken the chance to see their graves."
Maureen gave Jed an affectionate smile. "I understand, Jed; I really do. But you need to get Peter to medical help as soon as you can."
Peter spoke up. "Have you guys got adult-strength painkiller here?"
"Sure, extra strength Tylenol," Mickey answered. "But that's too strong for somebody your size."
"No, it's not," Peter answered. "It's like a double dose for me, and it'll keep me OK long enough to let Jed see the graves."
"Raffy, the cabinet over the coffeepot. Run get one and a glass of water for Peter, OK?" Flashing his brother a big smile, Raffy ran to get the medicine.
"Are you sure about this?" Maureen asked Peter with deep concern.
"Yes'm," he answered. "I can handle it, and Jed needs to take this chance -- if you're willing to take him, that is."
"Sure, and I'd never turn him down for somethin' like that!" Maureen said. "Jonas, hang out with these boys and give them a hand at whatever they need, while I take Jed over."
Outside, it was a crisp October day in Maine. The sun turned the maples to flame. Jed hopped in Maureen's car, and thanked her. She drove silently the half mile to the cemetery, stopped, and waited in the car as Jed slowly went over to the gravesite where his parents had been laid to rest and their killers arrested, two weeks before. He stood with head bowed for a minute, then dropped to his knees. Maureen watched and said a prayer for him. When he came back to the car, his eyes were wet but his jaw was set firmly. He climbed into the passenger's seat silently, paused, and said simply, "Thanks."
Maureen reached out her right hand and patted his leg. "You're a strong and brave young man, Jed Templeton, and you've been through way too much for one young boy to have to handle," she said. "Somewhere, they're watching, and they're proud of you."
Jed's eyes brimmed up. Abruptly, he wiped them with his sleeve, looked at her, and nodded. In silence, they drove back to the McKendrick home, and quietly walked in.
"I think they're all ready, Mom," Jonas said. A suitcase and a backpack were slung under the two wheelchairs. Raffy was showing Peter his toys while they waited.
Maureen gave a quick hug to all five boys, lingering over Peter. "Sure, and I know it'll be takin' a miracle to heal ye, me lad. So ye get ye'self down there and get ye'self a miracle!" Her eyes were misty as she kissed the boy's forehead.
Jonas, meanwhile, had been pulling Jed and the McKendricks into the preferred pattern for transporter use. He gave Peter a hug as he drew him away from his mother and positioned him. Then he grasped Jed's shoulder and said, "Do Arkham up proud, Jed! You’ve been a huge help already; take care of these guys for me and Harry and Mom, willya?"
Jed grinned proudly and raised his communicator. "Jed Templeton of Clan Short to Lafayette."
"A party of five, including two wheelchairs, to beam from this location to the Medical Clinic at Camp Little Eagle."
"Roger wilco, Jed. Give us 30 seconds to get the coordinates up on the transporter stage." A pause. "Ready on your command!"
"Energize," said Jed, and the party beamed out. Jonas and Maureen turned, locked and left the McKendrick home.
"Wow!" Raffy exclaimed as they materialized on the Lafayette. "We're really on a starship!"
"Can we give you guys the tour?" Ensign Hughes asked with an indulgent smile at Raffy's enthusiasm.
Jed paused. "I know they'd love it, and so would I," he said, "but I've got one boy in severe pain here and two immobilized. Rain check?"
"It doesn't rain much in orbit," Hughes laughed. "But yeah, it's probably the best idea, under those circumstances. You all are welcome back here for a tour as soon as you've got treated, with Starfleet's complments."
"Well, I guess we need to get beamed down. Right to the lobby of Doc Austin's clinic?"
"Coming up," Hughes answered, and transported them to Camp Little Eagle’s medical clinic.
"Jed!" Doc Austin exclaimed. "Welcome back; who are your companions here?"
"Hi, Doc," Jed answered. "Dr. Austin Michaels, let me introduce to you my boyfriend Jared McKendrick, his brothers Mickey and Raffy, and Peter Lambert. Peter needs his morphine drip freshened as soon as possible; he's dying of cancer, and in a lot of pain. I want you guys to see if there’s anything Federation medicine can do for him. Mickey's paralyzed from a recent accident; same thing for him, see if you can keep him from having to be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Jared has a broken leg; using a biobed to get it healed is probably all he needs. Raffy had broken ribs, but I think they've healed."
"How long ago was this accident?" Doc Austin asked.
"Sunday last week, Dr. Michaels," Mickey answered.
"Doc or Doc Austin is what I’m usually known as around here; no need for titles. Jed, will you go get 'Tonio, please?"
"Sure thing, and I want to let Justy and Rina know we're here, oh, and Ceej too. Be right back, guys!" Jed slipped out the lobby door, and came back shortly accompanied by Antonio. "To save everybody confusion, this is Dr. Antonio Barnes - he's a full-fledged M.D. and older than any of us, but in the body of a nine-year-old. This is Mickey, Peter, Raffy, and Jared, 'Tonio."
Doc Austin had meanwhile been retrieving an ampoule of morphine from his medical supplies cabinet. "Peter, I'm going to simply give you a shot of this for now. I’ll explain in a couple of minutes why. Okay, let's get everyone to examining rooms. 'Tonio, you get Peter; I'll take Mickey; Jed, get your boyfriend in bed." He grinned.
Jared blushed. "Is that going to be some kind of standard joke now?" he asked mock-angrily.
"I sure hope so!" Jed grinned. "C'mon, Raff, stick with us for now."
"Look at this scan!" 'Tonio said angrily to Doc Austin.
"Aggressive lymphoma type 18," Austin read from the summary. "You can cure that, right?"
"Not quite," 'Tonio said. "They haven't perfected a cure yet, but we can sure stabilize him and throw him into remission, gain him time while a cure is developed. And those idiots in Maine were just going to let the kid die!" He thrust Peter's hospital file at Doc Austin.
"Where'd you get this?"
"Mickey brought it, and Jed got it and brought it in to me; the EMT they're friends with got it from the nurse at the place he was in -- I won't dignify it with the name 'hospital.'"
"I see what you mean," Doc Austin said as he perused the file. "But don't be too harsh on them; they didn't know about the McCoy stabilizing treatments, and it looks like they did the best they could with what they had available. Wait...." He read on, and his jaw and eyes locked. "The bastards did know about the McCoy treatment, but the Welfare Office wouldn't pay for it, so they didn't use it. I'm not going to let that go on."
"I'm going to activate the McCoy treatment using this biobed, after I tell Peter, then I need to go get a cuddle," 'Tonio said. "I learned my lesson about pushing myself."
"Good boy, 'Tonio. I know a lot of people older than either of your ages that haven't learned that. I'm going to go call Starfleet Medical and ask for an investigation of this hospital, then go back and see what the diagnostics say about Mickey." Doc Austin turned and left the room.
"You're really a doctor?" asked Peter as he woke up from the biobed diagnostic. "You don't look any older than me."
"I was born 36 years ago, and I have a M.D. degree, from Starfleet no less. It's just that my body ages at one quarter normal rate, so I look and feel like a nine-year-old same as you." 'Tonio smiled warmly.
"I'm sorry," Peter said.
"Don't be; I get that question every time I meet a new patient. But I've got good news for you. After we've talked, I'm going to put you back under using the bed for three days or so."
"That's all the more I got to live!" Peter wailed.
"Nuh-uh," 'Tonio said with a giggle. "Those people at your old hospital weren't using a new treatment that works on your cancer and three other fast-acting cancers. Starfleet Medical just released it the end of last year. It won't cure you, but it'll stabilize your condition and start inducing a remission. If we do this every year or two until they finally develop a cure, you can expect to live a full normal lifespan."
"Really?!" Peter was about jumping off the bed in joy.
"Realio trulio, Peter -- and you won't have to live with hurting any more, either. I just want your permission to start the treatment."
"Oh, do it, do it!" Peter was ecstatic.
"Okay, lay back down, and the biobed'll put you back to sleep. I'll see you in a few days, awake and healthy." 'Tonio reached over and gave Peter a hug.
"Kewl! See ya!" Peter lay down and watched as 'Tonio punched in several settings, then drifted off as the bed began its work.
Doc Austin walked by the room where Jed had taken Jared, slipped in, and activated the bed's controls to accelerate bone knitting in Jared's femur. Jared smiled drowsily and drifted off to sleep.
"Thanks, Doc," Jed said to Austin with a smile. "I knew I could count on you to get them taken care of. Now I can relax." He sat down in a chair next to Jared's bed, looked at him, looked over at Raffy, and slumped, beginning to cry. "Take care of Raffy for me, Doc," he said through sobs. "I stayed strong for them 'cause they needed me. Mom and Dad are gone, Uncle John and Aunt Sally are gone, I almost lost Jared and them, and I can't take it!" And he just let loose.
Doc Austin whipped out his communicator. "Austin Michaels to Dan Richardson. Dan, get over here A.S.A.P. It's a medical emergency, and it's in your field, not mine." He clicked the communicator closed. "Raffy, is it?" A nod. "Run outside and tell anybody you see to take you to C.J. Tell the teacher he's with that I need him and bring him back here. OK?"
Raffy gave him a thumbs-up and ran off to do what he'd been tasked with. Austin picked up the twelve-year-old and sat in the chair holding him as he sobbed.
Harry woke up alone, in his own bed. Getting up, he dressed for school, and came downstairs.
"Back to the old grind," his mother grinned at him, setting his breakfast and coffee in front of him. "I'll be heading off to work shortly. Maureen said you did a good thing Sunday and yesterday." She kissed his forehead. "Proud o' ya, boy. Don't mess up now that it's back to school routine. See ya tonight!" And she was off.
Harry rinsed his dishes and left them to be washed with the evening meal's, as was standard practice for them. He tucked communicator and hand phaser in a roomy pocket of his cargo pants, slipped on his thermal jacket, and headed for the bus stop.
Jonas wasn't on the bus this morning-- unusual but not totally surprising; Maureen often dropped him off when she was bound for somewhere in the morning. And the weekend's events would probably end up in the Dispatch, so she was no doubt headed for the newspaper office.
School was its usual boring self. Mme. LeBoeuf in French complimented Harry on how much his pronunciation and vocabulary had improved. He smiled and thanked her, avoiding telling her he'd become fluent in nine languages telepathically over the weekend. English was no better, nor was math. Harry looked forward to seeing Jonas at lunch.
At long last the bell rang, and he saunteered to the cafeteria ... to find Jonas surrounded by four girls: Lisa, Tanya, Heather, and Rachel. He took the sixth seat. Table talk was the usual teenage fare. But it was obvious that Tanya was putting the make on Jonas, and he was eating it up. Harry resolved to tough it out, and talk to Jonas later. When the end-of-lunch bell rang, Jonas and Tanya strolled out of the cafeteria hand in hand. "See ya later, Har'!" Jonas called out.
With a sinking heart, Harry picked up his books and passed to history class. Rachel, who had the same class, walked silently with him.
Tuesday was Current Events Day in history class. Harry expected the discussion to deal with the recent events in Arkham and Farmington, but the class had other ideas. Two of the sports nuts in class, Butch and Larry, wanted to discuss a team franchise moving from Montreal to San Antonio, arguing that it shouldn't have been permitted because it was unfair to the fans. Mr. Ditworth interrupted, uncharacteristically for him. Normally he allowed the students to discuss what had interested them in the news, guiding the discussion with leading questions. But this time he quashed the argument. "The franchises are owned by corporations and venture partnerships. They're the ones who make the decisions, except for the league ensuring that teams don't locate in or near other teams to keep the fan base and income spread out. It's purely a business decision -- they think they'll pick up more fans in San Antonio than they lose in Montreal, so they moved the franchise. As simple as that." Butch and Larry weren't happy, but they shut up.
Mary Lou then brought up that Delaware had just become the eighth state to permit gay marriages. "I don't see why they let them do that. Everybody knows it's just giving public sanction to their perversion. And the Bible says that marriages are only between one man and one woman." She was in her 'prim and proper' class persona today, it was obvious; nobody would know from her classroom behavior that she was rumored to have the roundest heels in school.
Rachel spoke up. "It's a good thing, then, that this country wasn't founded on the Bible."
Mary Lou came back, "What do you mean? Pastor Benson just gave the youth group Sunday a teaching on the Biblical foundations of America."
"Look at the textbook," Paul said. Chapters three and four are all about the Revolution and the Constitutional Convention and Bill of Rights. Nobody mentioned the Bible in any of that, so far as I can see."
"It says, 'the law of nature and of nature's God'," Mary Lou retorted. "That's the God of the Bible, obviously."
"I don't think it's that obvious," Paul said. "Nor I," added Rachel.
"Well, that's because you're a Unitarian and a Jew," Mary Lou said. "Good Christians know otherwise."
"I'm a good Christian," Pen said. Pen's father, Penfield Throxton III, was rumored to be able to buy and sell the whole town, and the family were staunch Episcopalians. "And I sure don't see anything proving your point. I'm with Paul, too."
"Well, it's just those homosexuals wanting the public to condone their perverted sex," Mary Lou tried another tack.
Butch spoke up. The muscular 6'3" 190-pound sophomore was a first-string varsity defensive lineman, and tended not to talk about much other than sports. "I don't think so. I know my brother and his partner love each other very much. And we got a call last night; we'll be heading down to Rehoboth this weekend to attend their wedding."
It went on like that. Harry kept quiet, wondering what was in his future. Finally the bell rang, and he went on to biology class. Normally he enjoyed bio, but today it couldn't hold his interest.
The day finally ended. He walked outside, looking for Jonas, who was leaning up against a wall talking with Lisa and Tanya. Tanya bent forward and gave Jonas a kiss, which he gave back as good as he got.
Harry's shoulders slumped, and he walked towards his bus alone. Rachel stood watching him.
"Speaking. Who might this be?"
"James Hamilton -- 'Skipper' you may know me as -- Arkham's EMT. I have a bit of a dilemma here, and need your advice."
"Well, go ahead. You do understand that as a sitting judge, I cannot give you advice or hold privileged information that might properly come before my court, don't you?"
"Yessir. I don't believe it'll come to that. But last night we picked up a young man, lying naked by the side of the road."
"You took him to the hospital for a checkover, and notified the authorities, I presume?"
"Well, sir, that's kind of the problem. We did not, because he goes into a state of panic any time we mention the authorities or the hospital. Bobby and Grace and I gave him a thorough going-over. He's covered with scars, apparently surgical scars not abuse, his hair was just beginning to grow back from his head having been shaven when we found him, and he's almost completely amnesiac. His sole memories before we found him are of running from people who were torturing him in a hospital. So we didn't press the issue, knowing how he was reacting, and that they would take him and place him in foster care."
"Grace is trained as emergency foster care, right?"
"Well, then, it's a rule of the placement policy, one I'm surprised you didn't think of already, that nobody gets a patient in need of medical aid until the emergency caregiver releases him or her to them. I presume that, as a licensed emergency caregiver, you're not prepared to put this boy back in the bureaucratic system?"
"No, sir. Not hardly!"
"So you will retain this mystery boy as long as you feel it medically indicated, and then send him to a temporary placement, which as the judge having jurisdiction over the case, I determine should best be with Mrs. Grace Martin."
"Perfect! Thank you, judge!"
Raffy came running back in followed by C.J., followed shortly by Chief Tecumseh. Jed's sobs had subsided, and he was breathing deeply and sniffling, still on Doc Austin's lap. C.J. ran to him and hugged him.
"C.J., do you know where Rina is supposed to be today?" the Chief asked.
"She said she was gonna go to some mansion and go over a treatment with 'em," he said muffledly, his head buried on Jed's chest.
The Chief pulled out a PADD, found her cellphone number, stepped to the nearby phone and dialed it.
"What happened?" asked C.J.
"Jed just collapsed; I think it all got to be too much for him," Doc said. Jed moved his head against Doc's chest in what was evidently agreement.
"Rina? Hawkeye Tecumseh here. I believe you should wrap up what you are doing and come to the Camp clinic. Jed has returned, and is in need of support. -- Yes, there's no need to hurry, but come when you're able."
Dan arrived at that moment, as the Chief was hanging up the phone. Doc Austin quickly filled him in on what had happened.
"Hawkeye, can you spare a few minutes?" Doc asked. "I don't want to leave him without comfort, and I have a patient waiting on his diagnosis."
"Of course," the Chief said. "We must each do what each can do best. Give me the boy and go to your patient."
Doc slid out of the chair, still in a crouch; the Chief sat down, and Doc handed Jed's body to him. Jed snuggled up to the old Indian, and C.J. leaned in and hugged him. "I'll be back as quickly as I can, Jed," Doc said softly.
"How do you feel?" Dan asked Jed.
"Drained, sir. It's like I've been carrying everyone, and I just collapsed under them."
"You need to learn to ask for help, not try to do it all alone. But you know, this is good -- you've been under a lot of stress the past two weeks, and getting it out of your system is a necessary part of the grieving process." Dan clasped Jed on the shoulder. "C'mon outside, and we'll have a talk."
Accompanied by Raffy, Doc Austin entered Mickey's room. "How do you feel?" he asked.
"Not too bad," Mickey said, "except that I've been drowsy since I got up here. And of course, my legs are dead meat, just like they'll always be."
:Maybe not," Austin said. "Let me check your readings." He studied the displays intently for a couple of minutes, while Mickey's expression underwent an amazing number of changes. "Well, son," he said at last, "I see five options based on what this tells me about your spine. Each has its pros and cons; let me tell you about each, and then together we can decide on the proper course of treatment for your case."
"First, we can get someone in to perform micro-neurosurgery on the nerves to your legs. If you don't mind my asking, have you been experiencing normal arousal?"
"What do you mean?" Mickey asked.
"You're a healthy teenage male," Doc answered. "With a normal sex drive, you should be getting erections from erotic dreams or seeing someone attractive to you a couple of times a day, minimum. Most boys, it's a bit more often. I'd need to know if those nerves are still functional; they ought to be, but where they tie into your spine is quite close to where the damage to your spinal cord is."
"No problem there," Mickey said, reddening. "That's one thing that still works!"
"Sorry for asking, but it's difficult to tell from even a modern biobed scan. Don't be embarrassed; as your doctor, I need to be sure that you'll be able to function normally in that regard, same as in any other one."
"Thanks," Mickey answered, embarrasedly.
"Well, the first option, then, is to simply take the peripheral nerves, which grow quite well all your life, and see if we can re-route them to a point on your spinal cord above where the damage is. If we can, it's a matter of simply retraining the impulses to recognize that taking route A wiggles your toe, taking route B bends your knee, and so on. The disadvantage here is that that rehabilitation process is fairly long, and fraught with mistakes in the learning curve. Without making a joke about it, I knew of one patient, not mine fortunately, who could not bend her right knee without farting; that nerve had linked into the site for allowing air to escape the rectum. She finally conquered it, after an embarrassing six weeks." Raffy was giggling so hard he couldn't stop.
"Tne second option, if it can be made to work, is the one I'd recommend, but before I confirm it can be used, I want to consult with Solak. He's a Vulcan healer with a specialty in neural disorders whose son is a part of the Clan. We all learned in school that damage to the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord, cannot be reversed. That's not strictly true; brain impulses are regularly rerouted around damaged portions of the brain in nearly all brain-injury cases. There's a Vulcan technique for stimulating the cut-through neurons in your spinal cord to grow across the gap. It may take a week or two before we get results, and I'd advise being careful not to come down hard on anything unyielding when you sit down for the rest of your life, but if I'm correct, I believe that would be the best option for you.
"The third and fourth options would entail transporting you up to the FYS Hospital in Charleston, when its renovations are completed, for surgery by Dr. Furst. Essentially it would be a bit of cyborging in either case. The third choice you have would be to have biometallic "wire nerves" linking your human nerves to your spinal cord at the damaged point. It's theoretically quite sound, but happens never to have been tried on a human before, so you'd be a bit of a guinea pig on it. I assume you can see the reason why that's not my first choice. The fourth option is more radical -- we'd amputate your paralyzed legs altogether, and implant android limbs in their place, properly wired to your spinal cord. They'd work and feel just like human legs, including deriving their motive power from your body's food intake, but would be humanoid tissue over a mechanical core in place of your bones and tendons. I would rather not do something that radical unless none of the other options prove workable. I think you met Eli, who lost an arm and most of a leg in a plane accident; that's what's being done for him. Dr. Furst, by the way, is a lot like Dr. Barnes -- Antonio, whom you met. He's an android who is over 70 years old and has been practicing medicine for nearly 50 of them, but he was built to look like, and still does look like, a 13-year-old boy.
"The fifth option," Doc Austin concluded, "is to do nothing. In about one case out of 500, healing occurs naturally, and you regain some use of your legs, although probably not full functionality. The rest of the time, of course, you'd remain as you are. I mention it because all the other choices involve surgery and/or experimental techniques, and you do have the right to stay just as you are. You're a human being with all the rights that entails, not a white rat for medical people to experiment on. And I always make sure that my patients know they do have that choice, whenever elective surgery is indicated."
"There's a chance I can walk again?" Mickey's relief was palpable.
"I don't want to make promises I can't keep," Doc answered. "But I'd say that not only is there a good chance you'll walk, but you'll be dancing and jumping for rebounds in basketball if you want to. Unless you go with the first option, it'll depend on what Solak and Marc have to say. And which option you elect is up to you. I can go into any or all of them at more length if you want, but we'll go into that at your pleasure, after consultation of course."
"D'you hear that, Raffy? I'm going to be able to walk again!!" Raffy climbed up and hugged his brother.
"If you don't mind staying put there for a bit longer, Mickey, I want to go check on your brother, and get a hand to boost you back into your wheelchair. Do you want to come with me, Raffy?"
"Go ahead," Mickey said. "This is great news!"
Doc glanced out the window as he headed for the treatment room Jared was in, nodding with a pleased expression as he saw Chief Tecumseh, Dan, Jed, and C.J. sitting on the lawn, Jed talking animatedly to the others.
"We meet again, Jared," he said as he glanced at the display, which read 58% done. "Dr. Richardson has Jed and C.J. outside, and Jed seems to have recovered from his breakdown fairly well. He's been under a lot of stress, even before what happened to you and your brothers."
"I know; he's changed, in some ways. Although I like one of the changes!" Jared blushed and grinned.
"Well, sir, I'm going to ask that you remain right here in this bed through the dinner hour, if you won't mind that. Then we can take your cast off, and make sure you remember how to walk."
"Your bone is 58% knit back together; another few hours and it'll be fully healed. If you meant the walking part, people who have been wearing casts often feel themselves off balance when the casts are removed. So I'll have you practice walking here in the clinic and on the lawn outside, with somebody walking alongside you, for a half hour or so before I fully discharge you."
"You mean I'll be back to normal?"
"I don't know; were you normal before?" Doc Austin grinned. Raffy burst into laughter. Jared got a big grin. "That's how I like to see my patients looking! Sorry for the couple of hours bed time yet, but you're healing fast, and I don't see any point in keeping you in that cast any longer than necessary."
He went to the main clinic door. "Chief, could I beg your assistance for a minute or two?"
"Of course, doctor." Hawkeye said as he came to meet him.
"I have a 16-year-old with paralyzed legs to get from a biobed into a wheelchair. It's something of a two-man job -- if you don't mind?"
"Not at all." They walked into Mickey's room.
"Chief Hawkeye Tecumseh of the Seminole Nation, Mickey McKendrick."
The Chief looked at Mickey. Solemnly he said, "Your enemy is named Despair. You must fight him. If you can keep him at bay, your body will heal itself, with the aid of my friend Dr. Michaels here."
Mickey looked non-plussed, then suddenly it connected. "Thank you, Chief. You're right. It is a battle I can fight sitting, fortunately."
The Chief smiled. "When you have tamed your spirit of despair, you will be needed to guide others whom he attacks as well."
Mickey's jaw took a firm set and he smiled warmly. "It will be my pleasure, Chief. Thank you for showing me my goal."
"I'll help," said Raffy.
The Chief looked at the 8-year-old appraisingly. "Yes, you will," he said. "You have a wise and warm heart, and strength of spirit unusual in one so young. Your brother will need your help as he fights his demon, and then you two will work together in your mission."
"Yes, we will," Raffy said with assurance. Mickey looked at him with surprise and pride.
"Your brother will be abed for a few hours more," Doc Austin said. "I'll be removing his cast after dinner."
He and the chief both cupped hands on Mickey's thighs, and lifted him into the wheelchair. "You are welcome to join us for the evening meal," the Chief said, "or perhaps Rina and her boys may want to take you to their place, or out for dinner."
Rina left for work early, after being firm that Jed and C.J. were going to school. "Mickey, it's up to you what Jared and Raffy do. If I were you, I'd send them along to see the school -- it's where you were yesterday -- and then enroll them when you can get around."
Sylvia spoke up. "If they all want to wait until I finish a phone call with the funeral home, I can run them all over. Don't forget I've got a wheelchair-adapted van I used for Robert."
"We couldn't impose on you like that, Sylvia," Rina interrupted.
"Pish tosh, child. The boy needs wheelchair-access transportation; I've got it. And it'll do me good to be out doing things for them, and having the boys lift my spirits, instead of sitting here missing Robert all day."
Sylvia was fuming as she came to collect them. "That unctuous bastard -- pardon my language, boys..." Raffy and C.J. were giggling "...dared to accuse me of not caring about my husband because I wouldn't buy his top-of-the-line coffin. He can kiss my... well, perhaps I shouldn't say that around you boys." She blushed.
"We've heard worse," Mickey said, laughing. "I don't blame you, though. Why are you doing business with him if he's being such a jerk."
"Oh, he was a friend of Robert's, and talked him into a prepaid plan -- but he wants to add more on top of that, and I'll not stand for it!" Abruptly her tone changed. "But you boys have all been through the same thing, and you don't need to hear me go on. Come, let's go see your school."
Up in Arkham, Harry's day was off to the same dead start as yesterday. The skies were overcast, and it matched his mood. He saw Jonas twice during the day, both times with Tanya attached at the hip, once with Lisa tagging along and once by themselves. Jonas greeted him affably, which ironically seemed to hurt worse than being dropped cold would have.
Unnoticed by Harry, Jonas, Lisa, or Tanya, these events were noted by Rachel Cohen, who missed no detail of what was happening.
When school let out, Jonas and Tanya were nowhere to be seen, and Harry walked to the bus stop alone.
As Pen emerged from the school, heading for the car his father had bought him, Tony DiPuglia called out. "Hey, Pen, I need to go up near your house -- might turn into a part-time job. Any chance I can get a lift with you?"
"Sure," Pen said. "Hop in." Tony slipped in the passenger door, and the two took off.
As they got out of sight of the school, Pen turned off onto a back road. "Smooth!" he said. "Nobody will ever be the wiser."
"You got a good place?" Tony asked.
"Yessir. The old Burrowes farm up this road -- Dad bought it for a song from Kit Burrowes after his old man passed away. He's going to grow Christmas trees on it, to sell to the city market. Lots of lanes on the land where we can't be seen from the road, and it's not even trespassing, 'cause we own the land."
"Good. I don't ever want any of this to get out, y'hear?"
"Don't worry; I'd be in the same jam. Mum's the word."
Pen pulled in on the farm driveway, behind the barn, and down a lane adjoining a woodlot until the road was no longer visible. He pulled the car to a stop and put in park. Tony turned in his seat, back to the car door, and lifted his left leg up onto the seat, bending it at the knee. He smiled knowingly. Pen reached over, unzipped Tony's jeans, and Tony boosted himself up to slide them and his boxers off his hips. Pen wet his lips, bent over, and took Tony's 6.5" cock in his mouth.
"Mmm, feels nice," Tony said. "Cup my balls." Pen hastened to follow instructions. "Aaah! Suck me harder, faster! -- Oh, man, suck me. I'm going to...." And Tony came hard, shooting four spurts into Pen's mouth.
"Mmm, that felt good," Tony said. "I'm going to smoke this J now, while you get yourself ready."
As the odor of burning pot began to fill the car, Pen lowered the windows, slipped his Nikes off, undid his pants and slipped them and his briefs completely off. He reached into the glove compartment and pulled out a tube of KY jelly, applying it to his own anus, and began to finger himself. As he opened himself up, Tony pinched off the roach of his joint of pot and inserted it in the plastic pouch he'd brought it in. "Okay, get me hard again," he said. He had not gone fully soft after his previous orgasm, and Pen's hands and mouth brought him back to full erction fairly quickly, coating him with KY as he came fully erect.
Tony opened his car door, and stood on the ground just outside it. Pen laid down on the seat, brought his legs up to shoulder level, and said "Ready." Tony bent forward and thrust himself into Pen's bottom. Pen grimaced at the abrupt insertion, then began to move his hips to meet Tony's. "Nice and tight," Tony said. "I wish Lisa's pussy was this tight." Tony began picking up tempo, and Pen began stroking himself, moaning as Tony rhythmically stroked into him. Tony began to thrust deep, and Pen brought himself off by hand as he did. As Pen's butt muscles tightened with his orgasm, Tony came again.
Pen pulled the old hand towel he'd liberated for the purpose out from under the driver's seat, handed it to Tony, who cleaned his genitals off and handed it back. Pen wiped off his buttocks, his stomach, and the seat, and stuffed the towel back in place. He slipped his briefs and pants back on as Tony pulled his own up and fastened them.
"Any chance we can do this again Friday?" Pen asked, hoping against hope.
"Sorry, dude. Got a hot date with Lisa. Oh, by the way, I'm a bit short; can I borrow $20 to take her out and show her a good time first?"
Pen drew the $20 he'd stashed in expectation of the request out of his pocket. He'd expected that answer and the request for a 'loan' -- and knew he wasn't likely ever to get paid back.
"Thanks, dude. Can we get back to town now?" Pen rolled the windows up and began the drive back, thinking he needed to be happy with what he did get.
Pastor Friendly of the First FCC looked across the table to his two surviving Elders: Ralph Wheeler and Ben Powell. He smiled, a smile devoid of warmth and reminding one more of an alligator than anything else. "I've heard from National HQ," he said bluntly. "They think it's time to move up the pace and act. They're very unhappy about the results of that trial out west, and our losing Eccles and his easy access to big money just added insult to injury. The time has come to smite those who defy the will of the Lord!"
"How you gonna do that?" Wheeler asked.
"We need to dispose of those kids the Eccleses took in; they probably know too much. And that reporter woman and her son, and his buddy, have been at the heart of our problems around here. Fortunately, Ben was in court Monday."
"Your kid giving you troubles again?" Wheeler asked.
"Nah, I took your advice. A couple of good beatings, and he's learned not to sass me. But I overheard them planning to get together Saturday -- the judge, both those boys, and the D.A. and the Eccles kids that are living with him."
"And that's perfect," Friendly said. "Timing's just right so that neither we nor the folks planning to deal with that deppity sheriff end up tipping off each other's hand."
"But what are we actually going to do?" Powell asked.
"Look here," Friendly answered. Taking a key, he opened a lockbox set into the church wall. Six Starfleet phasers gleamed inside. "Each of us needs to recruit one other loyal member. We'll meet here and head for the reporter's house."
Neither the weather nor Harry's mood had improved. He went through his first three classes more or less on rote, wishing things would change.
Pen ducked into the boys' restroom between classes, needing to empty his bladder. As he stepped up to a urinal, Bruno Latrobe, a senior and running back on the football team, stepped up next to him. Pen could not help but notice Bruno's equipment. Bruno caught him looking, and took a half-step back, with a knowing smile. Pen enjoyed the view, finished his business, zipped up, and left. Bruno followed him out the door.
Bruno made a signal with his left arm. Two of Bruno's teammates stepped forward, hostile looks on their faces. Bruno grabbed Pen, a foot shorter and 70 pounds lighter than him, and spun him around. "Whatcha mean lookin' at my cock, faggot?" he asked angrily. "You plannin' on mo-lestin' me?"
Jack, one of the other two, grabbed Pen and slammed him up against a bank of lockers. "Answer the man," he said. "You tryin' to suck his cock, or somethin'?"
Doug Murdock stepped in front of Pen and knocked Jack's arm away from him. "You want him, you gotta come through me first," he said. Jack drew back his fist as if to hit Doug. A crowd of students had gathered, including Harry and Rachel. Tony and Lisa walked by, arm in arm; Tony checked his step, glanced over and saw Pen, and continued on his way, with Lisa drawing him on.
"Hold it right there," a voice rang out. It was Mr. Hofstetter, the high school principal. "All right, what's going on here?"
"He tried to molest me," Bruno said, pointing at Pen.
"I was just taking a piss and he was standing at the next urinal," Pen said. "I don't know why he's thinking that, but I didn't do anything but take a leak."
"He was ready to punch him out," Doug interjected, gesturing at Jack.
"Well, seems to me it's just a case of hot tempers," Hofstetter said. "Boys will be boys, after all. You three head on to your next class," he said to the football players. "We gotta keep your grades up to keep you eligible if we're gonna have a winning season. You two (motioning at Pen and Doug) come with me. I won't tolerate fighting in the halls." Pen and Doug looked up, shocked.
Harry had been watching, loath to jump in. At this point, though, he decided he wouldn't stand by and allow a miscarriage of justice. Pulling out his communicator, he keyed it for Starfleet, and said "Harry Johnson to Lafayette. I need security to this location A.S.A.P."
"We don't allow students to have cell phones on school property," Mr. Hofstetter said. "I'm confiscating it; hand it over."
At the same time, Ensign Romero of the Lafayette's security detachment beamed down behind him, phaser already drawn. "All of you, stay right where you are. Harry, what's going on?"
"Pen and Bruno" he said, gesturing at each, "just came out of the boys' room over there. Bruno grabbed Pen, claiming he'd tried to molest him. Pen says he was merely taking a piss next to Bruno. Doug here came to Pen's defense, and Jack over there went to take a punch at him. Mr. Hofstetter was going to let the bullies go and hold the victim and his defender for fighting in school; that's when I called for you."
"Not that I doubt Harry's word, but is that what everyone else saw?" The three footballers began to spin a different story, when Rachel spoke up. "Harry told the truth, just as it happened." Three other students added their agreement.
"Why didn't you call the local authorities, Harry?" Romero asked.
"All I had was my communicator, and I knew they wouldn't get here in time," Harry answered.
"Good enough. Remember that we do try not to override local authorities if they can handle it."
"Go ahead, call 'em," said Jack. "Uncle Roscoe won't believe this stuff."
"Who's Uncle Roscoe?" Ensign Romero asked.
"His uncle is the sheriff," Rachel volunteered.
"Would you like to withdraw that comment?" Romero asked, smiling sweetly.
"Why should I?" Jack asked truculently.
"Because you've accused your uncle of favoritism in enforcing the law, and I'd have to investigate and arrest him," Romero answered.
Jack looked like he'd stepped in something unpleasant barefoot.
"Mr. Hofstetter, would you care to make any comments?" Ensign Romero said.
"This is an internal school matter, and doesn't require your involvement," Mr. Hofstetter said.
"It could have been," Romero responded, "but Starfleet got called in, and Federation law has been violated."
"I will handle discipline here as I see fit," Hofstetter rejoined. "The school has been placed under my authority. Speaking of which, Harry, hand over that cell phone."
"It's not a cell phone, and you have no right to it," Harry said.
"Go ahead and give it to him; your phaser too," Romero said.
Shocked, Harry did so.
"All right, Mr. Hofstetter, you are in possession of restricted Starfleet equipment. I require that you surrender them to me immediately," Romero said. The principal handed them over.
"Now, Harry, for the record here, and you students bear witness to this, I do not want you to violate any commitments to confidentiality that you have made, but for the record, state the circumstances under which you obtained this equipment, including the rank and surname of the issuing officer."
Harry began to smile. "I was issued my communicator and phaser at the completion of the training I undertook, by Lt. Richardson of the Enterprise, detailed to head up security at...."
"That's sufficient," Romero interrupted. "Here are your communicator and phaser back. Wear and use them in good health, to serve and protect the citizens of the Federation!"
"Thank you, sir," Harry said. There were some wide eyes and mouths hanging open among the students.
"You mean Harry is in Starfleet?" one of them said.
"Not exactly," Romero answered. "Harry was recruited by one of the groups that Starfleet exists to support, one that doesn't want all its activities made public. And even that is a bit more than you actually ought to know."
"All right, Pen, is it?" he continued. "Just to get it on the record, did you in fact attempt to molest this older, larger boy?"
"I did not," Pen replied.
"He looked at my cock!" Bruno said.
"You must have serious problems in the locker room, then," Romero said to him drily, "if you think that constitutes molestation."
"Did you, Pen, or you Douglas, offer violence to these boys except in defense of yourself or each other?"
"No, sir," they echoed, one after the other.
"Did they offer violence to you?"
"Yessir. Bruno grabbed me and yanked me around, and Jack threw me against the lockers and attempted to hit Doug."
"What reason did they give for doing so?"
"Bruno claimed that I'd molested him, apparently because I noticed his penis while we were standing side by side urinating," Pen responded.
"'his penis' ... 'urinating'" Bruno repeated in a mocking tone.
"Yes, it would seem he knows the proper terminology for body parts and functions," Romero said. "What do you three have to say for yourselves?"
"Hey, Bruno said we were gonna do some fag-bashing, but I didn't know it would come to this," the third boy said.
"Shut up, Frank," Bruno said.
"So this was pre-planned, Frank?" Romero asked. Frank stood mute. "Never mind, your statement already made that clear."
"Harry, do you want to assume jurisdiction here?" Romero asked deferentially.
"Not unless I need to," Harry answered. "I'll be glad to leave it in Starfleet's hands."
"Fair enough; if you feel it necessary, supersede my actions -- we're both seeking justice to be done here," Romero replied. The wide eyes and dropped jaws in the crowd grew even more so.
"What are the full names of these three?" Romero continued.
"Bruno Latrobe, Jack Costigan, and Frank O'Reilly, sir," a student volunteered. Bruno glared at him.
"Mr. Latrobe, Mr. Costigan, Mr. O'Reilly, you stand charged with assault and offering violence based on the victim's perceived sexual orientation, in violation of Section 3.1 and 3.3 of the Federation's Hate Crimes Act. Can you give me any good reason why I should not detain you for trial at Captain's Mast?"
"The little faggot deserved it," Jack sneered.
Romero rounded on him. "Nobody deserves to be attacked for who they are -- much less what you think they might be. Is that clear?"
"I didn't actually do anything," Frank said.
"Yes but you conspired with these two to commit a crime," Romero answered.
"I admit that, but I realize it was dumb, and I was just following along with what Bruno said," Frank replied.
"Very well, then. Harry, I'll need you to confirm this, as I'm not in a position to make this decision by myself," Romero said. He turned and addressed Frank. "Frank O'Reilly, you have admitted before Starfleet personnel to conspiracy to commit a crime punishable under the Hate Crimes Act of the United Federation of Planets. I hereby sentence you to exile for a period of five years on Tantalus IV or such other Federation prison planet as shall seem appropriate to competent Starfleet authority." Frank began to sag as the seriousness of what he'd been involved in began to come home. "Said sentence is suspended pending good behavior for the next five years, during which period you shall complete your high school education, with a C average or better, and shall either attend college or seek gainful employment thereafter. You shall keep the local offices of Starfleet or Clan Short apprised of your activities on a regular basis and whenever your circumstances change. Harry here or Jonas McConnaghay will be appropriate contacts. Any violation of the terms of your suspended sentence will result in imposition of the full sentence of exile. Harry, do you confirm this sentence?"
"Yes sir, I do," Harry answered firmly. "Frank, you're basically a decent sort, but you've been hanging out with guys that have fucked up your attitudes. Let me or Jonas know if you need any help; we have the means to get it for you."
"Thanks, Harry, and Ensign," Frank's gratitude was sincere.
"Do you accept the terms of your suspended sentence?" Romero asked, more warmly now.
"Yessir, I accept them."
"Then see that you get yourself straightened out. When you finish college, look me up, please. I went through much the same thing growing up in the inner city, and was given a chance by a tough but wise judge. Now's my chance to pass that along to you."
"I will, sir," Frank said earnestly.
"All right, then. Mr. Hofstetter?"
"Yes? I think you could afford to be more lenient with those boys; they're the heart of our football team."
"Oh, I don't think you need to worry about your football team. Young lady," Romero said, turning to one of the girl bystanders, "would you be so kind as to go bring the vice principal here?"
"Sure." She hurried off to do so.
"As I understand it," Romero said, summarizing what had happened in an effort to gain time, "this young man, Pen?, was falsely accused of molestation and assaulted by two students, with a third in conspiracy with them. This other young man, Doug?, came to Pen's defense. And Mr. Hofstetter here was about to let the boys who committed the assault go, while holding the victim and the boy who stepped to his defense for fighting in school. And I gather his rationale in part was that he did not want to punish the assaulters because they were on the school's football team. Is that accurate?"
Several students nodded agreement. Romero saw the girl he'd sent leading a woman, evidently the vice principal, down the hall.
"You, ma'am," he called out, "you are the vice principal here?"
"Yes sir, I am, Sarah Kilbride at your service. May I ask what's going on here?"
"An altercation that got far enough out of hand that Starfleet had to be called in, in the person of me. I regret the disturbance to school routine." Ensigm Romero said to her, then turned and continued, "Mr. Hofstetter, based on the evidence before me, I have no choice but to put you under arrest for the violation of Sections 81.2 and 81.9 of the Safe Haven Act. Please stand over there with Mr. Latrobe and Mr. Costigan."
"I have heard enough of this bullshit," Hofstetter said. "You have no authority in this school. Come with me, boys," he said to Bruno and Jack and turned to walk away.
"Halt," Romero called out. Hofstetter continued to walk. Harry and Romero both drew their phasers. Harry had his out first, and stunned Hofstetter where he stood. He fell heavily to the floor of the school hallway.
"Nice shot," Romero said to Harry.
"Thanks," Harry replied.
"Ms. Kilbride, you are acting principal for this school due to Mr. Hofstetter here's arrest. I suggest you notify the school board. Also, for the record, Mr. Johnson here and Jonas McConnaghay are authorized to carry phaser and communicator at all times, including in this school, by Starfleet regulation which I believe you'll agree supersedes school regulations. He acted today entirely within the best traditions of Starfleet, and prevented a major miscarriage of justice; this school can be proud of him. Where is Jonas, anyway, Harry?"
"Um, I believe he's off with his girlfriend," Harry said with a pang of heartache interrupting the high he'd been on since Romero arrived.
"I ... see," Romero replied. "It's a good thing that you were on hand, then."
Romero drew Harry off to one side. "Try not to let it get to you," he said. "We know the good you two have accomplished together here. Anyway, every high school lives on rumor and popularity, and the way I asked you about J.J. will leave you a 'man of mystery' -- should do a lot for your popularity, I think." He smiled.
"Thanks, sincerely," Harry said. "But I'd trade it all to have things with Jonas back the way they were."
Romero patted Harry on the back. "It'll work out; trust me."
He turned back to Bruno and Jack, still standing by Hofstetter's body. Walking over to them and pulling out his communicator, he said, "Romero to Lafayette. Four to beam up, three in custody, one of them stunned. Energize at will."
Seconds later the four had turned to sparkles and vanished.
"You all need to be at your next classes, about ten minutes ago," Ms. Kilbride said. "Now get a move on!" As Harry walked by her on his way to history, "Nice work," she said to him sotto voce.
After school, Doug and Rachel both looked for Harry, and found him standing in an alcove near the door to the bus stand. "Everybody suddenly wants to know all about me, after that incident with Bruno and them," he said.
"I had to come see you, and ask if I did the right thing," Doug said. "I don't want you to decide to burn off my dick!"
"Oh, you're the guy who harassed Jed and Jared downtown, right?" Harry hid a smile.
"Yeah. After Jonas and them lectured me, I got to thinkin', and I realized I was just trying to be a tough guy, by showing up others. I want to be more like you and him, and help people instead."
"You did good," Harry said. "Let me know if you need to talk about stuff; I know it helps when you can sort out those kinds of thoughts by talking them out with somebody else."
"Thanks," Doug said. "I may just take you up on that." He walked off, clearly happier.
"Now, about you," said Rachel. "Seeing Jonas with Tanya is eating you alive, for some reason. It didn't use to be like that when he was seeing a girl. You want to talk about it?"
"You wouldn't understand," Harry began.
"Oh, yes, I would," Rachel countered. "You're somebody very special to me, Harry Johnson, and I know a lot more than you may think. Like the fact that you've been carrying a torch for Jonas for a couple of years now, and he only sees you as a sidekick. It started looking like he'd finally woken up to what he has in you, and you seemed happier than I've ever seen you. Then boom, along comes Tanya, and you're walking around with a dark cloud hovering over your head."
"You knew?" Harry was startled.
"Yeah. I made a big play for you back in eighth grade, and you didn't even notice. So I started paying attention to who you were with and what your moods were, and put two and two together."
"And you're not upset?"
"Hell, no. When you're the only Jewish girl in high school, you value the friends you have pretty highly. And you've always been a good, loyal friend -- to me and to Jonas, who's my friend too. So tell me, what's the bit with Tanya that's put you in a tailspin?"
Harry began sobbing softly. It all came pouring out of him -- finding Jed, the next two days sleeping over, Jonas treating him as a boyfriend, and then Tanya coming into the picture and turning Jonas's eye. Rachel reached out, brushed his hair out of his eyes, and wiped away a couple of tears. "You really love him, don't you?"
"Yes." Harry's voice was so soft she could hardly hear it.
"Look, you've got at least one friend who understands and cares. Let me see what I can do."
"Not much, I'm afraid -- I can't compete with a girl. And I want him to be happy too."
The buses revving up their engines prior to pulling away interrupted the conversation. "I'll talk to you tomorrow, okay?" Rachel called out as they ran for their buses.
Harry gave her a thumbs up as he climbed into his bus.
Rachel sat on her bed, thinking. She hadn't been totally honest with Harry; there was still a touch of "It could have been" romantic feeling there. But beyond that, her desire to help him as a friend was quite sincere, and important to her. But what she did needed, ideally, not to alienate Jonas either. Her circle of high school friends was small but important to her.
She glanced over at her bulletin board, with Maureen's articles on the Templeton rescue and the arrest of Scordo posted. A photograph of the Clan boys illustratng one of the stories included Jonas and Harry. She skimmed the article for ideas, but came up with nothing.
Looking around the room for inspiration, she noted her Tanakh, the Jewish Bible. She let her mind drift back to last week's Temple service. The Torah reading from Numbers did nothing for her. Then the reading from the Prophets. She smiled; Harry and Jonas reminded her of David and Jonathan. 'Jonas and Tanya -- David and Bathsheba -- Nathan the prophet -- that's it!' She picked up her Bible and reread the story.
Friday dawned bright, crisp, and cold. Most of the high schoolers on the bus wore heavy jackets. As they alighted, Rachel looked around for Jonas, and found him with Tanya cuddled up to him. "Jonas, I need to speak with you about something, and it needs to be a private conversation."
Tanya bristled, "What's up?" Jonas asked. "And why's it need to be private?"
"I need your advice on how to go about helping a friend with a problem, and I think some of the stuff you learned in Florida might help me get the right answer for him, that's all. But I don't want to blab his business to everybody."
"How about right after school?" Jonas asked. "Tanya's got to meet with one of her teachers, and I was just going to hang out and wait for her."
"That works," Rachel said. "See you then?" She carefully ignored Tanya's glare.
The events of the previous day were the topic of conversation all day, but Harry largely fended off anyone wanting to talk to him about it. A pop quiz in history thrilled no one, and the day was otherwise nothing special.
As the close-of-school bell rang, Rachel walked outside and looked for Jonas. She carried several books with her, to take home. She spotted him sitting on a bench a ways away from the crowd; he smiled and waved.
"Listen," she said, "I've got a lot of ground to cover here, and probably not much time before Tanya comes out. So let me get right to the point.
"From what I've learned, your Clan has a lot of people in committed relationships, right?" she asked. Jonas nodded. "Well, the situation I want you to tell me how to handle relates to that: somebody I know well has given their heart to a person they've been close to for a long time -- and thought that the feeling was mutual, that there was commitment on both sides. But that second person has seemingly dumped my friend and is now hung up on someone else -- without breaking off the first relationship. To me it seems like the second person needs to be confronted, and made to realize how much he's hurt my friend. But I'm a bit biased, and I figured you might see it differently."
Jonas looked as stern as he had when passing judgment in court. "Oh, I think you're entirely right!" he said. "That second person needs to face facts about how much he's hurt your friend. Are you going to confront him? Do you want me to go with you to help?"
Rachel pulled her Bible out from the stack of books, and opened it to the passage she'd marked, where Nathan confronts David about his dalliance with Bathsheba. She handed it to him. As he came to the point, she echoed the Bible text, "'Thou art the man.' Harry's been dying inside, and I'm honestly afraid he's going to lose it altogether. I know he agreed to give you time to find out what it was you wanted, but he said over the past two weeks, it seemed like you'd chosen, and he was on Cloud 9. Then Tanya came into the picture, and you have no time for him any more."
"Oh my God," Jonas said. "I never realized.... Damn! He thinks I used him and deserted him, I can see it now." His eyes were brimming with tears. "I'll talk to him, and try to make it right, and ask his forgiveness, tomorrow morning when he comes over."
Rachel lifted one hand to Jonas's shoulder. "You know what to do now. Let me know if I can be any more help."
Tanya came striding up. "Hands off the merchandise, girlie!" she said.
"Listen, I've got to run. I need to be home before Shabbat begins, at sunset, and it looks like I've just got time."
"Geeze, you Jews and your silly rules!" Tanya said. "What's so important about Friday night, anyway? It's not like it's in the Ten Commandments or something."
Rachel looked at Jonas; his eyes were twinkling and he was clearly fighting a smile. "Okay, Tanya," she said. "Later."
"You're coming over tomorrow, right, Jonas, sweetie?" Tanya said. "My parents will be gone almost all morning...."
"I don't think so," Jonas said. "Harry and I are supposed to meet with George Wentworth and his kids, and get them into training."
"Oh, Harry," Tanya said. "You're always talking about Harry this and Harry that. Now he's going to spoil our weekend together. Jonas, you're just going to have to choose between me and Harry."
"I couldn't agree with you more," Jonas said. "Goodbye, Tanya." And he strode rapidly away.
At home, Rachel quickly called Harry. "You're still going to Orlando tomorrow, right?"
"Well, George and the twins are counting on me, but I was kind of thinking on begging off. I don't want to be an issue for Jonas."
"You get your scrawny bottom over to Jonas's tomorrow morning, or you'll hear from me. Got it?" Rachel's tone was lighthearted but dead serious.
"Yes, ma'am!" Harry said, laughing.
"Gotta go -- Temple in a half hour!"
"Come in, come in!" said Maureen warmly to George and the boys. Seated at the table, Josiah rose in greeting, raising his coffee cup in mock toast to George.
"You're here early," George said with a smile.
"Yes, I've been hoping to convince this career woman to join me for a weekend in Boston while you all are away in Orlando, but she's determined to work on some news stories. I threatened to call up Frank and have him assign her to Boston theater reviews," Josiah grinned.
Harry came walking up the sidewalk and to the door. Maureen motioned him in. "Jonas is up in his room; he'll be down shortly, but if you want to go on up...?"
"No, I'll just wait here." Harry picked Drew up and bounced him in the air; Drew giggled.
"Have you been out yet?" George asked Maureen. "It's barely above freezing. Which reminds me; for all the money Jordan Eccles spent on that place, he did a terrible job insulating. The boys' rooms were frigid this morning, all the heat leaking out through and around the windows."
"I can tell you just what you need to do, George. See my windows here? There's an outfit down in Wilton that specializes in rebuilding windows, to match the historic decor and such, but with a 'R' value for heat retention that you won't believe. These look like the original 19th Century stuff, but they're double-paned, with a vacuum gap, thermal blanket surrounding the sills, and they partially polarize so you don't get sun glare, especially off the snow in winter. The man said they attenuate about 80% of the direct rays, so your rooms are light but you don't get blinded by snowglare. He even shined a laser pointer on them, and it dispersed the laser beam -- no red dot on the other side, just warm orange light. And they cost only twice what it'd cost you to buy prefab windows at Lowe's that don't do half the job. I bought these a year ago last month, and they've nearly paid for themselves in lower heat bills in just one winter."
"I'll have to check into that," George said. "Give me the man's name." Maureen proceeded to look it up and copy it out for him; Jonas came downstairs. He saw Harry. "Bro, I really need to talk to you, after we get George and the boys introduced to the folks they need to meet. In three words, I'm terribly sorry."
Harry looked at Jonas and saw the earnest eyes of his longtime friend asking for forgiveness. He began to smile. "Sounds good, Jonas. We'll talk it out later today. But for now, 'Louie, something tells me this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.'" He did a mock Bogie.
The adults guffawed. Josiah came walking into the living room, humming, "You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss...." Maureen smiled at him.
"Well," said Harry, "we might as well get this show on the road." He pulled out his communicator to arrange for Starfleet transport.
Through the front window came a ruby-red beam of light, hitting Josiah in the chest. He fell back lifelessly to the couch. Maureen screamed and ran to him, just as a second beam pinned her and knocked her down at his side.