Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Man From Swift Current Chapter Eighty One - Greg and Cory's Coming Out



Chapter Eighty One - Gary and Cory’s Coming Out


Rick sat on his bed in the barracks, thinking about his conversation with Glenn.   He had hung up with Glenn only moments ago, and was still processing what it meant.  He was grateful Glenn had come clean about what had happened between him and Aaron at the concert.  He was also grateful for good friends who had promised to watch over Glenn in his absence.   He had asked Ben and Zach to keep an eye on Glenn, to keep him out of trouble.  


If there was nothing else Rick had learned since he met Glenn, it was Glenn loved to flirt with the guys.   He and Glenn had argued about it many times since they became a couple.   He had let Glenn know it made him very uncomfortable when he flirted with other guys.   It wasn’t that Rick was afraid Glenn would find someone else; because he knew Glenn loved him, and he wasn’t trying to find another guy.   The biggest reason he didn’t like Glenn flirting with other guys was the fact Glenn didn’t realize some guys interpreted his innocent flirting as an invitation to have a night of hot sex with a willing partner.   He knew very well how these men thought, since he had been one of them before he met Glenn.   He had enjoyed cruising for a one night stand with any gorgeous babe who was more than eager to jump in bed with him.   He had told Glenn many times he had to curb his penchant for being flirtatious with every good looking guy he met; because Glenn didn’t know how to handle the advances of aggressive guys.   Most of the time, Rick was there to remind the guy Glenn was his; thereby, averting many a disaster provoked by Glenn’s behavior!   But, since he wasn’t there, he had asked Ben and Zach to help Glenn.


Thinking about it, Rick had to admit part of the problem was the fact Glenn was extremely good looking, and had a quirky personality.   He always dressed well, and managed to come off sexy, no matter what he was wearing.   Rick often teased Glenn about it, telling him he was one of the sirens of Greek mythology, who lured men to them with their songs; only Glenn did it with an irresistible smile and eyes that sparkled with mischief, not to mention his charm and wit.   Rick was getting hard just thinking about it.   When they went out clubbing, Glenn was like a magnet, pulling guys to him.  It didn’t matter where they were, he was always approached by guys, asking him to go out on the dance floor, or asking to join us at our table, hoping to score with Glenn.   Rick loved watching the look on their faces when they found out Glenn was taken already.   That thought brought a smile to his face.

And then there were the guys at the gym.   Glenn wasn’t a muscle builder type of guy by any means; but he had kept at the weights and his exercise routine, so, now he looked buff.   Where Rick’s muscles were very well defined and were the envy of many of the guys in the gym; Glenn’s efforts made him look lithe and wiry.   Even though Glenn didn’t have the muscle-bound look of a weightlifter, you could see his physical strength in his movements – they were almost cat-like in their grace and agility.   It was a nice change from when he had first met Glenn.   Rick especially liked how Glenn’s bubble butt had firmed up and his soccer legs had bulked up with the workout regime he was following with Ben and Zach.   Glenn’s body type would never allow him to become Mr. Universe, but he was smoking hot in his Speedo swimsuit.   Rick’s thoughts had given him blue balls!   He was in need of some serious relief, but that would have to wait until later!       

When he had received Ben and Zach’s calls, he had been out of his mind with worry.   From their description of how things were going, not only was Glenn flirting, again; but this time, he had found someone he really liked.  The description the guys had given him of Aaron made him sound like the guy who was the model for the David statue by Michelangelo.   There had been many good looking guys hit on Glenn in the past, but this time it seemed the guy was a true knock out.   He had been surprised at the fact that BOTH Ben and Zach agreed this guy presented a danger to Rick and Glenn’s relationship.  

By the time he talked to Glenn, he had calmed down and had decided to listen to Glenn’s side of the story.   He had always been able to trust Glenn before, and he knew he could trust him now.   Maybe Ben and Zach had exaggerated just a little bit.   As Glenn narrated the events of the evening, Rick realized Glenn was innocent; and was glad he hadn’t yelled and screamed at him for flirting with the guy.   By the end of the call, Rick was reassured Glenn was being faithful to him and would try to avoid getting into bad situations with other guys; specifically with Aaron.

He took off his shoes and socks and leaned back against the wall, trying to decide if he wanted to have a good wank, or if he should just go to bed.   His ruminating was interrupted by the ringing of his cell phone.   He pulled it out of his pocket, thinking it might be Glenn, calling back.   Glenn had been crying on the phone just before they ended their call; which had made Rick feel bad for being the heavy about laying down the law with Glenn about other guys.   He looked at the caller id, and was surprised to see it was Joey.

He pressed the accept call button and said, “Hello, Joey.   What’s up?”

“I’m glad I caught you.   I'm at the hospital.   Greg told his parents he is gay and my father-in-law went crazy.   He hurt Greg pretty badly.   Cory tried to stop him from beating on Greg, and Steve turned on him, as well.   They are both in surgery right now,” Joey said.

“Are they going to be alright?” Rick asked, trying to process the information Joey had just shared with him.

“We don’t know.   They were beaten unconscious by that son of a bitch!   He even took his anger out on his wife.   She, at least, will survive.   She is pretty bruised up, though.  They just released her from the emergency room,” Joey said.   He paused, as he tried to get control of his emotions before continuing, “Kathy is pretty shook up.   I have put her and the kids up at a local hotel near here; because she wanted to be close by, just in case Greg doesn’t make it.   The police were still at the house, investigating the crime scene, when I left to come over here.   Kathy and I had taken the kids to McDonalds for a treat, and decided to stop in to let the kids visit with their grandparents.   When I got out of the car, I heard someone screaming; so I ran into the house and found Steve, still kicking the boys and bludgeoning them with a baseball bat and screaming, “Sinners!   Die you evil sinners!”   I tackled him to the floor and disarmed him, while I shouted for Kathy to call the cops.”

Joey’s voice broke as he stifled a sob, “I have never seen anything like it before.   He broke almost every bone in their bodies, Rick.   I can’t get the image out of my head of seeing them there on the floor, looking like rag dolls.”       

Do you want me to come over to the hospital?” Rick asked, in shock at what he was hearing.

“Yes.   Ray and Darla are here and asked me to call you.   I will call Sgt. Mason and ask him to come by and pick you up on his way to the hospital.   Ray said Cory would want you to be here,” Joey said.

“I’ll be on the lookout for Sgt. Mason,” Rick said.

“Thank you for coming,” Joey said.   “We will see you in a little while then.”

“Call me if anything changes,” Rick said.

“Okay,” Joey said and broke the connection.

Rick sat there in complete disbelief.    How could anyone do something so brutal to their own child?   What kind of person would do such a thing?   The only answer Rick could come up with was Steve had to be some kind of monster.   But then he thought about his own family, and their reaction to the revelation he was gay.   Because of their religious beliefs, hadn’t they tried to kill him and his partner?   The only difference between his parents and Greg’s was the fact Greg and Cory weren’t able to escape, as Rick and Glenn had!  Weren’t his mother and her family monsters, capable of committing the most horrifying crimes, in the name of their religion? 

He didn’t like the answers to his questions.   Rick’s feelings of anger were starting to get the best of him, when Sgt. Mason entered the barracks.   Rick grabbed his stuff and followed Sgt. Mason out to his truck.  

Sgt. Mason greeted Rick.  “Thank you for coming, Rick.   I’m sorry it has to be such a sad situation.”

“I hope I can help their families, by just being there for them,” Rick replied.

“That’s all we can do at the moment,” Sgt. Mason said.   “I was afraid something like this might happen when Greg and Cory came out to the scout troop.   I have attended Steve’s church, and their pastor is like a rabid dog.   When I attended church with Steve, their pastor kept going on and on and on about rooting out the evil of homosexuality from our society.   I remember Steve commenting to me he would kill any homosexual he met, since they were the spawn of the devil.   I had hoped they were just words.   It seems he truly believed what his pastor had preached from the pulpit that day.”

Rick said, “I warned Greg and Cory not to come out to their parents until they were ready to live on their own.   I wish they had listened to me.”

“I know how you feel.   I told them much the same thing about coming out to Greg’s parents.   Ray was there and said he and Darla knew about the boys, and were okay with the boys being partners.   Greg had said he thought maybe his parents would be okay with it, as well; since Ray and Darla were being so cool about it,” Sgt. Mason said.

They rode on in silence, each lost in their own thoughts until they arrived at the hospital.

Sgt. Mason parked the truck and stopped the engine.   He looked at Rick.  “I am not sure I am ready to face this.   After all these years, I still remember coming here to identify the body of my son, after he committed suicide.”

Rick didn’t respond, but nodded his head to indicate he had heard Sgt. Mason.   He was still trying to contain the anger he felt toward Greg’s dad.   He was certain Greg’s dad would get off with an insanity plea; by claiming his religion made him go momentarily insane when he heard his son tell him he was gay.

They found their way inside.   They entered the waiting room to see Joey, Ray and Darla sitting along one wall.   Joey looked up.   Seeing them, he stood up and came over and embraced Rick.   He burst into tears and asked, “Why?”

“I don’t know why this happened, Joey.   All I know is that it did,” Rick replied, as he held his friend and tried to comfort him.  

Joey gained control of his emotions and stepped back from Rick.  “I’m sorry, Rick.   I have tried to put on a brave face to help Kathy, but I can’t take it anymore.   I knew Steve was super zealous about his religion; but I didn’t think he would ever do anything like this to his own son.”

Sgt. Mason said, “I'm not surprised, Joey.   I've known Steve for many years.   He has always been very active in his church’s missionary program.   He was always trying to get me to go with him to his church.   When my son committed suicide, he told me it was God’s vengeance that drove my boy to take his own life, because he was gay.”

“But, he always seemed so calm.   He never raised his voice or argued with anyone, that I can remember,” Joey said.   “He treated me with respect and kindness.”

“Do you attend his church?” Sgt. Mason asked.   “His pastor is pretty anti-gay.”

“Yes, we do attend the same church; and yes, our pastor is very anti-gay,” Joey agreed.  “Now that I think about it, our pastor has been advocating we purge all gays from our midst, because they are disciples of the devil, and to make sure we vote for candidates who will help the nation remove the threat of homosexuality from our communities.”

 Sgt. Mason nodded his head and said, “My church has special “Pray the Gay Away” programs for those who want to be cured of being gay, as part of their outreach to the community.   They call it the gay protection center.”

“It sounds like Steve took the pastor’s message too literally,” Rick said, sadly.  

Turning to Ray and Darla, Rick asked, “How are you two doing?”

Ray and Darla, who had been listening to our conversation, were holding hands, trying to comfort each other.   Ray said, “Not so good, Rick.   I’m afraid Cory may not make it.   From what the surgeon said, Cory has about a 50-50 chance of coming out of the surgery alive.   Many of his internal organs were damaged in addition to the many broken bones.”

Darla started crying.   Ray put his arm around her shoulders.   It was obvious that she had been crying a lot.

Joey said, “Greg’s neck is broken and there is a lot of swelling inside his head.    They are going to drill a hole in his skull to relieve the pressure.   They are afraid he may be paralyzed from the neck down, even if he pulls through.   He will need a lot of plastic surgery to repair the damage to his face.  There is a lot of internal hemorrhaging.   The doctors don’t have much hope that he’s going to make it.”

Sgt. Mason and Rick sat down alongside the Stetsons, to wait for any news from the operating rooms.   Several hours later, a very weary looking surgeon approached them.   He said, “Mr. and Mrs. Stanton you have a very determined young man in there.   Despite all of his injuries, he is still going strong.   We were able to repair most of the damage to his internal organs, and we set all of the broken bones.   He will need several more surgeries and a lot of physical therapy to get him back on his feet; but I think we are out of the woods, for now.   It will be very touch and go over the next 24-48 hours.   There is still a lot of swelling going on inside his head.   We had to remove a piece of his skull that had been broken by the bat that was used on his head.   We will need to keep him in the ICU until we know where he is going with the head injury.   We have done all we can, for now.”

Darla said, “Thank you, Doctor”

“Don’t thank me, yet.   As I told you earlier, given the extent of his injuries, he has a 50-50 chance of surviving.   That still has not changed,” he said, grimly.

Ray said, “Thank you for being upfront with us.   I understand you don’t want us to get our hopes up, only to have Cory pass away on us.”

As the doctor left, Ray said, “Darla, let’s go get something to eat; then we can find out where they have put Cory.”   He took her hand and helped her to her feet.

Joey said, “That’s one down.   Now we just need to hear about Greg.”

About an hour later, a different surgeon approached Joey.   He looked like he had been run over by a Mack truck.   He said, “It doesn’t look good for your brother-in-law.   We have done all we can for him, here.   We were able to stabilize him, but just barely.   We are transporting him to Fairfax Hospital, where they have the facilities and the staff to help him.   He is on his way there now.   Here are the directions to the hospital.   I’m sorry I couldn’t do more for him.   We repaired as many of his injuries as we could; but he needs some specialized treatment we can’t provide here.   I have already been in consultations with the medical team that will be caring for him at Fairfax.”

Sgt. Mason looked at Rick, and said, “Rick, I will take you back to the barracks.   I know you have to work in the morning.”  Turning to Joey, he said, “I’ll meet you at the hospital.”

Rick said, “Okay, Sgt.”

Sgt. Mason said, “I’ll let you know how Greg is doing, as soon as we know anything.”

Joey nodded his head, and said to Rick, “Thank you for being here with me.”

Rick gave him a hug, “I will be seeing you soon.”

Sgt. Mason and Rick left the hospital, after calling Ray to let him know they were leaving.   Sgt. Mason said, “I hope they pull through.   Those two are top flight kids.”

“I hope so, too,” Rick said.

They made small talk as Sgt. Mason drove back to the base and dropped Rick off at his barracks.

*** ***

Rick called me first thing this morning.   I wasn’t fully awake, yet, since my alarm had just gone off, when I heard my cell phone ring.   I knew it was Rick, because of the ringtone.   I reached over and picked it up off of the nightstand, and said, “Hello, Babe.”

“Good morning, Glenn,” Rick replied.

I sat up in bed when I heard the tone of Rick’s voice.  “What’s wrong?”

Rick related to me everything that had happened after we had ended our call last night.   By the time he was finished, I was in tears, as was he.   “I’m so sorry, Rick.   I wish I could be there to put my arms around you.”

“I feel the same way, sweetheart.   I miss you so much,” Rick said, trying to get control of his emotions.  

“Call me when you find out how they are doing,” I said.

“I will.   I needed to hear your voice this morning, Babe,” Rick said.

“I know.   I am glad you called me.   I didn’t sleep very well last night,” I said.   “I know I didn’t do enough to discourage Aaron’s advances, and you were right to be upset with me.”

“I’m sorry for being so hard on you last night,” Rick said, acknowledging how harsh he had treated me.   “Can you forgive me?”

“It’s okay.   I’m the one who should be asking for your forgiveness, not the other way around,” I replied.   I had been really hurt by Rick’s harshness, because I didn’t believe I deserved it.   Many times I have been in the wrong, and Rick has rightfully been on my case; but this time, I didn’t cause Aaron to come on to me.   I’m glad he realized he had been excessively rough with me, this time.

“I think we both need to be sensitive about each other’s feelings, so we can help our relationship continue to grow and strengthen,” Rick responded.   “I sometimes forget what a tender heart you have, Babe.”

My voice caught in my throat as I tried to speak.   I finally said, “I love you.”

Rick responded, “I love you, too.   Please help me to remember to always stop and think, before I get myself into trouble with you.”

“I will, sweetheart, if you will do the same for me,” I replied.

“I will.   I have to run now, so I’ll talk to you tonight,” Rick said.

“Good bye,” I said, wishing I could be with him.

“Bye,” Rick said, and he cut the connection and returned his cell phone to his pocket.

He finished getting ready for the day and made his way to Lt. Col. Bachman’s office.   As he entered, he found Lt. Col. Bachman standing next to Rick’s desk, just outside his office.   Rick saluted his commanding officer, who returned his salute.

Lt. Col. Bachman greeted him, “Good morning, Corporal Lernier.”

“Good morning, sir,” Rick replied.

“Sgt. Mason called me this morning about two boys from his scout troop.   I’m sorry to hear about such a tragedy.   I understand from Sgt. Mason that you were at the emergency room with them last night,” Lt. Col. Bachman said, looking Rick in the eyes.

“Yes, sir, I was.   Sgt. Mason picked me up on his way to the hospital.   He brought me back to the barracks, before driving to the Fairfax Hospital; where they transferred the one boy, because of the severity of his injuries,” Rick replied.

“Sgt. Mason was very complimentary of you.   He indicated you have made a big difference in the lives of Cory and Greg by helping them earn their Eagle Scout Awards,” Lt. Col. Bachman stated.   “Is that true?”

“Yes, sir,” Rick replied.

“Sgt. Mason wanted me to let you know they operated on Greg again; and, at least for the moment, he is stable and seems to be improving,” Lt. Col. Bachman said.

A look of relief crossed Rick’s face.  “Thank you for telling me, sir.”

“You’re welcome.   Let’s take a look at what we have on the agenda today,” Lt. Col. Bachman replied.

Rick entered Lt. Col. Bachman’s office and took a seat in front of the desk.   Lt. Col. Bachman handed Rick a sheet of paper that detailed their activities for the entire week.   “We have to attend another hearing today.   As you can see, the rest of them will be held throughout the week.   We will have to appear at each of them, as we will be called as witnesses.”

Rick nodded his head in acknowledgment.   He hated being part of this whole mess.   However, he wanted those responsible for the murder of his friend, Sam, brought to justice.

As if he could read Rick’s thoughts, Lt. Col. Bachman said, “I want those men to pay for what they’ve done.”

Rick nodded his head in agreement.  They went over the schedule for the rest of the day, and Rick returned to his desk in the outer office.   He answered his cell phone a few minutes later, “Hello.”

“Rick, this is Sgt. Mason calling.   I wanted to give you an update, since I promised to keep you informed.”

“Thank you for calling, Sgt.,” Rick said.   “Lt. Col. Bachman told me Greg has been stabilized.”

“Yes, I called him earlier this morning.   Greg came out of surgery about two hours ago.   The medical team thinks he’s going to make it.   It will take him a good while to fully recover.   They had to put plates in to stabilize his neck; and, luckily for Greg, there appears to be no damage to the spinal cord.   It remains to be seen how much damage was done to his brain.   They set his broken bones.   His orthopedic surgeon believes he will be able to play sports again, after some pretty extensive physical therapy.   Later, he will need reconstructive surgery to repair the bones in his face, which were shattered,” Sgt. Mason said.

 “Did they ever find out how Greg’s father managed to overpower the boys?” Rick asked.

“Yes.   Alice, Greg’s mother, told the police he seemed calm when the boys revealed they were lovers, which surprised her, given Steve’s comments about gays whenever the subject came up.   He told the boys he was disappointed, but he thought they could work things out.   Later, when they were watching a movie together, he left the room and returned with the baseball bat and hit the boys from behind.   She said he hit Greg first, knocking him off the couch and onto the floor; then he hit Cory who had tried to get up to help defend Greg.   When she tried to stop him, he hit her with the bat, as well; and that is the last thing she remembers, until she woke up in the hospital.   She said Greg didn’t even have a chance to defend himself.   She is totally devastated by what has happened,” Sgt. Mason replied.

“Thank you for telling me what happened,” Rick said.   “I hope they put him away for a very long time.”

“As do I,” Sgt. Mason said.   “I am very close to those boys.   We have spent a lot of time together over the last few years, as we have gone on a great many hikes, campouts and high adventures.   Greg and Cory are two of the finest scouts I have ever had in my troop.”   He stopped talking for a moment while he cleared his throat, as he tried to get control of his emotions.   “Rick, it’s not often you can get this old Marine to cry, but this is one of those times.   I have witnessed many horrible things in my years in the Marines; but nothing compares to what was done by Steve to his son.   When they wheeled him into the ICU and I saw all of the splints and bandages on every limb, and his face completely black and blue and sunken in from the force of the blows administered by his father; I was literally physically ill.   No one should be permitted to do such a thing to any human being; and, especially not to your own flesh and blood.”   Again, he stopped and tried to regain his composure, so he could continue speaking.

 Rick sat silently, respectfully waiting until Sgt. Mason was ready to continue the conversation.   He knew how strongly he felt about what had happened, so he could empathize with Sgt. Mason.

“Rick, I would like to ask you to take on the assignment to help Greg recover.   I will ask Lt. Col. Bachman about it, since Steve is a Marine Captain.  I think his family is entitled to our support,” he said.

“I’m happy to help in any way I can,” Rick said.

“Thank you.   I will check with you later,” Sgt. Mason said.

“Good-bye, Sgt.,” Rick said.   He returned his cell to his pocket and continued doing his work.

After he had finished all the tasks for the day, he was surprised when Lt. Col. Bachman stopped at his desk and said, “I am authorizing you to take a car from the motor pool, so you can go and visit Greg and Cory in the hospital, as our representative to their families.   I agree with Sgt. Mason that we should help both families.   Both Steve Hurst and Ray Stanton are active duty Marines, stationed here.   I have cleared it with the base commander for you to spend as much time as necessary with the boys, after they leave the hospital.   Capt. Hurst’s commanding officer, Lt. Col. Phillips, has been in contact with Mrs. Hurst.   She has requested that they be allowed to live on base, as she does not want to return to their home.   She is currently staying at a hotel near the Fairfax Hospital, with her daughter and son-in-law.”

“Thank you, sir,” Rick said.   “I am honored to help where I can, sir.”

“Good.   Let’s get you over to the motor pool, so you can pick up that car,” Lt. Col. Bachman said.

“Yes, sir,” Rick said, and cleared his desk and stood up.   He followed Lt. Col. Bachman outside, to his vehicle.   They drove over to the motor pool and entered the building, where Rick presented his paperwork, his driver’s license and his military identification, for the release of a passenger car for his use.

Lt. Col. Bachman said, “I think you are all set.   I expect a report tomorrow morning regarding the boys’ status, and ideas about what we can do to assist these two families.”

“Yes, sir,” Rick said.

“We take care of own, Rick, and we want to make sure these families get the support they need,” Lt. Col. Bachman said.

“Understood, sir,” Rick replied.

“Good!   See you tomorrow,” Lt. Col. Bachman said.

Rick took the keys to the car and headed outside.   He got in and drove back to his barracks, to change his clothes, before leaving for the hospital.   He drove the short distance north on Interstate 95 to the Potomac Hospital, to see Cory.   He pulled into the hospital visitor parking and parked the car.   He pulled out his cell phone and called Ray’s cell number.

Ray answered, “Hello, Rick.”

“What room is Cory in?” Rick asked.

“He is in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on Level 1.  We are in the cafeteria right now.   Why don’t you join us for a bite to eat?” Ray asked.

“Okay, I will see you in a few minutes,” Rick said.

He got out of the car and found his way to the hospital cafeteria.   He spotted Ray and Darla and joined them at their table.  “How are things going?” he asked.

Ray said, “We are doing much better.   Cory seems to be doing very well.   The doctors think Cory will be able to leave the ICU tomorrow.”

“Have you talked to him, yet?” Rick asked.

“No, we haven’t.   The doctors have kept him sedated today, to allow his body to begin the healing process,” Darla said.

“They are going to bring him out from under the sedation in about an hour,” Ray said.

“I will grab something to eat, then, while we wait,” Rick said.  

“You should try the pasta dish.   It’s pretty good,” Darla said, smiling at Rick.   “Thank you for coming to see Cory.   It will mean a lot to him, knowing you came to visit.”

“You’re welcome.   I’ll be right back,” Rick said.   He followed Darla’s advice and purchased the pasta dish.   He rejoined them.    He took a bite and said, “It is good.   Thanks for the recommendation.”

Darla smiled, “I’m glad you like it.   Ray didn’t like his meal, so I thought I would save you the trouble of getting something you wouldn’t like.”

Rick nodded his appreciation, as he continued eating.   They made small talk while they waited until the appointed hour.   They returned to the ICU to see if Cory was awake.   The nurse smiled at them, “Mr. and Mrs. Stanton, Cory seems to be coming around.   Dr. Jerome is in Cory’s room now.   He said to send you in as soon as you returned.”

“I will wait out here,” Rick said.

Ray nodded his head, “Thanks, Rick.”

Ray and Darla entered Cory’s room to see Dr. Jerome standing next to Cory’s bed.   Dr. Jerome was a tall, thin, black man with a charming smile, goatee, and large hands.   He had a wonderful bedside manner that calmed his patients and reassured family members that their loved ones were in good hands.   He smiled and said, “I think our young man is awake now.”

They approached the hospital bed to see that Cory’s eyes were open.   “Hello, son,” Darla said.   “How are you feeling?”

Cory croaked, “Okay, I guess.   What happened?”

Ray said, “What do you remember?”

“I remember seeing Greg’s dad attack him, and I tried to stop him, then he hit me in the head.   That is the last thing I remember,” Cory said.

Ray related what had occurred after that and Joey’s part in saving his life.   “Greg is in the Fairfax Hospital, and, last we heard, he was going to make it.”

Cory had begun crying.  “It is all my fault Greg‘s father went berserk.”

“Cory, what Greg’s dad did was not your fault.   He acted of his own accord, and will be held responsible for his own actions.   Do NOT blame yourself for someone else’s problems,” Ray said.  

“Your job, son, is to get better,” Darla said, as she took his hand.   “We need you back home, soon.”

“What about Greg?” Cory asked.

“We don’t know what is going to happen with Greg,” Ray said.   “His dad is in jail, and his mother is staying in a hotel near the hospital.   We know he came out of surgery and they were optimistic he will recover.   He was injured much more severely than you were.   He will require much more time to heal, as well as a lot of physical therapy.”

When Cory heard Greg would be alright, his expression cleared and he seemed to relax.   “I guess I need to hurry up and get better, so I can help Greg,” Cory said.

Darla smiled, “Yes, Greg is going to need you more now, than ever.”

Cory returned Darla’s smile.  “I will do my part to get better.”

Dr. Jerome said, “It is good to hear that.   Let’s go over what you need to do to get better.”   Dr. Jerome outlined the course of treatment and how long he expected Cory to be in the hospital.   He finished by saying, “I believe you have another visitor waiting outside.”

Dr. Jerome and Ray left the room.   Ray turned to Dr. Jerome and said, “Thank you so much for what you have done to save my son’s life.”

Dr. Jerome smiled, and replied, “It’s all in a day’s work, Mr. Stanton, but I am glad things have turned out so well for Cory.”

Ray went to the waiting area, where he found Rick reading a magazine.  “It’s your turn to see the invalid,” Ray said, smiling at Rick.

Rick looked up from reading and smiled, “Okay, which way to his room?”

Ray explained where it was, and took a seat, to wait.   Rick pushed open the door to the ICU and walked back to where he could see Darla talking to Cory.   He entered the room and Cory grinned.  “I had hoped you would come and see me.”

“You couldn’t keep me away, Cory.   How are you feeling?” Rick asked.

“I feel pretty good right now.   They just gave me some more painkillers and it’s like I’m floating on air,” Cory said.

“That is probably a good thing.   It looks like they still have you splinted.   When do you get the casts on?” Rick asked.

Darla answered, “Dr. Jerome said it will be a few more days before the swelling goes down enough to put the solid casts on his limbs.   Cory’s orthopedic doctor will be checking in with us pretty soon, now that Cory’s awake.”

“What about the concussion?” Rick asked.

Cory responded, “I have to stay down for the rest of the week.   It seems they cut a hole in my head, so I have to be careful until they put the bone back in place.”

Rick looked at Cory’s broken arms and legs.  “I don’t think you will have a choice about staying down, do you?”

Cory agreed with Rick’s assessment.  “Yes, you’re right about that.   It will be 6 to 8 weeks before the casts will come off.”

Darla said, “I’ll leave you two to visit.   I’ll be waiting outside with Ray.”   Darla leaned over and gently kissed Cory’s cheek.   “I love you, son.”

“I love you, too, Mom,” Cory replied.

As soon as she had left the room, Cory complained, “I hate the fact I can’t scratch my balls and they have a catheter up my dick that hurts like nothing I have ever experienced before in my life.”

Rick laughed, “Well, I am NOT offering to scratch your balls for you, and I can’t do anything about the catheter.”

Cory grinned.  “But you at least understand.   I would never have talked about it in front of my Mom.   I wish Greg were here.   I know he would take good care of my needs.”

This made Rick laugh even more.  “I can just see you two invalids trying to satisfy each other’s needs.”

Cory didn’t respond for moment, and then he, too, started to laugh, “I guess you're right about that.   There is nothing like enforced abstinence to make you realize what you're missing!”

The nurse came in to check on her patient.  “It’s good to see you awake.”

Rick looked over to see a petite woman with fine porcelain skin and delicate features.   Her naturally curly brown hair stuck out from under her cap in a variety of directions, in spite her efforts to contain it.   Her brown eyes sparkled with merriment to match her smile.   The room seemed much brighter with her in it.  

Cory smiled.   “It’s good to be awake.”

“My name is Sheila.   If you need anything, you can push this button, and I will be right here,” she said.   She punched the button on the blood pressure machine and waited for the reading to pop up on the screen.   She noted it on Cory’s chart, then turned to Rick.   “You will need to let Cory rest now.   We don’t want him to overdo it.”

Rick smiled.  “I will see you tomorrow, okay, Cory?”

Cory replied, “Okay.   Just don’t make it too late.   It’s going to get really boring around here, really quick.”

“I will talk to my commanding officer about coming earlier,” Rick promised.

Cory smiled and said, “I’ll see you later.”

Rick left the room and rejoined Cory’s parents.   “I'm going to the Fairfax Hospital, to see Greg,” he said.

“Good,” Ray said.   “Give our best to Alice and tell her to call us.”

“Yes, please let her know we are here for her,” Darla said.

“I will pass that on to her,” Rick said.  He left them and made his way out to his car.   He drove up Interstate 95 to the Capital Beltway.   At first, he was confused as to which direction to travel.   Then he remembered Ray’s directions and managed to get into the correct lane.   He found the hospital and parked in the surface lot and made his way inside the hospital.   Once inside, he found that there is actually more than one hospital on the Fairfax Hospital campus.   He went to the information desk and was given directions to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), where Greg was being kept for observation.

He arrived at the appropriate place, and found Joey and Alice in the waiting area.   Joey stood up and greeted Rick with a hug.   “Thanks for coming,” Joey said.

“How is Greg doing?” Rick asked.

“He’s doing better,” Joey said.   “It’s Alice I’m worried about, now.”

Alice didn’t even respond to Rick’s presence.   It was if she were in a catatonic state.   “Does she respond to you?” Rick asked.

“Yes, she does, but I think she is still in shock,” Joey said.

Rick noted she had a black eye and a huge knot on the side of her head.   He assumed that was where she was struck by her husband.   “Alice, I’m Rick Lernier,” he said, and extended his hand to shake hers.

She responded mechanically, but her eyes didn’t focus on him at all.   She said, “It’s nice to meet you, Rick.”

“Lt. Col. Bachman asked me to let you know the Marine Corps will help you as much as they can.   Ray and Darla also said to let you know they will be there for you, if you need them,” Rick said.

At the mention of Ray and Darla, Alice looked at Rick, as if seeing him for the first time.  “You mean they don’t hate me?”

“No, why would they hate you?” Rick asked.

“Because it was my husband that hurt their son,” she replied.

“They don’t blame you for what Steve did, Alice.   They understand you are just as much a victim of his violence as Cory is, and they want to help you if you will let them,” Rick said.

It was like a dam had broken and the tears started coursing down her cheeks.   Through her tears she managed to speak, “I thought they would hate me for what has happened.   It is such a relief to know they understand, and don’t hold it against me that I wasn’t able to stop him from hurting the boys.”

Joey put his arm around his mother-in-law.   “It’s not your fault Steve hurt the boys.”

She looked at Joey and smiled, “I know that, but it is very difficult not to think that there was something more I could have done to prevent Steve from hurting them.”

“What is the latest news about Greg’s condition?” Rick asked.

Joey said, “They have set all his broken bones and repaired as much of the damage to his internal organs as they could.   It appears the swelling in his head isn’t as bad as they feared it might be.   They managed to reconstruct his nose and most of his cheek bones.   His jaw was broken in a couple places.   They had to put in a couple of pins to hold it together.   They have wired his mouth shut until his jaw heals.   The doctors have decided to keep him sedated for a couple of more days before bringing him out from under it.   They feel it will speed the healing process if he rests completely.” 

“When will you move Alice on base?” Rick asked.

“We don’t know.   They are looking to see what can be done about the housing situation.   If they don’t have anything available on base, they will help us find a different home off base,” Joey said.

“Where are they holding Steve?” Rick asked.

“He’s in the Prince William County Jail,” Joey said.   “He is being held without bail.”

Rick visited for another hour or so with Alice and Joey, before he bid them farewell for the evening and returned to Quantico.   The next morning, he reported to Lt. Col. Bachman on his visits with the two families.   He spent the rest of the week visiting both families, after he testified at the hearings for the accused murderers.   He called Glenn every night to inform him of Cory’s progress.   He enjoyed those calls to his sweetheart.   Glenn always lifted his spirits and left him feeling good about himself and the rest of the world.

A week later, Rick was at the Fairfax Hospital, when they backed off the heavy sedation and let Greg regain consciousness.   Joey and Rick were in the room, as Alice wasn’t ready to face her son, yet.

Dr. Nhu looked at Joey as Greg started to stir.  “We will only keep him awake a short time, just to make sure he’s responding properly.   The swelling in his head has already gone down considerably, but we don’t’ want to tax his strength.”

Greg’s eyes fluttered open.   He saw Joey and managed to ask, “Where am I?   Why can’t I open my mouth?”   His words were muffled, but intelligible, as he tried to talk with his jaw wired shut.

Joey answered, “You are in the ICU at the Fairfax Hospital.”

Dr. Nhu introduced himself, “Greg, I am Dr. Nhu.   I am going to ask you a series of questions.”

Dr. Nhu asked his questions and seemed satisfied with the answers Greg gave him.   “I will leave you to talk to him, but keep it brief.”

Dr. Nhu left the room and Joey asked, “Greg, what do you remember?”

“I remember sitting on the loveseat with Cory, watching a movie when I felt something hit me in the head; and that is the last thing I remember.”

Joey related everything that had happened, and brought Greg up to date on Cory’s condition.   When he finished, Greg was in tears.

“I am to blame for what happened.   I thought Dad would be accepting of me and Cory, because Ray and Darla were so cool about it.   Dad didn’t seem fazed by what we told him.   He was so calm about it.   I thought everything was going to be okay with Mom and Dad.”

“Unfortunately, your Dad is in jail, and you and Cory are in the hospital,” Joey said.   “We are moving your Mom on base, tomorrow.   She doesn’t want to return to that house, where it all happened,” Joey said.

Greg said, “I don’t blame her.”   He looked around and noticed Rick was standing next to his bed.   Greg smiled as much as he could with his jaw wired shut and said, “Rick, I didn’t’ see you there.   Thank you for coming to see me.”

Rick took Greg’s hand.   “I will be here for you, Greg.   Cory is trying to heal faster than you, so he can help you with your physical therapy.”

Greg said, “Cory thinks he’ll beat me, does he?   Well, you can tell him I plan to be back on my feet long before he is.”

“That’s the spirit!   I will definitely let Cory know he has some competition,” Rick said, grinning at his young friend.   “I’m going to get your mother.   She needs to see you, before they put you back under.”

Greg’s face clouded over.   “I’m not sure I want to see her.”

Joey said, “Greg, please.   It will be better for both of you.   She already blames herself for everything that happened.   You, of all people, should know what happened is not her fault, or yours.   She needs to know you're going to recover.”

Rick could see Greg processing this information, then he said, “Okay, go get her, please.”

Rick left the room and went into the waiting area.   “Alice, Greg is asking to see you.”

 Alice looked up, meeting Rick’s gaze with a troubled expression on her face.  “Are you sure?”

“Yes, Alice, I am sure,” Rick said.

Alice made her way back to Greg’s room.   She entered and looked hesitantly at her son.   He smiled, weakly, and beckoned her to come closer.   “I love you, Mom.”

Alice came over to his bed and took his hand in hers, as she wept.  “I'm so sorry for what your Dad did to you and Cory.   I wish I could have done something more to stop him.”

Greg’s tears were falling down his cheeks, as he said, “It’s okay, Mom.   You tried to stop him, but he was too strong for you.   Joey told me what happened.   I can’t believe I didn’t see it coming.  I know how Dad feels about gays; but I thought he was all talk, and would never hurt me.”

“We all misjudged him,” Joey said.   “Who could have known what he was going to do?”

“Can you forgive me, son?” Alice asked.

“Yes, I forgive you,” Greg said.

Alice looked at Greg and smiled.  “Thank you for being so understanding, Greg.   I promise to do everything I can to help you and Cory.”

Greg smiled, and asked, “So, you are okay with us being together?”

“Yes, I am.   I have known you two were in love with each other for some time, now; and it wasn’t a surprise to me when you told us you were gay,” Alice said.

Greg looked totally surprised.  “How did you know?”

“Mothers have this sixth sense about their children.   I could tell what was going on between you two, and I knew you were trying to keep it secret; so I didn’t say anything to you about it,” Alice replied.

Greg smiled, and it seemed as if a huge burden had been lifted from his shoulders.   His mother had accepted him for who he was, and was willing to help him and his partner.   “Thank you for not rejecting me, Mom,” he said.

Alice leaned over and gently kissed Greg’s cheek where it wasn’t bandaged.   “Your job is to get better, as soon as possible,” she said.   “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Greg responded.

Dr. Nhu returned, “I’m sorry to end your visit so abruptly, but it’s time to let Greg rest.”   Seeing Greg’s crestfallen look, Dr. Nhu said, “They can come back tomorrow at about the same time, and you can speak to them again.”

Greg nodded and said, “Good bye, Mom.   Thanks, Joey, for coming with Mom.   Tell Rick I will see him tomorrow.”

They left the room and returned to the waiting area, where they found Rick had fallen asleep.   Joey touched his shoulder.  “Rick, it’s time to go.”

Rick sat up and rubbed his eyes.  “I guess I was really tired.   I usually don’t take naps.”

Joey laughed, and said, “It has been a long week.   You have a right to be tired.”

“That’s true.   I’ll be heading back to the base, then.   I’ll see you tomorrow,” Rick said.

He drove back to Quantico and returned to his barracks.   He finished his toilet and jumped into his bed.   He reached over and grabbed his cell phone.   He called Glenn.

“Hello, Rick,” I said.   “How are the boys doing?”

“They are doing great!   Cory is going home tomorrow.   Lt. Col. Bachman has given me permission to help Ray and Darla take him home in the morning.   They have arranged for a hospital bed to be placed in their family room for Cory.”

“That is so awesome!   I’m happy to hear he is doing so well.   What about Greg?” I asked.

“Greg is doing pretty well.   I think he will be okay,” Rick said.

“You sound tired, sweetheart,” I said.

“I’m so mentally and emotionally exhausted,” Rick agreed.

“I won’t keep you, then.   I love you, Babe,” I said.

Rick responded, “I love you, too.   Good night.”

“Good night, sweetheart,” I replied.

Rick set his cell phone on the nightstand, and soon had drifted off into a dreamless sleep.

*** ***

After Rick’s call, I sat at the desk in my room and thought about what we could do to help speed up the boys’ recovery.   I pulled out a piece of paper and started to write down my ideas, so I could share them with Rick when he called tomorrow night.

The next morning, I woke up with a start.   I had been dreaming about Aaron and his gorgeous body; and that he had taken me to a hotel room, where we had engaged in all kinds of pleasurable things.   Then, the scene had changed, and I saw Rick deck Aaron.   Rick kept beating on him, telling him to stay away from me.   Next, Rick turned to me, and said, “Why did you let Aaron fuck you?   Don’t I mean anything to you?”  I had started to cry and asked him to forgive me, when he turned away from me, saying, “I think we need to rethink our relationship.   Maybe you deserve to have Aaron, after all.”   That is when I woke up, thinking I had betrayed Rick’s trust in me.  

I looked at the clock and realized it was still dark outside, and my alarm hadn’t gone off, yet.   I got up, and dressed, and went out for a run around the neighborhood.   It was freezing cold, but I had dressed in layers to keep me warm, as I ran.   Fortunately, the roads were clear and there wasn’t any traffic.   I ran down to Como Avenue and ran past Van Cleve Park and down to campus.   I crossed the bridge and ran around the various university buildings on that side of the river, then started on my way back; crossing the bridge, again, and running back past Van Cleve Park.   This time, I crossed Como Avenue at 14th St. and ran past a small church.   I stopped for a second to read their sign, “Como Evangelical Free Church.”   I thought maybe I would stop in some time to chat with their pastor.   I kept on running, until I hit Talmage Avenue and cut over to 15th Street and back to the house.   Once inside, I started peeling off the layers as I made my way upstairs to the bathroom.   I was still getting used to using the communal bathroom, since I had switched with the Zach and Todd.   I had really liked having my own en suite!   Oh, well!   I grabbed my towel from my bedroom and hit the shower.   I came out with the towel wrapped around my waist and crossed the hall to my room.  

I quickly dressed and went down to the kitchen to start breakfast.   I knew the guys would be down soon, since we all had early classes this semester.   I had just finished putting the food on the table, when Robbie and Adam wandered into the kitchen.

I greeted their wide yawns with a cheery, “Good morning, sleepy heads!”

Robbie gave me the evil eye, before asking, “What is so good about it?”

I laughed, “You and Adam are what is good about it.   You should see yourselves!”

Robbie looked over at Adam, who shrugged, pointed his finger at his head, and made the crazy sign and pointed at me.

Robbie grinned.  “Just as I thought.   You’re the crazy one around here for being so upbeat and cheerful this early in the morning!”

Adam laughed, and said, “It’s true!


The boys took their seats at the table, and loaded their plates with bacon, eggs, hash browns and pancakes.   I poured each of them a class of orange juice and a glass of milk.

Adam complained, “Do I have to drink the milk?”  His look of total disgust made me laugh.

“Yes, you have to drink your milk.   If you don’t, I will have to buy a calcium supplement to help you get enough calcium.   Your mother was insistent I make sure you got enough milk,” I said.

Adam stuck his tongue out at me, and said, “Yes, mother.”

I laughed.  “Robbie, you need to teach your partner some manners.”

“Why?” Robbie asked, giving me his most annoying look.

“Because he shouldn’t stick out his tongue at someone, unless he wants me to follow through with his request,” I said.

Adam asked, “What do you mean?  Follow through with what request?”

I replied, “Don’t you know that when you stick your tongue out at someone that means -- kiss me quick and don’t slobber?   You know like this.”

I came around the table and gave Adam a quick kiss.   His stunned look was priceless.

Robbie laughed.  “You deserved that, Adam.”

Adam grinned.  “Okay, I will make sure I am ready to be kissed when I do it next time!”

I cuffed him up the side of the head, and said, “Don’t get smart, Mr. Ingram.”

Adam only grinned wider.  “I’m smart already, aren’t I, Robbie?   I don’t need to “get” smart, as Glenn puts it.”

Robbie grinned back at his partner, and said, “Yes, you are smart; but you had better hurry up and eat, because we don’t have much time to get showered and ready for school.”

Adam looked at the kitchen clock and nodded. “Okay, I’m on it.”

Their food disappeared in no time and they exited the kitchen, just as Todd and Zach came in.

Zach said, “Good morning, boys.”

Each of them echoed his greeting and headed up to their room.   Zach turned to me, and said, “Thank you for making breakfast for all of us.”

“You are most welcome,” I replied, smiling at the two good looking men.

Todd came over and hugged me.  “Thank you for taking such good care of us.   This place is so much better than the dorms at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.”

Zach smiled, and said, “It’s just one more advantage you gained by marrying me.”

“Yes, it is just one of many such advantages to being married,” Todd said, smiling at his husband.

I passed each of them a plate, which they loaded up with food.   It was a good thing I had cooked a lot of food!   Ben, Justin, Brian, Brandon and Mark made their appearance in the kitchen, just as Todd and Zach began eating.   They all thanked me and made the pile of breakfast food vanish, as if by magic!

We all left at the same time.   Zach and Todd drove the boys to their school, and returned for classes on campus.   The rest of us made our way on foot to our various classes.    I walked across the bridge and headed to my music theory class with Dr. Nohr.   I had just sat down, when someone touched my shoulder.   I looked up to find Aaron had taken the seat next to me.   His pure masculine magnetism and his fantastic smile had the same impact on me as they had the first time we met.   I didn’t say anything, and waited for him to make the first move.

He smiled and said, “Good morning, gorgeous!”

I returned his smile, and replied, “Good morning, Aaron.   I didn’t know you were in this class.”

“I wasn’t until today.   I talked with Dr. Nohr, who agreed to let me into the class,” Aaron said.   His smile grew even wider, as he looked down at my crotch and noticed that I was more than a little turned on.   “I hope that I am the cause of that.”  He leaned closer to me and kissed my cheek, then whispered, “I want you, Glenn.”   He leaned back in his seat, as Dr. Nohr began his lecture.  

I don’t remember anything Dr. Nohr said.   I was so flustered by Aaron’s kiss and his whispered words.   I tried to take notes, but I couldn’t concentrate with Aaron sitting there, looking like a Norse god.   He occasionally brushed his leg against mine, as he shifted in his seat.  

The class came to an end and Aaron stood up.   He extended his hand to me and helped me up out of my chair.   “May I accompany you to your next class?”

I didn’t want him to accompany me anywhere, but, I also, didn’t want to be rude; so I nodded my head, and we moved toward the door.   Meanwhile, he had put his arm around my waist in a very possessive manner.   The closeness of his body to mine was playing havoc with my senses.   I could feel the heat coming off of his body, and I caught the slight scent of his cologne.    I knew I was in trouble, and I wasn’t doing very well at getting out of the situation.  

He must have sensed my discomfort, because he withdrew his arm from around my waist; but he maintained his closeness to me, as we entered the corridor and turned left to my next class.

Aaron leaned down and whispered in my ear, “Please say you will have lunch with me today.”

I didn’t dare speak, so I nodded my head.   I turned and looked at him.   He smiled, “Good.  Meet me at the front of this building, and we will find a nice place to have lunch.”

We had arrived at my next class and he took his leave of me.  “I will see you at noon.”   He leaned down and gave me a quick kiss on the lips.   I was still standing there, in shock, when Patty came up to me.  

“What’s wrong?” Patty asked.

“Nothing is wrong,” I lied.

“Okay, then why are you standing out here in the hallway, instead of taking your seat?” Patty said, looking at me suspiciously.

I shook my head and looked at her, “I’m fine.   I was just thinking about someone and forgot where I was going.”

Patty laughed, and said, “Okay, I hope it was Rick you were thinking about!”

I didn’t respond, but turned and made my way to our seats.   Patty and I always sat together in this class, so we could read each other’s notes.   It helped us make sure we didn’t miss anything.

Patty sat down next to me.  “Hey!  You didn’t answer my question, Glenn.”

That was one thing that was so irritating about Patty – she never gave up once she decided to do something, and that included finding out information!   I thought for a moment, then said, “I was thinking about how Rick would react if he knew Aaron was in my music theory class.”

Patty replied, “You can’t be serious!   Is he really in your music theory class?”

I nodded my head, “He said he talked to Dr. Nohr, who let him register for the class.”

Patty asked, “So, what did happen?”

“We talked, then we went to our next class,” I said.   “I think he is a very lonely person, Patty.”

Patty looked me funny, before she said, “Don’t let him ruin your relationship with Rick.   He may be lonely, but he sure didn’t come across as wanting to become friends with you.   He wants one thing, and one thing only, Glenn.”

“Patty, how can you be so sure?” I asked.

“Because I have met his kind before, and all they want is to use and abuse you.    You represent a challenge to him.   He is out to make you his next conquest.   It has nothing to do with friendship; and everything to do with putting another notch in his scoreboard, showing how many times he can get laid,” Patty said, with more than a little rancor.

“I had no idea you felt so strongly about guys that do that,” I said, hoping to change the conversation.

“I fell for a guy, once, who did just that.   I overheard him talking to his buddies about how easy it was to score on me, and encouraged his friends to do the same.   I was very angry and hurt, because I had trusted him.   That was the last time I let some guy sweet talk his way into my bedroom, let alone into my life,” Patty said.

“I’m sorry, Patty.   I didn’t know,” I said.

“It’s not your fault.  I don’t talk about it very often, because it reminds me of how stupid and foolish I was, then,” Patty said.   She looked at me.  “Be careful, Glenn.   Aaron is a real charmer.   He has that male magnetism that pulls you in, and, before you know it, you will have fallen into his trap.”

I looked at her and said, “It almost sounds as if you are attracted to him as much as I am.”

Patty looked like she had been caught with her hands in the cookie jar.  “Yes, Glenn, I am just as attracted to Aaron as you are.   Aaron used his charms on me, yesterday.   He has a class with me, as well.   He sweet talked me and I fell for it.   Afterward, I felt so stupid.”

“Why?   What happened?” I asked, with keen interest, given my recent interaction with Aaron.

Patty looked sheepish.  “He kissed me, and held my hand during class.   I sat there the entire class, not wanting him to leave me.   He whispered in my ear, then kissed me, again, when we left class.   He blew me a kiss as he walked down the hall.  I just stood there in a daze, until Irene came up behind me and asked me what was wrong.”

“Wow!   That’s what Aaron did to me, just now.   Thank you for telling me, Patty,” I said.

Patty’s eyebrows shot up, in surprise.  “Aaron did that to you last class?”

“Yes, he did, and he has asked me to meet him for lunch,” I added.

Patty’s eyes narrowed; and a look of anger crossed her face.   “That dirty rotten scoundrel.   He had lunch with me, yesterday.   He told me I was everything he ever wanted in a woman, and a bunch of other sweet stuff; and I lapped it up like a kitten that got in the cream!”

“I think Aaron is in for a surprise!   Why don’t you join us for lunch, Patty?” I said, smiling at her.

Patty laughed.  “You can be so wicked sometimes, Glenn.   Yes, I would love to join you and Aaron for lunch.”

They turned their attention to the class lecture.   When the class ended, I said, “Let’s go.   I can’t wait to see Aaron’s face.”

Patty laughed and grabbed her backpack.   “I can’t believe Aaron thought we wouldn’t figure out he was trying to hit on both of us at the same time.”

“I think he is just like Devon.   Devon doesn’t care who he has sex with, be it with a guy or girl,” I said.

Patty nodded her agreement.  “That’s true.  Devon has hit on me a couple of times, as well.   Has he made advances on you, too?”

“Yes, when I first got here.   Devon tried several times to get me in bed with him,” I replied.

We walked down the corridor and exited the building.   We didn’t have to wait long!   Aaron came up the sidewalk with a jaunty step and a big grin on his face.   That is until he saw who was waiting with me.   I saw a look of surprise, then one of dismay, march across his face; to be finally replaced with a tight smile, which didn’t reach his eyes.

He came up to us and said, brightly, “Hello.   Are we ready to go to lunch?”

I smiled.  “Yes, we are.   Do you mind if Patty joins us?”

Again, he managed to maintain his smile; but his eyes flashed with anger.  “Sure.”

Patty said, sweetly, “Are you sure it’s okay, Aaron?  I don’t want to intrude on your time with Glenn.”

Aaron knew, then, that we had exchanged information about his date with Patty yesterday.   “Look, Patty, I….”

Patty cut him off, “Stop right there, Aaron!   Don’t try to explain away what you're doing.   Let’s go to lunch, as you planned; but, this time, Glenn and I are doing the talking.”

Patty’s tone of voice left no doubt that Aaron committed a felony crime in her book; and he had better watch his step.   Aaron got the message, loud and clear.   He nodded his head, and turned sharply on his heel, and led the way to his car.

We approached the parking lot, and I was stunned when I realized Aaron’s car was a white Mercedes-Benz C300.   I knew most college kids didn’t drive a Mercedes, unless their parents had money.   I guess I should have guessed he came from money, by the kind of clothes he wore and the attitudes he had displayed toward me and others.

Patty smiled, and said, “Glenn, why don’t you ride in the front.   I’ll get in the back.”

I climbed in beside Aaron, who had just put the key in the ignition and started the car.  Aaron gave me a brilliant smile, as he put his hand on my knee.   “Thank you for joining me for lunch.”

I smiled and put my hand over his, “You’re welcome.”   I took his hand and lifted it from off my leg, giving it a gentle squeeze.   “Aaron, I am in a committed relationship.”

Aaron’s grin widened.  “Yes, I know.   But a guy has to hope he can overcome that obstacle, especially when the competition is so far away.”

I shook my head in disbelief.   Aaron put the car in gear and we rolled out of the parking lot, and drove the short distance to the Bank restaurant.   He parked the car, and we made our way inside, out of the cold.

After being seated, Patty said, “Thank you for inviting us to lunch, Aaron.”

Aaron smiled graciously, and said, “You are most welcome.”

The waiter approached our table, and we placed our orders.   Patty continued, “Aaron, I think you need to understand you can’t play us against each other.   You have to choose which one of us you plan to pursue, because it’s not going to work, otherwise.”

Aaron smiled, and said, “Why not?   I like you both.”

“Aaron, we both like you, as well,” I said.   “However, as much as I'm attracted to you, I’m in a stable relationship with someone I love very much.   I want you to honor my request to stop your advances and your attempts to date me.”

Patty said, “I know Rick and Glenn, and they are very much in love with each other.   As their friend, I'm asking you to stop this mission you seem to have decided is your top priority, and leave Glenn alone.   Even though I'm very attracted to you, as well, and I want to date you; I can’t stand idly by and see you try to ruin their relationship.   Can you honor our request, or are you so arrogant and uncaring, that you will continue your selfish behavior?”

Aaron looked at me, and, then, at Patty.   I could see the wheels turning, as he thought how he could turn the conversation to his favor.   Finally, he responded, “No, I can’t honor your request; because I'm very attracted to Glenn, and have been, since I laid eyes on him last semester.”

Patty glared at Aaron across the table.  “I think you really mean you see Glenn as a challenge, and you can’t resist the urge to add him to your list of conquests.   How many other guys have you used, abused and dropped, after you have grown tired of using them to satisfy your selfish desires?”

Aaron’s face grew dark with anger at her question.  “I'm not like that at all!”

“Then, explain why you continue to insist you're going to pursue a relationship with Glenn, when we have both told you to stop, and concentrate your efforts elsewhere?” Patty asked, earnestly, with a faint edge to her voice.

I sat between them, looking from one to the other, wondering who was going to win this argument.   Aaron looked at me and smiled.  “I'm sorry to subject you to such unpleasantness.”

I looked at Aaron, and said, “Aaron, you still don’t get it.  We both like you, and we want you to be our friend; but we need you to honor my request to stop pursuing me.”

Aaron looked into my eyes and asked, “Is that what you really want, Glenn?”

His question made me hesitate for a second, and consider if I really wanted him to leave me alone.  I saw the desire to have me, in his eyes; and I was very aware of his physical proximity, which didn’t help.   Then, I thought of my sweetheart; and the sacrifices he had made for me.   I responded, “Yes, I am sure that is what I really want, Aaron.   I love Rick, and I won’t hurt him; just to have fun with you while he’s away from me.”

As I held his gaze, Aaron’s face fell.   “I’m sorry, Aaron.   I am highly attracted to you, but my heart belongs to Rick.”

“Is there no hope at all for me?” Aaron said.

“Yes, there is hope for you, in that you will be my friend, Aaron.   I really like you, and want you to be one of my friends, but without benefits,” I said, smiling at him.   “I think you will really like being with our little merry band of friends.”

Patty smiled, and said, “Yes, I agree with Glenn.   I would like to see you join us.   I want to date you; but, if you really are gay, I'm okay with that, too.  Disappointed, certainly, but I would welcome you into our circle of friends.”

Aaron looked across the table at Patty.  “I don’t know whether I'm really gay or not, Patty.   I've been attracted to both sexes for a long time, now.   I'm usually a lot smarter about not trying to date best friends, like I did with you two.   I've had my eyes on Glenn, for a while; then I met you at the concert the other night.   I have to admit, you made me angry when you pulled Glenn away from me that night.   Then, I realized maybe I could date you, and, in turn, you would help me get to Glenn.   I made a huge mistake, and I apologize for using you, Patty.”

Aaron’s little speech hurt Patty deeply.  “Then, you never had any real interest in dating me, as a person?”   I could see she really did want to date Aaron.

Aaron said, “No.   I’m sorry, Patty.   But if you are still willing, we can work at being friends.”

Patty thought for a moment.   As I watched the expression on her face, I thought for sure she would say no.   I was surprised when she said, “Okay.   I'm willing to work on a friendship, as long as you promise not to use me, or anyone else; to destroy someone’s relationship, or hurt them in any way.”

Aaron looked relieved.  “Thank you, Patty, for giving me another chance.   I'm not really as bad as you think I am.   I admit that, for most of my life, I've been pretty self-centered; and I've always gotten what I wanted.”

Patty’s face still showed she doubted he was sincere.  “You still didn’t promise not to hurt others, or interfere in their relationships.”

“I can’t promise that, Patty.   I've lived for the challenge of making a new conquest for so long now, I don’t think I can change,” Aaron said.

“Or is it more that you don’t want to change?   Are you really happy with who you are, Aaron?” Patty asked, scornfully.

Aaron looked as if he had been slapped in the face.   He sat back from the table and just stared at her.   He looked at me for some support, and I returned his gaze.  “Aaron, answer her questions.   I think it is more important for you to answer those questions about yourself, than it is for us.”

Aaron looked like a cornered animal.   He couldn’t believe he was allowing these two to question him.   “Why are you two putting me through this inquisition?”

“Because we like you, and want you to be our friend; but we have to be able to trust you,” Patty said.   “We need to know where you stand.”

I added, “Aaron, we aren’t attacking you.   We aren’t your enemies.   Please stop being angry and listen to what Patty is saying.   Can you honestly say you're happy, making conquest after conquest; but never really learning to develop a healthy relationship with someone?”

“Who said I didn’t know how to have a healthy relationship with someone.   You two don’t know me and why should I listen to you,” Aaron said, his eyes flashing with anger.  “Why shouldn’t I be angry?”

Patty looked across the table at Aaron and said, “Aaron, if you can’t answer those questions, yourself; we are wasting our time, trying to be friends.   I thought that, maybe, somewhere under that handsome exterior, there was a real person inside.   I am disappointed to find out that there isn’t.”

Our food arrived and our conversation came to an end, as each of us was lost in our own thoughts.   We finished lunch in silence.   I could see Aaron was still fuming.   The waiter brought the check and placed it on the table.   Before Aaron could reach for it, Patty grabbed it and looked at the bill; then passed it to me.   She looked at me, and I nodded, understanding what she was trying to say.

We both put the money for our lunch on the table, with enough extra for tax and tip.   We stood up from the table and Patty said, “Thank you for inviting us to lunch.   We will catch a cab.   Maybe we will see you around campus, sometime.”

I looked into Aaron’s astonished face.  “I’m sorry, Aaron.   I had hoped for better from you.”

Patty took me by the hand, and we left the restaurant.   Patty called Zach, who answered, “Hello, Patty.   What’s up?”

“Zach, can you pick us up?” Patty asked.

“Sure, where are you?” Zach asked

She gave him the address and let him know I was with her.

“I will be there in a few minutes,” Zach said.

While we were waiting, Aaron came out of the restaurant.   He stopped and asked, “Are you sure you won’t let me take you back to campus?”

When Patty didn’t answer, I replied, “No, thank you, Aaron.   Zach will be here in a few minutes.”

Fortunately, Zach turned the corner at that moment, and came to a stop in front of us.   He rolled down the window and shouted, “Taxi service for Patty and Glenn!”

We climbed in and laughed at Zach’s antics.   Patty said, “Thank you.   Your arrival time was perfect!”

Zach looked at her and grinned, “Okay, now explain what’s going on.”

Patty and I related our experience with Aaron.   He started laughing.  “I’m glad you’re my friends and not my enemies.   Poor Aaron didn’t stand a chance against you two.   You know it’s not fair to double team a guy like that!”

I laughed, and said, “Aaron was not exactly defenseless, Zach.   I hope he will think about what we said, and decide to change.”

Patty looked at me, and said, seriously, “I do, too.   I really like Aaron and I want to date him, if he can show me he has changed his ways.”

Zach glanced from me to Patty, and then said, “Let me and Todd work on him little bit.   We have seen him working out, sometimes, so we can make a point of talking to him.”

Patty smiled.  “Thanks, Zach.   I knew I could count on you.”

Zach grinned.  “Anytime, Patty.  However, do you really think this guy is worth worrying about?”

“I think so; because underneath the fa├žade he has built around himself, I believe there is a really nice guy,” Patty said.

“I think she must be brain dead,” I said.   “She has the hots for him and can’t think straight.   Patty, how many times did you tell me to watch out for his kind?   Are you telling me that just because you want him it’s okay for you to ignore your own advice?”

Patty had the sense to feel a little bit embarrassed.  “I’m sorry, Glenn.   You're correct to remind me of my own advice.   Yes, I want him to be different than all the other guys I have met, who don’t respect their partners.   It’s hard to know if there really is a decent guy underneath all of that nastiness.”

We pulled into the driveway of our place.   We made our way inside and sat around the kitchen table.   I made hot chocolate for everyone.   All of the guys were there and wanted to hear what had happened with Aaron.   Patty and I related the day’s events.

I looked around at all the guys, and asked, “I want to know if you guys think Aaron is worth the effort to rehabilitate?   Patty thinks he is.”

Patty blushed, but kept silent.   Everyone looked at each other, then Ben spoke up, “I think it depends on whether or not he wants to change.   If he is willing to make the effort, then he’s worth working with, to help him improve.   However, if he just gets angry and tells us to get lost, then I say he isn’t worth the time and energy.”

Zach and Todd nodded their agreement.   Brandon said, “I think he is worth it.   Remember, I was just like him when I first met you guys.”

“That’s true, Brandon,” I said, grinning at him.   “So are we going to work on Aaron, to help him become a decent human being?”

Mark said, “I think we should at least try, don’t you agree, Patty?”

“Yes, I do,” Patty responded.

Brian spoke up, “But Patty is biased.   She wants to date the guy.”

“Why don’t we invite him to join the chorus with us?” Justin said.

“I think that would be a splendid idea!” Patty exclaimed.

“Aaron is majoring in music, so he should be able to sing.   Patty, do you know what instrument he plays?” I asked.

Patty smiled and said, “He plays the piano, but he is majoring in voice.”

“That’s perfect, then,” Justin said.

“Okay, who is going to invite him to audition; or, at least come to one of our concerts?” I asked.

Justin volunteered, “I will, since I am the one who suggested it.”

“I will go with you.   I don’t’ want this guy taking advantage of my guy,” Brian said.

I laughed, and said, “Patty, I think we just began Operation Aaron.   I hope you are happy now!”

“Yes, I am,” Patty replied, smiling at all of us.   “I hope things work out.”

Later that night, I related everything that had happened, to Rick.   He laughed when he heard Patty was determined to reform Aaron.  

“She must be crazy for him to think she can get somebody to change,” Rick said.

“I agree.  I think she is already in love with him, and doesn’t want to face reality.   Aaron never said he was interested in dating her,” I said.

“I guess we will have to wait and see how things work out,” Rick said.   “Glenn, I’m thinking of calling my sister, Julie.   I found her address and phone number on the internet.”

“Why do you want to call her now?” I asked, with concern.   “I don’t want you to be hurt anymore by your family.”

Rick said, “I know, I know.   You have every right to be worried about me, but I have to at least try to reach out to her.   She is the only one who hasn’t openly condemned me.”

“Rick, let’s think about this.   If she approved of you being with me, why hasn’t she contacted us before now?   Why is she maintaining radio silence?   What makes you think she would be open to talking to you?” I asked, trying not to be overly negative, but failing miserably.

“Glenn, I have to try,” Rick said, his tone of voice pleading with me to understand.

“Rick, I don’t like it.   What will you do if she tells you to get lost, and she doesn’t want to ever see or hear from you again?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Rick answered, his voice cracking from the emotions he was feeling.   “I don’t know what I will do.   Honestly, Glenn, I hadn’t thought that far ahead.”

“Will you at least wait until I can be with you, when you call?” I asked, hoping to derail Rick’s plans, before they ended in a train wreck.

“Glenn, I know what you are trying to do.   I am determined to find out whether or not Julie will talk to me,” Rick said.

I knew arguing with Rick wasn’t going to get me anywhere, so I backed off, “Alright, I will stop harassing you, but you have to promise me you will call me immediately, after you talk to her,” I said.

“Okay, I am going to call right now,” Rick said.

“Talk to you in a few, then,” I replied.

*** ***

Rick broke the connection with Glenn, and pulled the piece of paper out, with Julie’s phone number on it, out of his pocket.   He quickly punched in the numbers and waited, as the phone began to ring.

His sister answered the phone, “Hello.”

“Hello, Julie, this is Rick,” he said.

There was a silence on the other end of the phone.   Rick thought that maybe she had hung up, but then Julie said, “Hello, Rick.   I am not sure I should be speaking to you, after everything that has happened.”

Rick didn’t know what to say in response, so he didn’t say anything.   When he didn’t answer, Julie continued, “Mom is still as rabid as ever over this whole thing.   She didn’t even care when Dad ended up in jail because of her insane family and their ideas about administering their kind of justice.”

“I’m sorry Dad had to do jail time, but the prosecuting attorney wasn’t about to drop the charges, even though Glenn and I asked him to do so,” Rick said.

“I know.   Dad told me.   He had a very rough time in there, as did Peyton,” Julie said.

“I know about Peyton.   I talked to him over the holidays,” Rick said.   “He and his buddies tried to kill Glenn and me, but he was apprehended before he could do any harm.”

“I heard about that.   Mom was frothing at the mouth, because he didn’t finish the job he set out to do, the first time he went to jail,” Julie said.

“Does Mom really hate me that much?” Rick asked.

“Yes, she does,” Julie said.   “I don’t think she will ever change her mind, Rick.”

“What about you?” Rick said.

“I don’t approve of what you are doing, but I don’t hate you for it,” Julie responded.

Rick was about to breathe a sigh of relief, when she continued, “However, Rick, I don’t want contact with you or your partner.   I don’t want my boy to think it’s okay to have sex with another guy, and if you and your partner are hanging around with my kids, it’s going to be very difficult for me to condemn you in front of my children.   I would rather leave things as they are.   You can call me, but please don’t try to come here.”

It was like she had sucker punched him.   He felt horrible, and, for the space of several moments, he thought he might lose it.   Julie continued speaking, “Do you understand where I am coming from on this?”

“Yes, I do.   I don’t agree with you, but I hear you,” Rick responded.   “I’m sorry, I called.”

Rick ended the call abruptly.   He had hoped his sister would be more open; but, now that he knew where he stood with her, he was angry at himself for thinking that she would want to associate with him.  He sat on his bed and berated himself, for being so foolish.

His phone rang, and he looked to see that it was Glenn, calling him back.  He answered it, “Glenn….”

I heard the pain in Rick’s voice and immediately knew things didn’t go well with his sister.  “I am sorry, Rick.   I love you.”   I knew Rick was crying, but was trying to hide it from me.   “It’s okay to cry, sweetheart.   It’s better to let the anger and hurt come out, than to bottle it up inside.”

There was a long silence on the other end of the line.   Finally, Rick said, “I should have listened to you.”

“It’s okay, Rick.   At least, now you know, and won’t worry that you could have done something to reach out to Julie,” I said, trying to console him.   “You need to look on the positive side of things.   You have made contact with her, and she knows that you care about her.”

Rick responded, “She said she didn’t want to see me or you.”

“Why don’t you tell me everything she said, so I can help you,” I said.

Rick then recounted the entire conversation to me.   “So you see, it’s not any better than it was,” Rick said, his voice full of misery.

“Rick, pull yourself out of it!   You just told me she agreed to let you call her.   Isn’t that something worth celebrating?   She didn’t completely reject you.   Don’t let yourself become depressed over this.   I know it hurts, and you're angry, but you need to focus on helping Greg and Cory to recover.   Getting depressed over this won’t help them, and it won’t help you.”

Rick replied, “I know you're right, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling the way I do.”

“I said it was okay to show your feelings.   I’m worried about you and I can’t be there to comfort you,” I said.

“I wish you were here with me, right now,” Rick said.

“Me, too,” I said.   I knew I had to change the subject, so Rick could try to move through his feelings.   “When will the boys be out of the hospital?”

“They will be out next weekend,” Rick said.   “I’m helping Alice move into their new house, here on base, tomorrow.   It’s been really wonderful to see how people are trying to help them.”

“I’m glad to hear it.   I was afraid that, if people knew the boys were gay, they would abandon them, and leave them to try to cope with their injuries on their own,” I said.

Rick paused, then said, “I don’t think most people know they are gay.   Because they are minors, there hasn’t been very much in the news about them, and the military is trying to smooth things over with the local community.   There are many people here that are concerned that if one Marine went crazy and attacked his son, that there is a possibility that another one will go off the deep end.”

“I see,” I said.   “They don’t want to have to acknowledge the prejudice and violence they encourage by their homophobic statements; and the anti-gay sermons preached from the pulpits of their churches.”

“Glenn, they aren’t trying to cover up anything!   They are just trying to reassure the public everything is under control here on base, and with the rest of the Marines who live in the surrounding communities,” Rick said.

“Okay, Rick.   I won’t argue with you,” I said.   “Is Greg’s new home handicapped accessible?”

“Yes.   They built a new ramp, so Greg’s wheelchair can go up the stairs and into the house.   They remodeled the downstairs bathroom, so he could use it.   He won’t be going anywhere for at least another six weeks or so, because of his casts,” Rick said.

“I have an idea!   Do you think it would be okay if I came and stayed with you over spring break, instead of us joining the newlyweds on their honeymoon?” I asked.

Rick sounded doubtful, as he asked, “Where would you stay?”

“I could stay with Cory’s parents.   Aren’t they still living off base?” I asked.

“Yes, they are,” Rick replied.   “However, we wouldn’t be able to sleep together if you stayed with them.   I would rather we went somewhere else, so I can enjoy being with my guy.”

“Okay, why don’t we tour Washington, DC, instead?   After spending most of the week there, we could spend the last couple of days visiting with the boys,” I said.

“I don’t know, Glenn.   We will have to see how things work out.   I’m not saying no, but I am really concerned about us being able to be together, and not have people guessing we’re a couple,” Rick said.

“I understand your concerns,” I said.   “I was trying to think of a way we could be together; but, at the same time, allow you to continue helping with the boys’ recovery,” I said.

“I think Cory may be out of his casts by then, but I am not sure about Greg,” Rick said.

“Here’s another idea.   You could meet me here and we could drive down to Quantico, so you would have a vehicle at your disposal.   I don’t need the car here, since the guys all have cars,” I said.

Rick replied, “I like that idea.   Then we could take our time, touring along the way.   That way, I get you all to myself!”

I laughed.  “Okay, big boy!   I think we have a plan.   I will tell the guys what we are planning, so they don’t count on us going with them.   I think Ben and Janice are going home to Swift Current for spring break.”

Rick sounded surprised, “I would have thought they would have gone to her parents’ place, to finish the wedding plans.”

“I thought that, too, but Janice said there will be plenty of time to finish up her wedding plans, after school gets out,” I replied.

Rick said, “I’m getting excited to see you.”

I said, “Me, too.”

“I love you, Babe,” Rick said.

“I love you,” I said.

Rick broke the connection and leaned against the wall.   He thought to himself, “Wow!   I have such a wonderful partner.   Glenn always knows how to cheer me up.   I feel so much better now.”

Rick stood up and stripped off his clothes and jumped into bed.   It wasn’t long before he was sleeping, peacefully.

The next day, he helped Alice move in.   He went over the entire house to make sure everything was going to be ready for Greg.   The week went by quickly, with Rick visiting the boys in the hospital every evening.   The boys’ doctors delayed their release from the hospital, until Wednesday of the following week.   Rick requested permission from Lt. Col. Bachman to help get the boys settled back into their homes.   Lt. Col. Bachman agreed.   Both Rick and Sgt. Mason were on hand to help Cory into the special handicap transit bus that was hired for the day.   They managed to get Cory inside the house and into his new bed, in the family room.

Cory said, “Thanks, guys, for helping me!   It feels so good to be home.”

“I’m sure it does,” Sgt. Mason said.

“We need to be going, since we have to get Greg,” Rick said.

Cory grinned, “Tell him I love him.”

“Will do,” Rick replied, smiling at the young man.

Rick and Sgt. Mason followed the handicap transit bus north, to the Fairfax Hospital, where they helped Alice get Greg settled into the vehicle.   Greg looked much better.  They followed them back to their new home.   After getting Greg settled into his new room, on the ground floor, Rick and Sgt. Mason thanked the driver of the bus.

They returned to Greg’s room, and found him smiling.   “Thank you for helping me,” he said.

Sgt. Mason replied, “You are most welcome.”

“Rick, do you think they would let you move in with us?   Mom can’t lift me and I'm kind of embarrassed to have her clean me up and such,” Greg said, looking at Rick, hopefully.

“I don’t know, but I can ask,” Rick replied, with a smile.   “That would be really cool.   Have you talked it over with your Mom?”

“No, but I am sure she won’t mind,” Greg said.

“What won’t I mind?” Alice asked, as she entered the room.

Greg smiled at his mother, and said, “I want Rick to move in with us, so he can help you take care of me for the next few weeks.”

Alice looked over at Rick, giving him a questioning look.  “That would be wonderful.   You could use the spare bedroom next to this one.”

Sgt. Mason nodded his head in agreement.   “I think it would be a great idea.   However, I think the request should come from you Alice, not Rick.   That way, the base commander will know it's what you want, and not something Rick dreamed up on his own.”

“I will do that right now,” Alice said.   She left the room and we could hear her talking to someone.   She returned, “I just called the base commander.”

“You mean you talked to his staff,” Sgt. Mason said.

“No, I talked directly to him.   I have his personal cell phone, which he said I could use whenever I needed something,” Alice said.   “He thought it would be a good idea for Rick to be here, until Greg is back on his feet.   Then, Rick will have to move back into the barracks.   He wants Rick to be trained on how to provide basic nursing care, and how to help Greg with his physical therapy.”

“Wow!” Greg exclaimed, grinning from ear to ear.   “Mom, you are the greatest!”

She smiled, and said, “I’m glad to hear you still think so, after all we have been through the last few weeks.”

Greg said, “I love you, Mom.”

“I love you, too, sweetheart,” Alice replied, feeling as if a huge burden had been lifted from her shoulders.   Her fears Greg would hate her for not doing more to prevent him from being hurt were totally unfounded.

Sgt. Mason said, “I need to be going.”

“I need to get back to the office.   I need to find out if Lt. Col. Bachman needs anything,” Rick said.

Sgt. Mason dropped Rick off in front of his office.   Rick walked in and took his seat at his desk.   He could hear that someone was talking to Lt. Col. Bachman, so he didn’t interrupt.   About 30 minutes later, Lt. Col. Bachman opened his office door and walked out to Rick’s desk.

“I hear you have done a great job with the two boys and their families.   I just got off the phone with Colonel Rupinta   He has high praise for you.   He received a request from Mrs. Hurst, to have you move in to assist with Greg, until he is back on his feet again.   Are you willing to do that?” Lt. Col. Bachman asked, looking Rick in the eyes.

“Yes, sir, I am,” Rick replied.  

“Good.   I will let Colonel Rupinta know that you are willing to help the Hurst family,” Lt. Col. Bachman said.   He returned to his office, and soon Rick heard him talking on the phone, again.   He assumed it must be Colonel Rupinta.

Lt. Col. Bachman returned and said, “You are to move your gear over to the Hurst home, tonight.”

“Yes, sir,” Rick replied.

“Mrs. Hurst will be over to pick you up at 18:00 hours, so be ready when she arrives,” Lt. Col. Bachman said.

“Yes, sir,” Rick said.

“Well, I guess you had better get going, if you are going to be ready on time,” Lt. Col. Bachman said, smiling at Rick.   “I will see you in the morning.”

“Yes, sir,” Rick said standing up from his desk.   He left the office and made his way back to his barracks and started packing.   He had barely finished when his cell phone rang.   He answered it, “Hello.”

“Hello, Rick,” Alice said.   “Are you ready?   I would like you to come over early, so we can get you settled before dinner.”

“Yes, Ma’am, I’m ready now,” Rick replied.

“Great!   I will see you in a few minutes,” she said.

Rick carried his gear outside, just as Alice pulled up in her car.   He quickly loaded everything into the back of the car, and they returned to the Hursts’ home.

Alice showed him to his new room, and left him to unpack.   Rick worked fast and had everything in its place, in no time.   He turned out the lights and walked down the hall to Greg’s room.

Rick found Greg was still awake, so he greeted him with a loud, “Howdy partner!”

Greg grinned, “Thank you for coming to stay with us.   I know we will have a great time.”

Rick smiled and said, “Yes, we will; however, I believe part of my duties will be to help you get caught up on your homework.”

Greg grin faded into a frown.   “Why can’t I just take the GED and forget about doing homework?”

Alice had come into Greg’s room, when she heard them talking.   She responded, “Because you need to graduate with your class.   It is much better to have a high school diploma, than to use the GED as a substitute.”

“Mom!” Greg exclaimed, in dismay.  

“Son, I am not going to change my mind.   I have arranged with the school to have your assignments delivered here.  I have hired a tutor to help you with your core subjects,” Alice said.

Greg’s crestfallen look made Rick laugh.   “It’s not the end of the world, Greg.   Both your mother and I will be able to help you get your homework done.”

Greg didn’t smile, but his expression cleared, as he thought about it.   “Okay, but no homework on weekends!”

“Deal!” Alice said.   “Rick, will you help me feed this boy?”

“Certainly,” Rick said.   Alice left the room and returned with Greg’s dinner.   Rick sat down on Greg’s bed and fed him his food.   When he had finished, he was surprised to see Greg crying.   His tears were running down his cheeks.   “What’s wrong, Greg?”

“Nothing.   I'm just tired, that’s all.   I'm so overwhelmed at the moment.   I never imagined I would be so helpless as to need someone to feed me,” Greg said.

Rick looked the big football player in the eyes, and said, “It won’t last forever.   It won’t be long, before you are back on your feet and able to do things for yourself.”

“I know that, but right now, I feel so vulnerable,” Greg said.

Rick reached over and wiped the tears from Greg’s face.  “It’s okay, Greg.   No one will take advantage of you while I’m around.   I promise.”

Greg managed a weak smile.   “Thanks, Rick.   I’m going to rest now.  I’m pretty tired.”

“Good.   You have had a big day.   I’ll see you in the morning, then.   If you need anything during the night, push this button and I will come help you,” Rick said.

Rick watched as Greg closed his eyes, and was soon fast asleep.   Alice came into the room.  “Thank you for being here for Greg.”

“You’re welcome.   I’m glad I can help,” Rick said.

They left Greg’s room, turning out the lights.   Rick went to his room and called Glenn.

“Glenn, I have good news,” Rick said.

“What?” I asked.

“I have moved in with Greg, to help him until he is fully recovered,” Rick said.

I replied, “That’s wonderful!”

“I think it would be okay for you to stay here with me during spring break.   I haven’t talked to Mrs. Hurst about it, but I don’t think it will be a problem,” Rick said.

“Cool!   I will plan to drive down and meet you there,” I said.   “You won’t believe what happened today!”

Rick said, “Okay, spill it!”

“Aaron apologized to me and Patty and begged us to give him another chance.   He said he wants to be our friend, and even promised to stop making passes at me, or any of the other guys,” I said.

“Did he join the chorus?” Rick asked.

“Yes, he is going to audition.   Justin and Brian were able to talk him into to trying out.   They even gave him a lecture about how to turn his life around,” I said.

“Is he for real?   How can you be sure that he’s changed his ways,” Rick asked.

“I don’t think he will mess with Patty.   She has threatened to make his life miserable, if he tries anything,” I said.

Rick laughed and said, “Way to go, Patty!   She is so awesome!   I wouldn’t want to cross her.”

“Neither would I,” I replied, laughing, as well.   “I'm sorry to cut you off, Babe, but I have to study for a test tomorrow.”

“Okay.   I love you, Glenn,” Rick said.

“I love you, too,” I replied.   “Call me after dinner, so we can talk for a while, tomorrow night.”

“I will.   Good bye,” Rick said.

“Bye,” I replied.

Rick took care of his toilet, then climbed into his new bed.   He lay awake for quite a while, thinking about how he was going to help Greg.   The next morning, Rick heard the buzzer go off.   At first, he was a little disoriented.   Then, he remembered where he was.   Rick got up and walked down the hall to Greg’s room.   He turned on the light and looked at Greg.   “How can I help you, Greg?”

“I need to pee, really badly,” Greg said.

“Okay, let me get the bedpan,” Rick said.  He helped Greg take care of his needs, then cleaned him up.

“Who is Glenn?” Greg asked, looking up at his friend.

Rick did a double take.   He looked down at Greg and met his eyes.  “Why do you ask?”

Greg replied, “I overheard you talking to someone last night and I heard you say, “I love you, Glenn,” and I wanted to know who Glenn is.”

“How could you hear me from my room?” Rick asked, trying to hide his chagrin.

“You left the bedroom door open, so I heard most of your conversation,” Greg replied.

Rick thought a moment.   He had forgotten to close his door.   He remembered thinking he should leave the door open, just in case Greg forgot to push the button and decided to call for him, instead.

“Glenn is someone very special to me,” Rick answered.

“Where is Glenn?” Greg asked.

“Glenn is at college in Minneapolis, Minnesota,” Rick said.

“Oh,” Greg said.

“Why?” Rick asked.

“I want to meet him,” Greg answered.

“Well, maybe he can visit us for spring break,” Rick said.

Greg smiled, “I will ask Mom if it’s okay for Glenn to stay with us.   Is that okay?”

“Yes, it is,” Rick said.   “I’m going back to bed, and you need to get some sleep.”

Greg said, “Okay, boss.”

Rick turned out the lights and returned to his room.   He needed to be careful, or he would ruin everything.   He didn’t think Greg would say anything if he found out about him and Glenn, but he couldn’t be sure.   He slipped back into his bed and soon dozed off.