THIS STORY IS COPYRIGHT © 2010-2023 BY D&B. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. DISTRIBUTION FOR COMMERCIAL GAIN, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, POSTING ON SITES OR NEWSGROUPS, DISTRIBUTION AS PARTS OR IN BOOK FORM (EITHER AS A WHOLE OR PART OF A COMPILATION) WITH OR WITHOUT A FEE, OR DISTRIBUTION ON CD, DVD, OR ANY OTHER ELECTRONIC MEDIA WITH OR WITHOUT A FEE, IS EXPRESSLY PROHIBITED WITHOUT THE AUTHOR'S WRITTEN CONSENT. YOU MAY DOWNLOAD ONE (1) COPY OF THIS STORY FOR PERSONAL USE; ANY AND ALL COMMERCIAL USE EXCEPTING EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS REQUIRES THE AUTHOR'S WRITTEN CONSENT.
THE AUTHOR MAY BE CONTACTED FOR PERMISSIONS OR FEEDBACK AT: email@example.com
The arrogant doctor was in the room with Keith and Lucas as the eight boys, Gil, and Van trooped in. Gil reddened; "What are you doing?" he asked him angrily.
The doctor held up his hand. "Young Lucas here just explained to me why he and is brother left home," he said. "I am grateful to you for stepping in to help them."
"What's going to happen to us now?" Lucas asked.
"That's up to you, within certain legal limits," Gil replied. "But that's part of what we came back here to discuss with you." He nodded at Chay, who was riding in a wheelchair pushed by Donny, 'dressed', so to speak, in a hospital gown.
Chay's broad warm smile was on full force. "Like Gil said, you get to choose your own future, just like we did. But what we agreed to suggest is for you to come home with us and stay at our place. We've got our own apartment, and you'd be welcome there."
"Really?!" Lucas exclaimed happily.
"Keith, though, looked skeptical. "You'd let us do that, sir?" he asked Gil. "I mean, he" (motioning at Chay) "is younger than I am, even. Don't we need to be with grownups?"
"I'm your lawyer, not your guardian, at least for now," Gil said. "I advise you about what you can and can't do; I don't tell you what to do." He smiled. "In fact, the arrangement I have with the boys that I am guardian for is that I don't order them around either."
"I'm getting longwinded again," he said with a touch of self-deprecation. "The short answer is, there's no problem with your accepting their invitation. And as far as Chay's age goes, you'll find that looks can be deceiving."
Donny took the lead. "First time you ever saw any of us was when Ray here came running to your rescue," he said, patting the shoulder of Ray, who blushed. "So you're probably wondering if you can trust any of us." Keith nodded. "Well, I made some mistakes in my life, and one of them was not telling people the truth about the apartment. I got my nose rubbed in that earlier."
"But let me tell you this," he continued, "we've had one working rule since we started it – nobody's forced to come there, nobody's forced to stay, you can get up and leave any time you like. Ask any of these guys." He smiled at Gil. "Gil makes sure we don't have problems, legal or money ones. But he doesn't interfere in our home. It's ours – the eight of us, ten if you decide to stay. We make the rules, we take care of each other."
"You need to know," he went on, "that Gil's acted as guardian for us, some of us since we ran away. I know he'll be willing to do that for you, and Judge Markham will approve it."
"I'll take care of that," Chay said happily. "I'm supposed to go see him anyway." Donny shot him a look; he smiled up at Donny. "Make you a deal; you handle our medical bills, I'll take care of court costs, and we'll promise not to do anybody else unless we agree on it together." They both glanced at Van, who blushed.
"That works," Donny said with relief. He bent down and planted a kiss on Chay's forehead.
"So," Chay said, "are you willing to give us a try?"
"Yes," said Lucas, looking at Keith. Slowly he agreed.
"Great!" Mikey said. "Um, I think Gil's going to need some info. about you, but it'll be just to keep the judge happy."
"That's my job!" Chay said with a grin.
"Keeping the judge happy."
After Van and the other doctor had expedited discharges from the hospital, and Gil had made out the applications for guardianship for the two new boys, Gil drove Ray, Jack, Keith, and Lucas back to the apartment, dropping Chay (now dressed again) off at the courthouse with the needed paperwork. Van took the other five with him back to the clinic, from which it was only a short walk to the apartment.
"We never got in that lunch I promised you guys," Gil said regretfully.
"That's okay," Mikey said. "With what's in the larder, I can throw together a good quick lunch: soup, sandwiches, and salads. Ray, I know you've done kitchen duty recently, but would you mind lending me a hand?"
Between them they heated two different kinds of soup, made up a platter of cold meats, sliced cheese, a pre-mixed tuna salad spread from the Travers' gift, a green salad and a fruit salad, with condiments and a choice of salad dressings, and brought the tray out. They told the guys to go get their choice of soup, with cups and bowls alongside the two pans they'd been heated in.
With everyone settled down and eating, Andy looked over at Gil. "Not that it makes a whole lot of difference now, but before, you said you'd never interfere with who we invited home with one exception. I'd like to know what that exception is."
"Oh, that," Gil said airily. "That's my lawyer nature coming out, looking at the worst case scenario. If one of you guys brought home a fugitive, somebody wanted for something other than running away, I'd step in to protect you from harboring a fugitive. I'd try to get him the best deal I could, and not turn him in, of course, but it's my job to make sure you don't get involved in something that would hang a criminal charge on you."
Mikey thought about that. "Well, we've all been guilty of hustling, you know that."
Keith's jaw dropped. Pauly noticed. Gil, however, was focused on Mikey, and vice versa. "Can you see Kowalski or O'Brian running any of you in for trying to stay alive? It's the Johns that prey on boys trying to stay alive, like you were before and like a lot of kids are still, that they want to bust."
"You guys, um...." Keith was trying to put a question together that wouldn't sound insulting, and his tongue and brain weren't cooperating on the project.
"We did what we had to do to survive, man," Pauly said.
"And some of us enjoyed it," Jack added.
"See, Keith? They're nice; they'll understand," Lucas said encouragingly. Keith. however, turned red.
"Um, Lucas, I think you might have just outed Keith," Mikey said with a grin.
Ray surprised himself by saying, "But that's not a problem here," and emphasizing his point by snuggling up to Andy. Mikey gave a broad smile at this, and pulled Pauly close.
Keith's expression was classic: a little shock, a little pleased acceptance, and a lot of relief. "Don't sweat it," Ray said. "When I got here, they told me to take my time and get used to it, and I did – well, sorta! This cute thing here wasn't going to let me be afraid of my feelings any longer than necessary, though," he added, squeezing Andy.
"It took me a while, too," Pauly said. "Just relax; if you don't have a problem with us, we sure won't with you."
"Basically we all take turns on stuff, not on any fixed schedule but knowing we need to pull our weight and do our fair share," Andy said.
Gil's cell phone rang. He answered it. "Oh, good," he said. "That'll be fine; I needed more time to deal with things here anyway." He disconnected. "The man I postponed the meeting with needed to put it off until tomorrow anyway, so my afternoon is free."
"Cool," Peewee said. "I like seeing you, and I don't, much."
"Um, Jack?" Donny said. "You said you had something to bring up?"
"Yeah," Jack said. "I feel like I kind of fucked up the other night. And it's like, I've put a lot of crap on you guys that I had no right to. And I guess, well, what I'm saying is, well, do you want me to leave?"
There was a shocked silence. Then Donny said, "Jack, we knew who you were, what you liked, when we invited you here. If Chay were here, he'd be chewing your ass for even suggesting we might want you to leave. I don't think anything has changed. We care about you, dude. We aren't going to stop trying to talk you out of the risks you take, but that's because you're our brother, not because we're judging you. We worry about what could happen."
"By the way," said Gil, "your 'friends' received an anonymous phone call from someone with a really tough accent, that pointed out they and their buddies were guilty of forcible gang rape and physical assault of a 15-year-old boy. And that the cops wouldn't be informed this time, but if anything like it ever happened again, they'd better hope the cops find them first." He smiled viciously. Jack and Donny both stared at him.
"I've got to take care of my boys, right?" he said. "And Vito the janitor down at the office had just the right accent to pull it off, and was glad to help. One of his nephews ran away, in another city, and was found dead three weeks later. He thinks Donny walks on water."
"So, dude, you're staying," Mikey said to Jack.
Lucas scratched himself. "God, I'm an idiot," Donny said. "You guys need a chance to get cleaned up and a change of clothes – not to mention you haven't seen the place yet."
With Gil and the other boys tagging along, he showed them through the apartment, and finishing up at the big bathroom. "Andy, can you lend Keith a change of clothes until we can get out and buy some stuff?"
"Sure," Andy said. "And I noticed the other day that Chay needs to get some new things – some of his jeans are kind of threadbare. Plus we need to buy Ray some stuff too."
"My treat on this round," Gil said. "The drawing account's in pretty good shape, but without Bernice's and Tipton's rent, and with the stuff we've discussed you guys needing, I want to make sure it doesn't get drawn down too much."
"Sounds to me like you're making an excuse not to admit wanting to be generous," Ray said.
"That settles it," Gil said, smiling despite himself. "You're going to law school; you're already too good at spotting things like that." He and Ray shared a laugh.
"Peewee, would you lend Lucas a change of clothes?" Donny asked.
"Sure!" the 11-year-old agreed, flashing his agemate a big grin. "And I'll shower with you." Lucas looked shy but pleased at the idea.
And, for a change, everything went as planned. Andy put together an outfit for Keith, he went in to shower, while Peewee and Lucas took off for the back rooms, Peewee evidently giving Lucas his take on what living there was like. Keith came back to the living room as his little brother and Peewee started their shower, and Gil explained to him the idea of using the efficiency apartment that would be available in a day or two for the two boys.
"It's essentially a big room with a small bathroom off it, just toilet and shower, equipped with a kitchenette and room enough for bedroom and living room furniture in the main room," Gil was explaining. "You could have as much independence from these guys as you wanted, or be as involved in the apartment as you choose."
He was interrupted by two pink streaks flying through the living room – Peewee and Lucas, both in their birthday suits and grinning like Cheshire cats. "Lucas!" Keith shouted. "Go get your clothes on! These guys don't want to see you streaking."
Laughing, Donny and Mike explained to Keith the facts of life in the apartment, clothing optional clause emphasized.
Three knocks on the door proved to be Chay, back from seeing the judge.
"I thought I told you to call me," Gil said with some concern.
"I wasn't feeling any pain, so I decided to walk," Chay said. "I thought it'd probably do me good to get some exercise."
"So how did it go?" Mikey asked.
"Great!" Chay said. "Judge Markham took me back into his chambers, and told his secretary we weren't to be interrupted. Then I gave him the petitions that Gil filled in, and the statements he had us write up, and he looked them over. I stood right next to him, of course, so I could see what he was looking at and answer any questions he might have."
Chay's smile was on full, and had a mischievous quality to it. "Then he said he wanted to review the contents of the briefs I'd shown him thoroughly. That was fine with me, of course. And of course he found a big stiff problem in what I provided him, and he complimented me for being so upright about it. Well, we engaged in some oral exchanges back-and-forth on that idea, and eventually he drew a solution out of me. He was very pleased with what I came up with."
"Well, he still had a hard problem to deal with, but he indicated he was prepared to enter a judgment in my favor. And of course, by then I was wide open to the idea, and took the thrust of his suggestion with pleasure. After probing into some areas he was familiar with from past discussions we'd had but needed to deal with this time, he finally brought out all the issues he had backed up. I thanked him for taking the time to probe so deeply into the depths of my concern, and he said the pleasure was all his. Then I put the briefs back in proper order while he signed off on the forms, and I gave him a kiss goodbye with our thanks, and came back home."
Gil was laughing so hard tears were running down his eyes.
"What's so funny?" Keith asked. Mikey slipped over and gave him the explanation. His eyes widened. "You did that for us?" he asked.
"And for Andy, and because I like the judge. He's a good man, and makes sure we get treated right," Chay said. "It's my pleasure, literally, to say thank you to him for helping us out in a way that I'm specially equipped for."
"It's not something he demands," Donny said. "It's a gift, one Chay enjoys giving."
"There's a lesson for you there, Donny," Ray said to him, realizing something important and daring something in his eagerness to help his new friends.
"He's right, Donny," Gil said. He walked over to the CD player, leafed through the available discs, and put on an Eagles piece.
Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
You've been out ridin' fences for so long now
Oh, you're a hard one
But I know that you've got your reasons
These things that are pleasin' you
Can hurt you somehow
Don't you draw the queen of diamonds, boy
She'll beat you if she's able
You know the queen of hearts is always your best bet
Now it seems to me, some fine things
Have been laid upon your table
But you only want the ones that you can't get
Desperado, oh, you ain't gettin' no younger
Your pain and your hunger, they're drivin' you home
And freedom, oh freedom, well, that's just some people talkin'
Your prison is walking through this world all alone
Don't your feet get cold in the winter time?
The sky won't snow and the sun won't shine
It's hard to tell the night time from the day
You're losin' all your highs and lows
Ain't it funny how the feeling goes away?
Desperado, why don't you come to your senses?
Come down from your fences, open the gate
It may be rainin', but there's a rainbow above you
You better let somebody love you, before it's too late
Donny's eyes were wet. "Come here, Chay," he said. Beaming, Chay did.
This chapter was great. Of course, I still want more, as you could probably guess.
Darryl AKA The Radio Rancher