Recovered: An Unlikely Friendship

by Hunter Woods

Chapter 9: A Time of Darkness

There was a flurry of activity that disturbed my blissful state of contentment. A part of me simply wanted to ignore it, but it was already too late because my eyes seemed to flutter open automatically focusing on a room which all of a sudden felt a bit crowded. Aunt Harriet was kneeling in front of Jamie with Boxey curled up by the boy's feet. The dog's ears were twitching around from all the noise and his eyes were constantly scanning the area. He spotted me and lifted his big head up from his paws gazing at me his ears swiveling towards my direction letting out a little huff of concern for me. There was a look of relief and concern etched over my Aunt's features as tears trickled down her cheeks. Uncle Walt looked haggard with another older frail looking gentleman talking to him in urgent kinds of whispers.

"Walt from my initial examination Jamie is basically fine. Well, at least from what I can observe without actually touching him, which I'm not sure I want to even try considering what I've heard regarding him already going ballistic today. He's probably very edgy at the moment with just about anything setting him off." I heard the man, who must be Dr. Swanson, explain to Uncle Walt which made me happy to know Jamie was alright.

Off to the side I could see a man in a uniform, presumably the sheriff, talking to Mr. Jones and Kathy Lee. "So you are saying that he recognized the one boy, but not the one who actually knocked him out?" The man was asking taking notes.

"Come-on Jeff, we all know that it was Damian who did it. Just because the kid is your nephew doesn't mean…," he began when the sheriff interrupted.

"That's not fair Jacob and you know it." The sheriff got defensive shaking his head sadly. "Believe me I've been telling Roy for years he needs to reign in Damian, and maybe even get the kid some counseling, but he simply refuses to see it. I need actual proof though and someone who will speak out against Damian, but every time that brat…um…I mean nephew of mine gets into a bind none of the other kids speak out against him because they are afraid what he might do. It doesn't help that my lug-nut of a cousin is the vice principal at the school letting the kid get away with everything. I swear both him and Roy were like two peas in a pod when we were younger, and they seem to feed into each other denying what the rest of us know. It only allows Damian to get worse, and in the end I'm afraid how this will finally end up. I'd love nothing more than to go out and lock him up until he gets some help, but all I can do is to go after this other boy and hope he will be able to shed more light on what went on."

My attention shifted back to the doctor and Uncle Walt with Boxey noticing my shift back towards their way. "As for Sam…," he began when the Lab got up his dog tags jingling catching Aunt Harriet's and Uncle Walt's attention realizing I was awake.

Boxey trotted towards me his nose nudging against my hand making me smile. Even though I was sluggish I gave the dog a good scratch behind his ears. If my head wasn't pounding so much I'd have laughed because the animal's eyes seemed to roll while his tongue hung out the side of his mouth enjoying the attention.

"It's alright boy." I managed to croak out hoarsely coughing slightly from the abrasive feeling in my dry throat.

Aunt Harriet immediately got up kneeling down in front of the sofa wrapping me up in a gentle warm embrace as I once more faded off to sleep, but not before hearing her whispering in my ear. "It's alright Sam, you are safe and sound. Thank you for taking such good care of our little Jamie. We love you so much so get your rest." She sniffled softly the wetness from the tears of her concern rubbing between our two cheeks when she pressed her face against mine before releasing me and tenderly kissing my forehead.

My mind seemed all jumbled up in a dizzying array of incoherent thoughts as I slipped back into the abyss of darkness. There was a sense of warmth I had just felt from Aunt Harriet, but I was also feeling a bit confused, achy, and nauseous even in my sleep which prevented me from truly getting any proper rest. Then there were the nightmarish images of a demon, the devil's son himself, which kept assaulting my subconscious mind. For some reason the horror movie called "The Omen," kept invading my dreams. I first saw the movie when I was ten, and I hadn't seen it since, so at first I couldn't understand why I would be dreaming about such a movie. Then something seemed to click in place when it dawned on me that in the movie the devil's son was named Damien. In a way the movie had sort of insinuated itself into my nightmares because of my own real life Damian demon. The spelling was slightly different between the movie Damien versus my real life Devil Damian.

With this revelation in my subconscious mind I was finally able to shove the horrible images off to one side, slowly allowing myself to drift off into a better place, but once again something began to bother me preventing me from getting any proper rest. There was this sort of incessant buzzing noise in my ear that became irritating. What was it about all of these buzzing noises lately that seemed to invade my senses, preventing me from staying asleep? My eyes once more fluttered opened, but this time the room appeared emptied of its occupants, other than Jamie who was still sitting by the fireplace gently rocking back and forth the blanket having dropped from his shoulders settling haphazardly around his waist and lap. Boxey was curled up by Jamie's feet watching the kid twirling his fingers in front of his face, the boy focused on the random like patterns he was creating with his delicate digits. I felt a presence sitting next to me so I turned my attention towards it scrunching up my eyes.

It was Kathy Lee with her right hand intertwined between my left fingers. Her left hand was on top of the blanket and was gently stroking my stomach with her gaze locked on to something just slightly below that spot. Now that I was awake I could feel a sort of emotion stirring inside of me, which for some reason I was having difficulty understanding. It was threatening to stir awake other things as well; things I didn't want to come alive at the moment feeling the heat rise up in my cheeks.

"S…stop…p…please." I managed to whisper making Kathy Lee jump startled by my interruption of her silent musings.

Her hand on my stomach immediately snapped away with her head swiveling around towards me. Kathy Lee's brown eyes gazed into my blue orbs, and I saw her blushing at having been caught staring at my crotch. It was a bit unsettling for me too because at the moment I felt completely vulnerable.

"Kathy Lee…please…I…I," my mind seemed too jumbled up with confusion, and I simply didn't know how to act in regards to what was going on at the moment.

"No Sam…I…I'm sorry…I shouldn't be…um…it's just…it's just…I kind of like you. I mean all the girls are sort of wondering…you know…about you and what you've got…I mean…there's sort of a rating system…you know…about guys at school and you are…," she kept tripping over her tongue turning several shades of crimson I never knew possible, but truth be told I could even feel my own cheeks burning with what she was implying while she tried to clarify even more.

"I mean…you know…we sort of rate all the guys on a scale of one to ten. Things like their personality, looks, and what they have between…um…anyway…right now you are an eight or nine with girls arguing about what you have…um…I'm sorry." The girl blushed knowing she had said way too much.

Hell, it sounded like the girls at school were perving on the other boys actually rating them on a scale. The rating depended not only on the kids themselves, but also about their unique…well…attributes. I suppose some would feel flattered being rated so high, but I swallowed hard completely mortified by how slutty it seemed to make things.

"It's just that I like you Sam, and I was just curious is all." She added probably seeing something in my eyes before I turned my head away from her.

A single teardrop escaped from the corner of my eye despite the struggle of trying to maintain my composure. This was the girl Austin liked, and here she was perving on me, not to mention it sounded like she was trying to get down my pants. Austin was like one of my best friends over here, and I liked him a lot so didn't want anything to hurt our friendship. This was very awkward, and I wasn't sure how I felt about any of this. On the one hand I felt a bit flattered, but on the other hand from what she was saying it made the whole thing sound a bit on the slutty side. It was humiliating to boot because the girls at school were not rating us for who we were, but actually about what we had between our legs. Not only that, but it sounded like the one girl my best friend really cared about seemed to enjoy the so called game.

"Sam," Kathy Lee began when I turned towards her and without knowing why simply blurted it out.

"Austin likes you." I told her bluntly seeing her mouth move around like she wanted to reply, but simply couldn't so I pressed forward. "I know you like him too. I've seen the way you two look at each other." I told her seeing her blush at my observations.

"Sam…I…I, but…," she began seemingly at a loss for words.

"But what?" I asked a bit confused. "You do like him don't you?" I pressed her this time forcing her to look away and blush.

"Yeah I guess…it's just…um…well…Damian." She pointed out like this would explain everything, but instead only managing to puzzle me more.

"What about Damian…don't tell me you like that asshole?" I spat out totally misreading what she was saying because she seemed to blanch with revulsion.

"What…of course not…don't be an idiot. It's just Austin and Jake sort of…you know…because of Damian. I mean…yeah sure…I kind of like him and all. If it weren't for other things he'd be like an eight or nine too at school; especially, since rumor has it that he sort of has a fat one…you know." She giggled infuriating me with her offhand comment. "So yes…if it weren't for the other issue…maybe the two of us…I mean…I really do like him Sam…it's just the other girls wouldn't approve, and my dad he would…Sam…I…I," She tried to explain making me scrunch up my eyebrows while I tried to make sense of things.

On the one hand things she mentioned infuriated me, and on the other hand it sort of made me realize some other things that were going on. Now that I thought about it I could sort of begin to see what she was saying. I've noticed how even though a lot of girls seemed to like Austin; they also appeared to keep their distance from him, almost like they were afraid because he was somehow associated with his older step brother. Over the years both Austin and Jake had been blamed for a lot of things because of getting roped into them by Damian. In addition they were the ones always getting blamed for things as well even when it was clear it had everything to do with Damian. For the life of me I simply couldn't understand how such a jack ass always seemed to get away with crap.

For some reason, Austin getting brushed off by Kathy Lee because he had a jerk of a step brother, didn't sit well with me so I felt the urge to protect my friend. "Austin's nothing like Damian. He's a good friend, and I care about him and his little brother Jake."

"Yeah right, that's why you kicked the crap out of him a few weeks back." She stated in what she must have thought was a joke, but in light of our conversation it seemed to upset me even more.

"That's before I got to know him and gave him a chance despite his jerk of a step brother. At least I was willing to let it go, and get to know him instead of his reputation. He's my friend Kathy Lee, and I'd hate to see him get hurt. The way you talk about him I think he's too good for you. Besides, the whole rating system you and your girlfriends use is totally humiliating and it sucks." I managed to croak out trying to keep my emotions in check feeling my head begin to pound.

Her reaction wasn't what I expected because she simply laughed in a way that sort of said are you kidding as she replied defensively. "Yeah right…like you boys don't do the same thing to us. Don't think we haven't noticed how you boys stare at our asses and boobs pointing them out to one another while you joke around. I see how you boys talk behind our backs discussing what you would like to do to us." She spat a bit defensively making me shake my head.

"No, not me. I've never done that." I admitted to her honestly with her simply gaping at me not believing it.

"You can't tell me that you and Austin don't do the same thing; especially, now that I know he likes me. I can just see it how when he spends the night over at your place the two of you probably talking about me and groping yourselves saying how you want to…to…you know." She huffed turning her head away with tears trickling down her cheeks obviously upset by what she thought was going on.

There was genuine hurt in her eyes making me realize just how much she cared about Austin, but somehow so skewed and turned around with her ideas about what boys do. It made me wonder if it was the other girls convincing her of this because I seemed to detect a note of disbelief in her words of convictions like she truly didn't believe all of it. I also began to realize that some of what she had said was due to her quirky sense of humor. When she had first mentioned the rating game she had been trying to do it in a joking kind of manner, but it had simply come off the wrong way. Sometimes conversations simply turned out that way without it being initially intended to be harmful or offensive.

Despite everything the girl was still holding my left hand in her right so I reached over with my right patting it gently. "Kathy Lee look at me." I whispered softly noticing the girl hesitate a moment before turning towards me with genuine tears of hurt threatening to overwhelm her sweet features.

Sighing I gazed into her eyes. "Austin isn't anything like that Kathy Lee. He truly cares about you. Yes, we've talked a lot about you, but not in that way. He always says you are beautiful, funny, and you have a gentle heart. He knows how the other girls feel about him, and how they treat him sometimes, but he told me you've never treated him other than with kindness. I hope he's right Kathy Lee, and I think he is despite how all of this sounded between us just now. He's never talked about you in a…um…in a…you know…sexual kind of way other than to admit to me he's attracted to you in a physical kind of way. I can't speak for the other boys in school, but we've, that is me and Austin and Jake too, we've never talked about you, or any other girl, in that kind of way. Honest Kathy Lee. Besides, you have to know what you girls are doing is kind of…you know…sick." I finished off while she simply stared at me completely baffled before looking away from my intense gaze with her shoulders slumping.

"Yeah I know Sam…it's just…hard…you know. Usually I ignore the other girls when they are doing that sort of thing, but then sometimes they tease me about it. You know saying things like I don't participate because I'm not into boys yet and all. I mean if they knew how much I care about Aust…I mean…about boys for real," She paused once more realizing that her mouth tonight seemed to get in the way of things, but for me the little slip of the tongue regarding Austin made me smile.

"So you really do like him then?" I asked noticing her head snap towards me with her eyes flashing angrily in defiance for a moment before she sighed in defeat.

"Yeah…I do…," She smiled at me sheepishly. "But you better not say anything to him about it." She got really serious making me giggle at this stupid game we tended to play when it came to relationships.

"Why?" I asked getting a mischievous grin on my face which must have looked goofy by the indication I was getting from her features that looked somehow a bit guarded with my obvious question which was a setup. "I mean…you aren't afraid he'd try to poke at you with a big fat…," I began pausing for a moment seeing Kathy Lee's eyes getting big and round at my obvious insinuation regarding Austin's big fat erection and what he might want to do with it as I pressed forward, "…joke at your expense." I finished off grinning in triumph with her face shifting through a myriad of expressions.

"Why you little shit, two can play that game." She teased reaching out to snatch at my groin making me immediately jolt in reflex.

Pain shot through my body with my skull literally threatening to explode. "Oh shit Sam…I'm sorry. I didn't mean for you to get hurt. You know I wasn't really going to…you know…touch you like that?" She asked concern etched across her features placing her hand along my cheek while I gasped for air my eyes welling up because of the intense pain.

A whimpering sound escaped my lips while my body seemed to squirm around trying to find a comfortable position to ease my pain. Kathy Lee looked into my eyes whispering softy to me in a comfortingly tone trying to soothe my discomfort.

"It's alright Sam." She whispered. "Just breath it will go away. I'm so sorry Sam…just breath." She kept saying over and over until I began to settle back down.

The pain subsided, but a cold shudder ran along my body, and I began to shiver uncontrollably. I felt Kathy Lee's warm soft hands pressing up against my forehead and cheeks trying to gauge my temperature while her lips pursed with concern.

"I'm fine," I began hearing Boxey sitting up his tags jingling which drew my attention.

The dog began to whine nervously when Jamie suddenly seemed to come awake as well. "Sammy sick…Sammy sick….Sammy sick," he began to repeat over and over again getting louder.

It must have been intuition on the boy's part, or perhaps Boxey's insight with the boy picking up on it, because all of a sudden I truly wasn't feeling all that well at all as my head began to pound even more, and I began to feel that nauseous feeling inside the pit of my stomach with my insides doing flip flops making things even worse. "Daddy…doctor Swanson," Kathy Lee suddenly shouted urgently her eyes getting big as saucers.

Mr. Weiler and Doctor Swanson immediately popped into the living room. "Holy crap he's white as a sheet." My uncle immediately noted rushing to my side with Kathy Lee scrambling out of the way.

"The bucket under the table." I heard Mr. Jones instruct coming into the room as well.

All of a sudden my whole insides heaved and I felt Uncle Walt's strong arms supporting me while I once more emptied out my stomach into the bucket. I couldn't believe I was still able to force anything more out of my belly considering I've already drained it twice. Just how much did I eat during the day I wondered briefly when another spasm wracked my body. This time it was the stabbing pain along my side where I had been kicked. Gasping for air my eyes welled up with another whimpering sound being forced out of my lips. It was humiliating to be seem in such a compromised position as the sheer raw emotion took control over me once more. I was crying from pain and shame all wrapped up in one noting how Uncle Walt was soothing me like some five year old little baby.

"Shhhh…it's alright Sam. There's no shame in this just let it all out. It's alright no one here thinks anything of this and we all understand. Hell, if I took a beating like you I'd be bawling too. Shoot, for that matter just ask your aunt how many times she had to coddle me after some fight or other. She'll tell you that I'm the biggest baby around." He assured me while I tried to figure out if his statement actually made me feel better or worse somehow.

I suppose at the moment it simply didn't much matter because suddenly I felt extremely tired and week feeling Uncle Walt gently lay my head back down. "Sam?" I heard a voice I didn't recognize pulling me back from the fuzziness of fading back to sleep.

Opening my eyes I saw the sparkling youthfulness of eyes that defied explanation considering they belonged to the elderly doctor. "Yes, doctor Swanson." I managed to get out noticing the warm smile spreading across the elderly man's features as he nodded his head approvingly.

"Good…good. I know you aren't feeling all that well at the moment. We are going to get you feeling better in short order. I'm afraid you might have a bit of a concussion," he began when my body once more seized up and I began coughing which sent another stabbing pain coursing through my body along with some bloody spittle which the elderly man wiped away with a bit of concern etched across his features.

My coughing continued which rattled around in my chest throatily while I struggled to breath through the pain. The doctor immediately grabbed his bag getting out his stethoscope listening to my lungs. There was apprehension etched on his face while he continued to work on me gently running his hands along my ribs beneath the blanket keeping me covered so I wouldn't be embarrassed. Taking my temperature he also took out the cuff to measure my blood pressure. By the time he finished up I was feeling slightly better.

"I don't think he's got any cracked ribs. They are badly bruised though, and he's got a feverish temperature." He noted to my aunt and uncle who nodded their heads looking concerned with Aunt Harriet biting her lower lip clucking her tongue nervously.

"It's nothing." I managed to croak out the scratching in my throat making me cough slightly while I tried to clear it. "I've just got the same cold like Austin and Jake. I felt it coming earlier today. I thought after school when I got home I'd be able to drink juice trying to boost my energy and head it off at the pass, but I guess with everything else…," I paused shutting my eyes and swallowing my throat feeling raw at the moment.

The doctor nodded making me swallow some medication along with giving me a lozenge to ease the scratching feeling in my throat. "Better?" He asked me after a few moments with me nodding my head.

Then I heard someone else clearing his throat, someone who I haven't formerly been introduced to. The man was the sheriff, and he apologized explaining the situation to me. He wanted to know what happened so he could investigate. I told him what I knew. I explained how I thought I had seen Jamie in the truck with something telling me there was trouble. I told him about the chase, how I had come across Jamie and Roger rolling around on the ground, and everything that happened afterwards. He asked me several times if I ever saw the boy who attacked me from behind, and I could only tell him I recognized the voice. I also pointed out how it seemed like Roger was trying to warn me, and what he had said regarding that he thought they were simply going to drop off Jamie and didn't seem pleased with what the other boy, in my opinion Damian, was doing.

The conversation only lasted a few minutes, but it was starting to wear me out once more with my eyes drooping wearily. "It's the medication and also due to the ordeal." I heard the doctor sigh explaining my drowsiness. "He needs his rest, but we need to decide what to do. Normally I'd want him in the hospital; especially, with the concussion, his ribs, and now the cold; but with the weather outside there's simply no way, not even with an ambulance. The roads are too dangerous, and it would probably take several hours to even get to the hospital if it doesn't get stuck out in the middle of nowhere." The man seemed to sigh while I kept my eyes closed having difficulty keeping them open.

"Doctor you mentioned his concussion, ribs, and his cold." Aunt Harriet began. "How bad is it?" She asked sounding nervous.

"Well, I'm fairly sure he'll be just fine. Most cases with a concussion it's no big deal. Normally we just monitor the patient instructing him no big physical or contact sports for several weeks. His ribs are only bruised, but he'll be in a bit painful for a while. As for the cold I'm sure it will be fine too; although, we need to keep an eye on it so it doesn't develop into pneumonia." At this I heard Aunt Harriet gasp along with a small sob escaping her lips.

"Now…now Harriet this is totally different from Trevor." Uncle Walt tried to sooth his wife.

"No it's not Walt…it's exactly like Trevor. He got sick and couldn't get to the hospital. He died of pneumonia." She began to cry the memory of the incident hitting home.

"What happened to Trevor was unusual Harriet." I heard the doctor try to soothe her. "You know he had a reaction to the medication, and he simply never recovered from it. We will monitor Sam closely once we decide what we are going to do."

"Well, he could stay here." Mr. Jones offered up with it getting quiet for several moments.

It was Aunt Harriet who finally spoke up. "No Jacob. We appreciate the offer, but if I'm reading the doctor correctly this is going to take around the clock monitoring; especially, with the concussion." She began seemingly looking towards the doctor.

"True," the man offered up. "Even though it isn't necessarily required I'd wake him up once or twice in the evening just during the routine times when you give him some medication. The main thing is to keep an eye on him with his cold along with any other symptoms which are physical, cognitive, emotional, and sleep related. I'll provide a list. I'll also give you some medication for now, and will return first thing in the morning with a filled prescription."

"Then it's settled. Walt we better get him home before it gets any worse outside. It's getting shoddier by the minute, and in another hour we might all be stuck here." Aunt Harriet suggested.

"I'll get the truck warmed up and put the chains on." Uncle Walt suggested.

"I'll help you, and we can load up the back of your truck adding weight for traction." Mr. Jones offered up as I drifted off.

It seemed like I had just nodded off when I felt myself being wrapped up with more blankets and Uncle Walt lifting me up. I woke up just enough to see Kathy Lee coming over to me.

"Take care Sam…and thanks…you know…Austin." She leaned in whispering in my ear and kissing me on the cheek making me blush before adding another comment. "Don't worry I won't say anything to the girls regarding…your um…you know…attributes." She teased getting a small smile out of me.

Jamie and Boxey ended up in the cab section behind the front seat with me lying on the front bench of the truck. My head was propped up on Aunt Harriet's lap while my legs were stretched out across Uncle Walt's thighs. He had to move the front bench back a little to accommodate the situation. They had thought about putting me in the back, but with Jamie it wouldn't work because in his agitated mood it would only set the boy off with others getting too close to him. So they had ordered him to put on the warm jacket and to get into the cab of the truck with Boxey. For some reason the smaller boy seemed at ease with the dog these days as Boxey leaned up against the boy before curling up across his feet on the floor of the cab.

After that things became pretty fuzzy. Even though the pain medication helped with the aches and pains of my injuries it didn't stop my cold from becoming what the doctor had cautioned against. About a day later I began to have fever, chills, uncontrollable coughing, nasal congestion, rapid breathing with grunting and wheezing, labored breathing that made my rib muscles retract causing nasal flaring not to mention more pain, vomiting, chest pain, and abdominal pain. I was completely exhausted rarely waking up.

The Weilers' presence was always there just in the periphery of my consciousness monitoring me around the clock. When I woke up one of them always seemed to be there insisting I drink down fluids. At times I felt so bloated despite feeling dehydrated because they constantly forced down liquids every chance they got. I was sure that they even somehow managed to get me to gulp down water, tea, and seven up while I slept urging me to swallow. Most of the time I was so delirious that I didn't even know I was drinking anything; except, for constantly feeling like I was drowning in fluids.

There were consequences to this though because my bladder would overflow to bursting. It meant that Uncle Walt had to pee me, which was a bit awkward for me during those times I was actually conscious making me blush with embarrassment. He of course was very matter of fact about the process simply propping me up urging me to do what came naturally while my fingers fumbled around in front of me pulling out my flaccid worm and letting loose while he held me from behind. Whether or not he could actually see my little floppy or not I would never know because I was barely cognizant of anything during those times, but still the idea of him being right there while I did my deed was a bit disturbing. The truly unsettling issue for me was the idea of what happened while I wasn't necessarily totally lucid. From all indication I probably handled my own little boy muscle even during my less than conscious state, but still I couldn't be positive, and I most definitely wasn't going to ask him about it.

One time I found myself curled up under the covers leaning up against the wall at the foot end of the bed balling my eyes out. At first I couldn't understand until Aunt Harriet came rushing into the room looking worn and gaunt like she hadn't slept in days. She approached me reaching out feeling my forehead with her gaze shifting towards my bed.

"Oh sweetie, I'm so sorry. We should have been more careful." She whispered before shouting for Uncle Walt.

It still didn't make any sense to me until Uncle Walt lifted up the corner of my blanket while Aunt Harriet was rapidly retreating back downstairs. "Hey buddy no big deal. Things like this happen to the best of us." He stated pulling off the blanket while I looked down still a bit dazed.

Then it hit me, the smell of ammonia along with the darker spot in the center of the navy blue colored sheets. To my horror and humiliation I had wet the bed, the realization sending me in another fit of tears making me feel like I've lost total control over everything. Uncle Walt, bless his heart, tried to comfort me, but he simply couldn't understand the indignity of such a moment for a twelve year old boy. I haven't wet the bed since I was a toddler, not even when I was having troubles at home which I knew could create such tensions where boys even at the age of twelve could wet the bed. For me it was such an appalling, shameful, and degrading moment that I simply broke down into a deep state of darkness I've never known before. It sent me spinning out of control where my breathing became labored while a large fit of coughing wracked my weakened body with me finally spiting up blood. It kept getting worse with me threatening to spiral into the dark abyss of my shame and loathing as a human being. This was simply too much for me, and I finally lost control with large globs of wetness tumbling from the corners of my eyes, along my cheeks, and finally on to the already soaked sheets while my coughing continued to worsen.

"Sam…stop it…SAM!" I heard Uncle Walt cutting into my wailing tantrum making me swallow down my phlegm with difficulty.

My lips quivered while I tried to focus my attention back on to Uncle Walt whose eyes softened up with sympathy. "Sam…I understand…really I do, but it is only us here and no one else. It happens, but we can cry about it or try to get you cleaned up and out of this filth." He offered up giving me the options parents always presented to kids as choices which in reality weren't choices at all.

Of course even in my befuddled state I understood exactly what he was doing, but I knew deep down he was correct. I couldn't cry about it now since it was done. Slowly I began to calm down nodding my head with him smiling warmly at me. The energy I had expended now began to take its toll as my eyes rolled back into my head and I fainted.

"Shit…Sam." I heard Uncle Walt before I faded away.

When I woke back up Uncle Walt was gazing down at me, and I could feel his callused hand across my forehead brushing away strands of hair from my eyes. "There you are. You had me worried." He stated smiling reassuringly. "How about we get you cleaned up." He added tossing a clean blanket over me and getting my wet pajama bottoms off of me in short order without waiting for me to respond.

Once more he acted in an all business like manner without making a big issue out of it one way or the other while also respecting my sense of dignity. Wrapping me up securely in the clean blanket he called for his wife who came up and swiftly stripped the wet sheets off of the bed while I sat curled up in Uncle Walt's lap breathing in his scent. The manly musky fragrance exuded a sense of calm making me feel all cozy, warm, and protected within the confines of his strong wiry arms. My aunt was efficient as always finishing up and nodding her head before kissing me gently on the forehead.

"Sam we love you very much, don't ever forget that. We would never embarrass you." She assured me with tears running down her cheeks making me blush in shame at my behavior.

With that said Uncle Walt laid me back in bed getting up and disappearing for a few moments before returning with a small bucket of warm water and a few towels. "Sam…I know this makes you uncomfortable, but I need to get you cleaned up." He stated simply sitting back down dunking a small hand towel in the bucket and wringing it out before shoving his hand beneath the blanket.

Turning my head I blushed, but didn't protest. It was humiliating having him run the rag along my nakedness. If I wasn't so weak where I could barely move I'd have insisted on doing it by myself, but as it was I don't even think I could have held a rag in my hand. What little energy I had left inside of me had been expended during my little fit. Once more Uncle Walt worked quickly without pausing as he removed the rag, dunked it in water, and wrung it out before dipping back under the covers. This time he actually ran the wet damp rag between my legs quickly washing my soft boy bits clean before removing his hand.

"There, the worst part is done." He sighed while I nodded but still felt the heat in my cheeks rise because even though he hadn't really touched me per se, it was still awkward.

The elderly man gazed at me his eyes softening up while he also flashed me a small smile. "Now for the easy part." He added before lowering the blanket to just barely covering up my boy baubles, but still exposing my blank pubic mound.

Once again exposing such a thing was a bit uncomfortable because at twelve years old, almost thirteen in a few months, I still didn't have any pubes. It was a matter of embarrassment for me making me feel so immature because of it. To Uncle Walt's credit he didn't seem to take notice or mention it. Instead he worked quickly to complete a much needed sponge bath. After finishing up on my front side he helped me on to my stomach quickly working on my back side. Even this was humiliating, but thank goodness he had enough since not to smack me on my ass.

Getting me settled under the covers he offered me some cold chamomile tea with honey holding up my head while I drank a few swallows. The cool liquid seemed to help my scratchy throat.

"Better?" He asked with me nodding my head glancing towards the side noticing Jamie sitting in a chair only a few feet away with Boxey curled by his feet making me wonder how much he just witnessed before realizing when it came to the boy I didn't much mind.

"He's been sitting there watching over you since we brought you boys home. He only leaves to take Boxey outside, or for his shower. Other than that he hasn't moved. He hardly even eats when we bring him something. You're Aunt's a bit fit to be tied over it too." He mumbled getting up.

Yawning I tried to stay awake. "Uncle Walt?"

"Yes Sam."

"Tell Aunt Harriet to make some soup for me…and Jamie." I told him getting Uncle Walt to smile.

"Are you sure you're up to it?"

Sighing I nodded my head, but already felt a bit drowsy. "Yes, but it better be quick. I…I don't know how long I can stay awake."

"No problems…she's been keeping a pot on the entire time in case you woke up hungry." He stated quickly leaving us alone.

Glancing over towards the eleven year old boy I tried to give him smile. "Jamie listen you have to eat. What will I do once I get back on my feet, and you are sick because you haven't been eating? Besides, Boxey doesn't like being so cooped up like this, and you promised to help watch him for me. At least spend some time with him outside for me." I sighed seeing the boy pause in his rocking before he cocked his head towards me, and for the first time actually looked me in the eye the gray blue coloration looking stunningly beautiful on his features.

"Sammy sick?" He asked more than stated.

"Yes Jamie I'm sick, but I'm trying to get better. You can help me. When Uncle Walt comes up with some soup you can keep me company. I'm afraid Uncle Walt might have to feed me because I can't seem to get my hands to work correctly, but the soup will help make me stronger. It's embarrassing to have someone else feed you, but if you eat with me I won't mind so much." I offered up finishing just in time to see Uncle Walt with Aunt Harriet climbing the stairs.

They handed Jamie a bowl first before setting a tray in front of me. "What's wrong?" Aunt Harriet asked, making me frown with a few tears trickling down my cheeks.

"Eat…Sammy eat…Uncle Walt help Sammy." Jamie simply stated spooning some soup into his mouth.

It was amazing to watch the boy eat, his appetite seemingly having come back. Aunt Harriet smiled at me and clearly mouthed the words thank you while I eyed the bowl in front of me with Uncle Walt finally understanding my dilemma and what Jamie had meant smiling proudly at his little boy for such a simple thing as basic communication.

"Here, let me help." He stated getting a spoonful of the broth into my mouth with an explosion of flavors bursting on my palette.

It was delicious, but after a few spoonfuls my stomach began to go to protest with Uncle Walt noticing. "Maybe that is enough for now. We don't want you to throw up or anything. It'd insult Harriet's sensibilities regarding her cooking." The man chuckled with Aunt Harriet picking up the napkin hitting her husband with it making me giggle.

"I'm going to knock you silly with this napkin insulting my cooking in such a round about way." She teased smacking him with the napkin one more time for emphasis.

"Yeah, well maybe if you put a stone inside of it first you'd make more progress." I chuckled getting a hurt look from Uncle Walt, and an arched eyebrow from Aunt Harriet.

"Geeze this is the thanks I get for everything I've done." The man protested half heartedly his deep rumpling laughter bouncing off the wall.

It was good to hear the Weilers letting loose like this, but I was beginning to fade quickly again. I was far from over my own little hump with my sickness. I had only managed to stay awake this long because I knew it had been important for Jamie. Now that he seemed to be in better spirits I settled back under my covers listening to the easy going banter between the two elderly couple. It made me envious in some ways because my own folks would never have that, but I didn't begrudge the Weilers the love they shared with one another.

I'm not sure how long I was laid up in bed since I marked my time by fading in and out of sleep. What surprised me was that from time to time I'd have a visitor sitting in a chair next to my bed smiling at me encouragingly when I managed to wake up. Most of the times it was the Lorenz brothers worry with genuine worry etched on their features despite their encouraging smiles. Even kids from school came by not to mention Kathy Lee. She was even over once while Austin was keeping vigil. When I opened up my eyes the two of them were engaged in a friendly discussion before I faded back to sleep. Moments later when my eyes fluttered open again, I saw them holding hands for a brief moment before they let go blushing at me innocently. It made me smile briefly, but I simply couldn't stay awake.

The brush of soft lips along my forehead and warm hands patting my cheeks were comforting in my state of unconsciousness. There was a warm fuzzy feeling inside of me as a strong hand curled around my fingers letting me know I was loved. Then I heard a small whimpering sniffle slowly pulling me back into the world of the living. It seemed like I climbed forever out of the deep hole I was slumbering in, but somehow I managed to finally claw my way out. My eyes fluttered open and through the hazy fog focused on a man wiping away the wetness from the corners of his eyes trying to give me a brave smile.

"Dad?" I asked my voice sounding husky in my rasping chest while I tried to sit up.

"Rest easy Samuel." I heard the familiar voice I've known all my life.

"Wh…what are you doing here?" I asked tentatively noticing the hurt look on his features making feel bad at how it had come out. "I mean…you know…the snow…your classes and all?" I smiled nervously while he did the same.

"It's the weekend Samuel, but even if it wasn't I'd have come no matter how much snow. You're mother and I have been worried sick. The Weilers have kept us up to date, but every time we've called you've been asleep. I…um…that is your mother and I are concerned about you. I had to come and check up on you." He seemed to sigh looking haggard and worn down more so than I've ever remembered.

It was like my father had aged ten years making me a little worried about mom as well. "Is…is mom alright…her treatment?" I asked seeing him nod his head.

"Yes…she desperately wanted to come, but the doctors wouldn't let her. I swear Samuel I thought she was going to rip the I.V. lines out from the back of her hands, but I'm sure it won't be long before we can get you back home with your mother." He promised while I cringed at the usage of my full name noticing my dad looking towards Jamie.

"I've met your friends…um…Austin and Jake. They seem nice, maybe a bit strange and all; especially, with visiting you while you are sleeping. When I came up they were hovering all over you…I mean…almost like they were up to no good. I'm not so sure if it's a good thing to have visitors Samuel…um…when you are trying to recover. I'm sure Walt and Harriet have enough to worry about." He suggested making me scrunch up my eyebrows wondering where all of this was coming from; especially, his concern for all the supposed hovering.

"Also, there that dog of yours…," he paused noticing Boxey keeping a close eye on him. Not to mention this one over here who kind of creeps me out." He pointed to Jamie laughing nervously. "I mean Walt and Harriet have told me he's hardly moved from the chair. It's kind of weird don't you think? I mean even for…you know…someone like him. He just stares at nothing in particular rocking back and forth…it's creepy. I hope it isn't always like that sleeping up here with a boy who is retar…um…with a boy who has special needs." He finished off looking back into my eyes noticing them welling up.

His face scrunches up with worry. "Samuel…what's wrong…are you in pain?" He asks while I shake my head turning away from him. "Samuel…please…," he begins making me wonder if he's really this dense.

"Just go away." I countered the harshness and disappointment evident in my voice.

His features changes from worry to confusion. "Samuel…I…I don't understand?"

"Jamie's my friend dad, and he understands more than you think. He's not retarded or weird…he has autism and he has feelings. He's just wired differently is all, so it's hard for him to show how he feels. How can you be so cruel? Sometimes the things you say are really…they're really mean." I began to get worked up feeling the heat rise up inside of me despite my weariness noticing my dad begin to reach out towards me while I shoved his hands away.

"As for Austin and Jake…they are great friends…the best ever. I like having them around. I don't care what you think of Jamie, Austin, or Jake. I'd rather have them around than you." I began to cry getting even more upset with my breathing becoming ragged in my chest forcing me to cough.

My dad tried to reach out towards me again his face looking wounded, but I pushed him away with my body beginning to shake while my chest continued to rattle because of my coughing. Both Uncle Walt and Aunt Harriet came charging into the room while my dad reached out once more trying to hold me. "Samuel I'm sorry just calm down." He stated gently worry etched on his features with me rebuffing him for a third time.

"Go away," I shouted a bit too harshly sending me in a fit of coughs. "I hate you…just leave me alone." I managed to get out just before my body heaved with me trying to vomit again, but there simply wasn't anything there to get out. My stomach was completely empty.

"Let's go Jim…don't worry Sam really doesn't mean what he's saying. He's just not up to snuff is all." I heard Uncle Walt comforting my dad while Aunt Harriet kneeled by my side trying to get me to calm down.

It seemed to take forever, but I finally cried myself out allowing my body to settle down. For the life of me I couldn't figure out why everyone always seemed to coddle my father making excuses for him even though he was such a prick sometimes. Even now I could hear my dad arguing downstairs with Uncle Walt who seemed to be taking it, well up to a point. Then to my surprise the tables seemed to turn on my dad when I heard Uncle Walt cutting him off in mid-sentence.

"You what…oh for Pete's sake Jim you really are a fucking prick sometimes." I heard Mr. Weiler grump, making me smile realizing that perhaps my dad didn't get away with it all the time after all.

"You can't pick and choose your son's friends. The Lorenz brothers are good kids, and when they are around…well…Sam seems to perk up. As for Jamie can't you see that your boy has such a gentle heart? The two of them have something special. I don't know how to explain it Jim, but I think Sam would be lost without Jamie just as much as Jamie would be lost without Sam. There's some sort of connection there, and yes I'm selfish about it because he's brought Jamie farther along in a few weeks than we have been able to do for years. Geeze…for real Jim…sometimes I don't understand you. For a smart man…you've got to be the dumbest person I know. Hell for that matter I've got a stump out in the orchard with a higher I.Q. than you sometimes." The elderly man paused for a moment like he was allowing it all to let it sink into my dad brain.

Just when I thought it was all over with he started back up. "You really don't realize the treasure you have upstairs. You're son's got to be one of the best kids ever, and you just…fuck….you just take it for granted brushing it aside as so much garbage…the blessing that you've been given simply kicked to the curb. What I wouldn't do to have a kid like Sam…to have Trevor…my own…my own…damn you all to hell Jim." I heard Uncle Walt nearly breaking down while criticizing my father who seemed to be taking it as their conversation faded away into the background.

After the incident with my father it seemed to toss me backwards with my recovery. Even my mom giving me a call later on that day didn't do much to set my mind at ease. We didn't talk long, but it was truly nice to hear her voice. Of course she had heard about the incident regarding dad, and tried as usual to justify things, but I simply tuned it out like I always did when she tried to cover for my dad. She tried to tell me that he was trying, but I replied that he simply didn't get it. Sensing my reluctance we left it at that chatting for a little while longer about other things until I fell asleep totally drained.

My dreams turned almost into nightmares with me being deserted in some remote awful place, abandoned by my family and friends. It was like my father's suggestion of the Lorenz brothers not coming to visit had come true, but in the form of my nightmares. I was in and out of my sluggish state trying to crawl out of my deep chasm of depression.

Throughout, the Weilers were a constant in my life trying to be encouraging wiping away my tears of sorrow from my eyes, the perspiration from my sticky body, and changing out the sheets for clean ones when they became a bit too grubby from my constant dampened state. I had one more bed wetting incident before we sort of got a good schedule down with me emptying out my bladder before any more subsequent accidents. Every time I drifted off to sleep it was like a struggle for me to climb out of the darkness of the abyss. It frightened me because each time I faded off to sleep I welcomed it even more until I realized what was happening. Then something inside of me seemed to change as I fought for every waking moment despite my father's statements which had left me discouraged and depressed. Slowly it became easier until I vowed no more. I was more determined than ever to climb out of the void of blackness my father had helped create.

On the fourth day I was having a bad dream when something seemed to insinuate itself into my subconscious thoughts. It felt almost physical, real, a stimulating feeling starting deep down inside of me that tugged at my periphery of perception. It felt familiar in some ways, but eluded my sensibilities. Slowly it seemed to draw me out of the dark abyss I'd become used to battling until I floated on the fringes of consciousness. Voices seemed to float into my awareness, and then something else, a hand beneath the bedding stroking my little softie.

"Jake what are you doing…stop it already…that isn't right." I heard Austin's voice.

"Oh come on Austin, I've never seen him soft. He's even sexier than I thought. Damn he turns me on." I heard Jake's voice in an almost awed whisper before I felt it being pulled off of my package.

"Stop it Jake. This isn't right."

"What…it's not like he knows what's going on. Hell he's soft so he's got to be asleep." The boy protested.

"I don't care Jake…it's not right and I care too much about Sam as a friend. You know how he feels about it, and I won't allow it." Austin insisted getting a little heated.

"What…just because you and Kathy Lee are an item now and all. Well I like Sam and he turns me on." His little brother tried to justify.

"What…so you think it would be alright to do the same to Kathy Lee…no is no Jake, and Sam's made it very clear how he feels about this. He's not ready, and he's my…our friend…period." Austin snapped back at his little brother.

I heard the boy moan softly. "I know…I know. You're right…it's just…I like him a lot is all, but you're right. I don't want to mess up our friendship either." The boy sounded so sad and desperate about the situation, but I knew deep down this was another one of those things I simply couldn't allow to happen right now.

At first it upset me, but then I reminded myself that I've done my own fair share of perving on my two friends. Besides, if anyone had a right it was Jake and Austin. The more I thought about it I realized that even though I was a bit shy about it I still didn't mind the feeling they brought out inside of me. The bottom line though was that the one thing I knew for sure is I loved the two brothers just as surely as I loved Jamie. This thought sort of confused me, but any more I simply tried to accept things as they were.

"Feel better," I whispered my voice feeling thick in my throat, and a bit scratchy as I coughed slightly.

"Oh shit…I…I…shit Sam I'm so sorry I didn't…," Jake stuttered his face turning white as a sheet feeling totally awful about what he had just done to me and getting caught at it. "Really Sam…I know I shouldn't have but I just…I just…," he began his eyes welling up feeling truly bad about what he had done.

"Jake…Jake stop." I whispered. "I'm just teasing. I love you guys too much to care…just…you know…try to control yourself next time." I chuckled before coughing with my body beginning to shiver uncontrollably.

"Shit Sam…you're freezing." Jake noted standing up stripping out of his shirt, and then sitting down at the edge of my bed pulling his shoes and sock off before unbuttoning his pants.

My eyes were glued on Jake's fingers while he began unbuttoning his jeans. "Wh…what are you doing?" I asked visibly shivering now watching him unzip his pants.

Never in a million years did I think the simple act of a boy stripping out of his jeans would be so sexy. "What do you think…you're freezing and I'm just going to crawl into bed with you until you warm up." Jake offered up my eyes glued on to his crotch as he lifted up his hips noticing how the shape of his little thin stiffie was outlined in the white cottony material of his Hanes underwear.

My body shivered again, this time not because of being cold, but rather the chills the sexy outline of his thin sleek erection formed in his tight fitting tightie whities. The boy turned me on to no end, and made me feel alive despite my current state of listlessness. It set my blood to boiling when he lifted up the covers admiring my own three and a half inch erection that had suddenly inflated because of the luscious sexiness of the boy in front of me.

Jake giggled staring at my boner for a moment or two before sliding his warm body up against mine. "Well…I'm thinking maybe it's you who's feeling better at the moment." He teased back in regards to my earlier comment about if he felt better while he carefully draped his warm body up against mine allowing me to siphon off his heat. "Damn…you're freezing." Jake got more serious realizing how cold I was at the moment.

"Shit for real Jake…any excuse." His older brother chuckled getting a frown from his little brother.

"No for real Austin get undressed. Sam's like ice." He told the older boy who continued to laugh for a moment before realizing his little brother was serious.

This time I got to watch Austin strip out of his clothes blushing because he was actually going commando. When he pulled down his jeans his brother giggled while I simply gawked at his soft thick three inch tube and large racket ball sized satchel that was currently tightly nestled up between his legs. He climbed beneath the sheets snuggling up closer to me gasping from my cold skin.

"Shit Sam…you're like freezing cold. How the hell do you get so cold with so many blankets on top of you not to mention that electric blanket?" The older boy complained while I continued shivering prompting him to press up his heated body against mine.

"Y…you've got to turn it on." I whispered noticing him looking at the buttons before turning it on.

The blanket itself really wasn't hot or anything, but rather radiated heat slowly. As a safety measure it only stayed on for a certain amount of time so unless someone came along to turn it back on it didn't do all that much. For me it worked really great because it would remain warm long enough until I fell asleep at night. After the initial time in bed my body naturally warmed up beneath the covers. It was only at the beginning where I seemed to always be cold.

The heat from both Jake and Austin's bodies began to slowly heat me up lulling me back into a slumbering state. At first I wanted to fight it, but this incident made me realize I still needed to recuperation some more so I closed my eyes relishing the body heat. The boys' shared warmth was simply delicious, not to mention feeling their bodies pressed up against mine felt somehow comforting and reassuring.

"What on earth?" I heard my Uncle's soft remark while he stepped into the room. "What are you boys doing?" He asked arching his eyebrows, but not really all that upset.

Austin cheeks flushed at having gotten caught in such a compromising position. "Mr. Weiler Sam woke up and he began to shiver. His body is ice cold so we are trying to warm him up is all. Please Mr. Weiler…it…um…I mean it isn't what it looks like." The older boy stated the exchange waking me up enough to watch the elderly man approach us through the slit of my drowsing eyelids.

Placing his hand beneath the blanket and on my chest he could feel the lack of body heat nodding his head. "Damn, it's been like four days and he's still feeling chilled. So since it's getting a bit late I take it you boys don't want to get dressed and go home?" Uncle Walt asked with the two boys shaking their head no. "So you'd rather spend the night?" He asked with both boys nodding their heads. "Well I suppose it is late enough outside, anyway, besides I don't want you boys trekking home in this weather. It's freezing out there right now, and it started snowing again. I'll call your mother and let her know you are spending the night. It's a school day tomorrow though, so I'll have to get you boys up early in the morning to take you home." He chuckled looking around the bed noticing the clothes strewn over the floor, but not saying anything.

Both Austin and Jake snuggled up even closer to me noticing how I was beginning to warm up. "Are you feeling better?" Jake asked me as I nodded.

"We're so sorry and ashamed." Austin added sniffling.

"Why…I mean I don't understand." I told them seriously closing my eyes enjoying their body heat and heady boy scent I've become used to.

"Because of Damian…I mean did he really do those awful things to you and Jamie. I mean the sheriff told my dad he couldn't really do anything about it since you only heard his voice and think it was him, and Roger isn't fessing up, well at least not to Damian being there. He's got to go before the judge on Tuesday though, and it looks like he's going to take the fall for our asshole of a stepbrother. Damn I hate him, he's such a jerk." Austin's voice quivered with hatred.

Pressing my face in the nape of Jake's neck I yawned. "Did Roger say why he did it…I mean take Jamie?" I asked with both boys saying no at the same time.

"What happened?" One of the boys asked, while I yawned having difficulty staying up.

Sighing I relayed the story to them letting them know everything I could. "So you actually think Roger tried to warn you. Damn…now it really sucks." Jake stated wriggling in closer to me making me sigh contentedly.

We all fell silent while I mulled things over in my mind feeling bad for Roger since from my perspective he wasn't completely at fault. I was sure he had been duped by Damian, and for whatever reasons he was now the one taking the hit for it. Despite being upset about the situation I soon nodded off.

That evening I slept soundly, the best sleep since I got sick. I think Uncle Walt knew I needed this, to be with the Lorenz brothers, as I lay snuggled up between the two boys their familiar scent floating around me in a comforting sort of way. I even woke up in the middle of the night finding myself fondling Jake's hard thin one and a half inch tube with the smaller boy snoring softly curled up in front of me our bodies spooned together. It was difficult, but I somehow managed to force myself to release his hardness from my stroking fingers before fading back to sleep. A little later I woke up feeling Austin's fist wrapped around my hard erection while he snored softy in my ears. In a way it was sort of funny because I realized all three of us were perving on one another in some sort of fashion, yet we somehow managed to find a sort of balance with our friendship. Leaving his fingers wrapped around my erection I simply faded off to sleep not bothering to remove his hand somehow feeling safer in his arms.

When I woke up both Jake and Austin had left already for home. I felt refreshed, but still a little weak while Aunt Harriet slowly fed some soup to me.

"Austin and Jake are good boys." She noted smiling at me warmly slowly spoon feeding me.

"Yeah…they really are great friends." I sighed kind of surprised at how hungry I was allowing Aunt Harriet to slowly feed me the delicious broth. "It's too bad they get a bad rap because of their step brother. A lot of kids in school sort of keep their distance even though they seem to like Austin and Jake." I added with her nodding in agreement.

"Yes it's a shame, but at least after your fight you were willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. I'm glad too because those boys really care about you and Jamie." Mrs. Weiler pointed out. "Kids have shown up from school, but the Lorenz brothers have come over practically every day. In my book that shows a lot of character." She smiled at me gently while I finished up the entire bowl of soup. "Wow, you must have been hungry. I suppose this really means you are on the mend." Aunt Harriet chuckled shaking her head.

Closing my eyes to savor the flavor of the soup I replied. "Yeah, but I'm still feeling a bit sluggish and weak."

"Yes, I suppose it is to be expected. Anyway, why not watch some television. If you fall asleep it won't matter much. It's your body letting you know what you need in order to get stronger. What you did Sam was very brave and we truly love you for it, but it threw your body for a loop, and I'll be honest it scared the living daylights out of me. It was almost as if…you know…Trevor." She sniffled reminding me that her own son had gone through something similar only that he had reacted badly to the antibiotics.

"I'm so sorry I worried you and Uncle Walt." I told her seriously while she merely shook her head.

"No Sam don't you dare feel bad. What you did…me and Walt can't thank you enough…never in a million years. I'm positive if you hadn't come along when you did Jamie could have been hurt bad…maybe even something worse being done to him. We are so thankful and blessed to have you here Sam. We just want you to know this. Besides, it looks like the worst is over now so just take things easy for the time being. You're uncle or me will check back here in a little while." She offered up smiling clicking on the T.V. before handing me the remote.

Reaching out I snagged her sleeve. "Aunt Harriet?" I asked catching her before she left.

"Yes sweetie."

"Can you do me a favor?"

"Um…sure…anything." She replied smiling sweetly at me.

"Do you think I could talk to Roger…before his court hearing?" I asked pleadingly. "It…it's important to me…please."

"Sam I'm not so sure that's such a good idea." She told me sincerely while I wiped away the wetness from the corners of my eyes.

I suppose seeing how serious I was she sighed nodding her head. "When Walt gets back we will talk about it. If he agrees, then we will call up the sheriff and ask him to bring by Roger and his folks. This is kind of an unusual request Sam, and I'm not sure how Roger's lawyers will react, but we will ask the sheriff to contact Roger and see if he would be willing to come over. In my opinion this is something only you and Roger can decide on." She declared shaking her head in thought.

"Aunt Harriet?" I asked again making her smile in that motherly kind of knowing way regarding a kid's incessant need to ask questions.

"Yes sweetie."

"Um…don't you think that maybe Jamie should be going to school instead of moping around here?" I asked a bit concerned knowing how some of his time spent at school was critical for his autistic program.

"Walt and I decided that since Jamie has to go to his evaluation on Wednesday that we would just keep him out of school until Thursday. He has to go twice a year to be evaluated, once in the summertime at the big hospital with a team of doctors, and then again with a specialist coming here into town during the winter months for a one on one type of assessment. Besides doctor Swanson thought that maybe due to the stress of the attack it wouldn't do any harm to keep him close for several days before allowing him to go back to school."

It sort of made sense I suppose, but for me I was already sort of looking forward to getting back to school despite still being a bit woozy and weak. I was beginning to feel a bit too confined, and I was used to being on the active side of things. So I guess it was natural that I was beginning to get that cabin fever type of oppressive feeling for being so cooped up indoors.

After Aunt Harriet left I glanced over to the chair where Jamie's been sitting noting he was still there not surprising me in the least. He seemed none the worse for wear though as I flipped through the channels. After a while my eyes slowly drifted closed with me taking a nap. This time I didn't seem to spiral into the dark chasm, but rather seemed to float on the fringes of normal slumber. Somehow in the recesses of my mind I was comforted by this fact. To me it meant I was out of the worst of things.

I was feeling comfortably content for the first time in a long while when I heard Aunt Harriet's gentle voice. "Wake up sweetie." She whispered gently allowing me to slowly come awake.

This time when I woke up my mind didn't feel so sluggish as if finally coming out of the void for good. I even felt stronger scooting upwards into a sitting position without feeling that stabbing pain along my side. At the moment it was simply a throbbing achy kind of feeling. Rubbing my eyes I smiled at my Aunt receiving one in return.

"You look a lot better." She noted with me nodding in agreement.

"Yeah, I feel better too." I sighed.

"That's good because you have a visitor." She stated her lips drawing tight. "It's Roger. Are you sure you are up to it?" She asked with me nodding my head.

With that she got up and looked down the steps motioning for the guests to come up. It surprised me to see so many people. There was the sheriff and Roger who I recognized, but also a man and woman with a little girl. The nine year old girl I knew from school recognizing her to be Roger's sister, so I had to assume the man and woman were his parents. Then there was another man stepping into the room too who was introduced as Roger's lawyer. We chatted for a few moment in neutral tones when I looked over to Roger who seemed very quiet shuffling around his feet nervously.

"Um…do you guys mind if I talk to Roger alone?" I asked getting a protest from the boy's lawyer before Roger spoke up.

"Yeah sure Sam." The sixteen year old boy stated firmly looking towards his lawyer saying he was cool with it.

When everyone left the room there was a long awkward silence. It was Boxey's dog collar jingling around that broke the tension when we both realized Jamie was still sitting in the room.

"Oh shit…Sam…I…I…," Roger began moving his mouth, but simply not able to get out what he wanted to say. I heard him clear his throat and try again. "Sam…Jamie…I'm so sorry for everything. I didn't know that Dam….," he began catching himself before sighing and shaking his head.

"So it's true then…you really didn't want any part of what happened. I heard you Roger…I know you tried to warn me, and were really surprised at what Damian did to me, but why don't you just say anything. I'll back you up. I already told the sheriff what happened with how you tried to warn me…so why?" I asked confused with the boy starting to cry, tears tumbling down his cheeks shaking his head.

"No…you don't understand…my sister…she's only nine…I…I can't…," he sniffled his eyes getting really big because he was afraid he had already said too much.

My eyes furled in confusion. "What…your sister…I don't understand." I admitted.

"You don't get it Sam…I mean…you know…just how nasty Damian can be." He sighed trying to compose himself.

"Did Damian threaten your sister?" I asked with Roger clamming up looking towards me his eyes pleading me not to ask any more.

His gaze told me everything I needed though, so I sighed calling for the Weilers and the sheriff to join me. Roger's lawyer came up as well, but I looked at Roger trying to let him know I just want it to be us. The boy nodded instructing his lawyer to leave us alone. The man protested, but Roger said it was alright.

"Sheriff is there somehow we can get the charges dropped. I don't want to press any charges?" I offered up getting a perplexed look by the Weilers and the sheriff.

The uniformed man shrugged his shoulders. "I don't understand." Sheriff Jeff exclaimed.

"I just don't think Roger's to blame. I mean he did something stupid by taking Jamie, but he didn't intend on hurting him or me. If anything he tried to warn me." I pointed out while the sheriff stroked his chin looking towards the boy and the Weilers.

"Well it's not just you Sam, but Jamie as well. Even then if the Weilers also agree not to press charges I'm afraid my brother will still pursue it." He stated seeing my confusion as he sat down on my bed trying to put thing in perspective.

"Listen Sam I think you already know Damian is my nephew because I'm Roy's brother. Well we have a third brother, and he's the district prosecutor. He knows he has to close the books so to speak in order to get Damian completely off the hook so he will probably still pursue it feeling he's got a strong enough case to convince the judge to hand down something against Roger. Don't get me wrong Sam…my brother…um…the prosecutor feels Damian is getting out of control, but I don't think he's willing to keep the door open so to speak against his nephew. Now this doesn't mean even if there is a ruling against Roger that something can't be pursued later against Damian when there is some other proof which comes to light. It's just that this makes it more difficult to put together a case against him since the matter will be officially closed." The sheriff tried to explain.

"Uncle Walt…Aunt Harriet…I don't want to press charges." I stated firmly despite what I was just told with them nodding their head.

"Sheriff we agree with Sam. We don't want to press charges either. I think from everything we know that it was a bad decision on Roger's part, but he really didn't want to hurt the boys on purpose. As a matter of fact if I'm not mistaken he actually called up when he got home. Granted it was very late, maybe because he couldn't get to a phone which we probably know why if there was a particular individual preventing him from doing so, but nevertheless he did call." The Weilers agreed with me while the sheriff nodded his agreement.

"Can you pass on a message to the judge for us?" I asked the sheriff who nodded understanding with me being sick that it wouldn't be wise for me to get out tomorrow to the courthouse.

The man agreed to make arrangements for my request to be submitted to the judge in a formal and legal way. Calling up Roger's lawyer the man seemed elated with the new development in favor of his client making all the appropriate arrangements. He knew Roger wouldn't get off Scott free having to pay for his role in the matter, but it also would probably leave the door open for the real truth to come out later.

Roger's insinuation regarding Damian's threat towards his little sister had me mad as a hornet, but for now I simply couldn't do anything about it, or if ever. However, I vowed to let the word get out that people needed to watch protectively over Roger and his little sister. Normally I wasn't into gossip, but I was determined to strike back in other ways knowing most kids at school would not be surprised, and become even more vigilant. If nothing else maybe it would isolate Damian so he couldn't put other unsuspecting kids under his thumb.

By the time Wednesday rolled around two days later I was literally bouncing off the walls. It's amazing how a boy's body can recuperate rapidly once it was on the mend. I still had a slight cough, but it was mostly gone, and even though I was still a bit wobbly I had regained quite a bit of my strength. My appetite had increased as well with me now holding down solid foods again so when it was time for the Weilers to head into town I wanted to go as well. They of course objected, but had finally caved in when I agreed not to overexert myself. Since I couldn't go into the Doctor's office while the specialist seeing Jamie conducted his tests, it was agreed I'd hang out around the General Store.

With me bundled up in layers of clothes I now sat in the little back room of the store playing some video games. Some kids from school spotted me and sidled over asking me about what happened. I really didn't want to say much at the moment, not until I talked with some of the older kids at school. I didn't necessarily want to start a rumor per se, but did want to tell the older kids what happened and get their input on how best to get information out to the rest of the school kids. Several more kids began to drift in and Henry ever mindful of what transpired in his store got the sense I was being besieged.

Getting the kids to scatter, he suggested maybe I take a walk along the trail out back which wound around the outskirt of town. He told me it connected to a different park on the backside of the courthouse explaining it had been made into a dog park, a perfect place for me to take Boxey. According to him it had a fence all the way around and was really a pretty cool place. From his account some judge had created the park because he had dogs of his own, and since he had to spend long hours in the courthouse he wanted a place for his dogs. Evidently, he didn't want to leave them behind all cooped up in the house during those hot summer months so had created a park.

"I know…Crazy." Henry chuckled shaking his head leading me out back, but telling me to take it easy or Harriet would box his ears for sure making me giggle because this was a term I had become all too familiar with around my Aunt.

It didn't take long to find the park with Boxey taking off as soon as I closed the gate behind me. I wouldn't have minded, but he made a straight line for an elderly man who was creeping along a path with a cane in hand towards a bench. The man looked like some sort of park worker dressed in a sturdy work coat with his cane in one hand and a trash bag in the other.

"Look out." I managed to shout out cringing at exerting my vocal cords like this after being so raw for a long time.

My warning came too late with Boxey immediately brushing up against the elderly man nearly knocking him over in the process. My dog's always been a leaner, but sometimes he simply didn't understand how much he truly weighed. Hustling over with my breath rasping in my lungs due to the exertion and cold I tried to apologize noticing that what I had assumed was a cane was actually one of those sticks with a pointed end. It was one of those tools used in picking up trash, which made sense as to why he was carrying a partially filled trash bag in his other hand.

"I…," My throat constricted forcing me to swallow hard tasting a little blood from the exertion before trying again this time more calmly.

"I'm sorry mister, but he's been cooped up in the house way too long." I managed to get out with the elderly man looking up towards me.

He smiled warmly at me. "No harm no foul." The man's eyes glittered playfully, which suddenly became more focused after his initial greeting. "Oh my young man…you look all pale. Maybe you should take a seat." He recommended pointing towards a bench that had writing etched along the back of the three slats where you would lean up against.

On the first slat it said 'In memory of my loving wife', the second slat 'yours forever in this life and the next', and the third slat 'your loving husband Judge Williamson.'

"Um…maybe I shouldn't sit on someone else's bench." I suggested getting a chuckle out of the elderly man who shook his head.

"Young man this is a public park, I'm sure no one would object. The bench was made for everyone." He stated looking at me while I paused for a moment before sitting down and looking around.

While my gaze took in the landscape of the park, Boxey sniffed around the old man curiously before being satisfied and ambling around on his own exploring, but never straying too far. "First time here?" The man asked bringing me out of my musings while I nodded my head.

"Well…what do you think?" He asked taking a seat next to me sighing like his weary bones were happy to be taking a break.

Shrugging my shoulders in the typical noncommittal teenage fashion I spoke out softly not trusting my throat yet after the exertion. "I think it's really pretty here. Nice and quiet. It must have cost the judge who made it a fortune." I added looking around at some of the ornate water features, a large gazebo off in the distance, and what most definitely had to be a manicured landscape during the warmer months.

"Hmmmm, what do you know about the park?" The man asked giving me the sense that he was simply trying to pass the time as he pulled out a sandwich from his pocket making me scrunch up my eyebrows questioningly prompting him to add. "Oh…I work in the courthouse, but I like coming out here to grab lunch. After a while the cleaning detergents used for the floors and all sort of gets to so I have to come out for fresh air."

Nodding my head it made sense. I suppose if I were stuck cleaning inside a building all day I'd want some fresh air as well. The man had become silent making me frown until I realized he was still waiting for an answer to his question.

"Oh…um…not much…just what I heard. Evidently people say this crazy judge built a park for his dogs." I answered making the man chuckle.

"So you think this judge is a bit nuts because he built a dog park?" He asked making me chuckle as well while I shrugged my shoulders.

"Wouldn't really know to tell you the truth. It's not like I know the man…so no…I can't say if he is or isn't nuts. Besides, I'm not really sure what the truth is regarding how the park came about anyway. I'm sort of new around here." I admitted.

"No…you don't say." The man teased getting another smile out of me because everyone seemed to know just about everything about everyone in this small community. "It's refreshing though to see someone your age have a bit of sense in their brain pans. Most kids these days don't use their noggins. Anyway there's more to the park than people have been telling you." He suggested nodding his head looking around at it proudly which I suppose made sense because he had to take care of it.

"I imagine there probably is considering that is how it seems to be for most things." I commented shrugging my shoulders making the older man smile even more.

"See, that's what I'm talking about. A kid who uses a brain the way it was intended." The man seemed to cackle his breath catching in his chest forcing him to cough.

The man's hacking concerned me. "Are you alright?" I asked noting a glint sparkling in the his eyes.

"You're asking me if I'm alright when you are the one who's been laid up in bed with pneumonia." The man chuckled making me gawk.

"H…how'd you know that?" I wondered a bit flabbergasted.

The man guffawed again slapping his knees. "You really are a city boy. Sam in these small communities we all know who's who. It's like that dog of yours over there sniffing and rooting things out. We tend to use the same principle by putting our noses to the ground and sniffing out the root of things" The man emphasized patting the side of his nose conspiratorially making me laugh at his analogy before I realized he knew my name.

"How'd you know my...um…never mind." I chuckled getting what he was saying about everyone knowing everyone else; although, I didn't know his, but I suppose that was because of me being a city boy.

He seemed to read my mind. "Anyway, you can call me Joe. My real name is Josiah, but I hate using it, always have since a kid." He admitted to me as I nodded my head.

"Yeah, mine's Samuel, but I prefer Sam." I confessed conspiratorially.

"So this is the famous dog?" Joe smiled approvingly with Boxey finally coming to join us allowing the man to scratch him behind the ears.

"Um…famous?" I asked.

"Sure…the entire region's been hearing good things about how this dog is helping out Jamie. Practically everyone loves that little guy ever since his mom left him with Harriet and Walt. We all sort of look out for the boy, well most of us anyway. There are still some backwoods knuckleheads who simply don't get it." The man sighed looking down into the dog's eyes.

"Well…I'm not sure I'd call Boxey famous or anything, but he is special." I added with the man nodding his head.

"So…he's pretty helpful though…to the boy?" He inquired with me nodding my head.

"Yeah. It's like Jamie is more outgoing and all with Boxey around. He's also talking more; especially, in the mornings carrying on entire conversations. He also seems better around people. I mean of course he's still sensitive about being touched and all, but he doesn't mind people so much anymore hanging around him or even talking to him. He even listens to instructions if you are patient and straightforward in a way that doesn't confuse him. Boxey's still the only one Jamie allows to touch him though."

"Hmmm, does sound like Boxey is one of those service types of dogs they have for some autistic kids these days." The man commented stroking his chin and nodding his head.

"Service dogs for autistic kids?" I asked furling my eyebrows since I've never heard of such a thing.

"Yes sure. Some studies have shown dogs to be very helpful in bringing kids out of their shells. These service dogs go everywhere with the kids even to school and all." The man commented cupping Boxey under the chin and looking deeply into the dog's eyes as if trying to read him making me chuckle because most dogs didn't like this, but mine simply put up with it.

"Wow, I didn't realize dogs were allowed in school and all." I replied kind of amazed by it.

The elderly man nodded his head. "Sure…it's the law. A service dog can't be stopped from going anywhere with the person they are assigned to. If someone does try to stop them then they can get into deep trouble."

"Wow that would be way cool for Jamie. Too bad Boxey isn't a service dog." I sighed knowing how much it would help the boy.

"Well…I'm sure it would be easy enough to get him registered as one considering how it seems to be documented and witnessed with how he's been helping out. I could check into it for you. I've got influence in the courthouse you know." The man chuckled. "I mean I've been working there for over forty years now, so if I can't get the right information for you then no one can." He smiled while I shrugged my shoulders thinking nothing would really come of it, but if the man wanted to look into it why not.

We continued to chat for a while longer with me learning more about the park. Evidently the judge had owned a lot of the property around the courthouse. When his wife had died there was no one at home to look after the dogs. So he donated a lot of the property to the city which they could use in any way they wanted with only one stipulation. They had to reserve a chunk of it to be designated as a dog park. This way he could allow his dogs to roam free with him close by. The judge even provided the funding for the construction of the park.

A part of the land he donated was also used for the current library. Since the agreement was they could do whatever they wanted with the land other than the section which was to be set aside for the dog park, the city decided to build a library. Of course such an undertaking needed money, which evidently the judge had plenty of. The man had readily agreed to help provide funding for the new building so long as it matched in design the courthouse. After the library was finished they decided to build the commons area in the front area of the courthouse with the leftover money they had from their fundraisers. So basically in the main area of the town a regular park was built sprucing up the town giving it that fifties look where people could congregate for town functions during the summer months. In the more private and secluded area out back, the dog park was born. During the summer months both areas were equally beautiful so utilized by most of the people in town.

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