A Storm Named Zach

by Flip McHooter

Chapter 16

My guys were focusing on climbing out of the helicopter when we spotted Pilot Pete practically flying into the arms of the older, gray and black long-haired guy who seemingly came out of nowhere. The guy had a massive smile on his face that showed off big, beautiful white chompers, and he enveloped Pete in a ginormous back-slapping hug. Made me wonder what their story was because they were obviously close since Pete seemed so excited to see him.

For some reason, my senses clicked into high alert, startling me. I didn't feel this earlier when I whacked that shooter in the casino, so why was I feeling this now? And was that really just a few short hours ago? Now my back is tingling, and all the hair on my arms were standing up. What the hell is going on today?

I took a second to digest what was happening, and quickly realized it had something to do with where we landed. That was my only conclusion since I didn't feel a threat to me or my guys, or anything weird going on around us. But I still didn't get why I was feeling this way. I hated when this happened because I didn't like not being in control. So I went to my fallback, and thought, what would Wolfie do in a situation like this?

My best bud growing up was Wolfie, along with Fiona of course, but he'd been my primary mentor and sometimes spiritual advisor since sixth grade. He taught me a lot, got me through a lot, and most of all, loved me a lot. Probably more than I'll ever know. I wished I knew a tenth of what he did. When I had a problem, he'd always ask me, 'What would Wolfie do?'

When I asked myself that question, I knew instantly we were in a safe place, and all I had to do was pay attention and go with it. And more importantly, my senses told me this was going to be way more exciting and something extra special than I had planned. With that realization, all the weirdness I was feeling instantly slipped away.

We were standing at the nose of the helicopter watching the two old buddies hug it out when I noticed a young teen boy a bit younger than Isaac sneak carefully out of the trail between the sage, the same place the old guy came from. The kid looked shy, and not quite sure what to make of us interlopers. I guess the best word for what I got from him would be perplexed. He wasn't exactly dainty, but maybe more like hurt, or sad, even. He wasn't a wimp, either, despite his soft looks, because there was definitely a hot fire bubbling barely below the surface that became apparent the minute he caught me looking back at him. He was quite the conundrum, and I was instantly intrigued.

I watched him out of the corner of my eye as he gave each of us the once over. I got the impression he was accessing his safety, but also trying to figure us out. I sent him some good vibes, and hopefully, he'd pick up on them and realize we weren't any threat to either him or the old guy.

I averted my eyes to give him some space, and after a few seconds took another quick, overall look at him. The young teen looked uncomfortable in his dusty cowboy boots, well-worn jeans, and a tight, handmade leather vest that seemed too small to fit. He had long, shiny black hair braided into two ponytails that went all the way down to his quarter-sized exposed nipples. The kid had a couple of silver pendants hanging down his bare, tan chest, reflecting off the sunlight. His eyes said he was ready for a fight, but his body image said otherwise.

Funny thing. I wasn't the only one watching him. I looked over at Isaac, who was riveted by the cute guy. I thought the Squirt's eyes were going to bug out, so I gave him a shoulder check to get it together since this wasn't the place for that kind of thing. Isaac looked over at me like he was going to say "What?", but he bit his tongue when I gave him a look that said, chill, buddy.

The super-shy young guy giggled at that but still wasn't sure what to do. So he stayed in the background until the tribal elder told him to come over and shake hands and meet Pete. It wasn't hard to hear what they were saying since it was so quiet up here on the bluff. Turns out the kid was the old guy's grandson, Bryce Lightfoot.

"Pete! My old friend. It's been far too long," the old guy said once they pulled apart.

"It has. Work has been hectic, but that's a feeble excuse, I know."

"It's good to be busy, though. Still, I miss our spirited banter."

"I do too, Tom. I know. I'll make sure I get out here more often."

"Please. We miss you. Now tell me, who have you brought to meet us today? They're not the kind of folks we normally see out here. It's good to see such handsome and strong men for a change instead of those never-happy visitors we generally get."

"Guys, please meet Tom Gray Eagle. He is one of the tribal elder's of the Hualapai Nation." Pete went on to introduce us, but I'm not sure Tom heard him. He had gone silent for a moment as he appraised us one-by-one, and finally locked eyes on me, like he was reaching into my soul. He stared at me for at least a minute, but it wasn't uncomfortable. I could feel the rest of the guys looking at me as well, and wondering what the hell was going on when Pete stopped talking.

Instead of being my usual chill self, I totally embarrassed myself. Big Time. In front of everybody. The tribal elder was so much like my best bud Wolfie they could be father and son. I couldn't help myself and chuckled at that realization. Then I felt super self-conscious, like when Isaac would yak out something inappropriate from his uncontrollable mouth. It was so unlike me, and that made it even worse. I was mortified, so uncharacteristic of me, and I'm sure I went beet red.

"What is it you find so funny, young warrior?" he smiled. "Do not be ashamed."

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to laugh. My best friend is native Navajo, and you remind me so much of him it made me happy. We're tight, and I miss him. I haven't seen him for months because he's on some uninhabited island in British Columbia, leading at-risk teens and young adults on a Vision Quest of some kind. We grew up together, and well, he's like an older brother even though we're the same age. He's a great person and friend. Please forgive me if I was out of line."

He walked up to me, almost too close, cupped my cheeks in his wrinkly hands and smiled into my face. All the guys were still staring at us, not sure what was happening. "There is nothing to forgive, young warrior. I would laugh too, if your friend brought me that much happiness. You are a very lucky young man to have a sacred brother like that. But a Vision Quest? That's wonderful! Must be one of two or three people I know. But since you are the same age, I'm going to guess your young friend is Jason Tall Pine from Flagstaff. Am I correct?"

"Nope. Good try, though," I laughed. "You're testing me, just like my friend would. Give it another try. He does a lot of youth workshops, training, that kind of thing. It doesn't matter the tribe. I'm pretty sure you know him, and I bet he's been here before."

The tribal elder let go of me and looked up at the sky for a brief second, searching for something, and then back to me. His smile had returned to his face full-force and said, "That man has many, many friends in some very high places. Father Sky had to remind me because I am old and sometimes forgetful. Your soulmate has a lot of names: Richard Standing Wolf, Wolf Man. Some call him Uncle Wolf or Wolf Uncle. But you, young warrior, have a unique and special bond with him, and you call him simply Wolfie. He is your blood brother. That I know for sure."

"Wow, you're good. But, yeah, that's him. And I do consider him my brother, blood or otherwise."

"Well, that changes things, men. I had a vision to welcome you boys here today, and I just assumed it was to catch up with my old friend. But there is something else at play that we must address." Turning to our pilot, he asked, "Pete, how long do we have?"

"The tower said at least half an hour, but from experience, it will probably be twice that long. The airport is swamped because tourist flights around the strip are canceled for now. Everyone's heading out here."

"That works in our favor. Would you men be willing to see the bridge at another time? I have something special I want to share with you. All of you. I think you will find it much more interesting and profound than some tourist attraction selling high-priced souvenirs and knock-off artifacts. I shouldn't say that since it's our biggest source of revenue."

"But I wanted to go on the bridge," Isaac whined.

"I'm sure you were looking forward to it, young buck. How about I get you all free passes for another time? I think you will enjoy this much more than the bridge, and I promise you, you will get something out of this."

"What is it?" Isaac asked.

"I cannot say, my new friend. That is for you to find out."

Isaac looked at the elder for a moment, shrugged his shoulders and said, "Okay. That sounds interesting. I'm game."

"How about the rest of you? Will you please join us?" The way he said it sounded more like an order than a question.

The guys looked around at each other and seemed interested, and when Antoine reminded us he wasn't going on the bridge anyway, that sealed the deal.

Pete said, "I have to stay with the chopper, but we can fly close to the bridge so you boys can see it on our way out. I agree that you should go with Tom. I've known him for a long time, and this is going to be something special. He wouldn't be doing whatever this is unless it was important."

"Thank you, my friend. Will you be all right while we're gone?"

"Oh, sure. It's not too hot, I have plenty of cool water and a new Baldacci novel I'm in the middle of. Now get going. Like you've always told me, the spirits don't like to be kept waiting."

"Perfect. Follow me, men. It's about a ten-minute walk. Bryce, will you lead us?"

"Sure, grandpa."

"Are there rattlesnakes where we're going?" Isaac asked, once we entered the trail dividing the thick sage. "I don't particularly like snakes."

I heard Bryce bark out a loud snort, and it made us guys look at each other and wonder what that was all about.

"I doubt we'll see any, young buck. I've told the snake creatures to not bother us today, and they understood and will leave us alone. Maybe a flying snake, though." That got another laugh out of Bryce.

"Okay, that's just too weird. I've never seen a flying snake. I didn't even know they existed. That, I'd like to see."

"You've already seen one, my young friend."

"I have?"

"Yes. He's leading us down the trail."

"Bryce? Huh? I don't understand that."

"His animal totem is Flying Snake."

"Oh. Wow. Okay. Um, can I ask, why is he named that? And what's a totem?"

"Everyone in this plane has an animal spirit. Most people don't even know it because they don't take the time to listen. They're too caught up in getting the most likes on social media, or playing computer games in their basements, or trying to be the latest trendsetters, or what do they call those big, silicone…what is that called, Bryce?"

"Fashionistas, grandpa."

"Right. Huge, unnatural butts. How silly is that? I may be old, and out of date, but I see it. My young friend, Isaac: Our life here on this plane is fleeting, and all of those things that seem important this instant do nothing to nurture your soul. But to answer your question, you have an animal totem as well as the rest of your men. As for Bryce, his totem is Flying Snake, because he does not ask many questions. Like a snake, he is calm, quiet, and cool, but always watching, learning. Young buck, the answers will come when you are silent and listen to what you pose to the creator. The Great Spirit will answer you, I promise. Put your computer away and live your real, authentic life. The one that the spirits gave you so openly, so unconditionally, with so much love you can't even fathom. So many great changes are headed your way, and it'd be a shame for you to waste them or ignore them."

"Okay, I'll try. Bryce, you're lucky to have such a great grandpa," Isaac said, "Even though I have no idea what half of the things he just told me mean. But I promise I'll try to be open to the world."

"You'll find out soon enough," the kid laughed. "Been there, done that. Got it. I live in two different worlds, so I had to learn all this stuff quickly."

"Two worlds? What's that mean?"

"I spend my summers here, with grandpa on the Rez, and the rest of the year in California. It's tough because I miss my parents, but I love it here and don't want to leave."

"I'm going to be moving to California soon. Where do you live?"

"In Pasadena."

"Jeremy, is that close to where you live?"

"Yeah, buddy. Right next door."

"So cool! If you want, we can swap phone numbers. I just got a phone," Isaac said. "I don't know anyone there but my brother and his boyfriend. It'd be awesome to have a friend when I move there."

"I'd like that."

I leaned over to Zach and said, "I think your brother just made a friend. I don't think that comes easy for him. Or Bryce."

"I think you're right."

We hiked a bit longer, and then the trail widened out into a bumpy, weedy two-laner that seemed like it hadn't been used in decades. The breeze kept us cool in the warm air, and the scent of the sage enveloped us in a safe, cocoon. The feeling here was amazing, peaceful, and full of energy, and I felt incredibly relaxed and happy. More than I'd felt in quite a while.

Zach whispered to me, "I've got goosebumps. I think he's taking us to his secret place."

"You're right. But I'd swap out secret for sacred. Or better yet, his special place. I bet this is going to be something very interesting, and something we'll never, ever forget."

"I'm getting that too. I'm so glad I get to share this with you."

"Me too. You have no idea. I love you so much, Zach, and I'm so happy we're sharing this together."

A few minutes later, we entered a wide, circular area maybe seventy-five or a hundred feet across. All of the sage and brush and trees had been cleared long before us to make room for something that looked like aliens had been here a thousand years ago, and this was where they parked their timeship. Private. Sacred. And steaming full of energy. I instantly felt this profound sense that I was lucky to be here in this amazing place. I was extremely fortunate to have traveled the world and seen and experienced a lot of great things, but nothing felt more powerful, and yet, intimate compared to this. Not even close, not by a long shot. This place ticked off every single emotional box.

Thing was, this place was much more than anything I could imagine. Way, way more. It was hard to contain my excitement, unusual for me.

"Men, this is a called a Medicine Wheel. It's been here for hundreds and hundreds of years. It's a very sacred place in our culture that outsiders very rarely get to visit, let alone experience. Unfortunately, my brothers and sisters do not come here much anymore."

"That's sad," Zach said.

"It is. But there must be some significant reason the spirits have led us here today, and I must say, I am excited to experience this with you. You men must have something special the spirit guides see in you, and want to share their wisdom with you. Indeed, the five of you are very unusual and interesting individuals."

"Wow," Steven said.

"Cool," Isaac said.

"Why me? I'm just a regular dude," Antoine asked.

"You are so much better than you know, my friend. You'll find out in a minute," Tom said, as we stood around the outside of the large circle. Antoine looked perplexed, but he seemed to be excited to find out what was going on. Then Tom looked at me. "Jeremy? What say you?"

"I've heard of this from my friend, but I can't even imagine we're standing here, on this sacred site. I never thought I'd see a Medicine Wheel, let alone experience one." I laced my fingers through Zach's hand again, and an electrical charge went through us, making my guy, the man I loved more than anything, smile like crazy. It made me so happy to see him like this.

Zach said, "This is amazing. Thank you for bringing us here, Tom."

"Well, I had too. You never go against the spirits." He looked at our locked hands and simply nodded, the corners of his eyes crinkling with delight. "They see you. All of you. There are so many spirits here it's…"

"Blowing your mind, grandpa? I think the spirits are giddy. Is that the right word?"

"Exactly. You're beginning to become very perceptive, Bryce. That's great."

The Medicine Wheel was composed of two concentric circles outlined with rocks gathered from the surrounding area. The outer 'wheel' was large, and had a low opening to the east. The inside circle was smaller, and divided into four quarters, each one aligned with the four points on the compass, north, east, south, and west. There were four pine branches that had been stripped of all their foliage and posted at the four points, as well. Thing was, you didn't even have to get near it to feel the energy emanating from it. You could almost hear it hum.

"Can you men do me a favor? Line up in a row. Take off your shoes and socks. Bryce, join us too. You're going to help me this time."

"Great! Thanks, grandpa. This is exciting. It's been a long time since we've been here."

We did as we were told, and without being asked, both Steven and Antoine rolled up the sleeves of their dress shirts. It was good to see they were so open to this.

"Before we enter the Medicine wheel, I'm going to smudge you men with sage and then Bryce will smudge me. The smudge is an offering to the spirts that came before us to tell them we are here without any negativity or preconceived notions. Open your hearts, clear your mind, and love your soul, your family, and your friends around you. Become one with nature, the elements, the spirit world, and most importantly, our Mother Earth. We're all barefoot, and connected to this great being we're standing on. Can you men do that?"

We all gave him a resounding yes, and he cracked a huge smile at our excitement.

"Excellent." He pulled out a small bundle of twined sage from his back pocket and had Bryce light it for him. Once it was smoldering and had inhaled a bit of the smoke, he started with Antoine, smudging him with the medicinal fume from head to toe. It was tough since Antoine was easily a foot taller than Tom.

"Antoine. You are a powerful, thoughtful, and a forthright young man. You have a loving heart and are wise beyond your years. You are observant, and would help anyone that crosses your path, correct?"

"Yeah, I guess that's me. I would, definitely."

"That is the greatest gift a man can have. But yet, you have a great worry. The spirits tell me you are sad, sad because you cannot nurture a child. You and your spouse have been trying for some time, and yet, noting develops."

"Yeah. How'd you know that?"

"Soaring Raven, you must look more closely, more deeply. May I place my hand over your heart?"

"Um, sure," Antoine said.

I thought that was the perfect totem for him.

It took a minute or so before Tom opened his eyes and said, "For some reason, biological children are not in your future, at least not for right now. But there is a child, a female child, that is going to become yours. Do you understand?"

Before he could say anything, both Isaac and Steven looked at each other and then shouted out, "Natalie!"


"The cute girl that painted my nails," I said, waving my fingers around. "Oh, man, why didn't I think of that. She's awesome, buddy. You and your wife will be so happy. She's Isaac's foster sister. She's so cute and intelligent. You're going to love her the minute you meet her."

"I agree," Zach said.

"Wow. Really?"

"Yes. The spirits do not joke around," Tom said. "Poor kid has no one left but her foster family."

"You know, that actually feels right to me. I can't wait to go home and tell my wife and meet this girl. Thank you, Tom."

"No thanks needed. You just have to be open and listen. Life moves fast, and when something is gone, it's gone."

"I will. From now on, I promise I'll listen to the important stuff."

He moved down the line to Steven and said, "Aw, crazy, crazy Steven. The comedian, mirth maker. Always so happy and carefree. But there's one thing you lack. You ride with the wind, but you need to tether yourself to the physical world or all the great things coming your way will be lost. Here, hold my hands."

Steven did and started to chuckle, but then he immediately became serious.

"You have so much to offer, Laughing Coyote. You do not realize it because you are young, and your world is a, um, how should I put this? A carnival ride. Always festive, something new every day. But deep down, you yearn for a mate and stability. Coyotes run in packs, but they take mates. You have no pack, no mate, and yet you are happy. Why is that?"

"I'm not sure. Life in Vegas is difficult, and I'm just happy to have a good job and make decent money. Plus, I enjoy what I do."

"That's great, for now, while you're young. It pays the bills, yes. But it does not address the emotional side of yourself. You need a mate. Just like Antoine needs a child. You both have so many amazing gifts to share with someone. More than either one of you knows. But you doubt yourselves. Think you are less than. You cover it up by being funny, while Antoine is stoic. You both have to let go, and be real – be your true selves."

"Thank you. My best friend's mom, Mama Sally, tells me that all the time. This time, I'm listening. And you know what? For some reason, I know Antoine and I are going to become good friends, and we're going to push ourselves to be the best men we can be. Right?"

"I'd like that, Steven. Absolutely."

"Perfect. You're building your pack. You both need that for so many reasons."

When he got to Isaac, the kid started to laugh. "What's so funny, young buck?"

"I feel all tingly, like I'm going to fly!"

"Terrific! You're open to this and receptive to what the spirits have to tell you. That is a good thing. But like Steven, you need to ground yourself. Turn off your negative thinking and turn on your inner spirit. The spirit that's inside of you. It's not hard to do. You're no dummy, even though you call yourself that. Your spirit guides get mad when you do that. You'll get so much more out of this life if you change your attitude, your thinking, because if you don't, you're destined to repeat it until you learn you are special. And who wants to do that?"

"Okay! I can do that."

"Not only that, you are opening a whole new chapter in your life. Correct?"

"Yeah. I found my real brother. I'm so happy now."

"That's great. Let go, and be open to everything new. It's your time now, boy. Here, hold my hands. You are hyper, young buck, that is because you are young and have not been trained fully. The spirits tell me you grew up without a father figure, correct?"

"Yes. My mom wouldn't date because my bio-dad treated her so mean. She always said she had sworn off men."

"That is very sad. I'm sorry to hear that. But these men around you, all of them, they are your teachers and guides from now on. You are an important part of their pack. They are all extraordinary men and have come into your life for an important purpose. It wasn't just random. Learn from them. You have great vision, but you put up walls for self-protection. Your biggest challenge is you talk without thinking. Talk less, Darting Lizard, pay attention, and listen more and you will become a wise, smart man."

"Wow. Thank you, Tom. I won't let you down. I promise."

Zach came next, and this time, the elder took his time as he smudged him. "We need to cleanse you thoroughly, my friend, because you have so much negativity surrounding you. But it has not penetrated your skin or your soul. You have a very tough hide. That is an excellent thing to have. After today, all will all be revealed. Do you understand?"

"I do. I've been a dumping ground for far too long. That stops, right here, right now. I get it. And I thank you for your wisdom for pointing that out. I always knew it, but didn't exactly get how to let it all go."

"It's true. You have gone through so much pain, so much wasted time. Until recently, emptiness filled your heart. But no more. The spirits are rejoicing in your openness, your forgiveness, your love, and your ability to let go and move forward. You are strong! The spirits tell me your one and only calls you fierce. I see that. So full of love for your animal partner, it's almost blinding! You are a new spirit, but your love knows no limits, no bounds. Indeed, the spirits are rejoicing in your realization. Go forth, and do great things. It's inside of you. It's been there all along. Follow your heart, Little Bear."

"I will. I promise. I won't let them down. Or Jeremy or Isaac."

"Good, because young, male cubs grow up to become nurturing, strong men. I see that in you. Please, don't doubt me on this. Your future is written, and it's glorious from here on. You and your mate will go on to do wonderful things together."

"Wow. I don't know what to say."

"Then, don't say anything. Just embrace it, because it is true. And love yourself as much as you love your man, and your brother."

"Thank you."

"There's one more thing. The spirits tell me that you will need to meditate, just like your friends need to meditate. It won't be easy taking care of a brother you didn't know you had. Especially at his age. Or your age for that matter. You need to meditate, so the answers come to you. He will need a strong person in his life, as he is not used to being challenged. But he must, so he follows the correct path. Are you up to the task?"

Zach took a look at the kid, and said, "With Jeremy's help, there's nothing the three of us can't get through. So yes. Unconditionally yes." Isaac leaned over and gave Zach a rib-crushing hug. It was amazing to me that not twenty-four hours ago, they didn't even know either of them existed. There was so much love flowing between the two of them, it was magical.

Then it was my turn. I don't know why, but I instinctively knew this was going to be a big deal.

When he got to me, he took his time and got even more serious, if that was possible. I felt a bit uncomfortable because all eyes were on me once again. He leaned into me and in a low voice, said so the others couldn't hear, "You realize we've done this before, right, my friend? You are an old soul, and you and I have crossed paths many times. Just like you, Wolfie and the girl. I know you realize that life is a never-ending circle."

Weird thing. I kinda knew that. But then, I guess the spirits were messing with me, and I heard in my mind, 'Luke, I am your father', and I started to laugh. "Yeah, I know. This sounds weird, but I think I was your father once."

"I agree. I forgot about that time. That life didn't work out so well for us."


"It's good you don't remember that. It wasn't a good time."

"Um, okay."

After a pause, he said, "I'm being told you need to meditate more often. That seems to be a common thread among you men. The spirits say you're a slacker when it comes to that."

"Okay, okay. I get it. Wolfie tells me that all the time too. I promise I will. And I'll teach Zach and Isaac, as well.

"You need to meditate more often with Wolfie. He has so much power. Has Wolfie helped you with your animal totem?"

"No. He always said it would come to me when I was ready. I guess I've never been ready. Can you help me with that?"

"Yes, absolutely. It's possible that you two are too close, like brothers. If you had to name your totem, what would it be?"

"Oh, geez. I guess a buffalo or an owl because I'm usually chill, but always watching and taking care of everybody. A defender of sorts."

"You are so right! There's no doubt in my mind, and I don't have to ask those who have gone before us to call you Watching Owl."

"Thank you for that. You gave us all perfect totems. You are very wise, Gray Eagle."

"Just like you are, my brother. Now that everyone is ready, let's enter the medicine wheel. Men, we enter from the east. Please follow me and spread yourselves around the outer circle. Good, good. That's it. We don't have time for the full ceremony, so we're going to say a blessing to the four directions. Is that all right?"

Everyone agreed that it was. It wouldn't have mattered if he told them we were jumping off a cliff, they would have followed him since they seemed so excited, and I probably would have gone along, too.

"Bryce, will you help me?"

"Of course. This is the best part."

When everyone was situated around the inside circle, Tom started to sing in his native tongue. Bryce, try as he might, tried to follow along. He got some of it, but not much. Made me wonder again what his story was, and if this was all new to him.

He switched back to English, and said, "We offer our prayers, love, and blessings to those who have come before us. We send special thoughts of love and reverence to Mother Earth and Father Sky, Grandfather Sun and Grandmother Moon for the gift of life they give us, and to the four directions that provide the weather that nourishes the plants and animals. And finally, to the animals, water and air that gives us life, and most of all, to our Creator the Great Spirit, for bringing us all together on this beautiful day."

"Grampa? You forget our new friends."

"Bryce, you're right. And to our new blood brothers, be them red, black, white, brown, yellow or something else or in between, they are all part of us, and we ask the Great Spirit to shine love and happiness on our new friends."

Next, he went on to invoke a blessing in his native tongue, and it didn't matter that we couldn't understand it. It felt good, right, and so full of love that everyone was smiling when he was done.

"We have two more things we must do before we head back to Pete and his whirlybird. Jeremy, I think there is something you want to do."

"There is. I have no idea how you know about that, but thank you."

"No problem. It is my great pleasure to share this momentous act of love with you men. But first, is it all right if I say something?"

"Of course. Steven? Can you get this for me?"

"Sure." I unlocked my phone and tossed it to him. Antoine was ready with his phone too. Zach and Isaac had no idea what was going on and were busy looking around for a clue. That made me happy.

Tom grabbed my hand and Zach's hand and said, "Most Native Americans believe that there are boys born with a love for girls, a love for other boys, and some born with a love for both. In the old days, we'd call them two-spirit. The Great Spirit knows exactly what He was doing when He created all of you. But for Jeremy and Zach – Watching Owl and Little Bear – the Great Spirit created something so powerful and dynamic by bringing you two beautiful souls together. He is telling me for you to be good to each other, be good for each other and to be good for those around you. You both shine so brightly, your love is so pure it envelopes you like a signal from His heart. Do not ever forget that. He has made you in His image. Do not ever doubt that."

"We won't, Gray Eagle. Thank you for that," I said. I looked over at Zach, and his eyes were full of tears, and I'm sure he knew by now what was coming next. But then I surprised him.

I reached into my pocket and pulled out one of the rings that Director Rick was able to get for me. It didn't matter that they were simple silver bands. They still were sacred. "Isaac, come over here. I have a question for you."

Everyone looked surprised when I knelt down on one knee and asked the kid, "You are the only family your brother has, so before I ask Zach this huge question, I need to ask you something first. Do I have your permission to marry your big brother, and will you become my brother-in-law for the rest of our lives?"

"Yes! Yes, yes, yes! Hell to the yes! Oops, sorry."

"You are an amazing young man, and I want you to know I love you, and I will always be there for you, no matter what. Give me your hand."

The ring was a bit large, so I had to slip it on his thumb. "This is so cool, Jeremy. And just so you know, while I may be still a kid, I will always be there for you too. Just like I'll be there for my brother. Thank you."

I looked over at Zach, and tears were streaming down his face. Actually, everyone had teared up, even Tom. "Zach, I love you more than anything. On our drive out here, we talked about all the people wishing us a wonderful wedding or a happy honeymoon, and how if I ever asked you to marry me it would be epic, like a flash mob or something. Well, this is even better than I could have imagined. Would you please, please do me the honor of being my husband, forever and ever?"

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