Patient John Doe

Chapter 17

If you are just joining this story, please note the DEDICATION of it, stated on the disclaimer page..

I again want to thank my good friend Miguel Sanchez for his extensive help in developing this chapter, along with work we are doing on future ones. (Julio, of course, is now the mature Doctor Jay Sanchez in this story). (Also, sorry about screwing up his address before!)

"Doctor Owens, I must insist you go back into the house, several dangerous operations are beginning here, we are concerned for your safety sir," Chad informed me as soon as I hung up on Banks. "Please Doctor, I assure you everything possible is being done to protect your children's safety. We have the situation under control," he added as he grasp my upper arm.

Without realizing I had I jerked out of his grip and spun into his face. I didn't notice I had half drawn the weapon on my belt until I saw his eyes bug. "I don't think you, or the FBI, have SHIT under control, especially your oral diarrhea! I trusted you with my boys' safety and now you lost two of them? GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY FACE!" I snarled.

As he stepped back I looked back down the beach, hoping for some sign, but only was saddened by the sea breeze blowing whatever foot prints I had hoped to see flat. "Calm down Adam," Miguel told me as he joined my gaze. "They are on our side," he added.

"Great! So was Carter, and, , ," I cut off my statement as a helicopter flew over the house, its noisy engine disrupting us as badly as its blinding search light confused us. I had to cover my face to protect my face from the flying sand it caused. Just as our vision cleared I snapped, "What about Jay and Ronnie, where are your sons? God this cannot be happening!"

"I am not sure, but they are safe, if I know them they are watching all this from nearby," he answered. "Please calm down, my people assure me the boys have not left the area near the house. Please accept my word, a sand flea could not get off my sons' property without their knowing it!" Another helicopter pass made the rest of his statement inaudible, I could only give him a dirty look as a response.

After I brushed the latest load of sand and grit off my face and out of my eyes, I extended my arm above me and gave the helicopter a one finger salute. As I took a deep breath I tried again to scan the sand for my missing boys, praying they would appear. When I turned back to Miguel he was stepping around the corner of the house, talking into his satellite phone.

As I lowered my arm, knowing the pilots didn't see my gesture, my hand landed on a bony shoulder instead of my hip. "Arf, those things are loud!!" Mark proclaimed as he pushed against me. "But wow, I bet it would be BAD to do that stuff!" he added, twisting his shoulders and back like the helicopter banking and turning.

"I told you to stay inside!" I snapped, grasping his neck. "Get your ass back up there, and don't even THINK about looking out the door until I say you can!" I barked. "No buts, get your ass upstairs!" I demanded as I more dragged than guided him a couple of paces toward the deck stairs. 'I love you, but I don't EVEN need this shit! Thanks a bunch, Angelina!' I thought.

His stiffening body and his tearing, frightened face made me realize I was out of control. I felt a gallon of bile push up against my throat as I realized how harsh my panic stricken behavior had been. "I'm sorry I said that, I'm very, very sorry son. Your brothers are overdue from the beach, and we are. . ." I stopped breathing as I realized who was tucked under my arm.

"Oh my God, you're safe!" I gasped as I dropped to one knee and pulled him against me. "Oh, thank God!" I cried, kissing his forehead and cheek. "Where is Johnny, is he, , , is he with you?" I risked, praying for the answer I needed so desperately.

"He's still in the Jeep, he got really scared when you yelled at Chad," Mark whimpered, pointing at Jay's Hummer parked under the deck. "We're sorry, we was just sitting in it!" he added.

I leaned against him, clutching him in a tight snuggle for almost a minute until my head stopped spinning. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry I lost my cool. I love you son, ah, Dad's get scared too." I was still a little wobbly as I stood up and walk him over to Jay's vehicle. I started to open one of the doors, but paused. "Go tell Johnny it's okay, I'm not mad," I said, prodding him toward the car. "But, I expect a great hug, a world class one!" I prodded him when he didn't move for a second or so.

Another kiss on the top of his head seemed to convince him, and he opened the door. After a second he climbed back into the back seat, giving me a bashful look. I looked around, and after a couple of attempts caught Chad's attention, giving him the okay sign with my hand and pointing toward the Hummer. When he started toward me I motioned him to stay back, which he complied with.

"I'm sorry, I promise I am, sir," Johnny's voice whispered from inside the vehicle's cabin. All I could see was a little movement in the seat as he added, "We wasn't gonna steal it or nothing, we was just talking and stuff! Please sir, we're sorry!"

"Come here, Pumpkin," I asked. After no response I reached into the shadows inside the vehicle with both hands. "Come on son, it's Dad."

"But I'm sorry, please we weren't gonna be bad or nothing!" he whined from the cabin. "Please don't, , , please, , , I'm sorry, , , I promise!" he stuttered between sobs.

"Johnny, it's Dad, it's Pop! You are not in any trouble, I promise! All I'm going to do is give you a big hug, and thank God you are okay," I tried, getting another whimper as a response. I stepped directly in front of the door, trying without success to see inside its dark cabin. The vehicle shuddered slightly and I heard Mark whisper something I couldn't understand.

"Come here son, please?" I asked, extending my arms into the dark cabin. After short pause I felt a thin little torso slip between my hands. "I love you son," I whispered as I lifted Johnny out of the car. He wrapped his thin legs around my hips as I pulled him into a tight snuggle against my chest. I got a brief glance at his tear stained face before he buried it under my neck.

"You are not in ANY trouble, I promise! Either of you," I said as Mark climbed out of the care and pushed against my side. "We were, well we were afraid you got lost or something, and were kind of scared ourselves," I tried.

"We had heard some Tyrannosaurus-gulls were hovering," Miguel said as he stepped next to me, stroking the back of Mark's head. I felt both boys stiffen slightly. "They like to eat sharks and small whales, but a teen-age human is a rare treat for them," he added. I bit my lip as I felt the vibration of gears grinding in both boys heads.

"But, a Teran-aron, a terran-whatever Rex, well however you said, it's a dinosaur, they're all dead and stuff!" Mark gulped more than said.

"Then, I wonder what the helicopters were looking for?" the elderly Doctor asked. "Not to worry, they only fly at night, and I doubt any in this area would be large enough to carry both of you off at once." I had to suck on my upper lip to keep a straight face as Miguel's face remained completely stoic and serious. "It might be wise to stay off the beach the rest of the night, though," he added.

Johnny and Mark glanced between Miguel and me, clearly about only half believing what they were hearing. "Where is your splint, John?" Miguel asked before they could recover. "And your brace," he added, rubbing Mark's thin neck. "Go collect them, and we will join you inside shortly," he instructed. After a pair of 'Yes Sirs' Johnny climbed down, then Mark retrieved their belongings from Jay's SUV. He leaned out over the deck overhead and scanned the sky carefully before guiding his still white faced brother up the stairs.

"Tyrannosaurus-gulls?" Chad asked, stepping out of the shadows. From his expression I was not sure if he was trying to decide if Miguel was joking, or insane as he studied the Doctor's expressionless face.

"If I may inquire, are you still in your teens, young man?" Miguel asked, looking skyward.

Banks and two other agents appeared around the corner of the house before Chad could respond. Everyone relaxed fairly quickly as we talked, Banks and Chad even dismissing my apology for jumping them. We invited them to come inside for a few minutes but the agents declined and excused themselves.

I had to snicker as Miguel, Chad and I started back inside. As we neared the stairwell Miguel stopped Chad, and leaned out from under the deck, melodramatically scanning the sky. "I think it's safe," he announced in a very serious voice.

"Not to worry son, I'm a shrink, I'll keep an eye on him," I chuckled as I gestured the young sailor up the stairs.

The kids were lounging in front of the TV when we went inside, seemingly relaxed considering all the commotion that had just occurred. I was about to join Miguel in the kitchen to fill the adults in or the past few minutes when I noticed Johnny was not in the room. On a second scan Mark was sitting in a chair somewhat off to the side of everyone else, looking rather subdued. Ronnie was at the edge of the group, but on the floor very near his little brother. When Mark and I made eye contact he quickly redirected his gaze to the floor as his cute little face saddened.

To my surprise he jerked, then stiffened, when I gently lay my hand on his thin shoulder. "What wrong, Pumpkin? Where is Johnny?"

"We weren't doing nothing bad or nothing," he softly told my hand on his shoulder, not looking up at me. "We didn't hurt his car or nothing, we was just sitting in it. Please sir, we're sorry!" he whimpered.

"I'm not mad, you are not in any trouble," I whispered. "Come over here, so we don't disturb everyone," I suggested, pushing lightly on his shoulder to prod him out of the chair. His eyes shot between Ronnie and his shoes, as if asking each what he should do. "Come on, Son, it's Dad, remember!" He gave his older brother a final glance and reluctantly crept to his feet, allowing me to guide him to a love seat by the deck door.

"We're sorry," he whimpered.

"What are you sorry for, what did you do to feel like you need to apologize for doing?" I asked. "Were you snooping, like your big brother is right now?" added, feeling Ronnie's breath on the back of my neck. "Come here Turkey, you’re going to anyway," I added, sliding to the middle of the settee. Ronnie blushed, then sat down next to Mark instead of me.

"Why do you think you did anything wrong," I again tried, after the three of us finally settled into the small couch. Mark stared at his shoes for a very long minute.

"Well everyone got all mad and stuff, and was trying to catch us and stuff. We weren't hiding or nothing, we wasn't gonna run away or nothing! I promise!"

"Wait! No one thought you had ran away, no one thought anything like that! We were frightened because we, we didn't know if you were safe!" I debated on telling him more about the actual situation, but his frightened face told me he was far from ready to be informed of what we actually had feared, had overreacted to.

"We were afraid something had happened to you, that's all we were worried about. I promise we were not hunting you, I trust you and the idea never entered anyone's head that you were going to run or anything." I tucked him into a tighter snuggle as I asked, "Why did you even think that?"

His eyes darted between Ronnie's face, the carpet, and back to Ronnie several times before he risk a quick glance at my face. "Well, that's what Johnny said, but he wasn't, please, I promise he wasn't!" he exclaimed. "Please don't send him back there, he hates it, we was just talking, we weren't hiding or nothing!"

I had to take a deep breath, and a second to try to figure out what the boy was talking about. "Back where? The only place Johnny is going is back to Texas, back to our ranch, with us tomorrow," I said, hoping it was an answer. "What are you talking. . ."

"Back to that crazy farm!" Ronnie interrupted. "Please, Dad, he hates it there and he's scared your gonna put him back in there. Please Dad, he'd freak totally if you lock up him in there again!" I tried to control my breathing as I digested his statement, and what was going through each of their minds. "He'll be good, he don't never do nothing wrong Dad, he don't!" Ronnie further fueled my panic.

"Where is Johnny now?" I asked, realizing there was a more pressing situation at hand, and hoping for a glimmer of good news. I breathed a partial sigh of relief when they said he had gone to bed. 'Why me Lord?' I wondered. 'Help me through all this, it's way over my head.'

"I am going to go talk to Johnny for a few minutes, you guys relax, I promise everything will be okay," I said. "All three of you are my sons now, and I love each of you. I promise the only place I'm send Johnny is down to the pasture to ride Ginger when we get home, okay?" I got a pair of weak nods as I kissed their foreheads and stood up.

I fought back panic when I discovered Johnny's bedroom was empty. `No please, NO!' I prayed as I checked the bedroom Mark and Ronnie were sharing, `This cannot be happening!' I told myself as I checked the deck and pool. I had to lean against the wall and collect my composure when I entered the bedroom I was using in the Sanchez home and saw a slight lump in the bedcovers.

"Hi, little buddy, are you tired?" I said as I sat on the edge of the bed and slowly peeled the bedding back. He was in a fetal position deep below the pillows, sucking his thumb like a one-year-old. "Do you feel okay?" I asked, getting no response.

"Come here Son, I want to talk to you for a minute," I said, sliding him to me and tucking him into a hug. "Bad habit, you're going to suck your thumb-nail off," I chided as I pulled his thumb from his mouth, wrapped my arms around him and leaned back against the bed's headboard. I gently blocked his hand as his thumb bounced back toward his mouth and wrapped my arms around his thin torso, pulling him into a tight hug. "Everything is okay, Dad is here," I whispered in his ear.

It took probably two minutes of stroking his chest and upper arms as I cuddled him to get him to relax somewhat, and to get him to lean his head back against me. "I love you, I love you so much!" I told him. I repeated the statement a couple of times before he responded with a soft, almost silent sob and slowly touched my hand with his. I embraced him for several minutes as he nestled against me, neither of us moving, almost not breathing as we held each other. I'm not sure who needed who's touch and strength more, he or me. "Relax son, Dad's here," I told him.

He squirmed a little more tightly against me before whining, "Can I go see Ginger before I gotta go back? I won't do nothing or nothing, please? I won't, I promise I won't. Please Doc!"

"Where are you going?" He just stiffened as an answer. "You're not in ANY trouble, you didn't do anything wrong, you are not going anywhere but home with me. Tomorrow we're going back to Texas, and you are stuck as being one of my Turkeys, for a long, long time. Can you live with that? Everything is okay, I promise."

"Yes sir," he mumbled. He twisted in my grasp and looked up, more at my chin than my face. "But Mark didn't do nothing it was all me! Please he loves you please don't send him back too, PLEASE! PLEASE Sir, we weren't gonna steal it or nothing! We wasn't hiding too, don't do nothing to Mark, I'm the screw-up, I did it all!"

`Engage brain, avoid flashbacks and overloads,' I tried to tell myself, avoiding the darker side of me wishing I had a fat joint of smoke to hang what little sanity I had left on. I reached under his thighs and perched him on my lap, turning his little body so we were facing each other.

"The only way you screwed up is getting scared. I love you son, and you didn't do anything wrong!" he didn't respond, either with his eyes or his body. "Why don't we, I mean I think I want go ask, your brothers to join us, let's have a family round-table, a talk."

I was looking at Johnny, hoping for a response, when I heard a thump against my bedroom door, then another on the wall. "Please join us, boys" I bellowed. "Please come in, NOW" I added. After several seconds my bedroom door slowly opened, and Mark and Ronnie slithered in, their faces so red their freckles were invisible. "Do you know what happens to spies when they get caught?" I asked in my poor, overly dramatic, German accent. "Vhat should ve do vith dem, Herr Johnny?"

Johnny blushed as red as his brothers, and pulled against me and giggled. "As you vish, ve vill tickle them to death!" I announced in my best corny imitation. They relaxed slightly and sat Indian style on my bed.

It took several minutes to get them to open up again, and I again found myself wondering if there really was a God as they gradually expressed their concerns. Ronnie, that I would punish his scared little brother; Mark that I would punish, or send his new best friend/brother away. Johnny said he believed me regarding his placement, but his face told me otherwise.

"What happens now, guys?" I asked, getting three blank stares as a response. "No one is in trouble, I promise. I want for Johnny's arm to get better, and enjoy a bunch of time loving you guys! A bunch of years doing that!"

"You guys are still scared, but you haven't told me what you did wrong, what crime did you commit." They all stared at the bed sheets as I waited for a response. `Come on kid, you're a professional, come up with something to end this,' I thought.

"Well, let me tell you what I think was inappropriate behavior," I injected, causing them all to stiffen. `Here goes nothing, or everything!' I told myself.

"When you use someone else's property, shouldn't you ask first?" I suggested. Johnny shuddered in my lap before he and Mark exchanged frightened glances. "Even if someone is sure you wouldn't mind, would not you want them to ask before they used something that belonged to you?"

All three of their faces answered for them, along with silently saying `Oh NO, here it comes.' After a second, Mark finally whispered "Yes sir," to his knees.

"If you would have asked first, we would have known where you were, too, wouldn't we?" earned me a pair of groans I couldn't understand. "If you had it to do again, what would you do different than you did earlier? Before you got into Doctor Jay's car?"

From all three of their faces I could tell they thought I was waiting for their pre-sentencing confessions. After a full minute of silence Ronnie seemed to take the big brother role, and answered for his condemned siblings. "Ah, ask first, sir,"

"Thanks, guys, I'm sure you will, next time," I answered with a relaxed grin. "Anyone thirsty, I am?" no one moved.

"Well, but what are you gonna do to us? Ah, I mean them?" Ronnie, still in his junior attorney role asked.

"I already did, I asked you to use better judgement in the future," I answered. They exchanged glances as their eyes vibrated from the gears grinding in their little heads. After not getting any response for several seconds I added, "Well, you might consider bribing me with a few extra hugs for a couple days! You got any spares handy?" I said toward Johnny, pulling him against my chest. He squirmed up my lap as he threw his arm around me and molded his little body against my chest and stomach.

"You're really not mad?" he whimpered after a second.

"No, I love you, I love all of you," I answered, extending my free hand toward my other two angels. Almost immediately I had a triple load of kids on my lap. `I'm glad Jay and big Ronnie bought quality beds, they saved me from two broken legs,' I thought as we snuggled.

"Everyone go wash your faces, we only have one more night to party in Virginia," I told them after a couple of minutes. "And someone go ask Ronnie if he has any beer in the house, I'm THIRSTY!" All three of them giggled a little and climbed down, rushing into my bathroom.

I slipped into Ronnie and Mark's bathroom and rinsed my face before joining the other adults, relaxing on the deck. Although no one asked, I responded to the several concerned faces in the group with a gentle smile as I nodded my head in the affirmative. I had just sat down when my Ronnie appeared from the kitchen door, his eyes darting around the patio. Steven was right behind, zeroing in on his mother as he stepped out of the door.

Ronnie rushed to his older namesake and whispered something into his ear. He listened for a very brief second before darting back inside, turning to cut a glance at his new friend before closing the door. Jay's partner had no sooner turned back from watching my son shoot inside when his nephew bolted from talking to his mother to Ronnie's side, whispering into his ear. Uncle Ronnie mouthed something to the boy causing him to break into an ear-to-ear smile and dart inside, bouncing off the door when it didn't open as fast as his feet were moving.

"Stevie's found a friend, you know there is going to be hell to pay when they go home," Ronnie told his foster sister/sister-in-law.

"There's going to be hell to pay over Angela not being invited!" Angelina replied.

"Well, she is welcome of course, she always is!" Jay added.

Mark rushed onto the deck before anyone could response, setting a can of beer on the table next to me. He nervously glanced around at the other adults, then leaned closer to me. "Ah, do you think maybe we can camp and watch TV, like we do at home?" he softly asked.

"A great idea, but this isn't our home, or our family room, I wonder who you should ask instead of me?" He blushed as he looked around, his eyes zooming in on Jay and Ronnie. Instead of approaching either of them he silently mouthed something to me and retreated back into the house.

I had time to briefly explain what the boys were asking, to make a nest and sleep en masse on the floor, before Mark, his brother and little Steven came back outside. They studied us for a second or so before locking eyes with each other. In what I was sure was a preplanned strategy Ronnie and Steven rushed over to Steven's uncle while Mark moved next to Jay, giving him a wide silver grin. I was still trying to predict what was coming next when a thin little body pushed its way under my arm, somehow perfectly positioning my hand on the shoulder immobilizer on his right arm. `This is going to be good!' I thought as I pulled my little carrot topped son against me, straining to keep a straight face.

"Ah, Uncle Ronnie, well, Ronnie and Mark and Johnny had an idea, and well, it sounds pretty neat," Steven began.

"Well, at home sometimes we sleep in front of the, well I mean we crash in front, well on the floor in front of the TV and watch movies and stuff, it's really neat!"

"We don't make a mess or nothing sir, we don't!" Mark proclaimed to Jay. "We just wanta put some blankets on the floor, and maybe some pillows!"

"And we'll be real quiet and stuff, we promise!" my Ronnie added.

"We will, Uncle!" Steven added, looking between his uncles and his mom and dad at lightning speed.

"Please Pop, Please?" Johnny whispered to me.

Jay and Ronnie quickly agreed. Ronnie had begun a comment about finding enough quilts and blankets for the boys when Chad interrupted. "Mister Sanchez, could I speak to you for a brief minute?" I'm not sure who's ass-hole sucked more wind between the other adults and I as Ronnie met the young sailor on the edge of the party deck, out of our ear shot. The anxiety tightened when Chad issued a couple more of his soft mouth clicks and his partners followed him into the house, and Ronnie returned to his seat.

"Yes, you and your friends are welcome to have a sleep-over in the den!" he told his nephew. "But, I'm not sure we have enough bedding to go around, you might have to make do!" he informed my son as much as his nephew.

Chad stuck his head out the door a minute or so later. "Boys, would you come in here for a second?" he asked. The kids exchanged worried looks, but meekly joined their bodyguard.

Not long after they went into the house we started hearing muffled giggles and comments from inside. I didn't think too much of it, but noticed Ronnie grinning as we listened. After several seconds, curiosity got the better of me and I went inside. I was trying to figure out what was going on now, what strange twist to a very long day as I looked around the Sanchez den. Three military style backpacks were neatly lined up on one wall, and the majority of the den's carpet was now covered with camouflage colored sleeping bags.

"Look Dad! We get to camp like the Army does!" Mark hooted when he saw me. He and Roger wrestled the sea of green quilting for a second or so, Mark flashing a silver grin so wide I had to squint to protect my eyes.

"Marine, Mark, Marines!" Roger snapped. "The Army still sleeps on bedrolls!" he quipped. Chad and Chris snickered at their mate's comment as Mark gave him a lost look.

"We always carry our field equipment on assignment, and thought the kids might enjoy getting some use out of our sleeping bags," Chad explained. "We are connecting two of our bags for the four boys to share, and the little girl can use the third. Young Lady, excuse me," he corrected himself as Angela shot him a death glare.

"Yeah, look Pop, they even got war yummies!" Johnny said, holding up an olive drab plastic bag. 'Wait until you taste one, you'll think otherwise!' I thought as I looked at the MRE he was proudly displaying. 'God, not even a teenager could enjoy those things!'

I met Angelina and Steven at the door as I stepped back onto the patio. After announcing they were going home, they asked when our flight was tomorrow, if they would see us again before we left.

"I was going to talk to Adam about that," Miguel interrupted. "I am going to South America tomorrow, I would like to invite you to ride with me instead of flying commercial," he said in my direction.

Seeing my lost look, Jay injected, "Dad has a private jet. Much quicker than waiting on the airlines, and I promise you would enjoy the flight."

"Our foundation owns an aircraft," Miguel corrected.

"For your exclusive use," Jay countered.

"Please, do not tell the IRS that!" Miguel said with a cagey grin. "I must stop in Mexico and Panama, so it would be on my way," he said toward me. "I would enjoy your family's company."

'Fuck, and I was proud of a little land and seven horses!' I thought. I almost declined his offer, not wanting to impose any further than I already had, but something in the old man's face told me not to. 'If this doesn't mess up the kids brains, nothing will,' I silently snickered as I accepted Miguel's offer.

The kids were all sleeping through a Sci-Fi movie when everyone moved inside, Miguel leaving for home; Jay and Ronnie, along with our young sailors, heading for bed. I took a minute to enjoy the heap of young teens nestled inside the double sleeping bag. Ronnie and Steven were snuggled against each other, only their noses and foreheads protruding from under the covers. Pushed against Ronnie's back was an outline I was sure was Mark and Johnny, with only a small tuft of Johnny's strawberry hair visible.

"You are indeed a very lucky man," Jay softly said, snapping me out of my trance. The two of us stood silently for a couple more minutes, just watching the sleeping bag subtly move with the boys' soft breathing.

"Yes, the luckiest man on earth," I whispered before going to my bedroom.

Jay, Ronnie and the kids were all on the deck when I got up in the morning, the boys and Angela playing in the pool while Jay and his partner watched from lounge chairs. I was disappointed to learn Chad and his fellow sailors had already left, saying they had to report back to their ship. "If you wouldn't mind, find out who their commander is," I asked Jay. "They deserve a commendation."

"Not a problem, I intended to do the same," Jay responded. "Also, Dad called, he would like to leave about eleven, if that is acceptable."

"He thought the boys would enjoy having lunch en route," Ronnie added. I could only nod my approval before he continued, "It might cost me a good Chef, but the boys should enjoy themselves."

Seeing my curious face he explained that one of their restaurants caters the Virginia, southbound leg of Miguel's trips, stocking the aircraft for the on-board attendant to serve. "Dad said to ask your sons what they wanted for lunch and have it prepared, but I had to repeat myself three times before the chef accepted he was to prepare chilli hot dogs, french fries and banana splits," he chuckled.

"This is a four-star restaurant, that is being evaluated for a five-star rating," Jay added. "We could be making history, I wonder if hot dogs have ever been cooked in a five-star kitchen!"

"As pontifical as Pierre is, I wonder how many cookbooks he scrounged to find the recipe!" Ronnie quipped. "A five-star wiener, on a hot bun, , ," his cagey grin finished his statement as he stood and went inside.

"When do you want to see Johnny again?" I asked Jay. "I hope you will take my offer to come to Texas, at my expense to examine him. I hope you two will be our guest at the ranch for the weekend."

"As I had suggested, in four weeks. Ronnie and I talked about that last night, and, although we are not worried about expenses, we would enjoy visiting your ranch. We would probably travel on Dad's aircraft, so there actually would be very little expense anyway." I was about to respond when he added, "Also, thank you so much for inviting my nephew. Of course I will have to check with his parents, but I'm sure there won't be a problem. He is looking forward to the trip."

It took a brief second, and another sip of coffee for his statement to soak in. 'Should I kill them in order of tallest to shortest, or oldest to youngest?' I asked myself. 'No, I could never hurt them,' I thought as I watched their happy faces in the pool. 'That's illegal anyway, I wonder if that Afghanistani boarding school is still accepting students? Can I still schedule winter sessions in Alaska, or Siberia?' I looked at my innocent faced boys for a second as I wondered if I should research youth camps at the North Pole.

"I also relayed our conversation, regarding children, to Ronnie," he said, interrupting my internal debate as to if I should e-mail Afghanistan for enrollment forms before leaving for Texas. "We also discussed it briefly over the phone with Dad this morning when he called."

The professional side of me took over as I turned my full attention to his statement. I waited for several seconds, hoping he would continue as we made eye contact several times, he glancing away each time. "How does your partner feel about it? How do you feel after having some time to reflect?" I finally risked.

"We agree there is a void in our lives, one we didn't really notice until your visit." He turned his gaze to the pool and the kids. "A void we are not sure how to fill when you, and your sons leave. However, given our lifestyle, and our orientation, neither Ronnie or I are convinced we are capable of being good parents, even if there was any hope of us getting the opportunity to try."

"We appreciate your efforts, but despite what you and Dad say, we would be fostering false hopes," Ronnie said as he sat fresh cups of coffee next to Jay and I and sat down. "How could we be declared, certified, however you want to put it, as fit parents?"

"Ronnie, would you ever hurt a child, would you ever do anything to a child placed in your care's that was not in their best interest?" I asked.

His glare, and tight face expressed his anger with my question, but he took a deep breath before answering in a sharp tone, "Of course not, I thought you knew better!"

"Jay, would you?" I continued, ignoring Ronnie's nasty stare.

"No, Doctor, neither of us would."

"You are fit parents, according to a Board Certified Adolescent Psychiatrist, me!" I answered. "I know it's not that simple, but my word goes a long way, and I'm ready if you are. As a boarded expert, anything I say has to be either accepted or challenged, as I'm sure Jay knows," I told them. "Oh, but Ronnie, let's leave out the Five-star Wieners and Hot Buns if we go to court!" I quipped, making the chef blush bright red.

I was waiting for Ronnie to respond, or recover, when kids started appearing around us. "I'm, we're hungry, Dad!" Mark announced, wrapping his still dripping arms and shoulders around my neck.

"Yeah Uncle Ronnie, when is it going to be ready?" Angela asked, hugging her uncle.

"Breakfast is ready, all we have to do is set it out!" he told his niece. "You know how to serve, why don't you guys go eat, Jay and I want to walk down to the beach with Doctor Owens for a few minutes." "Can you serve as hostess while we are away?" he asked, pulling the girl against him.

After giving her uncle a wide grin she darted toward the door. "Come on! Steven, get out the plates, Mark, get us some OJ!" she ordered like a military officer.

I fought off busting out in laughter as my boys gave me quick, concerned looks before their noses seem to take control of their bodies and rushed into the house in search of food, Mark barking at Johnny to find out where to find glasses.

To Be Continued…