SAVING TIME 10

by Bosephus




Nathaniel Berringer, standing six-foot four inches tall, physique that would green the gaze of Hercules, thirty-three years old and well-established author, felt like he was fifteen again. Uncle Jim had that affect on most people, though, if Nate had taken the time to speak with his many patients. The man was a force to be reckoned with and fighting him was a senseless waste of energy.

Uncle Jim closed the door against the soft whimpers of Bear, no doubt the dog's keen sense alerting him to the dangers of confrontation. Nate admitted he was probably reeking with the scent of fear that only a dog and someone as feral as Uncle Jim could pick up.

The large man pulled a rubber band from the pocket of his jeans, the warm cable knit sweater emphasizing the muscular lines that pushed the weave out in all the impressive areas. Reaching up, he captured the wild, white locks and tucked the thick mass securely on his neck.

As he managed this feat, he walked purposely towards Nate who still stood dumbstruck by the desk. The blond haired man couldn't help but flinch as JC barreled towards him in long, purposeful strides.

However, Nate's mouth flew open as the larger man pulled him into a warm embrace. "My God, boy, it's good to see you. I've missed you."

Nate instinctively reached up with his own arms returning the embrace, tears stinging his eyes at the unexpected show of love. Where was the hard man who had brought a petulant brat around all those long summers ago? Evelyn still spoke churlishly of her hated brother-in-law, but every now and then even she showed respect since he accomplished what teachers, counselors and the local police seemed unable to do, that being bringing her only child out of the darkness and into the light.

JC held his only nephew tightly, feeling all the old love and protective instincts that he harbored for his only close relative. JC pulled tighter almost lifting Nate off his feet, then just as quickly he released him, but not before delivering a hard, resounding smack to his jean-clad bottom.

"OW!" Nate said more in surprise than actual pain.

"Just a refresher," JC said as he put his hands on both of Nate's shoulders and pushed him arm's length away.   "More serious recollections up ahead if needed."

Nate turned a fiery red, humbled by the reminders of his teen years.

Pleased with his nephew's ability to recall events, he dropped his hands and picked up the framed photograph Nate had been looking at when he entered.

"I'm gay."

The younger Viking's mouth gaped open at the blunt clarification. He suspected, hell, Evelyn made enough comments as to her views of abnormal behavior. His own father, Daniel Berringer had made enough onerous remarks to quell any discussions as to the possibility of his one and only brother being a homosexual.

Evelyn had often said that JC didn't marry because he was too self-centered, too involved with his patients and their dysfunctional lives to give his full attention to a wife and family. Nate had bought it, hook, line and sinker and, since the large man came into his life so very little, save for that one summer, he never pursued the topic. Family was family and you just accepted things as they were told to you.

Plus the short visits with Uncle Jim and his army buddies were too filled with macho show of hands on activities to consider the possibilities of anything other than male tomfoolery. Now, Nate didn't know if he should be surprised or relieved that the inner suspicions were there all along and his basic instinct was right.

The older man watched his nephew's face for a few moments, a smile toying his lips, until he let out a loud guffaw throwing his head back and filling the room with laughter.

"Oh, come on, Natey, surely you had a clue?"

"Well, I...er..."

JC laughed all the harder. Placing the photograph back on his desk he sat down in the large, comfortable chair where he worked. Leaning back, he put his feet on the desk and placed his hands behind his head in a display of complete relaxation---a man enjoying himself immensely after a hard day's work.

Nate straightened himself, deciding he needed to shift gears, establish himself as an adult in this relationship, a protector and mentor to the boy upstairs.

"Maybe I did, but I figure that's your business."

"Oh, I see," JC said, as though he were being enlightened on scientific theories of the creation of the universe and he questioned none of it.

He nodded his head as he leaned it back into the cradle of his clasped hands and began staring up at the ceiling. Nate moved around the desk settling into one of the soft blue leather armchairs, their hobnailed arms and legs even dwarfing his large frame.

The psychologist still stared up, biting his lower lip in deep concentration. "Kind of like the army, right? Don't ask, don't tell."

"Well, what the hell was I supposed to do? You kept pretty much to yourself after that one summer, I thought...well, I just thought you had enough of family to last you a lifetime. Other than those trips with the Wild Bunch to the cabin, I rather figured you didn't want me in your life." Nate toyed nervously with the fine etched carvings at the end of the leather chair arms. He couldn't help but notice the nail marks in the wood, as though whoever sat before James Berringer were always in worried peril.

"That's bullshit, boy, and the even bigger bullshit since you know it's bullshit," Berringer said, still in a fine good humor.

This was not the man Nate was expecting, but he knew one thing about Uncle Jim, he could shift gears from humorous good cheer to formidable authoritarian in a flash. He just didn't know when to expect the reprimand and he wasn't quite sure which direction this meeting was going to go.

"I thought you wanted to talk about Cody?" Nate tried to take the reins.

"Cody is not your concern," JC said as he swung his large, jean-clad legs down from the desktop and righted his swivel chair. Bringing his large form around to face his desk and Nate, he clasped his hands in front of him on the desk and looked directly at his nephew.

Noting the wide-eyed glare that meant Nate was ready to fight, he down shifted and even the old hippie was surprised by the vehemence in his own voice. "He's mine now. Mine to save."

Nate caught the hot fury in the silver blue eyes, the soft lights glinting like steel as sun speckled the room from the back bay window.

Nate stood up, resting his hands on his hips. "I saved his life, three times, by my guess that makes him my responsibility."

"So, laddie, all this time I thought you were on book tours, researching your true-life crime novels, entertaining the talk-show hosts with your in-depth forays into the mind of criminals, and here you were, getting your doctorate in psychology. Shows how out of touch we really have been, don’t it?"  JC finished his little speech and stood, matching his nephew inch for inch and topping him by another two. Out matching him in mood and sheer force of bulk, he came around the desk, almost dwarfing the large Viking.

"He matters to me," Nate almost whispered, realizing how ridiculous it all sounded.

"Aye," the older man said, heavily accented in a Scottish brogue, "but he matters more to me."

Nate looked up quickly, stunned by the passion and sadness in the statement.

"Not to mention," JC said softer now, almost affectionately, "I am qualified and I know the whole the story...you," he tapped his finger against Nate's chest, "no little save what your heart says."

Nate closed his eyes, realizing the truth when it was finally spoken. He did know very little. Three attempts at his life and three times saved, and only because of Bear, not him. He remembered the frantic search in the woods with Ben, how they called and hollered and begged Cody to answer. Then, when all seemed lost, the howling that broke through the darkness like those of banshees on All Hallow's Eve. He and Ben had ran in the direction of the eerie cries as the dog seemed to mourn the passing of his own life. As soon as they had hit the beach they realized how futile all searching would have been for the boy and dog were both cut off from their view. But the loud wails pulled them towards the detritus of branches and they were both shocked to see the huge dog lying full weight upon the boy's left arm as though trying to stop the flow of blood. Cody, unconscious, slumped sideways against the logs, his right arm draped lovingly over the huge, black Newfoundland.

Ben's quick medical training spurred them into action. Nate pulling the reluctant dog off the boy, Ben making a tourniquet of his belt, dialing his cell phone and requesting assistance. Deputy Rawlins was coming down the service road just tipping the rise before they even had Cody off the beach. It was the large mutt that had saved Cody's life, even Doctor Marcus had admitted the dog's weight had cut the flow and the amount of time in which they had found him.

Seeing the downtrodden slump of his nephew's shoulders, JC pulled the boy towards him. "It's okay, Nathaniel, there is damage to the boy that you could do nothing about, he's in capable hands now, don't you think?"

Not getting any response, he pushed his nephew away, still confining him within his space with two strong hands on his shoulders. "Weeellll?" he asked frowning dramatically and raising an eyebrow in query.

"Yes, of course," Nate said, somewhat embarrassed by his timing, "but I can help him. I can give him understanding and a reason to live."

"No you can't," Uncle Jim said, giving his nephew a slight shake when he saw the slight shaking of the head in denial. "NOOOO YOUUUUU CAN'T."

"Just tell me what I need to know, tell me what you know about him." There was pleading in the blue eyes, a desperation that James Berringer worried about. He was beginning to realize that his nephew was in some personal conflict of his own and that he might be doing double-duty as counselor and guide.

"He's mine, now, Natey. Professionally speaking, the boy is a patient of mine. He would be in an asylum right about now if Baaa hadn't of had the paperwork ready. You see, I've been waiting for this moment, expecting it for years and sitting on the sidelines tracking events. I can't disclose personal things about Cody Colson Blade without violating patient-doctor privilege, but you," once again the finger poked threateningly at Nate's chest, "should have called me. Or let Ben take the boy for professional help after the first encounter.  That stubborn independence has almost gotten that lad upstairs killed."

He paused dramatically. "Which leads us to the reason for this little get together."

Just then there was a loud rustling noise in the monitor, the bedclothes shifting softly as Cody changed positions in his sleep. JC waited, listening, then the soft snores filled the room again and JC sighed.

"I've shown you mine, now you show me yours," JC said walking away from Nate towards the credenza along the north wall. "How about a brandy? I know it's early, but the last twenty-four hours have taken a bit of the flint out of me."

"Fine," Nate said, still petulantly working out a strategy in his mind to gain more control over the boy.

Pouring two snifters of the golden fluid, JC handed it to Nate. Taking his nephew's arm he led him to one corner of the long, leather sofa. When Nate sat down, JC walked over to the other end and settled himself at an angle, placing his long legs up on the sofa, resting back against a corduroy throw pillow.

"Ah," he said dramatically sipping the smooth liquor, "this is much better."

Then watching his nephew staring into his drink, swirling the golden fire around and losing himself in the color, JC asked again, "Now show me yours."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Nate asked, suddenly even more defensive with the subject turning towards him.

"I believe I started this conversation with 'I'm gay.'"

Nate swallowed loudly and his Adam's apple bobbed up and down.

JC's heart broke for just one instant, so like the small, frightened, hostile desperado he had taken home to break all those years ago. Nathaniel Cameron Berringer still showed another face to the world and was still hiding behind that tough facade.

"Come on, Natey, isn't there something you want to tell me."

Nate put the snifter on the table next to him, leaned forward and buried his face in his hands. "Why is it so easy for you? Why is everything so fucking easy for you?"

"I just don't fight the truth," JC said, putting his own snifter down and rising. He walked over and sat next to his most prized possession, the one remaining family that he had. Pulling Nate back and into his chest, he waited while Nathaniel struggled, stiffened against the show of affection.

Then he felt the shoulders soften, ease into his solid form, he saw the tension and rigid lines of resistance leave the muscular back and Nathaniel Berringer slowly, softly began to cry.
 
 

JC held his nephew as the sun lost its golden glow and the late afternoon shadows eased into the room. He could offer little up when his nephew resisted the truth with so much pain and hurt and denial. It was not his place to make statements about another's life, only sit and listen and be there when the soul cracked and the heart broke.

The long moments passed as the hard heaves turned to soft murmurings and finally Nathaniel pushed up and off the rock solid foundation where he sought comfort.

"I'm sorry," he said, sincerely, wiping away at his eyes.

JC reached towards the end table around his nephew's huge frame and gave him the box of tissues, always unobtrusively placed around the room.

"Nothing to be sorry for, laddie. There are no quick answers and sometimes there are no easy truths, either. We just need to get comfortable again, perhaps."

"I'm here for the boy," Nate said, still denying there was a problem in his own life.

"Yes, I know you are," JC concurred, his eyes admitting he knew a lot more as well.  "Let's you and I work out something, okay?"

The large man rose and walked towards the bay window in back. His hands clasped casually behind his back, giving his nephew a chance to pull himself back into emotional shape.

"Let's work together with the boy. Cody needs professional help and I'm here to give it to him, but he's also going to need constant surveillance, emotional monitoring and friends, above all else, that boy is going to need some friends to help him find himself and offer him support when he learns some home truths."

Then turning he saw his nephew, face still red, but eyes clear and bright at the suggestion…the terror of losing the boy seemingly gone for the time.

"I am his friend. He's a good kid." Nate turned and picked up the brandy. He took a long hard pull on it and relished in the warmth as it glided down his throat.

"Let me look into a few things, I have an idea, but I need to follow up on it first. You can stay here with me until we find an alternative arrangement. You can set your computer up and settle in my room temporarily. The boy can have the other room."

"I was planning on going back up to the cabin. I need to finish my book." Nate was still a bit unsure. Being around Uncle Jim made him feel like a kid again and he didn't want to be anything but strong and formidable for Cody.

"If you do, you go alone." Uncle Jim was adamant.

Nate thought it over. He wanted to be with the boy. He needed to be with the boy right now.

"Okay, I guess I can work here as well as there."

"Ground rules: the boy is my responsibility. He takes direction from me. Our sessions are off limits to you or anyone else. But afterwards, in the evenings, you and I, we try to give the boy a family for once in his life." James Berringer was telling it like it was going to be. No two ways about it.

"That's fine with me," Nate said, finishing off his drink. "I just want the boy to get better."

"He will. I will see to it."

Then JC walked back across the room and grabbed his nephew by the shoulders, giving him a slight shake his face hardened and there was anger and authority in his demeanor now.

"You and I will get acquainted for a time. Then I take you to task, boy. I'll grant you the time to think things through, to adjust to the home truths and face up to whatever it is that's eating you up, but I'm not that patient a man, Natey, as you well know. Then I'm going to come down on you, hard, like before. I think you need straightening out and I'm willing to do it all over again. We'll try this approach for now, seeing as how the boy needs you, but then we'll bring up the past and if need be, I'll apply the same methods of correction that worked then. Do I make myself clear?" James Berringer was in true form, rock hard and determined and Nathaniel could only nod and blush.

"Good, you remember. Memory is good." Then JC pulled Nate back into another huge bear hug. "I've missed you, laddie, I truly have."
 

That evening the three men had pizza delivered. Cody still could not keep his eyes open and he was sent to bed early.  Nate, feeling very much out of sorts decided to take Bear for a long walk along the coast.

James Cameron Berringer closed himself off in his office. The large leather couch folded out into a comfortable bed, and he had oftentimes slept down there when a patient was in bad straits and a phone call meant the difference between life and death. Now, however, he felt a deep hurt at his nephew's attitude. The boy, Cody, was just a matter of time and he was ready for this day for some time. But Nathaniel, everything should have been going well for him now, and it wasn't. To think of all the years that they had wasted seemingly believing it was what the other wanted. How sad, JC thought. How many lonely Christmases with just a card passing between them? How many problems and questions that could all have been resolved if they had believed in their bond.

Sure, Evelyn would do everything in her power to keep Nate away from her hated brother-in-law. JC was even shocked to realize that she never told Nathaniel that his only uncle was a homosexual. Knowing her, she would have used every weapon available to punch holes in the image of Uncle Jim. Once he had served his purpose when she was at her wit's end, then she could go back to abusing him verbally and shunning all contact with him. Perhaps she felt she owed him that small favor at least.

He smiled wryly at the thought and poured himself a large snifter of the warm brandy. He lit a flame under the snifter and watched as the golden liquid warmed. Too much lately, he admitted to himself, too much comfort found in the bottle.

A soft meowing came out of the shadows that were creeping into the corners of the room. Dolores had found some secret way into the office. With the large double-doors securely locked, she had discovered some hidden route into her master's den. At first, JC had been upset and quite determined to find the entrance, but days after searching, he had finally given up simply accepting of the fact that the cat knew when and if he needed her.

Now she stretched luxuriously as she pranced like a dancer across the dark blue carpet softly talking to her master.

"Things change," he said to her knowing full well she was perturbed by the increased population in her domain, in particular with Bear.

She gave a sharp "nya," that JC often found to sound like a determined and decisive NO. He laughed. "Well, Princess, I'm afraid they do."

She jumped up casually onto his lap and settled down for a nap. He began a long stroking movement that relaxed him more than it did Dolores.

He sat for another two hours watching the sunset behind the sloping hills, wishing with all his heart that Connor Devane were not an ocean away.
 
 

The next day, JC gently glided Cody into his new life. Nothing to shock the young man, yet, he determined, but he wanted him to have a vague notion of how things were going to be. They started off with a simple get to know one another session in his office after breakfast. Nate was busy setting up his computer and rearranging furniture in the bedroom overhead, Bear eager to be by his side. The large dog had seemed to realize that Cody belonged to another now and he was of no mind, however capable, to challenge James Cameron Berringer.

A huge breakfast of bacon, eggs, sausages, pancakes, and toast made for light conversation. The large Vikings attacked their breakfasts with relish and Cody, who wasn't very hungry last night, now joined them, at least with enthusiasm. Cody was excused to sit outside in the sun on the patio with Bear, while JC and Nate tackled the dishes, with a slight warning that tomorrow his real day began and he was not going to be waited on. Chores would be assigned and he would be expected to help out around the house. He glumly nodded and was eager to get outdoors with Bear, of course, with the hated baby monitor on.

When Cody settled himself in one of the huge blue leather chairs, JC closed the double doors and clasped his hands together enthusiastically in a loud display of eagerness and anticipation.

"Well, Cody, it's a pleasure to finally meet you," he said as he walked to his desk.

"I doubt that." The boy was churlish today, not the compliant soul so awash with drugs that he was quietly dragged through the day. He was getting his own steam back and with it a few hot spots.

"Your dad loved you very much," JC continued, eager to make concessions for the lost soul. "He had so much fun with you that one weekend at the cabin. Didn't stop talking about it for weeks. I had to finally threaten him.  He..."

"Look," Cody said standing up just as JC sat behind his desk. "Let's just cut the bullshit, okay?"

"Okay," JC said, smiling cheerily. "You start."

Cody looked momentarily nonplussed, but he soon regained some stamina as he walked towards the back bay window overlooking the overcast morning, the shadows darkening the patio as the clouds came overhead.

"I'm here because you had some fancy lawyer pluck me from that Hicksville hospital. You think if we talk, I'll have this great epiphany on how wonderful my life is, how worthwhile it all is and how much I truly want to count myself among the living, right?" Cody turned now watching JC's face expectantly.

JC didn't answer, he only kept his silver-blue eyes trained on the boy, who acted now like he was in charge and JC were there for counseling.

"Well, you and I both know I'm right. Soooo, we can save you...as I'm sure you have other patients in need of your fine talents, patients who hang on your every word and walk out those doors filled with a renewed eagerness for life...we can save you the time and effort. As grandfather said, 'some are born losers.'"

Still JC sat quietly watching. Then he merely pointed a sharp finger towards one of the blue leather chairs before his desk. He didn't say a word merely pointed and kept a watchful eye on Cody.

When Cody didn't move, stayed rooted to the spot in the middle of the large room, Berringer said one word that echoed through the space like a canon blast, "One."

The boy's eyes widened, but he didn't move, his gaze hooded with uncertainty.

The minutes passed before the next numeral shook the air, "Two."

Cody flinched this time, not only unsure of himself but expectant.

"Wellllll," JC said slowly as he rose from the chair, but before he could finalize the count, Cody rushed forward and slammed his butt into the blue chair eager to keep the large desk between him and the formidable man.

James Berringer sat back down never taking his eyes off of Cody. The boy finally looked down at the carpeting, embarrassed by his capitulation.

"You are lucky, Mr. Blade, lucky that this is an introductory, getting to know you session. Once our work begins, you will be held accountable for your attitude, your comments, and your compliance to my rules. Do I make myself clear?" The voice was still calm and matter-of-fact; no threat really gilded the edges, only a loving promise.

"Yes," Cody said, then catching the grimace, he amended, "Yes, sir."

"Good, we are making progress. Tomorrow our real work will begin. I have some friends I'd like you to meet, you and Nate. They live here in Ponder Cove and I've developed a tight and close bond with them as well as others in the town. Tonight we're meeting them for dinner at the Garden Villa, a fine Italian restaurant that I'm sure you'll like." JC was happy again, making plans and sounding like a social director on a cruise ship, insisting that all projects be met with eager anticipation and excitement.

"I'm not ready to meet people," Cody insisted.

"Yes, you are." JC counter moved.

"What gives you the right...," but Cody didn't finish he was cut off by JC's hands waving him into submission.

"A legal document. One stating that you were to be sent to Cranston Sanitarium per the instructions of your grandfather due to your unstable situation. Stealing a car, attempting suicide, and general unruly behavior beyond the family's control anymore. The other document, your saving grace, laddie, stating that you are to be turned over to me as your legal guardian until the age of twenty-one and that you are to become my patient. That one document laddie gives me right over all other reasons."

"How did you get that right?" Cody asked quietly.

"You father, things you know nothing about, yet. But in time you will, when you're able to accept the way things are," then seeing the distraught look creep across the boy's face, JC lightened the mood. "Hey, we've got plenty of time, a year. Let's just take it one day at a time at first. You'll be able to handle things in small increments a lot better at first than trying to work out the puzzle when half the pieces are missing to begin with."

JC watched the boy, seemingly struggling with some idea in his head.

"What's on your mind, Cody?" Berringer needed to gauge the boy's emotional health, see where he was going and coming from.

"Did you know my dad well? I mean, I know you were friends, all those guys at the cabin had been in the army together, but did you spend a lot of time with my father? Did you two go to Gulf Storm together?"

JC smiled, glad of the boy's interest, but still unsure of how far to proceed. "We were very, very close, Cody. I met your dad long before the Gulf War. The Wild Bunch came together in Germany, actually. I was in the Reserve doing counseling sessions with prisoners of war, men and their families relocated having troubles keeping their home life in tact in a foreign land. Your father came to me as a patient, regarding a personal matter." Berringer stopped here. He wasn't ready to tell the boy that his dad was a homosexual and that he and Wild Bill Blade had been life partners, married and very much in love. All things in time would be revealed.

Standing up, he walked in front of Cody and sat back insouciantly on the desk. "To make a long story short, we started going out at night to local bars, we became good friends. He introduced me to Ben Bracken, Gil Farver, and the lot and I liked them. They were easy going and had their heads on straight. When we all got reassigned back in the states, we talked about buying the cabin, talked about it for years. One day your dad just had the paperwork written up and said we do it..and we did." JC looked off towards the bay window out onto the sunny garden. Laughing he caught himself in a spiral of memories, "your dad was like that. He took action, liked making things happen. He loved life."

Pausing he saw the wistful look on Cody's face as though the boy were trying to remember his own image of his dad and failing horribly. "And he loved you. More than you will ever know."

"Did he?" Cody stood up now, fists clenched at his side. "Then why didn't he come to see me, take me with him, spend more time with me? Why? You don't ignore someone you love?"

"He couldn't. There were things keeping him from you."

"NO! Grandfather told me. Grandfather told me how dad never wanted me. How I was an accident. How he only married mother to save her good name. He never wanted me."

JC reached out and locked two large hands on Cody's shoulders. "Listen to me, boy, and listen well. Whatever Faber Colson told you, whatever things he said about your father, I can tell you right now, they were lies."

Cody shook his head, denying the truths he had come to believe. "No, grandfather kept me. He raised me. He had plans for me, but he hated..." Cody dropped off as though not really understanding where he was going.

"What did he hate, Cody?"

"He hated....me." Sitting back down, Cody paled. JC walked over to the credenza and poured a glass of ice water. In long strides he was back in front of Cody before the first tear fell. Kneeling down in front of the boy, he handed him the glass.

"Here, drink this and stop it right now." JC was firm again, the voice of authority that would not be brooked.

"We've miles to cover, Cody, but we'll be working together and you're going to hear another side to things, the truth for once."
 
 

The gold Navigator made yet another sweep of the small town. The night air was thickening as twilight set softly around them. They passed the Prince Albert Hotel, a luxurious resort that boasted a golf course, riding stables and access to the ocean front where boats and small sailboats could be rented. They rode up and down the one main street that intersected at Remembrance, the parallel hot spots of this very quiet, very secluded town.

“And that there is Angel Inn,” JC’s voice droned on as Cody tried to block out the distraction. His mind was ruminating on the events and discussion of the day, the truths that JC promised him he would be hearing. He was tired; not only from the drugs that were pumped into him the last two days, but also from the mental sparring he did with himself as well as this formidable Viking.

“They say it’s haunted by an old sea-faring captain and many a guest in one of the ten guest rooms has sworn they’ve seen the old gent in their rooms, late at night,” JC added with a sinister voice, trying to lighten the atmosphere in the confined space.

Nate sat in back; sulking was more the word to describe his attitude. JC had adamantly demanded that Bear be locked in his room while they were gone, claiming fear for Dolores’ life. Although he didn’t doubt that the wily, experienced survivor of frigid wilderness could handle the dog, he felt it in the best interests of his fine collection of art and sculptures that the dog be confined to chambers. Nate took umbrage, but JC had a feeling it was still a bristling over rights to Cody, and had nothing at all to do with the lovable and quite compliant mutt.

One street was completely lined with specialty shops of every nature. Flowers, furniture, clothes, fine leather goods, gifts and jewelry. The street was accommodating the traveler with baked goods, fine pastries, coffee nooks and restaurants to fit just about every palette. The Garden View was an all-glass enclosed restaurant that allowed travelers to see the diners as they sat amidst the white tablecloths and black leather and chromed chairs. Pink flowers adorned each table as the waiters made their way around the crowded room, tending inconspicuously to the needs of the diners.

JC parked in the back lot and the three striking men walked up along the side street to enter through the double-glass doors. The maitre de, immediately recognizing JC, guided them towards their table. “Your guests are here, already, Dr. Berringer.”

Cody dragged his feet behind the tall man and only moved when Nate placed a guiding hand on his back. Throwing a hostile look over his shoulder, he was met with a sour look. Cody couldn’t help but feel some disappointment in this man who so easily gave him up to the larger, more formidable Ancient.

Two men sat at the table set for six, Cody noted. One was the black-haired young man who had presented the paperwork at the clinic. All Cody could remember about him was that he was charming, a fast talker, and sputtered out legalese like he was born with the tongue.

The other man was tall and lanky about ten years older than the other. His hair was dark brown save for the graying at the temples and he had crow’s feet pulling at his brown eyes, stamping him as a man who spent a lot of time laughing.

“Jim!” the lanky one said as he rose from his chair and extended his hand towards JC. The large doctor took the hand and shook it, while grasping the wrist with his other hand, locking them in some hidden ritual of camaraderie.

“George, I owe you and Baa big time on this one.” JC seemed grateful by the mere pumping of the paws. Cody shifted nervously on his feet.

Noting the discomfort behind him, JC cleared his throat. “George, Baaa, I’d like you to meet Cody Colson Blade…finally.”

George smiled warmly and Baaa rose as well to shake hands. Cody went through the proper ceremony.

“And my nephew, Nathaniel Berringer,” JC said proudly.

Nate moved forward and shook the hands. “Baaa and I have already met,” he acknowledged. “I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your full names.”

JC shook his head once, expressing his discontent with his nephew’s attitude. “George Englewood and Bartholomew Logan. George is a graphic artist for one of the biggest gaming companies around, plus he does free lance graphics and web page design. Baaa is a lawyer, actually my lawyer now.”

Everyone took their seats at the secluded corner table. JC at the end, Cody to his right, Nate next to him, George to the left of JC and Baaa next to him. The other end remained empty, but a place setting held firm the promise of another guest.

The conversation edged around Cody. Like soft satin draped over a doll’s house, he watched phrases and comments settle quietly amid these men. Softly it encased them in their own diorama of friendship and good cheer. Men who had grown used to each other’s constant banter, they were impervious to their own rudeness. Grandfather would have balked, pointed out the ineptitude of such callousness. Cody found it comforting.

“Well, we’ll give him five more minutes,” Jim said, as he reached for another bread stick, casting a furtive look out the surround plate glass windows, seeking the missing link.

A snort came from Baa followed by a shriek as he grabbed his shin, “Damn, George, you know how he’s always late. I swear he likes to make the entrance.”

“Then accept it, and stop being the bell ringer for the man’s vices.”

“Enough,” Uncle Jim said, as he spotted the yellow Tracker. “Arrived…he has indeed.”

All heads in the restaurant turned as tires squealed and brakes caught. The small yellow Tracker u-turned in front of the restaurant and came to a dramatic screech under one of the five handicapped parking signs.

Cody strained to see. But all he could focus on were the faces of the cheerful diners. They were laughing, nodding to one another as though quite assured a dear and trusted friend had arrived.
 
 

A chapter written before the flame died….is it worth igniting once again? You tell me. Jorjimine@yahoo.com
 

With eager heart you told me lies
You fooled yourself with your disguise
You said you were an honest man
Always in complete command.

You can't be gay, or so you claim
With job and family and your fame
So denial breaks your heart in two
Makes you everything but you.

Can you fool yourself as you go by
All you are, can you deny
Or somewhere down the road impart
The secret knowledge in your heart.

Do dreams of love and friendship rare
Make you want your soul to bare
Do fears of unacceptance make
The rough façade and you a fake.

If one soul alone knows true
All you are and what you do
One soul alone makes you come out
Makes you free and never doubt.

Then you are loved and known well
Makes no difference what you tell
Face the truth just as you are
Love and trust will take you far.
(Jorjimine)
 

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