Jared the Paramedic II ~ The Family Gathers

Chapter 20: Anguish

Main Character ListMain Character List ("<\/p>\r\n<h3 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Main Characters<\/h3>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Jared<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 29<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 6'3\", 230 lbs of solid muscle, trimmed dark black hair and deep chocolate brown eyes<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Paramedic (Partner: Liam) \/ Shift Supervisor \/ Paramedic Field Trainer<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Boyfriend: Liam<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships: Mathew Bear (grandfather), Melanie Bear (cousin)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Spirit Guide: Bear<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Nicknames: Masqua, Standing Bear<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Titles: Sacred Medicine Man of the People, President and CEO Bear Investment Group (secret)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 1<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Liam<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 22<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 6'0\", blue eyes, curly blond hair, nicely toned and tanned<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Paramedic (Partner: Jared)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Boyfriend: Jared<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Spirit Guide: Eagle<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Nicknames: Mikisow, Soaring Eagle<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 1<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Troy<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 25<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'11\", brown eyes, blonde hair, solid but not overly muscular.<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Paramedic<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Boyfriend: Tyler<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Spirit Guide: Wolf<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 1<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Tyler<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 25<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'11\", brown eyes, dark brown hair, slim<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Police Officer (Partner: Josh)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Boyfriend: Troy<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Spirit Guide: Wolf<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 1<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Josh<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 25<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'8\", blue eyes, light brown hair, solid. He and Darrin could pass for cousins or even brothers,<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Police Officer (Partner: Tyler)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Boyfriend: Darren<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Spirit Guide: Wolf<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Nickname: Ditch Pig<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 1<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Darren<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 26<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 6'0\", green eyes, light brown hair, solid. He and Josh could pass for cousins or even brothers.<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Fire Fighter<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Boyfriend: Josh<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Spirit Guide: Wolf<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Nickname: Hose Puller<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 5<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Jesse<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 32 (looks 22)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'10\" 160 lbs, blonde hair, clear blue eyes, light olive skin (darkens considerably when tanned). Has an eidetic memory.<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Lawyer, McCoy &amp; Associates (owner, President, CEO), McAdam Construction (owner, President, CEO)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Husband: Marc (deceased)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Boyfriend: Zane<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance:&#160;Jared II, Chapter 1 &#160; &#160; | &#160; &#160; Jared, Chapter 16 (phone)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Zane<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 26<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'8\" 140 lbs, brown hair, brown eyes<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Director of the LGTBQ2 Centre<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Boyfriend: Jesse<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 11<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Conner<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 18<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'10\", 150 lbs, slightly built, brown curly hair, hazel eyes<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Student<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships:&#160;Frank (surrogate father)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 11<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Mark<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 18<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'11\", 150 lbs, slightly built, dirty blonde straight hair, grey eyes<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Student<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships: Sgt. Frank Myers (father)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 15<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Adam<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 19<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'8\", 145 lbs, black hair, chocolate brown eyes, olive skin<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships: Tom (grandfather), Frank (surrogate father)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Spirit Guide: Salamander<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 17<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Patrick<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 17<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 6'0\", dark shaggy hair, large soft brown eyes, contagious smile, and a light mustache<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared II, Chapter 11<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Mathew (Grandfather)<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships: Jared and Melanie (grandchildren), Liam, Tyler, Troy, Darren, Josh, Jesse, Zane, Conner, Mark, Adam (adopted grandchildren)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared II, Chapter 12 &#160; &#160; | &#160; &#160; Jared, Chapter 2 (mentioned); Jared, Chapter 8 (astral)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">")

Recurring Character ListRecurring Character List ("<\/p>\r\n<h3 style=\"text-align: justify;\"><span style=\"text-decoration: underline; color: #999999;\">Recurring Characters<\/span><\/h3>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Sgt. Frank Myers<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Police Sergeant<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships: Mark (son) and a daughter, Conner (surrogate son), Adam (surrogate son)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 1<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Rob<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Ambulance Base Manager<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 4<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Melanie Bear<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'6\", with olive skin and jet black braided hair to her waist<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Executive Assistant to the CEO\/President, Bear Investment Group (3rd in command)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships: Mathew Bear (grandfather), Jared Bear (cousin)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 10 &#160; &#160; | &#160; &#160; Jared, Chapter 2 (mentioned)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Jack<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: COO of McCoy &amp; Associates<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships: Molly (wife), Jesse (surrogate son)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared II, Chapter 5 &#160; &#160; | &#160; &#160; Jared II, Chapter 3 (phone)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Molly<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships: Jack (husband), Jesse (surrogate son)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared II, Chapter 5<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Julie<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Office Manager for the local McCoy &amp; Associates office<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Used to babysit Jesse and Marc when they were young<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared II, Chapter 3<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">John<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: CFO and Acting CEO, Bear Investment Group (2nd in command after Jared)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 10<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Amanda<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: A pleasant woman, shorter, plump, eyes full of life, and&#160;grandmotherly. &#160;Also a sensitive.<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Hospital Social Worker<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 13<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Marci<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Paramedic<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 14<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Tom<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 75<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Owner and Operator of Tom's Marina<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Relationships: Adam (grandson)<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared, Chapter 17<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Trevor<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 23<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'8\" 130 lbs, long blonde hair, very fine facial features with delicate hands<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Works at the LGBTQ Centre<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared II, Chapter 4<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<h4 style=\"text-align: justify;\">Nikita<\/h4>\r\n<ul style=\"text-align: justify;\">\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Age: 19<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Description: 5'9\" slim, blonde hair, crystal blue eyes, muscular<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">Job: Works at the Chinese Resturant<\/span><\/li>\r\n<li><span style=\"color: #999999;\">First Appearance: Jared II, Chapter 14<\/span><\/li>\r\n<\/ul>\r\n<hr \/>\r\n<p style=\"text-align: justify;\">")

The men got up in the morning, and after breakfast headed out onto the river to continue their journey.

"So, Conner, what do you think of canoeing and camping out?" asked Tyler.

"Other than being up a little earlier than normal, I love it."

Tyler smirked, "A little?"

Conner and Mark both laughed, "Ok, a lot earlier."

"Markie, what do you think of this?" asked Josh.

"I really am enjoying it, but especially being able to spend time with you guys and Conner, too," Mark replied.

"Hey, little man Patrick.  How you doing over there?" asked Troy.

"I'm good," he replied.

"Hey Conner, is that a whisker I see on your chin?" asked Jesse with a smile.

"Jesse, don't pick on the little guy.  It's not his fault he has more hair on his legs than his face," added Tyler.

"Or his pubes," said Mark.

"You are all such assholes," replied Conner with a smile.  "Especially you, Mr. needs-a-weed-whacker-to-find-his-dick."

"You little smartass," laughed Zane as he leaned forwarded and pinched Conner's butt.

"Ouch!" yipped Conner. "Jerk!"

"Nice solid little bum there, Conner; just wait until you grow up and become a man," said Zane.

"You mean old and saggy bums like you and Jesse?" asked Conner with a big smile.

Jared, Liam, and the rest started to laugh so hard they choked from being unable to breathe.

"Con, you've really come out of your shell, haven't you, little buddy?" asked Tyler as he laughed.

"Whatever happened to the shy, quiet kid we met in the hospital?" asked Troy.

"He met you guys," chirped Conner.

"Hey, what the hell do you mean my ass is saggy, you little twerp," screeched Jesse. "You wait until we get to shore.  I am going to put you over my knee…"

"Hey Conner, no worries, you're safe from him.  He left his walker in his car, so just run uphill," said Mark.

"This is all Liam's fault," said Jesse.  "He's corrupted the young ones and taught them to be smart assed."

"Hey, I never taught them that!" said Liam. "They learned it from Tyler."

"Don't you blame my Tyler or Troy, you semi-old man," said Patrick.

"Semi-old man!?  Patrick, you are going to get it real good," said Liam.  He leaned forward and smacked Patrick's ass.

The young man yipped.

"You didn't think that one through when you insulted the guy sitting behind you, did you?" chided Liam.

Patrick turned and smiled at Liam, and it was a smile he knew too well.

"Don't you dare, you little twerp.  No chemical weapons…" Liam started but didn't finish.

Patrick let a fart go which echoed in the gunnels of the canoe.  It was a long trumpet which ended with a staccato of short bursts.

"Oh my god!" said Liam fanning his face.

A moment later, the second canoe paddled into the cloud.

Jesse started to gag, "That kid is rotten to the core."

Patrick had a proud look on his face.  Tyler was giving the young man a thumbs-up until Jared smacked him the back of the head. "Do NOT encourage him, Tyler."

"Jeez Patrick, do you need to wipe after that one?" asked Liam.

"Maybe," he replied with a smile.

The group insulted and poked fun at each other for a while as they paddled until it was time for the morning break.

The canoes had barely been beached when Conner, Mark, and Patrick made a running break up the shore, but they were quickly overtaken and pinned to the sand.

Jesse and Zane had Conner pinned down and were tickling him while reminding him what he had said earlier.  Conner was begging for forgiveness in between screams of laughter.

Darren and Josh had Mark pinned and were treating him the same way.  Jared and Liam had Patrick pinned, and he was screaming for Troy and Tyler to save him from the evil old men.  Not to be left out, Troy and Tyler had Adam pinned and they were ticking his ribs mercilessly.  After a few minutes, they left the young men lying on the beach, resting and recovering after their ordeal.

Finally, Mark spoke, "Conner, will you quit getting us into trouble?"

"Me?  You say me?"  Conner sputtered, and he rolled and attacked Mark.

Patrick was watching the two of them as Adam attacked.  The two of them wrestled around and rolled into the water, finally stopping as they laughed.

"Adam, this is such a cool trip.  I've never done anything like this before.  You've spent a lot of time in the wilds?" asked Patrick.

"I grew up in the area except it was closer to where Jared's cabin is.  I spent a lot of time with my grandfather working at the store and the docks."

"That sounds pretty cool."

"It is at times, but there aren't many people around to hang with there."

"I hadn't thought of that," replied Patrick.

"He hangs with us a lot over at our house.  In fact, my dad says Adam is another adopted son like me," said Conner.

"Your dad accepts Adam hanging around just as easy as that?"

"Oh yeah, the three of us do everything together.  Dad got us a king-sized bed because we sleep together too, just like we did here last night," said Conner.

"So, the three of you are boyfriends?" asked Patrick.

"No.  I mean, Conner and I did go on a couple of dates, and while our interest in each other hasn't waned, we decided to concentrate on our friendship first.  We are the best of friends... I mean we are really close, but we've never taken that step beyond those couple of dates.  Adam is our friend and when we are together, we are not only safe, but we enjoy it," said Mark.  "I'm not explaining this very well."

"So, you guys are all gay?" asked Patrick.

"Yes," replied Conner.

"Patrick, this is not about sex.  Just because we sleep together doesn't mean we are having sex," said Adam.  "We are close friends, and we enjoy the security of being together."

Patrick was quiet for a moment before he said, "I don't know what I am.  I mean, I enjoy being around guys, but I've also had a couple of girlfriends.  I just have no clue what I am."  He sat up and pulled his knees up tight to his chest while tears started running down his cheek.

Conner moved to one side of Patrick, Mark to the other and Adam was behind him.  All three of his new friends were holding him tightly.

"Patrick, we don't care what you are... gay, straight, bisexual, asexual, or whatever.  You are one of us now and we just accept you the way you are with no pressure to change or even make a decision.  Just be you," said Adam.

Patrick settled down.  "I'm sorry guys; it just sort of burst out of me.  But do you guys mean it by saying I'm a friend, no matter what I figure out I am?"

"Absolutely buddy, no pressure.  Just be you, and whatever it is, Patrick – you are safe with us," said Adam.

Tyler and Troy sat down on each side of the group.

"You ok, little brother?" asked Troy.

"Did you guys know I was confused about my sexuality?" Patrick blurted out.

Troy reached over and grabbed Patrick's hand.  "Paddy, you are what you are, and your brain will sort it out one day.  Whatever you are, you will always be our little brother and we love you."

Patrick leaned over to grab Troy and Tyler as they moved to sit in front of him.  They held their little brother tightly while the other three young men joined in.

"Troy, I'm 18 years old and I'm not like others in my grade 12 class.  They're all dating or going steady, and I really have no interest in dating anyone, or even who to date if I was," sobbed Patrick.

Tyler had his hands-on Patrick's knees.  "Little buddy, look at me please."  Patrick lifted his face to look at his friend.  "Patty, you are 18 and there is no rule about when you start dating, go steady, or have sex.  You have so much on your mind, little man… losing your dad, and then having your mom work so much.  You are trying so hard at school and sports, too.  There is no hurry or even a schedule for when you will date.  You will know when it is time, and when it's time – we are all here for you.  We love you little brother, and so does your mom."

Patrick looked confused.

"Your mom has talked to us about it, and we told her we had no idea.  She wants you to know that no matter what you are, she loves you.  She was concerned you have been suppressing your needs and you were damaging yourself or maybe thinking you might disappoint her in some way.  Your mother does not care one way or the other if you are straight, gay, bisexual etc.  She loves you, Patrick, and so do we, little brother.  Never forget it or doubt it or I will give you such a lickin' that you will not sit down for a week."

Patrick sat there in deep thought for a moment before he started to sob heavily.  "All people want to do is put a label on what they do, don't do, or what they are.  The labels are good and bad, destructive and demeaning, or they make you special.  I don't want to be labeled by others because my life is different from them.  I'm already looked down upon by many kids at school because I'm poor and don't have a dad.  They live in big houses and I'm in a small apartment. I don't want any more labels."  Patrick was now almost hysterical in his words and sobbing.

Conner, Mark, and Adam moved back so Tyler and Troy could move in to hold the young man.  They rubbed the young man's back in circles while holding him tight between them.  Both of them took turns speaking soft, quiet and soothing words to the distraught young man.

Liam and Jared had been watching the events and signaled for the other young men to join them up on the small hill.  As they approached, Adam looked upset.

Jared stopped him, "What's wrong, Adam?"

"We were just talking, and it seemed to spin out of control.  I'm so sorry, Jared, I didn't mean to do anything to upset him."

As Adam was speaking, the salamander appeared on his shoulders.  Adam stopped and turned his head and appeared to enter into a staring contest with it.

Jared's eyes flashed as he said, "Adam, sit over there on the log and talk with your spirit guide.  Do not leave the log, and when you are done, call to Liam or I.  Only Liam or I can release you and allow you to move from that spot.  Do you understand?"

Adam spoke flatly, and with no emotion.  "Yes Jared, I understand."

The rest of the group came up behind Liam and Jared and stood.  "I really feel for Patrick and I had no clue this was going on in his head," said Darren.

"I can relate to his confusion, except in Patrick's case - he has lots of support all around him," Zane injected.

Troy was gently speaking with Patrick as he and Tyler held the trembling young man.  "Patrick, whatever happens – we love you, little brother.  When you are ready, we can finish the discussion we started today whenever you want.  There is absolutely no hurry."

"There is nothing you can say to us that would change our love for you, little brother.  Never forget or even think your mother or any of us would ever stop loving you," added Tyler.

Patrick could feel the muscular strength from two of the most important people in his life as they held him.  The young man was so afraid to accept what he thought was his sexuality and kept pushing it deep down inside of him.  He didn't want to do anything which even remotely might have an impact on his friendships with these guys.  Patrick knew he had a lot to think about, and he struggled to control his emotions.

Tyler and Troy sat back and looked at their young friend.

"What if I'm not gay?" asked Patrick quietly. "Can we still be friends?"

Troy smiled and answered, "Will you invite us to your wedding?"

"What if I like to dress up as a woman?"

"We could borrow some of Darren's clothing," replied Tyler with a smirk.

"What if I don't feel sexual attraction to either men or women?"

"Patrick, little brother, we love you... period... unconditionally," answered Tyler.

"What if I like someone who is like a brother to me?"

"Patrick, we will be with you no matter what, but keep in mind there are many paths to potentially follow and the result could be different than what you plan," said Troy.

"I know, I don't want to mess things up."

Troy lifted Patrick's chin to look him directly in the eyes as he spoke.  He reached up and placed his hand on Patrick's chest over his heart and said, "Patrick, we love you for your soul, your personality and wit, and your huge heart.  We love you unconditionally.  The rest doesn't matter because no matter how this turns out, you will still be the same young man we love as a brother."

Tyler reached over and pulled Patrick's head towards him and planted a big kiss on top of it.  Patrick grabbed him tightly, and tears rolled down his cheeks again.

"I'm so sorry to be like this and embarrassing you guys."

"There is no embarrassment here with anyone, Patrick, only love, and concern," answered Tyler.

"I don't know what I would do without you to help me."

"Are you feeling a bit better, little man?" asked Troy.

"I'm beginning to.  Thank you, both of you.  I know you're only a few years older than me, but if I had a dad or dads, I would have wanted them to be just like you two.  I love you both so much."

Now it was time for Tyler and Troy to have tears leak from their eyes.  Once again, the two of them held the young man tightly.

"Little man, I love you too, and you need to understand something really important.  Tyler, Jared, Liam, Darren, Josh, Jesse, Zane, and I have all pledged our lives to protect you and the other young people here with us today.  It's what we do as a family, and we all love you as our little brother," explained Troy.

Tyler backed him up, "He is speaking the truth.  Every one of us loves you, little brother, and we have all pledged our lives to protect you."

Patrick smiled at the two of them.

"I think we need to get you cleaned up a bit before we have a snack," said Tyler.

"What do you mean cleaned up?"

Tyler stood up and pulled Patrick up and over his shoulders in a fireman's lift.  Patrick screamed as Troy gave him a couple of hard smacks on his ass, just before Tyler walked out into the water and tossed Patrick head first into the deeper water.

He came up to the surface and attacked.  Troy, Tyler, and Patrick were soon joined by Conner and Mark in the water wrestling.  Darren and Josh grabbed Jesse and dragged him down to the water and threw him in.  Zane didn't stand a chance when they came for him.

Jared and Liam were sitting with Adam.  While Adam was speaking with Jared, his spirit guide kept staring at Liam, the salamander's eyes following every movement Liam made.

"So, you are feeling better, Adam?" asked Jared.

"Yes, yes, I am.  My little salamander is full of wisdom to share with me," replied Adam.

"The wisdom is from deep inside you, you have the old knowledge within you.  He just helps settle you down and makes sure you think before acting," replied Jared.

Adam leaned forward and whispered into Jared's ear, "He does enjoy terrorizing Liam, though."

Jared whispered back, "I've noticed.  In absolute honesty, I have never seen a spirit guide act like this before.  But then he does have your sense of humor and you enjoy terrorizing Liam – as we all do."

Suddenly, the salamander started to cough and growl until Jared said loudly, "NO!"

Liam sat up suddenly.  "Did you hear that?  The little bastard just said one of these days Jared won't be here to protect me."

"Liam, you are imagining it," said Jared laughing.

"Jared, would you get mad at me if I show you something I didn't tell you about earlier?" asked Adam with a smirk.

Jared returned the young man's smirk with his own.  "Out with it, and if it's something I should've known you could get a smack upside your head."

He leaned forward and whispered, "Watch this.  I'm still learning and I'm not that good yet, but…"

Liam jumped, "The little bastard said it again.  I want to make a belt out of him."

"LIAM!" said Jared laughing.  "Take a pill, it's a spirit guide.  Do you really think you CAN make a belt out of a spirit guide?"

"The little bastard is laughing at me and said to cut back on the cheesecake because it's going to my thighs!" said Liam.

"Adam, you're not too bad at throwing your voice," said Jared laughing.

Liam froze, and slowly turned his head to Adam.  "You can do ventriloquism?" 

"I'm learning, but I'm not very good at it yet."

"So, was it the salamander or you saying those things?" asked Liam slowly.

"Some him, some me," said Adam as he tried to get away.  Liam grabbed him.

"You little brat!" said Liam as he carried Adam to the water and threw him in. Jared was laughing as Adam carried on, cried and squawked on Liam's shoulder.  The rest of the guys grabbed Liam and dragged him into the water as well.

The salamander crawled up and onto a fallen tree and looked at Jared.  "My human has great potential, Masqua.  The young man is so beautiful inside but his inner being is also surrounded by scars of pain and fear. The last time you were here in the sweat lodge was key... the claim the evil one had on him has been broken.  But the potential for his influence remains; He needs to complete the vision quest."

"He shall very soon," replied Jared.

"He is trying to think of ways to avoid it, but I'm not letting that happen. His deep desire to end his own life has once again been controlled, but it's still there and we need to eliminate it."

"Thank you, we need your abilities so much with Adam."

"It is what I do, Masqua, and I also get to help my human to prank Mikisow."

Jared laughed, "You taught him to throw his voice?"

"He had the ability already, I just helped him to develop and refine it.  He has other skills and gifts coming near the surface of his mind and I am trying to control them and hold them back until he is ready."

"Do you need my assistance to block those things?"

"Not at this time, Masqua, but he needs to complete the vision quest and the training.  Until then he is in danger from himself and from the others.  We remain vigilant, Masqua."

"Thank you, Osikiyâs.  You do me honor in your work with Adam."

"We honor the One with our work," replied the salamander as it changed into a wisp of white smoke and disappeared.

Jared sat on the ground cross-legged, placed both hands flat on the ground and began to chant.  Liam and a couple of others had come to drag Jared in for a swim when they saw him meditating and quietly went back to the group.  Jared could feel the negative energy he had been absorbing from around him leaving his body.  It was a huge relief as it flowed outwards and was consumed by Mother Earth.  After he released the negative energy, he absorbed the positive and healing energy from the ground.  He wasn't sure how long he had been meditating, but when he reached conscious awareness he immediately noticed the group had made a fire and were now finishing lunch.

Liam noticed Jared was conscious and brought him a plate of some food.  After giving his soulmate a kiss, he handed the food to him.  Liam then grabbed a couple of drinks and sat with Jared.

"How are you feeling, Jared?" asked Liam.

"Better, more energy now.  How are the kids?"

"Patrick and Adam are both back to the way they usually are as if nothing happened."

"I feel bad for Patrick having to deal with so much and the hormones racing through his body on top of it.  Adam isn't much different."

"I love you, Jared."

Jared raised his head and looked at Liam, "I love you too, but was there something that brought that on?"

"I don't say it enough, and I don't want you to ever take it for granted.  I want you to hear it."

Jared placed his food down on the ground and pulled his boyfriend in close, giving him a big hug with a long, wet tongue filled kiss.  Liam returned it with equal enthusiasm.  The two of them rolled to their sides on the moss at the base of the tree with Jared on top and pinning Liam's hands above his head.  He continued to kiss Liam's lips, face and neck.

"Don't look, kids... daddy and daddy are making out," Darren said loudly.

Jared collapsed onto Liam laughing.  The two of them were now lying beside each other and looking at the treetops.

"I love them all, but now I know what it's like to have kids in the house when they open the bedroom door," said Jared.

"At least you have never had one of the kids throw his voice to make you think a spirit guide is trying to piss you off," laughed Liam.

"I love you Liam, my soulmate."

"I love you too Jared, my soulmate for eternity."

"You do realize that salamander really can spit that gob of smelly phlegm for quite a distance, right?"

Liam didn't say anything for a moment and then said, "Yeah, I know how far, too."

Jared started a deep belly laugh as he said, "I can't leave you alone for a moment."

Liam was laughing now as well.  "I made the incorrect assumption Adam was making that sound." 

"How far and where did he get you?" asked Jared with difficulty as he was laughing too hard.

"Colonel Mustard, in the library with a candlestick holder." Liam lost it in laughter again and then said, "10 feet and the little bastard got me in the middle of my forehead."

Jared stopped, sat up and looked at Liam, and then started laughing all over again.

"It's not funny!  The little bastard is a sniper and it both stinks and sticks really bad."

Troy and Tyler joined the two of them and sat down.

"Did Liam tell you he has a new tribal name?  Big Chief Snot Face?" asked Troy.  The three men lost it again while Liam got up and left.

"I'm going to go and sit with my friends," he said as he stomped away.

"Adam is over there, but where's Olly?" stated Tyler.

Jared mouthed, "Olly?"

"Adam likes the music group 'Years and Years' and he named the salamander after the lead singer Olly something or other," explained Troy. "He says they both have the same hairstyle, and he says they also both shake their ass the same way.  I have no clue."

After they chatted for a couple minutes, Jared asked the big question, "How's Patrick doing?"

"He's doing much better.  I feel so bad for him because he is so confused," said Troy.

Jared looked at Troy and Tyler, "So boys, what is he confused about?" asked Jared directly.

"We don't really know yet," replied Tyler.  "Other than his sexuality, we have no clue, Jared.  He will tell us when he's ready, whatever it is."

"Good answer, guys.  I told you before, this is his time and whatever it is will come out on his time and no one else's," stated Jared clearly.

"Yes, Dad," said Troy.

"We know, Jared, and he does seem to be fitting in with the other young ones more.  They've been telling Patrick their stories and he has been listening," said Tyler.  "Do not worry; they are just young guys talking."

"I suppose we should get everyone on the move to the next campsite, it's actually only a couple of hours away and I think everyone will like it," said Jared.  "The water is shallow with sandy beaches and areas to lay in the sun for tanning."

"Sounds great," replied Troy.  "Let's herd the cats to the canoes and get going after we clean up."

End of Chapter Twenty

Comments Appreciated at Snowblind


Short stories I have written:

The Break In

The Wilderness Canoe Guide

The Extraction