It was a sad farewell for the boys, to leave behind their good friend, Michael. There were hugs and shoulder punches and even Michael assuring the man that he'd somehow healed overnight. But the man's task of rubbing on the ointment to the torn and tender parts on his behind convinced him that a few more days were needed for Michael to travel comfortably. That was to say nothing about the pain he still had from bruised muscles and bones.
Mrs. Cantrell was standing with Michael and Detective Stone when the troops made their way to the elevator and the waiting van below. A fresh bag of homemade ginger snaps accompanied them on their trip, courtesy of Mrs. Cantrell.
"Just for a few days, my little friend. Then I'm sure you'll be strong enough to travel. You'll be seeing these characters far too soon, I'm afraid. Ha, ha, ha!"
The man, made Michael smile, but only until the man, also, walked down the hall toward the elevator.
"Michael, I want to take you to my house to rest up. It isn't too far and it's pretty comfortable for an older place."
"It's a house, all by itself, with windows in every wall?"
"Um, yes, the outside walls anyway. Would you like to see it?"
"Sure. I suppose. But who'll check up on me while yer workin'? Do I just stay there by myself all day?"
"No, Michael. I wouldn't do that to you. I've taken a two-month leave of absence. That should be enough time to get you back to good health and settled into a school and a new home."
Michael was overwhelmed by what he'd just heard. Warren knew he was homeless, that he ran away from his foster home and that his other experiences with 'the program' ended in him getting hurt. Whoever he was going to live with would have to be a saint to take him in.
"Sir, I ain't takin the chance o' no Children Services again. If I have ta, I'll run again. They haven't done me no good and I can't take the chance someone won't beat the shit . . ., oops, sorry ma'am, beat the tar outta me again." Michael was slowly backing up, his hands in front of him to signal 'hands off'.
Warren was aghast. Then it dawned on him that Michael didn't understand where his new home would be.
"Michael, what if I told you that I wanted to care for you permanently. You'd live in my house and be my son, if you want."
Michael stopped, looked up at Warren, then over to Mrs. Cantrell just as a tear slid down her cheek. She nodded her head slowly and motioned with it towards Warren.
Tears welled up in the boy's eyes. His legs gave out and he found himself kneeling on the living room carpet. Warren rushed over to catch him from falling over, to hold him in his strong arms, to let the twelve-year-old finish his crying.
As they knelt together, Mrs. Cantrell walked over and whispered into Warren's ear,
"Please knock on my door before you leave. I'd love to fix lunch or dinner for you. I'm the second door on your right." She quietly left them to talk things out.
Imagine being on an airplane for the first time. After being by themselves for years, the two older boys were panicked by the crowds at the airport. Old suspicions tried to invade their minds, thinking that the next man they saw would try for them, to do . . . well, to take them. But each time they looked at their man, his ever-present calm expression, his eyes filled with that something special they were beginning to understand gave them the feelings they couldn't remember having before. Then there was their flight being called and the rush by others to get onboard first. There seemed to be the constant noise, the pushing and shoving to get into their seats. They each finally fell into the seats assigned to them and clung on for dear life. That time it wasn't the people, it was the realization that they were stuck in that cramped tube of metal, with all these people, for a long time. The man could see the terror in their eyes and changed places so he could be near them. The younger boys had each flown before, before their mother died. They were a little calmer, letting the excitement take their minds soaring, way before the plane even moved.
By the time the plane was pushed onto the tarmac and the engines gained speed, the two older boys were calmed from all the crowds of people. Then someone said something about flying at 35,000 feet. A new wave of fear passed through them, indicated by the permanent grooves in the armrests on either side of them.
Once they were airborne they were able to relax. The flight was smooth, the movie funny, the food and snacks were decent, the ginger snaps were to die for and the flight attendants loved them.
After several hours, they landed only to be shown to another airplane; one that was not quite as big as the last jumbo jet.
"Hey, mister, what's them things comin' outta the engines. Them sticky-outty things there?" Devon asked as they walked along the warm corridor, to their next gate.
"Oh, Devon. Those are propellers. It isn't a jet engine. It's a bit older than that technology. They use them on small flights, when less people will be flying or for shorter distances."
"Yuk! It's so small. Wouldn' wanna be caught in one o' them."
Larry seemed to be agreeing with his friend.
Then they turned into that very gate. The doors they went through took them down some stairs and out into the cold weather to walk to the stairs that led up into the small aircraft.
"Ya had ta open yer big mouth, didn' ya?" said Larry, shaking his head.
As soon as they gave up trying to make their teeth quit chattering from the bouncing around, they started to calm down. They were the only passengers on this portion of the flight and the size of their baby aircraft made their trip a little longer than in a full-grown adult aircraft.
"Boys, we'll be another hour and a half up here, then the long haul starts. We have a long drive ahead of us. It will take several more hours to get to where we're going. I'm afraid it will be way past your bedtimes."
"We gotta bedtime?" Devon didn't lose his humor no matter how tightly he squeezed the armrests.
Landing was exciting. The runways were mostly cleared of the constant snow in this region. They only slid a little at the touchdown, then a little more when they stopped near the gate. They waited in the warm terminal, such as it was, for the baggage to be put into their vehicle. The vending machines called out to them, even though they'd just finished a very nice meal on the small plane. The man assured them that their stomachs were being provided for. After four strange looks, he explained that there were snacks in the vehicle.
After saying their goodbyes to the pilots and neat flight attendants, they stepped out to see the only vehicle in the parking lot, or rather, next to the front door, in a white loading zone. It was a cherry red, long stretch Hummer limousine. The boys' mouths were dripping with awe! The interior was plush, super plush, with room for 'bout twenty others, according to Devon. And, luckily, the heater worked well. It was freezing outside.
They rode on and on forever, it seemed. Jacob tried his best to quit asking if they were close yet. The man chuckled and the boys tried to stuff him with snacks. There wasn't a whole lot to see outside. It had been dark for a long time and the tinted windows made things look grayer than they were, but no one wanted to open the window or even one of the sunroofs to find out. Everything was either white from the deepest snow they'd ever seen, or were black trees trying to keep their heads above the drifts that seemed to want to bury them. There were no radio stations up there, but the limo had a stack of CD's, though mostly Christmas music. The pleasant music helped to pass the time a little. All four boys were still too excited to sleep. They didn't want to miss a thing.
Then . . .
The snow was new, pure white and untouched. It reflected the light from the building before them so brightly that they could have sworn it was daylight, instead of past midnight. As the long Hummer made its way through the snow to the front door, the man's pride swelled when he thought of how long this business had been running so smoothly. It seemed like a hundred years, it went by so quickly.
The building was about seven stories high and was at least two city blocks long with the main doors in the exact middle. It seemed to be nestled in a forest of huge fir trees. There were very few cars in the parking lot at that time of night. Though there seemed to be plenty of lights on, the boys were wondering if the man had his own key.
When the limousine came to a stop in front of the massive doors, they got out and were escorted by their driver up the front steps. As they approached, the doors swung open and a young man of about twenty-five or so came out to greet them. He was short, thin, had longish red hair that covered his ears and wore a wonderful smile.
"It is so good to see you again, sir. We've all missed you so very much, especially Dora, sir. She does worry about you." He had a very proper accent and effervescent attitude that was pleasing to his demeanor.
"Why, thank you, Elvin. That was a wonderful welcome. May I introduce you to these children?"
"Please do, sir, but maybe we should wait until we're a bit warmer, in your offices. I have had oodles of hot cocoa made, served with homemade cookies." Then he turned with an arm wave and held open the huge door for them to enter the most wonderful of places they'd ever known.
The boys were in awe. Their looks were those of someone walking into a fantasy; and rightly so. The lobby was three stories tall. Huge pillars held up the ceiling. They were striped like candy canes. On each pillar were huge swags of fir and holly branches, tied with gigantic red bows. Shiny gold bells and ornaments were in the middle of each. Stacks of brightly colored packages encircled each pillar making the scene breathtakingly . . . Christmas. In the back were three huge walls of crystal, rising almost to the ceiling. Engraved into each were designs of toys and sports equipment; all fun things. Engraved even deeper into each wall, in huge letters, were the words 'Play' and 'Dream' and 'Imagine'. Music was being played over invisible speakers, making the room seem like it was full of energy.
In the middle was a huge counter with several people standing behind it, awaiting the approach of the man and his entourage.
More warm greetings were exchanged. The man seemed to know each of the employee's names, and even hugged a few.
They walked past the desk and between two of the crystal walls to a row of elevators. As they got into one of the elevators, two men went into another, pushing a cart with their luggage on it. Soon they were being whisked up to the top floor.
Inside this massive building, the feeling should have been as cold and austere as the metal and glass trees they'd left only that morning. But there was a warmth and charm in the hallway as they left the elevator. Warm woods of all kinds surrounded them. There was even furniture that might have looked at home in Mrs. Cantrell's apartment. The floors were covered in the deepest carpet the boys could imagine. They rounded a corner to find an office of three huge desks, each in a rich wood grain and looking like it was carved individually, just for its occupant. In the center, they stood before the desk whose name tag said 'Dora'.
"Oh, sir, it is indeed so good to see that you are well. I do hope you found all the arrangements in order and that your trip was comfortable." As she said this, the cute young lady, who must have been Dora, came around the desk and was given the best of his hugs.
"Dora, Dora, Dora, how could it have been better? Thank you for making all the arrangements and making it a fun experience for the boys here. Without you and Elvin, this place would have collapsed years ago."
"And who are these charming creatures that stand with you with their mouths agape?" asked the man's favorite secretary. A tittering laugh went through the office space as several other workers came into the room to see their boss' return.
The man stood behind his boys and almost pushed them out of their daze, one at a time, to meet his staff.
"This young man is Devon; feisty and honest. He never holds his thoughts back for long. Beside him we have Larry. Larry is a leader but with a heart of gold. He will do well in this environment, I believe. Jeremy and little Jacob are brothers. Jeremy has learned the value of loving someone and helping in any way that he can. Jacob is an eight-year-old, just exploring the world around him and having a wonderful time, I might say. In fact, I believe all of them are having a wonderful time right now."
As they were presented to the staff, each boy blushed and was delighted by their introduction. They each shook the hand of Elvin but couldn't avoid a warm hug from Dora. Her ample breasts seemed to be just the right height to cradle their heads as they were crushed into her chest.
"Sir, your quarters have been arranged as you've requested. We've added a few amenities, like a pot or two of hot cocoa and some of the chef's marvelous cookies."
Somehow they had moved around Dora's desk and were in front of two massive oak doors, each carved with a wooded scene with deer and trees. Elvin moved to open one of the doors and they were soon in another huge space as big as the first. Along one glass wall was a beautifully carved desk of red and blond woods, making a striking contrast to the colorful carpets and wall hangings throughout the space.
"Boys, this is my office, and part of my duties will be to be here for you. If you need anything, please come to me. I am here for you," Elvin told them as warmly as he could.
The boys' mouths had probably never closed since they walked into the building. But at this offer of service, they each instinctively looked at their man as if seeking his approval to accept such a wonderful offer. The man smiled and nodded his head, his eyes showing how pleased he was that they were so happy. Elvin chuckled a bit as he walked to another set of massive doors at the far end of his office.
"Now, this is where you will be living while you're with us. It's really only meant for our boss, but we were able to accommodate the four guest rooms for your rooms. I hope it meets with your approval."
Without touching the doors, Elvin swept his hand toward them and they began to slowly open.
"W-o-o-o-w!" went the chorus of boys as they were presented with the next room.
"Man! I've never seen so many couches, 'cept in a store. Have you guys?" Devon asked in amazement.
"Uh, huh." "Yeah." "Yup." The three other boys looked at each other and laughed, adding even more magic to their recent dreams as they came true before their very eyes.
They looked upon a room of more warm woods and colorful tapestries on the walls. The ceiling was crisscrossed with wooden beams with chandeliers hanging between them. Two of the walls had tall sections of bookshelves with room between for the colorful hangings. At the far end, definitely the focal point of the room, was a huge fireplace. The logs burning within its huge mouth were bigger than the boys. In three of the four corners of the room were conversation places made of four large leather couches facing each other. All were of leather but all different natural colors. Twelve couches in all with a few ottomans and a coffee table in the middle of each grouping. In the farthest corner, near the fireplace, and in front of a wall of windows, was the largest desk anyone has ever seen. It was made from the end of an uprooted fir tree, each root completely sanded and lightly stained. It was turned up on its end and a huge piece of beveled glass was laid upon it for its surface. It must have been at least twenty feet in circumference.
Jacob ran to the desk and looked back over his shoulder.
"Wow! What a neat table. Whoever sits here must be pretty important." Then he watched as his large friend walked around to the leather executive's chair and sat down.
"Well, little love, I wouldn't go that far, but I do enjoy sitting at it."
"Can't be too important. They's nothin' on there to do anything 'cept some TV remotes." Devon wasn't beating around the bush. Larry shook his head at the boy's appraisal, but the man just gave a hearty laugh.
"Ha, ha, ha! Devon, it's been said many times that no one knows what goes on in here. You may be right. Ha ha ho!"
"Don't you believe him, boys. He's the hardest working of any of us. Why, this place would have been closed decades ago had it not been for his vision and hard work. Look at this." Elvin took one of the remotes and pointed it toward the ceiling. As he pushed a combination of buttons a panel opened in the ceiling and a huge screen appeared. From one of the walls another screen came out from the side and they both began to dance with the light of a projected image.
They watched an assembly line of people putting together toys of every description; wood, plastic, cloth in every color imaginable. The line seemed to go for miles, but was only the length of the whole building.
"This is one of four lines that we run around the clock. Most of our supplies are brought in by an underground railway, so they won't be hampered by a storm. At the end of the lines, they are boxed and stored to await shipment to their proper places. He pushed some more buttons and the screen changed to a busy cafeteria.
"The employees all live in buildings within our woods. They access them by tunnels. We have several cooks that prepare the finest meals for a variety of diets. And, while we haven't been able to slim down everyone," he said, looking at his employer with a twinkle in his eyes, "we do our best to meet each person's needs. Each person or couple or even family has their own apartment. All are spacious and comfortable. We also have a variety of recreational facilities, including three swimming pools. One is Olympic size, the others are much larger.
"Now, boys, may I show you to your quarters?" He pushed a few more buttons, making the screens and their images disappear again. Then he walked to the wall on the opposite side of the fireplace. He touched a small pad built into the wall, and a section of the bookcase began to swing open.
Inside was a massive apartment of what seemed like dozens of rooms. It was impossible to tell from where they stood, but they were determined to count them by the end of the next day.
"The bedrooms are designed to share a bathroom with each pair. There are king-sized beds in each, a desk and several other amenities for each of you. But let's go into the kitchen."
The smells that met them at the kitchen doorway were marvelous. They sang of a variety of freshly baked cookies and hot chocolate. The boys, after seeking approval from the man, wasted no time in feasting on the treats on the table.
"How do you feel, Elvin. I'm so sorry for . . . ."
"Sir, it was a terrible mistake."
"Oh, I know. Can you ever forgive me?" The man laid his hand on his friend's hand.
"No, sir. You don't understand. The injury that you thought you caused never happened. You saw me when I'd been brought back after a skiing accident. But you were so fatigued and spent that you must have thought you'd caused my broken leg. It was never like that at all."
"Ha! The old guy hurt somebody? Never happen. It isn't in him to think of it." Devon's sharp analysis of the situation was seconded by the three other boys.
"Well, I'll be. I guess I am getting to be a bit of a fuddy-duddy, Elvin. All this time I thought . . ."
"Yes, sir. I know. And I also know that you were the one that needed to gain the courage to talk about it again. I couldn't have helped you. You needed the strength within you to return. I'm sure you were given plenty of that in the last week," said Elvin, scanning the four beautiful young boys, making pigs of themselves on the cookies and hot chocolate. Both he and the man laughed out loud.
"Yes, Elvin. They have been my salvation of sorts. You have always been there for me, since the very beginning. To think that I had caused you such pain was, well, I can't imagine what went through my head. I lost it and for that I'm sorry, but I'm eternally grateful that you were still there for me."
"And will continue to be, with your permission, sir." With that being said, Elvin rose from his chair and approached his large friend. They hugged for the longest time. When they finally pulled away, each of them had a wet shoulder, but a huge smile, too.
They each felt a warm hand on their arms as they stared at each other.
"You guys friends again?" asked Jacob. His smile was as big as theirs.
"Ha! Yes, we are still the strongest of friends," said the man, grabbing up the small boy and holding him tight in his lap. "He is my friend, my confidant, my . . . . Well, let's just say he takes care of my every need, little one. Now, I want to hear how you like this place. If you don't, we can change it but it will have to wait until the New Year. A toy factory has much to do before the Christmas holiday."
Jacob began to blush and leaned in to whisper into the man's ear. The man gave a loud laugh and nodded his head. Jacob beamed, looked over at Elvin, hopped down and immediately stripped to his t-shirt and undies.
"Oh, my!" said a startled Elvin.
"Now, now, my boy. You were just as free at his age and much older too as I recall. In fact, if you boys want to join your little friend you are more than welcome."
Their clothes stayed on but their shoes and socks were off in a second. Larry looked at Elvin once then unbuttoned his shirt. It was pretty warm in their rooms, after all.
"Boys, there's clothes anew for each of you in your rooms. There is a selection of very comfy things, like shorts and jammies that are far more comfy than jeans and shirts." Elvin swept his arm toward their hallway and the boys, hesitating for only a second, ran to check out their loot.
Jacob wandered into Jeremy's room to talk. He'd taken off his shirt and had found a small but brightly colored pair of soft flannel shorts to wear.
"Jer, I coulda swore he was Santa. But he just owns a big ole toy company place. I guess I was wrong." Jeremy pulled Jacob to the bed and they sat down, Jacob in his big brother's lap.
"You're not wrong, Jacob. He'll always be our Santa. He gives the best gifts ever. Doesn't he?"
"M-m-m. Yeah. But I miss Michael already."
"Yeah. Me too. Maybe he'll be all healed enough that he'll be up here in a few days."
"Wow! That would be so perfect, huh?" said Devon, standing just inside Jeremy's door.
Larry was next to him dressed in a pair of flannel short's, his strong chest and tummy bared to the warmth of the room. Devon had on shorts, too, but also wore an oversized t-shirt. Jeremy decided on shorts like Larry's but was embarrassed when the fly wouldn't stay closed.
"Ha! Air conditioning," said Larry, laughing at his friend's predicament and then swatting at him. Jeremy screamed and ran into the kitchen, the other boys directly behind him.
"Jacob! Can't find a top to go with your fancy shorts?" teased a smiling Elvin. He picked up the pad that he had been carrying and said, "Sir, you were so clever to call the coat sizes to the tailors. The completed coats left on the plane you flew in on. They should have them tomorrow at a Mr., oh, Detective Stone's house."
"Wow! That means they can come up any time, huh?" asked a hopeful Jacob.
"I'm willing to bet that they will be on the plane that leaves, not tomorrow, but maybe the day after. How does that sound?"
"Ha! How do you know? You ain't no doctor." Devon. Smart-mouth.
"Well, I just happen to know because that's the date on the tickets I handed to Warren before we left. Ha! Now what do you have to say for yourself, little wisenheimer?"
"Oh. Uh, what's a wiser hammer?"
A very tired head was laying against the man's ample thigh. The man would have been content to run his fingers through Jacob's fine full head of hair for days but knew these boys had been up for a very long time, engaged in a very hard journey of many thousands of miles. Why, it exhausted him just to think about it.
"To bed, me thinks, my boys. What say you?" said the man with a flourish of his hand, as though he'd just come out of some ancient storybook. Elvin and the two youngest boys giggled but Larry and Devon just stared.
"What the hey . . . What kinda talk is that? You ain't flipped out on us, uh, anymore 'n usual, have ya?" Devon again. A true master at diplomacy.
"Ha, ha, ho. No, Devon, I don't think I have. I'm just so pleased to be able to share my little nest with you boys. Too many of these rooms have been vacant for too long. It feels so wonderful to have you boys up here with me," he said, then looked at Elvin with a wonderful smile. "Us, that is."
It took little convincing for the boys to settle down. First there were teeth brushings and toilet goings; then the kids all came back in to say goodnight. The man was pleased when Jacob held up his little arms for the man to pick him up and tuck him into his bed. Actually only two bedrooms were used. Devon and Larry wanted to be together, as did Jeremy and his brother, little Jacob.
When the man was done scootching the blankets all around the two little boys and had given them each a kiss on each cheek, he went to do the same in the older boys' room.
Two big brave boys, which had travailed through the impossible for several hard years, now lay sublime and quiet in their huge soft bed, making no qualms about wanting to be tucked in by their most generous host. He pulled up the blanket around the two who lay as close together as they could without being on one another. He bent down and kissed Devon on one cheek, expecting some smart aleck refrain from the boy, but instead was rewarded when the boy turned to expose his other cheek, which he also kissed with such great delight. He had to reach from the other side of the bed to get to Larry and when he did, he noticed a shiny line running from each of the thirteen-year-old's eyes.
Softly, he asked, "Larry, my boy, are you feeling okay?"
Sniff. "Yes, sir."
"Then why the tears, little man? Surely you can't be sad, can you?"
"Oh, no. It ain't sad stuff makin' me teary, mister. I never been so happy. Not never. I think I'm just afraid that when I wake up the dream'll be over and we'll be cold and wet again, layin' in that run down place back home, scared and stuff. It's all happened so fast." He sobbed a few deep sobs and felt his friend, Devon, nodding his head against Larry's shoulder.
The man sat on the bed and tried to lift Larry into his arms. Larry helped until his body was sprawled against the man, warm hands holding him close.
"Larry, this is your home, and when you wake up it will only get better, I promise. There will be no more hell for you down there. No more bitter cold, unless you go out without your coat." The boys chuckled. "Boys, your new lives await you. Make it what you will. I, with the help of my staff and Elvin, will help to shape your lives in any way that we can to help you enjoy many, many wonderful years with us." He felt the sobbing next to his heart. "So, I take it those are tears of joy?"
The man had not been this happy in a long, long time. He was back to the place he loved, with the people that he loved, and who loved him. On top of all of that, he'd found four, no five, beautiful boys to love as his own.
His thoughts were warm and full as he snuggled into the soft, huge bed. He'd seen to the boys' needs, even tucked their precious bodies in, turned off lights (He chuckled at the thought of all the energy that took, since it was all done with the remote on his night stand), hugged a loving friend, his Elvin, goodnight, and had just closed his eyes. His deep and heavy, weight-lifting sigh resonated through his bedroom.
"Mister?" It wasn't the fact that there was someone standing by his bed that startled him as much as which boy it was that whispered in his ear.
"Yes, Devon, my love. What can I do for you?" He tried not to chuckle at his delight that the proud, strong boy was in need of some attention.
"Um, well, I uh, I . . . I didn't get my hug from you. You ain't mad at me, are ya?'
"Oh, Devon. First, climb atop the mountain so we can talk, my little friend."
Devon chuckled as the covers were thrown open and he sprawled onto the man's stomach. The man's soft, flannel pajamas spread the warmth from the man to every part of Devon's young body. His chin rested on his palms as he looked into the loving eyes of his savior, his protector, his friend. He smiled and let it radiate through his whole being toward the man that he was growing very fond of. No, there was no denying it; he loved the man with all his heart. It was something new for Devon, but something that brought with it some wonderful feelings. He knew it was right.
The blanket fell back over them. The man's hands instinctively went to the boy's hips to hold him on top of his ample stomach. He was rewarded with a gentle moan and a sweet sigh from his little terror of a fourteen-year-old boy.
"Now, my little darling. What's this about a hug? You think you should get a hug after all you've done today?" The man's voice was as soothing as a warm bath, a summer's breeze, but the words . . .
"Huh? Well, I thought . . ."
"Hm-m-m, let's see now. I think I saw you helping each of the boys close their bags today. Then you held Mrs. Cantrell's arm when she came in to stay with Michael. You hadn't even finished packing for yourself as I recall."
"Oh, yes. Let's see, what else did you get yourself into? Oh, wasn't it you that helped the cabbie with the bags, both at the apartment and the airport? Yes, my, what mischief! Then I think it was you that, when everyone was exhausted, you wiped off all the hot cocoa that spilled on little Jacob's face all the way down to his tummy. And you know what, my little devil?"
"You didn't have permission to do any of those things. No one told you to; you just did. Wait a minute. Are you sure that you're the same boy that came from that horrible place next door?"
"Uh, yeah. I . . . I think so."
"Well, then, I think you've been so bad you deserve your punishment right now."
"Huh, wha . . .m-m-m-m-m, oh yes!" Devon laid the side of his head on the man's chest.
The man's smooth, soft hands rubbed the backs of Devon's legs and slowly moved up his body, over his firm buttocks, up his back and rubbed deeply into his shoulders. Then they wrapped around his body and began to tighten.
"Uh oh," said Devon, with a big smile on his face. "I'm gonna get squished ta death, ain't I?"
"Aren't I?" came a voice from the other side of the bed.
"Huh? You gettin' squished too?" asked Devon to Elvin, who he just noticed lying beside the man.
But Devon didn't die. He fell asleep on the man and was scooted to lay between the two men, on their shared bed. The man's eyes were wet, but happy, as they finally closed in wonderful, restful, slee . . . .
"Sir?" whispered the voice of the boy standing next to his bed. "Sir, I can't find Devon. He ain't nowhere that I know of."
"Oh, I see. Well, I think I know where to find him, little one. You climb up on top of me and I'll tell you where the little vixen has gone."
"Really? 'Kay!" said the excited boy. It was something he'd dreamed of being able to do long ago, with someone that would love him, hold him, warm him to them. But it was a dream he'd packed away so deeply, only a miracle could have made it happen. Now, he was being asked to climb on top of his miracle worker, his friend, his warmth.
As Larry lowered his body to get comfy, he wriggled down to snuggle in as close as he could.
The man enjoyed the feel of another needy little boy to hold, keeping the boy steady as he lay on the big man.
"Hm-m-m. Now, what was your question?"
"M-m-m-m. He he. I had a question? Can't I stay here forever? Yeah, that's it; that's my question."
"Ha ha ha. Well, little angel, I think a few minutes is due you. But it includes a little more."
"Oh, but wha . . . o-o-o-h, ye-e-e-s," said Larry as the man repeated the loving massage that he'd just done for Devon a few minutes before.
After several minutes, the man's hands returned to the hips of the thirteen-year-old boy.
"So, why don't you just slide over and sleep in our bed tonight, little love?"
"M-m-m. Oh, 'cause I was lookin' fer , uh, lookin' fer, uh . . . ."
"Devon, I believe," said Elvin, from the other side of the bed.
"Huh? Uh, yeah. Devon," said the sleepy voice of a tired Larry.
"Well, I promise you that if you'll just lie next to me over here, you'll know where Devon is soon enough. Trust me?" asked the man of his young friend.
"'Kay." He scooted over to slide down and bumped into another body. He heard Devon groan as the sleeping boy turned to his side and continued his deep slumber, unaware of the new intruder on the large bed. "Oh. He he. I get it. Thanks, mister; thanks fer all of it." With that, he too drifted into a deep, restful sleep, followed very shortly by the man and a very tired Elvin.
Please read with pleasure, this has been my gift to you. I would like to hear/read your criticisms, good and bad. I'd love to talk about where this gets to you.