The weeks seemed to fly by once I had the boys back with me. They got back to school and so did I. I had a harder time catching up than they did, but that was not surprising. The instructors were all very nice about it, knowing what I had been through made a big difference. Professors that had barely been civil to me before this summer went out of their way to make things easier for me, almost to a point of breaking school policies in my favor. I finally asked one of them who had once made it perfectly clear that he had no use for homosexuals why he seemed to be treating me so differently.
"Cameron, I will admit that I still don't understand a lot of the hows and whys of your.... persuasion," the man began. "In fact, I assure you that there are some answers that I will never want to know. However, I watched along with the whole school as you mourned for Edan, and then had that grief compounded by the loss of your children." The man stopped to wipe away a tear. "Some years ago, I lived with a woman. In our youthful arrogance, and as a sign of our rebellious generation, we never married. She had two children from a previous relationship. I was the only father they had ever known, and I truly thought of them as my children. I couldn't have any of my own, but they were my own as far as we were concerned. Then one day she became sick. It was breast cancer that we hadn't found in time. When she died, I was devastated, but no more so than when the children were removed from my care. The state took them away because there was no marriage certificate or paperwork of any kind allowing me to keep them. I never saw my kids again. No man should go through that agony."
We sat in silence for a moment on the bench in front of the administration building as he wiped his tears again. I wiped a couple of my own, but I was also thinking that there had to be a way to discover what had happened to this man's children. Surely someone in the Child Services Office would be able to tell me something. I would wait until I met Janice at her office, and I would get her to tell me.
"In short, Cameron, I feel your pain, as the politician is wont to say," Dr. Amodio told me finally. He stood up as he announced, "Well, time for me to go flush some more knowledge into the minds of my students." He must have seen the look on my face, because he added, "Yes, Cameron, I know the students call me Dr. Commodio. They have for years. I take it as a sign that I am doing my job. I am tough on my students, because they need someone to force them to think outside the box, to think for themselves. Now, I'm afraid I really must be running along. Thank you, Cameron, for making me think outside the box."
I left the school and went to Janice's office. When Janice had been released from the hospital, she had moved in with Daniel and Brooke for the months that she would be in therapy to learn to walk again. Dr. Grant was determined that Janice would walk again, and wouldn't let anyone contradict her, not even Janice herself. Mr. Winters had stuck to his guns as well. If Janice was well enough to go home from the hospital, she was well enough to go back to work. She and Dr. Grant agreed with him, and she had responded better to her therapy once she was out of the hospital. She was already out of the wheelchair and using a walker. In fact, she had been gone the last two days on an out of state trip for her office.
My mind thought back to the call I had gotten from her this morning. I knew she was supposed to be back at work today, but I hadn't expected a call so soon. Guessing that she had missed me, I had teased her about it. She had ignored the jibes completely. In fact when she had spoken to me, she had sounded stranger than I had ever known her. It was almost as if she didn't want to tell me something, but had to anyway.
"Cameron, it's nice to see you again," Piper, Janice's temporary assistant greeted me outside her office. The young man always smiled at me when I came to visit. In fact he smiled a little too much. The boy was coming on to me so obviously that it was revolting. Even if I weren't still grieving, this kid would never be my type. "Dragon Lady will be here in just a minute. She stepped down the hall to check on something. Can I do anything for you while you're waiting?"
"I heard that Piper," Janice saved me from answering the little tramp. "I'll show you Dragon Lady, little boy."
"Oh boss, everyone knows you're all smoke and no fire," the vixen camped.
"Janice, you can't kill the boy," I soothed her as I could practically see the flames coming out her ears. I dragged her into her office and quickly closed the door.
"Why did Louise have to pick now to go on maternity leave?" Janice whined to me.
"It's only for a few weeks," I consoled her. "You'll survive. You're a tough old broad."
"I know you did not just refer to me with those two words!" Janice hissed. "Let me remind you that I am three months younger than you. And broad? Broad? If I didn't need this damn walker I would break it over your worthless head."
"My apologies, sister of my heart," I told her sincerely. "I forgot that when you don't feel good, you can be such a bitch."
"You suck at apologies, you know that?" she fumed. "Fortunately for you, I still love you enough to let you know that you need to go shopping this afternoon for more children's clothes."
"No, Janice," I protested. "I have a houseful of boys now. I don't think I can handle another one just yet."
"You don't have a choice this time, Cameron," she said with a tone I had only heard from her very rarely, and even then only recently since the loss of Edan and Beth. She was completely serious. "You'd better sit down, bro. This is not going to be pretty."
"Janice what is going on? What are you stalling for?"
"I don't know how to start with this," she told me as I sat in the chair in front of her desk. "You have a son, Cameron."
"I have several sons," I corrected automatically.
"You have one more than you think," she responded. "I had the paternity tests run as soon as I found out about this. Kathryn helped me get your DNA from Doc Martin."
"Paternity tests?" I queried. "What are you saying Janice?"
"Do you remember the magazine that you saw when you were at the clinic jer... donating your sperm for Ragland?" she asked. "Your ex wife was on the cover; your very pregnant ex wife?"
"No, it couldn't be," I mumbled, suddenly glad I was sitting down.
"That baby was yours, Cameron," Janice confirmed. "His name is Cain and he is now eighteen months old. There is more."
"More?" I gasped. "What more could there be? Wait, how do you know about him in the first place?"
"That would be the more," she replied patiently. "When Peggy left you, she was having an affair with a man that you both knew. After your divorce was finalized, they married. Unfortunately there was something she never knew about him. He owed some powerful people a lot of money; money he couldn't pay back. He started taking pictures of Peggy using the excuse that he wanted them for himself. He then traded them to his loan sharks in return for a break on the money he owed them."
"My god," I whispered.
"Peggy didn't know about it at that point," Janice continued. "She learned what was going on later and threatened going to the police with the whole situation. The mob killed her new husband one night in their home in front of her. They then told her that if she didn't want the same thing to happen to her and her newborn baby, she would have to cooperate. She felt she was left with little choice since it was a policeman that put the bullet in her husband's head in their living room."
"Oh, Peggy," I moaned. Whatever she had been like at the end, we had started out as friends and I hated to think that she had been put through all of this.
"She played along as she had to until a couple of weeks ago, when one of her bosses in this sordid mess made a comment about bringing her kid into the industry as he called it," Janice kept on. "He was planning to film little Cain being anally raped. Peggy decided that she wouldn't let that happen. She didn't go to the police for help, because she was afraid to trust them. She had no way of knowing that the policeman she had seen that night had been a fake. He was just a thug in a costume."
"Peggy was always fierce in her protection of the kids in her class at school," I mumbled barely able to take this all in.
"Well, she was a little more than fierce this time," Janice told me. "She killed the four men who were most directly involved in the pornography ring that she had been caught up in."
"Oh my god!" I gasped once again. Vocabulary was failing me at this point.
"She's in prison now, awaiting the death penalty," Janice informed me. Before I could ask, she explained. "She says that it was part of the deal she made with the mob and the prosecuting attorney. She confessed to the murders and asked for the death penalty. The mob will accept her death as payment for the men they lost, and not attempt retaliation against Cain as long as she leaves their connection out of the publicity. In her own words, she made sure that Cain was safe from mafia revenge. She hasn't told the prosecution or her defense that. She only told me so that I could tell you."
"Janice.... I don't know what to.... Oh my god," I finally sputtered again.
"Just so you know, she was successful at keeping her son, your son, safe from the sexual predators," Janice assured me. "Cain has been thoroughly examined and is perfectly healthy and clean."
"Well, he's not clean right now," Piper surprised us as he carried the toddler into the room at arm's length. "Phew... what has this child been eating?" I suddenly found myself holding a bright blue-eyed little boy with curly, platinum blond hair who positively reeked.
"AWW GEEZE Piper! You could have changed his diaper before you brought him in here," Janice complained.
"Lawdy, Lawdy, I don't know nothing 'bout changing no babies," Piper hammed it up as he dove out the door, shutting it behind him. It opened again a second later and a diaper bag slid into the room, pushed by a familiar looking foot. He shut the door again quickly.
"That little princess is just not going to work out around here," Janice mumbled. "Cain can walk pretty well for his age, so you can just put him down so you can get the bag," she told me.
I found myself unable to let him go, even if he did smell like the walking dead. I could hardly believe that this was my son. I did have to put him down when I was getting the necessaries out of the diaper bag. He stood there wobbling for a second, before falling onto his little butt. He looked up at me in surprise and I could see the tears about to form.
"Uh oh," I said with a smile. "Pick yourself up," I added as I scooped him back into my arms. "Dust yourself off," I told the little one with a playful tickle to his tummy. "And try it again," I said as I stood him on the floor again. When he managed to stay on his feet this time I made a big production of clapping and telling him, "Good job. Yay, Cain!" He clapped his little hands along with me and giggled happily. It was then that he seemed to notice Janice, or more specifically the can on her desk.
"Coke," he called out pointing to it.
"Well, his tastes in beverages are a little mature for his age," I observed.
"Cameron, that was his first word," Janice told me in hushed tones. "Peggy told me that he was a bit of a late bloomer and that she would really miss getting to hear his first word. That was it. Coke."
"I shouldn't be surprised," I laughed. "Mom and Dad told me that my first word was chocolate. My second word was Dadda. I was supposedly making full sentences before I ever said Momma."
"Well, you are gay, you had your priorities even then," Janice teased. I poked my tongue out at her, only to see my son returning the favor to me. "He catches on quick, doesn't he?" Janice giggled.
I got him changed and deliberately dropped the dirty diaper into the trash can closest to Janice's desk before leaving her office with my son. Well, as soon as I had filled out all the paperwork to take him home anyway.
The first thing I did was to call the rest of the family to let them know that I had a surprise for them for dinner tonight. I invited everyone over to the farm. The boys got the surprise first of course as soon as they came home from school.
"Dad, we're home!" Derek called out as they stormed into the house.
"SHHHH!!!" I hissed. "I just got him to take a nap so I could get to work on dinner tonight," I told them.
"You just got who to take a nap?" Brendan asked. "Aren't Grandma and Grandpa watching Andy?"
"Yes, they have Andy," I confirmed and then turned to go back into the kitchen. "I was talking about Caine." Needless to say they all followed.
"What did you just say?" Brendan asked for all of them.
"I'm sorry, I can't talk about this right now," I told them seriously. "Caine has had me so busy playing in the bedroom that I haven't even started dinner. Now I'm running late and everyone is coming over tonight."
"Who's Caine, Dad?" Derek asked.
"Edan's only been gone a few months and you're already fooling around?" Brendan asked in shock. "I didn't think you were like that, Cameron."
"Didn't you love Pop?" Ephraim sniffled.
"Boys, calm down," I told them. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have teased you like this. Caine is my son. I just found out about him today when I had a meeting with your Aunt Janice."
"Oh so he's another foster kid?" Derek asked. "How old is he?"
"No, Caine is my biological son by my ex-wife," I explained. "He is eighteen months old and is sleeping at the moment in Andy's crib. I haven't had time to put the new toddler bed together for him yet."
"We can put the bed together," Brendan announced.
"I'll help you with dinner," Ephraim told me.
"Are you guys being helpful because you don't want to apologize to me for thinking that I could be with someone else this soon after Edan's death?" I asked them with a smile. They blushed a bit, but they all three apologized and hugged me. "Thank you. Ephraim, I will be happy to have you help me in the kitchen, but you two can't put the bed together yet, because it's in the nursery with Caine."
"We could help in the kitchen," Derek offered.
"No thank you," Ephraim retorted. "I don't want to spend the first night with my new brother by going to the emergency room with a case of food poisoning."
"I'm not that bad, twerp," Derek defended.
"Yeah, Janice is much worse," Brendan pointed out. We all agreed to that.
"Well, at this point, I'm not turning down any help in the kitchen," I told my boys. "There are things that anyone can do in a kitchen, even if they can't cook. Brendan, if you wouldn't mind, cut up the vegetables for the salad. Derek, how about you help all of us out by washing up as we go along?"
With all four of us working we had dinner well under way when I heard noises over the baby monitor. Derek and Brendan volunteered to go take care of Caine so that Ephraim and I could keep going with the cooking. The boys did bring the little one to the kitchen for a minute so that he could at least meet his big brother Ephraim.
"Oh my god, he's so cute," Ephraim gushed when he saw little Caine. "He looks like Andy, but with blonde hair instead of red."
"That's because he's not related to Janice," Brendan pointed out with a laugh. "That explains why he's cute too."
"I heard that." We all looked up to see Janice and Kathryn in the doorway. Janice was in her wheelchair again, but that wasn't unusual. She would often wear herself out at work and need to spend the evening in the chair once she got back to Daniel and Brooke's. "I would remind you that Andy is related to me and he's very cute."
"It's those Ragland genes," I smiled. "I make beautiful babies."
"Oh spare me!" Janice complained. "I came for the food, not the nausea. If I wanted that, I could have gone to eat at Kathryn's."
"Excuse me?" Kathryn laughed.
"When did you eat at Kathryn's?" I questioned the two of them.
"I'll explain that later," Janice told me quietly. She was being serious about whatever this was, so that meant that something big was happening with her.
The rest of the family showed up over the next few minutes. Grandma was headed in to help me in the kitchen until she caught sight of little Caine walking across the room. She looked over at me and back at the baby boy. Janice explained the whole story to them as I was in and out of the kitchen with the food. After dinner, it was Janice's turn to surprise everyone, myself included.
"I am moving out of Danny and Brooke's house," she announced. "They need privacy to start their lives together, not some crippled old broad cramping their style."
"But Aunt Janice," Brooke started. "You're still having trouble caring for yourself. You can't go back home to your place yet."
"My condo has sold," Janice told us, which was yet another surprise. "I couldn't handle going back there to all the memories of Beth. I'm not as strong as some people," she said as she looked at me.
"That's bullshit," I told her. "You're stronger than I will ever be. You've said so yourself."
"I was lying," she admitted. "I won't be living alone though. I'm moving in with someone."
"You're what?" I blurted.
"I'm moving in with a friend," she repeated. "Kathryn is allowing me to use her spare bedroom until I'm completely up and about again."
"Well, why didn't you just say that in the beginning?" I asked.
"You really don't have to leave," Daniel started.
"If we've made you uncomfortable…." Brooke added.
"No, no," Janice assured them. "It isn't that at all. I just don't want to be a burden on your personal life."
"Much better to be one on mine," Kathryn said sarcastically.
"Not possible," Janice told her. "You have to have a life before it can be infringed upon."
"Bitch," Kathryn said as she poked her tongue out at Janice.
"You know Dr. Kathryn, you fit in with this family rather well," Grandma said with a soft smile.
"You'd better be careful, though," Reynold joked. "If you hang around this bunch for too long, you may never escape."
"Do you want to escape?" Grandma asked him pointedly.
"Not for a minute," he told her with a kiss.