I gave Dan a kiss as he went to take a shower. We definitely needed some time to decide how we'd explain things. I could hear voices in the kitchen and smell the scent of bacon cooking as I headed downstairs. That made me think of watching Aaron cook bacon in whatever happened last night. I still couldn't wrap my head around that. I never thought that much about life after death, heaven and all that. Thinking about people eating bacon in heaven made me laugh.
Both my parents and the Johnsons were sitting around the kitchen table talking. The news was on in the background. Of course Scott wasn't up yet. That was no surprise. He could sleep until noon.
"Good morning Josh. I like seeing your smile in the morning. Where's Dan?" asked Mrs. J when I walked into the kitchen.
"He's taking a shower. He said he'd be right down. He's feeling a lot better."
"He didn't need any help?"
I smiled. "He's being stubborn. He wanted to do it himself."
"Maybe I should go up to check."
"Sweetheart," said Mr. J. "The last thing Dan wants is for his mother to baby him. He'll be fine. Give him some space."
"I know, but I want to make sure he's okay," she sighed, looking towards the stairs. "I can't help it. I am his mother after all. It's in my DNA."
"I know. I want to know he's okay too," said Mr. J. "I am upset with him for how he acted last night though. He knows better than that. Being hurt isn't an excuse and we need to get to the bottom of whatever it is with Jake. But," he paused. "I'll let him eat breakfast first."
At least he was kind of smiling when he said that. I had forgotten about the argument Dan had with his parents before going to bed last night. It seemed like an eternity ago. I still wondered what it was all about. There was definitely something Dan didn't like about his cousin. He'd refused to talk about it. At least last night. I'm just glad it didn't ruin our night. It almost did but neither of us wanted to let that happen. We definitely preferred the night we had. I had to put those thoughts out of my head though since I was getting hard again.
"Don't worry Mrs. J. I offered to help but he wanted to do it for himself. I'll go back up in a few minutes if he doesn't come down but he'll be okay. I'm sure of it."
I didn't want to say he was completely healed. I didn't want to go there. They'd see soon enough. I smiled thinking about the looks on their faces when he walks in. They're going to be shocked. Of course, knowing Dan, he'll come running into the kitchen giving Scott a piggyback ride just for added effect.
"Getting hurt didn't make him any less stubborn, that's for sure. Sit down. I'll make you breakfast. There's bacon staying warm in the oven. How do you want your eggs? Your mom made pancakes too."
I smiled. "It's going to take me a while getting used to that… my mom. It sounds good though. I'll definitely have some of mom's pancakes. And scrambled eggs sounds good. Thanks."
"How'd you sleep?" asked my father. I was pouring OJ and paused for a minute wondering if he was being sarcastic, but he wasn't smiling or anything. I know I'm probably being self-conscious wondering what they think of Dan and me sleeping together. Sometimes, though, a question is just a question.
"Definitely better than the last week. Strange dreams though. Not bad, just strange. Probably everything that's been happening. It's finally catching up to me. What's up for today?"
"Well, we have to get ready for Thanksgiving," said Mom. "I'll be helping Diane in the kitchen, but before that, I was thinking you, me and your father could run to the store to do any last minute shopping. It's the least we can do since we're unintended house guests."
"Jackie, you don't have to do that. Kevin and I can go. And stop saying you're unintended house guests. You're more than welcome. Any time."
"We know. We just want to chip in. We also want to bond with our son," she said smiling. "Do you have any plans Josh?"
"Dan and I were going to meet Nicky around 1:00, if that's okay, but nothing other than that."
"We'll be back by then. I expect to be busy baking pies this afternoon. You do like pie don't you? I can make something else."
"A homemade pie would be great. It's been a while since I've had one. It's been a while since I've celebrated Thanksgiving too. That is unless you count eating a turkey sandwich watching Mr. Sullivan get drunk." I cringed. "I don't even know what to call him. Calling him Mr. Sullivan sounds too nice but, you probably wouldn't like me calling him what I really think."
"Sweetheart, that's all in the past. It's now that counts. Now, and the future. And now is Thanksgiving and we definitely have something to be thankful for."
"We all do," added Mrs. J.
"So are you up for showing your parents how to find the grocery store? You also need to tell me what type of pies you want," my Mom said, smiling.
I smiled. "Sounds good to me."
The shower felt great. I loved a hot shower anyway, but it felt particularly good this morning. Last night's shower felt good too, but that was for a different reason. This one felt good because I didn't have to worry about cuts and bandages or anything like that. I couldn't believe I was completely healed. I definitely wasn't going to say Aaron did it. I will at some point, but not right now. For now I'll act as surprised as everyone else.
I fought the urge to jerk off in the shower. I easily could have, but I told Josh I wouldn't be long. Not that he'd care, but doing it without him seemed wrong, especially when we slept in the same bed. That got me thinking about other things though, and those other things had the effect you would assume. I laughed. If thinking about my boyfriend lying naked in bed didn't get me hard then something would be wrong.
I tried to force those thoughts out of my head by thinking about the time Josh, Aaron and I spent together instead. It's too bad we couldn't make that happen on-demand. Who knew if it would happen again? Aaron said his trial was complete so I kind of doubted it. I smiled thinking of the look on Aaron's face when I said I wanted pictures. That probably was a dumb idea, but I had to try.
I really didn't want to get out of the shower, but like I said, I did tell Josh I wouldn't be long. The hot water raining down felt really good, but I did turn off the water, grabbed my towel, and dried off without lingering. I did wrap it around me before opening the door, which was a good thing, since Scott was sitting on the floor by the door.
"What took you so long? I have to pee," he asked, like an indignant eight year-old.
"Sorry, I guess I was daydreaming. The shower felt good." I laughed, as he ran into the bathroom barely making it to the toilet. "Why didn't you use the bathroom in mom and dad's room or go downstairs?"
"I didn't think you'd be so long. What were you doing?"
"Taking a shower," I laughed. "What do you want to do today? Anything you want. How about we practice your kickboxing?"
He was in such a hurry to use the bathroom he hadn't noticed I didn't have any bandages. I didn't really watch him go to the bathroom, I'm not a perv, but I did stand in the doorway to see how long it took him to figure it out. It was kind of funny he was in so much of a hurry.
"So what do you say?" I asked again. "Kickboxing?"
"Sure… wait, you can't kickbox. You're hurt."
"I'll show you how hurt I am," I said picking him up and putting him over my shoulder. "Do I look hurt?"
"Put me down!!!!"
"Shhhhhh, someone will hear you. I want to play a trick on mom and dad. They think I'm hurt too. Remember? How about I give you a piggyback ride into the kitchen? We'll surprise them."
"But where are your bandages? Mommy said we couldn't do much because you needed time to heal."
"Don't need them. I woke up this morning and I was fine. So, are we going to play a trick on everyone or not? It'll be fun."
"Okay," he smiled. "But I'm telling them it was your idea."
I laughed. "Sure, make me take the blame. Let me get some clothes on."
I went into my room and grabbed some shorts. I was careful to pull them on before tossing the towel in the hamper. It's not that I cared if Scott saw my bare ass, he is my brother and he's growing up, but he is only eight.
"You ready munch? Hop on," I said squatting down.
We were quiet as we walked downstairs, but as soon as we got to the bottom of the stairs Scott yelled, "Let's go Dan… Giddy Up!!"
I laughed and started singing the Lone Ranger theme song as we 'galloped' into the kitchen. We probably could have picked a better time for our stunt. My mother choked on the mouthful of coffee she had just taken.
"Dan!!!!! What are you doing? Put him down. What are you thinking?"
Josh just rolled his eyes and shook his head. "You're either predictable or I'm definitely getting to know you better. I was just thinking you'd come in giving Scott a piggyback ride and here you are. I guess you didn't want to break it to them gently," he laughed.
"You knew about this?" asked my mom.
"I'm fine mom. Look," I said, flipping Scott over my shoulder.
"You may feel better but people don't heal overnight. You need to be careful. Give yourself time. I know your doctor said not to do any strenuous activity. I think that includes throwing your brother around."
"Look though, no bandages, no sores, I can talk without mumbling… I'm fine, one hundred percent."
"This is incredible," said Mr. M. "You knew about this, didn't you?" he asked smiling at Josh.
"How did this happen?"
I couldn't resist. "I'm thinking your son has remarkable healing abilities," I said, looking at Mr. M.
I laughed as Josh turned red. "Sorry," I said. "Seriously, I can't explain it but I'm fine. I woke up this morning and all my cuts were healed, no broken anything and I felt great."
"This is… remarkable. Just the same, put your brother down and sit down. I'll make you eggs. Do you want some of Jackie's pancakes?"
"Her special pancakes? You bet. I haven't had those since we moved here."
"Dan and I are going to kickbox," said Scott.
"You're what???? No! I'm putting my foot down on that. I know you say you're fine but I want to get you checked out. People don't heal overnight."
"It's fine Mom. I'm fine. I want to. I'll go easy."
"Sweetheart, you just got out of the hospital. You need to rest."
"I'm fine. Look," I said indicating where my stitches had been. "There's no cut, no bruising, nothing."
"I'm glad you're feeling better," said my dad. "That must mean you're feeling up for a little talk. I was going to wait but since you're fine, right after breakfast, you, your mother and I are going into my study. You're going to tell us what's going on with Jake. And I expect you to tell us everything as well as apologize for you attitude last night. Josh is going out with his parents so that will give us plenty of time. Then we'll decide if you can kickbox with your brother."
Shit. I had forgotten all about that. I knew I shouldn't have mouthed off. My father didn't get mad very often, but he was definitely pissed off. He was serious too. Getting dragged into his study for a conversation was a big deal. He had a way of making me feel two inches tall with just a few words when he wanted. Scott knew it too. I felt him move a little closer reminding me he was there. I could also feel Josh's eyes on me. I knew he wanted to know what was up too. I also knew I didn't have a choice.
"Okay," I said. "I'm sorry about last night."
Needless to say things were pretty subdued after that. I ate my pancakes which were good by the way, but felt everyone was staring at me, and they probably were. I don't think Josh's parents knew what to say. My father rarely talked like that.
"These are great Mrs. M. Thank you. Mom has tried to make them following your recipe but they never seem to taste the same," I said more to change the subject than anything.
"Thank you Dan. I'm sure your mother's are just as good though."
"No Jackie, he's right. Mine are good but they never come out like yours. Your pies are better too. I'm glad you're in charge of them. By the way, when you're out can you get apples at the orchard? Josh can give you directions. Their apples are much better than the grocery store."
"Of course, just give us a list and we'll pick up everything we need. We'll pick up some wine too. My pies are always better when I have a glass or two while baking them," she smiled.
The rest of breakfast was kind of subdued. Mr. and Mrs. M excused themselves to get ready to leave, saying they'd be leaving in about fifteen minutes. Josh didn't want to leave, but eventually put his dishes in the dishwasher and went upstairs to get dressed. My father just looked at me and said "fifteen minutes then" when I got up to follow him.
"Your father is definitely pissed," he said when we were alone. "I've never seen him like that. Are you okay?"
I gave him a hug and put my forehead against his. "I'll be okay. He'll probably be pissed off when I tell him too, but it's not like I have a choice. I'm just glad I don't have to talk about it in front of your parents. That's what pissed me off last night."
"What do my parents have to do with it?"
"It involves Aaron, and if they knew they'd be hurt or pissed or something. It's nothing Aaron did. It's something Jake did. And it's what I did too. I'll explain it to you later. There really isn't time now. Your parents are probably waiting, as are mine."
"I don't envy you. Your dad can be pretty intimidating when he wants. He must be a good lawyer."
"Tell me about it. What's worse is knowing I've disappointed him. He doesn't even have to say it. I just know. In fact the less he says the more disappointed he is."
"Well, if you survive I'll find a way to take your mind off it," he said giving me a kiss and wiggling his eyebrows. "I have a few ideas."
"God Josh, you want me to walk into my father's study with a hardon? I know your ideas," I smiled. "I have them too."
Josh threw on some clothes and we walked downstairs since his parents would likely be waiting. I put on some jeans and grabbed a shirt as well. Maybe it was because I'd always been a little intimidated by my father's study, but it didn't seem right to just be wearing gym shorts for our talk.
Josh's parents were indeed standing by the door with their coats on when we got downstairs. They made sure they had the list of what we needed and said they'd probably be a couple hours. I felt like they were looking at me, almost like they felt sorry for me, but they didn't say anything.
"I'll see you later," I said to Josh, giving him a quick kiss. "Remember, we're meeting Nick after lunch unless of course I'm grounded." I was only half-joking because I didn't really think I would be. My parents had never actually grounded me. Of course, I'd never really given them a reason to either, although that might change when I tell them what I'd done.
My father said "let's go Dan" as soon as the Michaels were out the door. So much for escaping, I thought. Not that I really thought I could have.
Having a 'talk' with my parents in my father's study really was a big deal. Fortunately, it didn't happen very often. Scott and I both knew it was serious when it did though. His study was intimidating. He probably knew it had that effect. It was very formal. Much more formal than the rest of the house. He had a huge mahogany desk, book shelves covered with all kinds of legal books, furniture that was part leather and part mahogany as well as various end tables and pictures like you'd see in his real office. That's what his study reminded me of, his real office. It didn't have the same family feel as the rest of the house.
"Sit down Dan. Your mother will be right in. We need to talk about Jake as well as your attitude, but I do want to make sure you know I'm glad you're feeling better. If I hadn't seen how you were yesterday I wouldn't believe it because it does look like nothing even happened. It's pretty incredible."
"I know. I was pretty surprised when I woke up this morning. The first thing Josh said was my bandages were gone."
"What do you mean… gone? You didn't take them off?"
Oops. I wondered how I was going to get out of this. I guess I could have said they had just come off and maybe it was the way he was looking at me, but I didn't want to lie. I didn't know how he'd take the truth. I doubt he'd even believe me but I felt I should tell him.
"No, they were just gone," I said, as my mother came in and sat down.
"Dan says his bandages were just gone when he woke up this morning."
"Gone? I'm sure they didn't just disappear. They have to be in your bed somewhere. Most likely tangled in your sheets."
"No, they were gone," I said. "Just like my stitches and bruises and everything else. I can't explain it… at least in a way you'd believe," I added.
"Why don't you try," Dad said.
We'd definitely got off topic for why I was here, but talking about being healed was certainly much easier than talking about Jake. Maybe if I told them what happened they'd be so shocked they'd forget about Jake. Somehow I doubted it, but I did kind of want to tell them and I doubt I'd get a better opening.
"I know you're not going to believe me, but I wasn't wrong when I told Mr. M his son had great healing abilities. The thing is, you all assumed I was talking about Josh. I wasn't. Aaron did it."
"What??? You're telling us you believe Aaron healed you?"
"I know how it sounds but I'm sure of it. He's talked to me. He talked to me again last night."
"Dan, you had a dream. It had to be. That's understandable. You and Aaron were close. You've had dreams about him before. Dreams can seem very real at times. I'm sure Dr. Medford has talked about that."
"It wasn't a dream. If it was a dream then how do you explain Josh and I having the same dream and being in each other's dreams? Ask him. He'll tell you. I know it wasn't a dream. Just as I know Aaron did this."
"Aaron healed you?" asked my father, in a manner he clearly thought I'd lost it. "You can't really believe that."
I took a deep breath. They were probably ready to have me committed. It's not like I could blame them either. If anyone told me what I was telling them I'd think they were a few puppies short of a pet shop too.
"I do. In fact, I believe Aaron is responsible for all of this."
"All of what?"
"This," I said. "Us moving here, finding Josh, finding out Josh is his brother… all of it. I don't just believe it. I know it. He told me. He didn't cause Phil to attack me but he was the one who beat him when he did. I know that too. Josh couldn't have done that. He's learned a lot, but there's just no way. Aaron did it."
"Now you're telling us Aaron somehow took over Josh's body and defended you against Phil Clayton? Do you hear yourself? You had a dream. Something!! I know you think what you're saying is true, but how can it be? You need to talk to Dr. Medford."
"No!!!! I'm not crazy. I knew you wouldn't believe me. I can show you. Do you have a copy of the video where Josh fought with Phil?"
"Yes, but what will that prove?"
"Get it. I'll be right back."
I ran upstairs and powered up my PC. I knew I'd recognized Aaron's style when Lt. Henderson had first shown me the video. I knew Aaron had helped at the time. I don't know if he took over Josh's body or not but I knew Aaron's style. I should know. We'd practiced together enough.
I opened a folder containing some videos from various tournaments. I knew I had it. It was the last fight Aaron won before he died. He had won 1st place in a regional meet. I put the video on a thumb drive and went back downstairs. Hopefully, they'd see what I saw. I noticed Scott ducking behind the sofa just as I was about to go back into the study.
"Scott, what are you doing?"
"Aaron healed you?"
"Were you listening?"
"Uh-huh," he said, looking at his feet. "I was worried about you. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine Scott. I know what you heard is hard to believe, but it's true. I promise."
"But how could he heal you? He wasn't a doctor."
I couldn't help but smile. Leave it to an eight year-old to ignore the whole unbelievable part and focus on something logical. You have to love Scott.
"No. No he wasn't. But it's still true. Come on. Let's tell mom and dad you heard."
I put my hand on his shoulder and pushed him toward the door. I'm sure he didn't want our parents knowing he was listening, but I didn't think he should be excluded now either. My parents should at least know.
"Scott heard us talking," I said, when my parents saw him standing beside me. "He was worried."
"Scott! You shouldn't eavesdrop."
"I know, but I was worried about Dan. I wanted to make sure he was okay. How did Aaron heal him?"
My mother looked at me and shook her head. "He didn't really heal him. Dan had a dream. He's been under a lot of stress. A lot has happened. Maybe we should take a break. Let's all have a snack."
"No," I said. "Just look at this. Please. Play the video of Josh fighting with Phil. Watch it closely."
My father was reluctant, but hit play. "What are we looking for?"
I put my hand on Scott's shoulder. "Just watch," I said. "Josh has learned a lot, but do you really think he did that? There… hit pause… Okay, now watch the video on here. This is the fight Aaron won right before he died."
"Dan, what's the point?"
"Please Dad. It's important. Humor me. You already think I'm crazy."
Again, my father was reluctant, but hit play.
"Watch closely. Do you notice the similarities? Get ready… now, hit pause. Look at those two pictures." I knew it, but even I was surprised. "Look at the form, the eyes, the facial expressions. Tell me that's not the same person. I'm telling you, that's Aaron."
I could tell they were having trouble. Who wouldn't be? This definitely didn't seem real. The problem is it was real. My parents stared at both pictures and looked at each other. Then, my father rewound both videos and played them side by side at half speed. It was amazing. Every move, every punch, every kick was identical. Aaron did a kick in one and Josh did the exact same kick in the other at exactly the same time. Then they both got into a ready stance, the same ready stance, before both doing the same combination. It was the looks on their faces and in their eyes that really capped it. My parents just stared at the videos not saying a word. My father even watched them both again before saying anything.
"Okay Dan, I can see what you're saying. That is pretty remarkable. I admit I can't explain it, but the thought Aaron somehow controlled Josh's actions… well, I'm sorry Dan. And even if that is true, it doesn't prove Aaron had anything to do with us moving here or with him healing you."
"There's more," I said.
"Can we stop for a while?" asked my mom. "Scott doesn't need to hear this and your father and I need to talk."
"Okay sweetheart. Let's take a few minutes. We're kind of off topic for why we're here too. This is obviously important, but we still need to talk about Jake."
"That can wait. Dan, if you're sure you're up to it then why don't you take Scott outside."
I knew we'd be talking more, but I was ready for a break. I'm sure they thought I was crazy. I wouldn't be surprised if they had me committed to a rubber room. I knew they really wouldn't do that of course, but I'm sure they didn't know quite what to do. Hopefully, they wouldn't really make me see Dr. Medford again once I explained everything.
"Let's go, Scott. Go get ready and we'll practice. I'll meet you out back. I need to change too."
Scott and I went upstairs to change but I also wanted to text Josh. I wanted to see when he'd get back as well as tell him what was going on. I was going to need his help to prove the rest of it.
Dan> you busy?
Josh> we're on our way to the apple orchard... how'd your talk go... did you explain about Jake?
Dan> didn't get that far
Josh> what have you been doing?
Dan> talking about Aaron... everything
Josh> everything???? what did they say?
Dan> we're not done... taking a break... scott and I are going out back... kickbox... I think they're ordering a straight jacket, lol
Josh> that's not funny
Dan> they said it was a dream
Josh> well, we both had the same dream... that should help... I'll tell them the same thing
Dan> hurry back... ilu
Josh> ilu2... cu soon... we're at the orchard now
Scott was out back by the time I got downstairs. He'd already grabbed my kick shield and target mitts from the garage and was ready to go. I wore the chest shield and shin guards so he could give me body shots. My mother would probably freak if she saw him punching or kicking my side but I really was fine. I didn't think I'd need the groin protector.
"Okay munch. Do you need help with your gloves? Let's go. Let's start with a left jab. One… Two… Three… Ten. Good. Now a left jab followed by a right cross. One... Two... twist on the cross, use your body... Nine... Ten."
Scott was getting pretty good. We kept doing various combinations, adding various kicks, for about forty-five minutes. It was fun. He laughed when he tried a right knee and almost caught me in the balls. Maybe I should have worn a groin protector after all!
"You think that's funny?" I asked, grabbing him. He laughed when I threw off the target mitt and started tickling him.
"Stop it," he said, squirming.
I loved Scott. We didn't get enough time for just the two of us. Of course I loved it when it was just Josh, Scott, and me too.
"I love you munch. You don't think I'm crazy do you?" I asked, giving him a hug.
"I see they haven't fit you for a straight jacket yet," said Josh, as he walked outside. "Your mother really let you kickbox?"
"Hey, you're back. I didn't hear you drive in," I said, giving him a quick kiss. "I think she gave up. She was probably overwhelmed with everything I told them while you were gone."
I used to worry about Scott seeing me kiss Aaron, and to some extent, Josh, but he was old enough to understand. It was just a quick kiss after all. Scott's mind was elsewhere anyway.
"Did Aaron really heal you?" he asked.
I was holding him and he was holding onto my shoulders. Josh smiled. "Yes, he did," he said. "At least I believe that."
"I know it's hard to understand buddy. I'm not sure I do either, but I believe he did heal me. Let's go inside. It's time to get everything out."
We put the practice equipment away and walked inside. I knew my parents wanted to talk some more. I'm sure they didn't know what to make of what I said. I think I won a few points with the videos, but they were still a long way from believing what I'd been saying.
My parents were talking with the Michaels when we got inside. It was obvious they'd been talking about our talk this morning. I doubt they told them everything, but I did hear my father say we were going to talk some more.
"I think we should all talk," I said. "Josh needs to be there. It involves him too. It involves you too, Mr. and Mrs. M. I think Scott needs to know too. He's already heard part of it. He's asking questions. He should hear everything. Plus I'd prefer to only say all of this once."
I knew they wouldn't mind the Michaels hearing but I'm sure they were skeptical about letting Scott hear everything too. They didn't know what I was going to say for sure. They had an idea, but I know they really had no clue. It was clear they weren't enthused about the idea.
"Please mommy. I want to know how Aaron healed Dan."
"What??" asked Mrs. M. "Did I hear that right?" She was definitely stunned.
"Jackie," I'm sorry. I should have prepared you. Dan is convinced Aaron had something to do with all this," said my mother.
"I believe it too," said Josh. "I do," he added, when everyone stared at him.
"Diane? What do you think? What about Scott?"
"Let's all go downstairs. All of us. I have my reservations, but Dan's right, this involves everyone. But Dan, remember, Scott is only eight."
I nodded as we all went downstairs to the family room. I was glad they were allowing Scott to hear this too. He was only eight, but he and I had a special connection. I wanted him to understand.
The family room was definitely less intimidating than my father's study. There was still the leather furniture but it was much less formal. The TV, home theater, and pool table helped too. Mr. and Mrs. Michaels sat on one couch with Scott. Josh and I sat on the other couch which was directly opposite, while my parents sat in the chairs at each end of the couches.
I didn't know whether I should just begin or wait for my parents to say something. I think we were both waiting for each other. It's not that I was nervous, but it's not every day you talk about talking to the dead. I knew the truth, but how do you convince people of something so unbelievable with just words? Fortunately, Josh was saying the same thing. At least they'd think we're both crazy. Maybe they'll let us share that rubber room.
"Okay Dan, you've got the floor."
"Okay, first, can I just talk and get everything out. I know you'll have questions but it'll be easier just to get this out. My way. Then you can ask anything you want. Or you can have me committed, whichever is more appropriate," I smiled. "I know you probably think I'm crazy."
My mother frowned when I said that, about being crazy. I doubt she uses that term. She'd probably have some scientific name for it that nobody could pronounce.
I thought it would be best to clear the air about Jake first. I had been a jerk to my parents. They didn't deserve that. I hadn't wanted to talk about Jake in front of the Michaels because it might upset them but they were like second parents. Not telling them wouldn't be right. They should know.
"Okay, about Jake... I want to apologize for my behavior last night. I was upset. Thinking about Jake does that to me, but that's no excuse. I was rude and disrespectful. I'm sorry. You've done nothing but support me the last year. My behavior was inexcusable. I also know it was pretty awkward for you as well," I said, looking at the Michaels. "I'm sorry. I didn't want to talk about it in front of you because it could be hurtful, but it does concern you. And even though what happened with Jake doesn't have anything to do with Josh, but I don't keep things from him," I said, looking at him and squeezing his hand. I wasn't sure if I should say the true extent of our relationship. They knew we loved each other, and I'm not self-conscious for saying the things I do, but what we say to each other is between us. It was comforting feeling him beside me, his leg pressed against mine.
"We know Dan."
"I love him and he should know. So that means you should know too," I said. "I should just start..."
"It happened a year ago, right after Aaron's funeral. You know how I was. I was pissed off. I didn't want to talk to anyone. Do you remember how I went out for a run the day after his funeral? I just wanted to be alone. I didn't want to hear anyone ask me how I was. I got so sick of that."
"I ran into Jake while running by the high school... or he ran into me. You know he and I never got along. I know you don't know why. I don't think you ever saw how he really was. He was always sweet and innocent around you, but when you or his parents weren't around he was totally different. He was too chicken to do much, but he'd try to get Aaron or me to start something by being a jerk. Mainly, he just said stuff about us being gay."
"What? Why didn't you tell us?"
"He was mainly just annoying. Aaron and I tried to ignore him and not let it bother us. We even joked he was latently gay and couldn't handle it, but who knows. We didn't tell him that. We just avoided him."
"Anyway, that day, he wouldn't leave me alone. I told him I wanted to be alone but that just made him worse. He wouldn't shut up. He was annoying, as always, but then he started talking about Aaron. Honest, I tried to walk away but he grabbed my arm. He actually smiled and said he was glad the fag was dead, and that all fags should die."
My parents looked shocked. Mrs. M looked like she was going to cry. To hear someone was glad her son was dead was beyond hurtful. I looked at my father and it seemed obvious he wanted to say something but he was biting his tongue. He looked pissed though.
"I'm sorry Mr. and Mrs. M. That's why I didn't want to say anything last night. I couldn't believe what he said. I lost it. I had to have because the next thing I knew I was on top of him, beating on him. I was hitting him over and over again," I said, looking at my hands, remembering.
"I don't even know how long I hit him. He was lying there, crying and trying to block my punches but I didn't stop. I just kept hitting him... and hitting him. At some point it wasn't even because of what he said. I was just angry. Angry for losing Aaron. That's when I stopped."
"I'm sorry. I know it was wrong. It's easy to say he deserved it, and part of me still thinks he did, but I shouldn't have done what I did. I also know I should have gotten him help but I didn't. Nobody was around. I just walked away. I told him if he ever tells anyone I'd shove his skateboard so far up his, ah, inside him, he'd be eating it for breakfast, and I left him on the ground."
"I know you're disappointed in me. I'm sorry. That's what makes me feel worse. I'm glad I didn't do any real damage and it scares me I lost control, but disappointing you is worse."
"Dan, you should have told us. Carol has never said anything. I can't imagine she knows. Did you tell anyone? We had no idea he was like that. Carol asked me about you and Aaron, but she just seemed curious. She didn't say anything negative."
"I told my first therapist. He said anger is a normal emotion and we can all be pushed to our limits, but self-control is important. He wanted me to understand why it happened, knowing it was wrong, and all that. I didn't really pay attention. I didn't pay attention too much of what he said. I knew it was wrong. I was angry about Aaron. That doesn't excuse anything though. You can punish me if you want. Don't worry though, I'll be good when they're here. I'll stay away from him."
"Yes, what you did was wrong. You're lucky he wasn't hurt. You're also lucky you weren't charged. You could have been charged with assault and battery, or worse, aggravated assault and battery. You didn't use a weapon, but your skills could be deemed a lethal weapon."
"I didn't think of that. I didn't think of anything other than what he said."
"Let's not worry about that now. I am disappointed. We both are. We didn't raise you or pay for your lessons for you to behave like that. You mother and I will talk about this. I'm not sure punishing you is the answer, but I want to talk to your mother. We'll also decide what to do now about Thanksgiving."
"I'll talk to Carol," mom said. "She's never said anything so Jake must not have said anything."
"I told him to say he wiped out on his skateboard. He was scared. He probably made something up."
"I'll still talk to her. She's my sister and I love her, but there is no place for Jake's attitude in this house. That doesn't mean I'm condoning what you did. Your father and I will talk, but if that's really how they feel then I don't want them here. But Dan, if there's anything you're not telling us about Jake then now is the time."
"No, that's everything."
"Then let's talk about what you told us this morning."
"Mr. and Mrs. M? I know this will be hard to hear, let alone believe, but I really do believe Aaron has caused a lot of all this, of us moving here, of us finding Josh, of me waking up healed, all of it."
"Dan, we love you and want to believe you but how do you expect us to believe that? Aaron is dead. How could he have done anything?"
"I believe it too," said Josh. "I know it."
"Sweetheart, what you're saying is impossible."
"Dan, I admit I can't explain the video you showed us, but you can't expect us to believe someone who is dead can affect our lives like that."
"Video?" asked Josh.
"I showed them a video of Aaron's last fight comparing it to your fight with Phil. I'm sorry, but that wasn't you. I know Aaron helped you."
"Of course he did. I know that. He told me."
I smiled. I loved Josh. "Mr. and Mrs. M," I said. "I know it's hard to believe, but let me explain. I don't know if mom told you, but when we first moved here I fainted the first time I saw Josh. Aaron came to me while I was unconscious. He told me he was sad about how I'd been. He told me I had to move on, to live my life. I know what you're thinking. I thought the same thing. I thought I imagined it, but there's more.
"When I was hurt, and also unconscious, he came to me again. Actually, I went to him. We were at the waterfalls. He called it the in-between, a place that's not here but it's not the afterlife either. It seemed like we were at the falls where he fell. He just stayed with me while I was unconscious. We talked. We played Frisbee. He wouldn't or couldn't tell me what was happening here. A lot of the time he just told me to rest. He was just there for me."
"I know. That could have been my imagination too. I know that. It was more than that though, and that doesn't explain what happened last night."
I looked at Josh who nodded.
"Last night I went to the in-between again. Both of us did. I know that could have been a dream too, but if it was, how do you explain Josh having the exact same dream?"
"It's true," Josh said. "I didn't believe it either, at first, but Dan and I woke up near the waterfalls. Dan took me to a cabin and Aaron was inside cooking breakfast. I know how this sounds, but it's true. I swear it. I wouldn't make this up. And I wouldn't be saying it if I didn't believe it was true. I know it sounds crazy, but we had breakfast together, the three of us."
"Aaron told us he found out about Josh after he died. Actually, he wouldn't call him Josh. He said he couldn't. He had to call him Chris. He told us it was his 'trial' to make things right, to correct the wrong that had been done sixteen years ago. He wanted to re-unite you and Josh."
"I have a hard time calling you Josh too," said Mrs. M.
"After breakfast, he and I took a walk," added Josh. "That's when he told me about the fight, how he helped me. We talked about how we'd been cheated. That we should have grown up as brothers. There was something else he said too, and that was private, but I'm thinking I should say it."
I looked at Josh. He hadn't told me anything about that.
"What did he say? It's okay."
"He said he knows you blame yourself for what happened, but told me not to let you. He said it's bull. He said he knew you were watching, but he had already started climbing again when he fell. He said he was careless, he slipped. It was as simple as that."
Nobody said anything. I think everyone knew I blamed myself. I still did to some extent. What if I hadn't been watching. I've realized I can't control the what-ifs though. What if we had decided to go for a run rather than go to the waterfalls that day? There were a lot of what-ifs. Wanting to have done something different so that one of those what-ifs worked out differently is understandable, but that's different from it being my fault.
I had tears in my eyes. Thinking about that made me remember him falling onto that rock. I just smiled at Josh.
"Anyway," I said wiping my eyes. "The last thing I remember was him putting his hand on my chest and saying be well. The next thing I remember was waking up upstairs being completely healed. Maybe it's just a miracle, but I believe it was more than that. Maybe it was all a dream, but if it was, then how do you explain us both having the same dream? And how do you explain my being completely healed?"
Nobody said anything. Not that I could blame them. This didn't exactly fit into their view of reality. We'd never really talked what they thought about life after death and all that. My mother was a psychiatrist. Her world was the mind. She may not understand it all, nobody does, but she looked for scientific explanations, not supernatural ones.
"That's cool," said Scott. "Can I go visit Aaron?"
I smiled. Leave it to Scott. "I don't think it works like that, munch. It's not something that happens on-demand. I don't expect it to happen again. Aaron completed his trial. He re-united Josh with his parents. There's no reason. At least right now. Who knows what will happen in the future."
"Is he happy?" asked Mrs. M.
"You believe us?"
"Yes Dan. I do. It's incredible and I'm sure most people would simply dismiss everything you've said, but yes, I believe you. And you definitely can't argue that something miraculous happened. Just look at you."
"Jackie!!" exclaimed Mr. M. "You really believe they talked to Aaron and he healed Dan? Come on. I'm sorry guys. I know you're not making this up. I believe you really think what you're saying is true, but come on, things like that just don't happen. I can't explain it, but divine intervention?"
"I believe you," said Scott.
"Thank you Scott. Mom? Dad? What do you think?"
They looked at each other, studying each other's faces. They were probably trying to figure out how each other felt.
"I don't know. I want to believe you but you're asking a lot. I know you wouldn't make this up and you're obviously healed, but there has to be some other explanation."
"So you think it's all in my head? Both our heads? We're making it up?"
"Guys," said my Dad. "We're not saying you're making this up."
"Just because something is unbelievable doesn't mean it's not true. Would someone two hundred years ago believe you flew across the ocean if you couldn't show them the plane? They'd probably dismiss anything you said because they couldn't imagine it being possible. That doesn't mean it's not true. What if someone told you they just transported from Chicago using a transporter like on Star Trek. You'd think they were crazy, but it doesn't mean they hadn't."
My father sighed. "Dan, I hear what you're saying, but I deal with concrete evidence. Your mother does too, even though it's different. There's a cause and effect. This is asking me to disregard that and believe black is white."
"Show them the pictures," said Josh.
"Pictures?" asked my mother.
"We took pictures when we were with Aaron. He said it wouldn't work, but he played along for fun. He even made a video for Mr. and Mrs. M. We knew he was probably right, that it really wouldn't work, but it did. They were on my phone when we woke up this morning."
"Cool," said Scott.
"I can see my boy? I can hear him?" asked Mrs. M.
"Okay Dan. Why don't you show us?"
"My phone is upstairs."
"I think you'd better get it."
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