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The Apprentice

by Sahypo

Chapter 31

Earlier that morning, a male nurse had come in and spoken softly to Wesley. He said his name was Jamie, and that the doctors had decided to take the catheter out because the longer it was in the harder it would be to remove. Jamie told Wesley that this would not be pleasant, but there were worse things, like removing the tape that held the catheter in place.

"OK, big guy, are you ready? I will try to get this over with as easy as I can." Wesley nodded weakly, and the nurse flipped back the sheet to expose his work area.

Wesley had been cross taped on his thigh to keep the catheter in place and a strip of tape on the catheter and the tip of his penis kept it from being bumped. The Foley catheter has a balloon on the bladder end that is inflated with saline solution, to keep the catheter in place in the bladder.

The first thing the nurse did was remove the tape from Wesley's thighs. The good news is that Wesley had no hair whatsoever in this area, but the bad news is that the smooth skin made intimate contact with the adhesive on the tape, and it was a slow and uncomfortable peel to get it off. Wesley bit his lip and took it stoically, and the nurse praised him for being brave, and apologized again for putting him through the ordeal.

Wesley just nodded and asked how much more they had to go

"One more piece of tape, and then we pull the cath out, okay?" Jamie reported.

"Okay, I'm ready."

"You're doing good, Wesley. Real good, buddy. You are super brave." Jamie praised him. He took an empty syringe and screwed a needle onto the barrel. Uncapping the needle, Jamie poked it into a port on the catheter and withdrew liquid from it. Inside Wesley's bladder, the balloon end of the Foley collapsed down to the diameter of the catheter tubing, which was about an eighth of an inch or so. Wesley did not feel this happening, of course.

What he did feel is the strip of tape being peeled off his penis, pubis and scrotum. It felt like fire as his skin was pulled, but he knew that Jamie had to go slow, or he would rip his skin. He pursed his lips and tried to breathe normally so his ribs wouldn't hurt so bad. Jamie could see his distress, so he stopped for a minute and asked

"Doing all right, Wesley?"

Wesley nodded "How much more?" he asked.

"Maybe another inch or two of tape" Jamie replied.


The pulling started again from just behind the tip of his penis, and continued down the short shaft, and on to Wesley's pubis, where the discomfort eased as the pulling moved on to less sensitive skin.

"I've got good news, and bad news, Champ" Jamie said.


"That was all the tape, which is good."

"Okay....but what's the bad news?" Wesley asked.

"If you were waiting for your first hairs down there, I think they're gone" Jamie joked, showing Wesley about twelve wispy dark hairs stuck in the tape, about half an inch long.

Wesley took the tape to get a better look at it. He groaned and said "Aw!" mainly for Jamie's benefit, and grinned as the nurse chuckled.

Jamie then said "Last part. Time to pull this out. It will feel a bit weird, and its going to be uncomfortable. Ready?"

"Yeah...I'm ready" Wesley said, and Jamie began to gently tug the tubing out of the boy's bladder. The sensation was indeed very strange, as if his penis was being pulled from the inside. He could not feel the catheter actually moving, but the pulling sensation was fairly constant, and although not pleasant, Wesley did not find it actually painful. There was only a few inches of tubing to remove since the distance between Wesley's bladder and the outside world wasn't very long, and enough lubricant remained in his urethra from when it was inserted in the emergency room Sunday night that it came out pretty easily.

"That's it, Champ. Done. You OK?" Jamie said as he covered Wesley.

Wesley nodded. "Yeah, but um...."

"How are you going to pee, you're thinking?" Jamie guessed. Wesley nodded, and Jamie retrieved a urinal jug from the chest of drawers next to the bed.

"You will use this. If you can't manage with one hand, just page the nurse, and we'll help you. When you get done, just set it on the table and we'll take it away. I'll leave it here for you."

"Okay, thanks." Wesley said.

"Ready for breakfast after all that work?"


"Good. I'll bring it right in" Jamie set up the tray and arranged the breakfast so Wesley could eat with his left arm, just as Isaac and William came in the room. They greeted Jamie, and exchanged pleasantries as Jamie left and pulled the door behind him.

William went to his brother's side and took his good hand. Isaac stood behind William

"Hi, you remember me? My name is Isaac" Wesley nodded.

"Yeah...Hi...You brought William to see me. He's staying with you?" Isaac nodded

"Yes, he is, Wesley. Hopefully we are keeping him happy"

"Yes, they are" William said with a grin, then continued

"Everybody was asking about you at school today, like you have a gazillion friends or something" William said.

Wesley was taken aback by that, he would never have considered himself to be popular. He was also wondering how long he would be in the hospital, and whether he could get caught up with his school work. The term would be over soon, as it was almost Thanksgiving...


"Yeah, everybody misses you and wants to know when you will be back".

The boys continued to small talk for a long time, then William was silent and it was clear that something was on his mind. Isaac decided to walk the unit while the brothers talked.

"Why did you do it, Wesley? He came close to killing you."

"I know....I had to....I had to try and stop him."

"I never wanted you to try that...I never wanted you to get hurt." William said.

"You couldn't have stopped me, little brother. It wasn't your fault this happened. You didn't have the strength to protect Mom, and I thought I mistake...not yours."

"But it is my fault....if you hadn't seen....." William protested.

"There is no way that was your fault, either...he did you. To my brother....I couldn't just say nothing... like it didn't happen. I'm still not sure what was going on." Wesley admitted. "I saw him through the crack in the door, and got away before he knew I saw what he was doing."

"Why were you up that late, anyway?" William asked.

"Had to piss." Wesley replied. "Did he hurt you?...I mean I could hear you breathing real hard and stuff."

"It hurt a lot when he put his finger in." William said in a soft voice, looking down at his hands. Wesley then figured out what was going on...

Wesley lay back in bed and looked up at the ceiling. "That's totally' totally gross." He turned his gaze back to William and said

"How long was it going on?"

"Like three or four times before you saw." William replied

"I'm so sorry, William."

"For what?"

"I woulda done something sooner if I knew what he was doing".

"I know you woulda....It's not your fault, Wesley, it's his."

"Yeah, I know...but I still feel bad anyway."

"I feel bad that you got beat up, too. I thought you were going to die when you didn't wake up."

Wesley had not given much thought to how close his life had come to ending, but William certainly had.

"I guess I'm lucky I don't remember too much...I'm sorry you had to go through that."

William didn't say anything, but nodded. It was enough acknowledgement from Wesley to hear that he knew his little brother had suffered realizing his sibling could have died.

"Was it him when your dick was all raw that time too?" Wesley asked. William nodded.

"I sure didn't do that."

"I know..." Wesley agreed. "Um, William."


"Speaking of raw...would you look at something for me? I can't move much"

"I guess, what?"

"That nurse pulled a lot of tape off and took the tube out of my dick before you came in. It pulled hair and itches and burns like hell. Look at it for me, would ya?"

"You don't have any hair." William replied.

"Not after he pulled this off" Wesley said, holding the tape in his fingers with the wispy hairs so William could see it, a grin on his face. William leaned in close and looked at the strip of tape closely.

"Really? Where did those come from?"

"It was on my dick keeping that tube from coming out I guess." William answered.

William drew the sheet back off his brother's body and inspected Wesley closely.

"There is something starting to grow down here." William said. "Can barely see it at all.

Are your balls getting bigger? Everything is pretty red where the tape was, but that's about it. You ain't bleedin or nuthin."

"Okay....guess I'll live with it" Wesley said as William covered him again.

"We got to talk to Mom about everything, you know....or this is going to happen again." William said.

Wesley nodded. "I know...I wonder if she can come up here and see me. I haven't seen her since...."

"Let me get Isaac. Maybe we can bring her up, okay?" William said, as he let go Wesley's hand and promised

"I'll be back."

Wesley flexed his fingers in a wave and nodded as his brother left the room.

William found Isaac sitting in a lounge just down the hall, and he looked up as William approached. The boy sat next to Isaac and told him they wanted to talk to Claire together.

"Well, let's go see her, and find out if she can be moved, okay?" Isaac suggested. "Did you and Wesley have a good talk?"

William nodded. "Yeah...but the hard part is going to be Mom." Isaac had suspected the boys would have something to say once the time came, and Isaac suspected the boys had decided that was now.

He and William entered the elevator and emerged on Claire's floor in front of the nurse's station. The did not see Melanie, but Isaac was pretty sure she was reachable if not on hospital grounds.

They walked into Claire's room just as her breakfast paraphernalia was being policed up by the nutrition staffer, who was cheerful and efficient.

Claire was much better and more awake this afternoon, although she looked much worse as more bruising was visible, but at least her eyes were open.

"William" she said through wired jaws. "How are you, baby?'s good to see you"

"I'm fine, Mommy, really." William said.

"Thank you ma'am, it's good to see you're doing better this morning." Isaac said quietly as he took Claire's hand.

"You too, Isaac...Is William back in school?"

"Yes ma'am. He caught the bus this morning, and I picked him up this afternoon." Isaac explained.

"Oh, oh really? What time is it?" she wondered. She could not keep track of time in this place at all. She slept around the clock and was wakened frequently for checks and pokes and this and that.

"Quarter to four in the, and it's Wednesday." Isaac said.

"Has he been any trouble?" Claire asked.

"Not at all...he has been keeping up on his school assignments right on schedule, and the boys have kept him busy the rest of the time." Isaac replied.


"My brother Timmy is twelve, and his best friend next door Sean, is fourteen. I think they have pretty much adopted William."

Claire smiled the slightest bit at that.

"Um, Mom....have you been to see Wesley yet?" William asked.

"No...they said I could see him today if he was doing well enough." William looked to Isaac, and then back to his mother.

"Me and um, me and Wesley want to talk to you together." William said.

"Well, I guess they'll have to untie me like a ship or something" Claire muttered. Isaac stood and said

"Let me see about getting some help." as he left for the nurses station.

Soon, a large nurse came back with Isaac, and they were talking as they came in.

"We'll take her up in a wheelchair, after we disconnect the monitors" The nurse leaned over the bed and asked

"Ma'am do you feel up to being put in a chair?" Claire nodded; she could do anything it took to see Wesley.

"Okay, let's have you sit up, please." the nurse instructed, as she raised the head of the bed and helped Claire sit straight up.

"Now we are going to swing your legs over the side. Isaac, can you stand behind her and make sure she doesn't fall over..."

Isaac moved into position and the nurse helped Claire move in the bed. Another nurse showed up and moved the wheelchair into position, and helped the first nurse assist Claire in standing. William watched the whole operation unfold like a ballet, and soon his mother was in the chair, and the nurses had transferred her fluid drips to a pole on the chair, and she was ready to go.

William and Isaac took one elevator to Wesley's floor as Claire and her escort took another. Isaac and William led Claire and her attendant to Wesley's room and went in to arrange furniture so the wheelchair would fit at Wesley's bed side. Isaac positioned a chair that William could perch in, and excused himself. He decided to see if Melanie was in, for something to do.

Wesley and Claire spent some time reacquainting themselves, as they had not seen each other or talked since that terrible Sunday evening. She knew the extent of Wesley's injuries from the reports the nurses were giving her, but she didn't expect to see the bizarre way his hair had been chopped and shaved on the right side of his head, or the bandages and drains coming out of his scalp. He also looked like a pin cushion with the rods in his right arm, and the corset supporting his ribs made him look like he was wearing body armor. He looked so small and damaged...

Claire wasn't looking much better, and her wired jaws distorted her speech so that the boys had to listen very closely to understand her.

William was the first to speak on the subject the brothers were desperate to discuss with her.

"I'm scared, Mommy....I think we both are" he said, looking to Wesley, who nodded at his brother.

"Scared? Is anything happening to you where you're staying?" Claire asked, worried.

"No, Mommy. Timmy and Isaac are super good to me. I'm scared about going home....Scared that it''s gonna happen again. That some guy is going to move in know."

Claire looked from William to Wesley,


"Me too, Mom...I'm not sure I want to go home, either...Me, um, me and William never wanted him in the house to begin with...He was mean to us when you weren't there, and later..." Wesley trailed off. "You know what I told you I saw..."

Claire felt the weight of responsibility crush her; these were good kids. There was nothing they did that would justify someone being mean to them, let alone the vile things that had been visited upon William. She had been selfish, and took care of her needs without regard to the consequences. Now she had made their home unlivable, a home that they could not escape; where would they go?

"I haven't been much of a mother at all. I put you both in danger, almost got you killed, Wesley...all of this is my fault. I don't want you boys to live in fear. When we are together again, it's just going to be the three of us...there won't be anyone moving in. I promise, and I'm so sorry it came down to this."

What hurt her most was the look in William's eyes. The eyes that no longer trusted her. The eyes that held disappointment...felt betrayal. And Wesley, the child who had stepped up for a fight he couldn't win to protect his family. She put him in that situation and had almost lost him due to things she had set in motion.

"Can you boys forgive me?" she asked.

William looked down and did not answer...Wesley looked at his brother, respecting William's silence. He would not try to speak for him. Instead, he replied

"Things have to change, Mother."

William nodded without a word.

Claire looked at her boys and realized that something was now missing, mainly their childhood innocence. They had just announced in so many words that their love was no longer unconditional.

They already have, Wesley....I guess I own this Claire thought to herself.

"I'm going to do whatever it takes to win your respect and trust back, boys. I know I blew it, and I know the burden is now on me to do the right thing. I love you both more than anything in the world, and I guess I forgot that. William, I'm so sorry baby...Wesley shouldn't have had to tell me something was wrong. I do love both of you."

"We love you too, Mom" William said almost in a whisper. There didn't seem to be much else to say.

Claire and Wesley would each begin a long course of physical therapy, and there would be more surgeries on Wesley's arm and reconstruction of the boy's skull at some point to replace the bone that was pulverized and removed during his emergency surgery the night of the beating. The was a one inch hole in his head under the scalp that would have to be built up with synthetic bone, made from coral. This material would act as a scaffold for Wesley's own bone to grow over, and would be absorbed over time.

Claire's jaw would be looked at by the maxillofacial surgeon in the morning. He would decide to leave it wired, or operate to plate, pin or screw the broken bones.

Across town, the officers involved in the shooting incident had been placed on desk duty, and the incident was under investigation per standing protocol. The medical examiner had retrieved the bullets and preserved them as evidence, and each officer had turned his weapon in to the watch commander at the scene of the shooting. At this point in time, the medical examiner had determined which bullet or bullets had inflicted the fatal wounds, and the forensic firearms examiner had matched each of the seven slugs in the body to the three weapons that had been discharged at the scene. Concerns over unaccounted for bullets did not apply in this case; all seven slugs had been recovered in the body.

One by one, the officers had been deposed in a conference room under oath, with the proceedings recorded on video. Three senior members of the department had been selected to sit as an investigating board of inquiry, and an attorney from the District Attorneys office sat at a table in the room and conducted the hearings. One of them stuck his head out the door and called

"Officer Rene Moreno?" at the three officers seated in the hallway, waiting to be called. Officer Moreno got up and walked into the conference room followed by his counsel, and closed the door. Moreno was nervous, but not afraid. He knew the men about to examine him, and felt that he would receive a fair hearing. Still, it was nerve wracking to go through a process that could strip him of his profession if the inquiry went sideways.

They took seats and the lead member of the board, the Deputy DA began to speak, an easel with a plan of the rooms in Claire's home stood in the corner of the conference room. He was in his late fifties, tall, and spoke with a deep Texas drawl. Moreno had testified in court for this prosecuting attorney numerous times, and respected the man. He wasn't one of those attorneys that loved to hear himself talk and asked the same question three different ways.

"Officer Moreno, this is an Officer Involved Shooting incident review hearing. For the record those present are..." and he listed the names of the individuals present at the table.

"It is 10 o'clock on the morning of November 19. This hearing is being recorded on video camera. Let the record indicate that Officer Moreno has counsel present, and Sir, would you state your name for the record?"

"David Shapiro, counsel for the Police Officer's Association, representing Officer Moreno" referring to the Metro PD's public employee union.

"Thank you, counselor. Officer Moreno, do you swear to tell the truth and nothing but the truth during this proceeding?"

"I do"

"Officer Moreno, tell us what happened last Sunday night when you responded to the call on Meyer Street?"

"Myself and Officer Trimble were on shift that evening in that precinct, when the call came in for an aggravated domestic disturbance, and dispatch said the complainant heard screams, battery in Trimble called for additional units and I drove."

"The call was made by whom?"

"The next door neighbor." A slight pause as the interrogator made a few notes on his pad.

"What time did you and Officer Trimble get that call?"

"Um, Eighteen twenty, I believe. We were less than two minutes away on Ryder Avenue"

"That sounds about right...When you arrived, were other units on scene?"

"Yes, Sir, other units were arriving on scene simultaneously to our arrival."

"How many?"

"Uh, at least three cars, and I think a detective must have gotten there just as we made entry. I listed all the personnel I saw on the scene in my report"

" exited the vehicle with Officer Trimble...what happened next?"

"We approached the residence and just as we were about to announce and knock, we heard a female in the house scream "Stop it, you'll kill him, God damn it."

"These exact words were audible to you outside the residence?"

"Yes Sir....this person screamed those exact words at the top of their lungs. Then we heard a male yell "Shut up, bitch" followed by the sound of someone being struck very hard."

"You could tell that a person had been struck, and not some object?"

"We heard bones never forget what that sounds like, Sir...afterwards EMS on the scene told us the females' jaw had been broken."

"I see...What was your response when this happened?"

"Officer Trimble and I drew our weapons....Trimble was in front of me and we forced entry."

"Did you in fact announce yourselves?"

"No Sir...there was no time..." Moreno wanted to say "to waste" but checked himself. It's best to keep just to the facts, he thought.

"You and Officer Trimble feared someone was in immediate danger of grave bodily harm or death?"

"Yes, Sir. Absolutely"

"When you made entry, what did you see, Officer Moreno?"

"There was an adult female down with injuries on the kitchen floor, a male juvenile down close to her, and an adult male standing over them. He had what appeared to be a leg from the kitchen table, and was getting ready to strike the juvenile with it."

"Officer Moreno, can you indicate where the female, and the um, juvenile lay, and where the adult male was standing on our diagram here?" The DA asked as he handed Moreno a dry erase marker.

Moreno stood and drew little outlines of where the victims lay on the floor, and drew an "X" where Claire's boyfriend made his last stand. He labeled one outline "F" and the other "J".

"Where were you and Officer Trimble and Officer Duncan standing?"

"Uh, about right here, here and here...." Mareno said, indicating with "X's" and the initials M, T and D where they had been standing when they fired. The medical examiner had already determined the trajectories of the seven rounds that struck the violator, but the board needed each officer to corroborate this in his testimony.

"What condition did the female and juvenile appear to be in?"

"Severely injured, possibly deceased. There was a lot of blood spatter and spray. Neither the female adult or the male juvenile was responsive, or moving. All the furniture in the room was wrecked."

"What happened next?"

"We identified ourselves as police officers and ordered the adult male to drop the weapon. He turned toward us, screamed and raised the weapon over the juvenile. He refused orders to drop the weapon and started to swing on the juvenile."

"He screamed at, did he say anything you could understand?"

"No, Sir, he was screaming like he was charging the enemy in battle or something."

"What was your response when he raised the, uh...."

"Table leg, Sir."

"Yes, Thank you...How did you respond, Officer Moreno?"

"I felt that the juvenile was in imminent danger of being killed if he wasn't dead already, and I opened fire on the male with my weapon, and the male collapsed."

"Were you able to determine how many of your rounds hit the suspect?"

"Yes, Sir. I fired two rounds." The man with the questions knew this from his notes and the firearms technician's report.

"Did you intend to fire just two rounds?"

"Yes, Sir. I had to hold my fire once the male went down, so the victims on the floor weren't hit."

"Officer Moreno, you shot Expert in the Marine Corps, correct?"

"Yes, Sir. I still do."

"Were you aware of other officers firing as well?"

"Yes, Sir. I knew other officers had fired."

"Okay...Do you remember what happened next?"

"Uh, Trimble and Duncan secured the male in handcuffs, Trimble checked the female and the kid, and said they were alive, and I called EMS immediately, told them we had three down."

"Yes, that call was logged at 18:24...was the suspect deceased at that time?"

"I don't recall the time, and I think I heard someone say they couldn't find a pulse...I don't know when he actually expired, Sir. I do know EMS pronounced him on the scene."

"Okay....What did you do next after you called for EMS?"

"I began to clear the back of the house...with Officer Duncan."

"The back of the house? Where?" the DA asked, pointing to the easel.

"Yes, Sir, the hallway, and three bedrooms. There were several rooms that had not been cleared, and Duncan said he heard a noise in one of the bedrooms. I assisted him in clearing the room."

"Which room was that on this plan?" Moreno indicated which room was William's on the diagram.

"What was making this noise, Officer Moreno?"

"A second male juvenile, about ten years old, taking cover in the closet."

"What was the condition of this second juvenile?"

"He appeared to be in shock, crying, but not injured. He was scared out of his mind...I did not examine him closely. Detective Walsh was on scene and talked the kid out of the closet."

"Why was Detective Walsh there?"

"I think he was on his way home and the incident was on his route, Sir. I guess he figured he would catch the case anyway."

"Does anyone else have questions for Officer Moreno?" The rest of the people in the room shook their heads.

"Thank you, Officer. That will be all for now."

"Yes, Sir" Moreno said as he got up to leave. The attorney from the POA remained in the room.

"Please have Officer Duncan come in next."

Duncan took Moreno's place in the room, was sworn in and related much the same story to the review board that Moreno had told. Where he differed in his account was immediately after he fired his weapon three times, he had secured the body, handcuffing the male before leaving Trimble with the injured to cover Moreno, who was clearing the house. Moreno had cleared Wesley's room on the left side of the hall, and was proceeding to clear the bathroom, when Duncan thought he heard something in the room on the right side of the hallway. By this time, Officer Cassie Jackson had joined them in the hallway, and the three officers covered one another as Moreno entered the bedroom and swept it quickly for additional suspects. He pulled the bi-fold closet doors open and found William.

Trimble had been the first officer through the door, and had leveled his weapon on the man as Moreno and Duncan moved into position to place the aggressor in a cross fire. Almost to the same millisecond, the three men had fired their weapons when the man raised the table leg to strike Wesley, after ignoring several orders to drop the heavy wooden carving.

Like Moreno, Trimble held his fire after the second round. The academy had taught them to fire two rounds, then additional two round bursts as necessary to stop a threat. Many police departments had been sued over the years for "spray and pray" incidents where officers emptied entire magazines, never hitting a suspect but often striking innocent parties. This practice often left officers holding empty weapons facing enraged perpetrators, often in multiples while having to deal with a tactical reload. This is practiced many times in a controlled environment on a police pistol range. In the real world, people sometimes fumble magazines, drop ammunition and piss themselves under stress.

Most of these lessons were learned in the days when police departments were transitioning from .38 and .357 caliber revolvers to 9mm semi-auto high capacity pistols. 9mm proved to be marginal against subjects on drugs, and incidents like the Miami shootout, and the murder of an Illinois State trooper by a biker who was hit by eleven of the seventeen rounds fired by the trooper before they both expired were wake-up calls to the nation's law enforcement community. Now Moreno and his fellow officers carried .40 caliber Glock pistols, and received the best marksmanship training in the history of armed law enforcement.

Ron Walsh was the last officer deposed that day, and related his account of the events. He also provided the review board a report on his interview of William Hussmann, and an account of what had precipitated the incident. The District Attorney took notes and decided that follow-up with Claire was in order...

In the end, the board concluded that each officer had acted properly and within department guidelines, and that the shooting was justified to prevent grave bodily harm or death. Officers Moreno, Trimble and Duncan were returned to regular duty, and the District Attorney's office closed the homicide case.

William was pretty much done, and ready to go after spending two and a half hours at the hospital. He was relieved and glad that he and Wesley had been able to talk to their mother, and she seemed to really understand how afraid the boys were that their mother's same old pattern of rescuing "broken" males would recur...

The subject for the evening was math, and William worked on the assignments while eating dinner, and finished about thirty minutes before Isaac would make him go to bed.

He decided to take a bath and relax until then, to unwind and reflect on the day. He pulled up the drain stop, and turned the water on the way Timmy had done it, and soon the tub was filling with water at just the right temperature. He stripped and threw his clothes on the floor in the corner behind the closed door and sat in the tub and watched the water rise around his lightly tanned and hairless legs, and between his thighs. He could see his scrotum relax as the warm water flooded over his raisin sized testicles and eventually the water level covered his penis, which tried to float like a tiny ocean buoy. He stared at his little organ, looking for something different in the feature of his anatomy he had spent a lifetime becoming intimately familiar with. He thought of the piece of tape Wesley had shown him, and looked very closely for any signs of pending development at the base of his own penis. When William had inspected Wesley's midsection this afternoon, he also noticed his brother's testicles had enlarged to about the size of grapes. William knew that this meant something, but he was not sure what...Maybe Isaac or Timmy would know the answer? He was pretty sure he could ask his question in this house without being ridiculed or laughed at, or worse. Not that he feared this in his mother's presence, but he could never ask her about such things... she was a girl, after all.

He put his head under the water so he could listen to the silence. This time it was soothing and he lingered for a long while, just his nose above the surface. He had his brother back, and together they had said what needed to be said to their mother. He felt as if a large burden or unfinished business had been taken from him. He lay the heat of the warm water....soaking up the silence...feeling his body approach weightlessness, it seemed.

Then he heard it...a slight tapping...was it something in the house or the pipes? It grew louder.... Thok, thok, thok it went, against the tub. William opened his eyes and gazed up at a grinning Timmy, who was sitting on the bathroom floor, looking down at William as he tapped the edge of the tub with his finger almost too softly to hear above the water.

"You gonna sleep in the tub, little man?" Timmy asked, chuckling.

"No, I just like how it feels when I do that." William replied after he sat up and drained his ears.

"It does feel pretty cool, like you're floating or weightless" Timmy offered.

"You do it too?" William wondered.

"Sometimes, yeah, but I do it in the pool, where you can really float." Timmy said.

"But you gotta wear trunks in the pool" William suggested.

"No, we don't...never have." Timmy corrected.

"But...people can see you, can't they?"

"Just Melanie...and she knows what we look like." Timmy said. "Besides, I can see you now, so what's the difference?"

"Nothing, I guess" William said as he stood up and Timmy handed him a towel to dry off, and took it back to dry the boy's hair when William had finished.

"Ready for bed?" Timmy asked.

"Yeah...I'm tired" William said, yawning, as he stepped out of the tub and followed Timmy.

"Gonna brush?" Timmy asked.

"Oh, yeah!" William remembered and stood at the sink loading up his brush with toothpaste.

William didn't need to sleep with Timmy to stop the bad dreams anymore, or because the other room was cold; he missed the closeness with another person that he felt with Timmy. He didn't consciously realize the resentment that he felt toward his mother for dividing her attention between her sons and an abusive stranger the brothers feared.

William nestled into bed, his back at Timmy's belly as usual. There was a long silence, then William spoke.

"Um, Timmy...Is it ever OK to hate someone?"

Timmy had think for a second....who was the boy talking about? He gave his answer some thought and replied

"That's your choice, William. You can choose to hate somebody, but you'll pay a price if you do."

"What do you mean?"

"Hating changes you...eats away at you. It's hard work, William." Timmy said as he began to run his nails over William's back. The child responded by rolling over on his stomach, encouraging Timmy to continue. He faced Timmy, who was laying on his side facing William. The black eyes were calm and focused on Timmy, fixing him in his gaze.

"That feels awesome, Timmy." the ten year old whispered.

"I know...glad you like it. So, who are we talking about, William?"

"My mom." the boy replied.

"You don't hate your mom, William. She did something wrong that hurt you and Wesley real bad, but I don't think either of you hate her."

"You don't hate those people that beat you and stuff?" William suggested. Timmy paused. William was finally opening up and talking about the things that happened to him, and Timmy wanted to encourage him to continue to let things out.

"At one time, yes I did....I did feel hate for them. Big time. But hating is hard work, William. It makes you hard and cold, and changes you. It eats at your soul, and destroys the good things inside. It's very heavy and hard to carry. Understand?"

William nodded as Timmy scraped and scratched his back.

"I couldn't carry that load...I'm a little guy, William. I had to leave that behind."

"You look pretty big compared to me." William responded.

"That means it will be even harder work for you to hate someone. It's your choice, but you must choose carefully. What happened today?"

"Me and Wesley told mom we didn't want to come home if this was going to happen again."

Timmy was impressed. He knew William was a strong person, and he strongly suspected that William delivered the ultimatum to his mother.

"What did she say?"

"She said she was sorry and she made a bad mistake and loved us and there wouldn't be no more boyfriends."

"Pretty hard to hate someone who makes a promise like that, isn't it?" Timmy said gently.

"I guess so. Did your mom ever do something bad, Timmy?" The question surprised Timmy, since it was obvious William didn't know a lot of Timmy's story. He had seen some of the worst parts of it on Timmy's skin....

"My mother died when I was a little over a year old, William. I never knew her.."

", I'm sorry...We could talk about something else if you want." William offered.

Timmy continued to scratch William's back, as William looked at Timmy and studied the older boy's face.

"It's good to talk about her from time to we don't forget people. But I really want to talk about what's on your know, stuff that's bugging you. I know that you were upset that Wesley took chances and got hurt so bad...You feel like he shouldn't have had to do that, don't you?"

"Yeah...he told me it was his choice, and that he felt bad that he didn't say something sooner to my mom about what ....that guy....was doing."

"Why did Wesley feel bad about not telling sooner?" Timmy was a bit confused.

", he knew something was going on when everything started, and I wouldn't tell him anything. If I told Wesley why my thing was raw when he saw it, he would have gone to Mom back then."

"Why didn't you say something, William?" Timmy asked gently.

"I don't know...maybe I thought he would stop or something." William replied.

"It's not your fault, and you didn't do anything wrong....I know how scary it is" Timmy offered

Timmy could see the question in Williams eyes, so he continued.

"I was about eight years old when a man attacked me."

"What did he do?" William asked.

"He tried to pull my thing off; he wanted to hurt me, basically" Timmy said, as William's eyes widened into dark pools.

"Um, It's....Is it um, okay now?" William stumbled. Timmy smiled at the question

"Yes, it's still know that yourself." Timmy giggled, and William laughed too. "I ran away from home for three days until the guy was gone."

"Give your mom a chance, William....I know you and Wesley got a right to be pissed, but it sounds like she's learned a lesson."

William rolled onto his side, and pushed back into the fetal position at Timmy's belly. When he settled, Timmy brushed his hair lightly with his hand.

"I will, Timmy." William promised. "How did you decide not to hate people who were bad to you?"

Timmy thought for a minute before he answered. "It was something Isaac said to me...We were out having a really cool day together, and when we got to my house, Jack had thrown me out. I went crazy...I was pissed off, hurt, you name it."

"Who's Jack?" The boy whispered.

"He was the man I lived with until I came here, William. I thought he was my dad, and that night he was abandoning me. Isaac told me I had a choice. I could hate him for doing that to me, or I could see that he did it because it was the best thing he could do for me. Turned out, Isaac was right. Jack was dying, and wanted to make sure I had a place to live and people who love me. I would have been homeless when Jack died, William. He did what he did to give me a chance, and I can't hate him for that."

"So he wasn't your dad?" William asked.

"No" Timmy answered. "William, what do you know about your dad?"

"Mom never talks about him. I've never seen him or nothing." William said quietly.

"I'm sorry, William." Timmy replied. William responded by bringing his hands close to his face and intently studying his fingers. He clearly had something on his mind, so Timmy waited patiently until the boy spoke again.

" you coming to the hospital to see Mom and Wesley?" William asked.

"Sure....let me go talk to Isaac about tomorrow."

"Cool!" William squealed. Timmy slipped out of the bed and padded down the hall to the master bedroom and told Isaac William had asked him to come to the hospital. Isaac offered to collect Timmy at his school after he picked up William. Once again, a plan came together....

William must have felt better after his talk with Timmy. He was now in the mood to rough house a bit.

When Timmy returned to his room, William had rolled up the covers in a huge ball and occupied the whole bed. Timmy tapped the ball and heard giggles.

"Are you going to let me in?" Timmy asked.

"NO! If you want any territory, you have to take it!" William challenged.

"Maybe I will lay siege to your position from all sides, steal your cattle and stampede your women, and starve your army." Timmy proposed.

"I'll never surrender, and you leave my cattle alone!" William screeched, giggling.

"What about your women?" Timmy countered.

"Yuck! You can have them!" William retorted.

"Some things about women aren't half bad, dude" Timmy offered.

"Eww, gross!" William bellowed from inside the ball. Timmy jumped on the ball and began poking and tickling as he identified appendages inside, and William shrieked and protested the tickling attack on his shield. Soon, Timmy had immobilized the little boy and found his ribs, and tickled William into exhaustion.

"Do you give up?" Timmy asked, almost as winded as William.

"Never!" panted the ball. It was quite obvious that William couldn't continue to resist, and Timmy simply pushed the ball to the side and lay down next to it.

"Aren't you about to roast in there, little man?" Timmy wondered.

",....can you help me get out of here?" William whimpered.

"In just a bit over your head are you?" Timmy teased. Silence from the ball.

"I guess it just wouldn't do if you burnt up while we're supposed to be keeping you in good shape." Timmy said to the ball, as he began to poke it with his finger, and the ball began to giggle and scream each time it was poked.

Soon, a small foot and ankle was exposed, followed by the other leg, which was kicking its way out of the tangle of blankets. Soon, William had extricated himself and was again spooned into Timmy's belly.

"You sure you wouldn't be more comfortable in your own bed?" Timmy asked, referring to the bed they had set up for William out of respect for his privacy, but his bedtime nudity put paid to any notions of modesty with William.

"Well, since I can't sleep in my bed until I go back home, I'd rather be with you." William said, clearly thinking of his bed in his house...Timmy didn't miss the room the small body took up in his queen sized bed, so he threw the covers over both of them and reached up to turn out the light.

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