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Discovering Reg

Chapter 4

By Wayne Telfer

I woke several times that night. And each time I did, he was there. My hand lay on his leg while he read. When he tired, we spooned, my arm over him. He pressed my hand to his chest and held it there. From the time we began ascending the stairs we said nothing. Not verbally, at least. We simply shared our need and our love by touching and being there for each other.

Sleep had not restored my equilibrium. I still felt fogged and listless. But Reg's presence was a balm and a strength that let me begin my day, if not with confidence, at least with the assurance that I 'would' survive. It was six o'clock, and I took a chance that it was nearing time to get up, had it been a normal school day for us. I lightly kissed Reg's neck.

"Finally, awake?" he asked, surprising me.

"Yes. How long have you been awake?"

"Since five thirty. That's when I always got up on school days. I woke just before the alarm and shut it off so that you could sleep a bit longer."

"Why didn't you wake me?"

Reg turned over and we hugged. "No reason to. We don't have school and breakfast isn't until seven. I assumed that if you weren't awake that your body needed the additional rest."

"Thanks, sweetheart," I said with a kiss. "So, it's Monday; a school day, without school. What shall we do?"

"Well, you still haven't had the grand tour of our domain. I thought we'd do that after breakfast."

"That sounds great. When do you normally work out?"

"My usual routine is Monday, Wednesday, Friday. But I'm not up to it today, and neither are you. I'm taking the day off. I want to enjoy a Monday without school hassles."

"All right. I wouldn't mind it either. But I hate making you miss your workout."

"Nothing to hate. I said that was my usual schedule. I've taken a day off in the past, no reason I can't now."

I chuckled. "All right, I'll stop assuming responsibility for your decisions. Now, is it at all possible to persuade you to come shower with me?"

"What, and give me a chance to molest you?" He punched me in the arm. "Come on."

It started out as just a wash session. Lots of touching and caressing. But it didn't last. We were soon both hot and horny. We hadn't done anything for twenty-four hours. But we didn't do anything but jack each other off. It was more important, it seemed, for us to have our hands on each other. I did try to suck him once, but wasn't feeling it. It was almost as if I was afraid to take in his essence. Afraid it'd touch the raw nerves and emotions. Still, we had a great time.

We dressed for the day and headed for breakfast. No one said a word about what was going to happen during the day. We simply chatted comfortably. It was a great relief to have everything out in the open. And a greater relief to have all the acceptance. Reg and I were really able to relax our guard and just be ourselves in a nice casual sort of way. The casual touch of our hands. Once, even, a kiss. It was quick and it was sweet, but it really felt awesome.

Right after breakfast, Reg led me upstairs. He started by reintroducing me to the weight room. Not to work out, simply to ask questions of me. He wanted to know how much I knew about the weights and the other equipment.

"Well, you don't really know that much, do you?" he finally said.

"I was hoping you'd teach me."

He shook his head. "I'm not qualified, Wayne. I had a trainer that came three times a week for the first month to help me set up a routine. Now he comes once a month to check on my progress and change or fine tune my regimen. I'm going to call and have him come over next Monday. He'll be the one to get you going. Until then, I'll help you with stretches, sit ups, pull ups, that sort of thing. We'll start jogging a bit and using the treadmill on nasty days. But no weights until Lars evaluates you."

"Lars? You're kidding, right?"

Reg giggled. "Not a bit. And he's exactly what you'd expect, too. A tall, blond Scandinavian. Hunky as hell, packing big time. But he's also straight as they come. Married with three kids. I even tried to hit on him once."

"You didn't!"

"Yeah. but only once. He actually laughed at my feeble attempt at flirting. But he did it kindly. He sat me down and admitted to experimenting in his teens, but that I wasn't going to get anywhere with him. He loved his wife and that was that."

"You must have been embarrassed."

"Fifteen shades of red, I think. He simply told me he'd been flattered and promised that some day Mr. Right would come along." He turned that winning smile on me. "He was so right."

I blushed.

The next room was his 'game room'. Pinball machines everywhere. Remember, this was before video games. I loved pinball games and had always thought myself quite good. Until I challenged Reg, that is. Amazing the useless skills you develop when you're alone most of the time. Besides the pinball games, he seemed to have every board game known to man at the time. The only thing missing was the ping pong and pool tables. He told me those were in another part of the house. Why wasn't I surprised?

Then he opened the final door and led me into...heaven. His personal library. Now our personal library. Thousands of books graced wall to wall shelves. There was even a grouping of four overstuffed chairs in the center of the room, each with its own reading lamp. In the center of the grouping was this gigantic, round ottoman, big enough that each person could prop their feet up without interfering with each other.

It was not, however, your typical large mansion library. This one was all bright colors and whimsy. Not childish. It was brightly illuminated by the row of thin windows above the outer wall of bookcases, and the dozens of incandescent sconces all over the room.

We spent the remainder of our morning rooted to the chairs. Or rather, chair. The chairs were all so oversized that Reg and I could actually sit together in one. Yes, it was a bit tight, but that's what we loved. I'd chosen Huckleberry Finn. Odd that I hadn't read it before, since I really loved reading. But I'd become obsessed with Charles Dickens and Jules Verne. I hadn't really wanted to try Mark Twain, thinking his stories too juvenile. Boy was I wrong. Fortunately, Reg's copy caught my eye because it was a massive, illustrated volume, and I'd never seen anything like it. So I'd picked it out and became instantly engrossed.

Neither one of us noticed the passing of time. We learned it was just shy of lunch when Marcia came and told us our parents requested our presence in dad's study. Where had the time gone? For me, the time had been supremely restful. No worries. No anxiety. Simply my book and Reg's presence, like a warm blanket of comfort and contentment.

We stood and stretched, looked into each others' eyes, smiled, hugged, then kissed. Then we headed for the study, hand in hand. We released each other, however, about halfway down the staircase so that whoever was with mom and dad would not be offended.

We'd expected to see several candidates with mom and dad, so were totally shocked to see only one other person. It was a male, probably in his mid to late twenties, good looking, and well dressed.

Dad pointed to the sofa as our place to sit. "Good morning, boys. How's it been going?"

I glanced at Reg with a wicked twinkle and I could tell that he knew this was going to be another 'New England' moment.

"Well, dad," I said very seriously, "you see, Tom is having the time of his life on his raft, but he's discovering he has some really disturbing feelings for Becky. It's driving..."

"Oh stop it," he laughed. Mother simply smiled warmly. Even the guest was chuckling.

"But, daaad, you asked how it'd been going. Since the only thing going were the adventures in our books I thought you'd like to know about that."

Dad was really laughing now. "See what I mean, Everett? Clowns."

"So I see. But with style and originality."

Dad couldn't talk right away, so mother did the introductions. "I know you were expecting a certain selection of tutors, boys, but when we talked with Everett, we knew that he'd be perfect. Everett, may I introduce our sons Reginald, though he prefers Regi, and Wayne." We each raised a hand slightly as our name was called. "Boys, this is Everett Branson, your new tutor, if you approve." She then gave him a meaningful look that clearly said the ball was in his court.

"Very nice to me you both. Looks like we'll have fun." He paused. "You're probably wondering why I've been selected, tentatively. Well, first and foremost, I have excellent credentials, considerable experience and top of the line references. That's the academic side. But I think what really sealed the deal for your parents is the fact that I, too, am gay."

He paused for our reaction. And it was a simple enough one. We relaxed.

"I've had the chance to quickly look over your transcripts and I must say, I'm very impressed. I'm also excited at the prospect of guiding you both to your graduation."

"That's an interesting way of putting it," said Reg. I nodded my agreement.

"It's a simple enough concept, guys. You're both highly intelligent, and obvious self-starters. You don't need to be 'taught'. You simply need to be pointed in the right direction, guided, and you'll take care of the learning."

"Gods, that's refreshing," I said. "No long winded, pointless lectures?" He shook his head. "No useless lab exercises that would bore any reasonably intelligent second grader?" Another shake. "No by the book and only by the book?"

"Absolutely not!" he answered with feeling. "The only reason your grades are as good as they are is because you're both convinced that an education means something. Otherwise, you'd be bored to tears and probably failing." He smiled and we smiled in return. "The three of us are going to be breaking new ground. And you two are going to set the local high school academia on its ear. I'm going to challenge you, guys, like you've never been challenged before."

"You are both finishing up your sophomore year," he continued, in an abrupt change of direction. "My conviction is that with the right set of challenges and your own will to succeed and excel, you'll be graduating from high school next year."

Reg and I were grinning from ear to ear. This sounded very, very promising.

Everett got a wicked grin on his face. "So, what d'ya think; you two up for a challenge?"

"Yes!" we answered simultaneously. Then he looked down at our clasped hands.

We could have pulled them apart, but it was already too late, so we left them as they were. Everett's response was to smile.

"Now, as I understand it, there has been a recent personal tragedy. And no, you're parents have not told me what happened. They only brought it up because the immediate result is that you both require considerable close physical contact. So I'll say here and now that I'm not going to be the least bit offended. I've felt that same need from time to time. So long as you can keep it out of the realm of the intimate..."

We both blushed.

"Well, boys," said father, "your opinion?"

Our answer was to stand and go to each parent, kiss and hug them, and say thank you. Then we walked over and stood before Everett and shook his hand. "Our opinion," said Reg, "Is that our parents have chosen well for us, once again."

"Everett, I'd like the give the boys the week off; give them the chance to relax from all that's happened and enjoy the lack of harassment from school."

"That really would be best, Mister Finger. I'm going to need that time to design a curriculum that will challenge them. Can't have them getting bored."

"Good. As of this moment, you are on the payroll. One other thing, Everett. You're going to be spending a considerable amount of time here over the next year or so; let's dispense with the formality. My name is Arthur."

"And I am simply Penny, or Penelope," added mother.

"Thank you, Arthur." Then he turned to mother. "Unfortunately, Missus Finger, I can not agree with your assessment that you are 'simply' anything. You are a lady by anyone's definition. With your permission, I will call you Lady Penelope, just as your staff does."

"Very well, young man," she said as the rest of us smirked. "You may. Now please remove your over charming self so we can get on with the rest of our day."

Everett stood and bowed elegantly to mother. "As my lady wishes." He then turned to us and winked as we all laughed at his audacity. "And I'll be seeing you two on Monday morning, nine o'clock sharp."

After he'd left, mother smirked. "That young man is going to try my patience," she said with a laugh.

"By the way, boys, Herb called and said he'd be here at two this afternoon. He wants us all there. Especially, you two. And no, I don't know why. He loves to keep me in the dark because he knows it irritates me so much."

"Dad, do you think Francios would be put out if Reg and I went into town for lunch and a little window shopping? I'm feeling a bit cooped up."

"Francios will be fine," mother answered.

"If you're going to go out and 'window shop', you should probably have this in case you discover something you just can't live without." Father held out a credit card.

"I already told you I'm not going to run around with your American Express Card, dad, and I meant it."

He smiled. "I remember, Wayne. But this isn't my American Express Card. This is your own Master Charge Card. And before you accuse me of special treatment, please remember that Regi has his own card too."

I did remember, and his reminder helped to stave off the flood of emotion that had threatened. When I took the card, there were the bright red and yellow circles and my name, embossed in the lower left corner.

"Wayne, you are our son, in whatever capacity we can have you. That means all the rights and responsibilities thereof. And please, make no mistake, that card you hold is as much a responsibility as it is a privilege. Now, Regi started with a one thousand dollar limit and has shown enough responsibility to have worked his way up to ten thousand dollars."

"Now, it would not be fair to Regi if your first card had the same limit as his, despite you demonstration of responsibility with mine. So your card has only a five thousand dollar limit."

I looked over at Reg and held up the card. "ONLY a five thousand dollar limit, he says," I said with chagrin.

Reg laughed. "Fair is fair, after all."

"Now, Wayne, the rule is that you cannot charge more than one hundred dollars a day without asking permission. The same rule applies to Regi."

"Yes, sir, I understand." When I looked at him, my eyes were a bit watery, but I wasn't crying. "Thank you, father."

"You're welcome. My sons need to know how to handle money, and this is the best way I know to help them learn. By the way, are you making payments on your car, and are those payments current?"

"The answer is yes to both questions."

"Well, one of the first things we need to do is get your payment book and deliver it to our accountant so it can be integrated into the family budget." He held up his hand as I opened my mouth. "And I'll explain how all that works another day. It's going to take us some time to teach you all you need to know, Wayne. We'll take it a little at a time. Your mother and I have decided to be responsible for your next two months payments so that you can concentrate on the end of your school year and learning to be a Finger."

It was clear that the decision was not mine to make, so I accepted graciously. "Thank you, mom and dad."

"So, go. Have lunch and shop a little. By the way, the repair shop called today and they've found a couple of small problems with your car. Nothing major, just little things that if fixed now will prevent major problems down the road. So, you're stuck with the MG for a while longer."

"Oh gee, what a shame," I laughed as Reg and I got up to leave.

We called Carter and went upstairs to get light jackets, as it was a chilly day. "Do you have a license, Reg?" I asked.

"Of course."

"Well, you can drive today."

He shook his head. "I don't know how to drive a manual transmission."

"Fine," I said as we descended the staircase. "I'll get Carter to pick out an appropriate car and I'll teach you later this week. I am NOT going to do all the driving."

"I'd like that."

We zipped into the drive at quarter to two, having had a great private lunch, and picking up a few small items from our window shopping. It'd been a great afternoon, just the two of us. It'd almost felt like a date. Instead of dinner and a movie, we'd chosen lunch and shopping. And the best part was knowing we were doing it while our school mates were being bored to tears.

We were laughing as we entered dad's study receipts in hand. That had been a highlight for me, handing over my credit card and signing the receipt. I handed dad the receipts while Reg closed the door as dad had motioned him to do. We then took the only vacant seats, the sofa. Dad had brought over the two wing backs from the desk and they were sitting in front of the fireplace. In them, were one older and one younger man. They were clearly related because the family resemblance was undeniable.

"Wayne, this is Herbert Gardner. He has been our personal lawyer for many years. Herb, you already know Regi, so allow me to introduce Wayne Edwards, the young man whom I hope will soon be our second son."

I held out my hand immediately. "A pleasure to meet you, Mister Gardner."

"My pleasure as well, Wayne." We returned to our seats. "Now, before we proceed any further, Wayne, I want you to know that my name is Herb, and I expect you to use it."

"All right...Herb," I smiled.

"The next thing," he indicated the other man, "this is my son, Francis. Recent graduate of Harvard Law School, newest member of the Alaska Bar Association, and my new partner." He said it all with considerable pride.

"A pleasure, boys," said Francis as we shook hands all around.

"And finally, to business." Herb locked me with his steely, amused gaze. "Wayne, you have been the source of a great deal of pleasure for me today. I've spent the entire day insulting and haranguing half the population, and shocking the other half."

Francis laughed at this description. "He's been like a kid in a candy store."

Herb didn't even look shocked. "Too right, son. And I've been devouring the sweets as if God was going to outlaw them tomorrow."

We all chuckled at the analogy.

"That's all fine and good, Herb," I said, as we all sobered. "But just what do all these fun and games mean for us?"

Herb smiled and looked over at father, who was also smiling, but who shrugged as if to say it was my show, not his. Herb could handle it any way he chose.

"Excellent. Straight forward and to the point. Here's where things stand at this moment. We have three issues...or had."

We Fingers raised an eyebrow at this. "First let's cover the school issues. They're settled."

"Define settled, Herb," said father.

"Settled. As in fine', done, complete, resolved."

"I swear, Herb, if you don't get to the point in about two seconds, I'm going have Carter drive your Mercedes into a ditch...somewhere very far from here."

"All right, I apologize. I'm just so giddy because things have really been going mostly our way. The school issues were, first, the harassment. Gross Negligence we were calling it. One phone call to the head of the school board solved that problem. The principle and vice principle have been sacked. They've been replaced with a pair of administrators with proven track records as strict disciplinarians."

"It's just now the end of the school day, and I've been reliably informed that the two new administrators have already instituted a dozen new policies tailored at eliminating precisely the sort of harassments you boys have been subjected to. In fact, there have already been four suspensions. Wanna guess who they might be?"

Our only answer was to smile at him.

"Precisely. Now, as for suing the former principle, I'd just as soon not pursue that hare, Arthur. The man's career is ruined. Can't really set a better retaliation than that."

"I agree," said father. "Just let that one drop."

"Already done. Now, subject number two, the guardianship." He reached into his briefcase and produced a piece of paper and handed it to me. The heading read, "Order of Temporary Guardianship". Below it was my name as the minor child, below which was boldly typed the names of Arthur and Penelope Finger, listed as temporary guardians. At the bottom was a notarized signature of the judge and today's date.

I whooped and jumped and flew into my dad's arms, dropping the order into his lap. I kissed and hugged him hard. Then I ran over to the other side of the seating area and did the same to mom. And then, of course, I hugged and kissed Reg.

No one had to ask what the results were.

"Why 'temporary', Herb," asked father as he reviewed the order.

"Because on Thursday morning we are going to troop into courtroom number 4 and make everything official. The only question you have to answer is what do we ask for?"

"I beg your pardon?" I asked, thinking that issue had already been decided.

"Here's the situation. You birth father is being very, very cooperative. It seems that being brought before a judge on charges of Child Abandonment, Gross Child Negligence, and Emotional Child Abuse, are not to his liking. That is what I confronted him with, and I had the warrants for his arrest in my hand. He had a simple choice, relinquish all parental rights and responsibilities for you or go to prison."

"I have a letter of intent, signed by him and your mother. What that means is that you have a choice to make. And I mean you, as a family. But ultimately, it will start with you, Wayne. You can be the ward of Arthur and Penelope Finger...or...they can adopt you, and you can become their legal son."

I froze. I'm not even sure I breathed. I simply stared at Herb waiting for the punch line. When nothing was forthcoming, I looked at mother. She smiled and nodded, tears glistening in her eyes. Then I looked at father.

"It's your choice, Wayne. Penelope and I will accept you either way, you already know that."

Then I looked at Reg. He was smiling fit to break his face. He simply nodded. Then I looked back at Herb.

"Ad..," I croaked. I swallowed and tried again. "Adoption, please, Herb," I whispered.

I half expected some witty rejoinder or flighty comment. He simply stared at me a moment, just a touch of moisture in his own eyes. "Then adoption is will be, Wayne," he said softly.

Reg then grabbed me in a tight hug and whispered in my ear. "We'll be brothers AND partners. The two best things in the world."

Well, that was just too much for me. I quietly wept on his shoulder. Everyone else remained silent while I vented my joy and then pulled myself together.

Finally, I wiped my eyes, took several deep breaths and turned back to Herb.

"All right, Herb. You've amazed us, first, astounded us, second. Why is it I believe that you intend to rock our world with the issue of Preston and the assault, since you've oh so casually left it to last?"

"You're right, Wayne, this will rock your world, as you put it, but not in the manner you might think. I'm going to lay out the facts first, then I'm going to give you the options. And while I'm doing so," He said that last, looking directly at father. "Do I make myself clear? You must have all the information before we can make any decisions, and you can not hear that information if you're having a tantrum." He continued to stare down father. "Do I make myself clear, Arthur?"

Dad was sitting ramrod straight in his chair. His eyes were flashing flint hard. But he nodded. When we looked at mother, she was sitting exactly like father.

Reg, on the other hand was shaking like a leaf, my closest hand clasped tightly in his two.

Herb looked at me, and only at me. "Wayne, tomorrow morning, right after breakfast, a police office will arrive to arrest you."

I felt the world come to a complete halt. I swear, there wasn't so much as a hint of a breeze. No birds, no rustling of trees, nothing. My eyes never left his, despite the fact that Reg was crushing my hand.

He nodded at whatever he saw in my eyes. "I can not stop what others have set in motion. What I have done is arranged for you to be arrested by an officer that is sympathetic to our cause. Her name is Pamela Davies. She considers this a load of crap and will do everything, within the limits of her procedures, to make this whole experience as painless as possible."

"To counter this move, I have submitted evidence to the District Attorney that has prompted him to issue warrants for the arrest of Preston and his three accomplices. Those arrests will be happening at the same time as your own. That means that you should all be arriving at the jail at the same time."

"Now, I've done this on purpose, because after all I've heard of your dealings with Preston and what I've been able to learn from my own investigations, I believe he is going to be unable to resist the temptation of taunting you and verbally abusing you at the jail. That will work in our favor, because there will be numerous witnesses of impeccable character."

"Pamela has assured me that she can expedite the booking process. So I will have your father and a bail bondsman there immediately to ensure your prompt and immediate release."

Francis leaned forward, placing his arms on his legs. I turned toward him. "And through it all, Wayne, I will be right by your side. Not in the next room, not down the hall. Right by your side. If, for any reason, you should have to be put in a holding cell, I will be in there with you. Do you understand me, Wayne? You will never be alone."

"Than..." I croaked. And it was only at that moment that I realized I had tears on my face and my throat was choked. Both were the result of abject fear. I cleared my throat. "Thank you, Francis," I said, hoarsely. He had to see the slight relief in my eyes.

"Yes, Francis, thank you," echoed dad.

Herb continued. "Barring any unforeseen complications, the whole process should take less than an hour, and you will be on your way back home." He turned to father. "The DA has already set the preliminary bail at one thousand dollars."

I chuckled. I couldn't believe it, I actually chuckled. Everyone was suddenly staring at me, shock clearly on all their faces. And with that chuckle I was suddenly calm. Hell, I was even a little giddy. I turned to dad.

"Father, may I have your permission to make a one thousand dollar charge on my new credit card?"

Father's mouth fell open. Then it slowly closed and he began to smile, then chuckle, then laugh in relief and humor. He laughed hard, hard enough for tears to soon be streaming down his face.

I felt Reg punch me in the arm...hard. The rest of the occupants were roaring, just like father, even mother. Of course, once they regained their composures, I was sure they'd conclude that I'd lost my mind.

It obviously was going to take several minutes for everyone to calm down. So, when Kyndra entered to see if anything was wrong, I calmly turned to her.

"Kyndra, could you possibly bring tea for six? We need something to steady ourselves." That just set them off again.

I couldn't believe how calm I felt. I still wasn't myself. I still needed Reg next to me constantly. But, for some reason, I was no longer frightened by the prospect of being arrested. Herb was right, Preston and his friends would most definitely play into our hands and that would ruin their case. So, if getting Preston to answer for his actions meant that I had to be arrested, then so be it.

No one said a word until Kyndra had arrived with the service and I'd poured for everyone. When I handed mother her tea, she pulled my head down and kissed me soundly. "Thank you, Wayne, we all needed that." And somehow I knew she wasn't referring to the tea.

"All right, arrest after breakfast, booking, return home," I reviewed, as I took my seat, stopping to briefly kiss Reg. "What can we expect next, Herb?"

"Now, I can't say for certain, mind you, but I'm expecting the attorneys for the four boys to come and suggest that all the charges be dropped because this is all some sort of adolescent misunderstanding."

"NO!" yelled Reg and I together.

"Now, boys," said Father.

"Arthur Fitzgerald Finger!!!" yelled mother.

Father slammed back into his chair as if he'd been struck by a blow.

"You are not going to make this decision. Last night after your talk you told me, 'Our sons have chosen to be warriors.' You are not now going to take that decision away from them. You and I have always prided ourselves in the fact that we allowed Regi to make his own decisions and learn from his mistakes. Well, now we have two sons that want to stand up for themselves, and you are going to sit there and allow them that privilege."

Wow, was all I could think.

No one breathed for several moments.

"You are right, my dear." He turned to Reg and I. "I'm sorry son's."

The anguish in his eyes was heart wrenching.

"Dad?" I asked, a universe of concern and love in that one question.

"No, son, your mother is absolutely correct. This is your decision to make, and yours alone. I apologize for what I tried to do. All I can say is that it's hard for your dad to see you in pain or in trouble and not want to fix it. But your mother is right. If you want to pursue this, then you should do so. Your mother and I will be there in any way you need us."

Well, there was just no appropriate response to that. So I turned to Reg and took his two hands in mine and ignored everyone in the room.

"Well, love, this is it. The moment of decision. We can be lions or lambs. We can ball up our fists and wade into the fray, or we can fold our arms and melt into obscurity."

He didn't hesitate a moment. He mouthed one simple word.

Without consulting, we simply stood, hand in hand and faced Herb.

"Herbert and Francis Gardner," I said, "We stand here and tell you the same thing we told our father last night." We glanced briefly at each other and then back at Herb, and we said, simultaneously, "We fight. We choose to be the lion."

There was several moments of silence.

"Arthur, you told me but I didn't believe," whispered Herb.

Reg and I looked at father with raised eyebrows.

Father sighed. "Herb, you have a big mouth." He rose from his seat and stood directly in front of us. "What I told Herb was this: Individually, you two are impressive; smart, even brilliant. And I know you would have made a positive impact on this world. But together, you are so much more than you could ever be apart. You compliment and support each other. You complete each other. And I have no doubt in my mind that together you two will set this world ablaze. And woe betide any who try to oppose you."

"Now, as much as the father in me hates to see you both choosing to take on this battle, the proud dad acknowledges your right to do so. Your dad also believes that you've made the right choice. You wish to stand up and say, no more. You want to be accounted as the fine men you are. And as God is my witness, I pity the poor, unfortunate bastards that get in your way."

He hugged each of us, then he hugged both of us together. "I'm very proud."

As he returned to his seat and Reg and I sat in ours, it dawned on me, like the sun bursts for from a cloudy sky, that this was what mom and dad shared. Individually, they were unique, perhaps even gifted. Together, however, they were a force of nature. Their individual talents filled the voids in each other, and they could, and did, meld those qualities into a seamless whole, able to accomplish every goal, together.

"Well, Francis," sighed Herb, "You ready for this one?"

Francis smiled. "Oh, I am so ready for this one. This is going to be one of those rare opportunities to actually have fun."

"You are so right, son." He closed his briefcase and rose. "All right, Francis will be here tomorrow morning, and I'll see all of you on Thursday, ten a.m., at the courthouse." We followed them out to the foyer, where they turned and hugged mother and shook everyone else's hand.

Herb then did the most ridiculous thing. He struck a dramatic pose, one fist in the air. "The clans Finger and Granger are going to war."

Francis simply shook his head. "Gods, dad, you can overact a scene worse than anyone I've seen."

"Critic," he smirked. Reg and I escorted the two out to the portico where Herb paused to face just the two of us. "I consider myself privileged that I can be here to help you both. You are definitely worthy of all that your father said about you."

I smiled at Reg. "Definitely an over actor."

"Not this time, boys," he said, quite seriously. "I meant precisely what I said. It's rare to meet an adult with your determination, conviction, and sheer power of personality. It's virtually unheard of in two teenage high school students. In fact, I've only known one other like you, and he's standing at my side right now."

Francis could only smile, embarrassed. But what could he say?

When we reentered the house, father was nowhere to be seen. Mother glided between us and looped her arms in ours.

"Come with me, sons. Herb had some things delivered while you two were out, Wayne, and I want you both to see them."

When we reached the second floor landing, instead of turning right, she turned left and led us directly to the double doors at the end of the hall that led to the one empty room on this floor. When she opened the door, the first thing that we saw was a table and two chairs. Upon one of those chairs sat a very elegant older woman. On the table was a tray with wine and finger foods for two. And then I registered the pile of items on the far side of the room. It was the guitar on top of the pile that I recognized. It was all of my belongings from the Edwards home. It was also, at that moment of recognition, that I understood what this all implied. I spun toward Reg.

"Yes, I knew. I'm the one that suggested it, in fact. And before you go objecting or making a fuss, please allow me to explain." I shut my mouth and nodded. "I hadn't realized it until I suggested this, but mother and father each have their own bedroom on the third floor. They have them because there are times, even in the best of families, when a person simply needs time to themselves. Someplace that they can call their own, that reflects who they are so that they can renew themselves."

"Mother confided in me that she and father rarely sleep alone. They simply sleep in whichever bedroom suits their moods. That's what I want for you, Wayne. For us." He caressed my cheek. "I will happily share all that I have with you, for the rest of my life. But the room we share is my room, not our room. When you walk in there it screams Reginald Raleigh Fitzgerald Finger."

I raised my eyebrow at that.

Reg chuckled. "Yeh, quite a mouthful, isn't it? Blame mother. She's the one that thought it quite distinguished."

She slapped him playfully on the arm. "And still do, you ungrateful wretch."

We laughed.

"You need a place that screams Wayne Edwards."

I raised my hand to stop him. "That's Wayne Lawrence Edwards Finger to you. Maybe not as distinguished, but at least there'll be four of me to the four of you."

He smiled. "Anyway, you need a room that represents you, and only you. Something that will tell anyone who enters who you are without even having to ask. Besides, think of all the fun we'll have jumping from bed to bed and room to room."

"All right, I surrender. You're right. And thank you for thinking of it before it became and issue." I kissed him.

"So, Wayne, this is Merisa Stonebridge. She has been my personal decorator for years and is the one that created Regi's room when he decided he wanted something more adult a couple of years ago." She looped her arm into Regi's and led the way out of the room, closing the doors behind her.

"Please, Wayne, come and join me. And before you say anything, you will please address me as Merisa, not Missus Stonebridge. My mother is Missus Stonebridge and she's still kicking up a storm."

I poured us each a glass of wine and then sat back in my chair.

"All right, Merisa, what do you plan to do for me?"

"I plan to do to you the same thing I did to Reginald. I intend to ask you questions. I intend to ask a great many of them, and I intend to get personal...very personal."

"That's a unique approach. But after seeing Reg's room, I can see the results are well worth it. The first night I spent in his room told me so much about him that I'd never have guessed."

"I'd like to do the same for you, Wayne. But to do that you are going to have to be completely frank and honest with me, even, and especially, with the personal stuff. I promise you that everything we discuss will remain completely between us. Now, given that information, do you think you will be able to cooperate?"

"I can, if you will not be offended by the answers."

"I will not be offended. Yours and Reginald's relationship is obvious to me, even if your mother hadn't already mentioned it, and I'm not offended by it. In fact, I'm truly pleased that Reginald has found someone that he loves and that loves him. So, shall we begin?"

Merisa pulled out a stenographers pad and pen and began her barrage of questions. Some were of obvious importance, while others seemed so obscure that I couldn't for the life of me figure out what good it'd do. But I chose not to worry about it and answered away.

This process lasted a full hour before she finally set down her pen and closed her pad. "That was very well done, Wayne. If anything, you were even more forthcoming than Reginald was, and I didn't think that was possible. I can tell you that what comes out of this discussion is going to be spectacular, providing I can find all the things I'm thinking of."

"And just what might some of those things be?"

"Oh, come now, Wayne. You wouldn't really want me to spoil the surprise, now would you?"

"Actually, I probably would." But then I gave her my best winning smile. "But I won't. After living in Reg's room and learning from it, I have no doubt that you'll accomplish something equally remarkable with my room."

We then walked over and rummaged through my belongings and I pointed out the items that absolutely had to remain, because of the sentimental value. I even took the time to explain the significance of each. We'd just put the last of the items back on the pile when there was light knock at the door. Instead of calling out, I chose to walk across the room and actually open my bedroom door for the first time.

"Good evening, Marcia."

"Good evening, Mister Wayne. Lady Penelope asked me to come and inform you that supper would be ready for service in fifteen minutes."

"Ah, that's marvelous, Marcia, because I'm starved. Do you happen to know if I need to change for supper?"

"Lady Penelope said to tell you that you needn't change."

I kissed her lightly on the cheek. "Thank you, Marcia, we'll be right there."

I then turned to find Merisa by my side. I held out my arm for her. "May I have the privilege of escorting you to supper, Lady Merisa?"

Her eyes sparkled in mischief. "That would be oh so frightfully grand of you, my lord."

We laughed all the way to the parlor.

Reg and I retired about nine that night. We weren't particularly tired. I was thoughtful as we entered the room. A memory had come to me at dinner that had me particularly disturbed. Not because it was terrible, but simply because if I were to act on it, I'd have to violate the promise I'd made Reg four days earlier.

We were simply laying in bed after our shower.

"So, did Merisa give you the third degree?" asked Reg.

I laughed. "About the only thing she didn't ask me was the size of my cock."

"I should hope not," laughed Reg. "That's for me to know, and the rest of the world to dream about."

We grew silent again.

"Wayne, I know something's on your mind. Why don't you share it so we can work on the problem together?"

I didn't answer right away.

"I'm reluctant to, Reg, because it'd mean going back on the promise I made you on Friday."

He didn't ask; he knew which promise I meant. "Tell me how it'd break that promise."

"If I ask this thing of you, I know you'll agree to it. Not because it's something you necessarily want to do, but because you will do anything right now, simply because you know how fragile my control is. That's not fair to you. And it'd almost kill me to have to go back on that promise because it's one of the foundations of our relationship."

We were silent for a minute or so while Reg considered.

"All right, fair enough. I'll promise you right now that I will not automatically agree to what you ask. If I can't go along with it, however, then you have to help me discover another way."

I closed my eyes in gratitude. "I want to fuck myself with your cock."

He actually laughed softly. "That's an interesting way of putting it."

"What I mean is, you'd lay here and I'd simply lower myself onto you. I'd do all the work."

"Well, I have to say that I'd never thought of doing it that way before. But tell me, why is this so important to you?"

I sighed deeply before continuing. "I've had times of stress like this twice before. Each of those times I was feeling rather rotten about myself and arranged to get fucked; as a way of beating myself up, I suppose. But a strange thing happened each time; I came away from the experience not feeling abused, but refreshed, more focused and less stressed. Please, don't ask me to explain it, because I can't. I have absolutely no idea why it worked that way. All I know is that I really want to try this. You know I'm floundering, Reg. You've been my rock and I love you for it. But we can't continue like this. I have to do something to try and regain some of what I've lost. You can't spend the rest of your life on the boat, holding my head above water so that I can breathe."

There it was. It sounded bizarre even to me. He surely thought I was out of my mind, grasping at straws. And in a way, I suppose I was. But I had to start doing something to get back what I'd lost.

"I'll answer, but you have to promise to believe me." I hesitated, then nodded. "I want to do this. I've wanted to do it for two days, actually. The only reason I hadn't asked it of you is because it seemed so unfair to ask it, when I knew that my body wasn't ready to accept the same thing in return."

We grew silent as I searched his eyes for the slightest indication that he was simply letting this happen. But I could find only sincerity and longing. I moved slightly so that I could get over him, but he held me down.

"Uh uh. Remember, you promised that we'd do things in MY way, to fulfill MY fantasies. So since this really is something I want to do, then you must relinquish all control and all responsibility." I nodded, surprised...and yes, pleased. Although I wondered where this was going to lead. "Now, simply lay here and keep your hands TO yourself and OFF yourself."

So I surrendered, to his superior logic, and his superior love. I closed my eyes and allowed myself to 'become' the experience instead of leading it.

From the onset, it was obvious that my loving Reg intended this experience to last a long, long time.

He began by kissing my face, one slow inch at a time. Feather light touches to forehead, nose, eyes. Soft, lingering kisses that hinted at the passion waiting in the wings to rock us. I was amazed at the hunger it awoke in me. I wanted him to move on, and yet I more desperately wanted him to stay.

Minutes he spent hinting at his passion, hinting at his love, hinting at his devotion. It drove me mad. I desperately wanted all his love, all his passion, to feel the reaffirmation of his devotion. I was weak with my longing. I wanted to grab him and force him to move on, but he'd been specific in his instructions. I knew that if I moved a single inch, reached out just once, it'd ruin this moment for him. His mind was set on the way this night would progress, it was now his fantasy, completely and utterly; he'd made that perfectly clear. That placed the ultimate responsibility on me to fulfill my promise to him; that he, and he alone, would lead us down the pathways of his desires.

It began with one single tear as I gave myself over to my promise. That promise became the most important thing in my life at that moment. With the second tear I realized that I'd been unconsciously holding him at arm's length, frightened of allowing myself to feel. If I let one emotion free, I knew that all of them would come crashing down on me and I'd be forced to relive that afternoon in the forest. I still had not come to terms with that sense of loss. I'd ignored it, forced it behind my quick wit and seeming indifference.

He gently kissed away the first tear. That only led to my releasing a third as it came to me in that moment that he was giving me his promise in language that was more powerful, more lasting than any spoken word. He was demonstrating his promise.

He loved me. He wanted only me. It didn't matter how long it took for me to become myself again, he'd be waiting. Nothing and no one would ever come between us.

The tears seeped from my battered heart and soul. They came in slowly increasing numbers. I did not cry out, I simply allowed the tears to come.

When my tears became a steady, increasing flow, I felt his kisses firm up, become more passionate, slightly more determined. Not dramatically so, just a hint of increased love. Then and only then, when he was sure that I was responding, did he moved down and begin kissing and nuzzling my neck and shoulders. He added to his longing by slowly and gently caressing my face and chest. Light, airy touches that sent shivers through my body.

I felt the heat of his desire as he finally pressed his body against my side. His touch became slightly firmer. The fingers of one hand explored my head and hair, the fingers of his other teased at my nipples. I could feel the pain, anger and anguish that had been a constant presence for the past twenty-four hours begin to lift from my heart. With that lifting came more tears. A silent, flowing testament of his love for me.

As he felt my increased relaxation and saw the greater flow of tears, he became more impassioned. His desire became more insistent. His genuine longing more pronounced. He began moving down my body; not as slowly. My neck, my shoulders, my chest and nipples, to my stomach and navel. He bypassed my semi hard cock, lavishing the crease between my thigh and scrotum with kisses.

My semi hard cock? How could it possibly be less that fully erect? But even as I had that thought, I knew the answer. This was not about sex. It was not about relieving pent up physical pressures. This was not about the release of semen in a moment of physical ecstasy. This was about healing. Healing of the heart. Healing the tattered remains of my battered soul. This was about finding the center of my being which I'd hidden in fear. It was about beating at the iron wall I'd surrounded myself in with the only thing that could possibly penetrate it. His love.

His mouth slowly slid past and under my scrotum as I felt my legs lifted and spread. I felt his tongue join his lips as they gently caressed that growing knot between my legs. For just a moment they lingered, feeling the hardening of it as my cock slowly became more erect. My legs came further back, my ass rising from the sheets, his head gently falling.

His tongue traced its gentle way down that fleshy path to my inner sanctum. It played with the edges of that corridor. And I was lost in the sensations. Suddenly nothing mattered but the heat of his fiery heart as it burned away at my soul. As I felt the steel hard barrier around my soul give just a bit, I moaned.

And then suddenly, without warning or preamble, his tongue lashed out. A piercing, pointed rod of steel that stabbed and penetrated in one fluid stroke. My eyes flew open as my cock rocketed to complete and utter hardness. I felt the head flare and burn as suddenly it erupted.

Oh the pain! This was not fireworks and elation. This was fire and lightning and body wracking torture. I felt flames eat at my flesh as my nerves ignited. I would have screamed in agony if my vocal chords had been able to respond. The best I could manage was a high pitched squeal. And behind that squeal I heard the distant wale of a child's voice, and I recognized it as my own and I relived in quick, crystal clear flashes of memory, those agonizing moments in the forest. I would have bucked and rolled if it hadn't been for the strength between my legs that firmly held me in place.

In that last brief moment, when I was certain that I'd be consumed, I looked down to see what he'd done to hurt me so bad.

- - - There was only his head- - - - -

And I collapsed, physically and mentally. I was empty. Emotionally empty. Except for his love. Except for his devotion. Except for his desire for me and what we'd once had. The steel shroud around my heart and soul were gone. The all consuming hurt of the past twenty-fours had evaporated leaving only a hint of my loss. All that remained was his love for me, and mine for him.

I reached down and gently pulled his head up.

"Reginald Raleigh Fitzgerald Finger, my love," I whispered. His eyes immediately teared up and they lit from within with sapphire fire. I pulled him, forcing him to my chest. Gently pushing his head into the crook of my neck. I pulled him until I felt the tip of his glorious manhood nestle gently against the center of my orifice.

"You are the love of my life," I continued, feeling like I was reading from inside some epic, Victorian romance novel. But the words flowed like the most natural outpouring of my being. I wasn't that sixteen year old, modern teenager any longer. I was the maiden in full flower, desperately desiring the fulfillment that only her one true love could grant. I was the vigorous, gallant gentleman, seeking to give all of himself to satisfy the desires of his one and only love.

"My life will never be complete unless you are in it. To live my life without you would be an agony worse than death. You complete me as no one else ever could, or ever will."

I gently kissed his hair as I witnessed his shaking shoulders and felt his warm tears on my neck. I pulled him gently up, forcing him inside me, one slow inch at a time. "Love me." Another exquisite inch. "Be one with me."

He took over at that moment. He reached back, grabbed my legs behind my knees and pulled forward and back simultaneously, forcing my legs toward my head as he pulled himself erect between them. His tears continued to fall as he gently pushed himself further and further into the void where only love resided. His eyes shown with the love we shared as our heat grew to ever higher degrees.

And there was no pain, no discomfort. There was only filling, and fulfillment. And there was one thing more. Passion. I wanted him. Wanted him like I'd never wanted any other.

"Take me, my love. Love me completely. Love me forever."

I softly wept as he bottomed out, filling me completely. I reached up and pulled my knees back, spreading myself just that fraction further, determined to have every fraction of an inch he had inside me. He slipped in just a little more and I knew there was no more to give.

"Now, my beautiful god. Now we are one. Now we are complete and whole. Fill me with your essence, love. I want to feel you fill me with your love."

Reg could have let his passion overcome him. He could have let his need for fulfillment overwhelm him and rush the moment. But he didn't. He stroked ever so slowly, rolling slightly from side to side and up and down, as if searching.

I gasped loudly, and he smiled. He had been searching, never having been told where to find it. As his cock slid across my prostate, my phallus pulsed and bounced. He purposely did it again.

"Ooh!" My manhood began to drip, despite the recent explosion.

Satisfied that he could repeat this whenever he chose, Reg began in earnest to probe deeply, slowly increasing his thrusts. I relished this as he gently and methodically increased the length of each stroke, until he was finally loving me repeatedly with every glorious inch of himself.

I had no thoughts...only passion. I had no worries...only love.

He brought us to the brink, then stepped back. He brought us to the edge of the precipice a second time, but refused us our fall into glory. We wept, we sighed, we groaned. Our breaths were heavy with our desire, our longing. He leaned down and sought that second connection of our hearts and souls. Our lips met and began a dance that fueled our passions. He continued to drive me, over and over, now with wild unbridled lust. Our tongues fought to overcome the other, but never succeeding because there was no master, no servant. There was no better, no inferior. There was no you, no me. There was only us.

He drove deeper. I thrust back into him, matching him thrust for thrust. He piled harder. I released my legs and grabbed his hips and violently pulled him to me, driving harder and faster. Our lust and love built side by side, faster and faster. We came to the brink, stood at the precipice once more, but this time we jumped out and away, sailing into the unknown, plunging to our future. We flew as one as our passions, our devotions, our dedications, our loves filled my body and our stomachs and chests.

We were one body, one soul, one heart, wrapped in glorious ecstasy. We each arched backwards. Me down, him up. We vibrated, we groaned loud and long. We were two rock hard steel shafts, welded by our love and our fluid. Our tears mingled on my face. We shared everything we were in that one glorious moment of timeless release.

And then we collapsed. And we cried into each others' shoulder. We embraced as the last vestiges of shared orgasm rocked our bodies. My legs fell and wrapped around his cheeks, squeezing to ensure he did not exit. We spasmed again. Our breaths came rapid for some time.

It was during those long, long minutes of recovery that I realized that the pain I'd felt had been my emotional release of all that was holding me back from my love for this man. It had been painful because I'd been nursing it, believing that it was necessary in order to remain true to my past. But it wasn't true. I needed only this man, this love. It was my overwhelming desire for that greatest of all emotions that had shattered my last remaining shield and allowed me to be filled once again...with love. I owed nothing to the past, except the gentle remembrance of what I'd gone through to reach this apex in my life. I did not need to hold to that past so hard that it strangled this present and the future that lay ahead.

Finally, Reg gathered enough strength to lift his head and shoulders and looked down at me. We mouthed the words silently to one another, not having the strength to vocalize them.


The kiss we shared was gentle, loving and sensual. Our tongues did not do battle, they caressed.

We woke several hours, or was it several minutes, later. For all we knew, it could have been several days later. We were still locked in our embrace. We woke simultaneously. When Reg moved...

...well, it was obvious that we'd been sleeping for several hours, because my cum had dried and it felt like we were pulling tape from our bodies. The only thing we could be thankful for is that his cock had managed to slip from my ass. Of course that had resulted in a large pool of dried cum just under my ass.

Reg started it and I was not far behind. It began with a giggle, moved to a chuckle, then a laugh, and finally an all consuming guffaw. We were a mess, the bed was a mess, we'd just made the most glorious love in our lives...and we were laughing.

We continued to laugh as we pried ourselves apart, ripped ourselves from the bed and headed for a grossly overdue shower. We laughed all through the shower. We laughed as we dried ourselves. We positively dissolved into hilarity when we saw the condition of the bed. It took us several minutes to calm down enough to be able to strip the bed and fall back onto it, without even attempting to remake it.

"You are my angel," I said.

"And you are mine," he answered.

"I love you."

"I love you, too."

We slept the sleep of the exhausted, the sated, the triumphant.

I woke first and simply eased up onto one elbow and rested my head in my hand as I basked in the glorious sight of Reg, peacefully oblivious at my side. I checked the clock and saw it was only quarter after five, but I was not the least bit tired.

Reg woke only five minutes later, and his first sight was of me looking down on him, smiling lovingly.

"Morning, love," I whispered.

He sat up as I was and looked into my eyes. "You are feeling better." It was a statement of fact, not a question.

"Not better, lover, whole. Complete and no longer separate from you. Let them do their worst. We're ready for them."

That reminder of what in the offing for the day wiped the smile from his face.

I quickly placed my free hand on his cheek. "No, no, Reg. No tears, no worries, no regrets. We are one again and they can't do anything to that. We lions of the Finger Pride are going to devour them and spit their remains to the dust."

The smile that came from out of the frown was glorious. And there were no more need of words. He felt as I did. We were one, once again.

I jumped out of bed. "Is there anyone in the kitchen, do you think?"

He looked at the clock. Five thirty.

"They should be getting started about now."

"Then get your lazy ass out of that bed and help me choose just the right outfit for today. If this is going to happen, I intend to give them the show of their lives. I may have to walk in there in cuffs, but I'll do it with my head up and dressed to kill."

Reg jumped out of bed and into my arms. "Welcome, back, Wayne."

I hugged him back. "You can't believe how good it is to be back." I kissed him briefly. "Now, I want coffee. So let's get me dressed for battle and go see if anyone's brewed a pot."

We didn't rush, knowing that whoever was in the kitchen needed time to brew the first pot of the morning. I suggested an outfit...Reg rejected it. Reg suggested...I rejected. But finally we chose what we thought would make the best and longest lasting impression on Preston and his buds. Then we headed for the kitchen.

When we entered, Kyndra was busy at some task or other, and she looked concerned because we were there at such an unusual time. But I alleviated her concern by smiling warmly and giving her a kiss on the cheek.

"Sweet Kyndra, you wouldn't possibly have any coffee brewed yet, would you?"

"It's just finishing. If you'd like to go to the parlor I'll bring a pot and cups in just a few moments."

I put a hand to my chest and bowed. "Thank you, oh lady of the hearth."

She laughed and blushed. "Oh you." Then she shooed us out of the kitchen.

While we waited for our morning coffee we started a small fire in the fireplace. We decided that it'd be a nice surprise for the parents.

Kyndra arrived shortly with a pot and four cups on a tray. "Your parents should be down shortly." She quietly poured us each a cup, and left after presenting them to us.

And she was right. We'd only gotten a couple of sips before we heard them chatting as they descended the stairs. That was plenty of warning so that I was able to pour their coffees before they arrived.

They paused in surprise when they entered. Reg walked over and gave them each a morning hug and kiss then gallantly led mother to her chair where I presented her coffee and gave her a hug and kiss. Father simply walked to the tray and retrieved his cup. I stepped up to him. But before I could kiss him, he gently grabbed my chin and looked into my eyes. I tried with all my might to convey my confidence.

"I'm not even going to ask how this has happened, but I'm sure that your Regi had something to do with it."

I kissed and hugged him. "No, sir, Reg had 'everything' to do with it."

We chatted about simple things while we waited for breakfast. We laughed as we relived Everett's visit yesterday, and mother and father discussed the business matters that would need to be attended to during the day. No one mentioned how our day was supposed to begin.

Breakfast was plentiful and delicious, as always. Francis arrived about halfway through it.

"Good morning, Francis," greeted mother. "Have you eaten?"

"I have, but I thank you. I wouldn't mind a bit more coffee, however."

He was immediately served.

I was just past eight when Parker entered the dining room. Every one sat just a bit taller.

"I beg your pardon, Mister Arthur, but there is an officer of the court here and she has requested the presence of Mister Wayne."

I casually folded and placed my napkin next to my plate then turned to Reg.

"Well, love, it begins." I kissed him ever so gently. "Time for the lions to roar. You ready?"

No tears. No trembling lips. "Yes, I am. I'll just stay with our parents."

"That would be just fine, Reg."

I stood and Francis stood with me. We walked side by side to the foyer.

"Good morning, officer," I greeted her cheerfully.

I could see that she was a bit taken aback by my cheerfulness. Then she smiled slightly.

"Mister Wayne Edwards?"

"Yes, Officer Davies, I am Wayne Edwards."

"I regret to inform you that I have been sent to execute a warrant for your arrest on the charges of four counts of third degree assault."

I nodded. "So, how shall be proceed, Officer Davies? You see, I'm not used to being arrested."

Her smile widened. "Actually you're doing just fine. At least you haven't fallen apart on me."

"Officer Davies," I said seriously, "I don't intend to fall apart on anyone. There are cruel games being played here and I intend to remain in full possession of my faculties throughout."

She reached to her back and pulled out the expected handcuffs. But she stopped me as I began to turn and place my hands behind me.

"That's not necessary, Mister Edwards. My procedures say that I must cuff you. They do not require you be cuffed from behind if you are cooperative."

As she applied the cuffs, I simply whispered, "Thank you."

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